It's OK to Touch My Baby Bump



Ever since becoming pregnant, I've read a lot about how to handle other people touching my baby bump. There's the subtle, "turn away" move. The "baby is resting" line. Or, my favorite, the "rub their belly back" piece of advice.

These articles come up regularly in my pregnancy apps, and are a frequent topic of conversation in my May Mothers facebook group.

Well, I've got a confession to make...I don't mind when people touch my bump.

Even strangers! I might even be so bold as to say that I kind of like it.

Don't get me wrong, it's not because I'm super comfortable with my changing body, or because I'm generally OK with physical affection from others. I'm not.

Even now, at 32 weeks and very obviously pregnant (see photo below), I'm still shocked when strangers will ask me when I'm due or tell me congratulations. I mean, it's nice of them, but every time it happens I always think to myself, "that was a bold move."



But for whatever reason, I am 100% okay with people touching my belly. I even encourage it!

Disclaimer: I was NOT okay with it in my 1st and most of my 2nd trimesters. But now that I'm showing and there's actually something to feel, I am.

What's happening inside of there is so incredibly amazing that I'm happy to share it.

This baby is growing so big, he's now over 3 lbs. He's so active and even though his movements are sometimes painful, I'll never get tired of feeling them. At home I'm constantly telling my husband, "Whoa! Come look!" just in time for baby to get stage fright and stop moving.

It's the best when you can actually feel a leg or his back because of how he's positioned at that moment.

In fact, if you do come to touch my bump, I'll probably give you a lesson in where to feel, or I might tell you to push a little harder so you can really feel him.


So I'm sorry, fellow moms-to-be. I cannot join you in your campaign to stop the belly-touching.

I'm so fascinated and proud of what my body is doing (I'm sure you are, too) and I love when others want to share in that experience with me. There is nothing better than when he moves and I can look up at someone else and say, "did you feel that?!"

I've only got two months left of him growing safely inside of my body, where I can monitor him 24 hours a day. So I'm going to relish it. And if you happen to see me and have an overwhelming urge to touch my bump, chances are I'm going to say....."YES!"

My First Trimester Pregnancy Experience



So you just found out you're pregnant.

Maybe it's your first time, or maybe it's not, but this time around is so much different than what you've gone through before.

First-time mom here and I'm nearing the end of my 2nd trimester.

Now that my first trimester is months behind me, I thought it might be helpful to tell you some things I learned from my experience.

Conceiving is Emotional

Whether you planned to become pregnant or you're surprised to find yourself a few days late, that moment when you're about to take a pregnancy test brings on a lot of feelings.

Your whole life is about to change...or not.

Our story: We were trying to conceive and expected it to take several months. We were so surprised and blessed to have been successful after two months. The month that I was actually pregnant, I took two tests in a row that didn't work. Not even the control line. The third one had a line so very faint that I couldn't even tell if it was there or if the light was making me imagine it.

Symptoms May Not Be What You Expect

Pregnancy symptoms can be your typical sore boobs and morning sickness. Or they might be non-existant. Nothing is normal, and everything is normal.

My experience: My best friend, Steph, told me about the intense dreams pregnancy can bring on. After I stopped taking birth control, my cycles were pretty long. So for the second month in a row, my period was late. I didn't think much of it.

One night I had a crazy intense dream that I was on a cruise ship that was flooding and I was drowning. Weird, right? The next day at work I was in a meeting and BOOM! I remembered Steph's words and I thought...is it possible? It was. That was the day I found out.

My symptoms after that? Nothing. Some food aversions, a lot of foods just didn't taste good. MAYYYBBEE my stomach felt a little upset if I ate breakfast too late. I didn't feel good when the weather got cold. But they were all things that weren't totally out of the ordinary for me.

I spent so much of my first trimester worried that something was wrong because I couldn't relate to what other pregnant women were going through. I even longed to feel terrible like they did. At one point I went so far as to take another pregnancy test at 7 weeks just to make sure I didn't imagine it. And guess what? THE TEST WAS NEGATIVE! I obviously lost my mind and called the doctor immediately. Turns out it's just some phenomenon that happens sometimes when you're a few weeks in.

Two first-trimester doctor appointments and my little baby was developing right on track.

Some people just don't experience a lot of symptoms.



We Have So Much Information at Our Disposal

You can find out anything you want to about your growing baby. Insomnia got you up at night? I always searched different hashtags on Instagram to see how my bump compares to others that are just as far along.

It is so cool to learn about how quickly your little embryo is developing, especially when you can't see or feel it yet.

Information also comes with a large dose of reality. You will learn about the alarmingly high rate of first trimester miscarriages, birth defects, and everything else that can go wrong.

You have to know when to put down the laptop and just have faith that everything is going well in your body.

My experience: I'm a researcher. So from the instant I found out I was pregnant I was constantly scouring the internet, or flipping through the pages of What to Expect When You're Expecting. A lot of what I found was scary, but I couldn't get enough information.

I also joined a private Facebook group of other women due around the same time. Believe it or not, that group was by far what has caused me the most stress in this pregnancy. It was about 160 women, and all too often they were posting about bleeding, miscarriages, going to the doctor and not finding a heartbeat. These were all things I head read about on the internet, but putting a face to the stories made it very real. I spent far too much time worrying that their terrible stories would happen to me.

Joining the group was really eye-opening for me. I didn't realize how common miscarriage is and how blessed we have been to have a hassle-free pregnancy. But seeing the posts was so anxiety-inducing that I actually wished I hadn't joined at all. It wasn't until I was at about 15 weeks that I started to find the group helpful. There were other first-time moms who would ask questions I wanted to know the answers to, and plenty of experienced mothers who could provide sage advice.

Each person has different needs, but if I had to do it all again, I wouldn't have joined that group. Pregnancy is stressful enough.



The Human Body is Incredible

Pregnancy really is a miracle. I was and am continually amazed at how quickly a baby grows in utero.

A pregnant body is making so many changes to accommodate that little being and giving it everything it needs in order to thrive.

For as often as we complain about sickness or fatigue, they are minor symptoms compared to the miracle that is happening inside.

My favorite first trimester moments: My first two doctor's appointments were unforgettable. The first appointment was at just seven weeks and the instant that I saw that little heart beating on the screen I started crying. It was so surreal seeing a living being inside of me.

Just four weeks later, at 11 weeks, the ultrasound clearly showed my baby's arms and legs. The difference in just a month was amazing.

Those two appointments made the pregnancy so much more real for me.

My baby at 7 weeks gestation vs 11 weeks gestation

What was your first trimester experience like?

Weight Loss and Body Image

Earlier this year I lost around 35 pounds and I’ve kept it off.

(Side note: I am pregnant and now gaining pregnancy-related weight)

But this isn’t a post about weight loss and how great it is. It’s a post about how I never had any body image issues until I lost the weight.

If you’re wondering how I did it, my response is always, “we’ve been trying to eat healthier.” Which is true. We cut a lot of carbs and drank a lot of protein shakes. But there’s more to it than that.


I stopped taking my anti-depressants, a side-effect of which can be weight gain. But feeling mentally well is worth a few extra pounds.

I ate a lot less. Arguably an unhealthy amount less. I felt terrible all the time and when people commented on it, I felt even worse. But once I started losing the weight I felt guilty about everything I did eat.

I took appetite suppressants. Again, not really healthy.

I DID NOT work out more. In fact, I probably worked out less. Prior to dieting, I was playing a lot of soccer and trying to run regularly. But shortly after we started dieting, I sustained an injury and stopped playing. That alone caused me to lose a lot of weight, mostly muscle mass.

But let me tell you some more not-so-great things that happened when I started to lose weight:

I didn’t like my body anymore. I felt like I looked saggy. I had no butt. And my clothes started hanging off of me, which caused me to lose a lot of confidence.

Why not buy new clothes? Because I kept losing weight and wasn’t sure what size I’d end up at...or if I’d gain the weight back.

I started to feel really bad about how I looked before...because of other people. I NEVER had any body issues. I couldn’t really tell you why I started dieting in the first place. I think I was hoping to maybe lose a couple pounds, not 35. But people started making comments. They were trying to be nice, but often ended up just making me feel bad. Close family members would say, “wow, you just look so fantastic.” And then inevitably follow it up with a comment about how I looked before. Well, it’s hard to hear you look fantastic when you feel terrible because you’re starving yourself. And all I could think was..."what was wrong with how I looked before?” I even asked a few people that very question and they’d generally respond with something that made me feel even worse, like..."you just looked...”



To this day, it’s very rare that I receive a compliment on my weight that doesn’t come with some sort of back-handed comment on my weight before. Which again, I didn’t have an issue with. And either did my doctor. Sure, sometimes I wished my pants weren’t so tight, but doesn’t everybody?

And now I feel this enormous pressure to either keep losing weight or to weigh myself every day to make sure I haven’t gained an ounce. Even if it means having terrible stomach issues or feeling guilty every time I eat. Because I now see the judgement that people had towards me when I was heavier. Judgement I hadn’t realized was there.

So I’m going to leave you with this...

If you feel the need to comment on someone’s weight loss, just say “you look great.” That’s it. Don’t comment on how much weight they’ve lost or on how they looked before.

Weight is not necessarily an indicator of how in shape someone is. I was a much better athlete when I was 35lbs heavier. And to be honest with you, I hate how skinny my legs have gotten. I don’t have the same soccer player muscles that I prided myself on when I was playing.

Don’t ever make someone feel bad about their weight. You have no idea if they have a health condition, or take a medication that causes weight gain, or how they feel about their own body.

I want parents, boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses to hear this one particularly loud: weight is not what makes up the character of a human being and shouldn’t define how much you love them. I have always viewed myself as a smart, sporty, funny woman. And that’s whether I’m 100 lbs or 200 lbs. And I HOPE that every woman and girl out there feels that same way about themselves, too. It’s what inside that defines you. And you are BEAUTIFUL.

Reflecting on 2018


2018 was one of the best years of my life.

Career

I started a brand new position at my company as a Human Resources Business Partner. That was a big change for me since up until that point, my career had always been focused on corporate training. 

The new position was a lot of learning and also afforded me the opportunity to understand the operations side of the business in a way I never had before.

I grew a lot as a professional in 2018 and for the first time in my professional life, understood where my calling and strengths are, and where I want my next steps to be.

Personal

I rang in the new year engaged to my love.

I already knew this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and our engagement reinforced that.



Even after spending years together and living with somebody, you don't think about things the same as you do when you've made a life-long commitment to them. How we wanted to handle money, kids, family, where we want to live, the career choices we want to make and the kind of life we wanted to establish for ourselves all started to come to fruition. It was wonderful!



After nearly a year of planning, we had the wedding of our dreams in Mexico.



The amount of love and support that we had from our friends and family was incredible. We are so blessed to have our community.


Animals

We became chicken farmers this year, which was so much fun!



We adopted six chicks, made some rookie mistakes, and have since become experts in raising hens.

Our neighbors and family love those eggs!



Our dogs, Eleanor and Boyfriend, are happy as ever. Boyfriend turned 11 and has been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, which is hard and scary, but he's happy as can be just enjoying the time he has left with us.



What's Next

Brandon and I made the decision to start growing our family!

In late spring of 2019, we will we welcoming a little boy into the world.



We have a few pre-baby trips planned, including a trip back to Florida to reunite with my friends from when I did the Disney College Program. But the majority of our time will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of our son, and then doting over him every second after he is born.

I am so looking forward to 2019!

It's a Boy!

Brandon and I had an early ultrasound at 17 weeks to make sure Baby Novak was developing correctly.

We were so lucky to find that everything looked good. But we also got to find out that we're having a little BOY!

(Well...the doctors won't say for sure, because there's always a small percentage that they misinterpreted what they saw during the ultrasound, but she was pretty confident it's a boy)


The appointment was really cool. The last time we saw Baby Novak was at 11 weeks and he looked like a tiny little gummy bear. Seeing him look much more baby-like and moving around was a bit of a shock. At 17 weeks I still hadn't felt him move at all and was barely starting to show, so it was hard for me to believe that Baby had grown so big!


While the appointment brought some assurance, it also brought some stress. Results aren't given to you immediately and waiting the 3 days to hear how he was measuring was a bit stressful. I didn't realize how many soft and hard markers for diseases doctors look for in those appointments.

We don't have a name yet and at this rate, likely won't have one until he makes his debut. Choosing a name is HARD!

Stay tuned for more updates!

A Holiday Reminder

As we sit here in the midst of the holidays, I wanted to give you a little reminder...Smile!

I've been reading How to Win Friends and Influence People. It's one of those "must read" business books that was published decades ago, and it is speaking to me!

One of the chapters is about smiling. It ends with a poem that fit this time of year so well, I had to share it:

The Value of a Smile at Christmas

It costs nothing, but creates so much.
It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.
It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.
It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends.
It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature's best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away.
And if in the last-minute rush of Christmas buying some of our salespeople should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?
For nobody needs a smile so much as those who have none left to give!

There are so many good messages about a smile in this poem...

It costs nothing.


The memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

No earthly good to anybody till it is given away.

Giving a smile to some, or to many, this holiday season, is the easiest, most inexpensive gift you can give. And there are a lot of people who need one.

So when you're "in the last-minute rush of Christmas buying" and your salespeople "should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you leave one of yours?" We all know that the holidays are stressful. If you've ever worked in retail, you know it especially well.

You don't need one in return, and what a difference a simple smile can make. You never know when you may need one yourself...


Our Next Great Adventure: Parenthood

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes...

Baby Novak! ...ETA May 15.



As you may recall, Brandon propped the question last Christmas, and we were married in Mexico in November.

We knew we wanted to have kids right away, so a few months before our wedding, we met with the doctor to talk about trying to conceive. Shortly after....BAM! We're pregnant!

Finding Out

Finding out was the most exciting day of my life.

We found out very early, at four weeks. The amount of happiness and relief I felt was incredible. My husband was also over-the-moon.

As we started to learn more about what it meant to be pregnant, we decided to keep the surprise to ourselves. For one, the risk of miscarriage is so high in the first trimester. But in addition to that, our families were busy focusing on the last-minute details that went into planning and traveling to our upcoming wedding in Mexico.


Breaking the News

We finally told our families and close friends at 13 weeks. We had already had two doctor's appointments confirming that all was well and it seemed appropriate.

Many people were shocked, but for the most part, happy. And it felt really good to finally talk openly about it.

We slowly began telling other friends and family and the more people we told, the more relaxed I felt.

I was most nervous to tell my employer. Many women report being treated different at work, that their employers don't think they're as dedicated to the job, etc. I was also concerned for what it meant for my coworkers who would have to cover my work while I was out on leave after having the child.

I wanted to get ahead of telling at least my boss and close teammates before I started to show and it became obvious.

It's still scary putting it out there. I hear a lot of pregnancy horror stories. I am also constantly in fear of something being wrong at my next doctor's appointment. The other mothers I know tell me that fear never goes away, even after the baby is born.

But I also hear a lot of great advice. And it's really wonderful to be able to talk about some of the weird symptoms I experience and learn that they're normal. The amount of love and support we have in our network is remarkable.

Where We Are Now

I am happy to report that we are at 16 weeks. Another successful doctor's appointment is in the books and while it provides some temporary relief, I'm sure my anxiety will rebuild before the next doctor's appointment.


We're going through the mental planning that every new parent does....how much money do we need to be making? How much is childcare? How long does the baby sleep in our room? What is Butt Paste? Will the child look like me or you?

It's a lot of fun. Scary, yes. Crazy, yes. And fun.