When life with baby doesn’t go according to plan

As a new mom, I’ve learned plans don’t mean much of anything.

When life with baby doesn’t go according to plan

For #MotherlyStories | My husband and I are planners by profession.

He’s an electrical engineer who sometimes spends months on complex projects. He reviews tiny notations over and over again. He’s the quintessential “measure twice, cut once” guy.

I’m a former journalist, if there is such a thing. I now teach mass communication at a community college, where I advise a student newspaper. My course outlines are meticulous. When I went on maternity leave for six weeks during the spring 2014 semester, I left my substitute a detailed “how to” guide complete with custom dividers.

We have a pseudo script for even the most innocuous of events.


So the fact we’re diverging from one of the biggest plans of our life is something of note these days to those who know us well. We’ve put our plans to have another baby on hold because, simply put, I’m just not ready yet. Maybe I will be in another year. But this wasn’t the family situation I thought I had planned.

When we married in 2008, I was 24 and he was 27. We were young. The average age American women say “I do” for the first time today is 27, according to the Pew Research studies. For men, it’s 29. Across the Internet, there’s fun graphics proclaiming the “decline in marriage among the young.”

That’s not us. We met when I was a high school senior. He was a second-year college student. I took him to prom. He asked me to be his designated driver when he turned 21. We spent years shuffling reliable and not-so-reliable cars between universities in Northern California and internships in other states during a three-year long distance relationship.

By 2008, we had degrees and jobs. We were finally sending out “save the dates.”

Immediately after walking down the aisle, we got the questions:

When was the baby coming? How long would we wait?

We had other plans. We saved to buy a house. I took an editing job with longer hours that kept me away from home because I was trying to “lean in” before it was a thing. We went on daylong hikes with views of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands. We ate expensive dinners in Carmel. We took a dream vacation to New York City.

We told each other five years would be a good goal of marriage to get to sans child, especially in a time we were seeing so many friends’ marriages end only after a few years.

In 2013, over an Italian anniversary dinner of gnocchi at one of our favorite restaurants, we decided it was time to try. We’d wait for the beginning of the school year and plan for the baby to be born near the end of the spring semester or after finals. Because that was a good plan.

We got pregnant the second month we tried.

The first 26 weeks were magical. Sure, I was tired. But I kept running the first trimester. I was still able to knock out a 10 miler with friends at 18 weeks. I did yoga twice a week.

Reality hit hard in the third trimester when my legs swelled like balloons and my blood pressure began inching up. I felt like throwing up all the time. I could barely move when I got home from work.

At 32 weeks my doctors ordered regular fetal non-stress tests. At 34 weeks, those tests increased to twice a week. At 36 weeks I was leaning over my swollen belly searching for my feet as I was being discharged from the hospital with a gigantic jug to capture my urine for two days for a lab test. The results sent me back to my doctor where I waited 45 minutes, uncharacteristic of her office, until she finally came in and said: “We are delivering you at 37 weeks because of pre-eclampsia.”

Stunned, I could only eek out a response.

“That’s Sunday,” I said.

“Yes. It is,” she responded as she typed the orders.

Things didn’t go well at the hospital. After 36-hours of induction and nothing going as planned, I had an emergency C-section where I was put under general anesthesia because I could feel the initial scalpel cut into my body.

I don’t have a beautiful birth story. I don’t even really have a birth story at all. I was handed my daughter before I was given pain medication for the incision that had just been cut below my belly button. The first moments I had with her were excruciating. She was bundled snugly in my arms, so peaceful and content. I felt like I was going to pass out from the discomfort. I asked my husband to take her away.

It’s hard for me to think about it, let alone write about it. The hole the doctor cut that day may have physically healed, but not emotionally.

The problem with all this is that we had a plan for how our family would come together. We wanted our daughter to have a brother or sister in spring or summer of next year. We told ourselves that two years was a good amount of time between children.

But I’m petrified of being pregnant again.

So many women talk about loving pregnancy and how it truly encompasses the best moments of their lives. I have Facebook friends who look amazing after giving birth to their second, third or fourth children. They banter about their all-natural births and how they did it without medical intervention.

Modern medicine saved me from a likely seizure before I could even meet my child. At some point in those blurry days after my daughter was born, I remember someone telling me I could have died.

And yet, my husband wanted to stick to the original plan for parenthood in those initial months. He told me the next time would be better.

Seventeen months later, I’m not convinced. Conversations about it paralyze me. He reminded me earlier this year, after our daughter’s first birthday, that we had a timeline for a second baby. We were, in many ways, at an impasse.

He wants another child, sooner rather than later. I can see it in his face. Having our daughter made him a different person, one that understands time passes fast and we only have so many moments. He’s sentimental now in a way he’s never been.

But we were both looking for an “out” from the plan – me for cowardly reasons, him because after 13 years together he knows pushing his stubborn wife only makes her dig in her heels more.

Four months ago we got it. After working as an adjunct professor for five years I accepted a tenure-track full-time position this fall. Six weeks ago, I started my new job. I made a declaration before I ever walked into my first lecture section: I didn’t want to be pregnant my first year teaching full time.

Suddenly there’s a new plan. It’s one that includes me showering my toddler with as much love as possible while running a program and building curriculum. It’s one that gives me another year to recover from the invisible scars of difficult pregnancy and childbirth. It’s one I wouldn’t have been comfortable with two years ago.

As a new mom, I’ve learned plans don’t mean much of anything. That doesn’t make them irrelevant, but, rather, moveable. So I’m accepting this non-bump in the road for the next year – especially if the end goal puts me in a better place to embrace the original plan.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

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