My Traumatic Birth Experience

I got pregnant with my first daughter at 20 years old. Back then, I thought I was grown, but looking back, I realize how naïve I was. The birth of my daughter was one of the most frightening experiences I ever had.

My whole pregnancy was wonderful, no complications at all. If I was tired, I would nap. I never had any pain, even during my last trimester. All I had was horrible heartburn. I didn’t even realize that my gas pains were actually Braxton-Hicks contractions until I was in the hospital getting induced.

My husband, my mother and I went to my final 40 week appointment and it was there that my doctor told me that she wanted to induce labor later that night. I was 1cm dilated for the last four weeks, which was normal. I had hoped to go into labor naturally, but she had explained that there might be complications if we wait longer. I don’t recall exactly what, but I trusted her. This was my first pregnancy and I was young, so as much as I didn’t want to be induced, I believed my doctor knew best.

Later that night, we all drove to the hospital. I was so excited and nervous that I was finally going to meet my baby girl. When we arrived, I changed into a hospital gown and my stomach was strapped with a contraction monitor. My doctor then gave me Pitocin to induce labor.

And we waited.

My contractions started to get stronger and stronger after a few hours. Labor was progressing, very slowly. I wasn’t sure how much longer labor would be and I knew the pain would only get worse, so I asked for an epidural.

It was the middle of the night when the anesthesiologist came into my room. His hair was disheveled and he looked like he had just been woken up out of his sleep. He told my husband and mother that they were not allowed in the room with me and they left.

I had seen a video on how an epidural is performed and I was fucking scared.

I sat off the side of the hospital bed with my nurse in front of me. She gave me a pillow and told me to hunch over. The anesthesiologist warned me not to move and he gave me a small shot to numb the area. But it didn’t work. He started to poke at my back and I felt everything. He told me to stop moving and I apologized but I couldn’t help but wince at the pain. He poked me more than once and at one point said that my “vertebrae were really close together.”

I remember this going on for some time, and I started to get cold sweats and I felt nauseous because I was in so much pain. I looked up at my nurse and told her, “I feel like I’m going to vomit.” It was then that my nurse yelled at the anesthesiologist:

“Can’t you see she’s in pain? Give her some more numbing.”

I got a second shot of numbing and I felt my body finally relax. The epidural was in and I laid back in bed and felt my pain melt away.

Later, my doctor popped my water bag to try and help speed things along. She saw meconium, which is the baby’s first poop, so she flushed my womb. And we waited some more.

I got some sleep and in the morning my doctor came to check me again. I was 6cm dilated. I thought to myself, “great, we’re making some progress.” But my doctor told me I wasn’t progressing quickly enough, and she was having an operating room prepped for me to have a C-section.

I would be down in the operating room in 30 minutes.

Holy shit.

I didn’t speak up because I truly believed she had my best intentions in mind.

We went down to the operating room and my husband was the only one allowed to be with me. The put a big blue curtain up under my chest so we couldn’t see anything. And then they started.

I remember a lot of pulling and tugging. They even pressed down on the top of my stomach to get my daughter out. I know the used forceps to get her head out because she had a bruise later on. Finally her head was out, and she cried right away.

And then I cried. I cried this huge sigh of relief that she was finally here, and that she was okay. They told my husband to look over to see her and I remember asking him if she had a lot of hair, which she did. And I asked if she really was a girl, which she was. She was 8 lbs 9oz, my big beautiful girl.

They gave her her bath right in the room, dressed her and my husband went with our daughter to the nursery while they closed me up.

Jonathan and baby Isabella in the nursery.

And I was all alone.

I was surrounded by so many hospital staff but it was like I wasn’t even there. No one asked me how I was feeling, if I was okay or not.

I remember feeling freezing cold and exhausted. My job was done, I had my baby, and I was tired. So I closed my eyes to try and go to sleep and I heard my own voice in my head scream:

“Don’t go to sleep! Open your eyes!”

So I did. I opened my eyes wide and kept myself from going to sleep. At the time I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized what had happened.

I was brought back to my room and my epidural was removed. I had a heated blanket on me because I was freezing cold. I tried to go to sleep but the pain started to creep in. My incision felt like it was on fire and the damn heated blanket was not helping. I rang for my nurse and told her I was in excruciating pain. She gave me morphine, which felt like a heat wave all over my body. I still felt some of the pain but I was relaxed enough to get some sleep.

Later that day, my new nurse came to my room and asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was really tired, but I had attributed that to the fact that I just had a baby. She had told me that I had lost a lot of blood and kept asking me if I was sure I was okay. I told her yes and brushed it off. But my husband told me later that when he looked over the curtain after our daughter was born, it looked like a horror movie. All he saw was my body there, open and surrounded by an enormous amount of blood.

And I realized why I heard my voice in the operating room, yelling at me not to go to sleep. I probably wouldn’t have woken up had I kept my eyes closed.

It’s unnerving to think back to what I went through over 8 years ago. The pain that I went through before, during and after my daughters birth still haunts me. I had a huge bruise on my back after giving birth that my mother pointed out and she saw four distinct holes where the anesthesiologist had attempted to put that giant needle. I still have pain in my spine where he performed my epidural.

Despite all that I went through, I would do it all again for my daughter. She is the biggest gift I never knew I needed.

My Isabella

To all you mamas who have had a traumatic birth experience, I know your pain. I know how it feels to have your baby born, and suddenly you don’t exist anymore. I know a lot of you have had it much worse than I have, and I’m sorry. Having a baby should be the most magical time of our lives. I wish it was always like that.

Stay strong mamas, you got this.

-Toniann

How One Song Brought me Back to the Past

Since my father passed away over 4 years ago, my brothers and I have gotten into the habit of sending each other songs that he used to listen to.

My father probably had over a hundred cassettes, many of them mixed tapes that he had made over the years. He had such a wide interest in different kinds of music. My father would listen to classical, rock from the 70s-80s, 50s pop music, and so much more. I have a station on my Pandora music app with some of my dads music and it goes from “Hasta Ayer” by Marc Anthony to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis.

My father played the trumpet growing up and he later taught my two brothers how to play. They would practice everyday after school. I’m sure they’ve forgotten how to play now, but who knows. Music was just a big deal to him, and now it is to us.

Since my father listened to so many songs while we were growing up, we don’t remember all of them. But whenever each of us come across a song that he used to listen to, we send it to one another. It’s a nice way to remember our father.

Last week, my brother Chris sent me one song that I had completely forgotten about. It was the 1972 song Go All The Way by Raspberries. I clicked to play the song, and after about 10 seconds into the song, I was brought right back to my childhood living room. There was my father, sitting in front of his stereo, listening to this song and singing along.

And I just started sobbing.

That memory of my dad was so vivid at that moment, and that song brought me right back. I’ve had certain songs bring back memories but nothing as strong as this one. Maybe it was because I had forgotten about it, I’m not really sure. This time was just different. And it made me miss my father so much more.

I’ve had smells bring back memories too: my father’s cologne, my mothers cooking, pinchos cooking in the city. It’s funny how certain sounds and smells can recall memories.

It’s bittersweet when the memories of my dad pop up in my head. My smile turns to tears because I wish he was still here. My father should have died an old man, he was too young. So much has happened since he passed away. And I just want to pick up the phone and call him, to hear his voice. I want to ask him advice about the girls and how he handled things with us when we were kids, knowing full well he wouldn’t remember. I want to sit with him and make him laugh, I was good at that.

I’m not sure where my dad is now, I don’t know if there is an afterlife. All I know is that when I die, hopefully a long, long, long, time from now, I’ll get to see him again.

I miss you like hell, Dad.

My father

-Toniann

My Fitness Journey: The Ups & Downs

My passion for fitness started way back in high school when I was on the wrestling team. The practices we had were so intense, it was normal for me to lose 2 pounds in those 2 hours, and I loved it. My junior year of high school, I took a class called Weight Training, which was basically lifting weights and our final exam was to create a workout routine for one week. I wanted to learn more about fitness and to study Exercise Science in college. I even got accepted to the University at Buffalo in New York. Unfortunately, I didn’t attend because I wanted to stay close to my high school boyfriend, who turned out to be a real shit head. I can’t say I regretted staying and going to school in the city, because it was there that I was reconnected with my now husband.

After dropping out of college, and being in love with the most wonderful guy in the world, I gained so much weight. My normal weight is around 130 pounds and I had gotten up to around 175 pounds in a year and a half.

And then I got pregnant.

So of course, I gained more weight but along the appropriate lines, according to my doctor. When I went in for my final prenatal appointment, I weighed 201 pounds. I was mortified that I got over 200 pounds, pregnant or not.

38 weeks pregnant, and yes, she grew more in the last 2 weeks.

About 6 months after my daughter was born, I decided I needed to start working out and get my shit together. I borrowed the P90X DVD set from my brother-in-law and got to work.

In 6 months I lost 25 pounds and my passion for fitness was reignited.

I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a Personal Trainer. So I studied and became a Certified Fitness Instructor through the International Sports Sciences Association. I started working as a Group Fitness Instructor at a local gym and I felt at home in front of a class.

2014, in the best shape of my life. Goals AF for me now.

But my father was diagnosed with cancer, and making many trips from Florida to New York meant I couldn’t dedicate myself to my clients, so I eventually left the gym. My workouts became sporadic and stopped altogether once my father passed away.

I didn’t study to renew my fitness certification either.

But after having my second daughter years later, I knew I wanted to get back to working out.

It took me a while to stay consistent, but I finally got my groove back.

I know it’s only going to get harder the older I get, so I’m making sure that I workout at least 6 days a week for at least an hour. I have so many days where I just don’t want to work out, but having a gym in my house certainly helps. I associate working out with brushing my teeth: I wouldn’t go a day without brushing my teeth and the same applies to hitting the gym.

Exercise is a form of self-care.

With my anxiety as bad as it is, I make sure more than ever to work out. I truly feel better after I work out. And even on those days where I’m so sore, I never regret working out. Even though I’m not at my “ideal” weight, I love the way my body looks now. And the amazing part about fitness for me is the journey. Realizing that not too long ago, I was unable to do one push-up to now doing 20 without stopping for a break.

It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride for me, from gaining almost 50 pounds and losing it, gaining and losing, and gaining and losing again. What a wild ride it’s been.

To anyone who is on their own fitness journey, I’ll tell you this: it doesn’t matter where anyone else is. As long as you commit to exercising everyday and eating healthier, you’ll reach your goals. It all starts with a single step.

-Toniann

Dancing More Passion into our Marriage

Learning to dance has always been something my husband and I wanted to do, but we just never got around to it. It’s hard enough squeezing in a date night every now and then, so learning to dance was a bit low on our couples to-do list.

We’ve been to the club plenty of times throughout our 10 year relationship. We’ve bumped and grinded, and almost made another baby out on the dance floor, but we never learned formally.

I am Puerto Rican and my husband is Dominican. My mother taught me Salsa growing up, which I’ve since forgotten, and Jonathan learned Bachata. It’s a right of passage growing up in a Latin family to dance with your Titi’s and Tio’s at a party. But the dancing we were taught was just basic, enough to get you through a dance or two at a family get-together.

So once we moved to Arizona, we were on a quest to find a club that played Salsa and Bachata music. As luck would have it, my husband found a place that not only plays Latin music but also offers group lessons in both Salsa and Bachata. So we took our first class, and we loved it. Obviously, Salsa is more complicated than Bachata, and the lessons we’ve been taking have been mostly Bachata. But it’s been wonderful learning so far.

I credit our great communication to learning so quickly. The other night, the hubbs put on a Bachata dance tutorial video for us to follow at home. He can be a bit overzealous, but I love his enthusiasm nonetheless. I kept messing up and Jon was getting frustrated. I told him “listen, I know you’re very excited about learning, but you just need to be patient with me so I can catch up.” And he did, no offense taken at all. We’re in this together. And honestly…

Dancing with my husband is making me fall in love with him even more.

Latin dances are all about passion and moving those hips. Gaining confidence when learning the steps is so much fun too. Going out on the dance floor with the music roaring means you can’t use your words to communicate. You have to use your bodies to sense where your partner wants to lead you. Trusting your partner means going with the flow.

Last Saturday, we danced and danced, and danced some more. By the end of the night, my whole body was sore but it was so worth it.

It’s amazing to learn something new with my husband. And it’s so great that he’s just as excited as I am to learn to dance. He’s the one who lets me know the next time we’re going.

“Next Saturday, we’re going dancing!”

Seeing him dance is so sexy. And the way he looks at me when we’re dancing… whoo, I feel like the only woman on the whole dance floor.

It’s safe to say that Latin dancing is great foreplay. So if you’re looking to put more passion into your relationship, find your nearest Latin dance studio and club, and dance the night away.

¡Vamos a bailar!

-Toniann

Dealing with a False Sense of Entitlement

Growing up, my mother used to tell me how special and unique I was. How there was never another person in the whole world who was like me. I was also my father’s only daughter, and he spoiled me. So naturally, I believed that I deserved certain things in life. I deserved to be treated special, because that’s what I grew up believing. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned…

I don’t deserve anything from anyone.

And neither do you.

No, I am not the center of the universe. While it’s quite shocking to come to this realization, it’s also liberating. It’s still something I am working on, but baby steps. It’s difficult to change your mindset from believing that certain people in your life owe you things (whether it be time, affection, money), to realize that is not the case at all.

Having a sense of entitlement only hurts myself in the long-run. So I am really trying to be more self-aware and not take things that people do personally.

But how do you handle someone who feels entitled to your own time, love or even money?

We’ve all come across people who feel like we owe them something. Someone who needs you right away to complain about the same shit going on in their life, with no regard for you. This has happened to me recently.

A family member of mine, who I cut out of my life a few years ago, wants to reconnect. Our relationship was horrible most of the time, I was always treated terribly. I admit, I was tempted to try and reconnect, we’re family after all. But I reminded myself that this person only wants to have a relationship with me to fulfill needs and desires that have nothing to do with me. I am just another ear to listen to bullshit, to feel sorry, and I refuse to do that.

And I refuse to feel guilty for distancing myself from people who disturb my peace.

Maybe that’s me feeling entitled again. I feel I deserve some peace in my life. I’ve dealt with enough of other people’s shit. I’d like to deal with my own.

Walking away from bullshit

-Toniann

A Lesson in Gratitude

Hi everyone, I haven’t posted in a while because a lot has been going on. We went to San Diego for Memorial Day weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. The weekend started off great, we went to the beach, which was my youngest’s first time, so it was wonderful. The next day we went to LEGOLAND waterpark and we were really having a fun time. But as we went to one last area to wrap up our day, my diaper bag was stolen. Someone went into my stroller and stole my bag with everything in it: mine and my husbands phone, my wallet, my car keys and my daughters diapers and change of clothes.

I was fucking furious. Enraged that someone could actually do that at a family park. I felt violated; I couldn’t believe that someone felt they had a right to just take our belongings. And most of all, I was mad at myself. I was mad at myself for being foolish enough to let my guard down. I was stupid to believe that there are no bad people out there anymore. I was so mad, I started to cry.

We spent the rest of the night with security from the park, and later the police to file a report. I knew that since our phones were turned off, there was no way to track them, and our stuff was gone forever.

I went to the LEGOLAND hotel and used their phone to call a locksmith to get a new key cut for my car so we wouldn’t be stranded. I was on the phone and computer cancelling credit cards and trying to get replacement phones. We had to print directions out to and from our hotel. You don’t realize how much you depend on your smartphone until you don’t have access to one.

Since all this happened and my anger has subsided a bit, I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened.

I’m GRATEFUL it wasn’t worse.

I’m constantly reminded that no matter what happens, things could always be worse. I’m grateful that my daughters weren’t injured in any way. I’m grateful I didn’t have any cash in my wallet, whatever money they spent on my credit card can be replaced by the bank. I’m grateful my husband had his wallet on him and not in my purse like much of the day. I’m grateful that while I was on the phone and computer for hours at the hotels in LEGOLAND, my daughters were having fun playing with the slide by the stairs and the countless LEGO bricks. I’m grateful for the staff at LEGOLAND who helped us with everything we needed. I’m grateful for a dear friend in San Diego that happened to have an extra phone that we were able to use for the rest of our trip. And despite being robbed of my possessions, I’m grateful that my daughters still had an amazing time.

Everything that was taken from me can be replaced. It’s easy to stay angry at this situation, but I want to remember this trip as a fun one. That’s how my daughters see it. They’ll look back at all the rides they went on, the prizes they won and all the fun we had together.

And to the person(s) who took my diaper bag: you may have stolen my belongings but I refuse to let you steal my joy. What goes around comes around, so I’ll just sit back and let karma take care of it.

I’m grateful either way.

Birthday dinner with my favorite people in the world.

-Toniann

Dear Anxiety, You’re a Bitch

This weekend, we’re going away for the weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday. A trip that I am really excited about. But today, checking the weather for the weekend at our destination, I see that it’s going to be a chilly weekend. Our plans were to go to the beach and to a water park. So I couldn’t help but feel like our weekend’s plans would be ruined. But I know that’s my anxiety talking.

It all started when I was pregnant with my second daughter. I was so scared of having another C-section because my previous one with my oldest was horrible. But being pregnant, I was in a constant state of worry for my baby, which I think is pretty normal. But on top of that, we decided to move across the country, WHILE I WAS PREGNANT! My husband was in Arizona while I was still in Florida with my daughter. I talked to my midwife about my anxiety but I opted not to take medication. I just assumed once I was in Arizona with my husband and daughters, things would go back to normal.

But my anxiety hasn’t gone anywhere.

It’s not just worrying. My heart races, my chest feels so tight I can hardly breathe, I’m tired and irritable. Lately I’m noticing that there is little or nothing to prompt my anxiety. And I’m trying to manage my anxiety on my own but it’s so exhausting.

I exercise 6 days a week for at least an hour, I have a healthy diet, and I try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are all bad for anxiety. The three things I turn to when I’m feeling anxious and stressed out are making things worse. So I’ve managed to cut out my beloved morning cup of espresso, which was fucking painful. I’m still working on cutting out nicotine (yes, I vape and am a former cigarette smoker), and working on keeping my alcohol consumption to just weekends. Which is so hard because I love having my red wine!

I haven’t been consistent with my meditating either, but I’m starting tomorrow. I’ve already started waking up earlier to make time to meditate, my problem is just getting out of bed.

It’s hard for me to reach out and talk to people about what I’m going through. Especially when my anxiety makes me worry about trivial stuff. Honestly, even writing this blog post right now is making me anxious. But I’m trying to find a positive outlet, so here I am typing away. I knew I wanted to write about my anxiety at some point, so I figured now was a good a time as any.

I’m a work in progress, I always will be. Managing my anxiety is just something I have to deal with everyday. Some days are better than others. But I’m getting better at realizing which situations make me anxious and I’m making an effort to stay away from those situations.

I am more than my anxiety.

-Toniann