Motherhood by Numbers
Motherhood by Numbers is a new series by Liveli Planner about what growing your family actually looks like. We love to be excited for the arrival of a new baby but we rarely talk about what the journey of actually getting to that point looks like – starting or growing your family and all that it entails for women, from the mental to the emotional to the physical.
This series takes a close look at that process with three women, each at a different stage of growing their family, from their first to their third child. We chat with them during their pregnancy and again six months after delivery to get a full picture of the process. We hope that our candid conversations with them will shine a light on what starting and growing a family is like and how our current reality of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed that.
Preparing for Your First Child with Sarah Gould-Stotts
By Hannah Gooding
Mother-To-Be: Sarah Gould-Stotts
Profession: Founder & CEO, Liveli Planner
Due Date: June 2020
Transitioning into motherhood is one of life’s biggest seasons of change. One minute you’re buying tequila and Little Caesars Crazy Bread for your “big night” of watching the Bachelor from bed and the next minute you’re buying applesauce pouches and rectal thermometers and Googling how you can sleep more. Becoming a mom is hard and scary, and it’s not like there’s an Onboarding Plan waiting in a binder for you on your first day. From deciding if, when, and how to grow your family, to figuring out how to raise your first, third, or tenth kid—the motherhood journey is full of uncertainty.
For people like Sarah, the Enneagram 1s of the world, uncertainty is not ideal. Surprise is no friend, but something that must be constantly managed and avoided. As the Founder and CEO of Liveli Planner, it may not surprise you that Sarah likes to have a plan. For everything. Color-categorized plans, laminated plans, back-up plans—you name it. But when it comes to motherhood, Sarah is taking a different approach. It’s 2020, we’re in a global pandemic, and literally nothing is going the way she planned. If this year has taught her anything, it’s that planning isn’t always about predicting what we will face but deciding how we show up to face it.
Sarah was pregnant “before.” Before masks, toilet paper shortages, Tiger King, and murder wasps. When she got the news in October, she didn’t expect her transition into motherhood would feel quite this ~apocalyptic~ but here we are. We recently “sat down” (over Zoom) to talk about motherhood for the purpose of this article, but we ended up talking more about how her journey into motherhood has altered the way she thinks about life, herself, and change in general.
First question, did you always want to have children? If not, what changed your mind?
No, I thought for a long time I didn’t want to have kids. I never considered myself a maternal person so I never really felt “qualified” to be a mom. My focus was always on my career and building a life with my husband, an equally ambitious and career-driven person. We married right out of college and spent our twenties living a life we loved – working towards our career goals, traveling, creating a home together, loving our four-legged child, Molly, and for most of that time, I felt like that was all I needed and wanted. It wasn’t until we both turned thirty and had been grinding in our jobs for almost a decade that my mind started to change. I started wondering what all of this life-building was for if it wasn’t to share it with children and to pass onto them all of the things we love and have learned. It wasn’t a 180 flip overnight. We thought about it and talked about it for almost a year (and sometimes I wish we had thought about it and talked about it for longer) but when the time was right, we just had the feeling that it was time to turn the page to a new chapter.
How did you decide you were ready to have kids? What was making that decision like?
I think we arrived at the decision to have kids when we felt ready to intentionally change our focus. Throughout our twenties, our focus was building our careers and our nest and the thought of kids felt more like a distraction from that. I knew we were ready to have kids when I felt like I was ready to intentionally shift my way of thinking and what I valued in my life to put kids at the top of the “pyramid” so to speak.
What excites you about starting your family?
I am genuinely excited about seeing what our child will be like, who he will be, who he will take after, and what kind of person he is. I am excited about sharing all of the things I love about life with him and hopefully cultivating in him a love for similar things. I also love the traditions I grew up with and the ones my husband grew up with and it will be so wonderful to be able to share those with our kids.
What scares you or has made you think twice about doing so?
Even though I thought I was ready to start our family, it’s been a real rollercoaster of positive and negative emotions about whether or not I am actually ready. I know everything about our life will be completely different and that scares me because I don’t handle change very well. I’m most nervous about not being able to let go of the life we’ve had over the past ten years and embrace what our new life is going to be.
The journey to pregnancy is different for every woman and it doesn’t get talked about very much, for a variety of reasons. If you don’t mind sharing, what was your journey to pregnancy like?
It’s kind of funny because my high school sex ed classes left me with the impression that if I just stood close enough to a boy, I would get pregnant. So when we started trying, I was surprised by how challenging it was to actually do so. There was so much science and planning and precision – I was shocked. Our journey was full of starts and stops. Even once we decided we were ready, there would be months where I just didn’t feel like the timing was right to try that month. We miscarried our first pregnancy which felt like a false start in the worst way and we intentionally put conception on pause after that until my doctor felt like it was safe to resume trying. But eventually, after about a year, we got a positive pregnancy test and things just sort of fell into place.
What was it like when you found out you were pregnant?
My first feeling was excitement and joy. My immediate next feeling, in like the same minute, was “oh, sh!t – this is happening.” Like I said before, my journey through pregnancy has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I have had moments of sheer excitement but I’ve also done a lot of second guessing and questioning of my own readiness/qualifications to be a mom.
What has your first pregnancy been like? What have you learned? What do you wish you knew about the experience before you got pregnant?
I have been very fortunate to have had a smooth pregnancy for the most part so I am very grateful for that. I think the biggest shock to my system has been in figuring out how to navigate all of the opinions, advice, rules, do’s and don’ts that come with being pregnant. I wish I had known how fraught pregnancy would be, even though there are a thousand books, blogs, articles, etc. It simultaneously feels like there is too much information and yet not enough. The experience has really forced me to make my own judgement calls about what works and what doesn’t work for me, what helps and doesn’t help, and what’s worth stressing out about and what’s not. There is no one way to do this and that’s frustrating and, at times, debilitating. But I guess that’s what motherhood is going to be like too, right? So this is just the warm-up round.
What about pregnancy has been a struggle that you didn’t expect?
I feel terrible saying this but I don’t love being pregnant. And I probably shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit that but I feel like the world expects me to “glow” and “bask in the beauty of this experience,” but I really don’t feel that way. I don’t like not feeling like myself. I miss the things I had to give up. I don’t love being uncomfortable all the time. But saying those things out loud has been isolating. So many people have told me that being pregnant was the best time of their lives or they just loved being pregnant and I am genuinely happy they had that experience. But that’s not been my experience and that makes me feel deficient or ungrateful. I have to continuously remind myself that their experience is not my experience and it’s okay to have my own thoughts about the process.
Being pregnant during a global pandemic is definitely a unique experience, to put it lightly. How has the outbreak of Covid-19 impacted your pregnancy?
Everything I thought about how my pregnancy would look in my last trimester has changed. I haven’t been able to be around my friends and extended family which has been disappointing. The expectations for my delivery look a lot different than the movie-moment I have envisioned all my life. But at the same time, there have been a lot of positives about the situation. My husband now works from home so I have been able to spend so much more time with him than I would have otherwise. We are cooking all of our own meals and I have started walking more just to get out of the house so it’s actually been a good way to force me to prioritize my health. And even though our delivery room won’t be filled with family right after the birth, I will get some special one-on-one time with my new son and my husband which I know will be unforgettable.
As you have shared, you’re a planner by nature. I’m sure this unexpected situation has challenged you in a lot of ways. How has your perspective about pregnancy and your future changed as a result of this new reality?
Yes, I am definitely a type-A planner by nature, teetering on control freak (my husband would take out “teetering”). But what I have learned through this is that planning is about your priorities and values versus logistics and checking things off a list. The ‘Sarah’ from five years ago would go into the hospital with birthing plans and contingency birthing plans and instructions for the medical team, but ‘2020-Sarah’ is not walking into hospital with an actual plan. I’m walking in with my priorities and goals, with my ultimate priority being to deliver my baby in whatever way that is best for him and for me. This whole situation has helped let go of what I can’t control and focus on what is most important. That’s a lesson I’ve needed to learn for a long time.
“My first feeling was excitement and joy. My immediate next feeling, in like the same minute, was ‘oh, sh!t – this is happening.'”
“…What I have learned through this is that planning is about your priorities and values versus logistics and checking things off a list…This whole situation has helped me let go of what I can’t control and focus on what is most important.”
The world loves to tell us how to feel about major life moments. Pregnancy is particularly crowded with opinions, probably because it is such a personal experience and people love to talk about themselves. But the truth is, what pregnancy was like for your mom, your boss, your sister, your neighbor’s hairdresser, or Beyoncé might not be what pregnancy is like for you. And that’s okay. If you’re a new mom, an old mom, a dog mom, or—like a Sarah—a soon-to-be mom—know that your experiences don’t always apply to other people and theirs don’t always apply to you. Especially right now when this pandemic is completely changing the game: making baby showers lame AF—I mean “virtual,” taking away delivery rooms full of family, and just generally harshing our vibe on every level. When I asked Sarah what advice she has for other women who are pregnant right now, she said:
It’s okay to be sad about what you’re not getting to experience, but balance that sadness against things you have in life that are worth celebrating. It’s okay to ask for help and to reach out to people even if they don’t reach out to you. It’s okay to say: ‘I’m not having a good day and this is why and I need help with it.’
Sarah, like many of us, is learning to accept that there is little we can control outside of ourselves. We can control how we approach things and what we prioritize, but we can’t always plan the options we’re given. Maybe your kid will be the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Maybe your kid will go viral for singing a song about buttholes. Who knows? When it comes to motherhood— planning for certain outcomes is basically impossible. All you can plan for is how you adapt to those outcomes, whatever they may be.
We’ll check back with Sarah in the coming months, after her delivery, to see how her thought processes and feelings have changed and how she is doing as a new mom. Make sure to follow Liveli Planner on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to keep up with her story.
If you want to continue to follow Sarah’s story, you can find her on Instagram (@sarahgouldstotts).
What questions or advice do you have for Sarah? Share in the comments section below.
Motherhood by Numbers is brought to you by Liveli Planner. At Liveli Planner, we know motherhood is more than what we see on Instagram and Pinterest. We believe open and honest conversations about the realities of becoming and being a mom are important steps in building community, support, and understanding. Liveli Planner was built with moms in mind and we strive to empower all women, at every point in their lives, to make the most of their time so they can achieve their goals, build deeper relationships, and lead healthy and happy lives.