Ambivalence and Pregnancy
by Samanda Rossi, educator, doula and owner at Naturally Prepared for Birth. 2/22/19
This study was recently published.
When I saw it smatter across social media, my first reaction was, “DUH.” Did we really need a study to illustrate this? You could just talk to a large group of women. They will tell you that A LOT of them have a variety of feelings regarding pregnancies, despite whether they are planned or unplanned. Or maybe they wouldn’t, because sharing that you aren’t excited and thrilled to be having a baby is largely shamed in our culture. Sadly, usually by other women. I wrote the post below over a year ago, and remembered it when I saw the published article and decided to finally share it with you all. Only 1 of my children was a “planned” pregnancy, and each pregnancy held different feelings, including regret, ambivalence, and fear. I am grateful my experiences and feelings allow me to hold space for these feelings in my clients, whether they are fleeting, “Oh shit, what have I done?” moments or deeper ambivalence. Babies change our lives, they should provoke more than happiness or excitement that we’re expected to feel. I can honestly say, three years later, I sometimes feel regret and ambivalence and longing for life before 3, 2, 1 children. It does not mean I don’t love or want my kids. It doesn’t mean I am a bad mom. It doesn’t mean I wish life was different. It just means I am a woman, with her own needs and journey, that’s been interrupted by the most amazing and challenging journey of her life. And it’s both hard and valuable. All feelings are valid.
You can read a bit more about my journey and some other Naturally Prepared Mamas who were brave and vulnerable enough to share bits of their journeys. I love and adore each one of them and thank them for contributing.
I had two sons, ages 11 and 8. For years I had wanted another child but my partner did not. So, instead of following my heart, I relented (and mourned). I got on with life, savored my growing boys, began Naturally Prepared, and life was busy and fulfilling. I always secretly hoped for a “surprise” baby but as my 30’s were coming to a close, I figured it wasn’t going to happen.
And then it did happen. A surprise pregnancy. 39 years old. I really thought it was impossible. I knew I had really low progesterone, figured I was peri-menopausal. I was super busy! My mom was sick and I was taking care of her, she died when I was 5 months pregnant. We moved during this time. I was teaching and doula-ing a ton. Now, instead of being excited about a surprise pregnancy, I was in Disbelief. Shock. Sad. Scared. Mostly, AMBIVALENT.
Ambivalent is not a word used often in conjunction with pregnancy. It’s really not tolerated in our culture. Babies are blessings. So many people would love to have a baby, you are so fortunate. It’s God’s Will. How exciting! To feel in this place of uncertainty, in between, regarding a pregnancy is unfathomable to many who haven’t felt it.
Every test and ultrasound just provoked worry and fear. I had an intense need to nest, but it was totally biological. With my first, I remember strolling the aisles of Babies R Us and registering and washing babies clothes and it was just dreamy. With this baby, I refused all offers of baby showers, I set up a nursery of just essentials, didn’t decorate at all. I didn’t get my birth kit together until I was 37 weeks and thought I might be in labor. I cried a lot.
Yet it is what I felt. And since, what several women have confided feeling to me:
My third was completely unplanned (in fact, we were diligently trying to avoid) and awful timing (in the middle of my master’s degree). I wept for weeks. I felt like a horrible human being for not “wanting” my pregnancy. As time went on I adjusted and of course went thru those memorable phases of loving my body for the hard work it was doing, being amazed at the beauty of birth all over again, and now I have a completely sweet little one who I wouldn’t trade for anything. But pregnancy is hard on your body, children are demanding and cause your life to shift in unexpected and inconvenient ways, and the beauty of it all is often coupled with difficulty, if not directly precipitated by it.
I definitely feel apathetic with this pregnancy and I feel really guilty about it. I’m 26 weeks now and i didn’t have morning sickness, no indigestion, I’m not showing, and even though i can feel the baby move I just feel very disconnected. Even at the ultrasound i had no attachment or emotion.
I spent many midwife appts crying, spent most of the months I was pregnant telling myself I will get it together and be happy about it… I was physically sick for 2 mos with pneumonia, worn out because of financial stuff that kept piling on, marriage wasn’t right, we were in the middle of a lawsuit. Didn’t have the same feeling at the ultrasound that I had with my first. Went through the motions but really wasn’t feeling it. About a week before he was born I felt ok about it and ready to meet him. I honestly think not knowing the sex made it very difficult for me to connect with “the baby.” I really needed to know if it was a boy or girl but wanted that moment of finding out when the baby was born. The picture of that moment is beautiful but I’m sad I think I could have connected with him a lot more while pregnant if I had just pushed the issue with my partner and found out he was a boy while I was pregnant. The pregnancy was very much a struggle for me, so much so that I really cannot fathom going through another pregnancy.
So, what can you do if you feel ambivalent about a pregnancy?
Give yourself permission to feel that way. There might not be anything like the guilt that comes with not wanting or not being excited about a pregnancy. But it’s okay. All of the mothers who shared their feelings above are all mothers I admire and adore. Be real with yourself. Cry. Simmer in your anger.
Talk about it, with people who will be loving and affirming. I was so grateful to have a doula and midwives who listened to me, who didn’t try to minimize or judge my feelings. Most of my prenatal appointments were about what I was feeling and thinking about at the time. Love that midwifery care gives the space for this, but I also had a few friends who were great listeners.
Celebrate. I was totally not willing to do this. I had several offers for baby showers, and I said no to all of them. My sweet Naturally Prepared community planned a surprise one for me. It was a combo Blessingway/Baby Shower and was just what my soul needed. I ugly cried a lot that afternoon. But I also allowed myself to be loved, and for my baby to be loved. There is power in community support, love and excitement. Allow yourself to experience it.
Prepare. I remember teaching a Refresher class towards the end of my pregnancy and thinking, “I shouldn’t be teaching this class, I need to be IN this class!” One mom shared, “With the first we tried for 9 months so I was elated the entire pregnancy. The second was unplanned and I was so shocked. I cried and I remember telling my husband to wipe that smile off his damn face. lol! All I could worry about at the time was money of all things and I was SO stressed about how we could afford another. I didn’t feel “connected” honestly until that first night in our refresher class. I had a moment that night where I was like holy shit we’re actually having another kid. After that it was different. I think I needed that class if only for the connection.” If a class isn’t do-able or if one that focuses on connection/emotional and mental preparation isn’t available, consider doing birth art (the book, Birthing from Within is a good Springboard for this), doing a prenatal yoga class, listening to positive affirmations or meditations while focused on your baby.
Plan. I did a terrible job of this. I was in such denial that I was actually going to have a baby that I didn’t really plan for postpartum beyond making freezer meals. This made my postpartum extra challenging. I asked my partner, who owns his own business, ‘What is your company’s paternity leave policy?” He replied, “We’re for it.” Did I figure out what this meant? Have a discussion about how and how long he would take leave? No. I was in total denial it would be an issue. So I didn’t pursue it any further, he didn’t take any leave, and it was a magical but horrible transition.
Therapy. Having someone listen, and be able to help your sort out your thoughts and feelings is so helpful, especially at such a vulnerable time. I did take some time for therapy, and it did help with my confidence to deal with my situation. There are some therapists who specialize in pregnancy, infertility, loss and birth trauma.
At 39 weeks I finally felt ready and willing to have my baby. And he came.
And it was LOVE. Intense LOVE.
I can honestly say I didn’t want him until he tumbled out of my body. But now he is an extension of me. And though it is hard and there are days when I remember what freedom I had, or how things were easier, I cannot imagine life without him. I am completely enraptured by him.
And this, this is what I heard repeatedly from Mamas who shared their ambivalence, “I’ve never been baby/child oriented and I just had no idea what being a mom would be like. And then he was born and we, two educated and practical people, became blithering idiots (baby talk just came bubbling out of us). But yes, I was actually a bit embarrassed to be pregnant the first time, felt really private about it, and annoyed by some of the gushing/getting all up in your business people do. I didn’t feel in love with the baby until he actually came out, and then of course it was life-changing love.”
Life changing love indeed, overwhelming enough to make the heart find peace.
Local Freezer Meal Resources
Compiled by Samanda Rossi, educator & doula at Naturally Prepared 4 Birth, www.naturallyprepared4birth.com
In my childbirth preparation classes, one homework assignment is to make freezer meals for postpartum. Almost always, couples return and share not only their babies and birth stories, but how grateful they were that they had those freezer meals ready!
Sometimes making freezer meals seems overwhelming, or you just don’t like to cook, or you’re out of them and need more. Or, if you’re like me, you just want something different from your regular rotation.
Below I share some local places that offer freezer meals and freezer meal making services (or fresh meals delivered). Have something to add to this list? Let me know and I will add it to the list!
Time for Dinner, www.timefordinner.com
I have been doing Time for Dinner on occasion for years. You can buy pre-made freezer meals and sides from their freezer, or you can go in each month of your choosing and prep freezer meals. You sign up online and choose your meals, then go in and prep the meals (they do all the ingredients, chopping, containers, and clean up). It’s super fun! They are a mom-owned, local business, and offer free meal prep and pick up for the first 3 months postpartum. My postpartum favorites are sweet potato black bean burritos and calzones (not available every month) because they can be cooked in single portions without thawing first – perfect for lunches!
The Dinner Bell, https://www.dinnerbellstl.com/
This place is very similar to Time for Dinner and offers meal making sessions and meals to go. I haven’t tried The Dinner Bell because it’s not in my neck of the woods, but have had a couple clients use their services and really like it. The menus look delicious, so good, I think I’ll try it soon!
Warson Woods, MO
Nourish offers a meal subscription service or you can go into their store and purchase ready made freezer meals. They usually have some fresh salads available as well. On Mondays, they do a meal deal where you get an entrée, salad and cookies for $34.95. I get postpartum meals here for doula clients occasionally. I love that they have healthy, and plenty of vegetarian, options. Some favorites of ours are butternut squash mac and cheese and roasted vegetable lasagna roll ups. They occasionally have BOGO events, watch out for those!
The Art of Entertaining, https://www.theaofe.com/
Webster Groves, MO
Time for Dinner is actually a really delicious catering company. In addition, they have small and large casseroles available frozen and fresh, salads, and more. The real star of this place postpartum (and beyond) is the Monday Meal Deal. You get two large casseroles (options rotate weekly, there are usually about 20 choices), a salad, loaf of Italian Bread, and 4 cookies for $30. This is usually my go-to place for postpartum doula meals because for most families, the meal deal will serve a family of 2-3 eaters for more than one meal. Many casseroles are very carb/pasta heavy, but they usually have one gluten free option and a few that are a bit healthier. Our favorites are the Taco Pie and Chicken Diane. They will often also offer ½ off a large soup with the purchase of a family meal.
Halfway Homemade, https://halfwayhomemade.bigcartel.com/
This is a tiny mom-preneur business that offers prepped freezer meals for pick up once a month. She usually has about 8 choices and you can choose one or all 8. She will send you an email and let you know the ordering window, and then she will have a pick up day (delivery also available for a fee).
Katie Cooks, https://www.katiecooks.net/
Webster Groves, MO but workshops take place at an area restaurant
Check out her website for great Insta-Pot recipes. She also offers meal making workshops and sometimes pick up meals. Another awesome tiny mom-preneur!
Pure Plates, https://pureplatesstl.com/
Pure Plates is a meal delivery service (you can also pick up). I have had a few client’s do this service and been happy. My only issue is that when you are postpartum and likely nursing, I am not a fan of eating in restrictive ways and many of their meals will not meet the caloric needs of nursing Mamas (much less fulfill your ravenous appetite). So, if you go this route, prepare to supplement with some snacks.
Fit Flavors, https://fit-flavors.com/
Chesterfield * Brentwood * Creve Coeur, MO
Fit Flavors provides healthy meals (name you diet restrictions/preferences and they have something for you) and snacks to go or delivered. I will echo what I said above with Pure Plates about postpartum nursing Mamas needing to have adequate caloric and fat intake. They do have athlete meals which are larger and would be a good option.
Fred and Ricky’s, https://fredricky.com/
Maryland Heights and Creve Coeur, MO
Vegan? If so, this is your place! They offer all plant-based foods to go. Meals for one or family sized, snacks and more.
Red Zucchini, http://www.red-zucchini.com/
Red Zucchini is a meal subscription service. The meals come prepared (unlike Hello Fresh or similar that still require a lot of prep). The menu changes weekly and looks AMAZING! There are 4 drop off locations in the St. Louis area or you can pick up in Fenton. They offer single serve or family meal packages, but you must purchase at least 10 single or 5 family entrees each week. Meals are healthy, fresh, and they will work with dietary restrictions.
Gobble is a meal delivery service. They provide all the ingredients and instructions for making the meals. But, unlike a lot of your make-it meals, there’s very little prep for meals and they can be made within 15 minutes. That’s why they’re included here, upon recommendation from a client who has been using it. I love their many menu options, customizable for preferences and allergies. In my opinion, it is also affordable. A huge bonus is they offer lunch and breakfast options which are sometimes the hardest meals to eat postpartum, especially when partners and helpers have gone back to work or returned to “life”. Gobble up!
Freshly is already made meals delivered to your door, you just heat and eat. Their menu changes weekly and they have many delicious options, and all are gluten and peanut free! Meals sound hearty and delicious. You can choose 4, 6, 9 or 12 meals per week, customizable to eaters in your family which makes it great for differing tastes.
Famous Stuffed French Toast by Samanda Rossi (Childbirth educator and doula at Naturally Prepared)
I’m going to interrupt the regular scheduled posting for this blog because it’s SNOWPOCALYPSE! I think we got about a foot at our house in the last 24 hours!
I went to college in Wisconsin, so lots of snow and driving in snow and months of perpetual snow is totally normal to me. But I have to say, as a native St. Louisan, I love the frenzy this city gets into when snow is in the forecast. Dashes to the store to stock up on milk, bread, and eggs with insanely long lines at those stores. The wonder if school will be closed, the weather on TV with continuous monitoring of the storm and traffic. And the people from Maine, Ohio and Minnesota who are rightfully making fun of us in the frenzy.
Back to the milk, eggs, and bread. In St. Louis, the tradition is to make French toast on snow days. Or that’s the assumed tradition based on those ingredients. I upheld this tradition this morning, and as a result, thought I would share my FAMOUS Stuffed French Toast recipe with you all. It truly is famous, it’s been described as orgasmic, divine, amazing and when my 15 year old came down to see it made this morning, he leaned down and gave me a huge, long hug.
I will go ahead and admit it is not *my* French toast recipe. When David and I were engaged we stayed at a delightful little B&B in Louisiana, MO as part of a staycation weekend away. The owner of the B&B served this French toast for breakfast and we were hooked. I was able to replicate it at home and have been serving it for special occasions since.
Note: Let me admit, as a Greek woman raised by a mother who didn’t think recipes applied to her, these amounts are estimates. It’s a very forgiving recipe.
Bread – the best bread for this recipe is a skinny Italian loaf. I wasn’t going to the store for that, so I improvised today with challah. It works, but doesn’t make for as crispy of a French toast. So, get the Italian.
2 Tbsp. Milk
Vanilla – splash
½ tsp. Cinnamon
4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
8 oz. Apricot Preserves, divided
2 Tbsp. Pecans, chopped finely and toasted (optional)
Cut the bread into thick rounds, about 1 ½-2 inches thick. Then cut a slice into each round without going all the way through. It would have been great if I had pictures, but imagine Pac-Man. Set aside.
Mix the cream cheese and 4 oz. apricot preserves until combined. Add pecans if desired. Fill each bread round with some of the cream cheese mixture. About a heaping spoonful in each.
Beat eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.
Heat oil in a pan, I usually make it a little deep, maybe ¼ inch deep. Make sure you have a paper towel lined plate ready for your hot and crispy French toast!
Dip stuffed bread rounds into egg mixture, then fry, flipping when golden brown (I find it easiest to use tongs during this process). Place on towel lined plate.
Heat 4 oz. of apricot preserves with 2 Tbsp of water and whisk to combine. Heat until boiling and serve alongside the French toast as syrup for dipping or topping.
Enjoy! I will also say, it’s pretty good munched on throughout the day at room temperature.
So, St. Louis (and beyond) enjoy the snow, the French toast, and snuggling in. And know that this French toast also makes an appearance at our 4th of July celebration, so it’s all season appropriate eating!
In the Naturally Prepared Refresher class, we reflect on our previous birth(s) before we begin preparing in earnest for the next birth. Acknowledging our story, our beliefs and the fears that arise from our previous journey allow us to step forward in greater awareness and with increased openness as we welcome the next birth and postpartum journey.
Some of you may have noticed I have been laying low on the Naturally Prepared front. It reminds me of hibernation or like a perpetual winter. I continued to teach and serve doula clients, but marketing, professional development, newsletters, First Fridays, special events, and so many extras I have offered over the years went dormant in 2018.
But winter ends, thankfully. For those of you I am friends with on Facebook, you may have a sense of what 2018 entrenched me in. A few clients have been instrumental this year in very key ways, and have become, as Brene Brown calls them, ‘Story Keepers” for bits and pieces of my journey. I call Brene Brown, “My Guru” and she has been absolutely essential to my survival, growth and transformation in 2018. She has inspired me to incorporate parts of her lessons into classes when we discuss postpartum, and I have plans to develop the role of perfectionism and shame on new parents further. She’s taught me a lot of lessons, but one of the biggest is the power of vulnerability. She has an incredible Ted Talk on it, check it out here
Embracing one’s vulnerability is super scary. I have done so much scary shit this year. And embracing and sharing my vulnerability with my client’s has been high among them. As an educator, a healer, a helper, a doula:
*I* am supposed to be the strong one, so I can inspire you to be strong.
*I* am the helper, not the one in need of help.
*I* am the supporter, not the one needing support.
*I* am the one to share resources, not the one needing to utilize them.
I had so much fear about being vulnerable, revealing myself and the judgments that would certainly accompany the revelations that I am not always strong, that I am in need of help, support and resources.
And there’s no doubt that some of that judgment is out there. But in finally embracing my vulnerability and sharing it, I have found it to be a tremendous gift to others, including my client’s. So, join me here, frequently I hope, for nuggets about my journey. And lots of relevant posts featuring resources and ideas I have wanted to share with you as my parenting journey has grown and my work as an educator and doula has continued to shape myself and the work I do.
I am welcoming 2019, the days and months and year which will continue to shape my story. Join me, as I set this intention to connect with you and wake after hibernation. Stepping, once again, into a new journey with openness and awareness.
Musings on Mary
By Samanda Rossi, owner, educator and doula at Naturally Prepared 4 Birth
This time of year usually focuses on the birth of Christ, but for me, I cannot help but think of Mary on her journey. I have often thought that the celebration of birthdays should not just be about the person born on that day, but the person who gave life that day. I know around each of my children’s birthdays I grow thoughtful of those days and moments that brought them into the world.
So, as we journey through Advent, I think of a young woman, full of child, anticipating, waiting, dreaming, and probably equal parts hopeful and fearful about the journey before her. Mary is an important figure in my life and work. To me, she is the embodiment of motherhood, a culmination of the Goddesses before her and the Saints that would follow. I am no expert on Mary from a theological perspective. However, I DO know that when I was laboring HARD with my second son, I told myself repeatedly, “Mary did this with Jesus” and that mantra resonated with me and helped me surrender to the power that was coursing through my body. She connects me with a realm and a strength all mothers embody – both in giving life and in tragedy and loss.
Since I love birth stories, …Read More
I want to share what our family does for Advent, and maybe inspire some ideas for the season! You can see what we did last year here https://www.facebook.com/notes/samanda-rossi/advent-2014/10152909585198343.
Although we are not a religious family, we do focus on the spirit of Christmas and the life of Jesus. I love the Christmas season, and feel it gives our family opportunities to demonstrate the example Jesus set forth and focus on meaningful relationships within our family, our friends, and our community. When the boys were little, I did an Advent/countdown to Christmas calendar. This was fun, but didn’t do anything but make my kids more greedy for chocolate and gifts. One year we tried to do 24 Random Acts of Kindness instead. This was difficult because of time and general life. The past few years I have done a spin on this, and it’s worked beautifully. My kids look as forward to Advent as they do Christmas day.
Here is how I do it:
Prior to Advent, I figure out a thematic “schedule”. This is not a strict schedule, as sometimes we end up having to do two in one day or move things around because of life and other things that come up, we are pretty flexible. Here is this year’s, I’ve simplified it a bunch this year because of the baby who will arrive sometime this month so I wanted things that could be put together easily in advance, that my husband or a postpartum doula could facilitate if needed, and include meals and activities that I could feasibly still participate in with a nursling.
Tuesdays – Sweet Stuff
Wednesdays – Focus on Family
Thursdays – Make It, Bake It, Do It
Fridays – Family Holiday Movie Nights
Saturdays – Good Times, Good Trips
Sundays – Acts of Kindness and Service
Mondays – Friendship
This Year’s Calendar of Events:
Tuesday 12/1 – Trim the Tree and receive a chocolate Advent calendar to count down
Wednesday 12/2 – Decorate your Brothers Room for the Holidays
Thursday 12/3 – Make a fleece blanket for a Veteran
Friday 12/4 – Elf, plus a marshmallow game and hot chocolate https://www.dropbox.com/s/71gh6422np8k7s4/Elf-Game.pdf
Saturday 12/5 – Cans Film Festival
Sunday 12/6 – Shop for our Adopted Family
Monday 12/7 – Gift a “Reindeer Snot” Kit to a friend (Homemade Slime Kit) http://www.momendeavors.com/2015/06/elmers-glue-slime-kit-party-favor.html
Tuesday – 12/8 – Candy Wreath for Lunch Treats (I attach candy I took out of their Halloween stashes and hang them on a wreath. Each day they can choose one to include in their lunch bags).
Wednesday 12/9 – Shop for Scout (our dog) and donate some treats to a pet rescue.
Thursday 12/10 – Make Gingerbread Houses
Friday – 12/11 – The Sound of Music with Apple Strudel
Saturday 12/12 – Nutcracker on Ice
Sunday 12/13 – Choose a neighbor and take out their trash cans for them (and return them on Monday)
Monday 12/14 – Donut Drop Off – choose a friend to drop off a dozen donuts to as a surprise dessert treat.
Tuesday, 12/15 – Bean Boozled Jelly Beans
Wednesday 12/16 – Family Candlelight Dinner
Thursday 12/17 – Make a Bird Feeder and place in our backyard http://birding.about.com/od/birdfeeders/a/Make-A-Plastic-Bottle-Bird-Feeder.htm
Friday 12/18 – Christmas Vacation with Aunt Edna’s Jello Mold!
Saturday 12/19 – Christmas Light Outing/Viewing
Sunday 12/20 – Have a hot cocoa stand and give funds to a charity
Monday 12/21 – Create a Lego Building Kit for a friend and give it to them!
Tuesday 12/22 – Chocolate Monopoly
Wednesday 12/23 – Read the Christmas Story and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas
Thursday 12/24 – Make a chicken treat plate for Charlotte (our chicken who is now rehomed) and her flock and deliver PLUS Christmas Eve Box (pajames, stocking to hang, platter and cup for cookies and milk)
Hope this is helpful to you and yours this season, or any time of year, you wish to focus on family, friends, and others.