Please Offer Me Your Seat, Not Your Advice
"Please offer me your seat, not your advice."
That is a t-shirt I seriously considered making during my pregnancy. For the record, I am not a t-shirt maker. I am an actor, and a singer, and a who cares, blah blah. I am now a person who pushed another person out of my body. That will forever more be my number one descriptor.
I did not have an Instagram-friendly pregnancy. I wasn't blissful and expectant. I was barfing.
I was not dewy and radiant. I was lying naked on the cold bathroom tile begging to be released from the vomitus prison of my own making. I did not glow.
I gained over 65 POUNDS during my pregnancy. I truly don't know how. Not a single person ever looked at me and said, "You're so cute! It looks like you swallowed a basketball!" Most people said nothing with their mouths, but their EYES screamed, "Oh my god it looks like you swallowed three basketballs, four meatball subs, a gallon of ice cream, and the Atlantic Ocean.”
On top of it all, I had that horrible Kate Middleton disease that makes you barf one million times a day. Lucky for her, she is a Princess, and got to lie down. I, however, am from New Jersey... so I had to go to work.
Long story short… I worked, I barfed, I got IVs. I missed work, I barfed, I got IVs.
I cried, I read countless baby books, I got IVs, I went on bed rest, and then on the morning of Feb. 11, 2017, I went into labor! The afternoon of Feb. 14, I had our daughter, Ella Rose Benanti-Brown. It was a looooong labor. You do the math. (But seriously, can you do the math and then tell me how long it was? Please remember I am an actor and math is not my strong suit.)
The day we brought our daughter home, we took this photo:
She is two days old. Staring out the window. She is the oldest baby I have ever met.
The first 10 days were pretty magical! Sleeping, feeding, singing, and rocking. And then my milk came in.
"ALERT! ALERT! YOUR BREASTMILK DOES NOT AGREE WITH ME!" Ella wailed. "Ok," I said. "I will remove dairy from my diet."
We waited. It didn't work.
"Non, Nyet, NO."
Ella was allergic to me.
Toward the end of our breastfeeding journey, my entire diet consisted of turkey, rice, sweet potato, and zucchini. I was pretty hangry. And tired. And feeling VERY inferior. Breastfeeding was extremely important to me and my husband, and I was failing.
I saw seven lactation consultants, two osteopaths, and one medicine woman who covered me in eagle feathers, left the room, and came back three hours later. I had allergy tests, muscle tests, and one test that involved me pooping into bags for three days straight. I saw doctor after doctor and nothing helped.
Ella was so uncomfortable she couldn't sleep. So I didn't sleep. My husband and I fought. I developed postpartum depression and anxiety. It was NOT what I had been promised by the mommy blogs and Instagrammers who made it look so blissful and effortless.
I am not sharing this to make anyone feel bad for me, or to bring anybody down. I am sharing this because I feel like the imperfect aspects of motherhood are often glossed over and minimized.
So, if there is a mama out there reading this who has a less-than-perfect pregnancy, and/or a difficult or impossible breastfeeding journey, postpartum depression and/or anxiety, or just a general feeling that you don't know what the hell you're doing, let me say this: You are doing great. For real.
My daughter is now 17 months old. She is hilarious, and magical. She (usually) sleeps through the night. She doesn't have any allergies, and has been (for the most part) a very healthy baby. I have an INCREDIBLE therapist. I meditate. I usually eat well, but not always. I take medication and I rely on the village that is other mothers. That village has been the greatest help of all, and it's what I hope every mom can be for every other mom.