Category Archives: pregnancy

When the royal bump makes as many headlines as the royal baby

Britain's Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge hold the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for the media outside St. Mary's Hospital's exclusive Lindo Wing in London where the Duchess gave birth on Monday July 22. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain’s Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, hold the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for the media on Monday July 22. The duchess’ postpartum profile made just as many headlines as the arrival of her newborn son. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Big news hit this week when Prince William and Duchess Kate appeared with their new bundle of joy for the whole world to see. There was much ado about something – from the excitement over the new heir to the unofficial town crier.

But one thing that shouldn’t have made waves among news headlines and the wide world of the mommy blogosphere was Kate’s “bravery” in showing off her post-baby belly.

What a back-handed compliment that is, isn’t it?

It’s a sad day when “bravery” is the word used when a new mother is shown sporting the natural inflation of her belly one day postpartum – as if she should be expected to hide all proof of pregnancy once her baby is born. The honest truth is, bravery shouldn’t even be associated with the acceptance of this reality – that a swollen abdomen is the natural state of a woman’s belly in the weeks, even months, after birth.

And yet, not everyone accepts this truth.

In an AP article, one woman was quoted as saying the best piece of advice she got before her first child was born was to pack a girdle in her maternity bag, and admitted to even wearing it to bed at night to hide her changed figure. (Read the article here —> http://bit.ly/11gZSxA)

One shapewear company wasted no time in using Kate’s figure to remind new mommies to hide their protruding belly.

If we were to believe Hollywood, women skip out of the delivery room wearing the same size they wore pre-pregnancy. In fact, many actresses take to hiding from the public until they’ve lost all effects the pregnancy has on their bodies.

And the pressure continues for women to feel awful about themselves if they look anything less than perfect.

Here’s the truth. The weeks after having a baby, a new mother should expect to still look pregnant. And after having a child, her body will NEVER look the same as it did before pregnancy. Some may never lose the weight, some will only hold on to a few pounds, and a few will manage to work their way into the same size. But a post-pregnant body is changed forever – from a few new stretch marks, wider hips, smaller or larger breasts, increased shoe size (seriously)….

Sixteen years ago, my mother tried to tell me this truth. I was three months pregnant, still holding on to my teeny tiny pre-pregnancy frame despite a cute little bump where my flattened stomach used to be. I had just gone shopping earlier that day, and found the cutest form fitting dress in a size I could have worn easily three months earlier. At this point, it still looked cute, though my baby belly stretched out the material at the waist. My plan was to save it for after the baby was born. But my mom pointed out that after carrying a baby for nine months, my body would never fit into that small size again.

I didn’t believe her. I reluctantly returned the dress, but I told her that she’d see, I would walk out of that hospital wearing a size 0 carrying my delicate little bundle of joy.

That little bundle of joy ended up being 9 lbs, 12 oz of solid baby. And my body was most definitely transformed after gaining FIFTY pounds throughout the whole pregnancy. While I lost 30 pounds in the hospital (thank you, gestational diabetes and extreme water gain), I held on to the rest of that weight long after the day my daughter was born.

Sixteen years later, and I don’t think my stomach has ever been back to flat.

By refusing to girdle her stomach, Kate was not being brave, she was being honest, and she was showing the public where her priorities landed – on her new son and his first appearance in front of the world. Isn’t that where all our priorities should land – on the miracle of new life instead of how large or small the mother’s belly is?

A body that has been through carrying a human being to full term should not be expected to stay the same – whether the day after birth, or when your child is getting ready to start driving a car. And the pressure of perfection being placed on a woman’s shape at any point in her life needs to stop – especially when it comes to what her body looks like after giving birth.

Why use a Doula?

In honor of International Doula Month, I am including a guest post by Marianna Terhune CD, CMA, LS, CBE of DoulaMoon.net.  Marianna is a local DONA certified birth doula who has not only helped countless families as they welcome new life into their families, she is also a part of a group of doulas who help lead educational classes at My Baby News in Santa Rosa every month.  More information on how doulas can help make birth easier can be found in a previous article by clicking HERE.  And if you’re interested in attending the next free Speaker Series (topic: Baby Signing Class) at My Baby News on May 12th, information can be found by clicking HERE.

Why Use a Doula?
by Marianna Terhune CD, CMA, LS, CBE

Nicole Kidman did it, so did Kelly Ripa, Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford and Ricki Lake. Doulas are the latest Hollywood “pregnancy essential” and moms all over Sonoma County are following their lead, getting a head start on the stork without breaking the bank. Since May is “International Doula Month” and with Mother’s Day right around the corner, we thought this would be the perfect time to highlight this growing profession. Doulas aren’t just for the rich and famous, these days most women can get the support Kidman and Ripa receive without going into debt. DONA International is the oldest and largest organization of doulas in the world with more than 7,000 members in more than 20 countries. DONA doulas offer a variety of services that allow all women to receive the care they deserve from a doula at such a special time in their lives, if they wish to have it.

Birth doulas accompany women and their partners in labor, providing emotional support and physical comfort. They facilitate communication with caregivers to help clients feel fully informed, provide reassurance, perspective and help with relaxation, positioning and other labor support techniques.

Postpartum doulas help new mothers in the early weeks with their new baby. Parents find the additional help with breastfeeding, education on newborn care, errand running, nighttime support and assistance with anything else a new family needs invaluable. The word doula comes from the Greek word meaning *a woman who serves.* Studies have shown that a doula’s presence at births results in shorter labors with less complications, fewer requests for pain medications and/or epidurals and a reduction in labor-enhancing drugs (Pitocin), forceps, vacuum extraction and cesareans. Postpartum doulas reduce the stress involved in being a new mom. Doula care has also been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of postpartum depression. Doulas like to say that they “mother the mother.” I am available to discuss doulas and International Doula Month.

I and a local mom who has used a doula in Sonoma County can also talk about how doulas can give moms the “star treatment” and how they can be affordable to families during these difficult economic times. There is also a County Doula Program that provides Doulas for moms in need. Plus FREE Educational classes are done once an month at My Baby News in partnership with the local birth and postpartum Doulas to help educate expecting moms and their families about labor, birth, child care and all the options and choices that come with parenthood. Here are the last three months classes, Cloth Diapers, Infant Sleep Solutions and Baby Sign Language. We also do classes on car seats, Labor classes, infant care, breast feeding and much, much, more. Please contact me at the number or e-mail below to schedule an interview. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Marianna Terhune CD, CMA, LS, CBE
Doulamoon.net
(707)486-6265

“Peace truly Begins at Birth”, because how we come into this world makes a difference!

8 ways to relieve stress

A study published last month in the American Journal of Epidemiology found children whose mothers experienced a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one or divorce, while they were pregnant were 71 percent more likely to be hospitalized with a severe infectious disease than children of women who did not undergo prenatal stress. And even the children of women who experienced such an event 11 months before conception were 42 percent more likely to be hospitalized with severe infectious disease than the children of stress-free women.

However, don’t let these findings stress you out: The women in this study had suffered truly difficult, life-altering events. So if you’re going through the everyday stress that is called LIFE, your baby will likely be fine. Nevertheless, when we are pregnant our babies are affected by everything we eat, breathe, and even what we feel.  So it’s a pretty good idea to relieve as much stress as possible.

So it’s clear, ladies. Take it easy…..right?

Well, obviously it’s not that easy. But there are some things you should do to relieve some of your stress, whether you are pregnant, want to be pregnant, or have ankle biters already screaming that they’re hungry and want to be picked up. 

Here’s a few tips: 

1. Take daily walks. It’s proven that a little exercise induces happier feelings, thus chasing away those tendencies to feel stressed. When we’re happier, we’re more relaxed. And when we’re more relaxed, we have a better handle on our day. Hey, and you can even push a stroller while doing it!

2. Get help. Too much mess? Make a game with the kids to clean up. Share chores with the hubby. Or even work a system out with friends to help clean each other’s house. And if all else fails, get a giant box and put everything in it so you don’t have to look at it any longer and can go through it when you’re done. A cluttered room causes a cluttered mind. Get rid of the mess, and the stress will leave too.

3. Take a break. Swap kids with friends, let the hubby take over, give the grandparents their grandkid fix. Whatever you can do to get away for a few hours a week, DO IT. Taking breaks from mommyhood will actually help you appreciate your kids more, and make you a better mom. So when you have to drop off the kids, let them know you’re doing this FOR THEM. But it’s for you too, Mom.

4. Develop a hobby. Whether it’s painting gorgeous scenery in a field of poppies or coloring within the lines at your kitchen table, do something that allows you to escape the daily grind and feel young and carefree once again.

5. Laugh more. Play with the kids, watch a funny movie or comedy show, share stories with friends… Get those laughing endorphins moving and watch your stress melt away.

6. Get lucky. There, I said it. Sex can be a wonderful stress reliever. Of course, this is easiest done after the house is clean, the kids are gone, and you’ve spent the night hunched over in laughter. But not everything always works out that way. But regardless, it’s so important to make special time for you and your honey to be intimate with each other. So put the kids to bed early, pamper each other with a 5 minute shoulder squeeze, and then ravage each other as if it were just the two of you all over again.

7. Enjoy the silence. No, I’m not joking. Somehow, someway, find a short period of time when you can escape the kids, the Internet, your phone, everything that is a distraction, and be still and quiet. Even if it’s only 5 minutes, use that time to breathe in and out deeply and regroup. You can do it during your daughter’s nap, or while your son is playing in his playpen. Or when daddy enters the room, toss him the baby and run out before he knows what hits him.

8. Write it down.  Have something taking over your head?  Get it out of your head and on paper.  From the birth plan you’re creating to the meal you plan on making for dinner, jot it on a piece of paper so that you’re not mulling it over in your mind trying not to forget it.  Let the paper do the remembering for you.

What are some ways that you relieve stress?

Electing an early induction

There are many reasons that a pregnant mother might choose to have labor induced early. She wants to avoid having a large baby. She doesn’t want to gain any more weight. She wants to prevent any further stretch marks. It’s more convenient to have the child earlier because that’s when family can be in town, work obligations are looming, or there is a birth date that is preferred. They may want to avoid having their child born under a certain zodiac sign, or prevent their birth from happening on an important holiday or another family member’s birthday. Or, labor is scheduled early to work around the doctor’s vacation schedule. Not only that, nine months of carrying around this bowling ball that is increasing its weigh every week, pressing on the sciatica, kicking at the ribs, making it harder and harder to sit, stand, roll over, breathe…. By the time the third trimester hits, a pregnant woman is so ready to get that baby out of her that time pretty much stands still. And a baby is considered full term as soon as they enter the 37th week of pregnancy. Many of these elective inductions are being performed at 39 weeks – only 1 week early and a couple weeks into being considered full term.

So what’s the big deal?

A lot. During those last few days or weeks in the womb, a baby’s lungs are still developing. Their vision and brain are still maturing. And they are still putting on vital weight. Babies born too early are not only susceptible to problems resulting from unfinished development, they are also known to sleep longer and to have a hard time learning how to breastfeed, a prime cause for dehydration and jaundice. And being that the rate for elected inductions in the US has tripled since 1990, this is a national concern.

From a recent news article:

One mother, Michelle Van Norman, gave birth to her second child, Christian, 11 days early in 2006, despite no urgency noted on her medical records. The doctor wrote on her chart: “This is a pleasant white female in no apparent distress.”

Van Norman, a 31-year old mom living in Las Vegas, said her doctor didn’t seem worried about the date.”There were no medical reasons for the delivery being early,” Van Norman said. “He told me the week he could do it and asked me to choose which day was best for us.”

After his birth by C-section, one of Christian’s lungs collapsed. He spent three weeks in intensive care and 10 days on a ventilator with six tubes going into his chest. It’s unclear what caused Christian’s lung to collapse, but this condition is strongly associated with early childbirth.

“The whole experience was horrific,” Van Norman said. “It didn’t end with the birth it continued for the first year of his life, and we still don’t know if the oxygen deprivation has had any effect on him.”

(Read more HERE.)

At least one state has taken a stand in this by outlawing elective inductions before 39 weeks. Minnesota has created a policy that requires hospitals to put forth a plan for reducing early inductions by 2012. And if they don’t? They will be required to fill out a crazy amount of paperwork for every single induction they perform before 39 weeks gestation. It’s not to say that medically necessary inductions won’t be allowed, but it’s to serve as a motivation for doctors to not perform an early induction when it isn’t necessary. And this policy might serve as a guideline for future policies in other states – ours included.

I agree with Minnesota here. I can’t see why a matter of convenience should outweigh the healthy development of a child. If there is no medical reason for a child to be born early, they should stay put until the time is right. And I would fully support any policy that comes about to prevent inductions that are performed unnecessarily. Of course, sometimes it’s vital for both the health of the baby and the mother for the baby to leave the womb early. But these designer birth plans that involve an early labor to avoid weight gain or when it’s conducive to everyone’s schedule at the risk of the baby’s health? Unacceptable. And it should be stopped.

How doulas make birth easier

Throughout history, a laboring woman was surrounded by a group of women who supported her throughout the process of labor and childbirth – ensuring optimal comfort through backrubs and emotional support. This system is still in place today, though many women aren’t even aware it exists. The term for the person filling this support role is “doula”, the ancient Greek word for “woman’s servant”. While a doula wouldn’t be classified as a servant nowadays, they are trained and experienced to provide emotional and physical support to the woman in the days to months leading up to the birth, during the birth, and during the postpartum period as they adjust to life with a new baby in the household. In essence, they serve as an advocate for the woman, and for her own family.

By the way, a doula can be either a man or a woman, but is generally a woman. From here on out, I will be referring to the doula in the feminine sense, but please know that the role of a doula is not segregated solely as a female profession.

So what role does a doula play? First of all, it’s important to understand what a doula isn’t. A doula is a non-medical role. She is not there to deliver your baby, to take your blood pressure, or perform any other medical task. She will not give you medical advice. She won’t speak for you in the hospital room, or give you her personal opinion on how things should go. Rather, a doula is there to promote your comfort through physical support, offer information that you need, to help your partner best know how to comfort you, and to ensure that your entire experience is as close to your birth plan as possible. A doula is the hands of experience that helps a laboring woman feel at ease as she experiences one of life’s greatest accomplishments – bringing life into this world.

According to numerous clinical studies cited by DONA International  (formerly known under the acronym of Doulas of North America), the oldest and largest doula organization in the world, there are several notable effects to having a doula present during childbirth. A doula’s presence can result in shorter labors with fewer complications. She can lessen fear and any negative feelings a mother might have towards childbirth. Her presence reduces the need for Pitocin (a drug that induces labor), forceps, or extraction by vacuum, and also reduces a mother’s need for pain medication or epidurals, and the chance of having to resort to a c-section.

But why? The studies show that a woman enduring childbirth does better when they are emotionally and physically supported by a doula. Having someone there whose sole purpose is for her comfort allows the mother and her partner to relax. If she or her partner has any questions, a doula can help them find that information. If something doesn’t feel right, having that experienced support person in the room gives them the courage to speak up. Research done by DONA has also proven that families that have doulas adapt to the new family dynamics more easily, have less postpartum depression, have lower incidence of abuse, and have greater success breastfeeding their child.

There are two different kinds of doulas available: a labor/birth doula and a postpartum doula. A labor or birth doula is someone who is trained to physically and emotionally support a mother leading up to and during her labor and delivery. Before delivery, she helps the woman know what will happen, guides her as she forms her birth plan, assists her in knowing what she will want to pack for the hospital, and helps her to come across the information she needs, even assisting with questions she needs to ask her doctor. During labor, she is available to comfort the woman physically, offer words of encouragement, and/or guide those there to support the woman so that she is as comfortable as possible. A birth doula does not replace the mother’s partner, but can actually be a relief to the partner as she guides them in how to best help the mother. A postpartum doula is there to support a mother and her family after the baby arrives. She guides the mother and baby through breastfeeding, or is able to refer the mother to a lactation consultant. She is there to emotionally support the mother and her family as they adjust to all the changes a new baby can bring to a household, including assistance with the new baby, cooking, light housekeeping, and running errands.

The Doula Connection is a local doula association here in Sonoma County, their main purpose being to pair families with a doula through their childbirth experience. Every second Thursday of the month, The Doula Connection offers free childbirth classes at My Baby News (3011A Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa), including topics like childbirth options, breastfeeding, infant care, cord blood banking, and also offer information about the newest baby products at the store.

Linda Miranda, recommended by The Doula Connection, serves as one of the excellent doulas in our county. Helping women in their journey through childbirth since she first volunteered in 2004, she has discovered a passion in guiding women and their families through the transition. Through Miranda Birth Services, she has successfully guided many women and their families through childbirth, supporting them through the process so that they are as comfortable as possible. “I try to think about how I would handle this if she were my sister, how could I make her more comfortable,” Linda told me as she described her care for a laboring woman. “My hope is that every birthing woman would be able to experience birth and the first months postpartum without overpowering fear, with lots of support and a happy family! A doula’s role is to help families gather information, shower them with encouragement and provide an experienced set of hands.”

By the way, I encourage you to check out Linda’s blog on her website. My favorite feature is the music playlists she includes for listening to with newborns, or for calming the senses of a mother when her little one is entering the world for the first time. Look for them under “Music Mondays”.

If you have questions about the role of a doula, the process of childbirth or labor, or even postpartum issues, I urge you to leave them in the comments. Linda will be answering all questions asked.

Losing a baby

October 9th – 15th has been designated Babyloss Awareness week

He would have been 8 this year. He would have been ending his soccer season, playing with other boys in the 3rd grade, and probably leaving multiple messes for me to clean up. He would have been one more forehead to kiss goodnight, another body to cuddle on family movie nights, and another kid to remind that he needs to brush his teeth. Instead, he is remembered as a fairly easy pregnancy that ended unexpectedly in the 7th month, suddenly making me grow up to a different reality of life as I knew it.

Stillbirth. It’s not a topic that is easy to talk about for anyone. In fact, I was ashamed to mention the word for years after it happened, afraid of making others feel uncomfortable or plaguing them with the curse I bore. It caused me confusion in how to answer “How many kids do you have?” I have three kids. Just one of them is in Heaven. But I never actually knew who he was.

But that wasn’t true. I did know him. I knew him before I even felt his first kick. He was living and breathing inside of me, through me. I knew him by the little flutter of a heartbeat that was heard through the Doppler, the rhythmic beat that danced around the slightly slower beat of my own heart, working its way into the very crevices that held the love of my children. And when I did finally feel him, it was like he was saying, “Hey mom, here I am,” with every single nudge of his foot. I lost my shape in favor of a larger belly. And though he was unplanned, my growing belly brought me joy as I anticipated his arrival in November, caressing the roundness he created. The nursery was set up, the rocking chair next to the same crib his sister and brother had slept in so that I could rock him to sleep while reading him “Goodnight Moon”. The reality of another couple years of diapers was accepted as the new norm. And all I had left to do was wait until I could meet him.

I just didn’t know I would meet him so soon, and under such circumstances.

It was September 20th when I felt a series of sharp, fluttering kicks to my abdomen. The movement alarmed me, and I stood still for a few moments. Something was wrong. A friend asked if I was ok, and I quickly brushed the fear aside, figuring it was nothing. It wasn’t until 2 days later when I realized those fluttering kicks were the last time I had felt him move. A few calls back and forth with the nurse in the ER, and I was on my way to the hospital. I still felt that it was nothing, and figured it was better to be a neurotic mom-to-be than not worried enough. But I didn’t expect for them to tell me that the baby’s heart was not beating.

His cord had twisted shut, lacking enough Wharton’s jelly to keep it full to allow enough nutrients and fluids to his body. He had starved to death inside of me. My very first thoughts were that my body had failed him – that I had failed him – even though there was nothing I could have done differently to change the circumstances. The next was my insistence that I did not want to go through another C-Section. For the first time ever, I experienced childbirth. But instead of a healthy 8 pound baby, I gave birth to a 2 pound, 12 ounce body. He was stillborn on September 23rd, 2002.

Stillbirth happens. Miscarriage happens. Infant death happens. It’s an unimaginable tragedy that can’t truly be comprehended until it is experienced firsthand. No one wants to think about a baby dying. No one can imagine the pain that follows the tragedy. And it’s hard to believe that life can go on afterwards.

But it does.

The very first week after my son was gone, a neighbor told me about her own experience with stillbirth. And she told me that eventually there comes a day when you realize you haven’t thought about your lost baby all day long. And then a week goes by. And then a month. I couldn’t believe it, and was almost offended by the mere mention that I would actually forget about my deceased baby. I spent the first year after his death remembering him in everything I did. I grew angry and depressed. My two living children grew up right in front of my eyes, and I barely saw them. I was so consumed with the son that would never be that life itself stopped existing for me.

But eventually it did happen. I started waking up from the world of darkness and death, and I started seeing the light. And over time, I moved back into the land of the living, recognizing the world that was already here and that housed my living children who needed me. Sure, I felt guilty at first, as if I was denying the son who would never grow up. But now I can think of him without feeling sad.

October 9th – 15th has been designated Babyloss Awareness week. It is a week dedicated to mothers and families who have lost babies – from miscarriage to stillbirth to losing an infant that once lived and breathed. It is a week when we remember those babies, knowing in our hearts that they will always be counted as one of our own. It is when we move through the various stages of our grief, from the very first moments of disbelief to the reality that life will always be different, but we just learn to keep moving through it. If you have lost a child, you are in my thoughts, and in the thoughts of other mothers who know your pain firsthand.

I leave you with a poem that I wrote several years later in memory of my son.

Brittle Leaves
A Poem by Crissi Dillon

It is in the golden brown of brittle leaves
that I think of you most.
My breath,
suspended momentarily
in a cloud of warmth against the crisp air,
expanding from its small containment
and reaching to the earth and sky,
          breathes for you.

You exist between each click of the second hand,
          when time momentarily stops
                   and all that can be heard
          is the deafening roar
in the silence of a stilled heart.
The mornings are darker, the days shorter,
the hours precious as time slips by….
I wonder if I had only loved you more
                    would you still be here today?
The dates set in stone
that I have traced my fingers over
          again and again
are etched in my mind
much more complete
than the memory of your face
that has faded with time.
                    Yet I know you by heart.

It was in the golden brown of brittle leaves
where you said your goodbyes
in a moment only we shared,
when the world around us
disappeared for a time,
leaving us floating in suspended reality
                    where all I felt was you
fluttering faintly from my grasp.
Yet with each setting of the summer moon
and rising of the autumn sun,
when the leaves turn from green
          to red
                    to a golden brown,
I smile at your spirit
that exists in the laughter of a child
and floats in the wind
          with the remnants of trees.
Peace has melted together
the broken figments
of my injured heart,
          revealing the beauty in leaves of golden brown,
                    gently holding them before letting them drift away,
                             watching them stay strong in the wind
                   while knowing they could shatter in an instant,
          setting you free with a delicate prayer
of love for an autumn’s child.

Being a teen mom

I started family life at a relatively young age. I first found out I was pregnant at 19 years old, was married by 22, and finished my family planning by 23 when I had my son. And at 26 I was divorced. I had cycled through a whole lifetime in a matter of years, and before any of my friends had even thought about settling down. But that was ok. While it was tough in those first years as a young parent learning on the job, I was glad that I wasn’t beating down that biological clock that was just starting to tick for my friends by their late 20’s. Been there, done that, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt, a bigger food bill, and some amazing kids to raise on my own.

Thing is, that biological clock doesn’t just magically go away – even if I had experienced it all already.

Now I am 32. My daughter is closing in on 13, my son almost to double digits. Their father is absent once again, and for the moment we are working on that reality being a part of our norm. I am dating a wonderful man with an amazing son. And this man is kinder to me and my kids than any man has ever been to us. We are all happy in this life that has settled down to something as comfortable as a favorite sweater on a winter’s day by the fire. And while nothing is perfect, this is pretty damn close to it.

But at 32, my friends are all at that age where new love is blooming. And that love is solidified by numerous announcements of wedding plans. Gorgeous ceremonies take place, my friends enveloped by white and taking those first steps with their new husband, love radiating from their eyes. And a year or two after those celebrations, a new announcement is made. Their family of two is about to become three.

Having just gone to another beautiful wedding this past weekend, it’s hard to describe the feelings that go along with taking part in this joy. Of course there is happiness. You watch your friend experience something that you once took part of, and you know exactly what they are feeling. You are excited for them, remembering those first years of being a part of a union that seemed unbreakable. You remember what it was like to be only two, and then suddenly be three, and then one day, four. But when your own version of this fairy tale took place and ended in the last 10 years, wistfulness is an underlying tone in this happiness. And in my case, the fairy tale version of how a marriage and family planning is supposed to be didn’t exactly match the reality.

My teenage pregnancy meant shame, especially since the father and I were on the rocks already. Friends came to me and strongly suggested adoption, even abortion. I fought against it. The father and I reconciled, but I was living without him in my parents’ house when I had the baby at 20. We didn’t move in together until she was 4 months old. And we didn’t marry until she was 18 months. I wore a purple dress, a choice made mostly because, let’s face it, the jig was up. The wedding was perfect, exactly how I wanted it to be. But I admit that it was an unextravagant wedding on purpose, as I already had a child and we were already living as a family. Our funds were dedicated to the family that was already created. Paying for a huge wedding was not in any of our means, and would have been too ridiculously frivolous.

In essence, by becoming pregnant young and marrying out of necessity, I had robbed myself of so much. I robbed myself of my youth, as I was nursing a baby while my friends lived it up in their glory days. I robbed myself of that innocent excitement of wondering what it would be like to live with this new person following our wedding, just the two of us. I missed out on the joy of discovering that we would be welcoming a baby into the world, a baby that was planned – or even a joyfully unexpected surprise that was happening when it was supposed to. I missed out on family planning at the same time as all my friends, being able to compare and contrast notes as our babies grew together. And at 32, while my kids are at that halfway point between baby and being out on their own, my friends are all just starting out on their own adventures. And while I am happy for them, it gives me that feeling reminiscent of a biological clock ticking.

Don’t get me wrong, I would never change the way things are. I am so in love with my kids that sometimes it feels like my heart is going to jump out of my chest for them. My daughter is a carbon copy of me, almost as tall and with a better sense of humor than I ever had. My son is growing into a young man that I am incredibly proud of. And in both of them, I can see the adults they are going to be – so much clearer than I could see when they were just babies. I can relax into parenthood now, at the young age of 32. While my friends are gearing up for labor, suffering sleepless nights, and chasing around toddlers, I get to hang out with my kids and share the household duties with them. And when their kids get to that stage, I will be in my early 40’s and experiencing the quiet of an empty nest.

But when I speak to my daughter about the life cycle, marriage, and family planning, I stress the importance of waiting. And it’s the best advice I could give to any teen that is starting to feel like a baby will be the answer to all their problems. Yes, a baby will give you joy. But with that joy, a lot of life will be sacrificed. And you won’t realize the full extent of all you missed out on until years later when your biological clock rewinds and haunts you with that damn incessant ticking.