Even if we get the nine-month preparatory period, plenty of aspects of parenthood can be quite the cold shower when you’re least expecting it.
Dawn Dais, author of “The Sh!t No One Tells You”, bares all about pregnancy, childbirth, and life with kids.
Daniela: Good afternoon, Dawn, welcome to Dreaming of Baby! We’re excited to be speaking with you on pregnancy, specifically the low-down a mom won’t get from anywhere else! Before we embark on this ‘journey of discovery’: who is Dawn, and what led you to where you are now – a writer with quite a few books under your belt?
About Dawn Dais
Dawn Dais: I’m a mom of two, but before that I started out my writing career with a book about how to train for a marathon if you hate running. Needless to say, it was heavy on sarcasm and my pain. Once I had my first child I knew right away that I had another book to write that could be full of sarcasm, and my pain. The title of the book came to me well before any of the content, “The Sh!t No One Tells You.” I feel like every new parent has that running through their brains in those first few weeks/months, “Why didn’t ANYONE tell me it was going to be this haaaaaaard??” So I decided to write a book about it. And another, and another, and now I’ve gone back to Pregnancy.
Daniela: That’s great! It’s amazing how life leads us places we didn’t imagine we would end up in – especially with all that parenthood brings with it. First question: If someone were to ask you: What is pregnancy? What would be your honest answer?
On pregnancy and parenthood
Dawn Dais: I wrote a quote a long time ago, long before I got pregnant, “Pregnancy is the time between who you were and who you were meant to be.” It’s pretty deep, right? Again, I wrote it before I actually got pregnant.
Daniela: Makes sense!
Dawn Dais: But I do think pregnancy marks a very clear transition time between two parts of your life. It’s hard sometimes to even remember a time when the kids weren’t part of your every day. It’s like an entire lifetime ago. Pregnancy can be different for everyone. But in my book, I advise readers to use it as a countdown clock. A time to really get ready for the Hurricane Baby that is coming their way.
Dawn Dais: “Pregnancy marks a very clear transition time between two parts of your life.”
Daniela: Let’s go deeper on the ‘who you were meant to be’. Moms-to-be may think this strange – especially if they already ‘know’ who they are, what they want from their life, where they’re at in their career, relationship etc. How do you think pregnancy changes this? The certainty before pregnancy vs the changes a new baby brings about…
Dawn Dais: I don’t think pregnancy itself changes much of anything, but once that baby comes home everything is decidedly different. I think maybe even more so for people who think they have it all figured out ahead of time. People, like myself, are waiting longer to have kids these days. In my case, I was in my early 30’s when I had my first child. I had a good career that I had worked hard to build, I had a little money, I had some freedom. And then the kid came along and completely took my legs out from underneath me. Because my life shifted to put her in the middle of it. It’s not a bad shift, but it’s a dramatic one.
Dawn Dais: I recommend in my book for parents to take the time to really get to know themselves before they have their first baby. To check some stuff off that bucket list, go places they’ve always wanted to go, read a pile of books, date their partner, take long walks without their phone. Really get to know who they are. And then, after they come out of the haze of new parenthood, I recommend that they try to find their way back to that person. Because a lot of times parents, and women in particular, can start to feel their identity slip away once they have kids.
Daniela: That is so very true, and the tips you share are great. Moving on to the physical side of pregnancy, what is it that no one tells expectant moms, but which would be so great to know?
Dawn Dais: I think one of the big problems with pregnancy in the digital, WebMD age is that moms actually have too much info, and it all starts running together. There are a million side effects of pregnancy, of your body CREATING another body from scratch, and I think sometimes moms are hesitant to complain about them or to report them to their doctor because they assume it’s just par for the bloated course. But I always recommend making a list of everything you are experiencing and sharing it with your doctor. The weirdest, littlest things can be signs of bigger problems (itching on your hands, for instance, can be a sign of a really dangerous condition). I’ve also had friends who had a lot of pain and their doctors just sort of shrugged it off as pregnancy pain. But they pushed and got second opinions and found that they had joint issues that could be helped by visiting a specialist. So, most of the time, there is not much you can do to alleviate your standard pregnancy side effects, but they are still worth listing to your doctor.
Daniela: So communication with your health care providers is key, regardless of all the easily accessible information we have available. In your own experience, what did you find most surprising about pregnancy?
Dawn Dais: Probably the crazy range in emotions. I’m a very middle of the road person when it comes to emotions. But when I was pregnant…whoooweeeee. I was all over the map. Up, down, left, right. I had several crying fits, where you get the hiccups because you are crying so hard. One was because our cat brought home a dead bird. I was soooo incredibly sad for that bird. Keep in mind that my cat regularly brings home dead things. But this dead thing set me off into hysterics. It was difficult for those around me because they weren’t used to me having emotions, let alone ALLLL the emotions. Physically, I was really sick for the first 20 weeks of both of my pregnancies, so the first half was not the most joyous of times. It’s hard to get excited about your baby when you are on the brink of puking 24 hours a day.
Daniela: That is tough. Childbirth: what is it that you discovered about childbirth only because you experienced it? That is, things that no one usually cares to share beforehand?
Dawn Dais: In my book, I recommend pregnant people plug their ears when people start sharing birth stories. Most birth stories that people want to share are in some way bat-sh*t crazy. And NONE of them go like this, “The baby just slid right out! I swear! Easiest thing ever!”
Dawn Dais: When I was pregnant, I gathered up birth stories like I was researching my thesis paper. And really, I was gathering up stories of the different ways things can go wrong. And I was making myself crazy in the process because I’m a control freak and I somehow thought that I could control how my birth story went down. I guess that would be the one thing no one really shares before hand: Your birth will go how it goes. You can make a birth plan detailed down to the music that will be playing and the socks you will be wearing. You can laminate it and study it and sleep with it under your pillow. But that baby can’t read and will be coming into the world however they see fit.
Dawn Dais: I’ve had friends who have had serious depression issues following their births because things went so much different than they had planned. In my case the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted ALL THE DRUGS and I didn’t want to get to the hospital too late to be given ALL THE DRUGS. One guess how my first delivery went.
Dawn Dais: “Your birth will go how it goes. You can make a birth plan detailed down to the music that will be playing and the socks you will be wearing. You can laminate it and study it and sleep with it under your pillow. But that baby can’t read and will be coming into the world however they see fit.”
Daniela: Completely different from what you planned for?
Dawn Dais: I was wheeled in screaming my blasted head off, like in one of those movies where the lady’s water breaks and two minutes later they are screaming down the hallway, and a minute after that they are pushing a baby out. That’s how my first delivery went. With a lot of cussing happening. Especially after I found out I was too far along to get my precious drugs. Then my second delivery, I figured it would be the same, that he could come early and fast. And my second kid came a week late after 24 hours in the hospital.
Daniela: Ah – so bottom line is – you can never really plan your childbirth experience, can you?
Dawn Dais: No, you can’t plan it. Not that having a birth plan is a bad thing. But it’s a good idea to make that birth plan knowing that it might need some flexibility on game day. I do think the partners can get involved in this planning early on, so they know what their baby mama wants, and they can do everything to try to make that happen. But it’s just important for everyone to know that their birth story is going to be unique, nothing like anything you’ve ever heard, just like the baby that pops out.
Daniela: You noted earlier that you collected birth stories – and I do think many moms do the same. Do you have any tips to share with expectant moms and their partners for dealing with all the negative birth stories?
Dawn Dais: That’s why I say plug your ears!! All they do is freak you out. But if they come across scary birth stories parents should just constantly remind themselves that they are on their own journey. Their baby and their delivery will be unique. So, try not to obsess over other people’s experiences. It’ll just disrupt the last few months you have of uninterrupted sleep.
Dawn Dais: You know, I don’t talk about this in my book. But I imagine doing some meditation and visualization could help calm a pregnant mom’s racing mind. Just keep going back to picturing how great it’s going to be, how easy it’s going to be. And at the end of the day, a delivery is just a few hours out of the very long story that will be your child’s life. You can do anything for a few hours, especially if you know you get to meet your baby at the end.
Dawn Dais: “You can do anything for a few hours, especially if you know you get to meet your baby at the end.”
Daniela: Thanks for sharing this precious and very honest insight with us. As you note, childbirth is after all only a few hours compared to the whole nine months of pregnancy and life with your child. On a final note, what would be that one piece of advice, tip, or warning that you’d always share with a mom-to-be?
Dawn Dais: SLEEEP! Ha. Those last few months before baby arrives are your last few months of freedom. So, have as much fun as you can. Go out to dinner and order an appetizer AND dessert. Go on a spontaneous trip. Read tons of books. Nap. Nap. Nap. Whenever you want. Just soak in the calm. Babies are awesome, but they are not big on calm. Or leisurely visits to restaurants.
Daniela: Wonderful! Thank you, Dawn, it’s been great discussing with you today!