What I Didn't Know About Pregnancy and Birth: Podcast Episode #107
Today Kristin and Alyssa talk about some interesting, and funny, and gross things that happened to their bodies during pregnancy and birth that were a bit unexpected! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi and welcome to the Ask the Doulas podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and I am here with my business partner, Kristin, the other owner.
Alyssa: Hey. So we had a podcast a while ago where we talked about things we wished we would have known postpartum. And then we decided to talk about things we wish we would have known about pregnancy and just kind of talk about some of the weird experiences that we went through personally. Maybe some funny things, maybe some gross things; who knows. But yeah, what was your pregnancy like? You had two.
Kristin: Yes. So with my daughter Abby, I had a pretty easy pregnancy up until 37 weeks. My midwife used to call it the perfect pregnancy up until I got preeclampsia. But yeah, I didn’t gain a whole lot of weight. I wasn’t — I mean, I had a lot of nausea.
Alyssa: Like, just in the beginning, or the whole time?
Kristin: All of my pregnancy. I was driving to Lansing every day for work, and I would pull over — I would plan out my day so I left really early because I would need to pee, so I would stop at the rest stop near Portland or, like, actually pull into a grocery store in Portland and use the bathroom because I could never make it the whole way to Lansing, and I also needed to walk around. My legs just didn’t do that well driving and would get kind of tingly and needed to move.
Alyssa: And that’s only an hour drive from here, right?
Kristin: About an hour — depending on traffic, yeah. An hour-ish.
Alyssa: So in an hour to an hour and a half’s time, you couldn’t sit for that long or go that long without peeing?
Kristin: And there were multiple times that I would have to pull over and throw up on the highway. And that was part of it is I was so nauseous driving or being in a car, and there were times that I remember going to a friend’s party in the summer, and Patrick — I had him pull over and I threw up on the road.
Alyssa: On the way to a party?
Kristin: Yeah. Yeah.
Alyssa: So was that all day long, every hour to an hour and a half, you would have to get up and pee or you’d feel nauseous or you had to move your legs?
Alyssa: That’s tiring.
Alyssa: But you still consider it a perfect pregnancy? Like, it wasn’t…
Kristin: I had nauseas. Yeah.
Alyssa: Yeah. Wasn’t that bad.
Kristin: And then toward the end of my pregnancy, I also had the restless leg syndrome, so I would get up in the middle of the night and have to, like, hop on one foot and wake Patrick up because my cramping in my leg was so intense. But I’ve always had vein problems with the circulation in my legs, so…
Alyssa: So that was probably a circulation issue? While lying down, like that made it worse?
Kristin: Yeah. It was only — I only had the cramping when laying down. And I didn’t know until later about using magnesium or Epsom salt baths and different things you can do when you are dealing with cramping. It wasn’t anything — I don’t think I brought it up at an appointment. I just was like, okay, I’ve read about it. Whatever. It’s weird, but yeah. So what did you have that was —
Alyssa: Well, what about with Seth? How was your pregnancy? Was it different with Seth’s?
Kristin: Totally different. Seth was so much easier. He was also a much bigger baby by almost three pounds, so I was showing a lot earlier. Like, I felt like I was instantly had, like, the little baby bump. But yeah, he was a chill baby in the womb. Abby moved around a lot. I used to call her my little goldfish. Like, she was in a fishbowl and I could feel her movements very early. And with him, I was always like, is he all right? He’s not kicking me. He’s not, like, in my rib. He’s not moving. And so I would have to, like, are you in there? He’s just sleeping and chill.
Alyssa: Poke him a little bit to make him move around. He’s like, leave me alone.
Kristin: I’m just sleeping, Mom. But I definitely was showing earlier and felt just — I didn’t have the nausea that I did with Abby, but with him, I just felt bigger and heavier. But I didn’t gain more weight at all. Same amount, like about 32 to 35 pounds.
Alyssa: Yep, my pregnancy was — like, I always tell people if I could be a surrogate, like, I would just keep having — I don’t want more children, and we went into this knowing we were only having one, so I just cherished every moment. But I didn’t have any nausea, like ever. I slept great. Everything was literally perfect.
Kristin: Did you have heartburn or anything?
Alyssa: One day. Literally, one day. I remember sitting in my office at — you know, I worked at a construction company, so it’s all these guys, and I’m like, does anyone have Tums? Like, I don’t even know. What do I need? I’ve never had heartburn before. Nobody did! My boss was like, I think I have this old pack in this cupboard in this bathroom, and they had expired 15 years ago, but I was like, screw it. I’m taking some.
Alyssa: I remember mixing baking soda with water, and I drank that whole thing down, because I’m like remembering, you know, basic chemistry and acids and bases, and I’m like, I think I’ll just drink some baking soda and see if it helps. And it didn’t. But I literally only had it one day. I didn’t gain a ton of weight, either, but since I was only having one, like, I wanted to look pregnant so bad. So bad. And I’m really, really tall with a really long torso, and it just took forever. I felt like I looked pregnant at maybe 30 weeks. So I bought — I remember finally seeing this tiny little bump. I mean, literally, like I could have just eaten too many burgers and fries that day. And I was like, yes! There she is! And I went out and bought maternity pants and all this stuff, and then the maternity pants would fall off because I just wasn’t ready for it. But I really, really, really loved being pregnant; loved looking pregnant; loved how I felt when I was pregnant. I worked out normally through the whole pregnancy, and then finally it was — I remember the day that I think she must have just dropped. It was like my hips moved, and I was like, oh, what was that? And I could no longer do the workouts I was used to doing. I went from literally going to kickboxing and yoga and all these classes to, like, okay, I’m working out at home now. I can’t run. I can maybe walk. And then I can no longer stand up — the whole — even 35 weeks pregnant, I was standing up to put pants on and doing everything normally. I’m like, okay, now I have to sit down to get dressed. Sit down to put my shoes on. So that was the biggest change. And my boobs got huge, which I didn’t expect to happen that soon. I thought that it would — it got even worse after the baby was born, after she was born and my milk came in.
Kristin: Like, what size bra do I buy? Because they’re huge now. Are they going to stay huge? What do I buy?
Alyssa: I was just busting out of my regular bras because I didn’t know. Are they going to stay like this? Are they going to get bigger? Will they go back down? What’s happening? What will happen?
Kristin: Yeah, and I was still nursing Abby during my pregnancy with Seth, so I didn’t have a big supply, but I had milk throughout my entire pregnancy. So that was weird. That’s how it was. And then my milk came in after I had Seth, and it was like, whoa. So much! Didn’t know what to do with it. Luckily, I had Abby, so she’s like, okay, I’ll have the milk. Great!
Alyssa: I’ll take it!
Alyssa: So when you were pregnant, did you have really weird dreams? I do remember hearing that you could, but that was one of the most noticeable strange things for me was that I had really wild dreams.
Kristin: Yeah. I felt like they were — some of them were so lifelike. Like, I felt like I was living the dream.
Alyssa: Like, very vivid?
Kristin: Yes. Very vivid. Like, almost in full color, just — yeah, like a movie. But I didn’t have night terrors like some women do. I couldn’t remember all of my dreams. Some people would keep a dream journal, I know, during pregnancy and try to record. Did you keep a journal?
Alyssa: Yeah. I’ve always been a good journaler, and especially during pregnancy. Again, knowing this was probably our only one, I wrote down a lot, and I did write down a lot of dreams. One that I remember most vividly is I gave birth to a kitten, and the kitten was adorable, but I remember wrapping it, like swaddling it, and then telling Brad, this is a really cute kitten, but I hope next time we have a baby that’s a human.
Kristin: That is awesome!
Alyssa: Oh, and then another one is Finn came out, and she was a baby, but she could talk, and so she looked at me straight in the eye, and said, well, aren’t you lucky? You have a baby that can tell you what she needs. And I was like, this is amazing! This is great! Yeah, just really, really strange. Really strange ones.
Kristin: I can’t remember anything specifically, but I do remember that they were very vivid and colorful.
Alyssa: What about hair and skin changes? Like, I know I had friends who their nails grew long and their hair was so beautiful. And I had the opposite. It’s like she drained all the nutrients from me. My hair got super stringy. My nails were really thin and would break a lot. And then it finally went back to normal after I had her. But those people who get the beautiful hair during pregnancy, those are the ones who it starts falling out.
Kristin: They lose it in clumps.
Alyssa: So I didn’t have the hair loss, but it’s because I didn’t have gorgeous hair during pregnancy.
Kristin: Yeah. And I felt like I did have — I grew more hair with Abby, but with Seth I was nursing, so I was depleted, anyway. So yeah. But I didn’t get a lot of weird hair growth. My belly button popped out, like when my belly popped. My belly button was probably four inches or so out. You could see —
Alyssa: Four inches out?
Kristin: You could see it in photos. Like, with the belly, the belly button was like, boom.
Alyssa: With both pregnancies?
Kristin: Yeah. And I always had an outie belly button, but it never was, like, protruding all the way out.
Alyssa: So do you think pregnancies with that belly button that pops out is people who already have an outie belly button?
Kristin: I don’t know.
Alyssa: I wonder what the stats are on that because I don’t have an outie, and I never got — I mean, obviously, because the baby’s pushing on it, it got closer to the — you know, there was less of a hole there. But it never popped out.
Kristin: Maybe someone with a medical background could explain that.
Alyssa: Yeah. Someone, please answer this question! Or I could Google it, I suppose.
Kristin: But it does make sense that if you had an outie and — I mean, I really popped. Because of my frame, I was all belly with both of my kids, and Seth was bigger, so it was even more pronounced in the photos. But I had friends that asked me, and they’re like, so is my belly button going to look like yours? I don’t know! And theirs never popped out, so it’s definitely not for everyone. People can have hair growth in different places in their body, and the nails, like you mentioned.
Alyssa: You know what, I feel like I did get hairier on my body, which was not a good thing. You know, I would have rather had the luscious hair on my head. I do remember, like, my belly looked fuzzy. I mean, I kind of have peach fuzz anyway, but I feel like it was dark.
Kristin: Yeah. Some people get the line around going up their stomach.
Alyssa: I didn’t get that, either.
Kristin: I didn’t either. But, yeah, there’s some definite weird changes in pregnancy.
Alyssa: Finn was born covered in, like, black hair. Like, not all. I shouldn’t say covered. She wasn’t like a monkey, but she had —
Kristin: And she’s so blonde!
Alyssa: Yeah. She had dark hair on her head, which she lost it all, but all — her shoulders and her back had this, like, black peach fuzz, and I remember Brad looking at me and going, oh, my God, will that go away? I was like, yes. It will. We had a fur baby! What is going on?
Kristin: That’s awesome.
Alyssa: But yeah, it all fell off, but unfortunately so did the hair on her head, and she was bald for about a year.
Kristin: Right? Yeah. That happens and people don’t expect it. Or the hair can be really dark and then be light. There’s so many weird changes with babies, as well. My kids were covered in vernix. I don’t know if Finn was?
Alyssa: Yeah. I mean, quite a bit, when I look at pictures. Not like the — not, like, super thick, where it looks like you could peel it.
Kristin: Like, that cheesy kind of it. Yeah.
Alyssa: You had a lot, huh? You had excessive?
Kristin: I didn’t know as much about the benefits of it. I would have, like, rubbed it in. But I definitely — I mean, we kept it on them a bit until they sponge bathed it off.
Alyssa: I remember my boobs getting really veiny. Like, in producing milk.
Kristin: Oh, 100%, yes. You could see the veins all over.
Alyssa: And I didn’t even really notice it until Brad one time was like, why are you so veiny? And I’m like, what do you mean, veiny? And then I had a tank top on. I think it was in summer, and I was like, oh, my God, I am veiny! It’s like they just kind of — it was like they were going to pop right through. My skin became transparent or something.
Kristin: Yes. That is definitely…
Alyssa: And then it got even worse when I was actually nursing.
Kristin: Yeah. I was going to say, that continues through nursing, and then after, things go — a lot, most everything, with pregnancy goes back to normal after either nursing or delivery, so depending. But yeah, I don’t think I have any strange after-effects, like things that listed beyond pregnancy, that I didn’t have before, other than getting varicose veins, which is genetic for me. They were more pronounced and worse with Seth, and so — and I’m still off and on getting treatment for it because my legs ache, and as I mentioned, like I had the restless leg syndrome. So that is — I would say that’s my biggest lingering thing is problems with circulation in my legs.
Alyssa: Yeah. I don’t think I have anything either. I mean, the basic, you know. Your bladder’s not as strong, but if only every — I mean, probably every woman in general, but even during pregnancy, if you go see a physical therapist — you know, I saw a wonderful woman named Joellen at Hulst Jepsen, and she literally changed everything. I don’t think people understand. Like, there is — you can do physical therapy, and it’s not just Kegels, and you can go Kegels the wrong way, and you can actually do Kegels too many times and then it has the opposite effect. I just really learned a lot, and it helped tremendously. Like, even now, seven and a half years after giving birth, I still had to get up once, sometimes twice a night, to pee. And when I remember to do these exercises, I sleep all night long. I wake up and I go pee. But I can tell if, for like, a week, I just kind of forget about it, two or three nights into it, I’m waking up at 4:00 in the morning every day to go pee. I’m like, oh, shoot, I haven’t been doing my exercises. And there’s a very specific way to do them, and it’s so easy. I could literally be doing them right now, and it helps instantly. But people just — you know, your mom tells you it just is what it is.
Kristin: You’re never going to be able to jump on the trampoline.
Alyssa: Yep. You’ll never be able to do jumping jacks. You’ll never be able to run. Now, granted, when I sneeze, I still do have to cross my legs and sometimes go change my underwear because I peed a little bit. So I probably should do the exercises more, that means.
Kristin: Yeah. I noticed it. I was doing a virtual 5K with some friends, and I was like, my bladder just — I feel like I need to, yeah, empty my bladder right now. It just doesn’t — I should probably go see a physical therapist, I think, because the concrete running was not ideal for me. I couldn’t imagine being a marathoner. That was just a 5K.
Alyssa: Nope. Not for me.
Kristin: For me, the books you read and classes you take, it’s like, yeah, you’re going to be potentially gassy in pregnancy and not know it, and I was working at the house in the later part of my pregnancy in Lansing in communications, and I remember huddling around with some male coworkers, and I passed gas in front of them, but it was silent, but it was very smelly. And they were all like — and they knew it was me, and they didn’t want to —
Alyssa: They didn’t blame it on each other? They knew it was you?
Kristin: Yeah. They knew it was me. I knew it had to me, and it was like, this is a real problem. So I apologized and walked away.
Alyssa: I didn’t know farting was a pregnancy issue. I don’t even remember reading that.
Kristin: Yeah. It is.
Alyssa: I guess I didn’t have it. Or if I did, I was just farting my whole pregnancy without knowing it. I don’t remember it at all.
Kristin: I remember in childbirth classes, like, people would pass gas. Yeah. That’s just how it is.
Alyssa: I mean, I was nervous about the whole pooping on the table. I mean, that was my biggest fear. Oh, my God, am I going to poop in front of my husband? And I don’t think it ever happened.
Kristin: But that is one of the most common fears that my clients have is pooping during labor and having people see it. But it’s not a big deal.
Alyssa: The nurses just kind of sweep it away, right?
Kristin: Yeah. You don’t even know.
Alyssa: Yeah. I remember asking Brad. I was like — a friend was like, yeah, I think I pooped on the table, and I was like, Brad, did I — he was like, no. I mean, not that I know of. I don’t think so. I’m like, okay, good. Even if I did, he’s —
Kristin: Not everyone does. I mean, not all of my clients do.
Alyssa: I remember going, like, specifically going to the bathroom that morning, and thinking, good. I went. Not that I can’t go again, but I had that thought in my mind. I hope that the day I give birth, I poop in the morning so that I don’t do it in front of my husband on the table. That was a legitimate fear.
Kristin: Yeah. It makes sense. I mean, it’s weird. Bodies do so many weird things in pregnancy, and we can talk about some more of the birth experiences later in a future podcast.
Alyssa: Did your water break?
Kristin: In my labor? With my first, while I was pushing, my water broke. And then with Seth, it was — I’d gotten to the hospital. I was in pretty active labor, and I remember, he was so low. I felt a ton of pressure the second I got to the hospital. It just felt like I needed to empty my bladder constantly. So I was toilet-sitting, which is great for labor. I always tell my clients to do it. And then I remember doing hands and knees on the floor of my room. Patrick was out in the hallway calling our friends who were going to take Abby from the babysitter — actually, my parents had Abby. Never mind. But he was in the hall, and he could hear the pop of my water breaking from the hall on the phone with our friends. And so it was that loud, and I had a long skirt on, and the water went — it was like a huge pool, and everything was soaked, so that I was naked after that.
Alyssa: So you were in active labor in regular clothes? You still had —
Kristin: I had planned to be in a long skirt and a nursing tank, was my choice for labor. And I had a pad and underwear, but it was like, boom. So then my doulas took off my skirt, and then I was naked for the rest of the time.
Alyssa: My water broke, but it was totally — like, that’s what you expect to happen. Like, from the movies, like, it just is the huge explosion and water everywhere. When realistically — I think in our other podcast, I said, like, 30%, but I think it’s half that. I think it’s 10 to 15% of women. So it’s very, very low. It’s highly unlikely your water will actually break. But mine did lying in bed. And I was laying there, and it woke me up. I felt like a — I don’t know. Like, when your period first starts and, like, you can feel some blood coming out. It was almost like that kind of feeling. So I got up, and I was like, well, I’m awake now. I better go pee. And I climbed out of bed, and went, oh. And I remember, like, grabbing myself and then kind of waddling to the toilet, and I sat down, and I’m like, okay, wait. Okay, wait. My pants are wet. My underwear is wet. Like, what is this? Did I pee myself? I’m going through all these thoughts. Did my water break? But it’s not, like, gushing. I don’t remember a smell. I pictured, like, this big gush of water, and it wasn’t. It was like a slow trickle.
Kristin: Yeah. You had a slow leak. Yeah.
Alyssa: Yeah. So I’m sitting on the toilet, and I go pee, but then I put a pad on, and I realize that it’s just a constant trickle, so I better call my midwife, and I did. And when you go into triage, they always check that, because they’re like, oh, yeah, you think your water broke, but…
Kristin: I’ve had clients think their water broke and it was a trickle, and then it was pee. Like, the baby’s so low that —
Alyssa: And I’ve heard that. So then they check, and she’s like, no, sure enough, that’s amniotic fluid. You’re good. So that was — I mean, I think I slow leaked from — if my water broke at maybe 4:00 in the morning, and I ended up in the hospital — I went in at noon. So it was a long time of it just kind of slowly leaking out. I just felt like I was peeing myself a little bit every time I took a step.
Kristin: And did it continuously leak throughout your labor in the hospital, or did you feel —
Alyssa: That, I don’t even remember. I mean, by the time I was in the hospital bed, contractions were, like, pretty…
Kristin: You were focused, doing your work.
Alyssa: Yeah. Yeah, I don’t remember. But I think we have this notion in our heads of what your water breaking will be like, and probably it won’t even break, and if it does, it could be any number of ways.
Kristin: And we also expect pregnancy to either be really life-changing where you can’t do any of your normal things and don’t have the energy to work out and all of that or birth to just be like in the movies where you’re screaming and in pain. But the reality can be so different from child to child, pregnancy to pregnancy. Your energy levels can be different based on nutrition and exercise and age, of course. I had my kids at an older age, so it’s much different than my clients who are 22. Like, being 39 with my second pregnancy. There’s some of that. But what else was different to you than what you imagined either in pregnancy or in your labor? I know you mentioned, like, after delivery, the pushing down on the stomach and all of that at one point.
Alyssa: Yeah. So one of our listeners actually had that question or that comment of, after listening to our postpartum one, she was like, I didn’t realize that after I gave birth, they were going to palpating my uterus through the top of my stomach. And I do remember that. They would come in and push on it to make sure it was shrinking. And then one of the — you know, you know that you have a baby hooked to an umbilical cord, which is hooked to a placenta, but I don’t think most women — and men, like Brad was really thrown off — you have to birth a placenta after the baby. It comes out, and he’s like, oh, my God, it’s huge! It is a giant organ. I don’t remember that happening. I remember she came out, and I was just relieved, and then she’s on my chest, and I remember them saying, you still have to push out your placenta, and I was kind of like, what? And I have no recollection of how it came out, if it was hard or easy.
Kristin: Yeah, because then you’re so focused on baby. It’s like that isn’t even a big deal, and it’s a pound or so. For most people, it’s not as dramatic as birthing a baby. It’s pretty easy. Sometimes there can be issues. It can get stuck.
Alyssa: I think she was probably getting weighed and stuff at that time, so I probably was just like, oh, okay, I need to push a couple more times? Because I do remember her being on the scale and stuff over there. So it was probably after I birthed the placenta that they put her on my chest. But yeah, I don’t remember it being hard. It was just kind of weird. I was like, oh, my God, that was in there? Like, that’s as big as the baby! No wonder!
Kristin: It’s amazing. I didn’t want to see it. I remember my midwife asking me if I wanted to see the placenta after I had given birth to Abby, and I was like, no. Gross. I didn’t like blood at that time. No thanks!
Alyssa: And now have many placentas have you seen?
Kristin: I love placentas, and I wanted to see with Seth, but with Seth’s pregnancy, I wanted to do — like, he was my last, and I wanted to do all the things. So, of course. And I saw, like, the front and the back and wanted to, like, examine it after Seth, and I wasn’t a doula at that time, so it was much different. But I think the placenta’s beautiful. It’s amazing. But not everyone digs seeing the placenta.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s like a big organ flinging out of your body.
Kristin: Yeah. Women are amazing, and bodies are amazing. But yeah, birth can be weird. Pregnancy is certainly different.
Alyssa: Yeah. I remember — and maybe it is because I’m very tall and slender with a long torso, but it was like all of a sudden, this — like, this whole area, it was just gone. I mean, my stomach wasn’t back to normal immediately, but it was just gone. And that’s really weird. You don’t think about — like, you’ve held this, grown this baby inside for so long, and then all of a sudden, she’s not there anymore. And as happy as you are to have her in your arms and meet this baby, it’s like, oh, but you’re not protected in here anymore, and I can’t feel those movements anymore, which are really cool, but I think probably that’s because I loved being pregnant so much. If I had had a really hard pregnancy, it’d probably be like, great. I’m happy you’re out. You’re not jabbing my ribs and kicking my bladder all day long.
Kristin: And you weren’t on bedrest for three weeks, and I was. Yeah. Things like that. But I did love that, touching the belly and connecting and playing music and talking to my babies in the womb. And I remember being at a political training for women who wanted to run for office, and I was pregnant with Abby at the time, and I stood up and gave my pitch, my stomp speech, and I was holding my belly. And I remember we got feedback after, and they’re like, you really shouldn’t be touching your belly and connecting in that way. And I’m like, it’s just what I do. It’s natural for me to touch my belly when I stand. But I was getting feedback that it was not a good thing, and I needed to keep my hands down and be strong. So I remember after giving birth, not having that belly, and being so used to —
Alyssa: Like, what do I do with my hands?
Kristin: Right. Having the baby in the womb to connect with, and even my first shower in the hospital after Abby. It’s like your stomach isn’t how it used to be, but you don’t — you can see everything, your feet, you knees again. It’s like, whoa. This is weird. It’s a big change for women. So yeah, to get used to that adjustment, that first shower can be a big thing. And, like, being able to fit into your normal clothes. Like, when I got into my old jeans, I was, like, yes. So that took a bit, but yeah. But everything can be so different, and my friends had completely different pregnancies than I did. Some were really easy. Others were — you know, had to be induced or had physical issues. So, yeah. But it’s fun. I was pregnant with two of my best friends at the same time. I was pregnant with Seth, and our kids have grown up together, and we had completely different experiences in birth and pregnancy.
Alyssa: Yeah. Had I started younger, I would have had more, and knowing how much I loved it, I would love to keep having them. But…
Kristin: But we’re curious to hear what you found to be different than what you expected it to be or weird things about pregnancy and birth that you didn’t fully understand until you experienced it yourself. It’s one thing to hear a story from a friend or to read something in a book, but to actually go through it yourself, like, the heartburn or acid reflux —
Kristin: Or the farting! Like, whatever it might be, or having milk come out of your breasts when your pregnant or getting some of that crust on your nipple and looking at it like, whoa, is this normal?
Alyssa: Yeah. So maybe leave us some comments about your stories or give us some story ideas for the future! Thanks for listening. This has been the Ask the Doulas Podcast.