Happy Holidays friends! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?
I thought I would pop in and say hello, because I have some big news to share that I am pretty excited about.
After a lot of preparation, I am thrilled to announce the launch of Serena McClain Travel, a full-service travel planning company. I am officially open for business and moving full-speed ahead!
Those of you that have read this blog probably know that there is nothing I love more than traveling (except perhaps my family). I am incredibly passionate about not only exploring the world myself, but encouraging others to travel, and making sure that they have incredible awe-inspiring experiences when they do. When you combine that with my tendency to obsessively research, becoming a travel advisor seemed like a natural fit. So I did a lot of work, found an amazing host agency to work with, took a big leap of faith, and started my own travel company.
Are you sitting there thinking, “what exactly do you do?”
I get this question a lot. Basically, I work with you to create unique one-of-a-kind travel experiences. My job is to not only save you time, but make sure that you are getting the best value and quality when you travel. And if you’re not looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and just want to a stay at a great hotel and get hooked up with some incredible perks, I can help with that as well. Through my affiliation with Brownell and Virtuoso, I have access to a wealth of resources that will directly benefit you. I’m able to give you exclusive upgrades, perks, and an elevated experience that you wouldn’t be able to achieve if you booked on your own. Plus, I do all the work for you, so all you to do is relax and enjoy your experience!
Also, it won’t cost you any more than if you booked it yourself! The idea that booking through a travel advisor will cost you more is a huge misconception. Any commission I receive is paid by the vendor, and the rates that I am able to offer you are at least as good – if not better – than the rates you would be able to find on your own. Depending on the length and complexity of your trip there may be small planning fee, but you would always be informed of any fees prior to deciding to work with me, and if all you want is to get hooked up at a great hotel, there’s no fee. Once I learned this, I was kicking myself for not working with a travel advisor for all of my past travel!
To learn a whole lot more about what I can do, please check out my website.
With this new endeavor, this is likely the end of Spillerena. I’m sure that’s not surprising. It’s been dying a slow death for awhile now. However, I will be blogging at least a couple of times a month over at Serena McClain Travel, so I’d love for you to follow along over there. While it will certainly be more travel focused, I’ll still be sharing and writing about the adventures that me and my crazy family find ourselves in. Just sign up at the bottom of the page and you’ll be alerted anytime I post.
If you read this far, THANK YOU! I know the holiday season is crazy, but before you know it 2017 will be here, and I’d love to help you with any trip you might have in the pipeline. Whatever you are planning, no matter how big or small, I’d love to work with you.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…
Now that that song is most likely stuck in your head, I thought I would pop in and say hello. It’s been over a year since I last posted so I’m not sure if anyone will actually see this, but I thought I would say hi nonetheless.
So, yeah… it’s been awhile, though it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long to me. It’s like I blinked and I suddenly have a toddler. It’s nuts. Being a mom is nuts. The fact that I’M a mom is nuts. But it’s also awesome.
Becoming a mother did not come naturally to me, and I still feel a little guilty about that fact, but Ryder is just the best thing Kevin and I have ever done. He’s crazy and wild and – not going to lie – can be so annoying sometimes… but he’s also the sweetest most cuddly funny little dude. He loves me and Kevin more than anyone, and even when he is driving me insane (which is more often than I would like), I love being his mama.
He brings so much joy to my life, and I feel so incredibly lucky that he’s mine.
I mean, come on he’s so cute I want to eat his face!
15 months in, and life is just really good again. The beginning was hard. So much harder than I could have ever imagined. There was nothing that could have prepared me for how hard it would be. I can confidently say that the newborn stage is just not for me. But while as shitty as it was, I’m grateful for it in a strange way because having that sharp contrast makes me appreciate how much better life is now with him in it.
I don’t know what’s in store for this blog. I’m not going to say this is goodbye, because I might pop in from time to time, but I don’t foresee myself updating it with any sort of regularity ever again.
However, if you have any interest in keeping up with me and seeing what I’m up to, I am a super obnoxious snapchatter. I try my best to not be the annoying mom that just posts loads and loads of baby pics on facebook and instagram, but I don’t apply that rule to snapchat. I post a ton of of baby photos and videos that capture how great having a kid is.
You know, videos like this:
If you want to follow along, my username is Spillerena.
Anyway, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing well, whoever you are.
It’s now been almost three months since we welcomed Ryder James into the world, and I think I am finally starting to get the hang of this mom thing. I’m finally starting to come out of this newborn fog that I’ve been living in and start to feel like myself again. Although “feeling like myself” is a relative term. Our life is different now, but we’re still us. And now that we’re finding ways to still be us with a baby things are going a whole lot better.
My transition into motherhood was harder for me than most. Or perhaps it’s just as hard for others but they just don’t talk about it? All I know is the first six weeks of Ryder’s life was rough. Miserable really. I knew it would be hard, but I was not remotely prepared for just how hard and emotional and draining it would be.
It’s not like this for everyone. Some people have super easy babies that sleep all day and chill out when they are awake. This was not our baby. Our baby liked to scream. Constantly. If he was awake, he was screaming at the top of his lungs. And I don’t mean a little whimper…. I mean a deep dark horrendous cry in which his face turned bright purple and I truly worried that our neighbors would call child protection services on us. He slept in one hour increments and then would spend the next hour inconsolably crying. My anxiety has always been directly related to sleep, and when you’re averaging four hours of sleep a day and your time awake is spent trying unsuccessfully to calm a shrieking baby you really start to lose your mind after a few weeks. I have never known exhaustion like that in my life. Every night was like preparing for war.
People would ask us, “isn’t it just the most amazing time?” and they would be upset or seem uncomfortable when we would reply “actually no, it’s horrible.” When Kevin returned to work and people asked him if he enjoyed his paternity leave, he told them that he enjoyed it like a root canal. Something that was necessary but horribly unpleasant. I once read that having an easy newborn is challenging, but having a difficult newborn can be soul destroying. And that’s how I felt… I felt like my soul was being destroyed. I felt like I was never going to be “me” again and that my life was just never going to be as good as it used to be, which is a really terrible way to feel.
Another shitty thing that a lot of people don’t like to talk about is that when you have a difficult and colicky baby, you might not bond right away. I didn’t feel that instant connection that so many people talk about, where rays of love just shoot from your eyes whenever you think of your child. I loved him – fiercely and deeply – but I wasn’t in love with him yet. And that was really hard. It’s hard because not only does it suck feeling that way, you’re ashamed you feel that way. It makes you feel like a shitty mom and a horrible person. And it makes you sad. Really really sad.
But right around six weeks something started to switch, and by eight weeks Ryder went from screaming constantly to smiling. He started sleeping more. He started laughing. He started becoming more than this little crying blob and became an adorable tiny person that would smile and giggle and recognize you.
And now at three months? He’s awesome. I am completely and utterly obsessed with my little guy and I fall more and more in love with him every single day. I now get it when people say that they want to eat their babies because I just want to gobble him up. I spend hours daily trying not to devour his scrumptious cheeks or eat his little feet.
He smiles at me and my heart breaks into a million tiny pieces and I just melt. I could not love him more if I tried.
I am so happy and relieved I now feel this way, because I was so worried I wasn’t going to get there. Now that I’m on the other side I feel comfortable talking about it, but when you’re going through it, it’s hard. You don’t want to admit that you feel that way. That having a child could be anything less than amazing.
But I think not talking about it makes it worse. It makes you feel even more alone. And while eight weeks in the grand scheme of life isn’t much, when you’re in the middle of it it feels like an eternity. You can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and you don’t know how you’re going to last even one more day.
But you do. And it gets better.
And suddenly, it’s not just better. It’s awesome.
People often ask me if I can imagine my life without him, and I can. Of course I can. He’s only been in my life for three months out of my 32 years and I had a blast a lot of those years. I miss sleeping in and staying out past 7 pm and having free time and spontaneously meeting up with friends. I do. But now that he’s here, I don’t want to go back to life without him. Even with the sacrifices, my life is better with him in it.
It’s hard, but Kevin and I are still us. It took us awhile to get there, but we did. It now takes a bit more planning and it’s not as easy, but we still do the same things we used to do.
On Friday, March 27th at 4:48 p.m, Kevin and I embarked on our newest adventure together when we welcomed this little man into the world. Weighing 7 pounds, 5 ounces, and measuring 20 inches, he made his debut after a very long and difficult two-day journey. But he’s healthy and so am I, and that is all that matters.It’s a good thing my birth plan was so loosey goosey, because basically every “I hope this doesn’t happen” fear I had came true. I plan on writing out his birth story at some point because I think it would be therapeutic for me, but right now both Kevin and I are still having a hard time processing the whole experience. I look at my actual “birth preferences” sheet that I brought to the hospital and I can’t help but laugh and cry at the same time because literally nothing on it went according to plan. After 38 hours of intense labor and 4 hours of pushing to the point where I thought my eyeballs were going to explode, I ended up having to get a cesarean section. Because of various complications during the surgery, the recovery process has been rough, to say the least. These hormones are no joke, and coupled with the pain and slow recovery of a c-section, well… it’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. But it’s getting better every day.
On the bright side, our little dude is fucking awesome and we couldn’t be happier that he picked us to be his parents. He doesn’t have a whole lot of personality yet and his days consist of eating, sleeping, and driving us insane with his “there’s nothing wrong but I’m just going to scream because I feel like it” crying, but we keep getting little sneak peaks of what he’s going to be like and we can’t wait to get to know him as his personality starts to emerge. We have absolutely no idea what we are doing but apparently this is normal. When we left the hospital we were like “wait you’re just going to let us leave with him? Shouldn’t we have to take a test or something?” but nope, they just go through a check list and send you on your way! And suddenly you’re sitting in the car driving home at 10 miles an hour scared to go faster than that because holy shit you are responsible for an entire human being and it’s just beyond nuts. Even with him here sleeping next to me I can’t really wrap my head around the fact that we made that.
The insane crazy love they talk about is real. It’s so real it can be overwhelming and scary because you just want to do your very best and constantly worry that you’re not, and your hormones are on crazy overdrive so rational thought ceases to exist. I always thought it was so cliche when people say parenthood is like being part of this secret club, and I still do, but I definitely feel a camaraderie with others that I hadn’t felt before. I just want to give big huge hugs to every mom that had ever had a hard labor and I start to cry every time someone drops off food or sends us an encouraging note to let us know that they’ve been there too and are here to help and that we are not alone.
Everyone tells you how hard the first few weeks are, and theoretically you understand that, but you don’t really get it until you’re actually experiencing it. It’s hard work. It’s work that you are more than happy doing because you love this little person more than you can imagine possible, but it doesn’t make it any easier. And in case you are curious… five or six one-hour naps in a 24 hour period is NOT the same as five or six hours of consecutive sleep. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. I had no idea that getting basic tasks done – eating, responding to an email, writing this post – could be such a difficult process. Even watching TV! It took us over three hours to watch the Walking Dead finale, and while that is such a minor thing, it was kind of a eureka moment where we were both like “wow, life really is different now!”
And Kevin… well, I’ll become a big blob of tears if I try to really write it out but Kevin has been the most incredibly amazing supportive person in the entire world. I’m so limited in my mobility so Kevin has to do everything – outside of breastfeeding, I would say he’s doing far more than me. When I was pregnant people kept telling us that the dad doesn’t do much the first few weeks, but that’s not the case when you have a c-section. The dad has to do everything. And Kevin does it all. I cannot imagine what it would be like to go through something like this without someone so supportive and I am so grateful. I love him even more than I did before which is kind of beyond comprehension.
So that’s where we are today. Learning how to live as a family of three, soaking in the good, shrugging off the bad, and taking it day by day.
Ryder needs to work on his modeling cues as he decided to scream like a banshee every time we tried to get a picture of the three of us. He’s apparently not a fan of his easter duck hat either.
Oh, the birth plan. While we all know that you can’t really plan how your childbirth is going to go, you’ll find that most hospitals/OBs/midwifes/doulas encourage you to write out your birth preferences (or at least they do in San Francisco). Some people get REALLY into their birth plan, stating what kind of lighting they would like, the music they want, the tone of voice they would like to be spoken to in, etc. etc. It can get pretty nuts. But really, the main point of the birth plan is to provide quick and easy access to important health info that your medical records might not provide, such as your stance on pain medication, who is going to cut the cord, who will be with you in the room in the event of a cesarean, circumcision, bathing the baby… things like that.
My ideal birth plan looks just like the clip above.
In What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Brooklyn Decker simply sneezes and out pops a baby!
And obviously I’m going to look exactly like that while giving birth.
With less than a week to go until my due date, a lot of people seem to be asking me about my birth plan and sharing their opinions with me. People without kids ask if I’m scared and launch into some horrible story they heard about someone. People who had an epidural tell me it was fabulous. And people who went pain med free tell me that going all natural is the best thing I can do for myself and my baby.
After A LOT of talking and reading and researching, after taking classes and really going somewhat crazy with all the information there is out there regarding childbirth and labor, my birth plan pretty much comes down to this:
Do my best, try my hardest, and be okay if things don’t go as ideally as I had originally hoped they would.
Obviously I’ve put a lot more thought into it than that (Kevin and I have created a nice long document that includes all sorts of relevant information), but really, ultimately, my birth plan is just to do my best and not beat myself up over it when or if things don’t go as planned. I know girls that have been so anti-epidural and then tortured themselves with guilt over the fact that they “caved in” and got an epidural, or women that have been so incredibly depressed that their birth experience resulted in a c-section. Birth is hugely important, and while I completely understand being disappointed when it doesn’t go as you had hoped it would, the last thing I need is to enter into parenthood already feeling guilty. I am no stranger to anxiety, so I really have to work at not letting my anxiety and fears take over, or for my emotions to catapult downward in a spiral of negativity.
So, I am going to try my best, and be okay with whatever happens after that. In San Francisco, natural childbirth is all the rage. Natural childbirth seems to have become synonymous with empowerment, and I find that when I admit to being open to getting an epidural people generally launch into a speech about why epidurals are bad and why I should really try my best to go medication free.
These comments don’t come from people looking to be rude – they are all well meaning, but their casual mention of how epidurals “drug your baby” or lead to a cascade of interventions, or that “women have been doing this for thousands of years without pain meds, you can too!” don’t really help me. They just leave me feeling wimpy and disheartened. In my birth class I was the only person that admitted to being open to pain medication, and I felt like such an outcast because of it. I’ve done all the research. I know the pros and cons of both. And most importantly, I know myself.
And the thing is, I don’t like pain. From what I’ve been told, childbirth can be horribly, terribly, mind blowingly painful. So while I am totally open to having a natural birth and would be thrilled if it turns out that my pain threshold is much higher than I am imagining it to be, I also know that having a super painful birth experience could be more traumatic for me than empowering.
I have tried to get on the totally natural bandwagon. I really have. I’ve read all the recommended books. I got a doula. I went to the crunchy birth class instead of taking one at my hospital. I’ve read story after story about natural births, and I admit – some of them seem great! But others… not so much. In the holy grail of natural birthing books, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, there are a lot of stories from women who talk about having a blast during labor. These women write about making out with their husband between contractions, laughing hysterically, and just having an overall great time. They describe their birth as basically painless and just slightly uncomfortable, and that sounds awesome! If that’s the case, then sign me up!
But alongside those stories there are the those from women who say the pain was so bad that they lost their mind and blacked out. Women who thought they were dying and screamed in ways they didn’t know they could scream. And while all of these women still say natural childbirth was an amazing and empowering experience, their stories scare me. One woman said the pain got so intense that she became animalistic and actually bit her husband and tried to bite her midwife!
I don’t want to go through pain so intense that I end up biting someone without meaning to. That does not sound empowering to me. That sounds horrifying and gives me anxiety that I don’t need.
So I am going to try my best, and if my best means I need an epidural, then I’m getting an epidural. And if things don’t go as planned, I am going to be as zen about it as possible. I hope that none of these things happen. I really hope that I don’t have to get induced, and I really really hope that I don’t end up having to get a c-section. But if I do, that’s okay too. The health of my baby and myself is the most important thing, and ultimately how I get there doesn’t really matter.
We all have our own mountains to conquer and if for you that’s natural childbirth, more power to you! But that is not my mountain. I don’t feel the need to withstand an extraordinary level of pain in order to feel empowered. I’m still finding it pretty empowering that somehow, without me doing a whole lot, my body has managed to grow a human being! So as long as I come home with a husband that loves me and a healthy baby, it doesn’t really matter to me how I get there.
For those of you mamas out there or mamas to be, did/do you have a birth plan? Did your birth experience live up to your expectations?