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

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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

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