Pre-Baby Book Reviews ~ #JNGReads

Happy Hump Day, dear Readers!

I’m back this evening with a whole bunch of book reviews. I have to be honest, my intention was to hold onto these reviews and post them as part of bigger, themed entries with reviews for a few other books I’m hoping to read soon…but then, it hit me all of a sudden that my baby boy could come any day now (read my blog entry about not so patiently waiting for him here) and at that point, I might very well forget about posting these reviews I’ve had in my “back pocket” altogether. I have already posted them on Goodreads – that’s usually the first place I update as soon as I’ve finished a book, so if you’d like to join me over there, I’d love to chat books anytime!

Anyway, without further ado, here are some reviews for a bunch of books I’ve read recently. I very much hope that, even when my baby decides to join us, I’ll be able to continue reading and reviewing whenever I have a spare moment.

Help Me by Marianne Power

I feel very conflicted about Marianne Power’s memoir of sorts about her time spent reading self-help books and attempting to better herself because of them.

On the one hand, I really did like Marianne’s voice. I found her funny, relatable and bubbly. I appreciated her frequent use of exclamation points (every sentence in my own text messages ends in one), and I thought that, despite her discussion of her depression and her quite constant putting down of herself, she came across as positive and optimistic. She seems like the type of person I could easily be friends with because she came across as, overall, very endearing and lovable.

But on the other hand, the discussion of each self-help book was tedious and annoying to me. I’m not really a self-help person myself, and although I’ve spent this year trying to come to terms with my anxiety, I haven’t actually picked up any cliché books like the ones Marianne does. I’m not trying to come across as stuck up or anything, but I do believe there are problems with a lot of self-help books out there, and they are similar to fad diets in the sense that it’s easy to become enamoured with them and jump on the bandwagon, only to go careening off it mere months later. Marianne recognizes that as well, which I really appreciated (otherwise, this book might’ve verged on insufferable), but she also does buy into a lot of the books when she is reading them, and that can be kind of frustrating as a reader who is a bit more…well…cynical and pessimistic, I suppose. I just couldn’t buy into everything Marianne was reading, and it made it hard for me to relate to her in the moments when she was buying into it all. It made me want to tell her, like her friends and family members do, to snap out of it and focus on reality instead, and my inability to do that through the pages of a book was hard for me.

Like I said, though, I continued to be a fan of Marianne from the first page to the last and I did find myself rooting for her. I just don’t know that I found there to be anything profound about this book as it almost read like a diary. It was personal and very raw in points, but it wasn’t a self-help book in itself, and so it didn’t help me on my own journey of understanding my anxiety at all. Not that I really expected it to, but it was certainly a lot more about Marianne’s experiences and life than I expected it to be, although that ended up being the thing I liked best about it, I think.

And, as I mentioned, Marianne does go through a really rough period of depression at one point of the book and she is blatantly and bravely honest about it. I respected that immensely and it was definitely the portion of the book I was able to engage with the most and take the most from. The quotes below are a good sampling of what Marianne talks about in this section, and I found myself re-reading them several times because they seemed to describe my own feelings as if Marianne was inside my head.

“‘I’m just tired,’ I said. Tired. How many times had I said that word when I didn’t know what else to say? When I didn’t know how to say I’m lost, I’m scared, I’m lonely, I feel like I’m losing it…?”

“I have always been prone to getting down. It starts so gradually I don’t notice it. I start waking up in the middle of the night with a feeling of non-specific panic and waking up in the morning with a feeling of dread and anxiety. Bit by bit this grows until it feels like the day – and the world – contains nothing but cliffs for me to fall off.”

“I thought it was normal to feel like the bottom of your world was falling out every day – I thought that was just how people felt. You just had to try harder, keep going, hope that one day it would get better. Also, being diagnosed as depressed was code for being a failure. For not being able to nail this life business.”

Okay, that all sounds really negative and makes it seem like this book is a big downer, but it really isn’t. Despite facing incredible lows, Marianne is able to feel happy a lot of the time and the book does end on an optimistic note. But, it’s also realistic and Marianne is honest about the fact that she might not feel happy every single day and that her whole life hasn’t been magically transformed, and that is alright. Having moments of joy and gratitude are sometimes enough.

Overall, I enjoyed Marianne’s writing style a lot and I would be interested to read her work as a journalist because I think she has a really witty voice. I perhaps didn’t love the subject matter of this book, but I did grow to like Marianne very much, so that made it a successful enough reading experience for me.

❥❥❥ (out of 5) 

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

I have never read The Odyssey. 

I am not a particular fan of Margaret Atwood…which, yes, does make me a bad Canadian, thanks for asking. 

But, The Penelopiad I thoroughly enjoyed! I read it entirely in one day. It would’ve been one sitting if I didn’t have obligations to attend to. I highly recommend this one as it might be the best Atwood work I’ve ever read. It was short but felt profound; it had many meaningful messages about what it means to be a woman (overshadowed and overpowered by a pompous but important man) and a wife, but was easy to digest. Overall, a GREAT read!

❥❥❥❥.5 (out of 5)

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

I thoroughly enjoyed The Kiss of Deception, despite some obvious problems with it. I have to admit right off the bat that the story is a slow one and very much feels, by the end, like a precursor to bigger things to come in the rest of the series. Other reviewers have mentioned that the plot is very repetitive, and this is certainly true as it outlines main character Lia’s day-to-day life working as a waitress in a small town in minute detail. However, for some reason, I still found the story incredibly enjoyable to read and, when I sat down with it, I found myself turning the pages rapidly. It is true that not very much happened, but it was still quite entertaining and I felt compelled about halfway through it to go to my local bookstore and pick up the other two novels in the series so that I could begin them right after finishing this one. I also grew to really like Lia as a character by the end of the story, and I am curious to see if my interest in her will only grow as I get into the next book, or if my intrigue will wan. 

Overall, although this book wasn’t fabulous per say, it was pleasant to read and I did find myself being drawn in by Pearson’s writing style and her ability to weave together a story. I am very curious to see what comes next in spite of myself.

❥❥❥ (out of 5) 

*Note: I do plan to continue this series and was intending to write a larger review of the entire thing at some point, so that is why this particular review is so short. Hopefully, I will get around to the rest of the series soon!*

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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Real Pregnancy Talk: The Waiting Game

“I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting.”

~ The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger

Could this be the last photo of me as a pregnant woman? When will my baby decide to join us?

I am nearing the end of my journey. I am just over 37 weeks pregnant. This means that the baby in my belly, who has lived there for what feels like forever but has really only been a short piece of the grand scheme of my life, could arrive at any time. It is perfectly safe at this point if that happens, and while I am excited for him to finally be out here with my husband and me, I am also terrified of this moment. When I lie in bed at night, sleep drifting slowly in, I feel my chest clench and my heart race, imagining him lying in his little bassinet beside our bed. Everything is about to change.

So, I am waiting, for this boy that I have never met but who is going to be the most important person in my life. I am constantly assessing every symptom I feel, on red alert for any traces of contractions, any weird sensations that could mark his impending arrival. But, at the same time, I have no idea when he will choose to actually join us. Will it be tomorrow? A week from now? Will he wait until even after his due date? No one can tell me, not even my incredibly qualified doctor. And so, I wait.

I waited a very long time to meet my husband – 22 years to be exact. I had no serious relationship before him, and I very acutely felt before meeting him that I was waiting to find that special someone, that no one before him was quite right. Even that experience, though, feels comparatively insignificant as I sit here waiting to meet my son. This is a child that my husband and I created together, that is completely made up of parts of us, and it is surreal and scary and fascinating to think that, when he does come into the world, it will be entirely because of us. We are responsible for him in so many ways and will be for the rest of our lives.

Is this our final photo as a twosome? We wait, not so patiently, for our son to make his appearance…

I am not a patient person. I think most people who know me would in fact describe me as very impatient. In this case, however, I have no choice but to practice patience and let my son do what he needs to, in his own time. I, personally, pride myself in never being late for anything, so I am hoping he takes after me in this sense and will join us at least by his due date. But again, what influence do I have over this? None whatsoever. So, like one of my favourite characters and a great example of beautiful motherhood, Clare Abshire, I will do the only thing that I can…sit here…waiting.

“Without you I’m workin’ with the rain fallin’ down

Half a party in a one dog town

I need you to chase the blues away

I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day

Gonna chase the clouds away

Waitin’ on a sunny day”

~ “Waiting on a Sunny Day” by Bruce Springsteen

Janille N G

Girl with a Green (and Very Impatient!) Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Clueless

Let’s talk about those people who are utterly clueless about what it means to be pregnant.

WARNING: Angry blog post ahead…

I’ve had a few people (both men and women) say to me since I became pregnant in January that they totally understand and sympathize with what it’s like to be pregnant, even though they’ve never been themselves. I’m here to say to these people once and for all that, No, you don’t.

Pregnancy is not only an extremely emotional and mental journey (as I’ve talked about at length in other “Real Pregnancy Talk” posts), it is also a very physical experience. When it became clear that my anxiety was a lot more severe than expected in my first trimester, my doctors all recommended vehemently to me that I practice going to the gym on a regular basis as it would help my mind to calm down. But, just because I am trying my best to go to the gym as frequently as possible, doesn’t mean that I am feeling peachy keen all the time. There have been significant changes to my physical body since I became pregnant, and now that I am 32 weeks along and nearing the end of my journey, my baby is only getting larger and larger and more, let’s be honest, uncomfortable to carry. This is something that I am confident no person can even come close to understanding unless they have been pregnant themself. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my body is no longer just my own, and that’s the truth of it – I am sharing my body with another human, and he’s not always that considerate of how I might be feeling. He kicks my ribs and lungs, often taking my breath away; he punches my bladder which, as you can imagine, can have some serious consequences when I’m out in public; and he is apparently hungry constantly because I definitely am.

Moreover, he’s messing with my hormones in ways that are ten times more intense than anything I ever experienced as a woman prior to becoming pregnant (yes, even during that pesky time of the month!). I’ve never had heartburn in my life until I became pregnant, but now it’s a nightly occurrence and has been since the end of my first trimester. I have a weak back to begin with, but the pressure is getting to the point now where a single step can unexpectedly have me cringing and clutching myself in agony. There was the time I almost fainted on the subway (like, literally, I was seeing spots and thought I was going to face plant right in front of the early morning commuters) and then found out from my doctor that my iron level was really low because, naturally, every single thing I consume is being shared with my precious nugget. And, let’s just say it how it is, none of this is very comfortable or enjoyable to go through.

Despite how plainly traumatic being pregnant is on a female’s body, like I said, there are still those people out there who think they know what it’s like to be pregnant without having been. Sure, maybe these people can empathize with what it’s like and try to put themselves in a pregnant woman’s position, but that will only get them so far and I’m sorry, but it’s not at all the same. Until you’ve held a baby inside of you, you don’t know anything, and it’s just naïve and ignorant to pretend that you do.

Now, why would I feel compelled to rant like a dragon about this today? Well, it has to do with something that happened to me on the weekend. I was heading downtown with my mother on the subway, and it was a Saturday evening, so the subway was pretty busy. It wasn’t packed by any means though, and my mom and I entered the train easily and stood right in front of a cluster of five seats. On these seats sat two middle-aged women, two young women, and a middle-aged man. Do you think that any of these five individuals got up to offer me, the only pregnant woman in the vicinity, a seat? Nope, not a single one. I do like to believe that, with my fitness level being what it was before I got pregnant, I actually needed a seat less than some of these people…but that’s not really the point. The point is that it is simply disrespectful and insulting not to at least offer a seat to a pregnant woman (or to a person who clearly needs a seat for any other reason) when on the subway. I didn’t say anything and I urged my mom not to because I didn’t want to cause an altercation, but this got me really fired up. People need to get their heads out of their a$$es sometimes, apparently.

All this to say that, you might think you know how hard it is to be pregnant, but unless you’ve been a pregnant woman at one point in your life, you have no clue. So, if a pregnant woman is standing near you on a crowded subway car or bus, just offer her a damn seat and be a decent human being, because one day you might actually be in her position and you and your sore back are going to be hoping you have good karma when that day arrives. Trust me on this one!

Rant concluded, thank you for attending my Ted Talk. 😉

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Party of Two

Let’s talk about how it really feels to go from being two to being three.

About a month ago, I learned that my favourite musical (and one of my favourite French stories) of all time, The Phantom of the Opera, will be returning to Toronto in January. I immediately called my husband to tell him that we were getting tickets to celebrate our 6-year dating anniversary, which falls in that month. He was completely on board, even though I’ve seen the play about a million times and he’s getting up there as well, and so we took a look at the available seats and made our selection.

It was then that it dawned on us…January 2020…we would need a babysitter to take care of our baby boy if we wanted to go out for a date night at that time. What a surreal and indescribable feeling, to come to the realization that, beginning this Fall, we can no longer think of just the two of us anymore. We will, for the rest of our lives, always have to be thinking for three.

My husband and I aren’t big partygoers and it’s not like we frequent bars and nightclubs in the city all that often, unless there’s a birthday party or event we’re attending. Having said that, we definitely enjoy being out of the house together, exploring new restaurants downtown and especially going to movies and shows. We’re big fans of walking along the Harbourfront, or buzzing around the Eaton Centre or Yorkdale, and we do get restless if we’re sitting at home for too long on a weekend. We enjoy each other’s company, and I’ve often said that some of my happiest moments with my husband have been waiting in line with him for a ride at The Ex, or sitting on an otherwise tedious streetcar journey headed to an outdoor concert at Budweiser Stage. We try to attend Fan Expo and the One of A Kind Christmas Craft Show every year, and make frequent visits to the Distillery District in the cool winter months. We love being out and about, as long as we’re together, holding hands and exchanging smiles.

One of my biggest fears when we found out I was pregnant was that all of this would change. My husband is my absolute best friend in the world, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately, as the countdown is now on to our baby boy’s arrival, about how being parents will change our relationship. We discussed many times before our wedding that if we were deciding to get married, it meant it would be for life, no matter how hard things might get in the future. We’re hopeless romantics in that way, and we realized very early in our relationship that we’d rather be unhappy together than unhappy apart. Hopefully we’re never at that point where we need to struggle through mutual unhappiness, but considering that my pregnancy journey hasn’t been easy and we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs throughout the years, I do feel confident that as long as we maintain our close friendship, we can get through anything. At the same time, though, I don’t want to have to compromise our youth and excitement for life because we have a baby and will soon be in the role of parents. I want us to continue to be exactly who we are to each other, just with the heightened joy of raising our child together.

I’ll admit, the idea of going from being two to being three has made me melancholy for the last few weeks, especially as the summer heats up and we are pulled in so many directions by so many people, attending so many events every single weekend. My emotions have bogged me down for the last few weeks, and I found myself just wanting a bit of peace and quiet with only my husband and I, and when I expressed these feelings to him, my husband completely understood. So, we’ve decided to try to take a step back now that I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy, and take more time for ourselves. I suggested that we make a list of some of the spots in the city we want to visit and things we want to do before our baby arrives, and we decided that we are going to be honest with ourselves and start saying No to invitations if we’re just feeling stretched too thin. We’re about to experience the biggest change of our lives, one that is utterly permanent, and I feel it’s so important to remember that we are the ones who will be mostly affected by this change…meaning that we have to go as easy on ourselves as possible during this transitional phase.

I also am making a commitment to myself now not to be scared to do things with our baby. As a high strung person to begin with, I can totally see myself wanting to stay home with baby all the time, and maybe being a bit afraid to take him out because of the inconvenience or hassle. But, that is NOT the type of mother I want to be. Yes, of course, I know I’ll need to take it easy, but I also want to take our baby out places and be active with him, especially when I’m on my own during my maternity leave. I want to walk with him to visit my husband or my brother at work and still have lunch dates with my girlfriends. I want to do swimming lessons with him and not be intimidated or embarrassed if he sometimes cries in public. I want him to be a third invitee to all the amazing date nights my husband and I can still have, and when he’s old enough, I want to bring him to my favourite musical so that he can experience the wonder and intrigue I did when I first saw The Phantom of the Opera when I was a young girl.

Rather than looking at becoming parents as a loss, I’m choosing to look at it as gaining another best friend, a little nugget who will be so in awe of the world that my husband and I will get to re-experience all of our favourite places and re-live all of our favourite memories through his little eyes. That is an adventure that I think the three of us will never forget!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: The Woman’s Work

Let’s talk about how it really feels to be responsible for bringing another human into the world.

Let the biggest juggling act of my life begin!

I am now 30 weeks pregnant, which means that in 10 weeks’ time (or possibly even less), I will be meeting my little baby boy. This is something that it is very difficult to wrap my mind around. I spoke a few weeks ago about the stress and responsibility associated with having another human being inside of me (what can I eat, how should I workout, is everything going okay in there?), and I’ve also alluded to the fact that feeling my baby boy kicking and moving inside my stomach is incredibly surreal and sometimes even a tad scary. But now that my baby’s due date is fast approaching, I’ve started to have moments of overwhelming fear and nerves about what exactly it will mean for him to be here…and about how I will get him here to begin with.

At least several times a day, this feeling almost akin to vertigo comes over me when I think, even briefly, about the fact that I will have to deliver this baby. The idea of going into labour and all the unknowns associated with it is pretty terrifying to me, and although this is something it’s easy to dismiss when you’re only 12 or 20 weeks pregnant, it’s a lot harder to do that as you proceed through your third trimester. The bottom line is that this baby has to come out of my body one way or another and, in just over 2 months, I’m going to have to rely on my body to figure out the best way to bring my baby into the outside world. The fact that my body can actually do that, and that it will supposedly kick into gear and find a way to make that happen (I’ve been assured this will be the case), is utterly mind-boggling to me. As a compulsive planner, I also would love to be able to think ahead and get myself and my body ready for what’s to come, but of course, it is virtually impossible to do that. Even the best laid birth plans can go sideways.

So, I’m trying my best to find ways to, in the words of 4 wise men, “let it be”. I did go through a period of watching birth vlogs obsessively on YouTube, but my husband and parents are convinced that now’s not really the best time to continue doing that, and I have to agree with them. In this particular scenario, it seems that ignorance truly is bliss.

That all being said, if I do somehow manage to curtail these anxieties about labour, my mind then immediately progresses to the next step in my new motherhood journey: breastfeeding my baby. I fully appreciate and sympathize with the fact that many women choose not to breastfeed, and I can completely understand the physical and emotional reasons why someone might opt out of this particular activity. Personally, I’ve given it a lot of thought and talked to my husband and parents extensively, and I do want to breastfeed, with the full realization that it may not be as easy as I hope and with the promise to myself that I will not feel any guilt if I am unable to breastfeed for whatever reason. There are health benefits to breastfeeding, however, and it does establish a beautiful connection between mother and child, so I am committed to doing it for as long as I am able. That doesn’t mean I’m totally confident or relaxed about it, though. First, my body is expected to know how to push my baby out, and then, almost immediately, that same body is expected to provide sustenance for the baby? Like, hooow?!?! How on Earth do women’s bodies know how to do all of this? It is really incredible, most definitely, but it’s also a huge burden and responsibility, and like with most things about pregnancy, it’s something a man just doesn’t have to contemplate. This baby is 50% my husband’s and yet I am 100% responsible for carrying it, delivering it into the world, and (in my own case) feeding it. How does that make any sense? I don’t want to get into a rant about how it’s not really fair because obviously there’s science behind it all and it is what it is, but it just seems like a woman’s job in raising a baby is a lot more involved than a man’s is in a lot of fundamental ways. And that’s totally fine; I wanted to have a baby with my husband and I knew what I would have to undertake to do so. But, at the same time, after hours of labour (I read somewhere that a woman burns around 50,000 calories during labour, just FYI) that will no doubt be exhausting, I’m then expected to feed my baby right away and make sure he has everything he needs to start growing. Obviously my husband will be there for support and cuddles and all that good stuff…but he’s mostly going to be a spectator for the hard bits, don’t you think?

Where am I going with all of this? I truly have no idea. Maybe I just felt like ranting and getting my feelings out, no matter how incoherent. I’m not one for clichés, but honestly, this whole journey has made me acutely aware of how amazing women are. Everything we have to endure and be responsible for…it’s just mind-blowing, and while I’m not really into going on and on about #girlpower, it certainly feels like pregnancy and motherhood are experiences I’m going to have every right to be incredibly proud of for the rest of my life! A bit of pride is the very least I deserve after all this, wouldn’t you agree?

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

What’s In A Name? 🌹

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope you’re all having a fabulous start to the week!

I wanted to come on here to share an exciting baby-related update. I’ve been alluding to the fact in the last few baby posts that my husband and I have had a name for our baby boy picked out for quite some time. The truth is, we came up with this name (as well as one for a baby girl, if it turned out that we were having a girl instead) a few years ago and have had it in our minds ever since as the name we would use for our baby boy. It is a name that seems very fitting to us because it combines both of our interests and is unique, uncommon and interesting in the same way that my name and my husband’s name are. We wanted to choose a name that probably wouldn’t be shared by any of our son’s classmates (fingers crossed!), but we also wanted something timeless that would transition well into his adult life.

So, without further ado, the name we have chosen for our baby boy is…

DORIAN LEE

(You may have already guessed this from the photo at the start of this post, haha!)

Now, why would we be drawn to those two particular names? you may ask. Well, as you all most likely know by this point, I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, so I knew that I wanted my son’s first or middle name to be something inspired by that era. When my husband and I were brainstorming names, I brought up names like Edward (obviously!), and even last names like Thornton or Rochester that I thought we could use as first names if we wanted. But nothing really spoke to us or seemed right, until my husband was glancing at my bookshelves and his eyes alighted onThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. He immediately felt drawn to the name “Dorian”, and while we certainly hope our son won’t be anything at all like Wilde’s devious and pretty evil character, we instantly fell in love with the name and started referring to our (then hypothetical) future son by it. As for the middle name “Lee”, we actually intended to use this middle name for either a boy or a girl because we thought it could fit in both cases. We came up with this middle name well before we landed on “Dorian” and it is inspired by the fact that my husband practices martial arts and has a particular affinity to the legend Bruce Lee. We weren’t overly fond of the name “Bruce” but we wanted to pay homage to this influence in my husband’s life somehow, and I was actually the one to suggest “Lee” as a nice, easy middle name. We feel it sounds really lovely with “Dorian” and we have been calling our baby boy by this name since we found out his gender a few months ago.

There you have it! One of the most important decisions you can make while having a baby came relatively easily to my husband and I, and we are so excited to meet our little Dorian Lee in just over two month’s time.

Do you have any children whose names were inspired by literature or other significant passions in your life? If you’re not a parent yet, have you chosen any baby names and what are they inspired by? I’d love to hear! 🙂

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Suffering from Severe Anxiety

Let’s talk…or at least try to…about what it means to have severe anxiety while pregnant.

I desperately want to talk about my struggles with severe anxiety here on this blog, but to be honest, I am afraid to. For the last week I have felt the urge to speak about how challenging the last 6 months have been for me, and although the words flow very easily when I am sitting with my journal open, they don’t at all when I’m attempting to write something meaningful for this public space. Let’s be honest…talking about anxiety does, unfortunately, make people uncomfortable, and I find myself mainly struggling to write openly and honestly about my experiences because I want to shield other people. For some reason, I am most worried about offending people or making them uneasy, which is actually absurd if you think about it because then I am the one left with the weight on my chest. But anxiety is something that, while a very personal and intimate experience, also sometimes involves other people or is caused by external triggers, and these can be harder to speak about out loud.

The fact is, I am scared to delve too deeply into why I have been so anxious during my pregnancy, and that is mainly because my anxiety and its severity have been exacerbated by feelings of intense guilt and shame. Shame about not being strong enough; shame about having no choice but to put myself and my baby first and make tough decisions because of it; guilt about even being pregnant at all because it might not be convenient or preferable for some of the people around me. And maybe speaking in such veiled terms about my feelings is an act of shame as well, but it feels hard to be honest about something I am only just beginning to work through and heal from.

Suffice it to say that, although some days are much happier and brighter and I have come a long way from where I was just 3 months ago, there is not a single day that goes by that I don’t feel at least a few moments of severe anxiety. At the height of my struggles 3 months ago, I was having around 7 panic attacks a day, and now, thankfully, I am down to 1 or 2 a week. But, the process to get there has been slow and arduous, and I know that if I slip up or something drastic happens, I could easily spiral downwards again. If I weren’t pregnant, I probably never would’ve taken the steps to work through my long-standing mental health issues, but honestly, I had no choice because I am not the only one at risk…my defenseless baby is also subjected to my panic attacks, and when my doctors blatantly told me that what I was going through was a huge risk to my unborn child, I had no other option but to react and take precautions immediately. After breaking down in public places with no warning multiple times over the span of a 3 week period, after being rushed by my family to the emergency room because I had back-to-back panic attacks with virtually no time to recover, after enduring some traumatizing and unexpected moments, what else could I do? I had to make changes, and fast, because I truly have never felt more vulnerable or scared for myself (and, consequently, my baby) in my life.

There are so many things I’ve been doing to try to get myself to a better place during this pregnancy, from seeing an expert psychiatrist regularly, to starting meditation practices, to studying the book Mind Over Mood vigilantly, to exercising on a daily basis, and luckily, it seems like a lot of it is working. I went from being unable to eat or sleep (particularly alarming and dangerous while pregnant) to being able to smile in photos, looking forward to being out with my husband, family and friends, and actually enjoying the adventure of pregnancy. But, as I said, this does not mean that my work is done, and I still wake up with feelings of guilt, a tight chest and racing heart almost every morning. There are still triggers in my dreams and in my mind that pop up when I let my guard down and in quiet moments, and I may be working through them for years to come. This fight against anxiety is a journey, a daily battle, but it is one I have no choice but to engage in, for myself and my growing family.

Maybe nothing I’ve said here will make sense to anyone but me…I don’t think that’s the point, though. I have let myself speak, I have given voice to the fact that I am not 100% okay, but I am hoping to get there. And, ultimately, I am pledging each day to be the strongest, best example to my soon-to-be-born son that, yes, anxiety is real, it is physical, it is debilitating at times, but it can be overcome.

From a day when my husband had me laughing!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: Getting Physical

Let’s talk about how it really feels to be pregnant.

Full disclosure from the beginning: I am not one of those women who enjoys being pregnant. To be honest, I never really thought I would be that type of person anyway, so I’m not surprised or disappointed in the least. Right up until I actually took that pregnancy test (well, actually, I took 4 of them to be sure) and saw that it was positive, I had this vague idea that pregnancy was…well…gross. This is probably more of a normal feeling for a 16 year old to have, so at 27 years old I may not have much of an excuse. I definitely also felt this way in high school though, and it seems that I simply never shook the feeling. I fully appreciate that a lot of women do not feel this way and actually find pregnancy to be a magical and wonderful experience – that is incredible for those women and I wish I could be more like them. But, for me, pregnancy is an experience that is a means to an amazing end, not necessarily something I’m loving.

I should probably explain before I get a bunch of negative comments and hate mail. Being pregnant, my body feels very alien to me. I am sure there are many women out there who feel this same way, and maybe it’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever done to share these sentiments publically on a blog, but I do think there is not enough discussion about how challenging, scary and plainly uncomfortable it can be to be pregnant. There are many bloggers, YouTube vloggers and Instagrammers who are speaking honestly about this nowadays, which I think is great – I just wanted to add my own voice to this conversation and reassure any women who might stumble upon this post during a difficult pregnancy that not loving the 40-week journey isn’t a sin or a crime.

I want to be a mother very much. I wouldn’t be pregnant right now if I didn’t, I can assure you of that. When I was in high school, I envisioned myself with a child in the future; when I met my husband and started dating him, those fantasies became even more real; and when we got married and realized the time to start trying might be near, I could see our family life in my mind so clearly and it made me excited. I am even more excited now that our baby’s room is furnished, now that we know we are having a boy and can call him by name. Having said all that, just because I am excited to be a mother does not mean I relish the idea of carrying another human inside of me. Just because I want to hold my baby in my arms, does not mean that I am overjoyed by the idea of him residing in my stomach at this very moment.

A lot of my feelings stem from the fact that being pregnant is a huge responsibility. This is something that a man cannot ever fully understand (although I am lucky enough to have a husband who is sympathetic to it). Being pregnant, not only does my body feel alien to me in so many ways, it also feels like it is not entirely my own. That’s because it’s not – although my body does still belong to me, for 40 weeks it also belongs to someone else, someone helpless who must be protected and nurtured at all costs. I don’t know many people for whom that would not be a daunting prospect. For example, I have had to change my life in numerous ways to accommodate for the fact that everything my body experiences is being felt by another human as well. I have mentioned previously my struggles with severe anxiety throughout my pregnancy, beginning early in my first trimester, and that is something I’d like to write a specific post about very soon. But apart from that, I have had to make subtle every day changes to make sure my body is the perfect (albeit temporary) home for my baby. I have had to stop running at the gym because the pounding motion was proving to be too much for my now delicate back. Honestly, that’s been a welcome change because it’s been nice to have a break from that particular type of exercise and try some new ones instead. It is an adjustment though, and as I lower my upper and lower body weights each week that I become more pregnant, my husband can still push to his usual limits. I have also had to change some of the things I eat, and the other day when I went to a local bagel shop to grab a whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese, it wasn’t until after I had scarfed it down that I had a moment of panic wondering if the cream cheese was pasteurized. I did my due diligence and called the shop to confirm, but I was reminded of just how careful I have to be about every item I put in my mouth. Then, there was the time I fell going up the stairs at the subway station by my house (I blame my stupid, bulky Converse!). I was pretty sure I hadn’t hit my stomach because I caught myself, but I found my mind racing and second-guessing, so I rushed to the hospital I’ll be delivering at to be checked out. In all these ways, and so many more, it feels not only like I am sharing my body but also like I am having to sacrifice it. Yes, for something miraculous and beautiful and one I would readily make, but a sacrifice nonetheless.

So, my body isn’t fully mine at the moment because I am sharing it with my unborn baby. That’s a hard adjustment, certainly, but one that is necessary and that I could wrap my mind around (even if it still does take me by surprise every time I feel him moving inside me). What’s a bit harder to swallow is the fact that I also feel like my body and my pregnancy experience are being shared with everyone else around me. I don’t mean my husband and my family members and friends, who are naturally going to be excited and involved – I mean the strangers who stare, the distant family friends who want to touch my belly, the random people who think it is okay to say that I “look great” even though they have no idea what I looked like before being pregnant and really shouldn’t be commenting on my appearance at all. When I was in my first trimester, I desperately wanted to start showing because I wanted the people around me to know what I was going through; now, in hindsight, I kind of wish I could keep my bump secret, between only myself and certain people I choose. Pregnancy is a very public experience, but at the same time, it is also extremely intimate and personal. There’s this strange dichotomy in that everyone can see your pregnancy clear as day and can profess an opinion about it (whether negative or excited), but very few people actually have a right to be directly involved in it. Sometimes, more often than not, the stares make me uncomfortable and I am made more anxious by people commenting on my pregnancy than I would be if they just stayed silent. Yes, I am having a baby, with my husband, and while that might be exciting to a whole bunch of other people, it’s actually none of their business in the slightest. Maybe it makes me heartless to speak this way, but I already think about being pregnant pretty much every second of the day, so the last thing I need is some random person wanting to engage in conversation about something my mind is already going over and over constantly.

I should also mention that I am definitely having an off day as I write this. I’m not at my best today, and I’m trying not to be hard on myself for it because my body and mind are going through a lot right now. The plain fact is that every single day of being pregnant is not a happy or a beautiful one – that doesn’t mean that a lot of them aren’t so special, but a lot of them also aren’t and I think that is okay and something that really needs to be acknowledged. At the end of the day, I am very eager to have my baby boy beside me, and the fact that that requires having him within me right now is par for the course. Will I be relieved beyond words when he is out here where I can see him, though? Most definitely!

From a day I felt both beautiful and pregnant.

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

A Room Fit for a Prince

Hi everyone, and happy almost-Friday!

I wanted to come on here today to share a quick post about some recent home developments. Although I am only nearly 27 weeks pregnant, my husband and I have gotten a bit overly excited about our baby boy’s arrival and have already decorated his entire nursery. It took us about one full weekend to do, and it isn’t a huge room at all, but we were just so excited about getting the pieces and décor together that we simply couldn’t wait. I wanted to share some photos with all of you because, of course, there is a bit of a literary theme to the decoration style. I also do have a sneaky clue to the name we have chosen for our baby boy (which I will write a proper post announcing soon).

First off, we painted this design on the wall above our baby’s crib. If you’ve read my post about the first tattoo I got, you’ll probably recognize this crown. My husband and I have a matching tattoo of half of a king’s crown beside half of a queen’s crown, and the image is also painted on the wall of our bedroom in rose gold. We knew when we got the tattoo that we wanted to add a smaller crown beneath it (we even left room for it, as we’ve collected other tattoos since) to represent our baby, the king’s crown if we were to have a boy and the queen’s if we were to have a girl. Since we now know we’re having a boy, we decided to paint the design for our next tattoo onto his wall, and we have decided to stick mainly with black and white décor because my husband studied in his psychology degree that babies can only see in black and white when they are first born and find high contrast of this kind very visually stimulating. The empty frame that surrounds the crown is an allusion to the source for our baby boy’s first name, and the designs around it are there to provide more contrast to engage him when he’s lying in his crib.

This is a photo of the crib and bedding we chose, again in our chosen colours of black and white. My husband and I are not really huge fans of blue generally and we wanted to steer clear of bedroom décor that had sports or animals or anything stereotypically boyish on it, so we thought this more neutral bedding was perfect. You’ll also see in this photo the room in its entirety, with a clothes rack for my maternity clothes and for the baby’s more visually appealing clothes that we’d like to display. We’ve also chosen to leave one of my bookshelves in the baby’s room because we have both read how important it is for infants to be surrounded by books, even if they are adult books, because it encourages them to become interested in reading in the future.

This final picture is a closer look at the change table we chose, which matches the crib. It also shows some of the artwork we have decided to leave in the room. Although we know Bruce Springsteen, The Phantom of the Opera and Jane Eyre might not be totally appealing to our infant son, we did feel it was important for him to be somewhat surrounded by things that are interesting and significant to us, so that our influence is always present and so that he can, once again, become curious about the passions we’re eager to share with him from a young age.

As you can see, we got a bit carried away, but seeing all of these items every time we pass the room has made us ten times more excited for our baby’s arrival, since it is finally starting to feel real!

What do you think of his room? As promised, here’s one final picture with a little sneak peek at one of the names we’ve chosen for him.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

My Body, My Choice ~ My Opinion on Abortion

There is only one thing I have done in my life that I have truly regretted, and it is a choice I made back when I was in high school (as so many of these things are). I went to a Catholic high school, and while I wouldn’t say that I was staunchly pro-life or anti-gay marriage, I was taught these sorts of opinions in my classes at school and I have to admit that I didn’t think to question them at the time. I want to say that this was because of my age or naïveté, but those are just excuses – the truth is that I was just ill-informed, and didn’t have the urge to make myself better-informed, which is without doubt very sad. One day, back when I was in grade 11 or 12, my English teacher approached me and asked if I would be willing to write an essay for a competition my school wanted to enter. I had very high marks in English, so I knew the teacher was coming to me because he hoped I would write an essay that would win the competition and bring some sort of recognition to our school in a relatively small town. When I asked what the essay had to be about, my English teacher told me that it needed to be a pro-life essay – basically an essay that was anti-abortion and argued for why abortion was wrong. I do remember feeling a bit uneasy about this, but I didn’t want to disappoint one of my favourite teachers and my entire school, so I agreed to write the essay.

That was the hardest piece I have ever written in my life. Again, it wasn’t because I considered myself pro-choice at the time (I like to think if I did, I would’ve had enough backbone and self-respect to decline writing the essay altogether). My difficulty came when I sat down in front of my laptop and realized I didn’t have any good arguments for why abortion was wrong other than, naturally, what the Bible (which I hadn’t even fully read, to be honest) told me. I wished that I never agreed to write the essay – something I wish even more fiercely now – and I wrote several drafts that were, to put it mildly, pitiful. Eventually, I turned to my dad for some guidance and he suggested I take the angle that the unborn child could turn out to be the next Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King, and focus on the lost potential that abortion precipitates. Of course, the unborn child could also go on to be the next Hitler, but we didn’t think about that too closely.

(It is worth noting here that my father is firmly pro-choice now and his opinions altered significantly at around the same time mine did.)

I really wasn’t all that confident in the essay but I ended up winning the competition. To say my teacher and my school were very proud is an understatement. When they stated that I had won over the morning announcements, I recall feeling some embarrassment, but I’m not sure if that was because of the subject matter of my prize-winning essay or because the announcement revealed me as the high achiever that I was in front of all my peers. In any case, I was then asked by the association who ran the competition to attend one of their meetings and read my essay in front of several hundred of their members. Somehow (surprise, surprise), I didn’t have the courage to turn that down either, and a few weeks later, I found myself surrounded by a room full of hardcore Catholics (as well as my parents and grandparents) reading words that I wasn’t exactly confident in.

It didn’t take long for me to investigate the topic of abortion again and come to a totally different conclusion than the one I spouted in my essay. Two years later, I was in university in downtown Toronto and was exposed to a whole lot of things I didn’t get to see or hear about in my tiny Catholic school. And I knew within months of being at university that everything I had been taught was absurd and outlandish – at that point, I became adamantly pro-choice and I have been so ever since.

When I think about it now, writing that pro-life essay, and apparently writing it pretty well, is a source of shame because it so radically conflicts with what I now know to be true. I don’t want this post to come across as accusatory of those that are religious or are pro-life for whatever reason. I am not trying to criticize these viewpoints because my main stance is that I am pro-CHOICE. This can easily become conflated with being pro-abortion, but that is completely erroneous, false and unjust. I have never professed the opinion that a woman must or should have an abortion – on the contrary, I have always believed the opposite, that a pregnant woman should be free to do whatever she chooses, whether that be to keep her unborn child or to have an abortion. I believe in the choice and in the fact that every person, male or female, deserves to be able to make their own decisions about what happens to their own body.

Obviously, abortion is a hot topic right now, hence this very post. I have recently come up against the opinion that my position on abortion should be different now that I am pregnant, and I wanted to set the record straight that my opinion has not and will not ever change. I am and always will be (PROUDLY!) pro-choice, and having a child inside of me does not alter that fact. On the contrary, it makes me more firmly pro-choice because I now realize the magnitude of being pregnant and the challenges that I face in raising a child. If a woman does not feel she is ready for that responsibility, is not in a relationship that will allow her to comfortably raise a child, or has been forced into the circumstance of pregnancy because of a horrific incident such as rape or incest, then that woman should absolutely, without question have the right to terminate her unwanted pregnancy. It is that simple and straightforward, and this is an opinion that is scientifically and medically supported. In my opinion, religion should not enter the picture here – we should be looking to doctors and medical professionals to assess when abortion is safe and allowing them to do their job, in conjunction with the circumstances of their female patients. If a religious woman (or any woman for that matter) chooses not to have an abortion herself, again, that is totally fine because, being pro-choice, I believe that woman should get to do exactly what she wants in that situation. The circumstances surrounding abortion are so subjective and so dependant on the individual woman and the scenario she is faced with, and I think it is dangerous to make blanket statements and blanket laws that apply to everyone across the board without understanding the subtle nuances at play.

I also firmly believe that no one has the right to tell me when I should become pregnant – not my family members, not my friends, not my employer and certainly not my government. My husband would have a say, certainly, but he should not be allowed to make that decision himself, without my active participation in it. Just as I believe no one can or should dictate when I choose to have a child, I feel strongly that no one should force me to have a child if I do not want it, and that is what is at stake here. I am not a politician and I haven’t read enough to know every minor detail of the laws that are being put forth recently, but I do know that the right to have an abortion is a human right. That makes this a question of human decency and compassion, and I personally cannot imagine being the type of individual who would subject a woman to carrying a baby to term that she does not want. That seems cruel and unjust to me in every sense, and I like to think that if there is a god, he or she would support those of us who protect and fight for the rights of ALL humans, not just a select few.

If this opinion offends any of you, I do apologize for that – but it may be worth remembering that your opinion may equally offend other people out there, and so no one is completely spotless or innocent when it comes to these sorts of debates. I go to bed each night feeling like a very good person because I try to be sympathetic and empathetic toward all of my fellow humans…and that is all I can really hope for when I turn out the lights at the end of a long day…

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart