Real Pregnancy Talk: The Woman’s Guilt, Part #1

Let’s talk about how it feels to not have undergone hours of intense labour.

If you’ve had a chance to keep up with my blog in the last few days, you’ll know that I recently gave birth to my baby boy, Dorian Lee. Well, here’s the thing…can I really say that I gave birth to him considering that he was born via emergency C-section?

This is something I’m struggling with at the moment and is the subject of today’s post. As I mentioned in my birth story, my experience of bringing Dorian into the world was not at all what I expected and did not go to plan (even though I didn’t even have a concrete birth plan to begin with). I had to consent very quickly to a C-section because my baby’s heart rate was dangerously low. Now, to be honest, I had always joked that I wanted to have a C-section because it would be easier than having to push an entire human out of my unmentionables. But, let’s be real, a C-section is major surgery and isn’t advisable if not completely necessary, and that’s what all of my friends and family kept reminding me. In the end, though, I had no choice but to have a C-section and it wasn’t a particularly easy one at that. 

Even though I am currently still recovering and feel bruised and battered in a lot of places, I do have quite a bit of guilt with regards to my birth experience. When my husband and I were leaving the hospital after my 2 day recovery, we actually ran into a man that we had one of our prenatal classes with. He was holding his adorable newborn and immediately asked me how my labour was. I explained to him that I had an emergency C-section, which he seemed really shocked by, but then he told me that his wife went through a 29 hour labour and my heart fell in my chest. How can I say anything to that when I was merely wheeled into an operating room and got to come out an hour later with a beautiful baby boy, no conscious effort on my part required? I felt embarrassed that I didn’t actually have to do anything physical or challenging to receive this incredible reward, and I almost felt that I somehow shirked my womanly duty or something like that. I didn’t have to push for hours, and that honestly makes it feel even more surreal to me that this sweet boy I’m holding in my arms is mine because it’s almost as if he appeared out of nowhere. 

I know, from speaking with my friends and family and especially my mother, that these feelings are totally unfounded. I had to make an incredibly difficult decision when consenting to my emergency C-section, and I had to fully surrender to my team of doctors and nurses at a moment that was overwhelmingly frightening and confusing. I truly feared for my baby’s health and safety, and for my own as well, and that is no small thing. So why do I feel like this isn’t as valid a birth experience as pushing for 29 hours would have been? Why do I feel that earning my motherhood badge requires going through a very specific type of birth? As I type these questions, I know how crazy it is to think this way and I know that, no matter how it happened, the most important thing is that my baby entered this world healthy and secure. I think that society plants in our head all these notions about what pregnancy and motherhood have to look like and how it should all happen, and that is seriously detrimental and can mess a woman up in ways that are profound and unfortunate. I for one think we need to do away with all expectations surrounding pregnancy, birth and labour, and motherhood, and remember that each person’s individual experience is valid in its own right and as long as it works for mother, child and family, it is absolutely perfect.

So, I’m throwing out my preconceived notions about what labour should be like and continuing to remember that I made a baby, he was with me for 9 months and I cared for him like no one else on this planet ever will, and he is here now for me to love, nurture and adore, regardless of how he got here!

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

Real Pregnancy Talk: My Birth Story: An Unexpected Emergency C-Section

“Even the best laid birth plans can go sideways.” ~ me, a few months ago

Let’s talk about how it feels when your birth story goes completely off the rails.

Remember when I wrote a few Real Pregnancy Talks ago about how even the most thorough and realistic birth plans can sometimes go awry? Welcome to my life!

Let’s begin with an exciting announcement… My son, Dorian Lee, has finally entered the world!!! On Tuesday October 1st, 2019 at 11:58am, he burst onto the scene with hardly any warning, weighing 6lbs 9oz. I was 3 days over 40 weeks at that point, so his arrival was definitely something my husband and I, as well as our family and friends, were very eager for. That being said, when labour got underway, everything happened sooo quickly and my head is still spinning from it all.

On the night of Monday September 30th, after walking all day with my husband on a 10k journey, I started to experience really terrible cramps in my lower back. I had been having some bleeding for a few days prior to this, but after a trip to the hospital’s obstetrical ER, I was told that this was totally normal and simply my body preparing for labour. I was, naturally, on edge about this though, and so when I started having more intense cramps on Monday night, I started to feel like I was moving into more active labour. By early Tuesday morning, after no sleep at all, my husband and I noticed that my cramps, or rather what we now realized were contractions, were lasting about 1 minute and were happening every 3 to 5 minutes. We decided to head straight to the hospital to not risk being too late.

When we got to the hospital and were admitted to triage, they started to monitor my contractions and examined me. I was only dilated to 3cm, and so not very close to the “pushing stage” of labour at all, but they began to see that my baby’s heart rate was dropping slightly every time I had a contraction. The doctors decided to admit me to the birthing unit so that they could continue to monitor the baby and hopefully move me closer to real labour. As I waddled over to my birthing suite, I started to feel a bit more anxious, but overall I just felt excitement that we were finally going to be meeting our son.

When we got into our birthing suite, we were told by our nurse that it would be a good time to consider an epidural. I was all for having one anyway, but the nurse explained that time was of the essence because if my baby’s heart rate continued to drop, I may need to consider a C-section and if I didn’t have an epidural done straight away, I would have no choice but to be put under general anesthetic if a C-section should need to happen. I of course wanted to avoid that, and I really was becoming fatigued by the pain of the frequent contractions, so I decided to have the epidural. Unfortunately, there was a bit of an issue getting the epidural to work properly and I had two separate doctors try to administer it, which was uncomfortable as I was still working through the seemingly non-stop contractions. My husband even fainted when they were trying to get the needle in…his first time ever fainting in his life, probably because of the insane amount of stress we were under and watching me undergo a tricky procedure multiple times until it worked. It eventually did work, though, and I felt blissfully calm and at ease as I settled back into my bed and realized that, yes, I was still having intense contractions but I couldn’t feel a single thing. This was the most peaceful part of my labour, when I felt the most confident and excited, and it’s also when my husband called our parents to tell them to come to the hospital. I was still only dilated to 3cm so we knew (or, I should say, we thought) we still had hours left of waiting for our baby boy.

Our parents arrived and came into the birthing suite to say Hello to us, and my mom stayed with my husband and I because I always knew I wanted her in the room to provide me with extra love and support. It was at this point that things started to happen really rapidly and the whirlwind began. The doctors were still noticing that my baby’s heart rate kept dipping whenever I had a contraction, so they thought it best to move labour along a bit faster if possible. They started to give me oxytocin to increase the frequency of the contractions and help me to dilate faster, and they quickly saw that I was dilated to 6cm within an hour of being on oxytocin. However, the doctors and nurses became very alarmed when they noticed that my baby’s heart rate was dipping even lower with each more intense contraction, and I remember my main nurse rushing into the room and saying that she was very unhappy with my baby’s heart rate and thought we should stop the oxytocin to give him a break. A resident doctor agreed with her, and so they stopped administering the oxytocin, but they also mentioned to me that I should consider giving consent for a C-section because they were that worried about what was happening to my baby. 

It was at that moment that I had no choice but to fully surrender to the doctors and nurses. This was something I had no problem doing because I have always had complete confidence in my team and the hospital. My husband and I chose early on to go to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto for our care because we believe it is one of the best hospitals in Canada, if not the world, and so I told the nurse and doctor that I had no birth plan whatsoever other than to follow their advice completely and let them do whatever they felt was appropriate and needed to be done to keep me and, especially, my baby safe. After telling them this, I was given the forms to sign to consent to a C-section and was told that they would continue to monitor the baby’s heart rate but that at least they were ready to perform a C-section if necessary. I settled back into my bed and got ready to wait and see what would happen next. Somehow, the uncertainty didn’t phase me at this point as I had decided to place my trust in the doctors and nurses and let them guide me through the experience.

But then, what I thought for 9 months was going to be a relatively average birth became an emergency. Not 5 minutes after I signed the consent forms for the C-section, about 4 doctors and nurses ran into my birthing suite frantically. I was so confused because I had just been told that we would be monitoring my baby for a little while yet, but apparently his heart rate had dropped so low that they were extremely concerned. I was told that I was going to be taken for an emergency C-section immediately. Although I had maintained my composure up until this moment, I instantly started to cry. I honestly believed that my baby was going to die. I can’t explain why I felt this way, but I just had this ominous foreboding come over me, and I burst into tears, asking the nurse if there was a risk that my baby was already dead. She assured me that everything was and would be fine, but I couldn’t control my fears and I continued crying as they wheeled me into the operating room. My husband trailed behind with one of the sweetest and kindest nurses we had met who helped him get prepared to enter the OR himself. This meant that I was brought into the OR alone, and my nerves started to overwhelm me as the team lifted me onto the operating table. 

Everything was a frenzy in that operating room. I had never had surgery before this (other than having my wisdom teeth removed, which I consider pretty standard) and so I had no idea what to expect, but I definitely thought it wasn’t normal that at least 10 doctors and nurses were running around, rushing to get me prepped and saying things like, “We need to get this baby out now!” I kept asking the anesthesiologist to assure me that I wouldn’t feel anything because I was still weirded out by the epidural not working the first time around, and he administered a few different types of medications, as well as laughing gas, to ensure that I was completely calm. This meant that I was delirious and loopy, though, which only made me more aware of the frantic preparation around me and convinced me further that my baby was in serious danger. I have never been so scared in my entire life, and I remember fighting with everything in me to stay awake, not faint, and maintain control of my sense of self so that I could vigilantly watch out for my baby. After another 30 to 45 minutes of surgery, which involved hearing minute details of the doctors putting my organs back in place and stitching me up, I was free to move to the recovery room and finally hold my baby.

There is nothing better on this Earth than holding the adorable Dorian Lee in my arms, and although my birth experience was not at all what I expected it would be, it is so very true that having your baby with you at the end makes everything worthwhile. I would undergo a hundred more surgeries to have Dorian Lee beside me, and at the end of the day, I know I made the only decision I could to keep Dorian safe and sound. That’s all I need to think about to remind myself that, C-section or natural birth, all that matters is that my baby boy is healthy and here with me. I guess this all just goes to show that, particularly when it comes to children, you can’t always plan ahead or obsessively control every aspect of life…you often need to just go with the flow and let life’s little miracles run their course to beautiful fruition. And, I think we can all agree that Mr. Dorian Lee is pretty beautiful, isn’t he? 😍😍😍

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

The Book I Have Avoided for Years ~ #JNGReads Wide Sargasso Sea

This year has been an incredibly challenging one for me, what with being pregnant since the first week of 2019. This particular time is especially challenging, as I am over 39 weeks pregnant and anxiously await my baby’s imminent arrival. 

So, what would compel me as a fierce lover of Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë (I even have a Currer Bell tattoo!) to read what would naturally be a very difficult novel like Wide Sargasso Sea right before going into labour? I have no idea. Maybe I felt it was the last big hurdle I needed to overcome before the peaks and valleys of motherhood…a test of strength and will, perhaps? It’s also short, so I was definitely hoping I’d finish it before my baby arrived (spoiler alert: I did…he’s still not here). I can’t give any other explanations than those. 

A bit of backstory, though… I once had a vehement fight with a fellow student about this novel when I was in fourth year university. He started to go on and on (before a totally unrelated class, might I add) about how disgusting Edward Rochester is for locking Bertha in his attic because she isn’t even actually mad. I asked him what evidence he had for this because, while Brontë’s portrayal and Rochester’s treatment of Bertha is problematic in some ways (I’m mature enough to accept that), there’s still nothing in the text that says Bertha doesn’t have the issues Rochester claims she does. Well, this colleague of mine said that wasn’t what it portrayed about her in Wide Sargasso Sea…and then I went into a whole rant about how one author’s interpretation of another author’s text cannot be taken as an authority over it and said I didn’t give two figs what Jean Rhys said about Rochester or Bertha (my colleague was quick to retort, “Her name is Antoinette!”) because she wasn’t Charlotte Brontë. I told him I would never read this glorified piece of fan fiction and, admittedly, our friendship was rocky after that. 

Now here we are more than 5 years later… And I find myself wondering what all the fuss is about? This is the novel that has spawned tons of literary criticism? This is the prolific tale of Antoinette Cosway Mason that is so lauded in academic institutions everywhere?

I’m undoubtedly biased, I own that fact, but this story was just not all that impressive to me. I didn’t feel any connection to Antoinette or her voice whatsoever and I also felt indifferent toward Rochester’s narration. The story didn’t drum up any sympathy in me and I don’t feel like I learned anything from it or as though it enlightened my understanding of Jane Eyre at all. There simply wasn’t enough meat to it, and I have to say that I expected much more…I expected to be violently moved by it, either in a good or bad way, but instead I felt indifference. I expected to rant about it to my husband, to feel angry and enraged by it…or I expected to be changed by it and to feel this desire to go back to the original text and revisit things. Instead, I closed the back cover and shrugged my shoulders, thinking, “So what?” There was one moment, cited below, that made me reflect briefly on Rochester’s treatment of Bertha in Jane Eyre, but it was too short and easily skimmed over, to me, to warrant an entire novel and years of academic study. I found myself wondering why I resisted reading something, for so long, that would prove to have so little impact on me. 

“‘Why did you make me want to live? Why did you do that to me?’

‘Because I wished it. Isn’t that enough?’

‘Yes, it is enough. But if one day you didn’t wish it. What should I do then? Suppose you took this happiness away when I wasn’t looking…’” 

I find myself thinking that Rhys’ other works must be better than this. Again, I’m sure I’m biased, but I feel that maybe academics have latched onto this story to try to understand a mysterious, shrouded character without realizing that there isn’t that much insight offered in these very few pages. 

Anyway, I finally read Wide Sargasso Sea so go me! I only wish I knew why it mattered so much that I did. 

❥❥❥ (out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

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

Understanding the Science of Stress ~ #JNGReads ~ A New Non-Fiction Favourite

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” – Paradise Lost, John Milton

I have always loved this quote from Paradise Lost. I have it written down in several notebooks, typed out on a sticky note on my laptop that I frequently scroll over, and even had it framed on the wall of my room when I lived with my parents. From the time I first read it, back in second year university, it became a sort of mantra for me, providing me with comfort and reassurance that even if times seemed particularly bad and I felt incredibly stressed, my mind was strong enough to control those feelings and to get me through whatever stressors I encountered.

But, what I have learned in the last year is that (sometimes…often) the mind isn’t enough. Robert M. Sapolsky has a similar quote in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: “To a certain extent, our perceptions and interpretations of events can determine whether the same external circumstances constitute heaven or hell…” The crux of Sapolsky’s text, though, is that the mind isn’t always strong enough to overcome external circumstances and put them in perspective and, what’s more, sometimes the mind isn’t even capable of doing this sort of heavy lifting if there is a disorder or disease (such as depression or anxiety) that prevents it from doing so. To believe that the mind can persevere in all instances and actually change one’s perspective on reality 100% of the time is foolhardy and naive, and probably was incredibly detrimental to me back in university and had adverse effects on how I would learn to cope with stress as an adult. The point being that understanding stress and the science behind it is no simple task and certainly can’t be reduced to the belief that the mind, if persistent enough, can get a person through anything.

I don’t often read non-fiction books. In fact, I rarely read them, if ever. However, it seems that this year I have done a lot of reading of non-fiction and the main reason for this is that I have felt empowered and motivated recently to finally try to understand my anxiety. When it became evident, towards the end of my first trimester of pregnancy back this past March, that my anxiety was going to be made much more severe by my pregnant condition, I knew (partly because my doctors were telling me) that something had to give and that I needed to get a better handle on my anxious condition once and for all. Not only for my baby’s health, but also for my present and future well-being and overall happiness. Part of this process has involved seeing a psychiatrist and learning about meditation and mindfulness techniques. Part of it has been about exercising as often as possible and forcing myself to go out and interact with my friends and family members even when I don’t feel up for it. But, I have always been an avid learner, a true student at heart from the moment I entered my grade one classroom, and so I felt that I wanted to supplement my doctor’s appointments and daily activities with reading material that would allow me to come to grips with feelings I have had for my entire life. I never have put in the effort to truly understand my anxiety in this way, and I immediately picked up the self-help book Let That Sh*t Go by Kate Petriw and Nina Purewal hoping that it would be a quick and easy read that would at least help me feel a little bit better. It certainly did and it was good, but it wasn’t anything truly groundbreaking or earth-shattering and it didn’t by any means fundamentally change my perspective on anxiety. I next delved into a book recommended by my psychiatrist, Mind Over Mood, and this was of course a huge eye-opener to me in that it taught me the basics of cognitive behavioural therapy and worked wonders to help me reframe my insecurities and fears and better manage my heightened emotions. What I felt these two books lacked, though, was an explanation of what was going on in my brain, of the chemical, biological and physical mechanisms that were clearly contributing to my anxious state and probably had been since my birth. It was a desire to get to the bottom of these internal processes that led me to pick up Sapolsky’s book.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is easily one of the best books I have ever read, of any genre or category. (That’s right, I’m putting it right up there with Jane Eyre although it is, naturally, a very different text!) I was utterly blown away by Sapolsky’s work, and as someone who has never studied psychology and who only studied science up until the end of high school, I was thoroughly impressed by how accessible and relatable he made the scientific explanations in this book. This type of text could easily become overwhelming, but Sapolsky is very careful to keep things manageable for his reader, and he even infuses dry humour, jokes and wit into the text (especially in his often unexpectedly hilarious footnotes, which are a must-read in themselves). He of course uses terminology like “glucocorticoids” and names of “catecholamines” like “epinephrine” and “norepinephrine” often, but he uses them so frequently and explains them so thoroughly that the reader gets the sense, by the end of the book, that these concepts aren’t all that incomprehensible. 

I also made a conscious effort to take my time while reading this book, not because it felt dense at all, but because it did feel heavy. I admit, it was an emotional read for me because I could so easily and fundamentally relate to the findings that Sapolsky examined; I became one of the test subjects he discussed because I recognized how my experiences fit into the results and conclusions. On the one hand, it was nice to know that there is a scientific explanation for why I feel a certain way, but it was also jarring and terrifying to be confronted with so much evidence and research to explain something that I have kind of taken for granted for my entire life. It made my anxiety feel that much more real and that much more difficult to ignore.

Chapter 15, thus, became an incredibly meaningful chapter for me as it investigated anxiety disorders and the personality types that lend themselves to these sorts of disorders. Needless to say, I checked pretty much every box, and that was, as I mentioned, both liberating and scary. There was this sense, as I read, that Sapolsky just understood ME, on a fundamental level, and again, while it was nice to know that I am not alone in any of my feelings, it was also emotional. It made me even more moved when Sapolsky began to call anxiety a “disease” and distinguished it from chronic stress as being rooted in “a cognitive distortion”. Sapolsky posits that, whereas chronic stress is normally a response to an actually perceived external stressor (whether physiological or psychological), anxiety can arise due to stressors that are entirely imagined. This is definitely in-line with my own personal experiences, and while I appreciated the understanding Sapolsky’s description provided to me, no one ever wants to hear that they suffer from a disease. That’s not an easy pill to swallow, and I found myself realizing that I even exhibited anxious tendencies and behaviours as a young child (such as obsessive thinking and phobias) and becoming a bit saddened and melancholy about this. With my increased knowledge certainly came a better understanding of myself, but this wasn’t always a pleasant experience to be sure.

What I did gain, most definitely, was a better comprehension of the biology of anxiety and a greater appreciation of the fact that it is a physical, scientific condition rooted in the brain. I’ve always known deep down that my anxiety is not something I have very much (if any) control over, but it is easy to believe, when something is a mental struggle, that if you can just be stronger, you can get past it. That is, after all, what Milton suggests and that quote from Paradise Lost is still one of my favourites. What is important to remember, however, is that mental illnesses are in fact just as physical as clearly physical ones, and although I always had an inkling of that, Sapolsky’s book solidified it for me. It made it clear to me that I shouldn’t be hard on myself, that I might not be able to conquer this all on my own, and that is okay. It made me realize that, just as I would seek help for a broken leg, there is nothing at all embarrassing or shameful about seeking help for a troubled mind. On the contrary, it is actually quite important and necessary.

I’d like to close my review with a few quotes that particularly spoke to me from Sapolsky’s text. I will never be able to explain myself the concepts he espouses (he is a scientist, after all, and I don’t claim to be), but hopefully these quotes will give you a sense for how he writes and what value can be derived from picking up this book. It is one that has undoubtedly changed my life in so many ways and I would not hesitate to recommend it to those who wish to get to the root of what their brains might be undergoing on a daily basis.

Quotes That Particularly Resonated with Me:

“Anxiety is about dread and foreboding and your imagination running away with you.”

“the distorted belief that stressors are everywhere and perpetual, and that the only hope for safety is constant mobilization of coping responses. Life consists of the concrete, agitated present of solving a problem that someone else might not even consider exists.”

“most things that make us anxious are learned…we’ve generalized them based on their similarity to something associated with a trauma.”

“For all anxious people, life is full of menacing stressors that demand vigilant coping responses.”

***********

“Find ways to view even the most stressful of situations as holding the promise of improvement but do not deny the possibility that things will not improve…Hope for the best and let that dominate most of your emotions, but at the same time let one small piece of you prepare for the worst.”

“Find that outlet for your frustrations and do it regularly.”

“Have the wisdom to pick your battles. And once you have, the flexibility and resiliency of strategies to use in those battles…”

“Sometimes, coping with stress consists of blowing down walls. But sometimes it consists of being a blade of grass, buffeted and bent by the wind but still standing when the wind is long gone.”

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

✳✳✳ How It Feels When Your Husband Reads Your Favourite Series ✳✳✳

Last weekend, I woke up gently to the sound of pages turning beside me in bed. I kept my eyes closed for a few glorious seconds, reveling in the smell of well-worn and well-loved paper, and imagined what beautiful novel the pages might belong to. Then, it hit me: if I had my eyes closed, how could I also be reading? I couldn’t, and so that must mean that someone else was reading beside me.

Knowing that my husband isn’t much of a reader of books (graphic novels of the likes of Neil Gaiman and podcasts and Ted Talks are more his style), I immediately jolted upright, wondering who had intruded into my bedroom. It was then that I saw that very same husband of mine sitting up in bed with headphones in his ears and a book on his lap. After scrutiny of what I could see of the cover, I realized that he was reading the novel A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. My heart nearly exploded in that moment.

That’s right – my dear husband and father of my soon-to-be-born child had decided to start reading the ACOTAR series that morning. Not being much of a reader as I said (in his defense, English is his second language so he’s always been a bit of a slow reader and has found that frustrating throughout his life), he decided the best approach was to read my copy of the novels while simultaneously listening to the audiobooks to keep him on pace. He explained all of this to me after I managed to lift my jaw from the floor and ask him what he was doing with my book. He said that he had been wanting to get into reading fantasy for a really long time, and thought this would be a good series to start with because he knew how much I loved it and wanted to discuss it with me. My heart grew about ten sizes and I’m pretty sure I was the living, breathing version of the heart-eye emoji as I gazed down at him. 😍😍😍

Now, here we are a week later and he is just about to finish A Court of Mist and Fury. Imagine how fun (and funny) it has been for me to sit beside him, reading my own book, and hear his reactions to a series that is extremely special and dear to me. His running commentary first started towards the middle of ACOTAR when he started to feel “suspicious” of Tamlin and like he was a bit too much of a “cocky bro”. He then met Rhysand and decided that he was far more interested in him than Tamlin. He did remember me gushing over Rhys and so I think he had an inkling that there was going to be a big romantic shift at some point, but I found it hilarious when he started comparing himself to Rhys and talking about how he too likes to convey an unruffled and overly confident persona when faced with tough situations (ie- just like when Rhys is Under the Mountain and mouths off occasionally to Amarantha, seemingly without a care in the world). I do believe that there are many similarities between my hubby and the epic High Lord of the Night Court, but I can admit that I’m probably a bit biased…but, of course, I fed into his comparisons willingly and enthusiastically.

As he got into ACOMAF and did decide that Tamlin was a total knob, my husband started to compare the way Rhys rules Velaris and manages his Inner Circle to the way he manages at his workplace. He actually called me from work a few days ago to tell me about a meeting he had with his team, and he literally said the sentence, “Yeah, the way I approached the issue was basically how Rhys would have a discussion with Cassian and Azriel…” And I just said nothing for a couple seconds and then was like, “Oh, of course it was, baby!”

Now that he’s almost finished ACOMAF, he’s 100% invested in Rhys and Feyre as a couple and as rulers, and he is itching to get to some battle scenes (Just you wait, man, just you wait!). He’s also begun planning his ACOMAF-inspired tattoo (Could I love this man any more? I didn’t think so, but apparently I can!), to commemorate his reading experience. One particularly funny thing is that he has been quite critical, of all things, of the steamier scenes in the book, claiming that if Rhys were such a “god” in that department, he would know to do things a bit differently. I’ll spare you all the NSFW details of his rants, but suffice it to say that my husband feels that this specific talent is where he and Rhys deviate…making me, according to him, quite the luckiest woman in any world, fictional or otherwise.

Anyway, sorry for the long Sunday post, but I just wanted to get down my thoughts and feelings about my husband delving into one of my favourite series of all time…something that I never in a million years thought I would witness. It has been a romantic, entertaining and hilarious experience so far and I can’t wait to see how he fairs with ACOWAR and ACOFAS! And, when he exclaimed to me a few chapters ago that he “totally ships Feyre and Rhys”, all I could think was, “You and me both, babe…but never as much as I ship me and you!”

JNG

Girl with a Green 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