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I had an unexpected pregnancy—and didn’t know how to feel

On a warm June morning, I typed at my laptop, sipped my iced latte and paused. The realization came unbidden: I couldn't remember the last time I had my period.

Weird.

I kept working, but on my lunch break I moved as though on autopilot to the drugstore, where I bought a two-pack of pregnancy tests at the speed of light and prayed I wouldn't run into a co-worker in the checkout line.

I came back to the office and peed on the little stick in a stall of the first floor bathroom, the one that was nearly always empty. I waited a few minutes, idly scrolled through Instagram and thought about what to make for dinner that evening.

Then I stared at the faint pink plus sign, and sat down on the toilet.

Wait, what?

I spent the rest of the day feeling slightly numb, like I had just heard life-changing news about somebody else—except, it was me. I couldn't connect the two dots. Me, pregnant? With a real, live baby?

I played around with the idea of not telling anyone, not even my husband, for a couple of days. Tests could be wrong, I told myself as I drove home. In a daze, I stopped at yet another drugstore, where I bought a Father's Day card.

I didn't know how to tell my husband the news—the news I couldn't process, the news that wasn't real to me—but part of me understood I would have to retell this part, this moment when we found out we would be parents. I wanted us to at least have a good story.

“Come home from work," I texted. I took another test. Still pink. Still happening.

Thirty minutes later he walked through the door. I handed him the card and he raised his eyebrows. “Uh, did I forget an anniversary or something?" He asked.

“No," I replied, and waited. I stood at the kitchen counter with my arms crossed. I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

He opened the card, and his eyes lingered on the handwritten “To be! (not kidding)" on the inside page. “No way…" His voice trailed off in a soft, shocked tone.

I handed him the two pregnancy tests, both positive.

“Yeah," I said.

How women are “supposed" to feel about pregnancy

Here's the thing: As an almost-married, heterosexual, middle-class woman at the ripe old age of almost 30, I was supposed to be stoked to be pregnant.

Except I wasn't.

I didn't really want a baby right then, nor did I experience undulated waves of joy about being a mother in the near future. But I didn't not want a baby, either.

I felt ambivalent, and I quickly learned that showing even the smallest sliver of uncertainty about the baby now on board in my uterus led to a double-edged societal sword—because for women, there's a strong, set narrative around female attitude and behavior when it comes to pregnancy and parenting.

The baby is now your main objective, your highest priority, your be-all and end-all, your source of passion and focus and interest.

Your entire existence now lives to serve that bustling bundle of joy; you must be on cloud nine 24/7, fully consumed with the idea of a child making your life “complete," ready to quit your day job and leave your hobbies behind to helicopter parent.

I viewed parenthood as something that would happen eventually, but not anytime soon. I loved to travel and drink whiskey and sip strong espresso and practice hot yoga and run 10Ks and curse (I still do!). Motherhood registered as a foreign event, something that happened to other, more grown-up, women: women who owned houses, who had zero student loan debt, who talked about baby fever. The concept of a child simply wasn't on my radar.

Part of me wanted to play the role of the dutiful pregnant woman. (What can I say? I'm a people pleaser at heart). I tried to remain open to unsolicited advice, eager to trade opinions about epidurals versus natural births, thrilled to discuss diaper brands.

I understood that the topic of pregnancy was considered low-hanging conversational fruit for women, just as the subjects of wedding planning and engagement tend to be, and I realized that most people meant well and brought it up as a show of interest and support.

I wanted the baby to be healthy, I tried to practice self-care whenever possible, and I hoped for the best. But my lack of interest in dissecting the details led to growing shame and guilt. Was I going to be a bad mom? Shouldn't I feel more, well, lucky? Shouldn't I be happier?

Mixed feelings are allowed

One day after a midwife appointment, worn down by anxiety and panic, I teared up as soon as I reached the parking lot and fumbled for my phone to call my mother.

“I hate being pregnant but I love the baby but I'm scared I'll suck at this and then I saw all the moms in the waiting room and everybody seems to know what they're doing except me and what if I'm terrible at it and I don't know if I want to breastfeed and I just want my body back and I miss wine and I'm sick of people asking me how I feel every second…" I rambled on.

“Whoa, honey," she replied.

I cried big, heavy sobs that took my breath away.

“You know," she said carefully. “It's okay if you weren't ready for all this."

And that's the thing: I wasn't ready.

I wasn't ready, and then we got pregnant, and then I had to figure out how to accept this new turn, the one for which I wasn't prepared.

No wonder I felt hesitant and scared about this unexpected change of events. And no wonder those emotions became even more pronounced as the pressure and expectations of how to be pregnant came bearing down at every turn.

Let go of all the “rules"

I'd love to say that some magical moment occurred during my pregnancy where I welcomed the concept of having a child, let go of all my vacillation about motherhood and instead looked forward to my due date with pure confidence and excitement. But that would be a lie. Instead, I had to do what I always do when it comes to change: Try to make peace with the journey.

First, I gave myself a giant permission slip to feel everything.

Instead of forcing down unwanted emotions, I let them all rush in on any given day: the sadness, gratitude, frustration, awe, confusion, excitement, grief, happiness, and longing. I invited each feeling to rise up to the surface of myself like a bubble blown from a wand, and then expand for as long as need be until each eventually popped and dissolved.

Second, I released the external expectations.

The expensive maternity clothes, the glowing demeanor, the stylish nursery, the chock-full registry, the “how to" books and articles, the right toys, and the heady rules about good and bad, right and wrong. I sought out role models, mamas with children who spoke openly about the difficulty of identity post-baby, who didn't seem to experience mass guilt and shame and anxiety about not being enraptured by pregnancy or motherhood, who refused to label themselves selfish for having a full sense of self and life in addition to their children.

Finally, when people asked how I felt, I told the truth instead of hiding behind the doors of 'should' and 'must' and 'always' and 'never.'

To my great surprise, many women and mothers responded by sharing their own authentic, vulnerable stories about struggling with these same issues. I wasn't alone. (I also killed the buzz during a lot of small talk efforts, but hey, connection comes at a cost.)

I cut myself some slack. I gave myself grace. And I felt immensely better almost immediately.

It's okay to be ambivalent, really.

Getting pregnant, having a baby, being a mom—these things weren't on my to-do list a year ago, and this next chapter of my life looks nothing how I anticipated. But that's okay. If anything, pregnancy taught me to better value and articulate the challenges of any significant life shift.

Too often, we're quick to dismiss other people's pain or discomfort during personal transitions; we want to point ahead to the shiny parts where everybody is in control and everyone says the right thing and everything looks good from the outside. I fall prey to that same inclination, but I've learned that it's more important to make space for, and to honor, the pain that can go hand-in-hand with big change.

So here's what I want to tell women, regardless of where they fall on the “Do I Want a Baby?" spectrum: It's okay if you don't know. It's okay if you are pregnant and you're not excited about it yet, or ever. It's okay if you hated being pregnant, but you love the end result—your child.

You're allowed to experience a wide spectrum of emotions when it comes to the profound prospect of bringing another human being into the world, whatever that may look like for you.

And when it comes to motherhood, you have permission to speak freely about your highs and lows, your joys and sorrows, your losses and lessons without fear of judgment that you're doing it wrong or should be doing it differently.

I can't wait to meet my baby and, in the same breath, I grieve the life I had before his or her arrival. Both truths will remain close to my heart as I let go of how I think my life should be, and instead embrace how it actually is.

Originally published by Julia Dellitt on theveerygirl.com.

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The shape appeals to kids and the organic and gluten-free labels appeal to parents in the freezer aisle, but if you've got a bag of Perdue's Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets, don't cook them.

The company is recalling 49,632 bags of the frozen, fully cooked Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets because they might be contaminated with wood.

According to the USDA, Perdue received three complaints about wood In the nuggets, but no one has been hurt.

The nuggets were manufactured on October 25, 2018 with a "Best By" date of October 25, 2019. The UPC code is 72745-80656. (The USDA provides an example of the packaging here so you'll know where to look for the code).


In a statement on the Perdue website the company's Vice President for Quality Assurance, Jeff Shaw, explains that "After a thorough investigation, we strongly believe this to be an isolated incident, as only a minimal amount of these packages has the potential to contain pieces of wood."

If you have these nuggets in your freezer you can call Perdue 877-727-3447 to ask for a refund.

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Mealtime can be one of the most stressful times for parents and kids, especially when there's a picky eater in the house. Your little might get anxious about their food touching, requesting a completely new meal. Or, they might avoid the foods altogether, leaving you concerned about their nutrition. While helping your child develop healthy eating habits is the ultimate goal, you can also incorporate products that will make mealtime more fun for everyone involved.

Here are our favorite products that help picky eaters be, well, less picky (or at least enjoy mealtime enough to not worry about certain foods!).

1. Food cubby

These silicone separates suction to the plate to keep separate foods from touching, or to keep runny foods from spreading. Say goodbye to tantrums from peas and corn touching, mama.

Food Cubby Plate Divider, Amazon, $14.99

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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[Trigger warning: This essay describes a woman's emotional journey with postpartum anxiety.]

I see you, mama.

I know you don't want to feel this way. I know you're terrified of everything in the world right now. I know you want to wrap your baby in a bubble and keep them safely in your arms forever. I know you can't "sleep when the baby sleeps" because you are too nervous to drift off in case they stop breathing. I know you don't want to let anyone near your little one because they could be carrying an illness. I know you've cried in the bathroom and begged for the voice to stop. And I know you love your child more than anything in the world.

I know because I was you.

I was in the 10% of estimated women who are affected by Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) but had no idea what I was experiencing. I worried about EVERY little thing but just brushed the fears aside, thinking this was just normal of first-time motherhood. But it was something more.

I lived in constant fear that my son was either going to get hurt or he was going to die.

It started the first week of being home from the hospital. I was so scared of SIDS that I actually googled "How much sleep do I need in order to survive?" I would only get two to three hours, not because my child was keeping me up, but because I was scared he would stop breathing and I wouldn't be awake to save him.

I would religiously wash all of his clothes with baby detergent and if I thought I mistakenly used regular detergent, I would rewash everything. I was afraid he would get a skin rash if I didn't. If my husband had the slightest hint of a cold, I would banish him to the guest room and handle all of the baby duties on my own until he was fully recovered.

I would wash and rewash bottles because I was afraid they weren't clean enough and convinced myself if I didn't then he would catch a rare illness. When we supplemented with formula, I wasted multiple cans because I was so scared I didn't measure it correctly, so I would dump it and start over.

I didn't want to be this way. I didn't want to let PPA be the thief of my joy, but anxiety doesn't care who you are or what you've been through. I knew my previous miscarriages attributed to my PTSD, which manifested into anxiety.

I knew I needed help.

I cried so many nights as my husband and baby boy slept because I just wanted to feel "normal." I didn't want to overanalyze every bump or rash or cough, I wanted to enjoy being a first time mom, but I felt like I was drowning.

On top of the anxiety was guilt. I had wanted this baby so badly—I wanted to feel joy, happiness, and gratitude, and yet I felt overwhelmed, sad, and miserable. What was happening?

I would tell myself not to worry, I'd try to convince myself a regular cold was just a cold. But then a voice would come into my head and make me second guess myself. What if it was a serious infection and became fatal if I ignored it? So I rushed my baby boy to the doctor every time I thought something was wrong.

I went to the pediatrician over 20 times in my son's first year of life. One time I went because I thought he had a cancerous mole, which turned out to be a piece of lint stuck to his hair. I felt like I was losing control of myself.

Eventually, when my son was 3 months old, I went to a therapist for help. I needed someone to hear me and give me the tools to overcome this. I am not without daily anxiety, I still have many fears and I have to bring myself back to reality, but I work on it every day. I cope and I make an effort to continue with my therapist so I can beat this.

Even though this topic is hard to write about, I have no shame in my story. Carrying a child is hard, giving birth is harder, and jumping onto the roller coaster of motherhood is one hormonal, wild ride.

Mamas, we are allowed to not be okay and we have every right to make that known. I wasn't okay and it took every ounce of strength I had to get myself out of the darkness.

If I could tell you anything about struggling with this, it is this: PPA is real, it is not normal, and getting help is okay. Do not feel ashamed, do not feel embarrassed, and don't for one second think you owe anyone an explanation.

Do not let a single person make you feel like you are less of a mother. You are a magnificent human being, a loving mama bear, and you will get through this.

I see you, and I'm holding space for you.

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Ready to bring a baby on board? Feelings of excitement can often be met with those of financial concern as you prep for this milestone. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2015, the cost of raising a child is $233,610—a number that can make anyone's jaw drop to the floor.

But before you start to worry, here are ways you can become more financially savvy before the baby is born:

1. Budget for healthcare costs

The cost of delivering a baby can vary by state, but suffice it to say it can be thousands of dollars. Castlight Health found that the lowest average cost of delivery was $6,075 in Kansas City, MO and the highest average cost $15,420 in Sacramento, CA. Costs are even higher for a Cesarean delivery.

The first thing you want to do is check your insurance and see what they will cover so what you will be responsible for. Then create a separate savings account so that you can cover any costs that you're on the hook for. You can set up automatic savings after each payday up until the baby is born to help assist with any healthcare costs associated with delivery.

2. Cut your expenses

Before the baby arrives, do a spending audit and see where you can slash some expenses. Free up any leftover money to help cover the increased costs that will come, such as food, clothes, and formula.

If you're struggling with how to do that, take a look at all of your expenses and write next to each either"want" or "need." Look at your "want" list and see which expenses are ones you can either eliminate or cut back on. If it doesn't bring you joy or add value, ditch it! You might even find subscriptions that you didn't know you had.

3. Go for second-hand goods

Of course, there are some things you definitely want to buy new for baby, but things like clothes and toys you can get second hand and save a lot of money. Your baby will grow so fast and buying new clothes every few months can add up. If your family members or friends have old baby clothes or toys they're willing to part with, it will save money and you can pay it forward down the line.

4. Look for sales or coupons

Clothes and toys are items that you can buy second hand, but products, like a car seat and crib are best new. You want to be up-to-date with safety and know what you're getting. Before going shopping, search for sales or coupons before you head out. A little research online can go a long way and save you hundreds.

5. Have a garage sale

If you need to make room for baby, it's time to get rid of items that you no longer use or need. Take all of the stuff you are planning to get rid of and have a garage sale to make extra money. You can also try selling online on Craigslist, Poshmark and OfferUp too.

Take the money you earn from selling your stuff and put it in your savings account earmarked for your baby.

6. Get a 529 plan

It's never too early to save for your baby's college. You can open a state-sponsored 529 plan which is a tax-advantaged savings account for education-related costs. Instead of asking for gifts or toys from family and friends, you can request money to go toward a 529 plan. It will be an impactful gift that will help your child in the future and help lessen the financial burden on you.

7. Prep now instead of later

Your whole world will change when your baby arrives, so in order to save money, time and stress, create a plan now. Is there a family or friend close by who can babysit if you need some rest or have to run an errand? Ask them now if they can help out.

Start preparing meals in bulk that can be in the freezer and easily made so you don't have to think about food. Put your bills on autopay so that you don't miss any payments and get hit with late fees. Know how long you can get maternity or paternity leave and understand how that will affect your income and budget. Getting all of this ready ahead of time can help you in the long run.

8. Purchase life insurance

While thinking about why you need life insurance can be a bit stressful, preparation is essential, especially when you're adding another member to your family. Life insurance will provide financial support if you had a loss of income due to something happening to either you or your partner.

9. Understand any tax benefits

The birth of your baby will affect your taxes, which can actually end up putting more money back into your pocket. Do some research online and see how a dependent will change your taxes in your state, such as new exemptions available. Or, find a trusted accountant or tax specialist in your area who can walk you through your options.

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