Despite all the forecasting, guessing and planning, babies have a funny way of defying expectations and arriving on their own timeline. That couldn’t have been more true in my case as we awaited the arrival of our baby boy just over six weeks ago.

Rewind to December. My 37-week ultrasound made it clear that our little guy wasn’t looking so little. My doctor wanted to schedule an induction for no more than 3 days past my due date out of precaution for his estimated size. And go figure, Nolan was in no rush to come on his own, so it’s a good thing. On the evening of December 26, my husband Evan and I headed to the hospital to start the induction process.

So what exactly is an induction? In layman’s terms (to be clear, I am no doctor), it’s medical intervention to kickstart labor. Depending on how much the mother’s body is showing preparedness for labor, you may need a more involved overnight induction or simply can jump into a Pitocin drip. While I had been told I’d likely need an overnight induction, the first of many surprises was to find out I arrived at the hospital 3 centimeters dilated (if you’re new at this, you give birth at 10 cm). The doctor started the Pitocin drip and said things should start progressing relatively quickly. It was 8pm.

By midnight, my contractions were picking up. I had joked that my so-called birth plan was pretty simple: get an epidural, so the nurses said there was no reason why I shouldn’t get one at the onset of uncomfortable contractions. By 2am on the 27th, I figured I had gutted out enough discomfort to understand what labor feels like and green-lighted the epidural. The anesthesiologist arrived relatively quickly and administered it without issue. Within five minutes, I felt a rush of warmth take over my body, but primarily on my right side. I asked if it was strange that only my right leg was numb, but the team insisted that it was normal — that sometimes, depending on how you’re laying, gravity can cause the drugs to affect one side more than the other. The nurses diligently rotated me from side to side every 20 minutes or so. Five hours later, the contractions on the left side of my abdomen had gone from uncomfortable to nauseating. Concurrently, the doctor on staff determined it was time to break my water to move things along. That’s all it took for those contractions to turn up to an 11 out of 10 on the pain scale. I started throwing up and my whole body was involuntarily shaking. Evan and I insisted we see an anesthesiologist to address what clearly was an issue with the epidural.

Turns out, the placement of an epidural can be too high or too low depending on your anatomy. Some unlucky few will need it re-administered higher or lower in the spine to be more effective. An even unluckier few will feel some level of pain despite the placement. I was hoping a redo would do the trick.

The second epidural took the edge off, but for whatever reason, I continued to feel quite a bit of pain on my left side. Over the course of working through it, labor progressed and by 2pm it was time to start pushing.

I’ll spare you the details of the pushing phase. Let’s just say the epidural definitely didn’t work correctly for me…every time I thought I had experienced the worst pain of my life, it got worse. (It was not just “pressure,” which they said would have been normal.) But I told myself the only way to it is through it, so I powered through, with Evan by my side the whole time. I must have blacked out for the worst of it, because my memory goes from what felt like a re-enactment of June’s birthing scene in Handmaid’s Tale to me being handed our healthy 9 lb 3 oz baby boy, Nolan, at 3:49 pm. At that moment nothing else mattered — I was completely overtaken by a kind of love I’d never experienced before, and a dose of disbelief that it was happening to me.

Little did I know that my finish line was still quite a ways away. While in recovery, routine checks had one of the nurses suspicious. I felt off, too. While my epidural had been removed and I regained feeling in my legs, I was still quivering and had a tinny ringing in my ears. The nurse went to get the doctor, and before I knew it, I was swarmed by no less than 8 medical staffers. I was hemorrhaging blood, and fast.

Within seconds, every limb of mine was jabbed with needles — a concoction of drugs to control the bleeding — while the doctors tried to get things under control. Just when I thought I’d experienced a new ceiling for pain, it was shattered — and then some. With my epidural removed, I had no pain management as the doctors did a number of invasive things to stop the bleeding internally. I needed an emergency blood transfusion to keep me from going into shock. I had lost over 2 liters of blood.

About an hour later, I was stable, although my psyche was totally traumatized. I threw up, cried, and almost couldn’t believe I survived. I was so grateful to be alive, but so sad that those precious first minutes of my baby’s life were spent with him helplessly laying in his bassinet in the corner of the delivery room while all medical attention was directed toward saving my life. The cause is still unclear — I was told that some women who deliver big babies are just more prone to bleeding issues. It felt like such a simple explanation for such a life threatening complication.

I promise I’m almost done with this birth story. The last chapter of this ordeal came when my formerly very low blood pressure took a turn and became elevated above normal levels right after the hemorrhage. Again, no real explanation other than “some women experience postpartum hypertension due to massive fluctuations in hormones.” I was discharged on schedule and told to follow up with my OB one week later.

My first day home, I took my blood pressure after feeling off. I owned a cuff due to low blood pressure issues I had throughout pregnancy (oh the irony), and had a rude awakening when the number read 165/105. My mom, who was staying with us to help out, insisted I get to the ER immediately.

I was readmitted to Labor & Delivery for two days while my blood pressure was stabilized. If I had any doubt about whether the baby blues are real, I sure experienced my fill as I laid alone in the hospital room while my newborn was at home with my husband and mother on New Year’s Eve. I had to turn off the TV so I didn’t see another segment of people gathering in Times Square to watch the ball drop. I meditated and prayed that my blood pressure would drop so I could be discharged and sent home to ring in 2020. And by some miracle, it did. For that, I am forever grateful.

I was put on a low dose of blood pressure medication to treat what was deemed “postpartum hypertension.” Most cases resolve on their own within 12 weeks. Within 1 week, my numbers already started to drop closer to my regular readings, and within 2 weeks I was fully off the medication. The road to postpartum recovery was hardly over, but it felt like I could finally close the doors on the tumultuous portion of the journey.

I’m still working on feeling back to myself, but I know that will take time. If you’re a new mom, know a new mom or are a mama-to-be, extend grace. Remember that it is no small feat to bring a new life into this world, no matter how “perfect” the experience is. Postpartum recovery is no joke. Go easy on yourself and let yourself feel however you want to feel. For as joyful as having a newborn is, it can be equally if not more overwhelming, especially when you are recovering. Make sure you have the support you need in order to take care of yourself. A healthy newborn starts with a healthy mama, so don’t be afraid to make you a priority. 

How times have changed since my last post. In the course of three years, I’ve gone from pressing “publish” on my then-boyfriend’s sectional sofa on a lazy Saturday morning to sitting at my kitchen table watching our 6-week old baby boy nap on our infant monitor.

Life has been a beautiful whirlwind in these three years. I’ve navigated the ins and outs of a new job, newlywed life, homeownership, and most recently, pregnancy and motherhood. These milestones have all changed me, and while I stepped away from this platform as they unfolded, the distance has given me clarity. It’s only in retrospect that I’ve been able to process how these milestones have shaped me, and how I can be a resource to those about to embark on them, too.

So, hi, I’m back. If I’ve met you before, thanks for coming back! If you’re new, welcome! Stay tuned for all that’s to come.

This Saturday night, I found my dream apartment. It comes with exposed brick walls, golden light fixtures worth more than my car and a full service kitchen and bar. Not to mention a living room set up complete with navy tufted sofas and coffee table succulents.

The spot: Presidio Chicago, a Bucktown-area lounge that’s unfortunately not taking renters’ applications. They do, however, serve excellent cocktails and just the right mix of hot-spot meets chill vibes. The menu, inspired by owner Patrick Cullen’s hometown of San Francisco, offers a mix of Northern Cal dishes and pours, infused with local Chicago flair. My girlfriends and I toasted to the weekend with three cheers for the Boystown Royale, Logan Square Cooler and Beckman Rhone Red Blend.

I’ll be back for another round.

Photo credit: PresidioChicago.com
Photo credit: PresidioChicago.com

What’s sour and sweet and leaves you thirsty for more? Beyoncé’s Lemonade, the superstar’s sixth solo album, which dropped Saturday after a one-hour world premier on HBO.

Lemonade is spiked with a distinct taste of vengeance — one that we’re not used to hearing so loud and clear from the artist who brought us feel-good anthems like XO, Love on Top and Crazy in Love. Beyoncé’s departure is layered with the pain of a love lost, and the empowering realizations that hers is a love to lose.

A little bit country, a little bit R&B, a little bit fem-powerment, a little bit f-you, Lemonade is a new recipe for Queen Bey — a mix of raw imperfections that go down easier with each replay.

All the while, I’ll wonder if this recipe is a PR play to engage America in the rollercoaster relationship that is Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Listening to the sultry Sorry and 6 Inch (feat. the Weeknd), I couldn’t help but feel unsettled, voyeuristic even — like I was watching something perfect corrode. But is it all for show? Only time will tell. In the meantime, download Lemonade on Jay-Z’s Tidal.

Have you ever pondered the meaning of life within the three walls of your cube? Does your Instagram feed range from post-college sorority squats to engagement announcements and friends’ new babies? Are you considering an existential crisis because of the gap between your expectations and reality for what life would be like in your 20s? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be experiencing a quarter life crisis. But don’t worry, because as Samantha Jayne puts it, the struggle is real.

Jayne is a 26 year-old freelance art director, actress and author of the book Quarter Life Poetry, due out April 5. The premise is strikingly relatable for anyone living through their 20s in the age of digital adulting. In video promos for the book, Jayne captures the essence of a life stage in transition, and how the professional and personal intersect along the way.

The New Jersey native graduated with a degree in ad design from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in a number of internships before landing the title of art director at KBS in New York and Swirl in San Francisco, Adweek reports. Her work now involves part-time projects at MullenLowe, in addition to those on a freelance-basis.

Jayne told Adweek that the book trailers are admittedly autobiographical, albeit depicting a slightly younger version of herself. “I really hope people take away that they’re not alone.”

For more of Jayne’s witty take on Millennial life, follow her Instagram account Quarter Life Poetry and feel instantly better about staying in this Friday night to bake some banana bread. I know I will.

Warning: this is not quiz, nor is this a listicle. In an ironic twist, this post will require you to read full sentences about a massive cultural shift toward the written picture, a.k.a the emoji.

How fluent are you?

If you’re 18, I’d bet that emoji is basically your first language. Your captions need nothing but a peach emoji to rack up 175 likes. Nevermind the fact that the peach emoji doesn’t seem to have anything to do with that harmless #selfie you posted wearing new lip gloss. Was it peach flavored perhaps? We’ll never know.

If you’re 25, you’re bilingual. You mix words (although not too many) with emojis, which really enhance your caption game. Gone apple picking? Post that candid apple picking Kodak moment with a big ole #basic, alongside the celebration hands and apple emojis. (If you’re not sure what basic means in this context, imagine a Converse-wearing 20something girl sipping a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks while picking said apples in a flannel button down and army green jacket. After her rendevous  through the orchard, she’ll bake an apple pie using a recipe she found on Pinterest. Do you see her now? Her name is Amanda, or Katie, or Jessica.) You’ll get around 35 likes on that pic, but have neared 75 on a good day.

No matter where you fall on the emoji-use spectrum, the real trend is this: everyone is using them. Your mom, too. According to new Instagram data, the proof is in the caption. Over 40% of Instagram posts now include an emoji, which may have prompted the photo-driven social platform to allow the hashtagging of emojis. That means you can search by your favorite icon. Not to mention, there are more than ever: last month, Unicode 8.0 launched an updated set of emojis with varied skin tones, among other new symbols, and if all goes as planned, Unicode 9.0 will add dozens more to the mix next year.

So what’s the draw about emojis? There’s something comical about them. They’re also perfectly vague. They can be a conversation starter or a polite conversation ender. They say everything and nothing all at once. And deciphering them is half the fun. (Misinterpretted emoji texts are a story for another day.)

If you’re unsure about emojis, you best kick your uncertainty to the curb. The pesky little symbols are venturing beyond texts and photo captions and into online copy and emails. They’re even grounds for t-shirt designs, costumes and home décor. (The centerpiece of my best friend’s couch is an emoji pillow. The exact emoji will remain nameless.)

The bottom line: emojis are becoming a facet of our culture and the way we communicate, and Millennials are driving this trend. If you need any more proof, just take a look at custom keyboards from hit comedy Broad City to the Lone Star State (I’m downloading it just for the taco) to NCAA teams (Go Irish).

In my moments of deep and introspective thought, I have wondered: are we regressing to hieroglyphics? King Tut may have been ahead of his time.

Age is a funny thing. Half the time I can’t believe I’m already 25. The other half of the time I can’t believe I’m only 25.

If you’re in your 20s, you know what I’m talking about. We’re juggling a constant juxtaposition of being too old or too young.

You’re already 25. Only five more years to make it on the 30 Under 30 List.
You’re only 25. And you want a promotion?

The pressure from both ends can confuse our definition of success relative to age. But let’s take a step back and forget age for a moment. What defines success, period? To answer that question, I’ve thought long and hard about the best advice I’ve been given from some of the most impactful people in my life. They’ve given me reasons to get up everyday and be a better version of myself. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Always do your best. Your best is probably better than you think. Don’t sell yourself short. Out-read, out-practice, out-study your peers and walk into any situation with the gift of preparation in your back pocket. If you know you’ve truly done all you could to get ready for that meeting, exam or pitch, then relax. Your best is enough.

Be a nice person. Have you ever met someone who walks into a room and they just have it? They’re smart and they’re funny. But most of all, they’re nice. They radiate something that makes people take note, sit up a little straighter, laugh a little louder. They build people up, not tear people down. They infuse positivity into everything they do. And it makes all the difference. Be one of these people. There are fewer of them than you think.

Say yes. It’s one of the first things your parents try to teach you: the meaning of “no”. But what about “yes”? Do you say it enough? Yes means yes, just like no means no. It means that when someone needs something, your answer is straightforward: yes. (Even if on the inside you have no idea how to make yes happen, you will. Because if you learned anything from Dr. Seuss it’s that you’ll go some great places, and kid, you’ll move mountains.) Be known as a “Yes Person.”

…but know when to say no. It’s not easy. Next time you have the choice between yes and no, remember this: there’s one of you. You can’t say yes to everything and still live a sane life. Sometimes you have to do less, better. Don’t be afraid to say that your best depends on saying yes to fewer things, and give someone else the chance to help you out. You’ll see who your fellow Yes People are in that moment. Keep them close.

Learn something from everyone. Every single person on this planet knows something you don’t. You just have to be willing to learn from them. Make every exchange an opportunity to grow. Ask questions, listen and take notes (mentally or literally). You’ll walk away smarter because of it.

Treat yo self. While the original credit goes to TV series Parks and Recreation, a former colleague (who is a nice person and a Yes Person and a smart person all in one) made this a recurring theme in an otherwise intense work environment. There comes a point where you need to unplug and make time for you. Plan a vacation, a happy hour, a day with absolutely NOTHING on the books. Because life is too short to live without rewards. If you don’t break up the daily grind with some fun, there’s a good chance you’ll burn out. So go ahead, say it with me now. Treat yo self. And don’t forget to laugh.

FOMO (Fear of missing out). Because according to your Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram feeds, everyone is doing something awesome right now (even if they aren’t).

Sundays. Because the next day is Monday. And five days of deadlines, meetings and the feeling like you need to stop and reevaluate your life make you nauseous. #SundayFunday

Your desk job. Because now your pants are tighter and your cortisol levels are higher. Cool.

Your rent. Because it makes your bank account look so…empty.

The holidays. Because you have to spend money that you didn’t budget for in the 11 months prior. You also realize how much more fun Christmas was when you were five. Hey Santa, remember me? I miss you.

Birthdays. Because it’s scary getting old. (Thanks for that, Lorde. Btw you’re 15.)

The gym. Because planning to go after work is a great idea until something (anything) better comes up.

Setting #goals. Because you’re not sure whether to base them on a squad, relationship or life in general.

Dating. Because Grouper doesn’t really count.

…Dating. Because people in the Real World do not come with background checks…which can be terrifying for multiple reasons.

Getting dressed in the morning. Because thanks to your desk job, and resulting struggle to hit your 10,000 daily steps, certain options are now off-limits. And despite multiple reports that leggings should not be worn as pants, you’re running late and leggings have never seemed like a more perfect option right now.

Hangovers. Because you were warned that you would not always be able to drink like a fish and be fresh as a daisy all within 12 hours. And right now you’re paying for it with a headache that rivals a 10.0 on the on Richter scale. Cheers.

Sleep. Because you never get enough even though you sleep five times more than you did in college. And you’re ten times more tired than you were in college.

Laundry. Because Mom lives so far away…and going back home to visit with three duffel bags filled with dirty clothes just doesn’t seem acceptable anymore. Probably because it isn’t.

Grocery shopping. Because you don’t have the time or arm strength to haul everything you need (or want) back home.

Vacation. Wait…what vacation?

Wedding season. Because every weekend is wedding season.

Bars. Because the older you get, the more unsure you are of where you belong. Is this an underage establishment? A post grad hangout filled with depressed 23 year-olds pretending like they’re still in college? Or worse…a post grad hangout filled with depressed 30 year-olds pretending like they’re still in college?

Friends. Because you don’t all live in the same hometown or 1 mile radius on campus anymore. True friendship takes effort.

Family. Because there are days when you just need a hug from your mom or dad. But then there’s this strange internal conflict you feel because you’re unsure if you should miss your family this much. You’re in your twenties and supposed to be independent and strong. But you’re also human.

You know what makes it all better? The realization that you’ve got a whole generation of twenty-somethings feeling your feelings. You’re not alone.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

yeah, right.

Does anyone actually sit down and read a newspaper in its entirety anymore? Let’s be honest, sometimes the news is simply depressing. From the next celebrity divorce to American politics to the ups-and-downs that define a global economy, I’d understand why some might turn away from the news for the sake of preserving mental health. But honestly, even if the front page of the Wall Street Journal read “Fountain of Youth Discovered in South Dakota” or “Income No Longer Taxed in America” I have a feeling I know what you’d read: the headline. Okay, maybe you’d read the headline and the first paragraph. But that’s it.

I admit that I’m guilty of being a headliner. I read the headlines on the New York Times website, skim the front page and Personal Journal section of the Wall Street Journal, and regularly browse AdWeek and PRWeek’s top stories that, for a marketing nerd, read like candy. Yet more often than not, my interaction with the news goes something like this:

LINDSAY LOHAN CHECKS INTO AND OUT OF JAIL  It was all downhill for her after Mean Girls.

FEDERAL SHARE OF DEBT RISING  What else is new?

LSU TOPS BCS RANKINGS  LSU is not my alma matter, therefore this means nothing to me.

THOUSANDS PROTEST NEW OIL PIPELINE  Weren’t we supposed to run out of oil in 2008 or something? I know I started to read a book on it…

KNEE ARTHRITIS STRIKES AT A YOUNGER AGE  Great!

How do you get your news? I’ve noticed more image-driven slideshows or “today’s news in pictures” on news websites. I’ll admit to occasionally learning about top headlines through my friends’ tweets, although those headlines aren’t necessarily what I’d call “breaking news.” So Kim Kardashian is getting divorced?  Good to know…Red cups back at Starbucks…this calls for a celebration!!! And so it goes.

For those of you who stuck it out and read this post, thanks. Sometimes it’s not so bad to read between the headlines.

Once upon a time I was a little Catholic school girl. The day began and ended with a prayer, and Religion class was sandwiched between Reading and Math in the daily schedule. But the truth is, my Catholic education wasn’t so much defined by devout reflection and intellectual faith-based questioning, but rather what’s on the forefront of most tween-aged girls’ minds: clothes. Oh, right, and let’s not forget jewelry, shoes, hair accessories, and nail polish. The difference was, our means of self-expression was constrained by a little something called a uniform.

It amazes me to think back on how much a simple pleated skirt and white polo managed to rule our lives. But trust me, it did. A skirt that was too long or a polo that was a) monogrammed, b) yellowed, or c) clearly your brother’s hand-me-down earned you the unspoken label of “uncool”–a.k.a. the surest route to unpopularity.

In sixth grade, girls were allowed to add a new item to their school wardrobe. Drum roll please… the box-pleated skirt. This skirt was truly a coming of age wardrobe essential. Forget about the fact that the uniform shop charged an arm and a leg for the thing. If you didn’t get the box-pleated skirt, then clearly you might as well go back to the fifth grade. (The fifth graders were relinquished to the accordion-pleated skirt– the much less figure-flattering alternative). Of course, in sixth grade, dress code wasn’t the only thing changing in our young lives. While I myself have blocked out most memories of this beyond-awkward time of my life, I do seem to recall that boys suddenly lost their “cooties” and girls had incentive to show a bit more leg than before. We did this with the infamous waistband roll-up. It did the trick unless, of course, you got caught.

But when I come down from this nostalgic cloud filled with Power Beads, Lip Smackers, and Baby Gs, I realize that we never really graduate from uniforms. Life is filled with them, in fact. Just yesterday I was (reluctantly) at the gym and thought to myself, everyone under the age of 25 is wearing a variation of the same thing. Sprinkled among a sea of courageous workout moms wearing spandex shorts and fitted tops are college girls like me wearing loose white V-necks, colored sports bras, and Nike running shorts. The generational distinction between exercise “uniforms” is not only ironic but also extremely amusing to anyone as desperate as I am to find distractions during my seemingly never-ending countdown on the elliptical trainer.

So when you go about your day, I challenge you to play a little game of I Spy. How many uniforms do you see? (And I’m not talking about the kind employees wear at your local grocery store.) More importantly, which one are you wearing?

[retweet]  [facebook]