Back in May we shared the news that we are adding a new little one to the Pickens family! I really wanted to do a cute shoot to announce the pregnancy, but also focus on Maddox becoming a big brother. To us that was part of what made the news so exciting! We had an adorable "Big Bro" jacket made for him, thanks to Amy Scripts. After we say how cute it was we decided to fully embrace the denim thing as a family.
We worked with my friend Jade (Jade Nikkole Photography) to bring the vision to life. We opted for lots of candids (a must when shooting with a toddler!) and wanted to highlight the genuine happiness as we told Maddox what it was going to be like to be a big brother.
I shared a few of these precious photos in our social media announcements, but wanted to give them a moment here too since they are so special to us.
As restrictions ease up and we start “reentering life”, I can’t help but feel more than a little uneasy. Yes, I am concerned about safety and my family’s health, but there has been more than that weighing on me. The past year has impacted everyone so differently and for me the global pandemic just happened to coincide with being pregnant with my son and becoming a mom. It has certainly been a year of massive change. Both of these life events I’m sure would have been catalysts to life changes, but together they have pushed me through an emotional journey and I’m coming out on the other side sort of a different person. That is what I am so nervous about. I am a different person than I was 14 months ago at the beginning of this and I am not sure I know how to be this person back out in the world.
I won’t explain all of the evolution I’ve been through and revelations I’ve experienced as I have been alone with myself and my thoughts late at night uncomfortable from a pregnant belly or nursing a tired newborn. What specifically the changes are doesn’t matter. The key is that now, after 14 months of happily living with my new self, I have to take her out into the world and figure things out.
This transition is more challenging because we were very, very strict with our quarantine. I have not been into my office in over a year and I have not seen my friends in person since before anyone could even tell I was pregnant. I literally grew an entire life inside of me, birthed him, and he is now almost 8 months old. In that whole time I have rarely seen anyone outside of my family bubble.
The weird thing is, the world was still going on around me while I was almost paused in this quarantine bubble. Protecting my baby was number one so I blocked out the rest of the world and here I am trying to reemerge and things are really different. But so am I.
My anxiety, I’m sure, stems from my lack of control of the world around me. Now that I am out of my bubble, anything seems to be fair game. My carefully calculated life is now open to scrutiny, error, and failure. I don’t have the same priorities, interests, or even fashion sense as I did a year ago. I’m more vulnerable than I have ever been as a new mom just trying to figure that out and figure me out. Our society is not kind to new moms (or moms in general!) and their changes are often seen as weakness instead of growth. I am taking that raw person and putting her out into almost a new world and what used to be default and comfortable is now just the opposite.
My ultimate goal is that I am able to carry on a slower, more mindful pace of life and keep my protective bubble at least partially intact while exploring what, on the other side of the past 14 months, makes me, me. I’m not sure how I’m going to do this and I’m sure navigating this will be a journey in itself.
No matter how you feed your baby, the journey has ups and downs, as well as an often glossed over emotional component. Our feeding story has been a mix of many methods, but today I’m talking specifically about my experience breastfeeding.
At 10 weeks postpartum, I wrote an emotional post explaining the realities of breastfeeding during those first 10 weeks. I never released the post because it felt too raw and emotional at the time. Now at six months postpartum, I revisited it and added an update on where we are now. Being more removed from the trenches, per say, it feels like it’s time to share. Hopefully these truths help to either prepare you that struggle is normal or show you that there is a bright view from the other side. I wish at 10 weeks postpartum I would have read something like this and honestly that is part of the reason why I wrote this.
Breastfeeding is freaking hard. It is one of the most time consuming and thankless jobs you will ever have. I definitely feel like my expectations were skewed going into motherhood. From looking at Instagram and all of the mom bloggers posting their boob happily in their baby’s mouth, I was under the impression that breastfeeding was this super easy natural thing and my biggest issue would be the sad day I’d have to stop because he got too old. Wrong wrong wrong wrong. I am here to tell you that is not the norm although it may happen to some of the lucky ones, but do not let that expectation take over. I have grown a lot more comfortable with my journey and realized that a lot of other moms have these ups and downs in their breastfeeding story as well. I want to walk through my story and the stuff no one tells you because from my experience there is a lot of it. I am an avid researcher of situations before entering them and no class, book, or Google search prepared me for this. The only thing that made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy or the only one going through the breastfeeding rollercoaster was hearing the raw truth from other moms.
So let’s start with when I realized how underprepared I really was which was, well immediately after giving birth. I didn’t realize that I was going to be pumping from the beginning. I had this idea that my baby would be born, immediately latch to my boob, and that would be that. I thought the first time I’d have to even pull out my pump was when I’d eventually want a glass of wine so I could do the old pump and dump. That entire thought sequence is false on just about every level.
Your milk doesn’t “come in” for a few days so while you are in the hospital you are pumping to get things going. My hospital provided me with a breast pump to use which I believe most hospitals do, but at first there was little instruction so I was winging it and doing it totally wrong. Maddox was born via c-section and was in the Nicu for a bit before I got to feed him myself so I just hung out super drugged up trying to operate this pump while I waited for him. We didn’t really succeed with the whole breastfeeding thing the entire time we were in the hospital. I thought it was going to be a piece of cake since I was already leaking a little weeks before Maddox’s birth. That was not indicative in any way of what our breastfeeding experience would look like.
When Maddox was discharged from the Nicu to us, they let us know he had already been given formula and a pacifier. They told me as if I was going to lose my mind that they gave my child these taboo things instead of just being so damn grateful that got him well after our rough birth. The formula and pacifier were literally the last thing I was worried about. From this point out we got a lot of mixed messages about the whole breastfeeding vs formula thing. The nurses, especially his ones from the Nicu, said that he needed to eat and get his weight up and not to worry if we had to use formula because he was early, therefore probably not a strong feeder yet. Since I was producing next to nothing at this point I started filling him up on formula. I went into motherhood just assuming I would exclusively breastfeed, but I was never against formula at all. The nurses even gave him formula when he went for shots because he was getting cranky. They apologized when they returned him, but said they really thought he needed it. I did not think this warranted an apology at all. They knew what they were doing way more than I did so if they thought he needed formula, go for it! They also handed me back a calm baby when they left with an angry one so I really owed them a thank you.
Due to Covid, it was more difficult to see a lactation consultant, but eventually I was able to. Her opinion was to very much shy away from the formula. She said that my body knew what to do and so did Maddox. The notion sounded great, but I could not get Maddox to latch. We worked on this a lot and eventually compromised on a temporary solution. If he wasn’t able to latch, I would pump into tiny little cups and syringe feed him the little bit of breastmilk I had produced. We did this even when we got home. If he got really agitated and I was out of breastmilk, I would give him a bit of formula, but I was really leaning into the whole breastmilk only thing.
When we took him to the pediatrician a couple days after we brought him home, our doctor let us know that he had dropped a significant amount of weight since he was born. She was awesome and walked through my whole feeding routine with me, which yielded the advice to add in some formula so he could get a consistent supply and get back up to his birth weight. The way she explained it made a lot of sense to me. He was early and small so it might take him until he gets older and bigger to become a stronger feeder. For now we supplement as much as we need to and that will only help us toward our endgame of exclusive breastfeeding.
We did this and my life got a whole lot easier. Before I was having to pump every few hours and then syringe feed him. Now I had the freedom to pump while Matt gave him a formula bottle and then I could give him the breastmilk at his next feeding. Of course he immediately gained weight and we were thrilled as was his pediatrician. We continued to do this for three weeks while I still tried to get him to latch. This whole process was excruciatingly painful for my breasts as we worked on getting a good latch. On top of that, I was growing more anxious as we approached the one month mark when Matt had to go back to work and I wouldn’t have the extra set of hands to give a bottle while I pumped. This whole feeding process was extremely time consuming, which after talking to other moms I’ve realized feels like the case no matter what your feeding scenario is.
I finally decided to take the pediatrician up on an offer to see their lactation consultant. I went into my appointment saying, “I just want to know if he will ever be able to latch or if I should give up and get my mind around the fact that I would be exclusively pumping.” After a few very simple and quick adjustments, Maddox was latched and eating very well and I had renewed hope. I started being able to breastfeed him a lot more. We still were supplementing with formula as my supply stabilized as I started to feed him more. Cue another round of extremely painful, I mean toe curling, breast pain that brought me to tears and made me dread the next feeding time. We got through the initial pain after a few weeks, but then came clogged ducts, mastitis, and bruising. It has never actually gotten easy like I thought it would. I spent a lot of time feeling uncertain about supplementing with formula, which my pediatrician helped me through with an explanation that resonated with me. She said that if I am giving him breast milk a bit in some way he is receiving the benefits and by having formula included too he is just getting those added benefits as well. She made it into a positive for my baby instead of a failure.
The whole breastfeeding process has caused me so much anxiety from the start. I was convinced if I didn’t pump exactly when I was supposed to my milk would just dry up. I obsessively calculated how long to wait to feed him after a glass of wine and then would end up pumping anyway and testing my milk with testing strips three times to confirm. I was so frustrated because I felt like every time I was with Maddox it was just to feed him, which wasn’t an awesome experience for me so it made me irritated. Then I hated feeling irritated every time I got to actually spend time with him. Then of course there is the guilt that I am not doing enough as a mom because I have to supplement with formula. I won’t even start on that whole anxiety blackhole, but I’ll tell you it sucks and it is hard to get out off. I mention all of this in the past tense because I like to think I am making progress on the anxiety. Actually, I know I am (thanks to my mom group and group therapy) and I have been able to finally enjoy some feeding sessions with my baby. I have not yet gotten to the point where I can exclusively give him breastmilk and I don’t really think I will get to that point. I am fine with continuing to supplement with formula if that is what will keep him healthy and keep my mental health in check.
Breastfeeding has not yet felt easy to me. It feels like a job. Or a never ending item on my to do list that as soon as I cross it off it reappears. In my 10 weeks with Maddox, I have suffered quite a few painful incidents with clogged ducts and bruised nipples and I would not wish that pain upon my worst enemy. I feel a guilty pit in my stomach saying that it feels like a painful obligation at times, but I know I am not alone in this. I’m not sure how long my breastfeeding journey will last, but I am grateful that I have gotten to the point where I have been able to find some enjoyment with it. In the early morning when it is just me and my son sitting in the dark and he so sweetly nestles his head into me,I think about how I love having him so close and I am incredibly thankful for our special time together. I am happy that I have been able to give him breastmilk in some way, shape or form for the first 10 weeks of his life and I am also glad I can share my experience thus far in hopes of tempering expectations and validating the feelings of other struggling moms who read this.
I wrote this post with so much emotion at just 10 weeks postpartum. I wanted to revisit my breastfeeding journey because it has continued far longer than I had thought it would and I have come to enjoy it a lot more. I also went back to working at 12 weeks postpartum which added another layer to our breastfeeding journey.
About a week after I wrote my first update on breastfeeding, I had a breakthrough that if I was going to continue breastfeeding I needed to cut myself some slack. Breastfeeding isn’t an all or nothing game, or at least it wasn’t for me. This was so hard for me to wrap my head around, but somehow it happened. I stopped forcing feeds at my breast. If Maddox wanted a bottle of formula, then that’s what he got. If he wanted to breastfeed, then he got to. I let him decide what worked for him. He now regularly switches from breast to bottle depending on what he is in the mood for. I stopped worrying about my supply or producing “enough” and changed my view. Instead of breastfeeding to fully satiate him, I was breastfeeding him to provide nutrients and antibodies that I could provide and then the formula could handle his ever growing hunger. This took so much pressure off of feeding. Instead of obsessing over my supply, I actually enjoyed the time spent breastfeeding Maddox. It’s like as soon as I started to not stress about it, he sensed that and enjoyed breastfeeding a whole lot more.
For a while we were doing breastfeeding sessions about 4-6 times per day on average. My body got used to this and followed my little one’s cues on how much milk I needed to produce (it still blows my mind that the body does that!). The rest of Maddox’s feeds have been formula up until recently when we have started some foods. He absolutely loves trying new food so as we have explored that, our breastfeeding sessions have gotten to be a bit fewer.
I’ve grown to actually really enjoy breastfeeding and I think it’s because of the way we do it. Breastfeeding is a way for us to bond now instead of me feeling like an overtired milk production machine. I’m so happy and thankful I was able to get to this point. I truly didn’t think I would make it to six months still supplying him with any breastmilk. I’m definitely not saying everything is going off without a hitch now because we definitely have our speed bumps. We have days that we are just not in sync. We have days where I really need him to empty me out and he is set on having a bottle while watching Frozen. We have days that I wake up in puddles of milk. We have days where I am in pain (increasingly so as he is teething). I still don’t know how long our breastfeeding journey will last, but I am thankful for everything I’ve learned through it so far.
I do want to say I am lucky that I have had the flexibility to feed on demand due to working from home during Covid. I know this is a privilege and not everyone has that option. I also know that this journey is so different for everyone and we all deserve our situations and our stories to be honored. Whatever you choose to do for your baby is what is best for your baby. As I have progressed through my time breastfeeding I’ve done increasingly more research on the challenges women face trying to breastfeed their babies. There is a lack of support around breastfeeding and a lot of false information around what is “best”. I’ve become pretty passionate and look forward to sharing some feelings I have around our society and breastfeeding in the future.
It took me a long time to feel validated about the challenges I was facing both physically and emotionally around breastfeeding. When I finally opened up in one of my virtual mom groups, I finally heard other women share their stories and I felt seen. Especially during Covid, it is challenging to find moms to connect with who you feel safe to say “I’m not doing okay” around. One post can’t replace the beauty of speaking directly with other moms, but I hope if you are struggling my story can at least make you feel less alone and more comfortable reaching out if you need to.
You can never be fully prepared with things you need when you bring baby home from the hospital. First off, you are bound to forget something because frankly there are SO many items on a ‘must haves’ list it’s hard to keep track. Second, every baby is different and what your friend’s baby loved yours might not. I definitely felt myself getting overwhelmed with things I should have on hand and as I frantically placed Amazon Prime orders I realized I wasn’t even sure what half of these things were for. We generously received a ton of items from our registry and even though I registered for them I still didn’t know what half of them were actually for.
Fast forward to coming home with Maddox and we quickly identified items that we actually would be lost without. Obviously you need basics like diapers and a place for your baby to sleep, but these are little convenient items that have made things go a little smoother over the past two months. I don’t want to overwhelm you with another ‘must haves’ list that isn’t super helpful so I’m keeping it really straight forward and sharing:
Our Most Used Registry Item
The Owlet Sock is something I knew I wanted from the beginning. Any device that can help give me piece of mind that Maddox is safe and healthy is a must have in my book. It tracks his sleep, heart rate, and oxygen levels and alerts us if they drop below a certain level. This has made me feel so much more relaxed while he gets some shut eye and immensely decreased my anxiety.
Two Items We Didn't Register For, But Use All The Time
The Baby Shusher is one of our biggest game changers for bedtime. It does exactly what it says. It makes a shushing noise to lull your baby to sleep. It’s perfect to have near the bassinet since we don’t have his full sound machine set up on our room and we can bring it downstairs into his pack and play for naps. It works super well for Maddox and helps to calm him pretty immediately.
Dr. Brown's Bottles
Dr. Brown's bottles were gifted to us and I was excited because yeah we needed bottles but I didn’t realize how essential these would be. They control the air and milk flow in a way that helps to prevent gas. They are so easy to clean as well and we’ve had minimal leakage issues with them. A few weeks in I ordered more so we’d have extras on hand so I wouldn’t be washing them 24/7.
Items We Went Running Out To Get
We got Wubbanubs as gifts before Maddox was born, but little did we know they would become his favorite thing ever. We immediately had to stock up on some extras of his favorite animals so we had backups in case one was being washed or got lost.
am all about anything that makes cleaning easier and these wipes are a god send for when you need to clean a paci or a bottle nipple quickly. I always have these on hand in case Maddox’s Wubbanub takes a tumble, that way after about a minute once it’s dry he can just pop it right back in.
Extra Burp Cloths
I’ve learned that you can never have enough burp cloths. I originally tried to make do with a limited supply, but that was pointless. We were using them at every feeding and in between and it felt like every time I actually needed one there wasn’t one in reach. Now we have them all over the house and have enough to rotate since they are constantly getting dirty.
Halo Sleep Sacks
Halo Sleep Sacks have been a lifesaver for getting our little dude to sleep. He hates being swaddled at first but also will only sleep when he is swaddled (weird) so having a sleep sack helps to secure him in a swaddle he can’t break out of. We have three of these in rotation so we aren’t having to wash them constantly and we can rotate them out if they get spit up or pee on them overnight, both are common occurrences here.
The first time Maddox had gas it was what I would imagine would happen if a demon was possessing his body. He was pissed off and needed relief fast. We tried some other tricks, but ultimately ended up racing to Target to grab a Windi. This is something I would 100% recommend having on hand because you don’t know you’re going to need it until you’re really in the thick of things. Plus, it works!
Hopefully with these items on your radar you can register for them or purchase them in enough time so you won’t be scrambling once your little one gets here. Honestly, some of these products I didn’t even know existed until I had an urgent need for them or they were thankfully gifted to me. Of course not every baby is the same so I’m here just sharing my personal experience that may or may not work for you. Feel free to drop your suggestions on those hero baby products below!
Putting together Maddox’s nursery was one of our favorite projects leading up to his arrival. Online shopping for the perfect pieces was a welcome distraction during the quarantine and gave Matt and I something to work on together during our many months at home.
A few months ago I shared how we were staying on budget and what we chose to save vs splurge on. You can check that post out here. I got into the specifics around our big pieces of furniture in the room and how we were deciding on what decor details to invest in. I also shared the inspiration behind our safari theme and how we planned to bring it to life.
Now that we have put the finishing touches on the nursery I wanted to pick up where we left off from the last post and share the final product.
With the walls and furniture being gray I used accessories to add some texture and pops of color into the space. For bedding we choose this palm print from Spearmint Love. These added a pop of color and complimented the throw pillow that we designed the room around. For storage we have a variety of woven baskets in different sizes that mix up the color and texture. They are great for keeping toys, blankets, and clothes organized in a stylish way. We received a bunch of adorable blankets and stuffed animals that we incorporated throughout the room between the glider and the crib. Being the Disney lovers we are we made sure to collect all of his Disney toys to be waiting for him right in his crib.
The artwork above the crib was something I went back and forth on whether to save or splurge for. I found these prints on Etsy and the frames on Amazon. I got the artwork printed at Staples and in total the six pieces were completed for under $75. That is a total steal considering some of the artwork we were looking at purchasing originally was $75 each!
Above the dresser/changing station I wanted a brass round mirror to compliment the light fixture we chose. It took forever for this one to come back into stock at Target, but after a few months of stalking the website I found it just in time to get hung before Maddox’s arrival. Target was also my go to for the table lamp. Since it sits under the wall shelves the lamp couldn’t be too tall so I found this mini model for only $15 at Target. It adds another wood element and provides just enough light for nighttime feedings.
The hanging shelves were a bit of a splurge from Crate & Barrel so I made up for the extra cost with some great deals on the decor. Most of the decor is repurposed! The succulents were gifts from my sister and I had them in my dining room before rehoming them to the nursery. The wooden animals were from the dollar section at Target and used as decor for my baby shower. I wasn’t planning on reusing them, but once I brought the home I realized how perfect they would look on these shelves. The palms were from the dollar section at Target as well, but from years ago. I was using them for my summer set up in my dining room, but they were just too perfect not to move into the nursery.
I’m so happy that our safari vision came to life in a way that is cute and comfortable. It was so important to me to have Maddox’s first space be welcoming, playful, and something he can grow with.
This is the post I wish I would have read before coming home from the hospital. I would have Amazon Primed the shit out of every item on this list to be waiting at my doorstep. There are so many recommendations and lists about what you will need once you bring baby home and we tried to make sure we were stocked up with as much as possible. There were a few items that either I thought we didn’t really need or I didn’t know about to know we needed them. I want to share that knowledge with you all incase you want to make sure these are included in your wish list as you prep for baby’s arrival. Of course, each baby and parent is different so all items may not be applicable to your situation, but for us these were game changers. Happy Priming!
Hands Free Pumping Bra
This is a must have for hands free pumping. Hands free pumping is a must.
This seemed excessive until we actually started having to get up in the middle of the night to run bottles up and down from the kitchen. We’re doing a mix of breast feeding, pumping, and formula feeding so having some cold stock always on hand is a game changer.
They gave me one of these to help with breast feeding in the hospital, but it was helpful to have more on hand at home (one for upstairs, one for downstairs, one for the diaper bag). You may not need these for breastfeeding, but I did since we were having some issues with latching so they were great to have on hand.
Extra A+D Ointment
This was a must to have on hand for treating baby’s circumcision once we got home. It was way more convenient to have one near his changing station and one in the diaper bag so we wouldn’t forget it. It also is good for mama if the postpartum pad wearing starts to irritate your skin.
Breastmilk Alcohol Test Strips
Definitely necessary if you want to indulge in adult beverages. Even after one glass of wine this gives me piece of mind that my milk is fine to feed to the little one.
I don’t know why I thought we didn’t need bassinet sheets. I quickly realized they are necessary after little boy peed through the bassinet on night two. We not only ordered sheets, but also waterproof covers to keep things dry.
Starting at probably week 30, Matt started pushing me to back my hospital bag because he was convinced Maddox was going to make an early arrival. Well, he was right, but being prepped at week 30 was a bit aggressive. There are so many blog posts and guides with recommendations on what to pack. Some suggest what feels like you are packing for a week long vacation and others recommend the absolute bare minimum. I came up with my own list based on both sides of the spectrum and for the most part I’m happy with what I ended up packing. Originally I thought I’d do my own post on what to pack in your ‘go bag’, but with the amount of guides already out there I wanted to do something different and focus on the things I DIDN’t pack that I wish I had. My hospital stay was a little different than average so there were some things that could have come in handy if I would have known my stay would be longer and my mobility would be limited. Of course, when you are being admitted you don’t know for certain what your stay is going to look like so I’d recommend just having these things on hand just in case.
Before diving in, I do want to share the bag that I used because I absolutely loved it. This travel bag from Beis was perfect for a lot of reasons. It has separate compartments that helped me organize all off my items and made it easier for Matt to find them when I asked for them. There is a shoe compartment at the bottom too which I loved because it keeps the shoes/slippers you walked around the hospital in separate from all of your other items. The size of the bag was perfect for both my stuff and baby’s stuff and I think it will be a great size for future weekend getaways as well. It is under $100 so in my opinion it is a great steal for the quality.
So, first on my list of items I wish I had are disposable toothbrushes. I packed my toothbrush and toothpaste of course, but when I was bed bound I was not making it to the bathroom to do a proper brush. These would have come in so handy since they are disposable and don’t require any water. I would have done just about anything at a certain point feel freshened up.
After days sitting in bed in the scratchy hospital issued gown, I started to seriously regret not investing in my own. I was on the fence about buying one because I didn’t think I would be wearing it that long and it would have been a waste to spend money for a one time wear. Well, I was wrong and I definitely should have gotten one. I was already super itchy all over from my pregnancy in general and the itchy hospital gown did not help matters. It is crazy how much I would have appreciated the small luxury of having my own.
Lip balm was on my packing list, but somehow I forgot to pack it and that was a big mistake. I felt super dehydrated the whole time I was in the hospital and my lips were cracking like crazy. I had to spend days after I got home slathering on lip masks to help get them feeling back to normal. This would have been avoided by packing an easy to apply lip balm like this one from Drunk Elephant.
As far as products go, these three cover it for me, but I would recommend loading up on snacks. Especially if you have dietary restrictions bringing snacks that you can eat is super important. The hospital will usually provide some, but the options are definitely limited and the comfort of having your own treats you love a feeling you will appreciate once you have been living on hospital food for days.
Mamas, was there anything that you wished you would have packed for your hospital stay? Or what are the things you packed that ended up being totally unnecessary?
If you have been following along on Instagram, you know that Baby P has made his (early) arrival! On September 4th at 6:24pm, we welcomed Maddox James Pickens into the world. We had quite an unexpected course of events through labor and delivery that got our little boy to us. Let me tell you, it was a journey. But we are here and I’m excited to share. We didn’t have a “plan” and I am thankful we didn’t because we would not have been able to follow it at all. I took a class and did research on what delivery would be like and honestly it felt like everything that happened was the opposite of what I researched. Overall, our plan was that we wanted a delivery with a healthy baby and a healthy mommy. That’s all that mattered and we successfully did that.
If you haven’t read my other pregnancy posts, here is some background. I had been struggling health wise during my third trimester after I went off of my Remicade for my Crohn’s Disease. I had a slew of issues from gastrointestinal ones to extreme fatigue to itchy skin all over my body. As I got further into my third trimester I started to feel like my body was just shutting down. It was very hard for me to eat and baby was taking pretty much any nutrients I consumed which left me in a bad spot. My whole outlook was just as long as he is fine, I can make it through. I was approved for an induction at 39 weeks to get baby out and get me back on my Remicade ASAP. My doctor wanted to let him cook as long as possible to make sure his lungs were good and functioning. Baby boy was also measuring pretty big already at my 35 and 36 week sonograms. His head was measuring over 40 weeks in the 98th percentile at my 35 week appointment! This already had us questioning the success of a vaginal delivery, but I was ready to try. I was coming in for OB appointments weekly until my 37 week appointment.
I went in for my regularly scheduled weekly OB appointment during week 37 and was already feeling dizzy, weak and like something just wasn’t right. For a couple days leading up to the appointment, I had felt like my body was just shutting down and I was having bad diarrhea. As I was hooked up to the non stress test, I started to feel a lot worse and when the doctor came to see me, I let her know that something just wasn’t right. I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly, but I know my body and something was off. My OB sent me to the hospital to have me and baby monitored and get some fluids since I was dehydrated from days of diarrhea. Luckily, Matt was able to go with me since there was a good chance I would be getting admitted at least for a bit. We hurried home to grab our bags just in case and headed to the hospital.
Once I was admitted, I spoke with the OB on call and she let me know that they were recommending to start induction. I was 37w3d so technically Maddox was early full term and could be delivered. A couple weeks prior I had blood work done for suspected cholestasis and while my results weren’t conclusive for me having it, my bile levels were off. They were concerned that the condition could progress and could be harmful for baby so between that and my Crohn’s continuing to worsen, they thought it was best for me and baby to deliver sooner rather than later.
I started on a cervix ripening drug every four hours through my first afternoon and night and by Thursday afternoon, we were able to start Pitocin. I went through the night with some contractions, but major pain in my lower back. I wasn’t progressing and we were having issues tracking and identifying my contractions. Eventually, we concluded that I was having back labor due to baby’s position which was not only extremely painful, but very hard to track. I was in a ton of pain, but my contractions weren’t reading on the monitor. At this point, I was extremely exhausted and frustrated. I broke down and sobbed in my hospital bed. I was at a loss for why my body wasn’t doing what it was “supposed to be doing” and I felt like I was failing not being able to birth my son. Matt was so sweet helping me get through the whole thing and he and the nurses reassured me that I was doing great.
By the morning, I had only progressed to 1cm dilated. This wasn’t much, but it was enough to insert a balloon foley to try to encourage further dilation. I was frustrated again with my lack of progress, but very soon after I was distracted by the pain. Almost immediately after the foley was inserted, my pain level skyrocketed. They were still unable to get a read on my contractions, but I could feel them and it was seriously painful. I was really shocked at how quickly they escalated and how painful they got. I like to think I have a pretty high pain tolerance and this was completely unbearable. I got permission for the epidural even though I was only 1cm dilated still. Anesthesia came in to get me set up with the epidural. Matt had to leave the room, but I had my two amazing nurses to help me out. I was nauseous from the pain and shaking, so staying still for the epidural placement was really difficult. They were having issues and kept hitting nerves that hurt the right side of my body so the process took longer than expected. I got really sick and started throwing up as they were finishing up the epidural placement. I couldn’t move so my nurse just had to stand there and catch my vomit. It was miserable. Matt was allowed back in the room and finally, the epidural started to kick in. I spent the rest of the morning into the afternoon pretty comfortable, but still with no progression.
After another day with no progression, I was incredibly frustrated, in pain again and just wanted to figure out how we were going to get this baby out. I asked to talk to my OB around 5pm which I was so happy I did. I was almost in tears begging for a plan. I couldn’t go through another three days of this. She let me know that a c section was definitely an option that I should consider. My body wasn’t responding to the Pitocin, baby was in a weird position and he was already measuring big. She couldn’t technically tell me what to choose to do since the situation wasn’t an emergency, but it was clear the c section seemed like it was best for us. I had time to discuss with Matt. I had the choice to continue trying to push through for vaginal birth, but I was already so exhausted and there was no promise he would even engage and be able to be born vaginally in the end. We walked through any additional potential risks (other than the usual risks associated with a c section) and there was no increased risk for baby so we told my OB we’d move forward. She said to give her a half hour and we could have this baby before shift change. I was shocked at how quickly things went from zero to 100. It seemed like everything else we had to try for 12 hours before any decision was made. All of a sudden everything was a blur of nurses and the anesthesia team prepping me for surgery. Matt had specific instructions on his duties and basically my job was to just lay there and stay calm. When I was prepped and ready, they wheeled me back to the OR where I would get setup before they let Matt in for the procedure. The epidural medication was making me feel really strange and once I was strapped down to the table, I felt like I couldn’t breathe even though everyone assured me that I was breathing. I was so nervous and overwhelmed. Everyone kept trying to calm me down and tell me to just wait to hear my baby cry and focus on that. Matt was brought in and put behind a big blue cloth and the procedure started. I felt pressure which wasn’t painful, but just strange feeling. Everything was fine until they hit what I was told was my bladder flap (?). I started having very intense nerve pain, actual pain not pressure. The pain was horrible and the anesthesia team was injecting me with more medication and using topical numbing spray as well. Nothing was working, but everything had to (painfully) continue. All of a sudden, baby was out, but was having trouble breathing. I didn’t hear him cry which worried me because that was the one thing I was waiting for. Matt cut his umbilical cord and got to see him for just minutes before he was taken away to the NICU. I was panicking so the anesthesia team injected me with anti anxiety medication that really knocked me out so that they could sew me back up.
The next bit of time was a blur until we were back in our room and a doctor came to give us an update on Maddox. He was in the NICU, but fine and breathing. His lungs had some trouble on his way out, but he was sorted out and would just need some monitoring. We were able to visit him after a couple hours, each separately because of Covid, but after about five hours he was brought to Matt and me to stay for good. We were finally all together as a family.
We spent the next two days in the hospital while I recovered and the doctors monitored Maddox. After some pleading, we were able to go home Sunday afternoon instead of waiting until Monday. We were so ready to get out of there after we hit our fifth day.
The scariest moment of my life was when I didn’t hear Maddox cry when he was born. In the moment, I was so focused on figuring out what was happening that the impact didn’t set in. Especially with being in a drug induced blur afterwards, it took me a while to process the whole situation. At first, I pushed it out of my mind because he was fine and we knew we were so lucky. The first few nights I started having flashbacks to that moment and nightmares that would have me waking up in panic. I didn’t realize how deeply that moment affected me. I am still processing it and cry when I tell people the story. I’m just so thankful that he is healthy and here at home with us.
Since we’ve been home I’ve gotten questions about delivery, a few of which I’ve heard several times. I wanted to make sure to address those as part of the birth story as well.
How was delivery different because of Covid?
Delivery wasn’t really different which was great. Matt was able to be there with me the whole time. All of the medical staff had ample PPE and we felt very safe. We had our masks on while traveling through the halls but once we were alone in our room we could take them off. Since I was having diarrhea for days leading up to being admitted they did have me listed as a potential Covid case. I got tested and within two hours got the negative results back. The biggest way that Covid impacted us was not being able to have additional support people come to the hospital. I always thought my mom would be with me when I gave birth so getting over that was hard for me. The c section threw us for a loop because someone had to be up with Maddox 24/7 since he wouldn’t sleep in the hospital crib. Due to the c section I couldn’t get out of bed by myself so I wasn’t able to change his diapers by myself and even positioning to feed him myself was difficult. Matt had to be on call basically the whole time we were in the hospital to help with anything Maddox needed (or I needed!). This meant very little sleep for him and a couple rough days.
How did my Crohn’s affect delivery?
The main issue my Crohn’s caused was actually having to have me induced early. During the induction it was hard to tell the difference between my Crohn’s pain since it was bad when I was admitted and the contractions. I really struggled to articulate the difference to nurses and eventually just started really second guessing what I was feeling. After I gave birth I started feeling better pretty immediately. My appetite was back and I was able to start eating without pain. I was surprised with the immediate relief and I am looking forward to getting back on Remicade to hopefully continue feeling better.
How was Matt?
Matt was amazingly supportive and comforting all through delivery. He made me laugh when I was in pain, rubbed my back, and got me good snacks. It was a long time for us to be in the hospital without help from any other support family members and barely any sleep. I 100% could not have done this physically or emotionally without him and I’m thankful he was there with me every step of the way.
I can’t wait to share more about our lives with Maddox and how parenthood has been for Matt and me. Right now we are overwhelmed with love and emotions. We are taking in every second of our greatest adventure yet. I’m happy I was able to share the details of Maddox’s birth story with you all. I have been very open about everything I have went through during pregnancy so I wanted to be equally as open about this. If you are a mama to be, my advise to you is to not get too stuck on a plan. As long as you and the baby are safe and healthy that is the important thing that matters! If you would have told me two weeks ago that this would be my story I would not have believed you for the sheer fact that I couldn’t even fathom having the strength to push through the ups and downs, long days/nights, and overwhelming emotions. Well, we did it. As a woman and as a mama your body and mind are capable of truly amazing things. You can do it!
I want to share my experience, not to provide a solution, but to provide an honest perspective that maybe you can resonate with. For years I have been interested in the correlation of digestive diseases and eating disorders, specifically the lack of dual diagnosis holistic treatment options. Throwing pregnancy into the mix is a whole new game that has me digging even deeper based on my personal experience. How do we deal with the mind fuck of weight gain and body changes while in recovery from an eating disorder? On top of that, how do we manage dietary restrictions or triggers from a digestive disease in addition to the restrictions and symptoms already brought on by pregnancy? Again on top of that, how do we deal with the emotional triggers that are drudged up by these changes and the added pressure of supporting a new human life? There are a lot of questions I want to explore, but right now what I have is my story and how I have navigated it thus far.
A struggle for me in my pregnancy has been eating, specifically what to eat and how to eat enough. My background doesn’t provide the best foundation for a great relationship with food in general, but because of that I’ve worked my butt off to get to a good spot. For those who haven’t read my other posts,I struggled with an eating disorder and then on top of that my Crohn’s diagnosis fueled additional struggles and triggers. I remember in eating disorder treatment, being there with other women who were struggling with how their bodies changed during or after pregnancy. When I thought of having kids, I always braced myself for this new reality.
When I figured out I was pregnant, all of my healthcare professionals who knew my background immediately began asking me how I felt about the weight gain and my body changing. It was so early on I really didn’t have any issues, plus, I hadn’t gained any weight.
During my first trimester my digestive system was a complete wreck. I had nausea that would never go away. I would try to force myself to eat and just ended up gagging instead, unable to get anything down. My new growing baby was messing with my intestines which brought on some new Crohn’s symptoms. Things were a mess, but it was trimester one so I figured it was par for the course.
At my 12 week appointment, my OB brought up that I had lost a significant amount of weight. I was pretty caught off guard by this since I try to refrain from weighing myself at home, as that is a trigger for me. I also didn’t understand how I had lost so much weight when the only things I could stomach when feeling up to it were gluten free cupcakes and Lucky Charms. We talked about it, but it wasn’t a huge concern yet since I was hopefully going to graduate out of the nausea soon. As I left the office I remember feeling a pang of guilt because was actually proud to have someone concerned about my weight loss. That brought me back to the time when that kind of feedback fueled me. I didn’t necessarily feel guilty for having this thought. They happen and you live with them and move on. I felt guilty because I wasn’t trying to lose weight. I was doing everything in my power to give my baby all of the necessary nutrients to grow. I felt like I was failing and having these thoughts made it worse.
My doctor seemed pretty confident that my body would sort itself out over the next few weeks so I tried to push the worry from my mind. The main struggle I was having was the food that I was craving, I know I couldn’t have because they would trigger my Crohn’s. Things like donuts, waffles, and sandwiches are always a no go for me because of the gluten (yes you can get them GF but no where near the same). I worked to find gluten free options but a lot of those are heavily processed though so that brought in more concerns of messing with my digestive system. I also felt shame for relying on processed foods since I was supposed to be giving my baby the best nutrients. I felt like no matter what I did, I was doing something wrong. Everyday I woke up in a stress fog of what the fuck do I eat today… what the fuck CAN I eat today. I also was balancing the regular pregnancy restrictions on top of those to save my digestive system. For example, I was disgusted by meat and could only stomach seafood, but I had to limit how much seafood I ate. I was seriously struggling to get enough protein.
During this time when I was going through my food crisis, we were also going through a global pandemic. Over these weeks I just mentioned, I also had to relocate from my house, live apart from my husband, and wasn’t able to go out in public to grocery shop for myself. This added a whole new layer onto the problem. I know this part of the situation is not relevant for everyone, but I felt it worth mentioning because it had a big impact on my life at the time. I was out of my routine, I was stressed, and I was just trying to get by. This triggered some increased Crohn’s symptoms to even further complicate things.
When I saw my doctor again, she brought up the lack of weight gain and actually more weight loss. I walked her through my struggles and she basically told me to just eat whatever I can. The baby will be fine if its McDonalds fries or a vegan smoothie bowl. He just needs to get fed. This made me feel better about what to eat, but didn’t change the fact that I rarely felt like eating. (Quick side note here: my doctor did prescribe me anti nausea medication, but it made me so drowsy I could only take it in the evenings. I would pass out immediately so while it is great for sleep, I can’t eat while I am sleeping.) Another issue I had was my natural reaction to not eat when I was having Crohn’s symptoms. Over the past however many years, it is like I have been conditioned to avoid that pain. My stomach hurts, naturally I stop wanting to eat to avoid the pain. In those situations I revert back to liquid or soft diets until my inflammation improves. I knew my child would not be okay if I spent the next 6 months eating chicken broth and popsicles. I mean I would not even be okay if I had to do that. The discomfort I was feeling also just caused me to not feel hungry almost ever. I never thought I would be this person, but I had to remind myself to eat. I think this was escalated by me working from home and being in an environment where there was no designated lunch hour where everyone is grabbing something to eat together. I could work through the day and not even think about lunch.
I worked with my doctor to come up with a solution of supplementing my diet with Ensure shakes. These were easy for me to get down and digest, plus they would help with my protein intake. Now I want to pause here for a second. I know there are people reading this that will be mentally shaming me for not choosing a natural option or not creating a protein smoothie for myself at home, blah blah blah. Look, this is what worked for me and my life so that is that. These have been a lifesaver for me throughout this pregnancy. Of course, I don’t just drink Ensure, but knowing I have that as a safety blanket has allowed me to relax and listen to my body more on what it actually wants. It is pretty funny to me that I have seen Ensure as such a helpful tool. When I was in eating disorder treatment it was the bane of my existence. I would (not electively) drink four of these a day on top of my meals to get back to a healthy weight. I swore I would never touch them again after treatment, but now look, they are helping fuel my pregnant body and help my baby grow. Oh how the tables have turned.
My nausea and discomfort subsided a bit for the latter part of my second trimester and a quick bit of my third, but are now back in full force. I also am feeling the effects of being off of Remicade this trimester so that has added some more turbulence to the situation. I am struggling to identify which symptoms are a result of pregnancy or a result of Crohn's. Right now the cause isn't necessarily my worry, it is how I am going to make this work for the rest of the pregnancy. I have gained weight which my doctor was pleased with and it really hasn’t bothered me as much as I was worried it might. I haven’t gained a ton of weight, but enough to be on track. I am told I should feel “lucky” that this is the case. Yeah, I guess I feel lucky, but I also feel ashamed that this has been and continues to be such an uphill battle. I can’t help but wonder, how would I feel if this wasn’t the case and I did have a normal weight gain during this pregnancy? Would things feel easier or would other feelings be triggered?
To be really honest, I have had countless breakdowns crying on my sofa frustrated about food over the past 8 months. I’m in pain, but I need to eat, but I don’t want to eat and everything I actually might want will make me sick so then I’ll feel worse, but then baby needs nutrients but if I’m sick that hurts him too so what the fuck do I even do. There have been lots of tears and lots of my sweet husband showing up with ice cream, one of the only things I can almost always stomach. He doesn’t understand necessarily what I am going through, but he makes the effort to help in any way he can which is more than enough for me.
It is difficult to unpack all of the emotions that are a part of this journey. I reflect daily on how I am doing and have an honest check in with myself to make sure I am not drudging up old patterns of thinking. It’s hard, but I am confident in the work I have done and the strength that I have. This situation has forced me to revisit painful thoughts and walk through guilt and shame and I’ve decided that is okay. Pregnancy is not a mutually exclusive event and we are still handling other things, physically and emotionally as we go through it. At the end of the day, I think we need more answers on how to support pregnant women in these situations but I don’t know if those solutions are coming anytime soon. This highlights even more the importance of taking care of your own mental health as you prepare for and go through pregnancy. Find others who are going through the same thing, see a therapist, rely on your support system; do whatever you have to do, feel what you have to feel, and most importantly know that it is okay.
f you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please check out the NEDA website for details on resources and treatment options.
In May, right after my last Remicade treatment, I shared a post with an update on my experience with having Crohn’s and being pregnant. In that post I opened up a ton about this journey and ended it with a kind of “to be continued...” especially around what my treatment would look like through the rest of my pregnancy. Since then I have received a lot of questions around what my next steps were and how things have been going since that update. So here we go....
I made the decision to discontinue Remicade for the third trimester of my pregnancy. I was back and forth about this decision for months prior to making it. I got medical input from my gastroenterologist, my OB, my high risk OB, and my genetic counselor. On top of that I also did my own research and had conversations with Matt. What it really came down to is what felt right for us. As so many things with pregnancy, I feel like this is the case.
What really surprised me was the lack of certainty any of my doctors had around the decision. They presented me with facts, some more thoroughly than others, but the decision was always up to me. I appreciate that freedom, but in this situation I really craved a professional just to tell me the right thing to do. I know there are conflicting views, which I feel like I’ve heard all of from different members of my care team, but I wanted more guidance. Especially with hearing how conflicting these opinions were, I quickly realized the lack of consistency across my care team and the reality that Matt and I would have to make the final decision.
Let me backtrack a little and say, I know you always have a choice if you take a prescribed medication or go through with a specific treatment. Usually it is a lot more cut and dry though and there is a specific recommendation from your doctor based on plenty of research and experience. With Crohn’s and other autoimmune diseases it never feels as certain, and this is even more true in pregnancy. These diseases are still so misunderstood as is their effect on the body. This makes treating these diseases a challenge and even more so when you are concerned about the health of a baby.
Originally part of the reason I started on Remicade was because it has been on the market the longest and had the most studies proving that it was safe for pregnancy. This was very reassuring and I felt pretty confident about the safety of the drug. Then when Covid came into the picture things kind of hit the fan. One of the concerns of Remicade is that the effects on the baby aren’t totally known as they pass through the placenta in the third trimester. One of the risks I heard the most was that the baby could be born immunosuppressed and it could take him a while to build up his immunity after getting the Remicade out of his system. In normal times this didn’t seem so bad. It’s not like I was going to be out and about with my newborn all the time and of course I would take appropriate precautions as I do for myself. Well, once an international pandemic is running rampant, the thought of bringing my child into the world with the potential of a weakened immune system was something I could not get behind.
I continued to gather information but the situation with Covid really pushed Matt and I in the direction to stop Remicade after my last infusion at around 21 weeks. There was talk about trying to fit one more at the very beginning of the third trimester but I decided against it. I was concerned that if the baby came early that would cause an issue and I didn’t even want that to be and additional worry we had.
Originally my OB’s were pushing me to stay on Remicade throughout the whole pregnancy because if my health was bad it would impact the baby’s health. Luckily throughout the pregnancy so far my blood work has been better than it’s ever been and my symptoms have been manageable. When I knew stopping Remicade was a very real possibility, one of my gastro’s started me on Apriso (oral pills) that are safe for pregnancy and would hopefully help to soften the blow of going cold turkey off of Remicade treatments.
As I said before, I had my last treatment between 21-22 weeks and would have been due for my next treatment last Friday if I were to continue. Over the past two weeks or so, I have noticed an increase in symptoms but nothing alarming or that would be risking for baby. I’m monitoring my body closely and my OB’s are monitoring me and baby very closely, so I feel comfortable moving forward. I’m trying to make sure I keep symptom triggering things at bay, like stress, and I am being very intentional about listening to what my body (and baby) need food and sleep wise.
Overall, what I’ve realized is that pregnancy with Crohn’s requires a lot of research and following your gut (no pun intended) just like having Crohn’s without being pregnant. There really are no cut and dry answers and opinions between professionals are often very conflicting. Having the uncertainty of an unprecedented global pandemic thrown in really shakes that up as well. We had to make the decision that felt right for the baby based on the current situation. The uncertainty of if I have made the “right” decision weighs on me very hard, but I try to remind myself I am doing the best I can and that’s all I can do.
Looking at this outside of just my personal experience, I think this brings up some gaps in the healthcare system as well as reiterates the additional emotional stress those impacted by Crohn’s and other autoimmune diseases have to endure. As far as the healthcare system, let me say that I truly love my providers and trust them so much. I don’t think the uncertainty is a reflection of them, I think the issue is the underlying lack of cohesive care that could be provided through increased communication among providers. I’ve experienced this before where Crohn’s impacts so many systems in your body, you are seeing multiple doctors, but there is no consistent communication between the providers. I don’t want an OBGYN who is an expert is gastrointestinal diseases, I want one who is an expert and delivering my baby of course! That is why there are doctors specializing in different areas, but that doesn’t do us any good if there is a lack of communication between a patient’s care team. Again, I don’t think this is the fault of my providers, I think it is an issue deep rooted in our medical system. All of the uncertainty puts more pressure and responsibility on the patient to do their own research, be the liaison between doctors, and ultimately make the final decision on treatments based on often conflicting advice.
Pregnancy with Crohn’s has been quite and adventure and one I am still going through! I feel like I say this all the time, but I truly am so thankful to have this platform to share my experiences. Throughout pregnancy I’ve leaned on online resources and communities, just as I did after my Crohn’s diagnosis. I believe there is a lack of resources about such a niche topic, but a topic that still impacts so many. Hopefully getting my experiences and opinions out there will help another Crohn’s mama who is looking for support.
Mental health advocate.
Sharing my raw and real journey through motherhood and navigating Crohn’s Disease. CrohnicallyBlonde is a place where I serve up my unfiltered commentary on chronic illness, mental health, pregnancy, and motherhood alongside lighter lifestyle content like beauty product reviews, travel tips, and book recommendations. My hope is that by authentically sharing my story I can help others going through similar situations not feel so alone and maybe even laugh along with me.