Out of Sorts/Quarter-OK-30ish-Life-Crisis-Maybe?

I realized a few weeks ago that I have spent years in the pursuit of conception, pregnancy, postpartum, or infancy survival. Literally YEARS. Surely that kind of uterus gazing cannot be healthy. So I tried to think about myself not as a proud owner/operator of a uterus or as a mother, but as an individual, and consider what I would list as a hobby or interest, if asked, (not that I have been asked, but conceivably there might be a situation in which I was asked such a question) and I could not think of a single thing.

Guys. Have I become a conservative’s dream woman, aka a walking uterus? (No, because: the gay. But still, moving dangerously into that territory.)

Maybe I’m feeling this acutely right now because I’ve been so heavily in toddler mode. (I typed out a whole breakdown of my day here but it was so boring I had to delete it.) Tammy’s working really hard on her master’s program right now, so the bulk of the childcare falls to me.

Maybe I’m having a some-time-in-life-crisis? Maybe it’s normal to feel this way as a mother?

It’s so incredibly frustrating, because I adore my daughter. She is funny, and smart, and of course stunningly, achingly adorable, and trust me when I tell you that I very clearly remember all of the blood, sweat, tears, and credit cards we went through to have her with us.

But is it so bad to want more from life? Is it so bad to want Ellie, but also want friends? Is it so bad to crave baby snuggles/board books/squeals of laughter with pretentious intellectual debates in coffee shops, hipster glasses optional? Is it so bad that I simultaneously love the expression on Ellie’s face when I go into her room in the morning, and desperately, achingly want to check into a hotel, eat and drink massively marked up room service and then sleep until noon? Is it so wrong that I love feeling her head heavily rest on my shoulder as I put her to bed at night, and feel, well, trapped by the schedule of naptime, bedtime, snack, bottle, etc., etc., etc.?

So speak to me, o wise women of the internet. How do you deal with the push and the pull of being both an individual person and a mother? Going guilt free? (how?!??) Medication? (Which one(s)??!) Occasional weekend babysitter?? (Not actually a bad idea…) School me in your ways.

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Baby Catching – Part II

Friends, has it really been a month since I wrote last? Time has become elastic, pulling and snapping and bending into shapes unrecognizable. I’ve fallen behind on reading your updates, and completely neglected commenting. Someday soon (I hope) I’ll get back on the bandwagon and become more active on here. In the meantime, know that I have managed to read posts here and there, and have cheered from afar when things have gone well, and cried with you when they haven’t.

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Ellie lay on my chest for what felt like seconds and hours at the same time, but all too quickly she was whisked away. All I heard was “baby isn’t crying,” and then she was gone, lifted up and away. I told Tammy to stay with Ellie, so she followed her across the room as the nurses poked and suctioned Ellie until she started to scream…and scream…and scream, which she would do nonstop for the next three hours.

Looking back, I think I was in shock. I didn’t feel high, but I did feel detached, like I was watching this happen to someone else. I simultaneously felt like I was floating and pressed heavily into the bed. Physically, I had just undergone an extreme trauma, and emotionally I had just experienced one of the most important moments I’d ever experience.

Meanwhile, I delivered the placenta in one big schloop and I remarked to the doctor that I wished delivering the baby was as easy. The doctor kept up a running teaching commentary to the med student (something about a compound cord, and second degree tearing).

When Ellie was finally brought back to me, I tried to nurse for the first time, completely unsuccessfully. Ellie was too busy screaming, and before I could object, she was whisked away again. We were on our third shift of nurses at this point, and unfortunately the nurse assigned to our room was our least favorite. Her name was Edith, an older lady with bad breath. She kept muttering to herself about Ellie’s screaming, and my weakly stated opinion that “babies cry” was ignored outright.

She took Ellie across the room to stick her heel for a glucose test (way to make her scream more, genius) when a new nurse came into the room. Tammy and I had never seen this nurse before, but she walked right up to Edith and Ellie and asked Edith if she could pray over Ellie. Edith immediately said yes, and the new nurse began. Walking with the Lord was mentioned, the blood of Jesus was mentioned, and Tammy and I sat there with identical expressions of shock and horror. During the prayer, we looked at each other, shaking our heads furiously, mouths moving soundlessly, until Tammy finally found her voice and turned to the nurses and said, “please don’t do that.” The nurse completely nonchalantly, said “oh, ok” and turned and left. We never saw her again.

Eventually I was allowed up and attempted to use the bathroom (also unsuccessfully) and we were transferred from the L&D room to the postpartum room. The L&D room had been spacious and airy, but unfortunately the postpartum room was tiny, and stiflingly hot with a broken thermostat.

I tried to nurse a few more times, again unsuccessfully, but I was totally not concerned about the lack of success. For some reason, I thought she wouldn’t need to eat for a few days (?? No idea what I was thinking there but I’m guessing I was still in shock) so it was not a big deal that she wouldn’t latch on. The nurses eventually dissuaded me of that idea, when she lost close to 10% of her birth weight and didn’t have a wet diaper in the first 24 hours. We ended up supplementing with formula until I got my hands on a nipple shield, which saved our breastfeeding relationship. (I have a whole other post percolating on breastfeeding, so more on the nipple shield later.)

Physically, I was in a lot of pain. I managed to last 24 hours on ibuprofen, until I got a doctor to write me a prescription for Percocet (now Percocet is something I would pray to). I had stitches in my perineum, as well as my vaginal wall. I walked around in an old lady shuffle, something I would keep up for days, and sat on ice packs. My stomach was truly, truly horrifying to look at – people say you still look pregnant after birth, which is sort of true, but only if you were pregnant with a giant bowl of jello.

We stayed three days in the hospital. The world shrank for me during those days – only the hospital room existed. When we left the hospital, the hallways seemed enormous, bright, and threatening.

Part III (on coming home, breastfeeding, and recovery) coming soon.

Baby Catching – Part I

Ellie is a good baby. A sweet baby. She doesn’t cry unless she needs something (for now at least, I know this could change). She nuzzles my neck with her little fuzzy head, makes little cooing “eh-eh-eh” noises, and has expressions that make us laugh with delight. I spend my days drinking in the smell of her, kissing her satiny cheeks, and staring into her blue eyes in wonder and joy. She looks back at me as if to say “what took you so long, mom? I’ve been waiting here this whole time.” My daughter. My daughter. Holding her in my arms feels like a reunion, like a long lost traveller has finally come home.

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Baby Catching – Part I

Friday morning (January 31st) I woke up to a labor pain. I’d been having contractions for weeks, but this one HURT. I thought I knew what a painful contraction was. I did not. I was so, so naive.

I had a scheduled OB appointment that morning, and I was desperately hoping they would tell me I had dilated beyond the paltry 1 centimeter I had been for two weeks.

At the appointment I complained to the Nurse Practitioner about my PUPPPs, and while she was sympathetic, she told me it was probably not a good enough reason to induce. I was still only 1 centimeter dilated (goddamnittalltohell), and I wasn’t so overdue that it was medically necessary to get the baby out. Tammy and I reconciled ourselves to the sad state of my cervix (what is the holdup, cervix) while she went to check with a doctor about a steroid cream for my belly. But instead of coming back with some cream, she came back with an offer to induce. The doctor had told her the steroid cream isn’t really very effective, and that only delivery would provide me with some relief. Since I was past 40 weeks, I could be induced any time.

We hadn’t really prepared to have that offer thrown at us, and I think the panic of making an important decision like that showed on our faces. The NP offered us some time to think about it while we went off to our scheduled Non Stress Test (NST, something they had me doing for the past few weeks – another post about that another time), and told us to stop by on our way back with a decisions. The NST was absolutely fine – baby’s heartbeat was healthy, I was having contractions that showed up on the monitor, but as my cervix had just been checked and showed minimal dilation, they weren’t too concerned I might go into imminent labor.

Tammy and I agonized over the induction decision on the slow, painful (still contracting!) walk between the OB’s office and the office where they did the NST. We went back and forth on pros and cons, but ultimately decided to give my body a few more days to do it’s thing without medical intervention, which would hopefully avoid a C-section. We asked the NP if we could get an induction set for Sunday night, both to give my body more time to “ripen” (like a damn peach or something) and because our doctor, whom we love, was on call at the hospital on Mondays. She called us later to let us know they didn’t have any slots available for Sunday night, but they did have one for Monday morning at 8AM, so we booked it. Tammy was relieved that we wouldn’t be having the baby until Monday – she was glad to have the weekend to do final preparations, notify work, etc. Poor Tammy. Wish not granted.

Meanwhile, I was still having painful contractions. They were 10 minutes apart in the morning, but by the time we got back from the doctor’s office around 1PM they were 7-8 minutes apart. And they fucking hurt. I was starting to think I was in labor, but we’d had so many false alarms before – contractions getting closer together, only to space out and piss me the hell off disappoint – so I kept my inkling to myself. Around 4:30, Tammy asked me if we could order Chinese for dinner. She had been timing the contractions, which were a solid 6-7 minutes apart at this point, and she didn’t want to have the hassle of cooking something while she was also trying to time my contractions and hold my hand while I had them. I had absolutely zero interest in food, but I told her Chinese was fine. Looking back, this was another indication that I was in labor – All I’d eaten that day was a slice of toast for breakfast and half a bag of popcorn for lunch but I could hardly bear to think about dinner.

By the time the food came, the contractions were so painful all I could do during them was moan or wail and grip Tammy’s hand with all my might. They were also 5-6 minutes apart. I looked at her after a particularly painful one and said, “I want to go to the hospital and I want an epidural.” Me saying that flipped a switch with her. She absolutely LEAPED into action, grabbing the last of the items for the baby bag, throwing dishes into the dishwasher, feeding the cat, all while running back to me every 3-4 minutes now to hold my hand during a contraction. Poor thing only got to have a few bites of dinner.

The car ride to the hospital was awful. Every bump in the road was magnified, and each contraction felt like my body was being ripped into pieces.

They way our hospital is set up meant we had to check in at the ER desk and would then be admitted to Labor and Delivery. Tammy pulled up out front and walked me in (I was totally incapable of walking on my own), and the second we got inside a bad contraction hit. I had found the most comforting position during contractions was to bend at the (non existent) waist, clutch Tammy’s midsection, bury my face into her stomach or back, and moan. The admissions desk took one look at us standing there and called for a wheelchair to take me up to L&D (I wonder how they could tell I was in labor?). Somehow I climbed in and was whisked off to the fifth floor while Tammy went and parked.

(A note here about the pain: It’s hard to describe what labor felt like, except to say it was so, SO much worse than I could ever have imagine. I think my mom, as much as I love her, set me up badly because she told me her labor pains just felt like “pressure”. And sure, we could call labor pains pressure, if by “pressure” you mean a wild animal ripping apart my belly with its teeth.)

When I got up to L&D the disgustingly chipper orderly made me get up out of the wheelchair and the nurses made me check in. I was leaning over the desk panting and wailing while they asked me questions like “how far along are you?” and, “is this your first baby?” I’m not sure how I restrained myself from telling them to go fuck themselves. All I could think about was making the pain stop. I could barely remember my own name.

Somehow I ended up sitting alone in a chair by the check in desk. Tammy came running in (she had run all the way from the parking garage with our gigantic hospital bag (we totally overpacked)) and found me there, huddled and shaking and whimpering to myself. I’m sure I looked pathetic, but what they say is true: when you are in labor you truly, truly do not care what you look like. I could have been butt naked in front of my boss and I would not have cared in the slightest.

We got into our room and I was told to put on a hospital gown and provide them with a urine sample. A motherfucking urine sample, y’all. Sitting down on the toilet was the most painful position yet (in retrospect I’m sure it had something to do with the baby bearing down on my cervix) and I was shaking so badly I could barely hold the cup between my legs. I ended up handing a pee soaked cup to Tammy to label and hand off to the nurse.

(A note here about Tammy: she was a rockstar. An absolute rockstar. She kept it together when I’m sure I would have been panicking, validated my every whim, every choice, every decision and did her best to keep me calm. She never left my side. I would have been absolutely lost without her.)

At this point I was begging every nurse, tech, and doctor (really, anyone I thought had a remote chance of working at the hospital – I would have asked a janitor) for an epidural. I had started throwing up from the pain (half digested popcorn looks disgusting as vomit, FYI) and I had to endure a painful cervix check during a contraction. I was 4 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. I’d gone from 1cm and 0% effaced at 10:30am to 4cm and 100% effaced at 7:30pm.

Finally, finally, after I got the requisite amount of IV fluid in my system, I was given an epidural. Oh my GOD you guys. The needle hurt a tiny bit, but nothing worse than a pinch and it was only for a moment. Maybe I would feel differently about epidurals if I’d had a some of those bad side effects you hear about (itching skin, for example, or bad headaches) but I had no adverse reaction whatsoever. I thought I might be disappointed that I opted for an epidural rather than the non-medicated labor I had planned on, but I wasn’t disappointed then and I’m not now, not in the slightest. They told me it might take up to 15 minutes for the epidural to kick in, but within two minutes I was no longer in pain. The relief I felt was so immense, so overwhelming, that I cried in gratitude. Tammy hadn’t been allowed to stay with me while the inserted the epidural, but when she came back in the room she told me later that one look at my face made her a believer in epidurals.

(A note here about medicated vs. non-medicated births: I’m so uninterested in this debate, if one is better than the other, what it says about you if you have an epidural vs. go without, blah blah. For me, I’m grateful I had the option. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to labor at home, grateful we went to the hospital when we did, grateful I asked for the epidural, and grateful I received it. I’m also grateful that women who want a labor free from medicated pain relief have that option. I’m all about options, and I’m most of all grateful that we have them.)

An hour and a half after I received the epidural, my cervix was checked again. At 10pm I was 8 centimeters dilated. The nurse cheerfully told us to start placing bets on a delivery before or after midnight. Unfortunately, they checked me at midnight and I was still 8cm, and the baby hadn’t moved down at all. They broke my water, hoping that would put the baby’s head closer to my cervix, thus applying more pressure and dilating me further. It didn’t work though, and the baby’s heart rate started showing signs of distress. They made me stay lying on my right side because being on my left or on my back made her heart rate slow to unacceptable speeds. I had to wear an oxygen mask for the rest of the night in hopes that it would help.

Sometime in the early morning the doctor started discussing c-sections with me. She told me she wasn’t sure why I was stuck at 8 centimeters, but it could be that the baby’s head was too big to properly engage (and therefore couldn’t put the required pressure on my cervix), it could be that the baby’s head was at an odd angle in my pelvis (and therefore couldn’t put the required pressure on my cervix). Before they recommended a c-section however, they wanted to try me on a low dose of pitocin, to see if contractions of increased strength did the trick.

Half an hour on the lowest possible dose of pitocin and I was 10 centimeters and ready to push. I was so relieved to avoid a c-section and really excited to push. The epidural had worn off enough that I could feel contractions coming on, but they mainly felt like a tightness and pressure, similar to braxton-hix, rather than the searing pain of real contractions.

The doctor had me do a few practice pushes (“pretend you’re constipated and pushing out a great big poop”) and then called the team in (because I delivered at a teaching hospital, there was the doctor, a resident, a med student and a handful of nurses all there at various points in the pushing process).  After the first few pushes, the doctor asked if I wanted to watch myself push, and I said yes. Watching myself, splayed open, pooping, bleeding, and stretching open was both awesome and horrifying. I didn’t enjoy watching myself poop (truly bizarre) but seeing this small dark oval get larger, ever so slowly larger made was worth every view of the gore and poop.

I was pretty cheerful for the first hour of pushing. I felt strong and confident and was filled with adrenaline and excitement. Halfway through the second hour my strength began to fade, and I got more and more tired. I felt like I’d been pushing forever, and started to get weepy.

Pushing hadn’t really hurt up to the point of her crowning – just the pressure and tightness from the (epidurally reduced) contractions. By the time she was crowning, however, everything burned. I was so tightly stretched, and the doctor kept pouring oil over me, then running her finger along the edge of Ellie’s head and my skin to try to stretch me further. I kept telling her that it hurt (because it fucking did) and she kept telling me that the baby was almost here. At one point she had me reach down and feel Ellie’s head, and it was such a strange, exhilarating, rejuvenating feeling.

Just a few minutes before I hit two hours of pushing there was suddenly a lot of activity in the room. All of the various people who had drifted in and out of the room during my pushing process all came back in. Everyone put on these blue paper gowns over their scrubs, and the bottom of the hospital bed was removed. Stirrups were pulled up.

I can’t remember how many more times I pushed. I do remember the final push though – the push that birthed her head. The delivery team was chanting and cheering, and the doctor was saying, “just a little bit more, just a little bit more!” I pushed and screamed and felt my back rise up off the bed. I felt myself tearing – it was like I was being split open. And then, all of a sudden, it was over.

“Stop pushing! Stop pushing, Sarah, for just a second!” The doctor said. “Now one more big push! Push! You can do it!” I pushed again, and felt a tremendous release as her body slipped, all in a rush, into the world.

“Now reach down, Sarah. Reach down and catch your baby!”

And I reached down, and caught my baby, and pulled her up onto me. I was sobbing and shaking. I held my baby girl in my arms and told her it was her birthday, that I loved her, that I was her mommy. I looked at my crying Tammy and said “this is our baby.”

Finally. Finally. Welcome home, Ellie.

Year in Review – 2013

Oh, Christmas. Always such a delightful pull and tug of thank-you-JESUS-I’m-on-vacation and holy-mother-of-god-I’m-going-to-kill-my-family. Some highlights for me this year include Tammy’s mother disowning her children (really); my sister and I spending the entire week squabbling over seriously stupid shit; and me, at almost 9 months pregnant making Christmas dinner from scratch for 6 adults (and thinking the whole time, this is bullshit, this is bullshit). The best part about Christmas this year was that it wasn’t last year. Reading that post makes me sad. I was so depressed and so angry and so deep in my own shit I could barely breath.

Since the post from 2012 was so damn depressing for me to read, let’s dive into the 2013 Year in Review, shall we?

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? The sustained pregnancy, obviously. Is that boring and obvious? Sorry. That’s basically my year. You can stop reading now! Phew!
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I actually didn’t do TOO badly on my first one from last year.  I did really well making homemade meals, at least until the first trimester barfs set in. I fell off that wagon hardcore and never made it back on. Oh well. I most certainly did NOT get back into yoga. I also did not take time to do things for myself. Resolution for this year: let go. You do not have to be in control all the damn time. Does it really matter if your mother puts the dishes away differently than you would? No, no it does not. Does it really matter if Tammy doesn’t pass that car when you would have? No, no it does not. Repeat ad infinitum.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes. I had a few close friends have babies this year. Plus my sister in law had a baby in November.
4. Did anyone close to you die? No. Quick, knock on wood and light some candles!! (Not that I’m superstitious at all.)
5. What places did you visit? [pause] Damn, did we not do anything this year? We went to the beach this summer with my family like we always do. We went to visit Tammy’s family a few times. But no, we really didn’t do anything this year. Wow.
6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? A happy, healthy baby. A job that doesn’t require me to be available 24/7, and ideally I could work from home sometimes and (even better) be part time.
7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? All of the IVF stuff and then the pregnancy stuff. I still can’t fucking believe it worked.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? See above.
9. What was your biggest failure? Trying to control everything.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I’m sick right now with a cold. Nothing super seriously in terms of illness this year, thank goodness!
11. What was the best thing you bought? IVF. Hands down, best money ever spent.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Tammy’s always. That girl is good.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? How much time do you have? I don’t know that my own behavior was “appalling” or anything, although I certainly wish I had done any number of things differently. Tammy’s mother’s behavior appalled me, and it certainly depressed me. I would say certain politicians appalled me, but eh, it’s kind of their job to be obnoxious, right?
14. Where did most of your money go? IVF. Even though it was the best money ever spent, it was damn expensive. Why must it be so expensive??
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Being pregnant. Duh. Right now I’m really, really, really excited about the fact that soon I will no longer be pregnant, and I will have a baby in my arms.
16. What song will always remind you of 2013? Hmm. I don’t really have a song in mind. Maybe this one?
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier.
b) thinner or fatter? fatter. Couch-to-5k, I’m coming for you in 2014.
c) richer or poorer? Financially poorer, richer in everything else.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d done more to make Tammy happy. I wish I’d done more for my health and fitness. I wish I’d carpe’d more diem.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I’d been less selfish and controlling. I wish I had worried less. I wish I’d spent less time stressing about work.
20. How did you spend Christmas in 2013? We always split the holidays between my family and Tammy’s – we go to her sister’s house for Thanksgiving and spend time with my family for Christmas. In the past we’ve gone to my parent’s house, but this year we made people come to us. Despite having to make Christmas dinner for everyone (which turned out to be pretty damn good, thankyouverymuch, it was a pretty good time.
21. Did you fall in love in 2013? Fell in love with the baby. Continued to fall for Tammy.
22. What was your favorite TV program? We’re making our way through past seasons of Sons of Anarchy right now. I also started watching Scandal, which is so bad that it’s good.
23. What did you do for your birthday in 2013? Not too much. I was gearing up for egg retrieval and was too sore and anxious to want to do anything. I think we went out to dinner.
24. What was the best book you read? My mom got me into a mystery series about a Chief Inspector in Quebec. I realize reading mystery novels makes me about 90 years old, but whatever. I wouldn’t say these were the best books I read though – that prize goes to The Goldfinch. I’ve been waiting for Donna Tartt to come out with a new book for effing ever and she did not disappoint. An absolutely haunting and magnificent novel.
25. What did you want and get? Pregnant.
26. What did you want and not get? The house to get much closer to done. The number one rule of home owning – everything takes longer than you think it will.
27. What was your favorite film of this year? No idea. We kind of stopped going to movies because after paying for the IVF things were a leeeetle tight around our household.
28. Did you make some new friends this year? Nope. How are you supposed to make friends as an introverted adult? How??
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? See above about what I wish I’d done more of and less of. This question is kind of dumb.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? Revolving around the 3 or 4 maternity outfits I own. I dare anyone to say anything to me. Go ahead. I dare you.
31. What kept you sane? Tammy. Always.
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Eh? No one?
33. What political issue stirred you the most? Gay marriage is pretty high on the list again. Raising the minimum wage would be awesome. Providing paid maternity leave would be awesome.
34. Who did you miss? I miss my grandparents. They’ve gone over the deep end into dementia. I miss who I was before I started trying to have a baby. There’s an innocence and a happiness there I’ll never get back.
35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013. I haven’t “learned” this; I don’t think I ever will. I’ll have to continue to learn it, over and over for the rest of my life.

Gratitude

I’ve been pretty unhappy lately with the various physical realities of being pregnant. I’m super uncomfortable almost constantly; my back hurts, my hips hurt, I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep, I’ve gained too much weight, I have terrible heartburn, blah blah blah. But then I remember how I felt last year at this time. I had experienced my miscarriage  a few weeks prior and it was one of the worst Thanksgivings I can remember. I kept having to run outside at my sister in law’s house or camp out in the bathroom to cry, deep, soul ripping sobs. I felt sick, both in my body and in my heart.

And now look where I am. How privileged am I, that I have the opportunity to complain that I can’t take a full breath…because I have a baby inside me! How wild, and terrifying, and astonishing and dream-come-true.

You know that super sappy thing people do on Thanksgiving, where they go around the table and everyone says what they’re thankful for? Here’s what I said:

“I’m thankful to this family [meaning, Tammy’s family], for welcoming me and loving me. I’m thankful for my Tammy; she makes me happy every single day. I’m thankful for our baby. I’m thankful that we have the means and opportunity to grow our family.”

And now that I’m here, on my blog, I have to add that I’m thankful for all of you. Thank you for welcoming me into your community. Thank you for the support and advice. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, and allowing me to be a part of your journeys.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving.

Third Trimester/Lamaze/Poetry

*Picture warning. Read at your own risk*

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Friends, I’m totally in the third trimester. This is what I look like now, sans head:

28 weeks

Quite a change from the last picture I posted, no?

Sorry about the crappy picture. Clearly, we suck at photography, and/or the lighting in our bedroom is terrible. Let’s go with the lighting in our bedroom being terrible.

Sometimes I am overjoyed that we are going to meet our sweet girl in a few short months; I’m confident that if person X, who is an absolute moron, can manage then so can we. Sometimes I am filled with abject terror that we are going to meet our sweet girl in a few short months; I’m quite sure that we are going to scar our child for life with our woefully inadequate parenting. Sometimes I’m cheerful and calm as I run my hands over my belly, feeling the baby kick. Sometimes I’m enraged the universe could be so STUPID and UNFAIR to allow me to drop salsa on my sweater (actually, Tammy’s sweater, but these are details). Sometimes I’m sobbing hysterically because Smash got into college on Friday Night Lights, without stopping to question why I am watching a show about high school football when I a) hated high school and b) hate football. But these thoughts don’t occur to me as I wipe salsa smeared sleeves under my runny nose.

Sometimes I get all miracle-of-life-y about how I’m finally pregnant, and other times I feel like a little part of my soul dies every time I think about the one that didn’t make it. (And the whispers come from the tiniest echo of my heart, what if I wanted the first one? What if I cannot love my baby girl as much as I loved the one that I lost?)

Sometimes I revel in the attention that I get – me! Attention for being pregnant after so many months of running away from pregnant women! – and other times I feel like if one more person comments, questions, or offers advice I will absolutely strangle them with my bare hands. Since when did my body become public property?

(Speaking of comments, questions, and advice, as much as people like to offer all that up, unsolicited, including birth horror stories THANKS FOR SHARING, I’m pissed that no one told me about the weird pregnancy stuff. I’m not talking about nausea, backaches, etc. I was expecting that. I’m talking about things like nosebleeds, changes in body hair (increasing and decreasing), and carpel tunnel. Why does nobody talk about this? That’s some bullshit. I demand a refund.)

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We had our first Lamaze class last week, and the second one tonight. We were the only lesbian couple, naturally. The instructor did her best, I guess, to use “partner” instead of “husband” or “dad,” but she mostly used “husband” or “dad.”

There was one incident that got to Tammy in particular, when the class was split up into pregnant women and partner groups. The idea was to go with your group and discuss positives and negatives about being pregnant and the impending delivery and child rearing. The instructor told Tammy to stay with the pregnant women, rather than going with the partners (who were, of course, all men). She told Tammy that she would be more comfortable with the women.

I know she was coming from a good place when she said that, but honestly, as Tammy told me later, she would have felt much better with the partner group, even though she would have been the only woman. The pregnant women group mostly talked about physical ailments of being pregnant, feeling the baby move, concerns/hopes/fears about the delivery, postpartum recovery, etc. Tammy can relate to that, but only as much as the rest of the partners could. Yes, she’s a woman who is the proud owner/operator of a uterus, but that uterus has never been occupied by a fetus, and there are no plans that it ever will be. When the partners came back into the room and we shared lists, Tammy sat there thinking, “yep, I have that fear. Yep, I’m excited about that, too.”

She was kind of pissed off that the teacher viewed her womanhood as more important than her partner status. It took me a while to see it from her point of view, but I get it now. The whole fertility process and now the whole pregnancy was/is SO MUCH about me, me, me. Obviously, there’s a reason for that, but Tammy’s role is vital in this process – and that is not hyperbole. Hats off to all the single moms by choice. You are brave and I am in awe of you. I am in no way, shape, or form strong or brave enough to do this on my own. I would have given up a thousand times before this moment if it weren’t for Tammy.

Anyway, we’re going to either send the instructor an email letting her know she might consider giving female non-gestational partners the option of which group to join, as I’m sure some would prefer to be in the pregnant women group. Others like Tammy, would prefer to be with the partners. Why bother trying to choose for them?

The Lamaze class moments that *I* could have lived without are as follows:

1. Watching the instructor jam a baby doll through a plastic pelvis with more vehement glee than I thought necessary

2. The realization that our large (LARGE) circular name tags were ten centimeters, “which is how big your cervix will be when you’re fully dilated!”

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I want this poem framed on our baby’s nursery wall. It’s kind of cliché now, as it’s become pretty popular but I don’t care. My sister read it at our wedding, and I get goosebumps every time I hear it. I would copy/paste it here, but WordPress eats the formatting and I can’t do that to ol’ e.e.

Be well, friends. “this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart”

The Measure of a Woman

I never really knew my grandmother. She died when I was a kid, but I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t sick. She had Alzheimer’s.

GrandmaGrandma, going fishing, probably around 1935.

My only real memory of her revolves around this antique doll she kept at her house. My sister and I were playing with it once, when I was about 6. She saw us playing with the doll and came running into the living room. “Stop that!” she shrieked. “That’s MY doll!” She snatched the doll out of my hands and whacked me aside with it. She thought she was a little girl again, and some other kid was stealing her best toy.

My other memories of her are a hodgepodge of her laying in the hospice/elder care home we moved her to when my Grandad could no longer take care of her. Her Alzheimer’s was in a fairly advanced state at this point, and she no longer talked or walked. My mom would bring my sister and me to see her once a week, and we would shuffle in, awkward and unsure. We’d say a few things to her, prodded by our mother, but Grandma never looked at us or responded. I was always relieved to get out of that room. I felt like I had escaped some looming terror.

She died of pneumonia following a stroke when I was ten years old.

The grandma that I didn’t know was a study in contradictions. Born on a tobacco plantation in southern Maryland, she was raised to be a southern lady and was bewildered by the changes that the 1960s and her hippie children brought. She was shy and gentle, to the point of running from cameras and never standing up for herself when her husband bullied her. But she also left home before she was married, and lived on her own during World War II. She moved to Baltimore and ran a steel mill and played the drums in an all women band. She later married a divorced man (my Grandad, who converted from Catholicism after his first marriage so he could re-marry) and became a military wife. She never worked outside of the home again. I wonder if she used up the last of her will to rebel before she married, or if it slowly leaked out of her like a deflating balloon as the weight of life bore down on her shoulders.

Grandma & Grandad

My grandparents, sometime in the 1940s, before they married.

My mom says the one and only time she remembers her mother yelling at her as a child was this: It was the mid 1950s, and my Grandma was trying to vacuum the stairs. My mom was very young at this point, probably 4 or 5, and she was trying to help my Grandma, but was of course mostly in the way. My Grandma was probably frustrated and tired and worn out from caring for three small children while moving from military base to military base all over Europe. She apparently turned to my mom and snapped something like “S___ will you quit?! You’re in the way!” My mom’s eyes filled with tears, and she told my grandma that she was “trying to help.” My grandma turned off the vacuum, sat down on the stairs, and pulled my mom onto her lap. “Oh S___, I’m sorry. You’re right, you were helping and I’m sorry I yelled at you. Thank you for being my helper, and I love you.” She never yelled at any of her children again.

Grandma & Grandad w Grandaughters

My grandparents with my sister, me, and two of my cousins, sitting on the porch steps to my Grandma’s family plantation home in the 1980s.

But contrast that gentle love with the same woman who believed the sharecroppers that worked her family’s land were a different species, some kind of sub-human that should not have any kind of meaningful interaction with “her kind,” and was never able to reconcile her racist beliefs with the ’60s race revolution.

A woman who, along with my Grandad, paid off three different girls who got “in trouble” by my uncle in high school to “deal with the problem”. What exactly that means (adoption, abortion, etc) was never made clear.

A woman who donated so much blood during World War II that she became sick and weak, and her health never really recovered. She would remain fragile for the rest of her life.

And she was also a woman who had at least one miscarriage, and then a surprise baby at age 44. A woman wouldn’t let anyone tell my aunt that she was a “mistake,” and laughed and smiled as my mom, 11 years old, danced her baby sister around the living room, calling her “blondie angel,” and “my first baby.”

Grandma w Kids

My mom and her siblings with my Grandma in the early 1960s.

She was also the woman who never, ever said a word when my Grandad would say, at every meal “C____, get up and get me another drink!” despite the fact that to get the milk out of the fridge, he wouldn’t even have to get out of his chair. Every single meal, for years, my grandma hopped up without complaint, until my mom and her siblings started to talk back for her. “Get it yourself, Dad!” they would exclaim.

My grandma would have been 97 this month. I miss a woman who I never knew, someone who I never will know.

Happy Birthday, Grandma.