Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Expectation Vs. Reality: Pregnancy Edition


I first remember when I was settling into being pregnant. There were so many expectations that I placed on myself; how I figured I would act, dress, think, etc. Isn't that always the way with any new life change?

Flash forward to present time, and I can honestly say that a lot of my expectations that I have placed on myself have flown out the window. Now that we're in the home stretch of pregnancy (37 weeks, holy crap) I can look back at my expectations in early pregnancy and how things have panned out and just laugh. Here's a few of the expectations that I swore would be my reality in pregnancy, and how off-the-mark they eventually ended up being.


1. I Wouldn't Bump-Cradle In Photos


I'll admit, I was someone who would roll my eyes at the amount that women would touch and hold their pregnant bellies in photos. "We get it," I would think, "you're pregnant." I was confident that I wouldn't fall victim to over touching my bump in photos as I grew into pregnancy.

Flash forward to present day, and a few scrolls through my Instagram feed reveals that there aren't very many photos of myself in the last few months where I'm not cradling the bump! What I've learned in these last 37 weeks, particularly after the 24 week mark when I actually started to show, is that there is a very fine line between baby belly and burrito belly in clothes - and that hand on top of a protruding stomach is that line. Also, the more that I eased into pregnancy, felt baby move and kick from within me and grew, the more I wanted to enjoy and celebrate what was going on! Listen, I don't know if I'll ever be pregnant again - if I want to celebrate my body and touch the life that's growing within me for photos, I will damnit - haha.

So as I enjoy the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, I will be touching the bump as much as humanly possible and documenting it all through photographs. No shame in my game.


2. I Would Continue To Travel To The End


I'm happy with the amount of travel that I was able to accomplish while pregnant. Once I hit 30 weeks, and international plane travel became more restricted, I remember telling anyone who would listen that I would be continuing to galavant with many road trips, sight seeing and hotel stays. I wasn't going to let a little something like pregnancy get in the way of my summer plans.

Well, I can officially say that my last plane trip to Charleston was my last trip of the pregnancy. Road trips? Ha! Y'all, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm tired. The third trimester hit me like a ton of bricks, and while I'm grateful to still feel pretty good, I was relieved to make a conscious effort to slow down. Not only that, but I found that I began to feel more content just staying in and organizing our condo making room for baby instead of driving to Montreal to complete my ambitious itinerary.

It's an interesting shift, learning to slow down for someone who typically takes comfort in a chaotic schedule. Hopefully this is preparing me for a more content fourth trimester when baby arrives.


3. I Would Continue To Exercise 


Now, this assumption is one that I wish that I had kept up with, but sometimes it's not in the cards. I was doing great with exercising for most of the pregnancy; between walking, at-home workouts, barre and prenatal yoga. Something shifted at about 30+ weeks, where my body stopped being able to handle it. I found that a workout would drain me for the entire day, or would trigger swelling within my body. Couple that with the fact that my baby has been breech for the majority of the pregnancy and I didn't want to do anything to make it worse (deep squats, etc.) and my fitness routine fell to the wayside.

I do worry that this lapse in exercise will make it harder to get back into a healthy routine when baby arrives, but honestly I've been trying hard to listen and follow the cues of my body. Everything within my body has been telling me to slow down, and I'm respecting that. Barre class can wait. Until then I'm continuing to walk, albeit at a very leisurely pace these days, making sure to take the time to enjoy the view.

What do you guys think? Have you broken any expectations that you had for yourself in a new situation? Let me know!

xo Joëlle
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Friday, 5 July 2019

Prenatal Anxiety: My Story


It's hard for me to think of an appropriate way to start this very personal blog post. Let me just start by saying that this is a hard subject for me to talk about, as is anything deeply personal that delves deeper than the superficial and lightness that I strive to keep throughout this blog. It's just who I am; I like to keep any problems I'm experiencing to myself, both on and offline.

The reason that I wanted to open up a bit and talk about my experience with prenatal anxiety is that it seems to be a reoccurring theme when talking to expectant, new and seasoned moms alike. "How are you feeling?" they would innocently ask and in the odd time that I would open up and let them know that my biggest pregnancy symptom was/is anxiety, it was more often than not met with women telling me that they experienced the exact same thing while expecting. In fact, I would say that the vast majority of women I've spoken to about prenatal anxiety have their own experiences, anecdotes, memories and battles. For a pregnancy symptom that is seemingly so common among women, why is it that I rarely - if ever - hear it mentioned in any of the information available that coaches women on what to expect when expecting?

That's why I wanted to share my story today. Hopefully someone who is struggling, or has struggled in the past with prenatal anxiety will read it and know that they're not alone.

My Story


My story with prenatal anxiety begins almost right away after holding my positive pregnancy test. Our first attempt to conceive ended in a chemical pregnancy, so I was so happy to see that we were able to get pregnant again so soon after. While I experienced all of the "typical" reactions to a positive pregnancy test (excitement, overwhelm, disbelief, etc.) I also has this nagging sense of guilt. Why should it have been so quick for us, when others struggle with infertility? It was a feeling that I tried to shake, but ultimately ended up manifesting itself into a cloud of doom that seemed to follow me around the entire first trimester.

The first trimester for me was tough, and when my prenatal anxiety was at its absolute worst. Some days it would present as just a nagging feeling and weight on my back that would follow me around and other days it would be full-blown episodes of panic that prevented me from leaving my condo. In fact if I look back at my first trimester I rarely ever left our place, didn't see anyone unless it was family and just spent hours frantically Googling anything from miscarriages to pregnancy complications or anything else that could possibly go wrong. This would then lead to feelings of crippling guilt that I was ruining what may the only time that I was ever pregnant, and therefor was undeserving. It was a vicious cycle that I could not seem to pull myself out of, despite rationally knowing how destructive my behaviour was. The feelings seemed to be beyond my control, and despite knowing that fresh air and a good laugh with friends would make me feel so much better, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So inside I stayed, alone with my thoughts and Google. It was miserable, isolating and seemed like it would never end.

Thankfully the fog lifted in the second trimester as my hormones regulated. It's then that I finally allowed myself to feel joy and excitement, without feeling like I was jinxing anything. I started to travel again, see my friends and just feel good. It was such a relief to have the monkey on my back finally leave. Even with my brief hospitalization and a short bout of anxiety that came along after, it was amazing how different my second trimester was from my first.

Fast forward to my third trimester, and with another shift in hormones that damn cloud of doom came back. Thankfully for me, it was then late spring and Toronto was experiencing more sunlight and milder weather and it made a world of difference. I also had developed some coping mechanisms in my second trimester that really helped; namely yoga, starting a gratitude journal and listening to classic rock all day (yes, that actually did help.) And while I definitely don't want to insinuate that yoga and Elton John is the solution to struggles in mental health, it seemed to work for me so I just went with it. Everyone is completely different.

Now here we are in the home stretch, and there are definitely more good days than bad. I also feel as though I've gotten a glimpse into what postpartum depression can feel like, and have taken preemptive steps to make sure that I have outside support should I need it. This experience has made me realize that maternal mental health goes far beyond just the 'baby blues' and if you're feeling these feelings of panic that seem to be beyond your control that you're not alone and it's not something to feel ashamed of.

So that's my story. While this was a hard one for me to share, since I don't want to look back on this very fleeting time and remember anything but the joy, I do think it's important to speak to my experience with prenatal anxiety. Hopefully this helps anyone who's feeling panicked, isolated and alone in what is thought to be a magical time.

You are not alone.

xo Joëlle

Disclaimer: If you're experiencing uncontrollable feelings of prenatal anxiety or depression, please talk to your doctor, midwife, or someone that you trust.
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