Coming Back to the World

Having a baby is hard. Nobody lies to you about that. But I do think that having a baby in our society is harder than it has to be, and that is something nobody wants to tell you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still way happier to have a baby than I was to be pregnant. Being pregnant was the most uncomfortable, unhappy time of my life. I would rather go through labor once a month for nine months than be pregnant every single day.

And that’s really where this conversation gets started, I hope. See, we spend all this time talking about pregnancy and childbirth, and all this time obsessing over what honestly amounts to a rough day. Everyone has advice for the pregnant woman, from how to be pregnant to why she made a mistake by being pregnant. There’s special parking for Expectant Mothers, despite the fact that walking is really healthy for the pregnant body. Hell, when we realized I was in labor, the first thing we did was take a walk around the neighborhood in the hopes that we’d speed things along.

But the new mother who is still bleeding and really shouldn’t be walking around? No special parking. No special attention. People ask how tired you are and how much sleep you’re getting, as if that’s all that matters. And if anything isn’t going well, nobody wants to talk about it. After all, if you have a healthy baby, what else matters?

The early days for us were really hard. Breastfeeding was a constant struggle. Everyone told me “you just have to toughen up” or “it gets easier after a few weeks”. Or my absolute favorite, “But she’s so healthy. Stop worrying.” I spent the first few weeks of my daughter’s life in tears more often than not.

I’m just starting to get time at the keyboard again, so I’m trying to sort this all out still. But this is a big conversation, and it’s one that’s really important.

Please stand by, we’re experiencing adorable difficulties…

Posting will be a bit sporadic in the next few weeks as we get a handle on being a family of three. In the meantime, you can let this face tide you over.

On Life, Death, and Lizards

Well, that was exciting.

I came downstairs to grab a snack, and while I was in the bathroom (because, of course, that is my first stop after a flight of stairs) I heard Nimitz scratching at the basket we keep the shoes in. I yelled at her, which usually works, but not this time. When I got into the hall, she was staked out in front of the basket, clawing at it, and snapping at her didn’t help. So I picked up the basket.

And out scurried a lizard.

Now, I totally should have gotten a photo of this, but I had two options:

1) deal with the fury-crazed cat, panicked lizard, and my front hallway or

2) photograph the lizard.

So I called Ben, obviously, as Nimitz chased the poor little formerly-blue-tailed skink around the bathroom floor. Fortunately for the skink, Nimitz has lost the killer instinct, so she would give it a little claw-free tap, watch it skitter away, then tap it again. She managed to get it towards the front door, where I picked her up, opened the door, and tried to let it out. She started squirming like crazy, so I tossed her in the bathroom and shut the door (easier said than done), then opened the storm door for the lizard, where it finally slipped out. I let Nimitz out of the bathroom, where we looked at the poor little thing as it sat by the door mat, its little sides heaving.

Look, I know the skink is probably just going to get eaten by one of the many neighborhood outdoor cats. I get it, really I do. My mom’s cats are indoor/outdoor, and not only have I heard all about the things they bring home, I’ve helped Mom rescue a couple. I totally get that cats are the ultimate killing machine, that lizards are lower on the food chain and often eaten by predators. That the animal kingdom is full of tiny creatures dying every day.

Just not in my front hallway, okay?

Waiting is the hardest part

Yet-to-be-named Glow Bear testing out Sprout’s car seat

Products from our registry clean-up have started to arrive, like the car seat. That’s probably the most monumental item, although not the only one. It really does make me look at the living room and think, “Holy crap. We’re actually going to have a baby.” We also got a second-hand bouncer from a friend of mine that makes me feel similarly, although I’ve researched the car seat enough that I think that hit harder.

I probably am going to start posting less over here. I feel like I don’t have a whole lot to say that’s new. Most of what’s going on is a variation on a theme: My [everything] hurts, and I’m tired of people telling me “it’ll be over soon”. If you went to the doctor and said you couldn’t eat, sleep, drink water, or stay out of the bathroom and you have aches where you didn’t even realize you had body parts, and they told you, “Well, it’ll all clear up in about a month”, you wouldn’t find it very reassuring. You’d probably want to stab the fifteenth person who told you that.

I promise I won’t stab you. Just please stop telling me “It’s almost over”. It doesn’t help. It just makes me cranky.
This week’s big project has been clearing out the closet so we can turn the Office Closet into an Office/Baby Closet. We’ve unearthed tons of stuff, including a bunch of holiday gifts from last year that never got mailed. Let this be a lesson to you all: if you want a present from us, don’t live far away. Also, the step-sibs will probably be getting some amazingly good gifts this year, as they will be a combo of last year and this year. In fact, we will probably transform them into Megan’s Awesome Care Packs.

(For those of you who have received one of Megan’s Awesome Care Packs, you know what that means. For all the rest of you slobs, allow me to explain: it starts with a box full of a few things that are awesome. And then more awesome things get added in. And more. Until the box is nearly bursting. And then, we write up an inventory. But you know, since this is coming from me, that the inventory bears little resemblance to your standard list. Oh no. The inventory includes full descriptions of the items, the reason for their purchase, and suggestions for use. With my signature sassiness. These Care Packs are the envy of all who have not received one.)

I think the biggest thing that came out of the closet clean up was a sense of how imminent this all is. We started figuring we’d knock the whole thing out in a couple hours. A day and a half later, the entire house was covered in the contents of the closet, the office was unusable, and we both realized Just How Much Junk we’ve already managed to accumulate. We’re back on the upswing now — more things are getting cleaner than are getting cluttered. I think we’ve each purged about two-thirds of our college papers (do I *really* need to keep my terrible paper on the ethnography of a PA diner from my Communications class?), winnowing down to only the most important ones (Megan’s acting journals from Acting 101? Oh yeah, those are interesting).

We’re also finally getting all the pictures up on walls. That’s only taken a year and a half of living here to finish. It never ceases to amaze me how much a couple picture frames liven up a room, though. The bedroom is almost ready — one more box to go through, then adding the waterproof pad onto the bed. Otherwise, the floors are clear, and the birthing tub is in a corner, ready to be set up when it’s needed. The living room is covered in all the things we don’t know what else to do with, so that’s the next project. The office is still a disaster, but it’s definitely closer.

Emotionally and physically, I am very ready to Not Be Pregnant. I can definitely feel things changing — crampiness that Erin says is my cervix moving around and prepping, digestive nonsense as my stomach prepares, Braxton-Hicks (Erin finally was able to give us a definition that made sense, so now I know when those are happening, too). People talk about the baby “dropping”; Sprout is in proper position, but she never “dropped” because she forgot to lift up during the second trimester. So now… we wait.

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.

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.