Monthly Archives: August 2012

Shopping for Baby is Hard

When I was 15 or 16, my best friend and I usually went out shopping after school. We didn’t always buy something. Sometimes, we’d just take three or four laps around the mall before heading home. Sometimes, we’d idly wander the aisles of Target (it was walking distance from the school). Sometimes, we’d even find stuff we wanted to buy. One of the days we were killing time at Target (because, really, what is a middle class suburban teenage existence other than repeatedly killing time until you’re old enough to actually do something useful?), as we wandered through the toy aisle, a stuffed bear caught my eye. 

Just a simple little white bear with extra fluffy fur, it didn’t look like anything remarkable at first. There was a little button on the paw that said “Press”. When you press the button, it lit up in soft, warm colors that progressed through the spectrum. A night-light and a bear, all in one. It wasn’t expensive, either — a totally reasonable $10. I knew for a fact I had to have it. Not for me, you understand. I knew, age 16, that one day I was going to have children, and my child needed to have this bear. 

Ben and I were over at Dad’s house yesterday, and I spotted the bear in my old room. It’s now sitting in Sprout’s room, waiting for a name and some furniture to sit on.

The furniture is coming. We went shopping with my grandma this week and she bought us a beautiful crib. Of course, Ben and I have clearly procrastinated the actual purchase of baby stuff just a little bit too long; the estimate is that the crib should arrive in… ten to twelve weeks. For those who’ve lost count, we’re at 36 weeks, which means the baby should arrive in one to five weeks. Fortunately, we weren’t planning to put her into the crib immediately. And even if we had been, I guess we wouldn’t be now anyways, would we?

The car seat is similarly behind; we placed the order on Amazon yesterday (a generous gift from Ben’s Dad and Stepmom). That at least should arrive next week. Yesterday, we went through and did the “registry completion” shopping bonanza with the lovely coupons those entailed. We wandered around Target for about four hours with the registry gun (why yes, the toothpaste IS a registry item now, thank you for asking), our shopping list, and a handful of coupons. All told, it was over $300, which is way more money than we usually are comfortable spending, but we also completely filled a shopping cart, almost finished outfitting her room, and even found the vacuum I’d been researching on sale (PLUS the 10% registry discount). According to the bottom of the receipt, we saved $76, but that doesn’t take into consideration the comparison shopping we did between stores, the comparison shopping between products, and the general over-analysis of every purchase we made.

I’m very proud of us, honestly. I think we did good.

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Annoying Things About Pregnancy, Third Trimester Edition

So I’m eight and a half months now, or nearly nine which is weird because we hit 9 months about 4 weeks before the “due date”. Or, for those of you who, like us, now count your entire lives in weeks, we’re at 35 weeks. Or, if you’re the chick behind the register in the grocery store, we’re at None Of Your Damn Business, Just Finish Scanning My Groceries Please I’m Thirsty and I Have To Pee.

The floor is very far away now. It’s like they moved it, just to piss me off. And the cats want me to pet them in the middle of the room, but they’re SO SHORT.

People ask me if I miss my toes. I actually get to see my toes quite a bit. They’re useful for grabbing stuff off the floor. And just last week, I even managed to paint them (copper base coat with sparkly glitter on top). Oh sure, I can only touch them if I’m sitting, but now they’re all sparkly, which makes me a bit happier when I look down and see how far away the floor is. What I actually miss getting to see? My upper thighs. I’ve been assured they are still there, but I have no proof of this.

My laptop used to actually be usable as a lap-top. Also, putting a napkin neatly in my lap before meals? Totally pointless. Between the belly and the table, I look down and can’t see even a corner of the napkin. And if I actually want to use said napkin, it’s now stuck under my belly. But if I leave it on the table, I’m crass. Can. Not. Win.

Remember how I missed sleeping on my back as of the second trimester? Silly me. I didn’t know how good I had it. Now, I miss sleeping lying down. Or with a normal quantity of pillows.

Somewhere in the second trimester, baby is supposed to “rise up”. Little Girl did not get that memo. Effectively, she “dropped” in the fifth month, somewhere around 24 weeks or so. So people telling me now that “Oh, but she hasn’t really dropped yet. You’ll see.” is a little obnoxious. When I walk down the stairs, it feels like she’s going to fall out. Some days, I swear when I take off my underwear, I’m going to see a little hand poking out. If she goes much lower, she’ll be crowning. So unless you’re a midwife with hands on my pelvis, please refrain from telling me where you think my fetus is hanging out, okay?

We were at a restaurant recently that specializes in their tequila selection. The margarita side of the menu is extremely impressive. When our waitress was explaining the drink specials to us, she looked at me and said, “Well, of course you can’t have any of those, but we have a great selection of non-alcoholic drinks.” You know what, lady? There are studies that show an occasional drink now and then is just fine. It happens that the acidity of the margarita is more of an issue, but that certainly won’t stop me from tasting Ben’s. And, oh, right, it’s None Of Your Business.

Speaking of alcohol and pregnancy, if you take a look at some of the so-called “studies” out there, you’ll note most of them are based on junk science (repeat after me: correlation is NOT causation), or come to conclusions that expressly contradict their results (“We see that fewer than 4 drinks per week causes absolutely no harm, but there is no established quantity that is safe.”). Or, my absolute favorite, they’ll look at legitimate studies and conclude that women can’t be trusted to monitor their own alcohol intake and stick to a reasonable amount (“but what about the alcoholics??”), so therefore all women should be treated as if they were incapable of making rational decisions about their health.

MY body. Not your body. I don’t understand why this concept is so difficult. Don’t preach to me about what I can eat, drink, lift, or do. And DON’T touch me. MY body. MY belly. MINE not yours. If you have a concern, you can gossip about it behind my back like generations of catty people have done before you. I’m good, thanks.

I’m also getting tired of birth horror stories. We get enough of those through the media; can we agree that not all women are going to explode during labor? That it is in fact possible to have a normal, healthy birth without fear and suffering? That birth is a totally natural part of life, happens All The Freaking Time, and is actually less likely to kill me or the baby if we do it at home? (I have news for you: the infant and maternal mortality rates in this country are way too high for the teeny tiny percentage of home births to be responsible for them.)

Please don’t tell me I’m cranky because of hormones. I’m cranky because the world treats pregnant women like objects, because people insist on telling me how I feel, and because my own body is no longer a comfortable place for me to be. Wouldn’t you be cranky too?

Baby Betting: Birth Weight

We’re taking bets on how much Sprout will weigh at birth! Email Megan or Ben to get in on the action. Winner gets bragging rights and a photo of baby (which they would probably get anyways. Okay, so the prizes are lame. I have no excuse.)

To reserve your square, email either Megan or Ben, or comment on this post!

Helpful Information:

Studies are starting to show that birth weight tends to follow the father, although not always. Ben was 6 lbs 11 oz at birth. Average weight at birth in the U.S. is 7 lbs 11 oz, or “6 to 10 lbs” which is not so much an average as a cop-out.

At the 20-week ultrasound, she was about one pound (although weight readings by ultrasound are notoriously inaccurate). Since then, her growth has been tracked by fundal height, which is supposed to be roughly 1cm per week of pregnancy. She has been perfectly on track (neither larger than average nor smaller) since then.

5 lbs 6 lbs 7 lbs 8 lbs 9 lbs 10 lbs
0 oz Ben Meg Sean
1 oz Stephen T.
2 oz
3 oz Kristy Ruth S.
4 oz
5 oz
6 oz Mark Chappell Lauren K.
7 oz Beryl Morganne
8 oz Megan Gerson
9 oz Maryann
10 oz  Nimitz
11 oz
12 oz Lauren P.
13 oz
14 oz Margie
15 oz

Baby Betting: Birth Date

We’re taking bets on when Sprout will choose to arrive! Email Megan or Ben, or leave a comment on this post to get in on the action. Winner gets bragging rights and a photo of baby (which they would probably get anyways. Okay, so the prizes are lame. I have no excuse.)
Helpful information:

The standard calculators that assume all women have perfectly regular cycles puts her due date at Sept 23. The midwives adjusted calendar, which takes individual cycles into account, puts her due date at Sept 28. Only 5% of babies are born on their due dates, with 80% born between weeks 38 and 42. Babies are full term after week 37, and not actually overdue until after week 42. The majority of first babies are delivered during the 41st week. Women in Megan’s family tend to have their babies two to three weeks early or on the due date.

The calendar is on Google Calendars. If you’d like, you can add it to your own calendar.

Cat Scan

We took a cat scan today.

Nimitz helped.

Birthing Classes

We took the first half of our birthing class this past weekend. The midwives recommended three types of class, and after looking at information on all three, Ben and I decided to go with Birthing From Within. It’s got a lot more “get in touch with your feelings” hippie granola than we usually go for, but there’s a lot about it that appealed to us from the website, and from the quick description we got from an instructor who was at one of our community care visits. Besides, we figured if it was too laughably kumbaya, we’d at least have some inside jokes to share, and I’ve heard that laughter is good for helping labor progress.

We were really looking forward to the class: one of our first big, concrete steps towards “holy crap, there’s going to be a baby in our house” (the first came the day before, when Dad helped us move the guest bed into storage, giving us an actual baby room). Instead of a six-week course, we’re taking a two-day “intensive” (none of the full courses were available for good timing with our due date, either much to early or probably too late), with two other couples in the class.

When we arrived and had all introduced ourselves, our instructor asked us to write down a list of “True things about labor, birth, and parenting”. You know, something simple to warm up with. (Right.) Ben took the easy route with most of his list (“Labor has stages.” “Parenting is about teaching.” “Megan will have a baby.”), although towards the end he did dive in a little more philosophically. As I was getting kicked the entire time I worked on my list, I had more of a sense of…urgency about the whole thing, that it’s actually a real thing we’re going to do. I wrote:

  • This is going to be one of the hardest things I do in my life, and I’m going to do it.
  • My body won’t give me more than I can handle.
  • This one moment will forever change the rest of our lives — how we interact, how we schedule & plan, how we view ourselves, each other, and our relationship.
  • We are as ready as we can be for something that really can’t be prepared for.

She talked about the stages of labor, which Ben and I have been reading about, and about the physical process that’s happening. She talked about positions we can be in to encourage the baby to move into a low, head-down position. When I tried them, our little Sprout, who never really rose up in the second trimester like everybody tells you they will and decided to “drop” at about five months, took these encouragements as a sign to venture into my rib cage for the first time ever.

And then we started talking about coping strategies and pain management. I wish I had been counting the number of times she said the word “pain”. It was a lot, as if she was drilling it into our heads, preparing us for how much agony we will be experiencing. She asked us to rate on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being “the worst pain you can possibly imagine”, what we thought labor would look like. When one of the couples said 100 and 200 (hers and his respectively), our instructor didn’t say anything reassuring, nodding in a way I’m sure she thought was non-judgmental but came across as approving. Telling this poor woman that yes, labor will be the worst pain she can possibly imagine. The man from the other couple, explaining his rating of 75, pointed out that he’d known people to pass out from extreme pain but had never heard of women passing out from the pain of childbirth.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect this to be a walk in the park (I rated it a 70). But this is something that my body is designed to do. More than anything else I do, honestly. My body is not designed to drive a car or sit at a computer, yet I manage that quite handily. But my body is designed to birth a child. That is, after all, why I have a uterus in the first place. I know there are a lot of things about the human body that are less than ideally designed. But I find it difficult to imagine that this one task, arguably the most important biological function, would be so poorly designed as to cause such unbelievable agony that we need technology to cope with it.

She had us walk through an exercise involving an ice cube to simulate pain so we could practice various coping techniques. The first time, I got fed up with feeling unnecessary discomfort, so I put the ice cube down before time was up (whatever that unexplained time limit was supposed to be). Little did I know that moment was to become my benchmark for the rest of the day. She’d have us try a new technique, then ask how it went. When I’d say I didn’t know how it worked for me or what I tried, she’d say “But you managed to hold it the whole time!” Well, yes. Peer pressure will do that, you know. But it was really hard to escape the feeling that the first round had been marked as “failure”, and now I had to prove that I was strong enough, tough enough to actually go through an unmedicated labor.

It’s also very difficult to use visualization of contractions as a wave, to “dive into the wave”, when the pain you’re trying to deal with is… an ice cube. Cold is a very linear type of pain: the longer you touch the cold object, the more intense it gets. And when you put it down, you instantly start to feel better. From everything I’ve heard, contractions don’t work that way; they build in a wave, and then ebb again, on their own time. And, more than that, they have a purpose and are actually accomplishing something.

After our midday lunch break, she had us work on an art project: creating a labyrinth (or Labor-inth, according to the website). We started by sketching the walls in marker according to the diagram she showed us. And then she dumped a basket of pastels on the floor and told us to “color it in”.

I hadn’t touched pastels since high school, despite the fact that I own a very nice set of them. It took a while to get my hand back in, but it wasn’t long before I found myself completely and utterly absorbed, back into that art trance I used to spend so much time in. I’ve always found that when I let myself fall into that, the part of my brain that processes words just shuts down. So when we’d finished with the pastels and she asked us to write down… I don’t remember what the exact directions were, to be honest. I was still working when she explained it, which meant the words were almost meaningless to me. I stared at the page for a long while trying to find words again. I had such distinct, coherent feelings. I knew exactly what I meant when I made the choices I made. But to write it down? To put words there?

I colored the path along the spectrum, starting at the beginning and ending at the center, because each step builds on the one before it. One flows into another, and you can’t just skip ahead. I blended the colors because the path is seamless. Maybe not smooth or consistently paced, but you do have to take each step to get where you’re going. It reminded me of a project we did in college, where we had to sand a block of wood, starting with 40 grit and working our way down, one step at a time, to 200 grit, then paper towels, then eventually toilet paper. The project was about process, and how you can’t rush a process or skip steps without hampering the final outcome.

More than that, though, I learned that the easiest way for me to access that monkey brain, that primitive part of me that needs to be in control for my body to do what it needs to, is to go back to art. This week, for the first time in a long time, I picked up a pencil and began drawing again. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

The rest of the afternoon was spent discussing positions in labor and various other things that didn’t involve ice or, really, much in the way of new information. I’m still sorting out a lot of my feelings about the class. I walked in feeling so strong and confident, and when I walked out, for the first time I actually felt afraid of birth. Afraid that it’s going to be too much for me, that it’s more than I can handle. Afraid that I’m going to fail yet again, and need someone to bail me out of the mess I’ve gotten myself into. Most of all, terrified that we’ve got another eight-hour session coming up this weekend.

Sleep is for Wimps. Healthy,well-rested wimps, but wimps nonetheless

Don’t you wish you could sleep like that?

Everyone keeps warning us that when the baby comes, we’ll never sleep again. Dire predictions of a sleep deprivation so bad we’ll go out of our minds with exhaustion, clawing our eyes out in a desperate hope to get just one hour of sleep.

Clearly, these people have forgotten what pregnant sleep looks like.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Week 33. Last night was a pretty typical night:

11:45 pm: Bed time! Ben is off work this week, so our schedule has gotten a little more lax. It took me about 15-20 minutes to actually fall asleep, which has been my pattern my whole life, so nothing new there.

Somewhere between midnight and 2: I woke up to roll onto my other side. See, the belly is now big enough that I can’t just roll over in my sleep anymore. If I try to roll using my ab muscles, I pull something in my side. So I actually have to wake up to roll over at night. Out of sheer determination, I kept my eyes closed and refused to look at the clock.

2:45 am: I have to pee. I lie in bed for about 5 minutes, arguing with myself if I actually do have to get up, because for the first time in a while, I’m actually comfortable. My bladder gets insistent enough that my whole abdomen starts aching. I give up and get up.

3:00 am: I’ve been back in bed for a while, but can’t get back to sleep. I can’t find that comfy position again, and now my nausea/heartburn is acting up, so if I lie wrong, I can feel the stomach acid start crawling up my throat. After tossing and turning to find a comfortable position (and failing), I take a chewable Papaya Enzyme tablet and worry about the damage I’m doing to my teeth. I definitely saw the clock hit 3:15 before I fell back to sleep.

Somewhere between 3 and 6: I roll over again. Same deal as before.

6:45 am: I get a text message from a friend in California who forgot about time zone differences. It’s okay, though because the pic she sends makes me unreasonably happy. Also, I send my reply at 10am here, which totally sounds like revenge to me. After I look at my phone, Lilit sees that I have an eye open, and makes a frog noise followed by rolling on her back. Great. 7am and she wants to play. Yeah, that’s not happening. I take advantage of already being awake to hit the bathroom again, and on my way back to bed, I tell Lilit to go back to sleep. She meows like a normal cat once, then lets me rest.

9:00 am: I had put a reminder in my calendar that library books are due today. Only I set it up as an appointment instead of a reminder, so my phone alerts me. Ben and I give up on the night (as my stomach starts grumbling and growling) and head downstairs to make breakfast.
Look, I’m not saying I don’t realize that I can get more hours in a row now than I will with a three day old infant. But there are a couple of huge differences between now and then. First, when we have a three day old, we will not have a to do list or a schedule of things to accomplish during waking hours. We will be able to take one hour naps at any point during the day that she lets us, so even if it takes 14 hours to do it, we can guarantee a solid 8 hours of sleep a day. (I said solid, not uninterrupted. I’m not a fool, after all). Second, I’ll actually be able to lie down in bed. Or on my side. Or on my back. Third, and this really is the most important part, we’ll have something adorable and new to look at when we’re lying there, exhausted and bored. I mean seriously, it’s going to take a while for “Look at how tiny her hands are!” to get old.

Besides, what choice do we have? It’s a little late to turn back now.

Privacy and Progress

I really was doing better about regular updates. I’m determined to get back to that, so please bear with me. I’ve been dealing with some big picture issues over the last couple weeks, and I’m hoping to get them coherent enough to write about, but I don’t make any promises.
Little girl is getting bigger, and, if possible, more active. I’m back to wearing the belly bands, which are now helping to support this ever-growing watermelon under my shirt instead of their old purpose, which was holding my normal pants together to stall a few more weeks. We’ve definitely decided on a name for her, which is really exciting, and makes her feel all the more real. But then it brings me to a lot of questions, like privacy, and the permanence of the internet. Sure, Ben and I have the right to use our names online however we please, but given than nothing posted online ever truly disappears, how can we decide for our little girl how much of her life is going to be for public consumption before she’s old enough to decide for herself? What sort of future consequences are there to having her completely searchable from babyhood?

So we’ve jointly decided that whatever her choices are as an adult, it’s not up to us to make that sort of choice for her. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging about my experiences on this journey. It just means that my writing will be focused on my thoughts and feelings and my side of our joint experiences. Ben and I have jointly decided not only on a name for our little girl, but we’ve even picked her very first online pseudonym. Online, we will just refer to her as The Sprout.

In other news, my attempts at housewifery are going marginally better. I managed to plan out a couple meals, and then Ben and I put together a meal plan for the rest of the week. We’ve actually eaten regular meals, well-planned and mostly home-cooked for nearly a week and a half. We made pizza, stir fry, and meatballs. We’ve had leftovers available for lunch each day.

I’m feeling better about being at home most of the time, although it’s a little harder as the Due Date (due dates? It’s really more of a 5 week range…) looms ever closer. For one, my stomach is now apparently the size of a golf ball, and I’m dealing with a combination of heartburn and nausea, that starts off as a burning at the base of my sternum and crawls up my throat until it sits at the back of my mouth in that familiar, first-trimester nausea that won’t quit. Only where water used to help, now it just makes it worse. And since it’s not behaving like normal heartburn, the normal heartburn remedies don’t really work. For one, the meals that feel best tend to be the spicier ones. Second, what I eat doesn’t seem to matter as much as that I eat. As long as I’m actively putting food in my mouth, and for about 20 minutes after, I’m good. At this rate, I might actually gain the extra weight the midwives want me to.

The most tragic part of the expanding belly, however, is the effect it’s had on the cats. Neither one will curl up too closely against me anymore for fear of getting kicked. Poor Lilit used to sleep tightly against my stomach, but if she does that now, someone else takes an interest in her purring. A violent, punchy interest.

We’re down to only a couple months, which means preparing the house is the main priority now. We need to order the birth kit and get all the supplies gathered up. The guest bed needs to go into storage so we have room for all her things. We’re still sleeping on a full sized bed, with two of us and two cats, so I’ve been scrounging craigslist for a used queen bed frame that’s not too expensive, preferably a platform bed as opposed to those metal ones that require you to purchase a box spring as well. Seems like false economy to me, considering the price of box springs. There’s an absolutely stunning bed I found, but Ben vetoed it because it requires a European-sized queen mattress, and those are nearly impossible to find. Which, really, is a damned shame, because have you seen that bed? Ah, well.

Also, I think lighting just hit the parking lot out front of my house. What is with this weather?