So, in my last post, the “quick-and-dirty” update of my life over the past 3 years, I mentioned that earlier this year I scored my very first book deal. Well, I am happy to announce the upcoming release of my first book!
My book, The Working Mom’s Handbook: A Survival Guide For Returning To Work After Having A Baby will be released on December 1 (YES, of THIS YEAR!) and is available for pre-order now! Here’s a sneak peek at the cover!
This year has been… a lot. For all of us. 2020 started out so well for me. I signed the book deal at the end of January, and started writing in February. I was busier than ever, with my full time job, my family, and book writing, but I had it all figured out. With Buddy being in preschool half the day, my work hours being 6am-2:30pm – giving me afternoons to be with my kiddo, and the help of a part time babysitter a couple of days a week after school for writing sessions, PLUS a healthy dose of insomnia, I had a schedule and plan that worked for me. I was tired, but excited about all the things to come.
And then March came and suddenly J and I were both working from home with no childcare options, and I still had a book to finish writing. The experience of being a working mom and writing about how to be a working mom, while under less than ideal circumstances, definitely made its way into the book. I couldn’t write a book in a time of crisis, with all of the anxiety and additional challenges that come with it, and NOT include that piece. To be clear, this book is NOT about parenting during a pandemic, but it definitely touches on the issues of being a working parent in survival mode.
I don’t let myself say this too often, but I’m incredibly proud of the work I put into this project, and eternally grateful to all of the incredible people who held me up and supported me, gave me feedback, and kept me sane throughout this whole process. I really do have the greatest family and friends a person could wish for.
So that’s my big news! I’m sure this won’t be the last you’ll be hearing about this book (sorry, not sorry), but I promise this site won’t be all book promos all the time.
And now I need to get some rest so I can get up at 5am to try to sneak in a quick workout before working in the (virtual) newsroom on Election Day.
So. Yeah. It’s been a while. In my last post, back in December of 2017 (yikes), I also lamented that it had been a long time since my previous “last post” and gave a quick list of life updates and promised more soon.
And then almost three years went by. And a LOT happened. A good deal of it was actually blog-worthy, but honestly I didn’t have the time or energy to write it all out. To be even more honest, I am not sure I completely have the time and energy to start writing again, but here I am. And this time, I fully intend to keep writing, keep documenting my evolution as a working mom. Because it’s constantly a work-in-progress.
Since we’ve all been doing a lot of binge-watching in this time of Covid, i’ll give you a quick and dirty recap of the past three years (holy shit how can it have been that long?!?!) and then we’ll move on to the next “season” of this shitshow together.
PREVIOUSLY ON “ALI’S LIFE”…
Buddy turned ONE.
I spent a whole lot of time being sick, puzzling a bunch of doctors, including a team of gastroenterologists, and finally discovered I had SIBO or Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and finally got treatment.
I turned 40! Started wearing prescription reading glasses. And had the best birthday/going away party (see next bullet) ever.
Left my job of 4 years and my home state of about 12 years (California) to take a leap of faith and move my family to Atlanta to be closer to family and be able to afford a nice house in a good school district and just basically hit the refresh button on life.
Found our dream house in a suburb outside of Atlanta and moved in a few days before Christmas.
Found an amazing preschool for buddy.
Buddy turned TWO!
Took a parents-only trip to Vegas, leaving Buddy with my parents and brother — the first time we left him for more than a day or two. Saw Robbie Williams at the Wynn and even got to meet him! If you remember what a big fan J is, this was a VERY. BIG. DEAL.
Spent the summer back “home” in Los Angeles, thanks to J’s job.
Did some freelance book editing.
Got a new full time job at CNN. (also a very big deal!)
Turned 41. Started wearing glasses full-time.
Got my first BOOK DEAL! (HAPPY NEW YEAR!)
Buddy turned THREE – had his first ever birthday party at a local farm (toddlers and animals = cuteness overload), and then one week later everything changed. Because Covid.
Adapted/still adapting to the new not-so-normal of working from home full time with no childcare.
My parents moved to Georgia! They now live 8 minutes away by car. Having them here helps a little bit with the childcare issue, but they are by no means expected to be full-time babysitters.
Turned 42. Had pizza and cake at home with J, Buddy, and my parents.
I think that brings us up to date.
ON THE NEXT EPISODE…
Big, exciting BOOK NEWS coming TOMORROW! Plus more updates, more often. I PROMISE.
Thanks for sticking around. And if you’re new, WELCOME!
So, I haven’t updated in a while. Here’s a list of some of the things that have happened since my last update:
Buddy got an ear infection.
Buddy got ANOTHER ear infection.
We evacuated our home due to poor air quality from a local wildfire — the largest wildfire in LA County history.
We went to Florida to visit my family, and introduce Buddy to his uncles, aunts, cousins, and extended family.
I had a birthday, spent with my family in FL
J turned 40!!!!
We took a side trip from Florida to Atlanta for a baby-free long weekend for J’s 40th birthday, leaving Buddy with his grandparents in FL.
Buddy got another ear infection.
I threw a surprise 40th Star Wars movie screening in our backyard for J. It was awesome. Buddy slept the whole time!
Buddy had his first surgery to have tubes placed in his ears to prevent further ear infections. He was a champ. Mom was an anxious mess.
I got food poisoning at Thanksgiving dinner and was admitted into the emergency room on Black Friday.
We were evacuated from our home for five days LAST WEEK by the police due to a large, impending wildfire that threatened our home. (So grateful to have generous friends who didn’t hesitate to take in three adults, one baby, and two pups for an indefinite amount of time!).
When I was pregnant, a lot of people felt the need to tell me and J that we could say goodbye to our love of travel. Once we had a kid, it would all be over for the foreseeable future.
Also, when I was pregnant, J and I bought tickets to a concert in Vienna, Austria for around the time the baby would be just under six months old. Because, fuck it, adventure!
A little backstory: J is a huge fan of Robbie Williams, who is one of the biggest international pop stars, selling out stadiums all over the world — except in the United States. For whatever reason, America just never really caught the Robbie train. Over the years, it became a tradition for J and his mom, whom he was very close with, to travel abroad together whenever Robbie toured to catch a show and see a different city for each tour. (Just to be clear, they didn’t follow each tour around the globe like Deadheads, they saw ONE show on each tour, every few years). Together, they traveled to places like Manchester and Milan and it was an incredible mother/son adventure. They had the kind of relationship I hope to have with my son someday.
When J’s mom passed away a little over two years ago, we were planning our wedding. We were obviously heartbroken to lose her, and even more crushed that she wouldn’t be there — at least not physically — for our wedding day, and for all of the still-to-come milestones, including the birth of our future child.
When we found out we were pregnant, the doctor told us that our due date was March 2 — exactly two years from the day J’s mom passed.
So, when I was in my third trimester of a very healthy pregnancy, and we found out that Robbie Williams was launching another world tour, there was no question. This would be a great tribute to my late mother-in-law, and J was excited to share the Robbie/travel experience with me and our son. Full circle.
We picked a date closer to the end of the tour, so that the baby would be old enough to travel, and we picked a city we both had never been to — Vienna. And then we got excited.
After the baby was born, we went back and forth a few times about whether the trip was a realistic idea. The plane tickets (which we were waiting to purchase until we were sure) were not exactly cheap, and we had no idea what to expect traveling internationally with an infant. Also, there was the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. These are scary times, y’all. Ultimately, we decided we had to go, and so we got our little guy’s passport (there is nothing cuter than a baby passport photo), bought him a pair of noise canceling headphones, and booked our tickets.
I’m not gonna lie — I was nervous as fuck about the plane ride. 12 hours in the air with a baby who had never flown before. We’ve all been on planes with a screaming baby. I reaaaaaally didn’t want that to be MY baby.
We planned ahead, and booked the bulkhead seats on the airplane, and reserved the airline’s hanging bassinet, that gets mounted onto the bulkhead wall. Seriously, whoever came up with this idea is a genius.
We were advised by every friend, family member, doctor, and mom blog to feed the baby on takeoff and landing, to help with the pressure in his ears. Well, let me tell you this — those noise canceling headphones? A MIRACLE. We put them on his head as we were taxiing and he was asleep before we started our ascent, and slept through takeoff completely.
Between the miracle headphones and the bassinet, he slept for about half of the 12-hour flight. The other times, he was a joy! He played a little, looked at his favorite soft book a little, and ate a lot. Honestly, I couldn’t believe our luck. The hardest part of the whole flight was having to change a poop diaper in the teeny airplane bathroom, but there was a fold-down changing table and we made it work!
Once we (finally) got to our hotel, we were exhausted. Between the long flight and the time change, we were all but zombies at this point. We got to the hotel at around 12:30 p.m. local time and discovered that because check-in wasn’t until 2:00, our room was not ready. Thankfully, there was a restaurant in the lobby, so we hunkered down and filled our bellies. The baby started to get fussy in his car seat/stroller, and when I picked him up, it was clear to anyone with a nose that he had a gift for us in his diaper. What became more evident when I looked at him, was that this was a full-on blowout. Like, poop coming THROUGH the pajamas.
I took him to the lobby restroom to find that there was no changing table in sight. Just a single (thankfully deep) sink, with a little bit of counter space on either side. I rolled up my sleeves, literally, and took a deep breath. I put down a disposable changing pad (like one of those wee-wee pads for small dogs) and started to peel off his shitty pjs. It was a fucking poop apocalypse. It was all up his back and down his legs and I wiped him down the best I could and then stuck him in the sink for an impromptu bath.
Finally, I got him all cleaned up, and we got our room keys at last, and went upstairs and napped SO HARD.
The rest of the trip was actually wonderful. Buddy slept pretty decently considering the time change and the strange room. It was waaaaay hotter in Vienna than we had expected, even though we checked the weather every day leading up to the trip. Because of the heat, we didn’t get to do quite as much sightseeing as we had hoped, because the poor kid (and his parents, tbh) just melted in the heat.
When J and I were on our honeymoon in Paris, we got tattoos of a quote from A Moveable Feast, which Hemingway wrote about his years in the city, to commemorate the occasion. So naturally, we decided we had to get tattoos in Vienna to commemorate our first trip as a family.
Yes, I got the miracle headphones tattooed on my body. It may seem trivial, but the significance of the image goes a little deeper for me. On the surface level, the headphones were the first thing we bought for Buddy (not his real name, but how I will be referring to him going forward) when we decided to take a risk and fly 6,000 miles with a baby for a concert (and boy, did he look cute in them). But beyond that, for me it signifies a lot of things: the love that J and I have of music and how this whole adventure started because of a connection to music, and also, something that I haven’t written much about (but plan to soon) is the fact that my son was born with a significant hearing loss, but still responds to certain music and sound cues beyond our expectations, which is pretty extraordinary. It is my hope that music will always be something that he has a passion for and finds meaning in.
Our plan all along was to bring the baby to the concert. We had gotten the A-ok from our pediatrician, ENT, and a hearing specialist, as long as we used the magic headphones to protect him. However, as the day of the show got closer, J and I started having second thoughts. First of all, it was a stadium show, which meant being outside all night, and it was crazy hot in Vienna, even at night. Also, I was very quickly reminded when we arrived that everyone in Europe still smokes — so I was worried about him being in a hot, crowded, smoky stadium. I was worried about myself for the same reasons, if I’m being honest. Finally, our tickets were for the front of stage standing section — which while amazing for us, might be a little crowded for a baby.
Well, divine intervention kicked in and we found out the day of the show, when we walked over to the stadium (our hotel was a 5-minute walk away!) to pick up our tickets at will-call, that they would not allow the baby into the show anyway. Luckily, we had booked a hotel that had a babysitting service. Or so we thought. We got back to the hotel at about 2 p.m. to discover that our hotel did not, in fact, have that service. So now we are hours away from the concert that we traveled thousands of miles for, the experience that meant the world to my husband (and to me that he wanted to share it with me) — and we had no plan for our little man.
We tried to get a room at the other hotel within walking distance that DID have the babysitting service, but they were all booked up. We tried finding a sitter through an online nanny service, but my stomach couldn’t handle the idea of a random stranger staying in our hotel room with our baby. Finally, I remembered that a good friend of mine who grew up in Germany had recently been to Vienna visiting friends. I sent her a message and prayed that she would see it in time, not knowing what time zone she was currently in. Luckily, she got the message and started calling friends to see if someone she knew and trusted would be willing to come hang with our Buddy for a few hours, and in a last-minute miracle, the college-aged daughter of some English-speaking friends who lived in the area was willing and able to help us out. Just to be clear, this was someone my friend knew personally and vouched for. She got to the hotel just as the doors were opening to the show, and we talked her through his feeding schedule and bedtime routine, made sure we all had each other’s numbers in our phones, and went to the show, trying not to worry all night.
The show was incredible, even if we were checking our phones pretty much all night. When we got back to the hotel, Buddy was sound asleep and looking peaceful and happy.
Buddy did so well on our travels, that we even got to take a little side trip. We took a 2.5-hour train ride to Salzburg so that I could nerd out at some of the filming locations from The Sound of Music. I got to see the actual house that the real Von Trapp family lived in, and the gardens where the “Do-Re-Mi” scenes were filmed before the heat took it’s toll on us all and we got a train back to Vienna.
On the way back to L.A., my wonder boy slept for 10 of the 12 hours in the air. Honestly, who could ask for more?
Finally, to the people who told us we would never travel again…I’ll let my son respond to that sentiment in this, my favorite photo from our trip:
He was doing so well. Three months ago, I was BRAGGING about how my 3-month-old baby was sleeping nine hours at night without waking up. It’s my fault. I got too cocky. At around four and a half months, he started to wake up several times during the night. “Don’t worry, it’s just a sleep regression, he’s right on target” and “It will go back to normal in a week or two,” I kept hearing from doctors, friends, and even my therapist.
He’s now six and a half months old and the sleep situation has gotten even worse. Chaos is the best way to describe it. J and I are in survival mode at this point. We’ve tried a routine, we’ve thrown out the routine, we’ve changed his bed situation, nothing helps.
Right now, aside from whatever “sleep regression” he’s going through, there’s like a perfect storm of things this poor little guy is dealing with that are exacerbating the situation, so I can’t really get mad at my tiny terrorist — it’s just frustrating. Here’s a little bit of the mixed bag he’s dealing with:
Teething. The kid has been showing signs of teething for THREE MONTHS now and has no teeth to show for it. UGH.
Ear infections. Somehow, he managed to get two ear infections, one in each ear, which makes lying down extremely painful due to the pressure.
Tummy trouble. The little guy had a bad reaction to something we gave him at the recommendation of the phone nurse at our pediatrician’s office (don’t get me started), and it’s taking a while to get it out of his system.
So, right now, everything is terrible. Last night we were up until almost 3:30 a.m. with a screaming baby. When I say screaming, I don’t mean crying loudly — I mean screaming like someone was holding a flame to his feet. But he’s like Jekyl and Hyde — one minute he’s screaming like he’s being tortured and then the next minute, I’m holding him and he’s smiling and blowing raspberries. It’s infuriating and adorable at the same time.
We have his 6.5 month checkup with his pediatrician on Wednesday, and hopefully the cocktail of meds we’ve been giving him will have helped clear up his ear infections and tummy issues. And these damned teeth better show themselves soon, or I’m gonna lose my shit.
So, yeah. I haven’t written in a while, even though there has been A LOT to write about. Between working full time, still trying to spend as much waking time with J and the little guy, and occasionally eat a hot meal, it hasn’t left much time for writing. More accurately, it hasn’t left much energy for writing. Any remaining time I have after baby goes to sleep has been reserved for watching celebrity game shows and hanging out on the couch with my husband.
But I’m really trying to make a comeback. I am trying to find that balance between work life, mom life, and taking time for me. Last week I even went to the gym for the first time since I got pregnant. It was rough. I peeled myself out of my warm, comfy bed at 6AM on a weekday and left a sleeping J and baby and went to the gym BEFORE work, knowing that J would be getting our little buddy ready for daycare and taking him in on his way to work. The actual working out part was just as rough — I got on that treadmill and had a very slow start because i’m incredibly out of shape right now, which is fair because you know, I had two major abdominal surgeries in the last 6 months, and haven’t done any heavy cardio in over a year. But even though it was a slow start, it was a start, and i’m going to try to go twice this week. And then maybe three times the next week, but who knows. All I know is that I’m ready to start trying again.
I’m not looking to lose a shit-ton of weight, or have the body that I had on my wedding day — my body is forever changed after carrying my baby and having an emergency c-section. I’m just trying to be a little healthier and more active, to feel like my old self again. And to be fair, my old self was kind of lazy, so I’m halfway there.
I’m also going to try to write here more often. There’s probably gonna be a surge of new posts in the coming days/weeks, because there’s been a lot going on in the past few weeks and I want to get it all down while it’s still fresh in my memory — from our first transatlantic flight/vacation with a 5-month-old to a fire evacuation to baby’s first worrisome sickness, it’s been a hell of a few weeks. So don’t give up on me just yet and stay tuned…I’m just getting started.
So, tomorrow is my first day back at work and away from my baby. I’m trying to be ok with this, but it’s hard. It’s really, really hard.
Just to be clear — I love my job. Even on the worst day, I can say that I just really like my job but had a rough day. I love the people I work with, the company culture, and being able to be productive and creative all day. All of that means a lot to me, and it took me a long time to get to a place where I can make a living with my writing. That’s huge.
But you know what else it took me a long time to do? Become a mom. And all of the platitudes and cliches about motherhood are feeling pretty fucking real right now. I can’t believe how much I love this little human. Like, I’m kind of obsessed with him. In the past month, he’s really started to smile a lot and it makes my heart explode into a million tiny pieces every time I see his ridiculously adorable dimples and that goofy grin looking up at me.
I don’t want to lose that. In my head, I know that he’s not going to forget me or love me any less, but try telling that to every other part of me.
I’ve also been campaigning REALLY hard for him to laugh for the past few weeks, but he’s such a tough audience. He’s so close to laughing — we even got an ALMOST giggle tonight. I am going to be devastated if I miss his first laugh. For the next few weeks, he’ll be home with my mom, who is still in town, and I’ve gotta say, Nana is pretty funny.
I’ve been struggling a lot in with anxiety and guilt leading up to my return to work, even though I’ve never judged any other mom I know for going back to work. Why can’t I give myself the same break I give everyone else?
Jesus, this post is all over the place, but so am I right now.
It’s going to be really hard to leave him tomorrow morning. I’m not worried for his well-being at all — he’s gonna be with my mom, who did a pretty great job raising me and my brothers. I’m worried for mine. First of all, the fact that I am still healing from my gallbladder surgery 11 days ago and am still pretty sore (and am still not allowed to pick up my baby!) is a bit of a concern. But mostly, I’m concerned about being so overwhelmed with guilt and anxiety that I won’t even be able to be present at work and then I’ll bring all of that stress and bad energy home for the two hours I’ll be able to spend with my boy before he goes off to sleep, and rinse, repeat every day.
Thankfully I have an incredibly supportive partner, an amazing mother who is making the transition a lot easier (and then in three weeks she’ll be gone and I’ll have to deal with leaving him in daycare – a whole other ball of anxiety just waiting around the corner), and the amazing community of working moms at BuzzFeed to lean on.
Now I’m gonna go eat some vegan “ice cream” because I still can’t have any dairy or fat in my post-gallbladder surgery diet and try not to stay up all night crying/freaking out.
I’ve been thinking a lot today about my friend Alex. And I’ve been thinking even more about his mother. Today would have been Alex’s 40th birthday, but he passed away 13 years ago very unexpectedly. It’s almost impossible to me that so much time has passed. The day we buried him was my 26th birthday. I will be 39 in October.
Everyone who met Alex loved him. He was charming as hell, with a devilish smile and heart of pure, solid gold. He was funny, and brilliant, and an incredibly talented musician and actor. He was effortlessly cool, and devastatingly handsome. Above all of this, he was one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known. He graduated from our high school a year before me and went off to a college I hadn’t heard of before, Emerson College in Boston. When it was time for me to start looking at schools, I knew I wanted to get out of Miami and head to the Northeast, so I went to visit some schools in Boston. One of those stops, naturally, was to visit Alex at Emerson. He had only been there a few months and already he had a close-knit group of friends and everywhere we went, people were glad to see him. I wasn’t surprised in the least. A year later, I arrived for my first year at Emerson, and although Alex wasn’t a student there anymore, I was welcomed by those same friends he introduced me to on that weekend college tour.
I have a lot of great memories of Alex, from high school to that summer in Boston when I lived in a giant rental house with him and five other guy friends from high school, to eventually a bunch of us migrating to New York in our early twenties. I also remember so clearly the very last time I saw him. It was early Fall of 2004 in Brooklyn. I had just come back from a six-month national tour (back in my previous life as a working actor in New York), and Alex’s band was playing a gig at a local bar/venue. There we were, living our dreams in New York, surrounded by this amazing community that we had built when we were just kids in Miami. It was the closest thing to magic I’d ever experienced.
After the show, Alex and I caught up outside on the sidewalk. There was that perfect feeling in the air, when the long, hot NYC summer started surrender into the cool night breezes of early Autumn. It was the kind of night songs are written about and indie NYC meet-cute movie scenes are made of. We talked for a little while, and then I had to go. I don’t remember why now. What I do remember is that before I left, we shared a giant bear hug, and the last words we said to each other were:
Him: “I love you, kid!”
Me: “I love you, too!”
I am so grateful for that. A couple of weeks later, he was gone.
I think about his mom a lot. In the years following his death, we’ve actually become pretty close. When I’m in Miami, I always make a point to see her, and sometimes I even stay at her house. This October, I’ll be taking J and our little man to meet her and have a sleepover and I can’t wait.
Alex was her only child. As I write this, my little boy, my only child, is in his swing a few feet away from me. I cannot fathom what it must feel like to lose a child, at any age. It’s not fair, and it never will be. Mothers are not supposed to outlive their children.
Alex’s mom lives her life with such grace and bravery, and I marvel at her strength.
Today would have been Alex’s 40th birthday. Tomorrow is my son’s four-month birthday. I know that nothing in this world is guaranteed or permanent, so I’m just going to love him with all of my might every day and live in gratitude for every moment.
Once again, I’m living in the magic. Thanks for the reminder, Ruiz.
Taking care of an infant is hard. Taking care of an infant when you are in constant pain or discomfort is even harder.
One night, almost three months ago, when my baby was only about a month old, I went to bed with a bit of soreness in my back. A couple of hours later, I couldn’t sleep because the pain in my back had gotten so intense. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand, I tried lying on the floor and nothing helped. I took a hot shower to try to alleviate some of the pain, and when I got out of the shower, I promptly vomited. The rest of the night was a mix of back pain and urgent and frequent trips to the bathroom. I had no idea what was happening, and poor J was trying to take care of me and a fussy newborn. I was up all night and the next day I felt sore and exhausted, but mostly ok. So, I brushed it off as a bad night and focused my energy on the small, helpless human that needed my undivided attention all day.
And then two weeks later, it happened again. Back pain and stomach issues all night. J thought it might be a post-pregnancy onset of a severe and sudden lactose intolerance. I eat a lot of cheese and I drink a lot of milk, always have. He figured the back pain might be trapped gas. I took gas pills, I cut out dairy, and then it happened again — this time in the middle of Target, while out with J and the baby. Thank goodness J was there.
Finally, I went to see my doctor and he ran some labs, and ordered some ultrasounds of my abdomen and side/back area. It turns out I have pancreatitis, caused by gallstones. After talking to my primary care physician, J, and a surgeon, we came to the conclusion that the next best step would be to have my gallbladder removed.
Actually getting a diagnosis and making a plan of action helped relieve me of the anxiety I was feeling about not being able to take care of my son and give him the attention and energy he needs. I have lived with chronic pain for a long time due to endometriosis, and while certain medications have helped, adding another unknown onset of symptoms was really starting to freak me out. There’s only so many heating pads I can have on various parts of my body at once.
The only problem now was that the surgeon didn’t have any available slots for me for another month.
Tomorrow is the big day. FINALLY. For the past month, I have been on a very restricted diet — which hasn’t been too much of a struggle since my appetite has diminished quite a bit because of the discomfort of an inflamed pancreas and gallstones. The “episodes” have become more frequent (although a little less intense). J has been an absolute hero, working full time, picking up the slack when I have nothing left to give, and taking care of me when I’m not feeling well (which is a lot). Thankfully, my mom flew in yesterday to help us with the baby while I’m recovering.
I’m nervous about the surgery. Even though I know it’s a fairly common procedure, and J will be there the whole time, it’s still surgery. I’m having an organ removed from my body. Not to mention that I just had a major surgery less than four months ago, when a human was surgically removed from my body. Most of all though, I’m just looking forward to feeling like myself again, after the recovery period. It will be nice to not be afraid to spend a day out and about with my baby, worried that I might have an attack in the middle of a store or the park and not be able to handle it.
Oh, and did I mention that I am scheduled to return to work in less than two weeks? No big deal.
It was 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, after over 28 hours of labor, when my “birth plan” went flying out the window.
Even though the notion of essentially pushing a bowling ball out of my vagina terrified me, it was what I had been planning to do for the past nine months. I like to be prepared (thank nine years of Girl Scouting for that!) and I’m a really good student, so I did everything I could to ready myself. J and I took childbirth classes at the hospital and I — a person who had never practiced yoga before — took a weekly prenatal yoga class starting at seven weeks pregnant, all the way through to 36 weeks.
I was looking forward to experiencing what my best childhood friend once described to me as “the most pain you’ll ever feel followed by the biggest wave of euphoria you’ll ever know.” Instead, my son’s birth wound up being fraught with confusion, anxiety, and a little bit of nausea. While the end result was still a win — me holding my newborn son in my arms for the first time, this was not the story I intended to write.
That morning, at 6 a.m., my OB came into my room to examine me. My water had broken sometime the night before (probably between midnight and 1 a.m.) and I was only five centimeters dilated when the nurse examined me at 1:30. Now, four and a half hours later, my doctor informed me that I was still only at five centimeters. At this point, after such a long labor, they were getting concerned about the baby’s heart rate. I would later find out that he had flipped his body so that he was not in the prime birthing position and the umbilical cord had loosely wrapped itself around his neck in the process.
Everything happened so quickly after that. The doctor explained that we were going to have to do a c-section, and we were going to have to do it NOW. Within seconds of him saying those words, and without a moment to digest any of it, the room became a frenzied blur of nurses directing J to put all of our belongings into plastic bags, an oxygen mask being put over my mouth and nose, and a nurse standing over me with a razor. J found a quick moment to call our parents and had to abrubtly get off the phone to support me as I started to panic and dry heave into hosptial barf bags. I would have thrown up if I hadn’t been starved for the past 24+ hours.
In what seemed like five seconds, I was being wheeled into the operating room to be prepped to have my first born child surgically removed from my body. I was shivering cold and terrified, as they wouldn’t allow J into the room until I was fully prepped. This involved the doctors strapping my arms down, outstretched at my sides in a T shape and a room full of strangers asking me questions and mispronouncing my name (Alicia – I pronounce it Ah-lee-see-ah, not Ah-lee-shuh).
It wasn’t a completely sterile and lifeless room — there was music playing from a speaker off to the side. While I was being strapped down like a death row inmate, Morrissey was the soundtrack. This was not the vibe I was going for, and while I had very little control of what was happening to my body, I sure as hell could control this part of my experience. I asked for the Beatles — several times as my speech had started to slur a bit at this point — and as soon as the familiar sounds of the Fab Four filled the room and J was finally by my side, holding my hand and breathing with me, I knew it was all going to be ok.
At 6:40 a.m. my beautiful, perfect baby boy was born to the sound of “Dear Prudence.”
While it was not the magical, intimate experience I had dreamed of, my baby was here and he was healthy. Because I was numb and because he didn’t cry immediately, I didn’t even know it had happened until the doctor stood up and said “he’s here, and he’s perfect!”
They held his pink, naked body up for me to see and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was this tiny human being that just moments ago was inside my body. It still blows my mind. J left my side for the first time to go cut the cord, and then I waited for what seemed like an eternity until they finally brought him closer for me to see him.
The breathtaking, overwhelmingly emotional moment didn’t last too long. Soon, J and the baby were whisked out of the room to begin their skin-to-skin bonding time while the doctor stitched me back up. Eventually, I made it to the recovery room and held my son for the first time.
At around 11 a.m., J’s dad and my parents were finally allowed to come see us and meet their grandson. Seeing my parents hold my baby for the first time is an image that will bring me comfort for the rest of my life.
While things were finally starting to feel real, and normal, and good, my suffering was not over. It had now been over 30 hours since I had eaten any real food and I was STARVING. I was informed that I wasn’t allowed to eat anything until 3:30 p.m., which was still HOURS away. Shortly after 2:00, J went out into the world to get me some non-hospital food, so that I would have my long-awaited turkey sandwich (oh, how I missed you, deli meat!) at exactly 3:30. We ate our first meal as parents together while our son slept beside us. And to mark the occasion, we shared a piece of birthday cake.
I’ll be honest, I struggled a bit writing this post. I have no trouble being honest about all of the details of my own experience, but this was also my son’s experience. Someday he will read this, and I don’t ever want him to associate his birth with any stress or trauma of mine. So what I want him (and you, dear reader) to take away is that childbirth is a mysterious, painful, and devastatingly beautiful experience. Whether a child is born at home or in a hospital, vaginally or surgically, via a surrogate or a birth mother who chose to give another family the most selfless gift, it’s all miraculous. My birth experience may not have been what I planned for or expected, but it was what was right for my family. And while I didn’t “do the work” of pushing my baby out, my body still performed an astonishing feat, and I have the battle scar to prove it. Together with my favorite person in the world, we MADE A HUMAN LIFE, which we were told would be nearly impossible for us. I carried that life inside of me for 41 weeks. Four days later, I brought my son home to a place with joy and gratitude in abundance. He will always know that he was so wanted, and is loved unconditionally by the two people who got lucky enough to be his parents.