Ep. 9: To Be or Not to Be (A Baby Mama)
September 17, 2018
Shanna and Laura dive into their first Big Topic – how to decide if you want kids. Shanna reports on her 20 week anatomy scan, and Laura discusses getting parenting advice from friends. The pregnant moms-to-be also reveal their BFPs and BFNs for the week. Laura is 16 weeks pregnant, and Shanna is 20 weeks pregnant.
- Sleeping Wedge* (for heartburn) *affiliate link
- Breathe Right Strips* *affiliate link
- The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us Essay by Cheryl Strayed
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Shanna Micko: Hi. Welcome to Big Fat Positive with Shanna and Laura. I’m Shanna.
Laura Birek: I’m Laura.
Shanna Micko: We are friends and writing partners who happen to be pregnant at the same time, so we started a podcast about it.
Laura Birek: This week on our weekly check-ins we discover Shanna is halfway through, we delve into our very first big topic, and then we do our BFPs and BFNs for the week.
Shanna Micko: Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode nine. Let’s get started with our check-ins. Laura, where are you this week and what’s going on?
Laura Birek: I am in week 16. It just seems like it’s just really moving along really fast.
Shanna Micko: Yeah.
Laura Birek: This week is fairly unremarkable from a pregnancy standpoint. From a personal standpoint, I know that we had talked about in a previous episode, my friend, who had died about a month ago and his Memorial was actually this week. So it was an emotionally difficult time, but also a really nice time, because a lot of our friends came in from out of town. I got to see some friends from New York and New Orleans and all these friends who haven’t seen in a really long time, and we’ve never all get to hang out together. I think there were the core group of six of us who all were hanging out and we had dinner two nights in a row and basically, we spent the whole weekend together two straight days and then went to the Memorial and the Memorial was beautiful. It was a really sad time, but also a really special time to see our friends and try to remind ourselves that we should see each other more not just when there’s a tragedy to bring us together. Most of my friends are moms at this point, so we got to all exchange tips and stuff and I got some really, I don’t know, if it was helpful or terrifying tips about child birth.
Shanna Micko: Oh gosh, like what?
Laura Birek: My friend, Jean, she was telling me a lot about the first poop after childbirth and how terrifying that supposedly is and she was giving me a lot of advice about eating all the prunes beforehand, stuff like that.
Shanna Micko: I heard nightmares about that. It wasn’t horrible for me, but I prepared too. I ate spinach at almost every meal at the hospital. If I could order some kind of veggie like that, I’d be like check. So I think that’s good advice.
Laura Birek: My friend Keri was with us as well and she’s also pregnant. She’s about two months ahead of me, so they were just dishing out advice for us, whether we wanted it or not. Also, this was over a very, very long, very drunken for everyone, but me and Keri dinner at a Korean barbecue. So we got some uncensored childbirth advice and then we were in a private room, thankfully.
Shanna Micko: Well, that’s good.
Laura Birek: But then the poor waiter guy who kept coming in to bring us our extra meat, he looked so terrified, because at some point he walks in and Jean was just talking about pooping after pregnancy and then people were talking about epidurals and all this stuff and this guy walks in and Jean was very apologetic and I made sure we tipped him well.
Shanna Micko: Oh, whatever, dude. Circle of life. Accepted.
Laura Birek: Anyway, that was my week. It was exhausting, but I don’t think for pregnancy reasons it was exhausting for emotional reasons and physically, I feel good. How about you? What’s going on in your life this week?
Shanna Micko: Well, I am week 20. Oh my God, I’m halfway there.
Laura Birek: Halfway. Oh my God.
Shanna Micko: Like you said, it’s almost hard to believe it. It’s just chugging along and we’re already here and it’s crazy. This is a big week because that’s when you get the anatomy scan, which is the big ultrasound that really can look at all of the anatomy of the baby and check on everything. I did that and I was of course, a nervous wreck.
I’m the worst patient, because I think I might have mentioned this last time I went to this place to get a scan. It’s like, I think they’re used to moms so thrilled to see everything and I’m walking and I’m just like, I could barely talk. I’m so nervous and I should mention probably the reason that I’m so nervous about this pregnancy is I’ve had two losses. I’ve had two miscarriages. They were missed miscarriages, so they completely took me by surprise and I found out about both of them during an ultrasound when they found out there was no heartbeat.
Laura Birek: Much earlier, right?
Shanna Micko: Much earlier like 10, 11 weeks.
Laura Birek: But still you had trauma associated with getting an ultrasound.
Shanna Micko: Totally. It’s super triggering for me. I just expect bad news. It’s very hard for me to get my hopes up and be happy.
Laura Birek: Tell me this one went great.
Shanna Micko: No, it went great. I have a great specialist. He said everything looks good. I did learn that I have a condition called marginal cord insertion, which means that the umbilical cord doesn’t attach to the direct center of the placenta like it does in almost all pregnancies.
Laura Birek: Huh?
Shanna Micko: It actually attaches kind of off to the side and I guess in most cases it’s fine. It’s just now I need extra monitoring. So I’m going to have another scan at this place at 32 weeks to check her growth, because with this condition, they’re concerned that blood and nutrients might not move from the bottom part of a placenta up to the cord that’s off center and that could inhibit growth and stuff. I walked away happy, but also like, oh yay. Something to worry about and Google about freak myself out.
Laura Birek: Is that your next ultrasound? Do you have anything scheduled between 20 and 32?
Shanna Micko: No, most women don’t have any other ultrasounds from there to the end.
Laura Birek: Really?
Shanna Micko: Yeah.
Laura Birek: Oh my gosh, I guess, because I’m old, we are geriatric pregnancies and I just have gotten so used to going to the doctor so regularly, at the very beginning he was having me come every two weeks and then now I think it’s every four weeks and I’m like, four weeks is so long to wait. That’s just seems like a lifetime and eternity, especially to drop, “Oh, by the way, you have something a little abnormal. Might be a problem. We’ll see in 12 weeks.”
Shanna Micko: I know. I’m like, oh gosh. But the good news is everything on her anatomy looked good. Her brain, her heart, all the blood flow and everything was good and I got some cute pictures and some more 3D lasagna pics.
Laura Birek: You got the 3D? Ooh, I want to see your crispy lasagnas.
Shanna Micko: It’s funny I think she looks like her sister.
Laura Birek: Albeit she does.
Shanna Micko: You don’t know for sure. But I’m just like, oh I think she looks like her sister.
Laura Birek: Well, I’ll be the third party judge of that.
Shanna Micko: Okay. I’ll show it to you.
Laura Birek: Did it take a long time: the anatomy scan?
Shanna Micko: Yeah, like an hour. The tech is in there and they really try to get everything and they have to measure everything. My baby was moving around a lot, so the tech was getting really frustrated that she couldn’t get measurements of like arms and legs because she was kicking and switching so much. Depends on all that stuff, but then the doctor comes in and it goes over everything.
Laura Birek: Cool.
Shanna Micko: But it’s a really cool experience. I’m excited for you to do it too and see your little one.
Laura Birek: I got a couple weeks left, but I do actually have it scheduled for 20 weeks. So we’ll see.
Shanna Micko: Awesome.
Laura Birek: Our next segment is actually a new one that we’re calling, “Big topics.” We thought rather than talk about sort of smaller, funnier segments, we thought we would talk about sort of the big things that come up when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth and parenting and all that stuff and so we decided we’d start at the very beginning with a topic that interestingly I thought was a big topic and Shanna, will share her thoughts. But she maybe didn’t think was as much of a big topic as I did and that’s ground for discussion, which is how we decided we wanted to become parents in the first place. So Shanna, do you want to talk about why this is kind of not a big topic for you or what were your thoughts? Do you even remember what it was like to think about the decision?
Shanna Micko: I guess it doesn’t feel like such a big topic. Maybe a), because it’s so far in my past now that I don’t think about this kind of thing anymore whatsoever, so I have to kind of rack my brain. Also, I think just part of me always knew I wanted to be a parent. I definitely wasn’t one of those people that was like, I will never be fulfilled if I don’t have children. Once I got into my adulthood, I was like, okay, I think that’s something I want. If it doesn’t happen, that’s cool too and I started pursuing creative things here out in LA and living a basically financially unstable life and working part-time so I could pursue acting and writing and stuff like that. I always felt like, oh, I should just be a little more stable before I try to have kids and so I was never like jonesing to have kids, but I knew that I wanted them and my husband definitely did. He always was like, I definitely want to be a dad and I knew we wanted to do that together.
Laura Birek: I was going to say you and your husband been together for a really long time too before you got married, right?
Shanna Micko: Yeah, we were together eight years before we got married and then like three years before we started having kids or before we started trying. It took us a long time before we actually had our first child.
Laura Birek: That’s another big topic for another day.
Shanna Micko: Yes, trying to conceive. I guess I just always saw myself as being a parent. I definitely when I was younger saw myself getting married at 25 and having my first kid at maybe 27 and then just going on with life. That sure didn’t work out. I didn’t see the old ass geriatric mother in my future.
Laura Birek: Well, because your mom was pretty young when she had you too. Right?
Shanna Micko: She was 22. So that was my perception of motherhood and timelines and stuff is like, you have kids when you’re like super young and energetic. It just didn’t work out that way for me, but that’s okay. Here we are. I’ve got my girl and my second on the way and it all feels right.
Laura Birek: We probably wouldn’t be as close friends and writing partners as we were if you had followed your initial timeline.
Shanna Micko: Oh, yeah. I’m not sure what was I even doing at that point in life. I think I was in grad school.
Laura Birek: Which is where we met.
Shanna Micko: I definitely would not have gone to USC for grad school and spent way too much money on that program if I had had a small child at that point.
Laura Birek: Priorities would’ve been very different. But you and Steve went into marriage and dating it sounds like, just with the assumption that you guys would have kids at some point.
Shanna Micko: I think so. I think it was an assumption.
Laura Birek: Did you ever have a big conversation about it or anything or was just like a given?
Shanna Micko: Not that I recall. I think it was probably just a given: I’ve always liked kids, I’ve always liked family, I loved my family growing up and really enjoyed being around them and people and just saw myself with a full house. One thing that comes up a lot when people are feeling indecisive about whether or not to have kids or more kids, people say, “Don’t think about what your life is going to be like in the next year with a newborn. Think about what’s your life is going to be like in 10, 12 years. Like around the Thanksgiving table. Do you picture or want, you and your partner, if you have one and kids and a big kind of family event, or do you see yourself wanting not wanting that?” That struck me because I’m like, I definitely want the bigger more family centric events and holidays and that appealed to me big time.
Laura Birek: That was something that definitely helped me when I was deciding and sort of projecting ahead. But for me, I didn’t have that. Well, first of all, I didn’t have that model of the young parent at all. My mom was 35 when she had me, which in 1982 was very geriatric. She was 33 when she had my brother and 35 when she had me and she was considered very late. My mom’s a doctor and she wanted to get through her residency before she started having kids. So that’s what happens, especially when you are a sub-subspecialist or whatever she is. So kids were just something she had to wait, but she said, she always knew she wanted to be a mom, but I never had that. It was one of those things where I never had strong feelings one way or the other and I was very jealous of people who were not ambivalent about it because I could see both sides. I saw the benefits of not having kids and being able to travel the world and do whatever you want and maintain autonomy over your own body and all that stuff, but I also really saw the benefit of the full Thanksgiving table and the just sort of the full life you get with a larger family. I had a really hard time reconciling what I wanted to do, because I could honestly see both sides of the coin and I knew I was leaning towards having kids just because honestly, in our society, it’s the default, right? It’s the thing that you’re kind of expected to do. But I think as I got older, in my twenties, I was definitely dead set. I never had this idea like I want to get married and have kids in my twenties. I thought it was for sure further down the line around probably 35 like my mom and I would just deal with it later. I just also completely assumed that when I turned 30, some flip would get switched on in my brain and make me go baby crazy and want to have a baby. People had told me that this was a thing that was going to happen. They were like, “Oh, you will just want a baby.” I kept waiting and waiting and waiting and it never happened. Even with my close friends having kids and how cute they were and you know I love your daughter and I love our friends’ kids, I was never like, man, I need one of those for myself. It never happened, so I had to kind of make an intellectual decision rather than an emotional decision about it or you use my intellect, I guess, to come up with whatever the true emotional decision was.
Laura Birek: The thing I kept going back to was this essay by Cheryl Strayed. She wrote Wild and she does the Dear Sugars Podcast, which is actually ending, but I love her. I think she’s so wise and relatable. She wrote a column when she was writing the Dear Sugars Column, which is an advice column. A man had written in, he was 40 and he was wrestling with the same question that he doesn’t know if he should have kids. He loves his current life. He loves the freedom he has, but he also, he tells a story about how he had adopted or found newborn kittens when he was in his twenties and nursed them every two hours when they were bottle feeding and raised them up their whole lives and how much he loved them and how he never once regretted taking care of them.
Shanna Micko: That’s so cute.
Laura Birek: It’s so cute and it also speaks directly to me because I am a crazy cat lady.
Shanna Micko: Oh, true. Yes.
Laura Birek: But the question was what do I do? Do I have kids or do I not have kids? I can see my life both ways, what do I do? I’ll link to this in the show notes for on our website, but Cheryl Strayed writes the best essay. I think it’s called The Ghost Ship that Didn’t Carry Us. It’s this essay about how all the big decisions in your life basically take your life in a direction that you can never know the other way your life could have gone. You can imagine it. It’s like we are on one ship and the other life is on another ship and you can only wave to it and imagine what’s going on that other ghost ship that isn’t carrying you. The writer said, “I don’t want to make this decision based on worrying that I’m going to regret it later on in life. Like, I don’t want to have kids just because I’m going to regret it.” Cheryl Strayed was like, why not? That’s the reason we do so many good things in life. Worrying about future regret is actually a great motivation and she has a lot of great advice about really taking the time to imagine what your life is in the future both ways and then really seeing which one is calling to you. I couldn’t deny that the one that called to me was the one with kids and that didn’t mean that if it didn’t work out for me, that I would be unhappy in life without kids, because I could. I could see myself being happy there. But the one that really caught me was the life with kids. It was the bigger life to me. It’s not the bigger life for everyone.
Shanna Micko: Right.
Laura Birek: She says in the thing, imagine yourself as 85 years old, do you envision yourself traveling or enjoying your solitude or do you envision yourself with a 40 year old child who has kids of their own? That was very clarifying to me. It was like, oh, I definitely envisioned myself with a kid in grad school. I would rather have that life and then I got married at 34. You were there. Do you remember?
Shanna Micko: No, 33.
Laura Birek: I was two weeks away from turning 34. That’s what it was, because it was two years ago and I’m 36 now, so the math works out. Just this year we’re like, okay. Well, basically, I have to do it. Also, my IUD was expiring. Seemed like a good time to make a decision and we didn’t know if it would be easy for us or not. Again, which is a discussion for another day. But we decided it was time to just bite that bullet, even though it’s crazy. I still feel like I’m too young to have a kid. Like, man, at 36 and my husband’s almost 40, like whoo! Really too young to be taking care of this kid.
Shanna Micko: Especially when so many of the women on these boards we’re on are like 18.
Laura Birek: I know.
Shanna Micko: It’s like, man, that really makes me feel old. But one thing you mentioned about when you’re older and thinking of having an adult child, that reminded me that I definitely had that consideration too. One of my friends who I’m pretty sure is not interested in having kids one time years ago was asking me about this and I was just like, well, I don’t know. I really am excited to have like an adult child when I’m older because my mom and I have such an awesome relationship and she’s like one of my best friends and I just love that and I just thought it would be so cool for me to have that too on the mothering end and have that great relationship with an adult or even like a teenager and just an older child, because that’s really the majority of parenting. It’s not the infant stuff. It’s the older stuff and developing relationships that are special and I just always thought that was really cool. So I related to that too, with what you were saying.
Laura Birek: I’m going to post a link to that in our show notes in case anyone else is wrestling with the idea. Honestly, it’s a good piece of advice for any big life decision. Thank you, Cheryl Strayed. If I was having a girl, maybe I would have to name child Cheryl, but not happening. Anyway, we finished our first big topic. How do you feel?
Shanna Micko: Good.
Laura Birek: Me too.
Shanna Micko: Our next segment is our BFPs and BFNs. Let’s check-in on our highs and lows for the week. Laura, take it away.
Laura Birek: I got a BFP this week that I’m so excited about, because it’s brought me so much relief. I think I’ve complained about my heartburn on previous episodes. I’ve known about this product for years and I’ve been too embarrassed to buy it or thought it was for an old person. But I finally broke down and I bought a sleeping wedge pillow.
Shanna Micko: What is that?
Laura Birek: It’s like a long triangle that it’s just a wedge. It’s made out of memory foam, so it’s really soft and it just elevates your head. It goes down to about waist level and just elevates your head while you’re sleeping.
Shanna Micko: Oh, okay.
Laura Birek: It’s meant for heartburn and it has completely revolutionized my sleep.
Shanna Micko: In what way? What’s better?
Laura Birek: I can sleep through the night without getting woken up by ridiculous, painful heartburn.
Shanna Micko: That’s awesome.
Laura Birek: It’s basically helping keep your stomach acid in with gravity and it works and I am so grateful for it. I can’t even describe how grateful I am. I was just like, I love you pillow. It’s a little weird I’m elevated in bed next to my husband, so if we kiss each other good night, I have to lean over. Sleeping on your side you’re little wonky, but that has also helped because sleeping on my side is actually when I had the worst heartburn and you’re not really supposed to sleep on your back when you’re pregnant. There’s all these reasons why it’s been helpful. I’m all about it.
Shanna Micko: Do you put it under the sheet or what do you do?
Laura Birek: I put it on top of the sheet. It has like a pillow case that comes with that’s washable. I just put it on and then I have put pillows on top of it so your head is supported. But it’s also really nice for reading before bed.
Shanna Micko: True. Do you think you’ll keep using it after you have your child?
Laura Birek: Depends on how the heartburn goes, but I just told my dad to get one, because he has really bad reflux and I was telling him like, you just got to bite the bullet and do it. I think he finds it a little too steep. I think there’s different grades you can get.
But for me, the getting used to sleeping a little bit more upright is a small price to pay to not have to be in pain all night and having to wake up once an hour and eat Tums because your esophagus is on fire. I’m all about it. I’ll put a link to the one I got in the show notes too, so people can help themselves as well. That’s my, my very, very, exciting BFP. What about you? What do you got?
Shanna Micko: I have a BFP also.
Laura Birek: Good.
Shanna Micko: One thing I’ve been struggling with this pregnancy is sinus congestion, which is also so boring. But I think I touched on it last week. I can’t breathe. I got this air filter. I got a humidifier in my room, all this stuff. I’m waking up with headaches. But one thing that I discovered that’s helped me is the Ever Sexy Breathe Right Strip. Have you ever used those?
Laura Birek: I know what they are. I actually used them I think when I was like a teenager and had a cold, but I haven’t touched them since. Are they making a difference?
Shanna Micko: Yeah, I think they’ve improved them since I used them last like 10 years ago. The design seems better.
Laura Birek: Really?
Shanna Micko: It’s like the sticky strips that you put on your nose and I don’t even know how it works.
Laura Birek: Like flares open your upper nostril, right?
Shanna Micko: It’s helped a lot. I’ve had fewer headaches and I can breathe better when I sleep and now I’m just a sexy beast sleeping with my Breath Right Strip on my nose. I wear earplugs in my ears. I wear a grinding guard in my mouth. I’m just the picture of everything.
Laura Birek: All you need is a sleeping wedge.
Shanna Micko: Oh my God, wake up a goddess every day.
Laura Birek: Yes.
Shanna Micko: But it’s been good. It’s been really helpful. So if you’re having sinus congestion because of your pregnancy, everything’s inflamed, try the Breath Right Strips. This is not an ad for Breath Right Strips. I just like them.
Laura Birek: Not an ad for Breath Right Strips or the pillow wedge. When we find something that helps us, we want you to also be helped, right?
Shanna Micko: That’s right, so go help yourself.
Laura Birek: Well, I guess that’s our episode, huh, Shanna.
Shanna Micko: All right. We just wrapped episode nine. Woo-woo! Thank you guys so much for tuning in this week and we would love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on deciding to have kids? Where do you stand? What journey did you take to get there? Share with us on social media. Laura, where can they find us?
Laura Birek: We’re on Instagram and Twitter at BFP Podcast. We have a website, bigfatpositivepodcast.com and we have a community page on Facebook. Just do a search for Big Fat Positive Podcast community or if you go to our website, there’s a link in the footer. We’d love to see there.
Shanna Micko: Bye
Laura Birek: Bye.