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all photographs via my instagram. follow me @ denabotbyl.
happy tuesday, loves! ♥
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all photographs via my instagram. follow me @ denabotbyl.
happy tuesday, loves! ♥
Throughout my pregnancy, several women (both pregnant + not pregnant) gave me advice or asked for advice about pregnancy weight gain. For some women, it was about their discomfort with their pregnant bodies, sadness or embarrassment about “getting fat.” For other women, it was about health, making certain to eat all of the right things + work out religiously. I was blessed to hear so many viewpoints, so I thought I’d take a few moments to share my own.
First of all, all pregnant women (like all women in general!) are hard on themselves at times. “I could be eating better.” “I could be exercising more.” “Holy hell, look at my belly.” Etc, etc. I think it’s natural, but I also think that it should have limits.
I had prenatal depression during my first trimester. It was severe. In fact, it was some of the worst depression I’ve faced in my life. I remember when the midwife that I was seeing at that time told me I would very likely gain back all of the 65 pounds that I had lost seven years ago. I was already depressed, and then, that crushed me. I ended up going to another group later, for different reasons, but my new doctors told me that I should gain about 35 pounds like the average pregnant woman. I guess that made me feel a little better… but the whole thing was still scary/upsetting.
In the end, I gained exactly 50 pounds during my pregnancy. Early in my second trimester, my hormones balanced out and my prenatal depression went away. With that, my concerns about weight gain went away, too. I began to embrace my expanding body and enjoy the miracle of pregnancy. I steadily gained weight, about a pound a week and then a little more than that in my third trimester. After I hit 35 pounds, my doctors started telling me to watch what I ate and get more exercise. I started to become more thoughtful of my food choices. I cut out my weekly hot fudge sundaes. I should have been exercising, but it was difficult with a stressful job. I let the pregnancy exhaustion get the better of me.
However, the bottom line is that I never got too worried about it. The entire experience was such a joyful miracle and I embraced every part of it — from the horrendous heartburn, to the back aches, to the joy, to the tears, to the weight gain — all of it.
Losing weight postpartum has come naturally so far. I’ve lost 30 pounds without much effort. Breastfeeding has probably helped. I imagine that losing the last 20 will be more difficult, but I also know that it’s entirely possible. I lost 70 pounds total at one point when I was at my fittest. If I can do that, I know that I can lose this 20! It will take work + dedication but for my beautiful baby, I’ll pay that anytime. I have seen so many women struggle with losing weight after baby and that scares the hell out of me, but at the same time, I also feel like weight loss is weight loss. You have to burn more calories than you consume, it’s not rocket science — even though it took me a lifetime to learn!!
To women that are struggling with weight gain during pregnancy, my advice is to focus on enjoying the miracle unfolding within you. Be reasonable with your food choices and exercise when/if you can, but don’t obsess. After baby comes then start to worry about it all again. In the meantime, fall in love with your body exactly as it is now. It is the miracle vessel that is GROWING A LIFE INSIDE OF YOU.
You’ve got to find the strength + wisdom in yourself to believe that everything I am saying is true — because it is.
“We aren’t here for a long time, just for a good time.”
Roman turned three-weeks-old yesterday. What a three weeks it has been! He is the sweetest little boy this side of heaven. We’ve had all kinds of ups & downs… and lefts & rights… already. Some of the things that I expected about motherhood were spot on, others have come entirely as surprise. The first week was hard mainly because my hormones were out of whack and I hadn’t yet figured out how to sleep with an infant in my arms. I was crying multiple times each day and much of the time I didn’t even know why. One of the things that kept setting me off was the idea that, He will never be this small again. We will never be this close again. Now that the “baby blues” hormone cloud has lifted, I realize that it is true. It is also true, however, that nothing stays the same. Life is always moving forward and even though Roman will keep getting bigger and our relationship will keep changing — he will also get more precious and our bond will continue to strengthen. Yes, life is short and time moves quickly — but it’s so God-damned beautiful.
We are learning all kinds of things together. I, slowly, am learning how to be a mother. Breastfeeding and sleeping continue to be a challenge but they are challenges that we are learning to navigate. I have come to a place of so much gratitude. I often find myself thinking — How did I get to be so lucky? Then I remember that luck had nothing to do with it. Happiness has always been a choice.
Mostly, my life is so incredibly, deeply full & sweet that my heart could burst. Thank you to all of you who have been here beside me on this journey so far. Thank you for every kind word and well wish. ♥
I finally got around to editing the rest of the photographs from our time in the hospital. He is already so much bigger than this. He literally grows and changes every day. It’s crazy! Enjoy the pictures. xo
Willy Wonka: But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted.
Charlie: What’s that?
Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after.
sitting out on the deck with roman & bella. a warm may afternoon. soft puffs of dandelion fuzz floating through the air like snowflakes. sunshine peaking in & out from behind the clouds. giant bumblebees buzzing overhead & birds calling to one another in the distance. the flowering bushes are popping bright bursts of magenta azaleas. the warm season is full of promise. i catch myself daydreaming of carnivals, ferris wheels & cotton candy. i catch myself saying thank you, thank you, thank you for my blessed & magical life.
On Sunday, May 5th, I started having light contractions. I had my weekly obgyn visit scheduled for Tuesday, the 7th, but with all the signs, I figured I had better go in on Monday “just to be safe.” As it turned out, I was almost 5 centimeters dilated. My blood pressure was a bit high, so my doctor asked me to go to the hospital to have some tests run to rule out pre-eclampsia. I went over to the hospital and we started the tests. As I went to complete the urine sample, my body “leaked.” I thought it was my water breaking. Several tests later and it turned out that my water had not broken after all. The tests came back fine and they sent me home.
Monday night was a typical night. Matthew came home from work, we had dinner, I packed his lunch for work the next day, and we went to sleep. As usual, I got up several times during the night to use the bathroom. I remember getting up at 11:30 pm and feeling okay. Then I got up at 12:30 pm and I thought I felt a hard contraction. I breathed through it and realized that it was real and strong. I woke Matthew at 12:41 am. We started timing my contractions. They were painful and intense. Matthew counted me through them the way that we had learned in our birthing/lamaze class. He stroked my hands, massaged my back, and kept me calm. We counted the contractions for 55 minutes. They were a minute apart and lasted between two and three minutes.
There was no doubt about it. I was in labor and needed to get to the hospital. We called my doctor, brushed our teeth, got dressed, grabbed the hospital bag, and headed out the door. We got to the hospital just after 2 am. The car ride there was a bit blurry. My contractions were so strong and so painful. Each one felt like a tremendous amount of pressure, like a 50 pound dumbbell bearing down on my pelvis and at the same time like I had to, ahem, go to the bathroom, very very badly. In fact, that night I said and believed numerous times that I was going to “go in my pants.” I kept being reassured that I wouldn’t or that if I did, it would be okay.
Matthew was wonderful on the car ride to the hospital, if a little nervous himself. He continued to count me through my contractions, though I had to tell him to stop looking at his stop watch and keep his eyes on the road! Most of the time I was so grateful for his soothing advice. However, at one point, during a particularly painful contraction he said something and I told him to just shut up. I don’t even remember what he said or why I told him to shut up. I think he was trying to comfort me but there was no such thing as comfort during some of those contractions!
We got to the hospital shortly after 2 am. I was a tornado. Things weren’t moving quickly enough for me. I went to the bathroom while Matthew got me checked in. I’d been pre-registered so it was a relatively easy process. When I got back from the bathroom, the young man at the front desk seemed a little bit confused about things and I had little patience. He asked me to spell out my last name and I practically screamed each letter at him. Then I asked for a wheelchair in a rude way. After checking in, Matthew attempted to wheel me to where we needed to go but he couldn’t figure out the brakes. A hard contraction started and the next thing I know Matthew tried to move the chair and nearly flipped me out of it. I started to yell — “Why won’t somebody help us!?” The next thing I know an ER nurse was pushing me along saying, “I am not delivering a baby in the ER tonight.”
Before long, we arrived to labor & delivery. My nurse’s name was Carmen. I didn’t like her at first. She was very straightforward. She wanted me to lay on my back but I couldn’t, it was too painful. She said that I had to so that she could hook me up to the various monitors, IV, etc. She asked if I wanted an epidural. I said no, no epidural, no pitocin, no interventions of any sort unless absolutely necessary. She examined me. I was 7 centimeters dilated.
After that things are hazy. In hindsight, it feels like I was going in and out of consciousness, but really I was just going in and out of various degrees of intense pain. For awhile we were just riding out the contractions until I was fully dilated. Matthew did a wonderful job counting me through them and calming me through the pain. Unfortunately the pain still got the better of me and during intense contractions I lost focus and started to cry and yell. Again, Carmen asked if I wanted something for the pain. Again, I said no. Then she gave me some tough love, she said something like — “Well then you have to stop yelling.” I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she was right. If I was going to have a natural birth — the way that I wanted — I had to be strong. And so I gathered up all of the strength within me and did my best to “hold it in” through those contractions.
There is no way to describe what that pain was like. An overwhelming amount of pressure, intense pain like everything is being ripped out of you and bearing down out of you and like you’re not going to make it. You’re going to faint or die because the body cannot withstand the pain. But then the contraction peaks and slowly starts to subside. But by this point I was in transition so the contractions really came one on top of the other in great waves of pain. There was little relief. It wasn’t long (I had lost all concept of time anyway) and I was fully dilated. I don’t know for sure but it was probably around 4 am when she told me that I was ready to start pushing.
And when she said that, I was overcome with fear. I wanted to give up. I had endured so much pain, I was so tired, and now I had to push a baby out of me. How could I? I just listened to her voice and listened to Matthew beside me giving me strength and encouragement. I had to hold my legs back with my hands behind my knees. This was a feat in itself, flexible at 39 weeks pregnant? Not me. Still, when the contractions came, I did what she said. I grabbed behind my legs as best I could, I put my chin down to my chest, and I pushed with everything that I had. (As a result of pushing so hard, I burst the blood vessels in my face. It looked like I had freckles for a few days!)
We made some progress with the first couple of pushes. He was starting to come down. But then he stopped. I asked if I could squat. Our research told us that the hospital would want me to labor on my back but that the best way to get the baby to come down is squatting. And so, I asked if I could. Carmen went ahead and got the squatting bar hooked up to the bed. I somehow pulled myself (with help!) up into a squatting position. I squatted and pushed through the next couple of contractions. Sure enough, that baby started coming down. After awhile she told me to get back on my back. I did. I pushed through a few more contractions and it wasn’t long then until she finally called in the doctor. I was wondering when he would make an appearance…
The pushing grew more intense, the pain grew more intense (how that was possible, I still don’t know). I was getting tired. I turned to Matthew and said I didn’t know if I could do it, maybe we should just cut him out. He talked sense into me. My body just kept going, I just kept doing what I was told. I started pushing back on the nurse and Matthew with my legs when I pushed. Carmen said, “Don’t fight us, put that fight into pushing the baby out.” I wasn’t trying to push back on them but there was so much to remember and I was so tired and in so much pain. Chin down, legs back, don’t push with legs, push baby out. I couldn’t see straight, I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t know if I could do it.
Then came the top of his head, everyone got excited. Matthew could see it. Someone said he had a lot of hair. (Hello six months of relentless heartburn!) Then he started coming out. The pain was unimaginable, unspeakable. I kept pushing through the contractions. I said something, I don’t remember what exactly, but the doctor replied, “You’re allowed to say that, you’re pushing a baby out. This is labor & delivery. Whatever gets said in labor & delivery stays in labor & delivery.” Someone asked if I wanted them to place a mirror beneath me so that I could see him coming out. I said no. I knew that I needed to focus because I was always a moment away from giving up.
Another contraction and the largest part of the baby’s head squeezed out, I tore open. I don’t remember much about this except searing pain. I left my body. I was on the outside looking in. It was absolutely surreal. The pain was too great to bear. Matthew said I screamed. I think I kept pushing. The next thing I remember and the baby was out. He was screaming immediately. He was born at 5:43 am, just a few hours after we’d arrived to the hospital. I was so happy to hear him screaming. I knew that he was okay. There was some talk about the camera. I had told Matthew at the outset to keep the camera away, I needed him present, not taking photographs. But once the baby came, the nurses were insistent about photographs and I am glad they were. Matthew snapped a good photograph of the doctor holding up the baby and the nurses took a couple of him cutting the cord.
I was out of it. I looked at Matthew, I was so confused. I asked him and the doctor if I was going to be okay. In my heart, I knew that my baby was fine but I didn’t know about myself. They told me that everything was fine. Someone asked me if I wanted to hold my baby. Of course I did. They placed him on my chest. It was just the most amazing moment of my life. He was completely perfect. I was delirious. They took him away for a few moments to perform his APGAR test, weigh him, and so on. The doctor said that I would need stitches. He shot me with some numbing needles and stitched me up. They said I shouldn’t be able to feel anything. Compared to what I’d just gone through, it wasn’t much, but I could feel it.
They gave my baby back to me. Matthew took pictures with his phone. He started texting people that were waiting to hear from us. I gave him instructions on who to text. I think that I started nursing the baby right away. Though my memory is fuzzy here. I know that I was nursing within that first hour of bonding time. It was wonderful. My mother was the first one to come in. She was asking us about the baby’s name. We still hadn’t decided definitely, though we were pretty certain. I reminded Matthew that it was his decision and that I thought he most definitely looked like a little Roman. Matthew made the decision and that was that.
There we were, my little family. I had done what I had always wondered if I could do. I had done what so many people told me I could not do. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy without any pain medicine, without any intervention. I pushed him out into this world and then held him in my arms. It was (is) the most wonderful, magical thing that I could ever imagine.
Our birth story was not what I expected it to be. I pictured hours of laboring at home. Aroma therapy. Massage. A hot shower. Walking around. Trying various positions for comfort. I pictured calmness at the hospital. My music. Lots of controlled breathing exercises. Using the birthing ball. The real thing was nothing like any of that. It was fast and furious. I shot up in the middle of the night and within five hours my baby boy was in my arms. And even though it was nothing like I’d expected, it was perfect. In the end, we got our sweet Roman James — and that’s the only thing that matters.
Life with a newborn is hard. There is no other way to put it. You go into it expecting the lack of sleep, long nights, hard days, crying, dirty diapers, and the lot — but you can’t prepare yourself for what it will really mean; for how your life will really change.
The hardest part for me has been the loneliness. For the past month, Matthew has been working 14-hour days. He leaves the house at 5 am and doesn’t get home until 7:30 pm. It is so lonely here without him. He took off of work for the week after the baby was born, but he’s gone back now and his absence hurts so much. I miss him all day. It was so nice to have him here, to help with little things, even just to hold the baby for a few minutes so that I could go to the bathroom. But now, I am alone, and I’ve had to learn how to do everything on my own. Practically, it is a challenge — but the emotional aspect of it is what bothers me more.
We’ve had lots of offers for visitors but we are keeping a relative quarantine around here until Roman’s two-week checkup. Immediate family have all been around to meet him, but beyond that we’re waiting to plan visits. There has been a nasty stomach virus going around and even a fever in an infant requires a minimum two-day hospital stay. Although we had an amazing hospital experience — we’re not in a rush to go back anytime soon!
Once two weeks passes and we’re out in the world, I am sure that the loneliness will lessen. Right now we’re just going through a little bit of cabin fever around here.
The two other “hardest parts” are (not) sleeping and breastfeeding which are kind of tied together. The great news is that he took to breastfeeding immediately and — knock on wood — we haven’t had any issues there. He loves to eat. In fact, he would eat all day if I let him. I’ve jokingly told Matthew that I have the cure to all of our problems: Just duck tape the baby across my chest and let him stay there, boob at his disposal all day. He would love it! Joking aside though, breastfeeding is the most physically and emotionally demanding thing that I have ever done. The baby needs to eat every two hours, give or take. That is around the clock, twenty-four seven. My life is a series of feedings, one after another. It’s almost as though that’s all there is. Everything else has fallen away. I am nothing except a pair of breasts and a fountain of milk for my newborn boy. And believe it or not, in some ways, it’s wonderful. I am so grateful to be so close to him, to have formed this bond, to be nourishing him with my body. It so beautiful and rewarding. But on the other hand, it is utterly exhausting. Every muscle in my body hurts from the weird feeding position that we find ourselves in at three o’clock in the morning and let’s not even talk about how my nipples feel right now! (And I thought labor was painful…)
He hasn’t been sleeping on his own. He screams and screams when we put him down, so I end up holding him through the night. I’ve read about ten thousand pieces of advice on the issue of sleep and I don’t need anymore. We just have to work through it. That’s all. We make tiny, baby steps every day and I know that none of this is forever. Everything will change with time and as difficult as these first weeks may be — I still cherish every moment.
For now, he is the center of my universe and I am the center of his. We are everything to one another — and as hard as that can be — it is also the most beautiful & wonderful gift. It will not always be this way. There will come a day where I will wish so desperately to have this closeness back. So I do not take a moment of it for granted. The pain, the exhaustion, the loneliness — all of that will pass. For now it’s all about eating, sleeping, crying, dirty diapers, and the most precious little baby boy faces I could ever imagine.
I love being a mommy.
Meet Roman James, born on May 7th, 2013 at 5:43 a.m., weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces and measuring 21 and 1/4 inches. He is the most beautiful boy. I have so much to say but currently Roman is nursing on my left side — indeed, I am typing with one hand!
Hopefully, I will be back soon with our birth story (all natural!) but in the meantime it’ll be a bit quiet around here. So much love!
Dena, Matthew + Roman
Yesterday was my twenty-ninth birthday. It’s kind of incredible to even think about that. Next year I will be thirty. I do not feel scared or overwhelmed about it at all. Rather, I am so very excited to celebrate the last year of my twenties. There is so much magic + beauty in my life that I cannot imagine it getting any better — but I know that it will. Isn’t that just amazing?
One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in my twenty-nine years is that: THERE IS NO WAY TO HAPPINESS; HAPPINESS IS THE WAY. I suppose this lesson is different for everyone, but for me it means that happiness is a constant journey and a constant choice. We must actively choose happiness every, single day — every, single hour even. There is no such thing as perfect. Instead, we must find the beauty and magic within the wild + wonderful imperfection that constantly surrounds us.
I spent this weekend surrounded by people that I love. On Saturday, I spent the day at the campgrounds where my parents recently purchased a trailer. Spending the day with my parents, sister, and sweet nephews was wonderful food for my soul. We enjoyed the sunshine, barbecued, and walked around down by the lake where the row boats seem to be eagerly waiting for their first trips into the water.
There has also been a lot of “baby progress” this weekend. On Thursday I found out that I was a centimeter dilated. Then in the wee hours of Friday morning, my plug came out. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, what is known as the show began. All of these interesting/alarming things that I didn’t even know about prior to my third trimester! At any rate, things have been slowly moving forward and my doctor and I decided to move my 39-week visit from tomorrow to today, just to see where we’re at. The bottom line is that it could really be anytime now. Talk about exciting!
Well, I am off to get ready for my appointment. Wish me luck! Have a gorgeous Monday. xo
We made it to May! There were times over the course of this pregnancy when I thought we might never make it here — but here we are! And it’s as beautiful + magical + wonderful as I’d ever hoped it would be. Flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, and my cervix is dilating. (One centimeter as of yesterday!) Little boy is most definitely on his way. My due date is about 12 days out and all of the signs are pointing in the right direction. I’ve been a busy bee myself finishing nursery details, assembling swings + strollers, and cleaning house. Of course I am tempering all of that work with time on the blanket relaxing in the sunshine and playing with my Bella-girl. I’m trying to give her lots of love + affection before baby gets here.
Yesterday we had some large, dead trees cut down in our yard. So Matthew left work early. He’s been working 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week for the past couple of weeks and it’s been brutal on him. He leaves the house at 5 am and doesn’t get home until 7:30 pm. So yesterday it was nice to have him home before the sun went down for a change. I made us some delicious icy drinks with strawberries, bananas, and blueberries. Vodka for him and none for me — boo. We enjoyed the gorgeous afternoon.
Happy Friday, loves! Have the most beautiful weekend. xo
01. the other night i just needed to take a ride, i found myself near the stables at dusk // 02. this was my 37 week belly, very reminiscent of a beach ball // 03. spring weather is so enticing, passing up laundry for reading in the sunshine // 04. a snap of a blossoming tree in the streetlight // 05. our spearmint came up all on its own this year + spread like wildfire — iced tea time! // 06. my sister‘s beautiful baby, aden gerard, two months already // 07 + 08. our living/dining spaces, i’m finally getting around to decorating, works in progress
all photographs via my instagram. follow me @ denabotbyl.
happy tuesday, loves! ♥