By Tristan Bickman, MD
With Laura Moser
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It was a good thing that Rowland’s longtime OB/GYN Dr. Tristan Emily Bickman was right there to answer every single crazy question that popped into her head. Nothing fazed Dr. Bickman and she provided Rowland with the answers she so desperately needed, telling her over and over that, in the months after a woman gives birth, nothing is exactly strange, but nothing is necessarily normal either. It’s all just part of the “miracle” of birth.
In Whoa, Baby! Rowland and Dr. Bickman team up to share this reassuring information with new moms everywhere. Often hilarious and always down-to-earth, Rowland and Dr. Bickman cover every surprising challenge that new moms face.
What Do I Do Now?
I am not lying when I say that I loved every second of my pregnancy. I know, I know. I was one of those women. I realized then and now how incredibly lucky I was in that I never felt too sick or had any major health scares. And I was so excited to become a mom. I was doing it exactly as I'd always dreamed. I was married and madly in love with my husband, Tim. I was at a great age, and a great stage in my career—established enough to be financially comfortable, with the luxury of being able to take a few months off to focus on the baby.
And pregnancy, for me, just confirmed how wonderful being a mom was guaranteed to be. I loved that even when I was relaxing, I was accomplishing something major. I was growing a baby inside my body—what could be more important than that? And I just couldn't get enough of the attention my friends and family showered on me. Everyone was always rubbing my belly and offering me the best seat on the couch and generally treating me like the queen of the world. That's exactly what I felt like: a queen!
I allowed myself more indulgences than in my regular, nonpregnant life, and I loved eating my number-one pregnancy food, chocolate ice cream with peanut butter mixed in it, several times a week. After what felt like a lifetime of monitoring my diet, I could finally eat whatever I wanted and not worry about it! (Note to self for future pregnancies: This is not actually true. But, hey, it was awesome while it lasted.)
I was so into my new queen status that I wasn't prepared for the seismic shift that took place when my son exited my body and entered the world. Right after Titan was born, we did the skin-to-skin and he squirmed around on my chest and I was in absolute heaven, surrounded by everyone I loved best on earth. But then, a few minutes later, the nurses whisked him away from me to be weighed and cleaned up. And just as suddenly, the crew who'd been cheering me on—my husband, my godsisters—literally just forgot all about me. They went, as my beloved obstetrician, Tristan Bickman, said, straight from "the 'gina to the warmer." It was true. They were just totally outta there.
My husband had been all "You rocked that birth, baby—I'm so proud of you!" But then, once Titan came out, he seemed to forget all about my accomplishment. Just like that, he was bent over Titan's tiny body whispering, "You're Daddy's champ! You're Daddy's champ!" over and over. And once everyone had followed Daddy's little champ across the room, I was left lying back in the hospital bed, all alone except for Dr. Bickman, thinking, "Hello? What about me? Aren't I a champ, too?"
Of the million different emotions—ecstatic and excited and scared to death, to name a few—swirling inside me at that life-changing moment, one thing I didn't expect to feel was abandoned. But it was as if, in the second I gave birth, my loved ones forgot all about me!
In the blink of an eye everything was all about Titan. And of course that's what it is to be a parent—that's exactly how it's supposed to be. I, too, was feeling the most incredible love I had ever experienced for that tiny little man who had just emerged from my body. But I was also feeling an incredible pain in my vajayjay and wondering if I'd ever walk again.
I'd spent nine months so focused on the baby growing inside me that I was caught completely off guard when I discovered that, over the course of my pregnancy, I had changed, too. Like many first-time moms, I'd assumed that once I popped out the baby, I'd be taking care of him and that would be that. I didn't realize how hard it would be for me to have a bowel movement or breastfeed or even sleep. That first day, for all my excitement, I was also feeling exhausted and overwhelmed and a little bewildered.
It was a good thing that Dr. Bickman, who's been my ob/gyn for the last fourteen years, was right there next to me (unlike my family members—ha!) to answer every single crazy question that popped into my head not just in those first few minutes, but in the days that followed. In those intense weeks of brand-new motherhood, I was calling up poor Dr. Bickman at every hour of the day and night, every time with a new question. While I had been completely chill throughout my pregnancy, just letting nature run its course, I suddenly had endless questions—crazy questions, nasty questions, embarrassing questions, you name it. Why do I feel even heavier after giving birth? Will I ever be able to go to the bathroom without wincing again? Why am I bleeding so damn much? What's up with falling asleep the second I start nursing? Why don't I get as wet when I see my husband when I'm still so attracted to him?
None of these questions, no matter how raunchy, fazed Dr. Bickman for one second. She provided me with the reassurance I so desperately needed, telling me over and over that, in the months after a woman gives birth, nothing is exactly strange, but nothing is necessarily normal, either. It's all just part of the "miracle" of birth. Throughout my pregnancy but even more so afterward, Dr. B. made me feel like what was happening to my body was completely natural, no matter how nasty or scary: the Frisbee boobs, the stretched-out vaj, the clumps of hair falling out every morning.
And when I spoke with her, she told me that a huge number of patients are exactly like me. They think that now that they've done the whole pregnancy thing, they can turn their attention to taking care of their newborn baby and that's that. They never consider how their own bodies might react to what they've just gone through until something goes wrong—and then, like me, they feel overwhelmed and freaked out and don't know where to turn. Every day in the weeks and months after I became a mom, it seemed like I had a new question. Why am I sweating through my sheets? What's up with all this hair falling out? Will I ever be able to have sex again? Will I ever even want to?
Even if you think you're the first woman in the history of the world to confront a specific post-pregnancy concern, trust me, you're not. Just because we don't talk about these subjects at cocktail parties or mommy-and-me classes doesn't make them less real, or less common. That's why every new mom out there needs a Dr. Bickman in their life: a kind, hilarious, and wise woman who has seen everything and then some. Every time I called her in the weeks after Titan arrived on the scene, I was sure she'd be shocked or horrified or just grossed out by whatever I had to ask her. But more often than not, she'd heard it before, and not just once, but often that same day!
Dr. Bickman was the perfect person to answer all my questions because she has been there and done that. She has five kids of her own ranging in age from four to eighteen, and on top of that she's delivered about twenty babies a month for nearly two decades. And most importantly, you can go there with her. No topic is off-limits.
My initial response—"Oh my God, really? It's not just me?"—turned to frustration when I realized that we mamas are sorely lacking in a go-to resource for these types of questions. Because I know from previous experiences I had in the years before I started seeing Dr. Bickman, and from conversations with my best girlfriends, that not everyone has such an amazing doctor to sort out the miracle of life for them. My friends who've had babies in the year since I became a mom are constantly asking me these types of questions, too, as if just having a kid is enough to qualify me as a world expert.
I've seen over and over that not every woman has such a cut-and-dried, tell-it-like-it-is obstetrician and experienced mom to dish out sanity-restoring advice at any hour of the day or night. That's why, during a postpartum follow-up one day, Dr. B. and I came up with the idea to write this book. We wanted to give new moms a go-to place for all the answers they're looking for.
There are so many guides to what our kids need, from the time they're the size of a poppy seed to the time they start kindergarten. But what about what the mother needs? It's crazy to watch how quickly our babies' bodies grow, but what about what's happening to our bodies? And then we had our big idea. What if we could combine my questions as a new mom with Dr. Bickman's wisdom as a doctor and mother into a go-to book for new mothers?
And that's what we've tried to do in Whoa, Baby! I didn't just go to Dr. Bickman for advice, but to my beloved nursing coach for breastfeeding tips. I talked to one of my dear friends, who also happens to be a therapist specializing in postpartum issues, and I spoke with a trainer about working out after baby, and I consulted a physical therapist about the most common recovery issues post-baby. I even talked to a stylist about how to dress in those in-between months when you're done with maternity wear but not quite ready for your skinny jeans.
And throughout it all, we will tell you the whole unvarnished truth. We'll be covering the gross physical stuff (Why does my vagina look like that?); the hormonal and emotional stuff (Why am I crying five times a day when this is the happiest I've ever been?); and the just plain weird stuff (Why did my nipples change color?). We'll be describing scenarios that moms who've already been there and done that will recognize. What happens if I fall asleep with the pump on? Why does sex still hurt when I had a C-section? Why are my legs so swollen? We hope you'll be consulting it before you give birth to prepare you for the messy reality of what's to come, or read it in the middle of the insanity—not that you'll have a chance to read more than a page or two in any given day.
We have all been there. I have, and Dr. B. has, and every single woman who has ever had a baby pulled out of her vagina or abdomen has experienced some version of these changes. But until now, there has never been a place where a new mother could get her down-and-dirty questions answered, except maybe the Internet. And trust me, that is not where you want to turn when you're crouched over a mirror wondering if your vagina will ever return to human dimensions again. Instead, let us hold your hand and walk you through this challenging, bewildering, and wonderful time.
Is There Anything I Can Do to Make This Easier?
(The Final Stretch)
IF YOU'RE ANYTHING LIKE ME, you're used to micromanaging every single little detail of your life. I like to be in charge of my own schedule and my own commitments, and I prefer to do things on my own terms. That was one of the hardest parts of pregnancy for me—just sort of accepting that there was this miracle taking place in my body, and I couldn't really see it or take charge of it. All I could do was let the mysterious creature grow stronger and stronger inside me. And wait and wait and wait.
When I got tired of waiting, I busied myself with what I could control, like getting the house ready. Well, first there was the little matter of moving—when I found out I was pregnant, Tim and I decided to move to a bigger place that would fit our family of three. Moving was a really great excuse to clean out our closets and drawers and just get our lives a bit more organized in anticipation of the Big Change on the horizon. I went into complete nesting overdrive.
And after we settled into the new house, I got totally OCD when it came to prepping for our newest resident! I was going to Restoration Hardware and every other home store in my neighborhood whenever I got a chance. I worked out every last detail of his nursery, making sure every picture I'd chosen for him was hung in the exact right place at the exact right angle. I washed all of his baby clothes and got them all organized in his little closet. I bought crib sheets and one of those breastfeeding pillows, and I set up a nice little diaper-changing station in his room. I even designated a special stretch of the kitchen counter for him, where I could keep all his bottles and pacifiers and a drying rack. I made sure that corner was always extra clean! In short, I was in a complete nesting frenzy those last few months.
Between visits to home stores, I also took care of myself, of course. Most of the time I just felt happy and thrilled for the next chapter in Tim's and my adventure, but on some days I felt really emotional for no apparent reason. I didn't drink caffeine because I thought it made me too excitable, and I tried to do a lot of yoga and work on my breathing whenever I got the chance.
As I got closer to my due date, I made time for the really important preparations, like getting my hair and then eyebrows done—because, hey, if I couldn't control anything that was going on inside my body, at least I could make sure that the outside was looking dope! I got a pedicure, too, even though it felt like it had been months since I'd last been able to see my feet. I just wanted to make myself feel cute since I probably wouldn't be looking all that cute for a while.
With that in mind, I also bought some really luxurious extra-large pajamas and a nightgown with a matching robe that I could wear in the hospital, and some granny underwear. I made up a smooth playlist with songs by Stevie Wonder and the Carpenters. I made a whole list of songs that would relax me and bought several hours' worth (because I believe in buying music) so I could have just the right soundtrack. But beyond that, what else could I do?
Toward the end I remember being really calm; it was like I'd finally surrendered to the unknown. Ready or not, that baby was on his way out into the world, and no matter what, I would love him till my dying breath. But as I got bigger and bigger, I started to have more trouble sleeping. Tim would feel me tossing and turning next to him and he'd ask me what was wrong, and I would never have an answer for him. There was nothing wrong at all, beyond some pain in my pelvic region; I was mostly just too excited to sleep.
But despite having the number-one greatest pregnancy of all time, I still had trouble functioning in the morning when I'd spent most of the previous night eating cherry pie and watching the movie Knocked Up yet again. I must've watched that movie ten times in the last month of my pregnancy. I'm sure it was because the Katherine Heigl character was pregnant, and when you're pregnant, especially toward the end, you have trouble thinking about anything but pregnancy. That's the only explanation for my other late-night TV-binging obsession, A Baby Story on TLC. One night I shrieked out loud because my own Dr. Bickman was in an episode!
As for the rest of it, I tried just to keep on taking those deep breaths and accept that I couldn't stage-manage or choreograph what was about to go down in the delivery room. I asked Dr. Bickman if there was anything I could do to have, or at least come close to, the perfect birth experience, and she laughed and told me there was no such thing. "As long as you and the baby come out on the other end healthy, that's all the perfection you need," she said, and I knew she was right. But again, it's hard, if you're a take-charge personality like me, to let go of the reins.
"A lot of women come to me with questions about what they can do to make the birth process go more smoothly," Dr. Bickman told me. "The honest answer is nothing at all. You've made every doctor's appointment and religiously taken your prenatal vitamins, and now it's entirely out of your hands, which is not what a lot of my Type A patients want to hear."
Whatever you've read, there's nothing you can "do" to get ready for your baby's imminent arrival, but that doesn't mean you won't try! Still, it's important not to overpack, which I'm afraid most of us first-timers do. I confess that I brought concealer and mascara along so I'd be looking my best for the photos! Of course, these remained in my bag the whole time. Here are the preparations that helped me:
Pack your hospital bag (but, honestly, all you need is a toothbrush, a change of clothes for the trip home, and your perfect pillow if, like me, you have a favorite. You can bring a cute little onesie for baby, but the hospital will have clothes for the baby, so that's not even necessary. One essential item I wouldn't have known to pack if not for Dr. B. is socks for the baby: "The hospital will give you clothes and a hat and even mittens, but they won't provide socks, and those can be useful for keeping your baby's tiny feet warm."
Take a day off. Whether you spend it in the salon (check) or just vegging on the couch in front of your favorite Bravo show, savor every second of quiet time while you can.
Prepare your house! Make sure you have a place for the baby to sleep, a safe spot for diaper changes, and perhaps most important of all, some comfy spots where you and your loved ones can sit and snuggle the baby, which is the main thing you'll be doing those first few weeks. Maybe stack up some magazines, dig out your remote control, and have some bottles of water handy for the long stretches of sitting ahead of you.
Relax! Even if it's just for five minutes a day, try to let all your fears—and even all your hopes—go and just relax in the moment. Stay as calm as possible, and the baby inside of you will emerge calm, too.
Plan on everything deviating from your plans.
Lucky for me, Dr. B. heartily endorsed my pre-baby salon regimen: anything that made me chill out and feel good got the green light from her. "The only thing you can do once you're nearing full term is just try to relax about what's to come," she said. "It's also helpful to take a little time off to pamper yourself, because even if you don't realize it now, you may not get another chance for the next eighteen years. If you've never had a baby before, do something—anything—to indulge yourself, even if it's just taking yourself out for a massage or going to the movies alone in the middle of a weekday. For the first and probably only time in your adult life, you can completely relax with zero guilt. And trust me, this time will not come again, because if you have a second child, you'll still have the first at home to deal with. Taking some time off will also help steel you for the chaos to come."
Dr. Bickman also warned me against getting too hung up on any exact scenario of how the birth was going to go down. I knew that as long as my baby and I ended up healthy, it didn't really matter how we'd gotten there.
"I recently had a patient in labor with her first child after three years—three years!—of trying to get pregnant," Dr. Bickman told me. "But things got a little messy, as they often do when bringing a child into the world. After ninety-five hours—yes, that is almost four days—of labor and three hours of pushing, it became clear that she needed a C-section right away. But she wasn't having it. In between shrieks of agony, she kept screaming, 'I won't do it—this is not what I wanted!'
"I told her it was no longer about what she wanted, it was about the health of the baby, whereupon she burst into tears. 'This is the worst day of my life, this is the worst day of my life,' she kept repeating. I said to her, 'What are you talking about? You're having a baby. This is the best day of your life.' But she kept saying over and over, 'This is a nightmare, this is a nightmare,' and I kept telling her to get a grip: 'This is the opposite of a nightmare. In twenty minutes you're having a baby. Get a grip, get some perspective!' It was only after she finally saw the baby girl she'd wanted for so many years that she finally started to calm down."
I do understand that it's perfectly natural to have some preconceived notion of how we want the birth to go; we're only human, after all. But in this one instance, we have to just kind of let it roll. After talking to Dr. B., I went in determined not to freak out about factors totally beyond my control, and I think I did a pretty good job.
"Whether it's your first pregnancy or you've gone through this drill four times already, you probably have some sense of how you want your birth to go," Dr. B. said. "I have patients who walk in and say, 'I want an epidural the instant I have my first contraction,' and I have patients who say, 'No matter what, don't ever give me the option of an epidural.' But we can't always plot out how our labor is going to go. Some of my patients who are convinced they don't want an epidural end up asking for one, and some who do want it don't end up needing one. The whole process of labor is just so unpredictable, and the best approach is just to roll with it. Try, no matter how hard it seems, to just go with the flow."
So if you've never had a baby before, you have no idea what to expect. How do you possibly know what you want? You may have envisioned exactly how it should go, and it's fine to establish a nice foundation of expectations, but above all else you should make flexibility a priority. Dr. Bickman, as well as my amazing doula, told me over and over just to let it happen as it's going to happen, and luckily I got close to my dream scenario. And since becoming a mom, I've come to understand that a lot of this new role of mine involves surrendering control of my previous expectations of how things—a dinner out, or a vacation, or even just a trip to the grocery store—are going to be. The adults are no longer completely in the driver's seat, and there's no better time to learn this than during childbirth.
So, I know it's hard, but just trust that your medical providers have your best interests at heart. Your doctor will listen to you and honor your wishes to the greatest degree possible, but the health and safety of the mother and the baby will always come first in their minds—and that's a good thing! "And remember," Dr. Bickman told me, "you're the one we're listening to, not your partner." Tim and I were on the same page about how we wanted the birth to go—we'd communicated nonstop about this in the long weeks leading up to Titan's birth—but apparently that isn't always the case.
- "An honest and humorous look at all the odd changes and often gross repercussions that accompany childbirth...Rowland is indeed very funny, and along with the medical advice of Bickman, offers a winning and entertaining sampling of how pregnancy and birth-while lovely-is sometimes just totally disgusting."—Library Journal
- "A #realtalk tell-all about the surprising, scary, and wonderful things that happen to your mind and body post-pregnancy."—Shape.com
- "[Rowland] opens up about her experiences as a first-time mom, offering insights on the good, the bad and the ugly sides of motherhood she wishes someone had shared with her." —People.com
- "[Roland] dishes honest advice."—Fit Pregnancy and Baby
- "[Whoa, Baby!] addresses the parts of motherhood some picture-perfect Pinterest parents might sweep under the nursery rug."—USA Today
- "A funny and frank roadmap to understanding and accepting your post-baby body...A refreshingly candid take on what to expect when you're no longer expecting."—Working Mother
- "The every-woman's guide to everything after What to Expect When You're Expecting." —The Daily Beast
- "Kelly Rowland is blowing the lid off pregnancy taboos. In her debut book, [Rowland] talks about everything you're not supposed to talk about when it comes to the beautiful, err, more like mystifying, terrifying and frankly, at times, gross process of bringing new life into this world. Whoa, Baby! serves as a tell-all and a resource...Rowland is all about getting the conversation going. She doesn't hold back."—Metro Boston
- "Frank, honest, practical...It contains a lot of really good information...This is essential reading for new mothers and, I add, new fathers."—Sandy Kenyon, WABC TV
"You may have all of the answers when it comes to meeting your baby's needs, but what about the things you need as a mum?...Kelly Rowland is here for you with her book, Whoa, Baby!, where nothing is off limits...Rowland answers the questions you may have been too afraid to ask."
—Business Insider Australia
- On Sale
- Apr 11, 2017
- Page Count
- 192 pages
- Da Capo Lifelong Books