Preparing for motherhood: entering into the land unknown, by Ashley Greene Khoury
Our co-founder Ashley Greene Khoury reveals her journey to pregnancy, her emotions and body literacy as she prepares for motherhood.
Everything I’ve done up until this point has prepared me for what's to come.
The last time I wrote an article for Hummingway, it was to share my experience of transitioning off hormonal birth control. This time, I am writing about the even bigger transition that will take me into motherhood. I went into this pregnancy with the clear understanding that my experience will be unique to me, and that it’s ok that I'll be learning as I go.
I’ve really tried to avoid comparing myself to others in any fashion throughout this pregnancy and have leaned heavily on my doctor to give me the peace of mind that all is progressing the way it should. So, before I dive into my pregnancy experience, please keep in mind that each of our experiences will likely differ in numerous ways, and that's ok.
Perhaps it’s the extra hormones (potentially leading to an increase in uterine blood flow) produced during pregnancy, or perhaps it just hasn’t all hit me yet – but so far I've taken my pregnancy day by day – with little anxiety. Yes, I have an occasional doubt or fear, but mostly I have a mix of excitement, calm and an uncertainty (one that I've accepted) about what the future holds. My main focus has been on keeping myself healthy, both mentally and physically, through nutrition, fitness and meditation, so that I feel centered enough to accept the rapid changes happening currently and those to come in the future. I think my biggest hurdle to face so far has been accepting the fact that my work life will have to make way for something - someone - more important. I love working, it really brings me joy, so this adjustment has thrown me off a bit. Although I'm fully aware that this will be the least of my worries come the fourth trimester.
I guess to be completely transparent, I should mention that the first few months of my pregnancy, I was walking on eggshells a little bit. Not because I had concerns about becoming a mother, but because I was afraid of having that ripped away. I don’t consider myself old by any means, but I recognize that the longer I waited to conceive, the more opportunities for complications there would be. Miscarriages are very common, even if everyone doesn’t feel comfortable speaking about them. I in fact suffered a miscarriage just before this pregnancy, but we’ll save that experience for another time - it’s something I feel strongly that I want to speak on when the time feels right. In any case - it made my current pregnancy that much more nerve wracking at the start.
Everything was very by the book trimester one - no caffeine, no stress if I could manage it, I slowed my work down to the best of my ability. Anything that would help make this a viable pregnancy - I did. Even though things seemed to be going well, I wanted to keep this close to the vest, just in case. Hiding the pregnancy wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but a few mocktails and a stoic poker face got me through.
Physically, I’ve found the changes in my body so fascinating. My first trimester, I mostly felt like I was hungover and exhausted everyday. While that certainly wasn't ideal, It wasn't debilitating either. And let's be honest… I've survived a hangover or two in my twenties! Most days were tolerable and I was able to work through the days with my pregnancy undetected. I actually began to appreciate the pesky symptoms, solely for the comfort that if I felt a little crappy, things were likely progressing along.
My second trimester has been pretty golden, aligning with everything I’ve heard about that “second trimester honeymoon period”. For a while, I felt very similar to how I did pre-pregnancy. As I'm coming to the end of the second trimester, I’m definitely starting to feel the back aches from the relaxin production (N.B. relaxin can cause joint instability. You might feel back pain during pregnancy. Why? Well, you no longer have abs to support your back and growing baby! Add to that, the relaxin can soften the ligaments in the pelvis). I’ve also noticed occasional heartburn and leg cramps. But overall I am still in a sweet spot - and feeling so thankful to be able to say that. I will say that for the first time ever, I feel like the internet has been pretty spot on with what symptoms you may start to feel and when. For me it's been like clockwork and quite a comfort. I say that with caution though and recommend always talking to your doctor about any concerns you may have. Any serious questions or concerns I’ve had throughout the pregnancy I've not hesitated to reach out to my doctor.
The main out of the norm thing I've experienced throughout the entire pregnancy has been a very severe headache. I experienced one the day before I tested positive in the pregnancy, one during the first trimester and one day during the second trimester. I’m not overly concerned but have let my doctor know so we can monitor the frequency and for any underlying conditions.
Mentally I've been slowly wrapping my head around it all. I have begun to ease my way into the steep learning curve of motherhood by diving into hard copy and audio books both traditional and non-traditional. I’ve picked up books covering the basics of how to keep an infant alive, to books that dive into psychology and how our actions affect the child long-term. I occasionally question fellow mothers about their experiences to pick up pieces of knowledge and advice in small doses. I’ve set a boundary already that I’ll ask for advice when I need it, rather than willingly accept it unsolicited. I am lucky enough to be surrounded mostly by mothers that are organically very in line with my wishes, without me even having to voice them. They’ve all been through it, and have graciously reached out to say, no pressure, but I’m here if you have any questions or need any support.
As far as plotting and planning, I’m probably the most annoying and boring pregnant friend anyone’s got. To date, every time someone asks about the baby shower, the registry, names, the nursery etc., my answer is that I don’t want to stress or rush things and I'll figure it out when the time's right. I’ve just begun purging my entire house to eliminate any extra clutter or stress before the big day and I’ve loosely created my birth plan, signed up for hypnobirthing classes and gone back and forth a million times over whether I feel like I might enjoy the support of a doula or night nurse. The nursery will come, but it's just not at the top of the agenda. For me, things like finding a pediatrician takes precedence over the clothing and crib. It's not that I don’t care, or that I’m not aware or excited to tackle the laundry list of pre-baby things - because I do. Trust me, I know there is a lot to do and a lot to learn before the baby arrives – but I also fully trust my instincts and the support system around me.
Something that has been helpful to me is to not focus on the unknowns. I cannot change that I’ve never done this. What I can do is be proactive about the things that I have the power to change.
Incontinence is one of the things at the top of the list. In America, the pelvic floor is kind of treated as a big taboo, never spoken about and only addressed when there is a big enough problem. I have to pee every five seconds as it is, so incontinence has been lingering in the back of my mind since conception. I’ve already started to feel the effects of not being able to jump rope without stopping mid way through to avoid incontinence, I have avoided trampolines at all cost, and I’m sure a flash of fear manifests on my face every time I sneeze in public. To ease the fear - I recently signed up for something called Origin. This is a wonderful service that focuses on pelvic floor therapy. We will begin to work on strengthening my pelvic floor pre and post delivery.
Feeling weak in my own mind and body is another fear I have, so I've spoken to my doctor about being cleared to maintain a fitness routine through the pregnancy. This is less from a place of vanity and more from a place of my mental and physical strength being somewhat tied together. I plan to have a vaginal birth and I want to be in the strongest possible mindset when delivery day comes and when tackling the fourth trimester.
The last and most important thing is my relationship with my husband Paul. We have such a wonderful relationship pre-baby, that I'd be lying if I said I didn't have the occasional pang of worry that everything is going to change. We certainly agree on how to run our relationship, but what if we don’t agree on how to raise our toddler, or our teenager? I’ve really had to remind myself that I can’t predict how we will feel when our child is 14, but we can continue to communicate and support each other the same as we always have. We consistently talk about how we would react in hypothetical scenarios, how we plan to address religion, boundaries with grandparents, and our preferred education and parenting styles. At the end of the day, we’ve come to the conclusion that we will always put in the effort to love one another deeply and work to ensure each other feels it - even if we’re exhausted. We will always present a unified front to our children, even if we disagree and we will always respect one another's opinions. Laying down some strong foundational principles has been very comforting for me.
The underlying theme throughout my pregnancy has been to focus on the things I have control over and accept the things I don’t. Lean on those I trust, but not forget to trust myself. Even though there are a million things I don't know, I’m resilient and I will figure it out. This will be the most important thing I ever do, but everything I’ve done up until this point has prepared me for what's to come. If you’re on this journey with me - know that you too are ready, even if you don’t feel like it.
We’re strong and we’re magic. We’ve been given the greatest gift in the world – that is to create a beautiful tiny life inside us and serve as the vessel to introduce them into the world. If you can do that, you can do anything.
Best pieces of advice I’ve received to date:
Allow a friend who has recently had a child to look over your registry list - because half of it you simply don't need.
Welcome both of your parents' help with open arms - you’ll need it.
Make a very clear birthing plan (and print it) but understand that things will 99% of the time NOT go as planned so prepare yourself to pivot as needed.
Don't make the mistake of only buying infant clothing - they grow like weeds and you’ll need new sizes immediately.
If your water breaks - you likely still have time to take a shower and wash your hair… So do it! It may be a while before you do that again.
Books I’ve read or have been recommended:
Pelvic Floor Therapy:
Photography of Ashley by Suki Smith
Ashley launched Hummingway with her sister-in-law, Olivia Khoury, in 2021. Ashley made the choice to pursue a pharmaceutical-free lifestyle (including coming off hormonal birth control) in 2018 in an effort to truly put her health front-and-center. Soon after, her hormones raged out of control, creating a body that was foreign to her and symptoms that were both embarrassing and debilitating.
After reaching out to several doctors for answers, she was frustratingly met with similar suggestions, all of which included reactive methods - ones that would temporarily mask the problem but came with a slew of adverse effects, toxic chemicals and ‘band-aid fixes’ rather than addressing the root of underlying issues. It was then Ashley realized there were a number of key problems:
A lack of non-toxic treatments for combatting symptoms associated with reproductive health.
A generationally institutionalized stigma associated with and surrounding reproductive health.
A severe lack of research into the matters of reproductive health - impacting the education available for people to understand their own unique bodies; more specifically, how to care for themselves.
A call for traditional healthcare providers to level up to a growing desire amongst menstruators who are seeking more comprehensive solutions to reproductive health challenges and the whole picture on our health.
Alongside an experienced team of medical professionals, advisors and acclaimed partners, Ashley shares a passion for building Hummingway into a valuable and impactful resource for people of all ages and circumstances - even non-menstruators.
Outside of work, Ashley enjoys time with her husband Paul and rescue pup Rosie, all things health and fitness related, and hosting game nights with friends and family at home in Los Angeles.