Monday, December 17, 2018

Preparations

“The closer you get to birth, the more your muscles are doing two separate actions: opening, expanding and relaxing, but still holding your body up.” My physical therapist expanded her hands and then brought them back together, illustrating the way my core muscles are working. My soul is doing the same thing, opening, releasing, creating space for this new little love, while also barreling through the list of things to finish up.

************
It’s exhausting to be this close to birth, physically of course, but even more mentally. My low back twinges, the baby moves and hits my pubic bone sending pain searing downwards, my abdomen tightens in a practice contraction, taking my breath away, and I am hyper aware. What’s happening? Is this it? There are a lot of passages in the Bible about keeping watch, and never was such a vigilant watch kept as in the last days of pregnancy.

************
I sit quietly in an all-day meeting at work. My phone rests in my lap, screen unlocked. As we discuss strategy and initiatives for the coming year, I breathe through a practice contraction once every 30 minutes for hours, keeping track on an app on my phone. I wait. I keep watch. I try to stay unattached. Could be something, could be nothing. That day, it turns out to be nothing.

************
"What are you thinking?" my doctor asks. I am thinking that this day arrived a lot more quickly than I expected. How is it already Thursday? Even still I am hesitant, aware of all the unknowns that surround all of birth. My options are induction at 38 weeks or a c-section at 39 weeks.  "I'm leaning towards an induction." I say. She comes back in the room after calling the hospital. "The hospital is all booked up next week, except for one opening on Sunday night." The wind is knocked out of me - that's 37 weeks and 4 days, and it is only three days away.

************
I call my doctor from the parking lot of the store where I stopped to buy diapers after our appointment. My voice is calm - after crying the whole way here, I have found the path forward. "I'm not completely attached to an induction." I tell her. "When you talk to the high risk team tomorrow about the induction, please get their opinion about what would be the safest option for the baby. My risks are probably about the same whether I get induced today or next week, but the baby's could change a lot." "I will," she says. "And I will advocate for both of you. I promise."

************


I stand at the bottom of the stairs and sigh. "You know you can take the elevator, " Caleb reminds me. "I know," I say, and then begin my slow ascent up, pausing in the middle to try and find my core muscles, thanking them for their contradicting actions. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Is it supposed to be this hard?

3/6/18

I was ready to go to bed at 8pm. I hadn't been feeling great the past few days, a deep exhaustion had been creeping into my bones. I  decided to start a load of laundry before bed. Then I worked for a bit on budgeting. Then Caleb and I talked about some things we'd needed to discuss for a while. Suddenly it was 10:45 and I still hadn't gotten ready for bed. I'd been asleep for all of twenty minutes when the baby awoke.

I moaned and got up when it was clear he was not going back to sleep. He is usually pretty easy to put back down, but something was bugging him tonight. He would fall asleep, and then wake up and scream. We troubleshot. These were new jammies, we put the old ones on. A new diaper with fresh diaper cream. Finally, I strapped him into the baby carrier and bounced, on the exercise ball and then standing. I paced and he started to fall asleep.

I emerged successful at 1:15am, a mere 5 hours after I had wanted to go to bed. By this point, I was hungry, so I made myself toast and eggs and wondered if I should just stay awake and do stuff.

"Is it this hard for everyone?" I wonder. I feel like we have no space in our life for anything besides the getting through it. I wonder about how any parent I have ever seen in my life with a baby has space to engage or be social. When our week or weekend is off by even a tiny bit, I suffer.

I saw a parenting article earlier this week that I did not click on called "You're not doing it wrong, it's just that hard." The title gives me comfort.

Later in the week... 

It seems important to document what happened today. It was Samuel's one year check up. I was wrought with anxiety for weeks. I was certain that his (normally very kind) pediatrician was going to chastise us. Here are the faults I was certain were worthy of chastisement:
Now that he is over one, he should no longer be using a pacifier or drinking formula.
Now that he has eight teeth, we should be brushing his teeth every day as part of our routine. 

That stuff didn't even come up. Well, formula did - but only that he can continue it until he drops the feeding. We don't need to try and replace it. 

This is what parenting is like now. You do everything you're supposed to be doing, and still lose sleep that it isn't good enough.

I reflect also on gender. Caleb shares a lot of my worries, but not all of them. Why? What is it about motherhood in particular that makes one scrutinize every move and every decision?

In the coming months, it gets easier. The baby starts to sleep through the night. Our final can of formula sits partially empty on top of the fridge for months, until one December day, I throw it out. I still sometimes struggle to go to bed early sometimes, but we have a little more space to see friends. Caleb takes on a home improvement project. Maybe it's just the first year that's so hard? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I want to remember

10/8/18
Like many mornings, when Sammy woke up before us, Caleb got him and brought him into our room where we snuggled. He burrowed into my neck and laid so still that I thought he was asleep, but he was awake. I felt his eyelashes blinking a couple of times. When he got too fidgety and wanted to get up, Caleb got up with him. I rolled over and shoved pillows around my belly, back and knees, and went back to sleep.

When I woke up again, Caleb and Sammy were making waffles. I got dressed and started packing up for church. I packed this wooden tchotchke that Caleb has had since before I met him. It's a little wooden pineapple that says "Cancun". The pineapple has a lid carved into it. You open the lid and there is a small wooden bug with jiggly legs. Sammy loves to open and close things, so I figured this would be a great quiet toy for church. We usually take our Christmas book and a plastic bottle with an easy screw-on lid filled with pom-poms. 

At church, as we were singing, Sammy wanted look at the little baby in front of us, then he wanted to just rest his head on my shoulder and look at the people behind us. I held him close and kept giving him little kisses on his cheek. Out of nowhere, he turned and started putting his mouth on my cheek. I laughed in delight and so did he. Then he wanted to nuzzle noses and kiss my mouth. We both laughed and laughed, and then he went back to just snuggling my shoulder. 

Eventually, his hands got fidgety and I got out the bug toy, just as things had quieted down for the sermon. I handed it to him and unlatched the lid.


Sammy talks a lot, but many of his words are still a little unclear. Upon seeing the toy, he exclaimed with delight one of the clearest words: "A bug!!" He started to giggle at this bug inside a pineapple, completely undone with joy. "Hi!!" he told it. Caleb and I smiled at each other, this was the cutest. 

He then closed the lid, "Bye bug". He turned to me and held out the pineapple: "More, more?" I opened it again, and to his delight, the bug was still there. "Hi bug!!" I suddenly realized that this was not going to be a quiet toy. Our church has an overflow room where they play the service on a TV, so I scooped him up and headed there. It was empty, and we sat on a pew while he greeted the bug over and over. Every few minutes, he'd look up at the screen. Where we had been sitting was just out of the camera angle, but he still said "Bye Daddy." 

After church, he slept and we cleaned the house a bit. We were interviewing a doula. Right before she arrived, I got nervous. What was this big thing we were doing with having another baby? I was unsettled and looking for a pillow to hold while she was here. Moments before she arrived, Sammy blessedly woke up. It's funny how you comfort these little people and somehow they bring you comfort too, sometimes even bigger comfort than it feels like you give them. I think he knew what I needed, because for the whole hour the doula was here, he snuggled into my arms. 

After she left, he ran around playing independently, transferring a pile of clean rags around the living room, crawling into a toy cubby to do a shape puzzle. 

This is one. This is perfection. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

EMDR

July 23, 2018
My head is pounding and my stomach churns. I pull up to the grocery store and walk in to use the free blood pressure monitor. Am I dying? Do I have preeclampsia?

My numbers pop up 105/ 52. No preeclampsia. (Not to mention that according to my doctor, preeclampsia isn't even something you develop until after 20 weeks, which is still 4 weeks away for me.)

I vaguely remember that when I was pregnant last time, I did not feel scared. I was eating all the right things, getting sleep, seeing a chiropractor, and though it was unknown and I didn't particularly enjoy being pregnant, I was confident in my body and in the care I was giving it. I don't know if I'll ever enjoy a pregnancy free from fears again.

Nesting comes and goes in waves, even at 16 weeks. I finish sorting all my pre-baby, post-partum and maternity clothes. They are all labeled and put away. I finish sorting and putting away all the clothes that are too small for Sammy, by size. I label all of it. I enjoy the feeling of organization, but holding hands with that feeling is another thought, "It's good I am doing this now. That way if I die in childbirth, Caleb will be able to find everything."

It's a horrible thought that burrows it's way into joyful moments. "I wonder if I should take a video of myself telling Sammy how much I love him and how sad I am that I won't get to watch him grow up." I think as I snuggle his sweet sleeping self. "You know, just in case."

I have thought I was doing okay, mostly fine for the past many months. Caleb and I didn't hold each other and weep like we had done in the early days. But as I texted with a friend, it started to come to light just how un-fine I felt.

I feel unhinged. So many pieces of me feel scattered, or dead. I used to believe that physical wellness mattered. I used to have time and space to care about what I put into my body, to monitor my energy levels, to be aware of the deeper world. Maybe the loss of some of that is just motherhood.

August 2018
Finally, I realize that this is probably something I need help with. I am tired of crying through all my prenatal appointments and of living with such fears. I find a therapist who seems like she might be a good fit. I schedule a time to see her. It's not a good fit. Someday I might write a post on how much artificial fragrances bother me (perfumes, scented, body lotions, laundry products, I'm looking at you), but I am not exaggerating this time when I say every outlet in that building had a Glade plug-in.  It still didn't cover up the dog smell coming from the doggie daycare in the basement.

I got smarter. I realized that I would need to ask about the use of scented candles or air fresheners when I called to schedule the initial appointment. When I found my therapist she seemed confused by the question. "Of course I don't have Glade plugins."


When I arrive at her office, it is cozy and smells only faintly of peppermint, in a nice way. Over the course of weeks and months, I learn about and complete EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy. It takes many weeks and I am left completely exhausted. I can tell this is deep work, but it is also making me feel lighter. The heavy thoughts come less frequently and I have a way to handle them when they arise. I begin to trust my body.

It feels like a new beginning, but also like a continuation of myself. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Getting started

"Hey," I grabbed Caleb's hand across the center console, interrupting his story. "I need you to know that I am feeling really scared."

"Scared about what?" Caleb asked, naming a few specific possibilities.

My eyes filled with tears, "I don't know. All of it. I am just scared."

We were driving to our first prenatal appointment for our new baby. Not only was it this baby's first appointment, it was our first prenatal appointment ever in a medical office, seeing an OB.

[Start here if you don't know the story of our first baby's birth.]

Something like 8 weeks pregnant and already none of my pants fit
I had started thinking through this decision of who to see for prenatal care, just months after Sammy was born. I knew I did not want to have a home birth. It seemed early, so early, to be thinking about this, but I knew that I had to start thinking about it now or I would not be ready. With the guidance of my favorite article about birth of all time, I made what I loosely call my birth plan. Instead of a specific play-by-play, this is a list of what is important to me in birth:
  • I want to feel safe. 
  • I want to do skin to skin immediately. 
  • I want to remember. 
  • I want all the options. 
  • [Added later] I want straight answers only: yes, no, I don't know. "We'll see" or "Maybe" are not options.
I didn't pull the article up on my phone during the drive, but I thought about it and remembered it and that gave me strength. The OB we were going to see had been described by others as "a midwife in an OB's body." If the midwife who was there for Samuel's birth could have offered us the option of a hospital birth, I would have taken it. But she only does home births. 

So many things drew me to the midwifery model, like the time spent with each client ("clients" in a midwifery world because pregnancy is not an illness). The focus on wellness and holistic nutrition. The through review of each test or procedure with pros and cons and the genuine lack of pressure as you decided what you wanted to do. 

But I also wanted all the options, with no judgement of my choices. And I didn't think I could handle having a midwife like the one I left halfway through my first pregnancy. 

I haven't talked much about that experience on here or at all, probably because the birth itself ended up overshadowing it. But as we drove to our appointment, I remembered driving to that first appointment for Sammy. The office where this midwife took appointments was located nearly an hour from our house. We'd interviewed her early on and been impressed with her for a variety of reasons, all of which fell apart as we began to see her regularly. I was nervous, but often did not feel much better after our visits. The drive was stressful to me, and the best way I can describe her was somewhat cold. Despite what she said, I did not feel like my questions were welcomed, and I had a lot of questions, having never been pregnant before. She constantly compared herself to being better than a traditional OB in terms of flexibility, time, etc. Sometimes she did not listen to what I said, but assumed she understood. Finally it all became too much and I told her I was going to switch. She instantly became difficult to get ahold of, and when I finally did get in touch with her, she spoke harshly and critically about my new midwife, recommending that due to my nervousness and anxiety, I just go ahead and find an OB who would deliver in a hospital. Looking back on it, I don't think I had any more anxiety than the average first-time mother. 

So. Here we were driving to my first prenatal appointment with a new doctor. I held Caleb's hand tightly. I bit my lip to keep from crying as the nurse made small talk as she took my blood pressure and placed an unwelcome hand on my belly for a fleeting second to comment about how I was showing already. Finally, it was all too much, and I burst into tears as I described our first birth.

The nurse seemed shocked, and didn't really know what to say. "Eleven pounds? You should probably just have a c-section this time," she suggested unhelpfully.

Instantly, I was aware that I no longer wanted to share my story with this person. "We'll see," I said, intentionally folding my arms across myself as a way to close myself off.

She turned to Caleb and acted as if she was telling him a secret, cupping both hands around her mouth and saying "C-section".

I was ready to get off the table and leave. I did not feel like a human or at all respected. She wouldn't let me sit next to my husband, whose hand I needed. After she left, I quickly moved back into the second chair. It was a small move, but it reminded me of my dignity as a human. I was not there to just be examined on a table. I was there to receive care - and also I was there to interview them. They were professional adults - but so was I. Maintaining my own sense of agency by posturing my body in the chair instead of on the table became my act of rebellion for the next few visits to that office. It reminded me that I have choices and that I have a voice. Even when I was weeping.

In the end, I loved the OB, but made the decision to transfer based on her staff. Until one September day when she told me she was leaving to start her own practice. And that is where I landed, thankfully. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

36 weeks

Dear Baby,

Our life has been a whirlwind of doctor appointments, finger pricks, careful food tracking, medications, ultrasounds, and insulin injections. We have a gestational diabetes that just won't be controlled. But we don't have much longer before we meet YOU. The thought of it simultaneously gives me relief and scares me. How will we do it? Some days, most days, it feels like we are just barely feeding ourselves, going to work, and keeping everyone clean. But somehow, you will fit right in.
All my maternity photos are work bathroom selfies. #NotSorry
You're following your growth curve from the past 16 weeks, clocking in now at approximately 7.5 lbs, which would actually make you smaller than your brother if you were born on your due date, but you won't be born on your due date. We'll decide at some point in the coming days if we want to induce or have a c-section. Someday, the way you were born will be one of the least interesting things about you, but for now, it feels like a big decision.

We have wonderful doctors working with us to inform us on all levels about this decision, and they are kind with me and spend hours willingly answering every detailed question I ask: "Can you show me on my body where the incision would be? What would that morning look like for me? What kind of pants do women usually wear afterwards? How many people would be in the room?"

Meanwhile, at home, we had a plan to finish renovations on an upstairs room for your brother. It went awry when your dad broke his elbow early on in our third trimester. It might get done, it might not. Moving Sammy there might be too many transitions all at once. We'll have to see. In any case, whether we squeeze you into our room or set up the bassinet in the living room, you'll have a cozy spot to sleep near people who adore you.

We have tired eyes as we finish our nesting, but our hearts are happy. See you soon little one. In the meantime, as we make our last decisions, I keep coming back to this quote:

“Birth is working with mystery and the unknown. So our power actually comes from letting go of the ‘how am I going to make this happen? How am I going to achieve this goal?’ And going to a place of wonder and curiosity. I actually don’t know what the outcome is going to be. I’m going to discover it as I go. And my power comes from a place of receptivity and a willingness to allow the process to unfold without needing to know how it’s going to go, or to have it go a particular way.”