A little over one year ago, I published a few posts in my “Getting a C-Section” series (click here to read the first, second, and third posts) with the intent to finish the entire series by the end of April — Cesarean Awareness Month.
But, as sometimes happens in life, I became too busy with other obligations, and I never finished writing about my experience.
Now, as April 2020 comes to an end, I’m revisiting this time in my life and finishing the series.
With the current, constantly escalating situation with COVID-19, my little family and I (just like everyone else in the world) have felt the impact of the pandemic on our home life.
Professionally, my employer decided to temporarily shutter all of our global offices. So I’ve been working from home since last Monday, March 9th. I’ve had different business trips and projects either canceled or postponed until Q3 of the fiscal year – which means that (1) I’ve been tasked with identifying new, virtual ways of getting my job done and (2) a much busier August than I initially anticipated. Plus, I’m grappling with a general sense of uncertainty around how long this temporary remote work situation will last — and when I can expect to return to my work “normal.”
Personally, my home life has been disrupted. I find myself constantly reassessing how I spend my days (What structure can I put into place to make sure I get everything done? How can I make sure that I’m still taking care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally when my daily routines have been upended?). My little family and I are frequently realigning how we coexist within our three-bedroom apartment: how we can capitalize on spending more time with each other, how we can ensure that we carve out crucial times we need to be by ourselves, and how we can ensure that we’re still providing a sense of normalcy to our toddlers who, quite frankly, have no idea what’s going on.
Harsh truth time: I’m a mom who likes being away from her kids.
I came to this realization when I was a little past the halfway point of my maternity leave after I had my second son Noah. I was one of the lucky few people in the U.S. whose employer offered a generous maternity leave (i.e. paid and longer than a few weeks): in all, I had roughly six months total of paid time off both to recover from childbirth and to bond with my newborn baby. And throughout that time, I had an opportunity to reflect on my motherhood style.
I undoubtedly cherished every minute of my leave (and, for the record, I would never exchange that time off for anything in the world, and I fundamentally believe that: one, this country needs to mandate paid parental leave for all types of parents, and two, we need to destigmatize parenthood, particularly pregnancy and motherhood, in the workplace… but I digress, as that is a topic of conversation for another, much meatier blog post). However, I realized during that time that I’m a better mom, a better wife, a better head of household, and, in truth, an all around better person when I spend some time away from my kids.
Disclaimer: this blog post is super ranty and whiny and does not, in any way, shape, or form, represent my feelings toward my soon-to-be-born second child.
I’m a little over 34 weeks into my second pregnancy, and all I have to say is this: it has been a huge struggle.
My sister, my doctor, my mother, my aunts, my co-workers — basically every woman I know who has experienced multiple pregnancies — have assured me: feeling this much physical discomfort and pain during my second pregnancy is completely normal. Which, I guess, is supposed to be a comforting sentiment.
But, admittedly, my increasingly disgruntled (and, therefore, increasingly pessimistic) self just can’t help but grumble: this sucks so much.
I’m sure I’ve shared this with you all before, but I’ll say it again: I’m honest with myself and know that I’m not one of those women who particularly enjoys being pregnant. Granted, I love my children, and I’m so thankful that this nine-month journey ends with a little being that I somehow simultaneously love so much and can’t seem to love enough… But the journey itself?
It’s my first Mother’s Day. And while the weekend was both low-key and eventful (main highlights: a lot of downtime at home with my three best guys and an emergency visit from the paramedics when Tadashi* had an allergic reaction to formula), it’s also given me an opportunity to reflect on motherhood in general and, specifically, what that means within my life.
Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to recognize that who I am as a mother has only come to fruition because of a few notable individuals around me. So here are a few thank-you notes to a few important people in my life…
To all those people who’ve said that a C-section is “easy,” I have one thing to say in response: sure, I may not have pushed a baby out of my birth canal, but getting a C-section has undoubtedly been one of the most surreal and hardest experiences of my life.
People would ask me about my C-section, if I felt any pain, if I were conscious, how the surgery progressed and felt. And all I could say in response was: it felt sterile and all too medical.
But, before I talk about my operation, I think it’s important to share how I felt in the few days leading up to Tadashi’s birth…
This past Saturday, Reggie and I took Tadashi* on a day trip to Monterey and Carmel. Reggie had a beachside engagement shoot scheduled with a couple of clients that evening, so he asked if Tadashi and I wanted to spend some time together on the beach while he worked.
I happily obliged: I can never pass up an opportunity to walk barefoot in the sand.
When Reggie and I separated so he could get to work, I strapped Tadashi to my belly, took off my shoes and socks, and paced the shoreline as the sun slowly but surely dipped toward the horizon. I savored the coarse sand on my soles, the biting ocean water lapping over my toes, the cool breeze on my face.
And, after much longer than I probably should have realized, something dawned on me: this is the very first time Tadashi has seen the ocean.
And I immediately shifted my focus from the distant horizon to my wide-eyed son. And I smiled at the pure wonder and curiosity on his face. “That’s the ocean,” I told Tadashi. I explained to him that this was the home of all the creatures we saw earlier at the aquarium. I pointed out the waves, coming and going in a steady rhythm; the kelp scattered around the shoreline; the seagulls gliding overhead.
But, mostly, I tried my best to simply observe him. How, as I walked along the shore, he turned his head from side to side in order to keep a close eye on the water. How he kicked his feet in joy as dogs raced past us in the sand. How he craned his neck and reached his chubby little fingers toward the trees above us. How he blinked rapidly and stuck his tongue out at the ocean breeze, maybe to feel the wind on his tongue, maybe to taste the salty air.
This is the first time Tadashi has seen the ocean, I realized. And I am so grateful that I am with him right now.
Because, in the midst of all the chaos of first-time parenthood, I sometimes forget that I have the privilege of witnessing a little human being experience the world for the first time. And that is an awe-inspiring thing.
“Still breech,” my OB-GYN exclaimed, as she glided the ultrasound probe over my belly.
It’s been two weeks since my standard 32-week prenatal checkup, where — in addition to analyzing my urine, asking about my exercise and diet, and addressing any concerns about the quickly approaching birth — my doctor checked the baby’s position. If the baby were head down, then he’d be in perfect position for childbirth. If not, then we would have to make some decisions.
During that appointment, after rubbing my rapidly growing belly with ultrasound gel, my doctor also proclaimed that my baby was in breech (feet down, head up, and an unsafe position for a vaginal birth). We had some time to explore next steps at that point, so my doctor reviewed some options.
I woke up last Thursday morning to an Instagram direct message from my mom: an illustration of a woman cradling a newborn and sporting a slightly crescent-shaped scar across her lower belly. April is Cesarean Awareness Month, the message read.
As her daughter who delivered via cesarean section over half a year ago, my mom obviously wanted to send me a little acknowledgment and a little love.
And that message warmed my heart.
Firstly, because I didn’t even know Cesarean Awareness Month was a thing — and I thought that was freakin’ awesome. And, secondly, because cesarean sections (more commonly known as C-sections) are traumatic medical procedures that are fairly common yet still frighteningly misunderstood. And the women who undergo them — who have to endure ignorance, misconceptions, and judgment, in addition to lengthy recovery periods — need some acknowledgment and some love every once in a while.
I apologize for being MIA for the past couple of months. Once Tadashi got sick with the flu, Reggie and I, unfortunately, couldn’t get back into a life rhythm. So, understandably, my writing fell by the wayside.
And that’s what I want to focus on in today’s blog post: that struggle for new parents to find a rhythm. More specifically, a rhythm for self-care and self-love.
I wrote on my 28th birthday that taking time for myself and for my (physical, emotional, and mental) well-being was one of my top priorities this year. And that still stands. It’s just been so difficult for a multitude of reasons: