Hi everybody! I’m so excited to be here! When The Insightful Mum posted in one of our Facebook groups looking for mamas to contribute their birth stories, I knew I had to get in on it! If there’s anything I’ve learned from having three babies in different locations around the world, it’s that parenthood is an adventure, right from the start. I’m so excited to share my adventures with you, but I’d like to give you a little background on me first.
My name is Michelle, and I am the author/founder over at The Artful Ambler blog, which is a lifestyle blog for modern mamas that aims to help ladies find and maintain their “mom-self balance,” as I like to call it. I have a background in business and fashion/retail, but I’ve spent most of the past eight years as a stay-at-home-mom. My three favorite things in the world besides my beautiful family are: good food (especially tacos), nature (especially the ocean), and music (especially rock/metal and blues/soul).
I’m originally from central California and moved to San Diego when I was 20 years old. I met my hubby there when I was 21 and we got married when I was 22. We had our first child when I was 23 (surprise!) and his military service took us to Japan when our daughter was just 18 months old. While we were over there, we had our second daughter, and when she was just over a year, my husband finished his contract with the Marine Corps, and we moved back to his home state of Texas, where we currently reside. Shortly after my 29th birthday, we bought our very first home and became pregnant (again, surprise!) with our third little one. Now that I’m 30, I’m definitely done having babies, but I still love reminiscing and sharing my experiences with other moms and moms-to-be.
I’ll actually be sharing my pregnancy stories and my birth stories in two separate posts for you. And, while I will try not to be too gross, I do like to be honest and real when sharing life experience stories, so, you’ve been warned!
Baby #1: Zoe (AKA The Diva) Zoe is a force to be reckoned with, and she always was, right from the start. When I first found out that I was pregnant with her, I cried. And I’m not talking about a happy, “oh I’m so glad to finally be a mother” kind of cry. No, I was upset. Although my husband (Eddie) and I had talked about kids and definitely wanted them at some point, Zoe came much earlier than we expected. I cried because neither of us had finished college, I had just gotten laid off (this was at the height of the recession, in 2009), and he didn’t initially plan on re-enlisting. How were we going to provide for this child?
But life happens whether you’re ready for it or not, so we chugged along preparing for our little bundle of joy and worked on making plans. We scheduled all of our appointments and read all the books. About two weeks after we found out I was pregnant, the morning sickness hit me HARD. Our dog, Ziggy, would lay on the bathroom floor next to me while I hugged the toilet all day, just to make sure I was okay. He would be so patient with me as I struggled to get the energy up to take him for a walk (we lived in an apartment at the time), and then wouldn’t judge me when I didn’t pick up his poo because I literally couldn’t even. I couldn’t even cook chicken for dinner because the sight of raw poultry would trigger my morning sickness like that. The first trimester was rough.
Then suddenly, practically the day my second trimester started, my symptoms were gone. No nausea, no fatigue, no soreness of any sort. So naturally, like any person with anxiety would do, I lost it. I was convinced that there was something wrong with the baby and that I needed to go to the doctor. I hadn’t felt her start to move yet, so I couldn’t use that as a gauge. I started looking up fetal heart rate monitors online, thinking that that might give me peace of mind. Eddie calmed me down and reminded me of the next best thing besides a doctor: my mom. I called her up and she almost laughed. “No honey, I’m sure the baby’s fine. That’s just how the second trimester is.” Hallelujah! Once I realized that everything was okay, I started to actually enjoy pregnancy. The energy! The glow! The mother-effing libido! It was a roller-coaster, let me tell you. The second trimester was amazing. I finally started feeling like a mom as I started getting little flutters of movement from Zoe. Picking a name for her was easy once we found out she was a girl, because we had already discussed the name before we had even found out that I was pregnant.
The third trimester was a blend of both good and bad. I still had energy from my second trimester, and I didn’t have any extraordinary pain. But I had really weird, vivid, often violent dreams. I’d wake up in a cold sweat and have trouble getting back to sleep. On nights that I didn’t have weird dreams, sweet little Zoe would keep me awake either by kicking me so hard that it hurt or by tickling my ribs. Talk about a whirlwind of emotions. I never had heartburn with Zoe, but at the end, my belly got so cramped that I could hardly eat a full meal; I’d have to graze throughout the day to keep my blood sugar up without over-stuffing myself. By 38 weeks, I was over it.
But of course, Zoe was nice and cozy and decided to take her sweet time to arrive. Overall, my pregnancy experience with Zoe was really great. Although I was the very definition of a noob mom, having a healthy, young body, and being somewhat close to family was a huge help in making the process a lot easier.
Baby #2: Abigail (AKA The Happy Baby)
I think God or Mother Nature or whoever knew I needed an easy baby this time around, because she was so easy (for the most part). We planned to have her, so that helped, but she’s also just been good-natured from the start. Abby came about while we were stationed in Japan, because I had hardcore baby fever. Baby fever isn’t something I ever expected to have, but sure enough, I found myself wandering amongst the newborn clothing racks while Eddie was on a detachment, and I knew it was time for Zoe to have a sibling. After discussing it quite a bit, we decided to start trying. So I consulted my OB and stopped taking birth control. About a month later, I was pregnant!
I remember having morning sickness consistently, but not as bad as I did with Zoe. I had learned to eat smaller, more frequent meals when I was pregnant with her, so that helped me to stabilize my stomach a bit better with Abby. I was still fatigued, but not quite as bad. Plus, I had a toddler to keep me awake!
I noticed two big differences in my pregnancy with Abigail, as opposed to my pregnancy with Zoe: heartburn, and hip pain. If there’s one old wives’ tale that rings true in regards to pregnancy, it’s that heartburn during pregnancy means a baby with a full head of hair. I had the worst heartburn with Abby, and she came out with such thick, dark hair that the doctor nicknamed her “Moose.” Not even joking. I had to start putting her hair in a “ponytail” at about 4 months just to keep it out of her face. On the other hand, Zoe had virtually no hair and I had zero heartburn with her. Funny how that works.
Now, hip pain. I did have a bit of soreness during my pregnancy with Zoe, but nothing significant. With Abby though, I remember getting to a point during my second trimester where I literally could not walk because I was in so much pain. Like, if I wanted to go anywhere, I would have to crawl really slowly in order to avoid being in excruciating pain. Thankfully the worst of it only lasted about a week, but I did have days where it would randomly come back. On those days, I would just lie down for the entire day, and it usually wore off by the next day.
The big thing to note with my pregnancy with Abby was that we were in Japan on a Marine Corps base. Now, you should know that the Navy is the parent branch of the Marine Corps, so any major medical procedures for Marines and their families are usually done at Naval hospitals. In our case, the nearest Navy base was 6 hours away on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train). My options for delivering Abby were: deliver through the local Japanese hospital with their contracted doctor, or head up to the Naval base at around 36 weeks and hang out there until baby came. Now, although I have a strong love for the Japanese and had no qualms about their healthcare, the local OB was a man in probably his seventies, and I had no desire to work through the language barrier while trying to deliver my baby. So we chose the latter option, needless to say.
Once we got up to Yokosuka (where the base was), my pregnancy had its ups and downs. It was almost like a vacation at first because we were in a bigger city, and the base there had a ton more amenities than our base did. We had actually planned on going to Tokyo Disney because it was less than an hour away. But then we went in for my 36-week checkup, and the midwife told me that I was already dilated to 4 centimeters. I didn’t expect that at all since my body was so slow to start labor with Zoe. So, we ended up not going to Disneyland, but we totally could have, because Abby was still a day late, despite the fact that I walked literally EVERYWHERE on base for those four weeks.
The last week or so was pretty rough. Eddie’s command was constantly calling us to ask if the baby had arrived yet, because they needed him back at work. I had a ton of swelling in my feet and ankles due to having (and wanting) to walk everywhere. I also had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions because of the walking as well. On top of that, Zoe was really homesick and extra cranky. I was definitely glad to have such a happy, cooperative baby once Abby finally arrived!
Baby #3: Elliot (AKA The Heart Attack on Wheels)
Oh, my sweet, loving boy, that loves to scare the bejesus out of me. Not only was he a surprise baby, but he is all boy and loves to push boundaries.
We weren’t planning on having another baby. We had wished for a boy twice and instead got two sweet, beautiful, funny girls. We figured we were a girl family, and we had settled down out of the Marine Corps, and started college/new careers, so the last thing that we planned for was another baby. But life has its surprises, and there we were, pregnant again.
I was working retail at this point, and would often have to open the store as a key holder, so I didn’t have the comfort of my own toilet when the morning sickness hit, this time around. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad as with the girls, and through diet and lots and lots of Preggie Pops, I was usually okay. Fatigue was once again my enemy, however. The last thing I wanted to do was get up and go to work, especially since my job involved a lot of heavy lifting. I had to ask for help from my team members (if only due to labor laws) and I struggled with that. I hate asking for help, so I didn’t like being practically useless at my job.
The first and second trimesters of my pregnancy with Elliot were relatively uneventful. I did have issues with hip pain, like I did with Abigail, but not as intense this time.
Finding out his gender was a really fun experience, since we were fully expecting to have a girl this time. The ultrasound tech got the video up on the screen, and about two minutes later, Eddie points at the screen and says, “WHAT’S THAT?! IS THAT A PENIS?!” I looked at the screen, then looked at the tech and we both cracked up. Sure enough, it was a penis (I still can’t help but laugh at that), and we were going to have our first son!
We felt kicks and hiccups, and all the little delicious bits of pregnancy as usual, with no issues, up until I was about 36 weeks. I had been extremely itchy all over my body but chalked it up to my dry skin. Then I went in for my check up and my doctor noticed a few scratches on my belly due to my excess itching. So he tells me that he wants to run a blood test, but not to worry. I did the blood test and waited for a call back. A week later, I get a call from him saying that he needs me to come in ASAP so they can monitor the baby and that we might need to talk about inducing labor. Girrrrrl, I can't tell you how bad my anxiety flared up. WTF.
Before I tell you the rest, I have to give you a little side note: I had decided to quit my job because 1.) I pretty much hated it, and 2.) They weren’t going to give me paid maternity leave or temporary disability. Eff that. So when this 36-week issue reared its head, I had just hit the end of my insurance coverage, and wouldn’t ya know, my company didn’t send my information to the insurance agency to initiate my COBRA coverage. So not only was I dealing with medical issues, but I didn’t have insurance when I had this emergency issue.
Thankfully we got the insurance figured out with only a slight delay, and there were no major issues. But the stress? GEEEEEZ.
Anyway, I get to the doctor, and he tells me I have Cholestasis, which is a condition in which the bile ducts of the liver can become blocked due to a build-up of pregnancy hormones. This is what causes the severe itching that I experienced. Although Cholestasis is pretty common and isn’t dangerous to the mother, it can increase the risk of fetal distress, preterm birth, or even stillbirth. Doctors typically recommend inducing at 37 weeks of pregnancy as a preventative measure, in this case.
We monitored the baby and everything seemed fine, but he wanted me to schedule an induction anyway, just in case. Here I was, fully expecting to carry to 40 weeks or even past (thanks to my two girls), and I ended up having to induce early. I was NOT ready. I kept hoping that my body would go into labor on its own just so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the induction process, but that wasn’t the case. As usual, my body hung on to the last minute. But it took care of my little guy, and now I have a happy, healthy boy!
That’s it for my pregnancy stories! If you’d like to hear my birth stories, be sure to check out my upcoming guest post!
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