Lea Luna Part 1: From Healing to Pregnancy

I wanted to heal my life before I made another, and I realized the universe planned it that way, too. Women have come to my retreats or teacher trainings to heal themselves, and immediately after they returned home, they got pregnant. Literally!! My story is no different.

rachel kneeling in sand pregnant sunset

Finding Out We Were Pregnant

We found out that we were pregnant at 2.5 weeks—a whole week and a half before my period was even late! Dennis, crazily enough, had a feeling all along that we were pregnant—he felt it from the moment of conception! To me, it was just the craziest thing ever.

We had a very special afternoon on a deserted beach on the north shore (let’s just say, she was going to be a beach baby for sure) and immediately, Dennis started making pregnancy jokes. I think he cracked his first one in the car driving back home that very same evening! He couldn’t explain it, just that he had a very strong feeling, that something special had happened.

I, on the other hand, had absolutely no clue. It wasn’t a time of the month that was “unsafe”, I’d just finished my period a day or two before, and there was no doubt in my mind that I was very much NOT pregnant, no matter how much Dennis kept hinting.

I was drinking wine, going about life as usual. And trust me, if I would have had the slightest inkling toward there maybe, sort of, kind of being a chance of being pregnant, I definitely would have stayed away from the wine. But I didn’t.

And every time Den made a joke about “a bun in the oven” (whenever I took banana bread out of the oven after baking), or “planting seeds” (whenever we were out watering plants in the garden), or “eating for two” (whenever I took a bite into, well, anything), I just ignored him and carried on as normal.

One night, at around 4 in the morning, I reached my arm out to hug Ringo and felt a shooting pain in my breasts that woke me up. It woke me up! That’s how painful my boobs were. I was jolted awake and sat up, heart pounding in my chest. Oh God, I thought. What if Dennis is right??

The mere thought of it was just so wild, so crazy... Too big to comprehend.

The next morning we went to the pharmacy and bought a pregnancy test. I peed on the stick, honestly only expecting a negative because the thought was still so absurd to me, so strange. But there it was: a faint little line. The line was so faint, though, that we still weren’t sure! Does this mean that we’re pregnant? Does this count? We were so early in the pregnancy the test could barely register it, but I took it as an inconclusive test. I wanted to know for sure.

We went and bought three more tests. The second one, again, had a very, very faint line. The third one came out negative. The fourth one came out as inconclusive because I used it wrong (I thought we’d get a more certain result if I did the test in a plastic cup, but after we read the instructions it said to not use the test that way).

Safe to say, we were going INSANE.

That afternoon we made an appointment at a local medical center to get a blood test, figuring it would be the only way we could know for sure at this stage. We went in and, this being the tiniest island in the world where everyone knows everyone, there was a guy sitting in the waiting room that’s an old friend of Dennis.

Dennis didn’t see him and went straight to the desk and said, “We think we might be pregnant but we’re not sure. Can we do a blood test here?” The guy immediately stood up and yelled “CONGRATULATIONS!!!!” and proceeded to show us pictures of his 1-year old son.

Yeah. That happened. We didn’t even know if we were pregnant yet, and having the whole island know wasn’t exactly ideal. I think of it now and can’t help but crack up.

We went in, they drew my blood and noticed how antsy we were to get the results. “Normally it takes a day to get the results back from the lab, but I’ll rush it for you. Come back in 45 minutes and you’ll know if you’re expecting a baby or not.”

We went to Starbucks. I ordered a soy latte with a strong feeling that it may just be my last for a while, and I enjoyed the shit out of that latte. We held hands, and I can honestly say I’ve never had more butterflies in my stomach in my entire life. We were on the cusp of something absolutely life changing.

When our 45 minutes were up, we went back to the clinic. The receptionist was smiling when she handed us the results. I opened the envelope and there it was, in writing: POSITIVE.

“Congratulations!” she said, “You’re going to be parents!”

Walking out of the clinic, I cried. We kissed. Holy fucking shit. THIS IS REAL. We’re having a baby!!!!! I spent the next week floating. My friend Olivia was in Sweden and there was no one else I wanted to tell, so we kept it to ourselves and let it all sink in during week 3 (which is so insanely early in a pregnancy, most people don’t even know they're pregnant!).

The crazy thing is, having a baby right then wasn’t part of my plan! It was an amazing surprise, trust me, and we were beyond excited, but the way I’d planned out that year and the next didn’t include me getting pregnant. We were opening a studio in December (a project that was kind of like a baby, too!), I had trips planned for the year that I had to cancel (Ecuador with 109 World, for instance (I couldn’t go because of the Zika risk), and I was planning to do a holistic counseling training the next year that I’d have to postpone.

But the saying is true: there is no perfect time.

Looking at it now, we were healthy, we were well off financially, we were building a new business that didn’t require us to travel all over the globe, we love each other deeply... We were ready. Even though it wasn’t exactly the way I’d planned, it truly was the most perfect time.

Dennis had been wanting a baby for a while, and one of the reasons I took some time off to go to Path of Love was because I knew deeply that I wanted to work on myself before we started thinking about having a baby. I had some unresolved issues with my mom and some underlying grief from things I’ve gone through that I needed to resolve. And that’s exactly what happened.

I left that group completely transformed, lighter, clear, focused, full of love. And BAM! The day after Dennis came back from Galapagos, it happened. It’s almost as if the universe was waiting to bring us a baby until I was ready. And the moment I was, there was no need to wait any longer. It felt so divine, the timing of it all. Truly magical.

New chapter. New life. LIFE IS SO AMAZING!

rachel dennis pregnant selfie

I wanted to record my experience and share it with you all, so every week, from week 4-14, I blogged. Here are tidbits from those entries:

Week 4: Period Pains and Ditching My Inhaler

This was my first week of really understanding that I was pregnant. Or, actually, I might not have really understood it still—it was so huge!

I got intense pregnancy symptoms right away. I’ve never had bad period symptoms: my period is usually over in 2-3 days, I don’t get bad cramps, and I generally feel comfortable all the way through. So reading online and in my new pregnancy apps (I downloaded like 5 of them!) that early pregnancy symptoms feel very close to period symptoms, and that’s why many people mistake pregnancy symptoms for their period coming around the 4th week, didn’t make much sense to me.

But then I started feeling all sorts of cramps—pretty bad ones! They’d come and go all throughout the day and vary in intensity. Also, my boobs were killing me. I’d never experienced actual boob pain before, not even related to my period, so this was all new. But all in all, feeling new things was exciting! For every new sensation that came up, I’d get excited because it all affirmed what I knew was true but still couldn’t quite believe: there was life growing inside me! So wild.

I started taking folic acid the moment I found out we were pregnant, and I changed something pretty radical: I completely stopped using my asthma medicine. I’ve had chronic asthma since I was 4, and even though my asthma generally isn’t bad, I always carry my inhaler with me. Finding out I was pregnant gave me this huge urge to stay pure, free of chemicals, free of everything that had the slightest chance of harming the baby. And whatever was in my inhaler didn’t feel safe (even though all the websites I checked said it was).

I’d gone long stretches of time without using my inhaler before (usually I only get asthma when I’m very stressed—it’s so connected to my emotional well-being) but I never decided to completely stop using it. A lot of changes in a short time! I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I figured time would tell. For the time being, I tried to focus on grasping this big life change. Our little family was growing! I still couldn’t believe it.

Week 5: All-Day Morning Sickness

Why do they call it morning sickness when it lasts ALL DAY LONG?

This was the beginning of a rough few weeks for me. The worst thing in the world for me is being nauseated—I just can’t take it. I don’t throw up EVER. Seriously, I never throw up. When I went into surgery for an appendectomy, I threw up. But before that it hadn’t happened since I was a teenager and had alcohol poisoning. I. Don’t. Throw. Up. And I wasn’t planning on starting now!

Somehow I thought I was just going to skip that whole nausea and morning sickness thing. A part of me thought that was for other women, weaker women, but not me! I think back on it now and smile—I had no idea what I was in for! No way, José. Alas, it arrived.

I spent every day of week 5 unable to leave the house because I was on the verge of throwing up the entire time. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t drink water. I couldn’t move. Everything I did made me nauseated. Eating made me nauseated. Not eating made me nauseated. I couldn’t figure out a way to function and it was absolutely awful. I started getting fearful… What if this is what my pregnancy is going to be for 8 more months? How would I cope?

I have a friend who literally was nauseated during her entire pregnancy. At several points, she had to go to the hospital to get an IV because she got so dehydrated. She even decorated her bathroom with a new carpet and candles, complete with a framed picture of her ultrasound, because she spent so much time on her bathroom floor and she needed a reminder that it was all for something.

What if that was going to happen to me? To me, there is nothing worse than nausea. Also, my sense of smell was getting crazy sensitive. And since everything I could smell made me nauseated, this was not a good thing. I dragged my way through the week and didn't leave the house a single time, praying it was temporary. I was in for a surprise, that's for sure…

Week 6: Swapping Nausea for Bloat

Week 6 arrived, and my nausea was just getting worse. I'd had enough, something had to be done. I couldn’t continue feeling like this! I spent an entire day doing all the research I possibly could and set out for mission “Get Rid of All-Day Morning Sickness”. I wrote down every tip I could possibly find and set out to try every single one of them. I’m proud to say after 2 weeks, I figured it out! I’m not promising that this will work for everyone but it did for me.

Read about my top 10 tips to beat all-day morning sickness—I hope something there works for you!

I still felt nauseated all through the week. But I learned how to manage it, which meant I could get my life back on track and I wasn’t stuck to the couch anymore. It got a little crazy, keeping up with all the tricks and things I absolutely HAD to do to make sure the nausea didn’t overwhelm me (like eat every 90 minutes—pretty time consuming!), but it worked.

I wasn’t feeling tired at all, but something else happened: I got SUPER bloated. Like, crazy bloated. I was 6 weeks pregnant but looked like I was 4 months! My research said it was because ligaments were stretching and there was a lot of water retention (or I was expecting super twins, lol). I literally couldn’t button a single pair of jeans—at 6 weeks! It was wild.

Also, I was constipated. I can’t even believe how much I’m sharing with you guys. But it’s just going to get more intense, so get ready! Constipation is a natural part of pregnancy (or so I hear) and my weird anti-nausea tricks and strange new eating habits probably didn’t help.

rachel pregnany ringo on couch

Week 7: Exhausted

This was my first week not overcome by nausea! Success!

I followed my anti-nausea regime religiously: eating something before I got out of bed, eating every 2 hours… I was feeling like a normal human being again. My nausea subsided a whole lot and I was even been able to eat some hot meals (yay!). I stuck to keeping all meals small and eating more often, but I could feel myself easing into a more normal routine.

Fighting the all-day morning sickness monster was exhausting and made me feel like I couldn’t relax—I was scared to get hit by a nausea wave in the middle of a meeting or out at a restaurant, so I stayed home almost the entire time. By this week I was feeling a lot better and more at ease.

As my nausea subsided, a brand new symptom hit me: I was exhausted. So. Exhausted.

I hadn’t felt tired at all up until this week, but I would get up, eat breakfast and then need a nap. And a nap after lunch. And a nap in the afternoon. It’s nuts! I was sleeping full nights, getting 8-9 hours of sleep every day. Growing a baby apparently makes you tired! It wasn’t bad, though. I was lucky to be in a space where things were quite calm business-wise, so I could actually choose to sleep in every day and take naps when I needed to. What a luxury!!!

I was also having some very odd cravings. Aside from only wanting to eat unripe, sour fruits, I started to crave Choco Krispies (you know, that really unhealthy cereal you used to eat as a kid?), apple juice and this Swedish thing called mjukost, soft cheese from a tube, that I hadn’t had since I was 10. So strange!

Week 8: Power Snorkeling

This was a good week! I wasn’t passing out sitting up, but I was feeling fairly energetic. The nausea was still at bay, except when I get up in the middle of the night to pee (which was at least 2-3 times per night, if anyone is wondering).

I tried to move more this week. I was so inactive the past 5-6 weeks, I couldn’t remember the last time I moved my body that little. During the first weeks, I was so nauseous and then so tired. Frankly, practicing vinyasa or going for a run were the last things on my mind.

I practiced yoga, but only gentle, slow stretches. Up dog suddenly didn’t feel good, or anything that stretched the front of my body. I knew I needed to get moving, or I was going to swell up to the size of a balloon! I tried to go swimming since that felt the same as always. I went for power snorkeling, swimming at high speeds with my fins. It’s a good workout and so beautiful at the same time.

Week 9: Clogged Nose, Who’s This?

One night I fell asleep on the couch at 8pm and woke up at 9am the next morning. That means I slept for 13 hours! I missed dinner and didn’t even remember dragging myself to bed at 11pm. But I still felt tired! This was so nuts.

By this week, our little baby was the size of a grape! Our first sonogram was scheduled for the following week, on the same day that we turned the corner to 10 weeks! I was so excited I could barely contain myself. We were going to hear the heartbeat! There is something odd about these first few months, not being able to tell the world, keeping this big secret to ourselves. I was feeling so much and not being able to tell people why it was all so difficult!

We did a big shoot for 109 World this week, which meant me having to stand in the sun for long stretches of time. Pretending all is fine when you’re super tired really sucks. I couldn’t wait to announce the pregnancy! We were soon traveling to Sweden and Holland to tell both our dads in person, and after that we’d hit the 12-week mark and will finally be able to go public with our little poppy seed!

Also, this week the nausea came back a bit, but only in the evenings! I actually much preferred that because I could sit on the couch feeling slightly sorry for myself, complaining, guilt free. At the end of the week, I had my first pregnancy meltdown (I hoped it would be my last, but intuition told me otherwise).

I suddenly got another unexpected symptom: my nose clogged up completely and I couldn’t breathe. Anyone who suffers from sinus issues knows just how awful it is! The worst part: absolutely nothing helped! I tried steaming with peppermint oil, used my neti pot every day, saline solutions, nasal spray... No matter what I did, it just got worse and worse. After a few days the blocked sinuses led to a massive headache that just wouldn’t go away, and then a sinus ache under my eyes that left me crying—actually crying—from pain.

Since I couldn’t breathe through my nose at night, I’d wake up every morning with my mouth dry, face stuffed and swollen, feeling like absolute crap. On the third or fourth day I woke up with the same explosive headache I’d gone to bed with the night before, I had enough and snapped. I spent 30 minutes bawling my eyes out (which didn’t help my sinus issue) on Dennis’s shoulder.

What if I can’t do this?? was my main thought. Or what if this is what pregnancy is going to be, just getting more and more difficult, worse and worse, and that’s what I’ll have to live with for the next several months?

I always imagined pregnancy being this glowy, special time. This was NOT it. I eventually stopped crying and Dennis took me to the beach. Salt water cures most! Slowly things started getting a little bit better, and a day or two later my headache disappeared. Stuffy nose still present, though.

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 2.39.15 AM

Week 10: Heartbeat

This was the week we were waiting for: sonogram week! Since we found out at 2.5 weeks, we had to wait an excruciating 7.5 weeks for the 10-week sonogram. I think they do things differently in every country, but here in Aruba they give you the first one around 10-11 weeks.

My pregnancy was such a roller coaster up until this point, and although I didn’t to admit it to myself, there was an underlying fear that something would go wrong. There is so much talk about miscarriage during the first trimester, and even though I’m usually not at all a fear-driven person, I was nervous. It’s hard to not be able to shout it off the rooftops, to tell everyone you know, and to really own the pregnancy. I understand that it’s wise to keep it to yourself in the beginning, not only because of the risk of miscarriage, but also because it’s a private thing, something special between just me and Dennis.

I also knew the moment we announced, we were going to drown in unsolicited advice. And knowing the internet, probably some judgment, too. So I enjoyed our little secret, but at 10 weeks I was starting to get antsy to tell the world. Finally, the big day of the sonogram arrived! We’d finally get to hear the baby’s heartbeat!

We arrived at the gynecologist’s office at 11:45am, 15 minutes before our appointment. We heard that sometimes you’d have to wait a long time to get to your appointment, so I brought a book. There are very few gynos on the island, and apparently this guy does the emergency deliveries and surgeries at the hospital. So if something came up, he’d leave and you could be left in the waiting room for hours. Crazy that there is only one person here for this stuff! After waiting for 2.5 hours (!!) we started getting a little irritated. Dennis went to ask how long it would be.

She said, “Oh, you probably won’t get in at all today. Your midwife never sent along the papers you need for your appointment.”

W H A T !? And they let us sit here for two and a half hours without bothering to tell us? So. Not. Cool. We called the midwife, who insisted they had given us a paper we both know we never received.

“Fine, we’ll fax it over.”

We waited another hour before checking at the reception again. The fax never arrived! What the hell. We call the midwife again and their receptionist casually says, “The midwife left the office and probably won’t be back, so she can’t sign the papers for you.”

Again, why not pick up the phone and let us know?? I was getting hungry, tired, and increasingly pissed off at this receptionist who was showing us so much attitude and bad vibes.

The gynecologist’s receptionist offered a solution: if our midwife (soon-to-be ex-midwife) could fax the paper to another midwife, that midwife could sign it, fax it to us, and we would be good to go.

I asked around and got a number for another midwife that’s supposed to be much better—a man, actually! What do you call a midwife that’s a man? Midhusband? Anywho. It took us 5 hours before we got to our sonogram appointment, and by then we were both so tired and agitated we’d almost forgotten the reason we were there. I’d twice proclaimed, “Screw this island. I hate this island. We are moving to Sweden to have this baby!”

But the moment we heard the heartbeat... Everything else disappeared.

A heartbeat! So determined, so strong, so fast, a heart beating inside of me!

I started crying. Dennis teared up, too. We could see her (I was saying her because I had a feeling it was a girl) bounce around, jumping, twisting, kicking her little legs... She was moving all around! It was beyond magical. All the fears I’d had about the pregnancy just melted away.

This was real. She’s in there. A baby. A real baby! With fingers and toes! That moves! A little dancing baby.

And check this magic out: because of some emergency, the main gyno was held up, so the sonogram guy spent a whole 45 minutes with us and the baby! He answered all of our questions, shared his experiences delivering in the hospital in Aruba versus in Holland where he’d just moved from, and let us spend as much time as we wanted with our little dancing poppyseed (who was as big as a fig!).

And we got another surprise: I was 11 weeks! Not 10! My due date got moved up a whole week. We had the sonogram on 10 weeks sharp, but we were actually 11. Only one week until we are “safe” to tell the world. MAGIC!!

Week 11: Sunrise

This week is the same as week 10 above, as our due date got moved up a whole week and we “gained” a week!

Three days after hearing her heartbeat on the sonogram, and I was still floating on cloud nine. I felt a new sense of peace, of calm.

My sinuses eased up and I felt way more energetic in the mornings. One day I woke up at 6am and rolled out my mat outside. I was practicing as the sun rose—the last time I did that was a long time ago! I was sleeping so much those weeks, waking up at 8 or 9, or even later some days. Since the sonogram, we entered a new phase!

I would still get weird, almost narcoleptic sleep attacks where I would sit down somewhere and just fall asleep in a second. It was odd, but I think napping helped keep my energy up. And my nausea was better, too!

The next week would begin a whole month of crazy travels. I was nervous because there would be nothing worse than flying back and forth across the Atlantic while nauseated with an explosive headache. So I hoped this newfound ease would stay!

rachel pregnany handstand

Week 12: Funniest Pregnancy Announcement to Date

This was a travel week for us!! I was so worried about traveling and still feeling nauseated and crappy—some weeks I didn’t even want to leave the house, let alone think about flying across the Atlantic.

People were telling me, “Just wait for the third month to be over,” and guess what? Week 12 arrived, and with it a whole new pregnancy feeling! All my nausea was completely gone, aside from a tiny bit in the evening, and I felt super energetic.

We got to go see who we were hoping to be our new midwife the day before we left Aruba, but turns out that guy only does hospital births. And I’m set on giving birth at home. I don’t want it to be medical, and I don’t want fear and bright lights surrounding us on our big day. Leaving the appointment, I broke down crying, “What if we don’t find a midwife that we like who does home births?” I decided to put my worries aside and focus on our big trip to Europe instead. Time would tell, and deep down I was sure we would find the right person.

I stepped onto the plane with a whole hand luggage full of snacks and fruits just in case I got hit with a nausea wave while in the air, but thankfully I didn’t. The idea of nausea seemed to become worse than the nausea itself!

We arrived in Sweden and I felt amazing. We got to tell my dad, which was magical. He cried and had to excuse himself to go inside for a few minutes. Lots of emotion! Telling my grandfather was the best. We bought a frame that said “Aruba” and in it we put the 10-week ultrasound picture. He opened the package and exclaimed, “YES!!! An Aruba frame!!! Thank you— exactly what I wanted! It really is time for me to come visit you again!!!! He was SO excited about the frame he didn’t even notice the picture inside! I couldn’t stop laughing! When I pointed at the picture and told him, “There is something IN the frame too, Grandpa,” he looked at the picture, turned the frame upside down, squinted and asked “Is...is... Is it mussels? Clams?” Safe to say, it was the funniest pregnancy announcement moment to date.

We were still not shouting it off the rooftops but slowly telling my family and our friends in Sweden. Over the next week we were going to Holland to tell Dennis's dad in person—we didn’t want him accidentally finding out through Facebook or something! So it was still a bit of a secret, but not for long!

Week 13: Baby Bump

I was feeling the most amazing since this pregnancy started! I was energetic, not tired at all, the nausea was completely gone, and I was walking on cloud nine sharing the happy news with family and friends. And I was showing!! Like, totally showing. I had been showing a little bit since very early on, but I know part of that was bloating and water retention. But this week, there was a definite something. I was wearing tight dresses and rocking this little baby bump as much as I could.

Looking at me, you would’ve probably just assumed I’d gained some weight, but I felt so amazing. I feel really beautiful! Some people told me it’s early to show this much, but I felt really good about it. I was enjoying the crap out of the Sweden trip, too. The sun was shining and Dennis and I were just walking around smiling at each other all day. A part of us still couldn’t believe it. We love you, little Poppyseed!

Week 14: Shouting it From the Rooftops!

We landed from Europe in the afternoon and were leaving the very next day to Seattle for Bumbershoot Festival and oneOeight meetings.

Pregnancy-wise, I was still feeling good, but my sinuses took a turn for the worse, probably because of all the traveling and long hours sitting on airplanes. The moment I got home from the airport, I took a cool shower and then fell asleep on the couch. I didn’t remember Dennis trying to wake me up to eat dinner or getting me to move from the couch to the bedroom. I slept like a log for 12 hours straight! I woke up at 2am from Ringo scratching at the door, wanting to get out (2am Aruba time is 8am Sweden time—no wonder he was confused). We managed to go back to bed and I got up at 5am. Seattle is another 3 hours back, so we were soon to be 8 hours off total. Crazy!

I was feeling super happy despite travel madness—we were finally going to tell the world about our little poppyseed! Everyone close to us knew by then, and I was 14 weeks and 2 days, so there was no reason to wait any longer. We debated how to do the big announcement—if it should be a family picture, a belly picture, the ultrasound...? I couldn’t decide. I had a belly-selfie that I could post, and Dennis wanted to do a photo that involved Ringo.

We ended up going with both: belly-selfie on my account and Ringo’s photo on his. We’d never been more excited to share something with you all!

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And Then on Week 19: It’s a Girl!

I was 19 weeks and 2 days when we found out we were having a girl. A girl!!!! I was 100% sure it was a girl from day 1 and would have been beyond surprised if they told us otherwise. Dennis was a little bit shocked, though; he was sort of wishing for a girl, but there are a ton of boys in his family, so he was thinking he had better chances of having a boy... But a girl it is! Of course, we would have been happy either way, but I just knew from the start. I grew up with baby sisters, so taking care of a baby girl feels so natural to me.

When we found out, she didn’t even fit in the ultrasound picture! And she was moving non-stop, literally, dancing around like crazy. She turned toward us during the ultrasound and started smiling; we could clearly see a big grin on her face, it was so surreal. Since, I felt her all the time! I hadn't been super certain about the kicks and usually only felt something late at night when everything was totally quiet. But then, even as I wrote this, I felt little pokes from within. It's so magical!

rachel pregnant on beach sunset

It’s so important to read other women’s stories about their pregnancies, their similar struggles and magical moments—we need to be reminded that we aren’t alone!! So, mamas reading this, what were the most surprising parts of your pregnancy? Share below!

I love you all! Thank you for being here.

X,

Rachel

P.S. Read Lea Luna Part 2: From Birth to Life here.

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