I have been putting off writing this blog because I am not sure how I will emotionally handle it. Truth is, I am sitting (not so) pretty at 35 weeks right now and the emotional hormonal factor has really stepped up its game. Last night, I cried at an Amazon prime commercial about a baby and dog which led to me not paying attention to cooking and sticking my finger in boiling hot oil in a frying pan (which I remedied by then slathering yellow mustard on the impending blister- no joke. Thanks, Google!) If you are anything like me, you started off a highly emotional person and once you got pregnant, things took a sharp turn toward crazy town. I cannot help how much I cry these days. Another example: this morning I cried because I love my dog so much and I thought he looked sad. Meanwhile, I am pretty sure he was just trying to say thanks for breakfast.
So all poking fun at myself aside, when I was about 7 weeks pregnant, my parents called to tell me that my aunt and godmother had passed away. To say that I was devastated is an understatement. I had experienced three deaths on my father's side of the family within the past year (my grandfather and two of my uncles). It had been a very sad and grief filled year for my family and I was blindsided with the loss of my aunt. She was my second mother- I grew up playing in her house almost every day for years. We even lived with them at one point when my parents worked through the transition of my dad's switch from Active Duty to civilian life. The house I grew up in was up the street from their house and we would walk back and forth daily. She would fill in at dance competitions if my mom couldn't be there, french braid my hair for dance pictures, come to support at cheer competitions. She had the funniest stories of when she would take care of me when I was a baby. I could tell she loved me deeply. Simply put, she was always there for me. When my father told me on the phone that she had passed, I sat there stunned and then began to wail. I can't recall ever feeling that sort of grief before. I couldn't breathe- all I could do was cry out with this terrible sound from deep inside my body. I collapsed on the bed and handed the phone to my husband to talk to my father. Everyone kept telling me how important it was that I remain calm and think about how precarious the first trimester was for the baby. I didn't want to calm down. I didn't want to suppress my grief. I didn't know how to proceed.
I could go on with stories of my flight back east, how difficult the funeral and wake were to get through, how much I wished I can hear my aunt laugh again. I am crying as I type and not sure if that is the best idea. Instead I will provide a few tips I used to handle my grief while pregnant.
1) Find the moments you can laugh with your family. Find the moments you can cry with your family. Indulge in both.
2) Tell your unborn baby that you need to feel sad for a bit and it has nothing to do with them. Let yourself feel your feelings.
3) Breathe slowly in and out of your nose if you wake up with anxiety. Wake your husband or partner up and confide in them during those dark moments in the middle of the night. Ask to be held if you need it.
4) Mourn the knowledge that the beloved person you lost will never meet your baby or, in my case, even know you were pregnant. If it's early on in pregnancy like mine, take this opportunity to tell your other loved ones your good news earlier than you anticipated. On such a sad day after my aunt's funeral, I shared the news with my cousins and uncle. It became a beautiful way to share the news- to have something to look forward to with my family: the beginning of precious life as we muddled our way through processing the loss of precious life.
5) Months later, when you begin to cry in your kitchen because you considered picking up the phone to call the one you've lost, catch yourself on the kitchen counter and shed some tears. Wipe the tears away and remind yourself that it is normal to consider that person as still alive every now and then. Tell them you love them and move on with your day.
6) Enjoy the moments of happy memories you have about your loved one who has passed. When you see someone who reminds you of them, acknowledge it to yourself or who are you with at the time. Compile stories to share with your child in the future about your memories. Remember that the person you lost loved you and would want you to carry on with your life as happily as you can. Take one day at a time.
Losing my aunt was one of the most terrible things I have endured this year. Being pregnant is a blessing, yes, but to say this has been the worst year of my life is sharing a dark truth. Experiencing this loss, one that brings me to tears still, was one of the hardest lessons in grief I have ever had to date. I am not a religious person but I like to think that our loved ones live on beyond the grave. I hope she is able to see me and her great-nephew when he is born. I hope she smiles at him being named after her father (my papa) and his middle name's affiliation to the Beatles (she would let me play her Beatles records and study the album covers for hours). I hope she knows I loved her more than I can ever express in words.
We all have our angels. She is leading the pack of mine.
One of the biggest fears I had once I started accepting that I was pregnant was labor and delivery. Everyone loves to share their horror stories about having their baby and tv and movies make it look like the most traumatic, painful experience a woman can undergo. Know what else traumatizes me and causes me pain? The idea of a huge needle in my spine and a catheter. I get light headed having my blood drawn (pregnancy has been a joy for that hahahaha nope). I do not place judgment on a woman who decides to get an epidural. By all means, mama, you do you. But when the idea of a needle in my spine makes me squirm more than the idea of pushing a watermelon sized human out of my vag, I really started wondering just what I had gotten myself into.
At my 20 week ultrasound, I said to my doctor "I have been thinking about not having an epidural...am I crazy?" He said "Nope." He threw out a statistic, I can't remember the exact number, but I remember it was around 80% of women get epidurals...and the ones who don't usually don't because it's too late to get them. Not exactly the confidence boost I was looking for...but then he handed me a pamphlet for Hypnobirthing with Alisha Tamburri. We finished our appointment and my husband and I headed out to grab breakfast before leaving town for our babymoon. I opened the pamphlet and immediately saw an endorsement from Jessica Alba and thought "We cannot afford this." Such is life in LA sometimes.
I spent a couple weeks researching childbirth classes but could not stop thinking about the concept of hypnobirthing. I decided to really look into the cost and saw that it was not much more than a regular childbirthing class so I decided to jump on the opportunity and signed up. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I made that decision for myself. Alisa Tamburri is an incredible woman and instructor. Every week, we went over shifting your mindset, self hypnosis, relationship building with your partner, and invaluable reminders that your body was meant to do this. I have been reading the book that corresponds to the course we studied (The Mongan Method) and feel confident that I am ready to take on this challenge.
In hypnobirthing, you learn alternative phrases to scary sounding medical terms (for example: contractions are now referred to as surges). Each surge is bringing my baby closer to me and we will work as a team to bring him into this world. I am not saying labor and delivery do not hurt or this is a promise of a pain free birth. What I am saying is I believe that remaining relaxed has a major impact on how painful and scary of an experience it can be. Tensing up in any situation means tight muscles and can hinder performance by igniting fight or flight. Remaining calm and open to the situation at hand will provided relaxed muscles and allow my body to do what it is naturally built to do, what women for so many years before us have done, even long before epidurals were around. I will not be pushing my baby out but rather breathing him down the birth canal. Every day I practice self hypnosis and bring myself into a deeply calm and relaxed state. It has helped me find relief in the stressors of pregnancy and life as a whole and is a tool I will take on my journey long past my baby's birth day.
I promise to share an update of how it all worked out after Baby Perez is here. But I am happy to say that my confidence and shift in perception toward giving birth has been a life changer. My doctor says natural birth is not a crazy concept but he believes hypnobirthing can be an invaluable tool should you choose to go that route. I've already received my money's worth from class with this new outlook and no longer dread that day. Instead, I look positively with anticipation on this beautiful miracle.