Pregnancy: What I Wish I’d Known


Here’s what I wish I’d known about being pregnant and having a baby.

Pregnancy brain does not apply to everyone. I kept hearing that pregnancy caused forgetfulness or momnesia, but I was never in a fog during pregnancy. Tired, absolutely. Unable to focus and concentrate, not really. Probably because my job demanded a lot from me, I didn’t have time to make mistakes and redo shit.

Go on a babymoon. I’m all for vacations, specifically one big vacation before the baby arrives. We didn’t really have time for one and I regret that. There’s a lot of talk about birthing classes and lactation consultants. I say forget that stuff and go on a babymoon. You’ll never have a chance to sleep in again!

Setup a registry on Amazon. I can’t believe I considered not registering for anything. I figured we could simply buy everything ourselves. But friends and family will want to help, so do yourself a favor and register. Everyone seems to have an Amazon account these days which makes registering on that site convenient for everyone.

The best indicator of when you are going to deliver may be genetic. Apparently first time moms tend to deliver past their due date. I honed in on this metric, even though my mom and sister both delivered a week to 10 days early. My life would have been much easier if I had planned around when my own family members delivered.

Work until you deliver. I’m a proponent of working until the baby comes. It kept me from stressing too much over the pregnancy and labor. Otherwise I would have spent my days counting kicks and obsessing over minor details like nursery decorations. Also it doesn’t hurt to get paid your full salary versus a fraction of it through state disability.

During labor and delivery, you will shake violently. I read how many pregnancy books and blogs, subscribed to several pregnancy newsletters, and not once did anyone mention that I was going to have the shivers. I thought there was something wrong with me (like I was potentially dying), until the nurse told me that everyone has that experience due to the rush of hormones.

Ask for supplies and take everything from the hospital. Someone did tell me this and I’m glad I took it to heart. You’re paying for it; take it: sanitary napkins, diapers, wipes, vaseline, medical supplies. Ask for more. We took all that loot home.

Labor is nothing compared to post partum pain. I was told I had level 2 lacerations (level 4 being the worst) with cuts near my urethra and rectum. Considering I have a high pain threshold, I cannot even imagine what level 4 feels like. If I could only go through labor and not have to deal with post partum pain, I could imagine having a soccer club of babies. But I was in so much pain a good week post-delivery that getting pregnant again is the furthest thing from my mind.

Be prepared for your hospital bill! Know what your health insurance’s out of pocket maximum is because you will be paying it. Mine is $4,000. By the time I gave birth, I’d already paid $2,300 out of pocket. The hospital called me to collect the remaining $1,700. Even though we have the money, I still cringed when I got the call. I asked if it could be paid in installments. Of course not!

Your employer will disown you during maternity leave. I’ve been with my company for 10 years. My life is pretty much commingled with work. For example, they pay my cell phone bill and all of my contacts and calendar items (both personal and professional) are in Outlook. Unbeknownst to me, all of my work access was deactivated. My Blackberry did a complete reboot and I no longer have access to any of my contacts. In other words, I can’t make a phone call without emailing someone and asking for their phone number. It has been a big pain in the ass.

Lastly, this is a message for visitors.

Be helpful. In no way should you be inconveniencing parents who are sleep-deprived. That means holding the baby for an extended period of time, offering to run errands…anything but hanging out and expecting to be entertained. It’s hard to say no to visitors since you’re clearly home and have no excuse to give, but some of the visits have been more stressful than they should have been.

Labor & Delivery: the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

We are still trying to figure things out as first time parents. Sleep-deprived as hell, but completely worth it. To quote the pediatrician, “Francisco is doing tremendous. You two have done a great job.”

It seems so long ago, but I wanted to share the story leading up to Franco’s arrival. Ya ready? It’s a doozy.

I mentioned in my last post that I was working like a madwoman up until I delivered. Dean and I hadn’t gone on a babymoon like most couples do these days, nor were we willing to fly during the pregnancy given the two miscarriages I’d had. So 10 days prior to my delivery date, we decided to tempt fate and spend two nights at the historic Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, which is a 30 minute drive away from the hospital. We even brought our hospital gear…just in case

I envisioned spa treatments, gourmet meals, soaking in the sun. Here’s a snapshot I took lounging by the pool after we had checked in.


After dinner, we watched The Grand Budapest Hotel at a theater in downtown Berkeley. It was a good movie, but I squirmed my way through it, I felt so uncomfortable. That said, at 38 weeks, I was already leading a very uncomfortable existence, waddling around everywhere and needing to be by a bathroom at all times!

I woke up at 3:30am that night with really bad cramps that got progressively worse. I kept going back and forth between the bed and the toilet, and eventually I passed my mucous plug. We called the advice nurse and explained the situation.

Dean does a parody of the call that goes like this:

Hi this is Catherine Gacad. I’m 38 weeks along and I passed my mucous plug. I have really bad cramps, but I don’t think they’re contractions. Nah, couldn’t be labor. Pain on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst? Gosh, I’d say a 2 or a 3. It’s really not that bad. I probably don’t need to go to the hospital. Wait, there’s a baby’s head coming out of my vagina. Do you think maybe now I should go to the hospital?

That wasn’t too far from what happened because when we eventually decided to check out of the hotel, and make our way to the hospital at 7:30am, the medical team said I was already 7 to 8 centimeters dilated.

Dean had temporarily parked in the Emergency Area and said, “Well now that she’s here, I’ll go move the car and come back.”

The nurse quipped, “You’re not going anywhere. This baby is coming out right now!”

They asked if I wanted an epidural, but I was intent on doing the delivery naturally. Another jovial nurse hollered, “Drug-free and a surprise gender baby! I am digging this family!” I laughed, which was the last moment of calm before I descended into the nadir of labor. I screamed bloody murder so loudly so often, it was a warning call to the other women in labor: GET AN EPIDURAL!

I went drug-free without any of the perks of going drug-free. It didn’t matter that I wanted to walk around during labor, I had to be strapped to the bed. For a short while, the nurses let me labor on all fours, I felt better that way. But once the OB walked in, they flipped me around and I was beholden to the hospital way, with the OB wearing her umpire outfit, sitting comfortably in her chair, and preparing to vacuum my baby out. It didn’t matter that I screamed NO CUT! If the OB wanted to cut me or use a vacuum, she was going to do it her way. No discussion.

Dean’s concern, of course, was for the health of the baby and he deferred to the professionals. At least if I’d had a doula present, I would have had someone advocating on my behalf.

My advice? If I had to do it all over again, I’d go drug-free, but have the delivery done by a midwife. With an OB, I’d either hire a doula or get an epidural.

But the most important thing is that I delivered a healthy happy baby. Period. I am obviously working through some bitterness over my labor experience, but I need to realize that for the most part I had a natural, normal delivery.

The baby came out at 8:31am on Mother’s Day. They placed the baby on my chest and Dean smiled, “It’s a boy.”


Mother’s Day Baby

I haven’t blogged in almost a month. Yikes! I was trying to do so much at work in preparation for my maternity leave that I made myself sick. I was stressed. I got a cold. Oh yeah, then I had my baby 10 days prior to my due date.

I got the baby boy that I wanted so badly and prayed for!

Introducing Francisco (i.e., Franco) born Mother’s Day May 11, 2014 at 8:30am. He weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces and was 19 inches long.

2 pictures and a video I can watch over and over of his first bath.



My God, My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me?

fatima-227252_640Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Catholics sing these words during the Lenten season, leading up to Christ’s Resurrection and Easter. I’ve always loved singing this sad melody, ever since I was a little kid in uniform, celebrating mass in Catholic school. While the words reenact a religious historical moment, it never had any significance for me until I felt abandoned by God when I needed him most.

Exactly a year ago, Dean and I went to the hospital to discuss the next steps in our hopes to have a child. We struggled to conceive and planned on trying a few more inseminations before considering other options, like IVF. The reproductive endocrinologist thought it was best to see where I was in my cycle by doing an ultrasound, at which point we were all shocked to find a baby with a flickering heartbeat. It was our tiny miracle baby–conceived naturally despite our fertility issues.

When we returned the following week for a checkup, the doctor quickly shook his head, apologized and left the room. We never understood what happened. Had the baby not grown? Was there no more heartbeat? When I pressed the doctor later for more details, he said that I could try supplementing with progesterone to salvage the pregnancy although he cautioned that the situation was grim. I was optimistic. This meant that all was not lost. Plus I had God on my side.

Twice a day I loaded up on progesterone. I prayed fervently. Our friends and family, our priests and congregations prayed along with us. God would not fail me. How could he turn away from someone like me who had been faithful my whole life? While others dismissed religion, I embraced it because God had always been my ally. He kept me and my family safe. I was grateful for and lived a full, happy life. He would most certainly take care of my baby. God would not grant me a miracle, only to take it away!

My faith did not waver.

I will never understand, but God took my baby from me when I miscarried on Mothers Day last year. I was a sobbing, mother-no-longer who questioned, for the first time, everything about my faith and religion. In times of need, I had always turned to God. But where was he? He’d been AWOL when I called out to him. I had known God to answer prayers, but when I needed him most, he had utterly abandoned me.

I was mad at God for a long time. I stopped going to church. I stopped praying. If he didn’t answer my prayers when I needed him, why would I keep up my end of the relationship?

Eventually I returned to faith and prayer, not because of some enlightenment on my part, but because it was all I knew. God giveth and he taketh away. I don’t know why. There are no answers. I imagine Jesus felt the same way, dying on the crucifix, asking why must it be this way? When we sing, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me,” I want to say, Jesus I feel you! I hurt just like you.

Then I remember that it’s Easter, the defining moment of our faith–that there is life after death. Maybe this is what God is trying to teach me. Instead of simply reciting prayers, to genuinely draw strength from my faith. To truly believe in the spirit of Easter, that there is hope after despair. I had taken religion for granted because I had never truly suffered. It’s easy to draw on one’s faith when others are the ones in pain, but not when your own babies are dying.

I am pregnant and expecting a baby to be delivered safely into my arms in five weeks. Nevertheless, I am still traumatized by the two miscarriages I experienced. But I am comforted that we will meet again. That is the core of my religious beliefs.

This Easter, I ask that we look beyond the colorful baskets and flowers, the chocolate and candy, and remember that Jesus suffered, that people are in pain. I pray for all those who grieve, especially those who have miscarried or lost children way too soon. May we all find peace, whether through inner strength, the embrace of others, faith or God’s love.

Happy Easter.

Pregnancy Question #3: Resources

I’m back from a two week blogging hiatus as I worked 12 days straight, culminating with a 4:30am office arrival on Friday and a 12 hour marathon work day. Does anyone realize I am preggers?!

More importantly (or rather disconcertingly), my work has banned personal email and social meda. Hugely painful, especially since I’m not one to go for walks or take lunches. It’d be nice to take a break from work and check out my blog or Twitter feeds, but I’m unable to access Gmail, Bloglovin, Hootsuite, Pinterest…with more sites added to the restricted list every day. I tried to listen to an NPR podcast and that was blocked too. Totally ridiculous!

Now that I’m 34 weeks and in the home stretch, I’m starting to freak out about how laissez-faire I’ve been about the baby’s arrival. We haven’t taken a single class. The carseat hasn’t been installed. And there’s still a ton of shit we need to buy.

But I have managed to read the following:

expecting better book cover

I consider Expecting Better required reading for any pregnant woman. The author, Emily Oster, is an economist and professor at my alma mater University of Chicago. During her own pregnancy, she decided to get to the bottom of what pregnant women really should and should not do. You know how medical professionals will spout out all these things you’re not supposed to do: no caffeine, no alcohol, no sushi, etc. I love how she debunks a lot of myths about what’s not safe by intelligently analyzing the research.

Here are a few of the book’s key insights:

“It can take up to 9 months to resume your normal menstrual cycle after going off the pill, but there are no long-term effects on fertility.”

“There is no good evidence that light drinking during pregnancy negatively impacts your baby. You should be comfortable with 1-2 drinks a week in the first trimester and up to 1 drink a day in the second and third trimesters.”

“Epidural is very effective pain relief. But it increases the chance of some complications for the mother. Greater use of instruments (forceps or vacuum in delivery), greater use of C-section…, greater use of Pitocin in labor, greater chance of low maternal blood pressure,…increased chance of fever during labor.”

I encourage every pregnant woman to read the book so that you can be thoroughly informed about what you can/can’t do for 9 months!

ina may childbirth

The_Business_of_Being_BornIna May’s Guide to Childbirth and The Business of Being Born documentary both advocate natural childbirth. While they’re very propaganda-ish, I wanted to be inspired as I am not one to shy away from pain. If I can run marathons with absolutely no training, I can birth my baby without pain medication!

I actually prefer to be delivered by a midwife in a pool of warm water, but Dean is absolutely against it. That’s not to say I’m going to be a martyr, but I’m only saying that my preference is the natural route. We’ll see what ultimately happens. Whatever is best for the baby.

I’m really curious what an OB has to say about The Business of Being Born because it really paints the American health care system in a very bad light. It shows OBs automatically doling out drugs to induce labor to get women out of the hospital in a hurry.

happiest baby on the blockIf I know the 5 S’s, am I all set to take care of my newborn? I read The Happiest Baby on the Block book, then rented the DVD to watch with Dean. Looks easy enough. Hope it all helps!

Now I’m turning to you. What were your favorite pregnancy resources? Books, videos, classes? Let me know. I’d love to hear your advice. Please comment here on my blog (versus Facebook) so that everyone can see.

Take a look at my previous pregnancy questions and how readers responded:

Pregnancy Question #2: Diaper Decisions

Pregnancy Question #1: Epidural vs Drug-Free

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