Cody

It’s taken me awhile to get to a place where I felt I could talk through my feelings about Cody’s birth on this blog.  I’m still not sure I can definitely say one thing or another about it, except it changed everything.  I look at the smiling, gentle, happy baby he is and I am utterly astonished at how happy being a mother has made me. Though I am extremely sleep deprived, still 20 pounds heavier than when I got pregnant, and trying to find a balance between work, baby, my husband, and myself, I am still – above all – happy.

I feel as though pregnancy did not in any way prepare me for my feelings here and now, or during labor, or really anywhere in between.  My pregnancy felt surreal and the fact that I would have a baby and be a mother was an abstraction I couldn’t fully comprehend.  Even now, I’m not sure I fully comprehend the ramifications of motherhood, but what I do know is that an element of choice is gone from my life now.  If Cody needs me, I will be there for him.  It’s not an option to be anything but.  Truly.

I hear about Mommy wars and these massive rifts over how best to raise a child and I sometimes wonder how anyone can so rigidly abide by any one parenting style.  I think what it comes down to is more or less what feels right.  And, more and more I’m learning that what feels right and is MY truth, is not always what I’d anticipated – right from the start.

When Rick and I decided to go off birth control and let nature take its course, we really anticipated it could take a while.  In fact, I was so sure that I wasn’t really at all worried that our “trying” coincided with my job search.  Well, neither the job search nor the trying took long to come to fruition.  Before I knew it, I was pregnant and starting my first day at a new job. Scary!  But, wonderful all the same.

My entire life prior to begin pregnant I predicted I’d be an absolutely horrible pregnant person.  I’m a terror when I’m hormonal and when you couple that with feeling fat, there really was no way (I thought) that anyone would want anything to do with me while I was pregnant.  In truth, whatever hormones that were coursing through my body made me mellower and sweeter than I normally am.  I was calm, happy, and rarely moody.  It was shocking – and wonderful.  I’m not going to claim I loved being pregnant, because I did not.  But, I was amazed at how comfortable and happy I was through the process.

I spent my time during my pregnancy preparing for birth.  I read Ina May Gaskin constantly.  I fully embraced the goal of having a natural childbirth without drugs.  I immersed myself in my hypnosis scripts – intent on having a peaceful, drug-free birth.  In truth, nothing about that plan went the way I anticipated.  Eleven days after my due date I was still pregnant as can be.  I tried everything to bring forth my baby – sex, pineapple, spicy food, evening primrose oil, black and blue cohosh, eggplant, tea from the apothecary, acupuncture, massage, yoga, stairs, dancing, and even the dreaded castor oil.  They all failed me.  I cleaned the house.  I meditated to prepare myself for my baby’s arrival.  When the time came to talk induction I pushed back on my doctor over and over again.  But eventually, 12 days past my due date, I went in for an induction.  It was very sad to me.  I had attached such meaning to the act of birthing my baby and starting off with an induction felt like a failure from the start.  Yet, failure or not, I was excited to see what the process would hold for me and eager to get it moving along. Our induction started off on the wrong foot when I requested cervidil in place of cytotec.  The nurse on duty pushed back on me. Then she told me about how she induced for both of her babies because she wanted their birth dates to fall on specific days.  I wasn’t impressed.  We were not of a similar mind – which appeared to hold true for all but one of my nurses (and I had about 6).  Cervidil is administered overnight, and in my case that meant that Rick and I spent the night in the hospital together, which is the least romantic place to spend the last night you’ll ever have with just your husband.  Just sayin’.

Overnight, I began having contractions and by morning they were coming on semi-regularly.  We asked my doctor if we could allow labor to progress naturally, and she said yes.  We also asked that she massage out some scar tissue on my cervix which was inhibiting dilation for me.  Several years before I’d had to have two operations on my cervix and the resulting scar tissue toughened it, and prevented it from opening. Once she massaged out the tissue, my cervix popped open to three centimeters after holding steady at a half centimeter for weeks. Internally, I cursed the doctors who never mentioned this side effect during my LEEP or colposcopy procedures.  But, moving forward, my contractions steadily increased in strength though their frequency continued to be irregular.  Before long I opted to try laboring in the tub, where my sister and Rick alternated in reading me hypnosis scripts. We bounced between the tub and bed for a while, my doula came, and before long several hours had passed.  By mid-afternoon they checked me again, but alas my dilation was stalled at 3 cm.  My doctor gave me two choices – break the waters, or begin Pitocin. We bargained for an hour to walk the halls.  After the hour was up and nothing had changed my Doctor stated playing hardball.  She spent about 10 minutes on the phone with Rick,  mocking us for all the reading we’d done and our strong distaste for Pitocin and interventions.  She threatened to send us home.  She dripped condescension and rudeness.  We all were left with a horrible taste in our mouths over the whole thing.  And after weighing all the options, we decided to try Pitocin at half strength. I labored on Pitocin for 7 hours, during which time my contractions increased in severity tremendously.  I needed all three of my helpers – Rick, Max, and my doula,  to rotate giving me supportive hip squeezes to ease my back labor.  I fell to the ground from pain during some of my contractions.  I uttered these guttural noises I’d never though possible.  I started vomiting from the pain.  Finally, I passed my mucus plug, and then my water broke.  It was such a relief to have at least one part of my labor happen without direct intervention!  Finally, contractions were getting so severe I was sure I needed to use the bathroom.  This, we all took to mean I was in transition – somewhere between 7-10 cm dilated and soon to start the pushing phase.  So, we asked for a pelvic exam only to find out that I was only dilated to about 6 cm.  After 7 hours of laboring on Pitocin, and about 14 hours of contractions before that, I was considering the epidural.  Soon, I was hit with about 5 contractions that just about leveled me.  I looked at Rick and told him that despite all my earlier wishes, I wanted the epidural. If I felt bad now, I didn’t think I could handle transition without it.  So, off they went to line it up – only 30 minutes to wait!  This of course, was the worst 30 minutes of my life. They could hardly get a window to insert the epidural as my contractions bore down hard and unrelentingly.  But alas, soon the sweet epidural kicked in and  though my heart rate dropped and they needed to administer me oxygen, I was the happiest lady around.

And thus began my epic saga of laboring with an epidural – which necessitates a catheter because you’re stuck in bed (even though I could move my legs and kneel, etc.).  I slept for about 3 hours once the epidural took over, but then I was back awake.  At this point I’d been in the hospital about 30 hours from the beginning of my induction. Rick and I were able to steal a few precious moments to ourselves in the middle of the night as everyone else slept.  We lamented the turn of events, but were giddy to finally meet our baby. We continued to labor (slowly) for another 15 hours or so.  I changed positions several times to see if that would help progression.  It didn’t.  Nurses came running in to make sure the baby’s heart rate was steady several times. It was.  They packed me full of a gazillion saline IV bags until my whole body was swollen to twice its size.  Then they pronounced me nearly complete.  9.5 cm dilated about 45 hours from the beginning of my induction.  They warned that the worst was ahead and left us to think, reminding us that the baby could weigh 9 or 10 pounds based on our last ultrasound.  I listened to hypnosis scripts for about an hour and prepared myself to begin pushing when they gave me the go. But, after an hour an armada of nurses entered my room with my doctor. My doctor explained that they were all very worried about me.   My contractions were no longer regular, even on heavy Pitocin.  If I forged ahead, I could be pushing for hours because they determined my baby was asynclitic (head cocked) and posterior.  They said they’d ordered extra blood for fear I’d hemorrhage or need an emergency C-section.  They left me to talk it over, but made sure the c-section consent form was within arm’s reach.

I looked at Rick and my doula and admitted I’d been bearing down for the last hour, hoping to speed things along.  Rather , it left my cervix swollen and less dilated than before.  I was ready to meet my baby, and to stop these interventions which were doing very little.  I was also scared.   I was ready for the C-section.  We agreed to do it, sadly. I signed the forms.

About  a half hour later, I was wheeled into surgery with Rick nervously at my side, discussing whether he would stay with me or the baby in the event something went wrong.   I know the “right” answer should probably be that we both would say go with the baby, but I was relieved to hear him say that if anything went wrong he’d stay with me because “he hasn’t even met the baby.” I was touched and honestly agreed it was right.  It’s funny looking back on this, because we care so much for Cody – it’s hard to believe that just a few months ago we would have sort of abandoned him in this way.

When they got me into the surgery room we went over the process of things, and I got some drugs, and they explained how everything would happen.  Before I knew it, I could feel tugging and pulling in my abdomen, which was surreal feeling – but didn’t hurt.  Then they warned me it would feel like an elephant was standing on my chest for a few moments, and it did! But, before long I could hear the commotion of the staff as they pulled Cody out.  “He’s so big!” they exclaimed!  And then, ” Oh my gosh, he’s peeing on everyone!” It was disconcerting hearing the joy in people’s voices as this baby was “born” while meanwhile I lay behind a blue curtain, unable to feel or experience this supposedly life-changing moment.  I felt a few tears well up, more because my emotions were so mixed at this point.  I felt confused and the process was so surreal – yet I was supposed to be joyful at the birth of my child.  Instead, I was confused and, apparently, hemorrhaging.  They held Cody over the curtain for me to see – this wriggling, slimy thing.  He was so skinny and his head was so big!  His eyes were wide and alert.  I remember being shocked that this was the being I’d housed for nine months, but touched at his smallness and tenacity.  They took him for a moment to weigh and measure him, and came back to put him on my chest – a difficult feat with a curtain blocking most of my chest.  Instead, Rick held him near my head and we talked to him – which seemed to awaken a bit of recognition in him.  He seemed to know that our voices were the ones he’d been hearing for so many months – and his wails softened and quieted.  We all observed each other in awe.

As all this was happening, a small commotion was going on.  I was bleeding a lot.  And my blood pressure was dropping.  To the credit of the staff, nobody acted as though this was scary, but they gave me a few meds to help stop the bleeding.  These made me feel like I was freezing on the table, and soon I began to shiver and my teeth even began to chatter.  They couldn’t give me anything but a paper cover to help me stay warm.  It was so uncomfortable.  And, they took the baby away briefly to clean him off and let the staff stitch me back up.  Around here my memories get foggy – another thing nobody warned me about.   The anesthesia they give you, though it allows you to be conscious during the birth, really messes with your memory.  As a result, my first few hours with Cody were a hazy blur.  Rick has filled in some of the blanks, but I don’t remember much.  We were taken to a recovery room and the nurse there seemed more interested in the Cowboys game than me.  I breastfed for the first time, and had NO idea what I was doing.  Eventually someone – I think a pediatric nurse, came in and gave me some pointers – then things began to go more smoothly.  Cody latched well, and immediately.   None of the surgical staff or doctor’s came by to explain the procedure or see me.  Nobody told me I hemorrhaged.  It felt lonely and sterile. They also wouldn’t let my family in for almost an hour.   So, that’s a cesarean birth for you.  Nothing I intended or expected, and nothing I hope to experience again.  I try not to think about it.  In fact for the first several weeks I struggled to even say that Cody was “born” opting for the more accurate and significantly more awful, “Cody was cut out of me.”  I’m still weighing whether to attend the ICAN cesarean birth support group meetings that happen once a month.  Haven’t gone yet, and as it fades into the distance it seems less and less likely. But I definitely see the need.  This surgery is overused, and in my opinion, done poorly and without regard for the feelings and experience of the mother and father.  My incision healed badly and opened back up a few weeks after my birth.  It was hell trying to handle a newborn after abdominal surgery.  It just sucked a lot.

To this day I’m not sure whether the C-section was needed.  I know he was posterior and asynclitic and those conditions often result in cesareans. But could it have been different?  I still don’t know if things would have progressed better if I’d resisted the system more or if they had identified that he was posterior earlier.  I wonder often whether my next deliveries will end the same way and whether I’ll ever know the experience of birthing my child the natural way.  When I think hard about it, it makes me very upset.  I try not to think about it too much.  Which, is easy because having a newborn totally upends your life, especially if you’re also healing from a cesarean.  There isn’t a lot of time, or mental capacity, to reflect.

It’s odd.  I expected that labor to go smoothly and to be the one part of pregnancy that I would handle well.  In reality, it was a disaster.  But everything before and after has been smooth sailing.  Cody and I have rocked at breastfeeding.  He never even lost weight in the hospital they way most babies do.  His pediatrician told me that some moms make milk, and some make cream.  I am in the latter group.  I know that sounds like I am bragging.  I am.  It is something I feel good about, when everything else about his delivery went totally off-plan and against my wishes.  I am clinging to this one piece as evidence of success in carrying out this transition to motherhood.  I thought I would suck at breastfeeding and that it would be really hard for me.  It was hard, and incredibly painful in the first few weeks.  I got a blocked duct, mastitis, and then it turned into an abscess.  It’s been hard for me – but Cody has been packing on the pounds and we have both had such an incredible opportunity to bond. I love breastfeeding and hope we can continue for a long time.

Now, 11 weeks from his birth, I have this perfect baby.  He laughs and smiles and babbles baby words at me all the time.  I am so smitten with this little person who leaves me absolutely sleep-deprived, unable to fit into my clothes, covered in spit-up and poop,  and exhausted.   During the first few weeks it felt like the stress of a newborn could tear Rick and me apart – we were so tired and unable to come up for air, so to speak.  Now, we have established a routine.  We can balance our needs and make time for each other.  We both feel blessed and have found a renewed sense of purpose in our lives.  Cody has been a life-changer and made me totally re-evaluate all my assumptions, but yet here I am, happier than ever.

 

 

 

Sweetness to me

Light filters softly through our bamboo blinds as I slowly became aware of myself enveloped in grey flannel sheets, curled on my side, warm in the embrace of a thick down comforter.  My eyes flutter open, and I look down to see, nuzzled in the hollow of my  body, a perfect nearly bald head pressed against my chest, delicate hands and arms loosely grasping my shirt contentedly in sleep.  I stare for a moment — at times the adjustment to this reality takes a second — and then I listen for the soft gurgle of his breath.  There it is. There he is.  This little, delicate human, snuggled into the hollow of my chest and belly, next to my heart – a spot he’s already called home for many months.

Our mornings look like this. Rick leaves us early in the dark, often as I feed the baby.  We say sad parting words, for it really is a tragedy that Rick must leave us each day to be with other children.  We finish our feed, and snuggle into a short morning sleep for a few more hours.  Addie curls in the crook of my bent knees, Cody curls in the crook of my body.  Soon we fall into a rhythm of slowed breathing and drift to sleep for a few more blessed hours, joining legions of other women through the ages who, exhausted and in love, collapse into a sweet delicate sleep curled around their babies. Now, as I type, he inhabits the same space in a different form.  Tied snugly to my chest in a wrap, he sleeps peacefully. Looking down I am struck, as always, by the perfection of his skin – a pink and ivory expanse, criss-crossed with pale blue veins on his skull.  I know his future will be filled with sun-soaked days and that this perfect ivory skin will soon be populated with hundreds of freckles.  Now, it is a doll’s face I look at – utter symmetry, wide cheeks, a button nose, beautifully curled rose lips.  The palest of blond eyebrows, and slightly darker lashes, growing longer by the day.  In sleep, his perfection absolutely stuns me. I wonder often, how two normal-looking people could create what lies here before me.  Awake – his perfection morphs into something more like wonder.  I stare at his bright blue eyes.  Since the day he was born, they have tracked on people and objects displaying an alertness that I think both his parents lack.  He wrinkles his nose, or raises his eyebrows over and over as he breastfeeds with each gulp. He smiles when you scratch under his chin or make a silly face.  He cries when he is hungry or needs a diaper change, but rarely for any other reason.  In fact, I’ve noticed he seems mainly to cry when he is left alone – almost out of boredom or loneliness.  And I’m both proud and touched that these seem to be the main reasons he needs me – entertainment and the simple act of loving and touching him, holding him to my body where our breathing and heartbeats are closer together as they were before he was born.

I’m not sure that motherhood changes people.  I think motherhood brings out what has always been there, by putting a face and name on something that probably has long been latent in many of us.  For me, it is a softness that I don’t always show.  It is a sweet, protective, caring side that only those close to me ever really see.  I have always been an older sister, a caretaker and teacher to my siblings.  I have always deeply loved animals. The logical leap required to know I’d take to motherhood is small.  But yet, I am amazed by the whole thing. Amazed at the naturalness of it – the instinctiveness that comes from within, and also the memories that come back to me of my childhood and helping my mom with my two younger sisters.  I’m amazed at the joy I take in staring at Cody as he sleeps.  I’m amazed that Rick leaves in the morning and comes back in the evening and my day has disappeared between diaper changes, feeds, and snuggling with my snoring baby.  Nothing gets done, and though it bothers me, I don’t want to put him down to do something else.  (Thus, the hiatus in my blogging.)

I sing him all the lullabies I know.  I have revisited every camp song I’ve ever sung.  On my trip back from Telluride with him, he cried for the last hour, despite multiple stops to feed him and change his diaper.  He was bored and sick of driving, so I sang to him.  It was all that would quiet him down.  And soon I ran out of songs.  So, I sang the Star Spangled Banner over, and over, and over again until I nearly lost my voice.  Each time I stopped, he would slowly begin to fuss again.  And so I sang on.  And this is motherhood.  It is truly giving up yourself in so many ways, but I hope to do it with grace.  At times I struggle to accept all the changes – I have had a hard go of it, physically: 47 hour labor, a C-section, 4 days in the hospital to recover, then a blocked duct, mastitis, and abscess, breastfeeding pains, my C-section incision got infected and re-opened. I have had to go on two courses of antibiotics. My teeth are suffering, and I may have broken a bone in my foot while walking. Pregnancy is no joke.  It is HARD on your body.  Bringing someone new into the world is, I suppose, a responsibility not to be taken lightly or underestimated.

When I first saw Cody, held above me on an operating table – a slimy, wriggling little thing – I didn’t immediately fall in love.  But when I looked into his eyes as Rick held him near me while they stitched me up, and saw this little guy just trying to make it, he touched my heart.  Each day as we have built our relationship together, I fall more in love with the little man he is turning out to be.  A bright, alert, smiling child who wants to be held and loved and snuggled.  He makes me happy to come home, and gives me drive and renewed purpose.  He is sweetness embodied.  When I hold him, he holds me back and I know he needs me.  I am his mom.  It is the most special, exultant thing I could hope for.

2014 Review

2014 has been a banner year in my life in many ways.  It wasn’t 100% good, but it sure resulted in mega growth and learning – which is really the best anyone can hope for I think!

This year I can tick off several wonderful things that I’m very proud of.

1) Rick and I spent January in Colombia traveling, going to Spanish language school, and finishing up my Anusara yoga teacher training.  It was fun to travel together (as always) and we learned a new style of traveling as we managed to balance our responsibilities at home while we were enjoying a new country.

2) We got a puppy!  Adelaide is the light of our lives.  Honestly, I have always been a dog lover but having our own puppy to love and raise together has been so much more rewarding than I anticipated.  She makes us smile, unites us in frustration at times, and is a joy to be around.  She sleeps in our bed, and I have to admit that I sometimes am not sure who I prefer to snuggle with more!  She brings such happiness to our lives.  We love her to pieces.

3) Rick and I settled in Denver. We really weren’t sure whether coming back to Denver was the right move for us for a long time.  We toyed with the idea of living a more rural life in Montana or elsewhere, but when it came down to it Denver called us back.  We settled into Rick’s home with the initial intention of selling it, but as we fixed it up we fell more and more in love.  It’s a gorgeous old 4 bedroom place in the heart of the City.  I can walk to work, we have a daycare for Addie within 3 blocks, we found an in home daycare less than a block away for Baby Frankie, the supermarket, park, and light rail are all within easy walking distance, and the house itself is pretty cool. Our bedroom has French doors, exposed brick, a yoga space, and a giant closet.  We have set up an adorable nursery for the baby, we have lots of room for guests, and we are beginning to make plans for a major kitchen renovation.  We are happy to have made the choice to stay.  In fact, just a few weeks ago the job I interviewed for in Helena in March called me to see if I’d be interested in a new role there before they posted it publicly.  In reflecting, as much as it sounds awesome to live there, we recognized how happy we are right here and were able to turn down the offer without too much second thought.

4) We got pregnant! Rick and I talked for a while about trying for kids and I was certain the process would take some time.  They say the average time to conceive is around 6 months and I was convinced it would go slower than that for me!  Well, we were ahead of the curve and got pregnant more or less on the first try.  It was a shock at first and it took me some time to get my head around the reality that we were having a baby – together!  But, thankfully gestation takes 9 months (or in my case, more like 10) and I have had time to welcome the idea of a baby into my life.  As I write now, we are ten days past our due date of December 22nd.  I just finished my second labor induction acupuncture session.  I have become well versed in the various holistic methods for inducing labor – believe me, we have tried it ALL!  We will have a baby within the week, one way or another as we are scheduled for induction if nothing happens in the next two days.  As much as I have mixed feelings about induction, I have to admit that I’m anxious to meet this baby and to no longer be pregnant.  So, I bounce on my birth ball and hope for the baby to decide to come the good old-fashioned way, but I know he’ll be here soon regardless.  I’m loving Rick and Addie extra hard because soon there will be one more in the house to love!

5) A new job! I took on a new role as the public involvement coordinator for the Denver office of HDR engineering.  I have felt quite challenged by the role and my desire to prove myself before going on maternity leave.  I look forward to new challenges when I return and I hope that I continue to grow and find new learning opportunities in this roles.

There were other parts of the year that challenged me greatly, I have felt a strong pressure to prove myself as a mom, employee, friend, and wife. I know that I often put quite a bit of pressure on myself to do it all, and I’d like 2015 to bring a renewed focus on doing things for myself because they make me happy.  That includes running a second marathon with my best friend, coming back to yoga more seriously, and embracing my newest role as a mom.

What they don’t tell you about.

What they don’t tell you about is the feeling of waking up in the morning eight days past your due date to nothing happening.  What they don’t tell you is about 11 hours of reliable contractions that just stop for unexplained reasons.  What they don’t tell you about is the bittersweet agony of an appointment with your doctor where you learn that despite your best efforts, the baby you expected about a week ago seems happily content and healthy in your womb, and that very little has changed on the dilation or effacement front.  What they don’t tell you is how despite their best intentions, friends and family will give you the impression that your desire for a natural childbirth is really inconveniencing their travel plans.  What they don’t say is that you might get emotionally exhausted by waiting, false starts, and the knowledge that you derive from a line of women who regularly incubate babies for something more akin to ten months, but that doctors won’t let you do that nowadays – so you may be induced despite all efforts to prevent that outcome.

I know my focus here should truly be on the happy little man swimming around in the abundant amniotic fluid still in my uterus.  My womb appears to be extremely healthy. My baby has no desire to leave.  This, in many respects, is a good thing.  Were it not for my own expectations, and a sense of responsibility to provide a baby to our family who has flown in from as far away as London to see us, perhaps I would be feeling pretty great that I could provide such a comfortable home for the little guy.  He has been pleasant and wonderful for the entirety of my pregnancy.  I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

But yet, this morning, after 11 hours of contractions yesterday that really got our hopes up, when I awoke to NOTHING happening, I cried. When I went to the doctor and she told me that nothing had progressed despite a rollicking game of Apples to Apples with my family that I was SURE had dilated my cervix at least a centimeter or two – I felt morose.  I have more or less outgrown all but a handful of my maternity clothes.  I made it to 40 weeks without stretch marks, and then boom – I got like three.  My entire body is swollen and I cannot stop itching.  I am so ready to be done with being pregnant.  All I want to do is roll over in bed without it having to be a monumental effort.  All I want is the ability to tie my shoes gracefully without falling over.  All I want is for my baby to be born.

According to my terms, that is.

I guess that’s the issue.

I suppose tomorrow I could call my doctor and induce and this all could end.  But I don’t want it to happen like that. I want to know the feeling of going into labor.  I want to not have drugs in my body when I birth my child.  I want to know that I could do it naturally the way mothers have done it for centuries.  It’s important to me.  I want to maximize the chances of that happening, and inducing seems counterproductive to ALL of my goals – besides that one about having the baby.

I worry that I’m overly attached to this goal of a natural childbirth.  After all, detaching oneself from outcomes and living in the moment is supposedly the way to avoid suffering – according to buddhism.  But then I wonder if suffering (in this case) is really so bad?  I mean, if I suffer a bit for a goal that is worthwhile and meaningful to me, why is that harmful?  Is being attached to that outcome truly a bad thing?  I know everyone says that as long as the baby is healthy all is good.  But, to me the health of the baby is one part of a larger set of goals and I’d really like to achieve them all.  I want to have an empowering birth experience.  I want to take ownership of my body and experience the monumental achievement of bringing life into the world on my own.  I want to feel the joy of having my contractions get stronger and more powerful, and to ride the hormonal and emotional waves that accompany this process.  I want to feel the “wall” that I’ve read about so many times, and to push past it.  I want a birthing experience that I emerge from as a stronger, more self-confident, and capable woman.  And, this delay is heightening my sense of concern that perhaps this will not go as I’d planned.

The stress of the situation is palpable.  I want to talk to nobody. I want time to myself.  Rick is equally exhausted from the emotional roller coaster.  Addie doesn’t know what to do – so she binged on chocolate truffles and took the world’s biggest poop under the baby crib.  Clearly we are all at our wit’s end.  It is negative 6 degrees, which makes escaping to a park to walk the baby out a bit more challenging.  I am trying to remember that these pieces don’t define the situation, they shape my perception of it.  I am trying to remind myself that this inconvenience is merely one of attitude. In fact, a recent study shows that women can vary by as much as 37 days in their gestation times, regardless of date of conception.  I REALLY shouldn’t be stressed by my baby’s perceived “lateness.”  But, yet, I have allowed myself to get emotionally exhausted by this process.

My grandma made it through 3 pregnancies that went nearly a month overdue.  So, yet again, I’m attempting to channel her strength to help me manage my emotions as I navigate my way through the vicissitudes of being late.  Wish me (and all who must deal with me) luck in the process.

Imminent Motherhood

This is the blog I think I have to write.  I have to write it because if I don’t get these thoughts and feelings out of my head and body, I know they will fester and cause me to lose sleep and worry – something I hardly need at 39 weeks pregnant.

I am realizing as I grow older that I worry a lot.  I never used to do this.  I worry about how my future will look.  I worry about knowing the right path.  I worry about being successful as a mother, in my career, and in my relationships.  I let an internal drive to accomplish goals stress me out to the point that I sometimes break down and need to have a good sobbing cry and a reconciliation with the fact that I am just human, doing the best I can.  I set goals for myself that I sometimes don’t even care about, just because I am driven to compete.  This is something I need to work on as a strive for balance in my life.

I sit here (this week I am working from home to begin to relax and let myself prepare body and soul for my upcoming birth) and I know that despite the enthusiasm I’ve tried to convey throughout my pregnancy, I am absolutely terrified of everything that is about to happen in my life. Terrified. Nervous breakdown kind of scared. I am scared of not measuring up as a mother, failing in my career, neglecting my relationship with my husband, and feeling like I am not good enough on every front. I am scared of losing ground in my work as I focus on being there and raising my child.  I am scared of all the responsibilities that come with being a mom. I have irrational fears about money and not being able to support my child.  I have fears about inadvertently screwing my kids up.  I am scared that I will lack the patience necessary to be a good mom.  I am scared that I won’t be a good role model. I am scared of myself.  I wonder if someday I will want to walk away from the responsibility of children.  I question how my priorities will shift once I see my baby.  I worry that I will be a tiger mom who cows her child.  I worry I will be an imperious monster who bullies my husband.  I fear I will try to do everything, and fail.  I worry about my tendency to worry.  I worry about my negative attitude.  I worry that though I have had my nursery prepared for months, my hospital bag packed for weeks, and read every book under the sun on birth and expecting a child, that I somehow have not done enough.  I have missed something.  I worry that I have neglected something at work and they will soon recognize my incompetence and fire me.  I worry that I baked cookies over the weekend and they were too hard.  I worry I can’t be all things to all people.

I dream of running away to a ranch and living peacefully with Rick and my babies, playing in the woods, gardening, exploring the world around us – without my work email buzzing on my phone.  I dream of snuggling my face into the sun-warmed shoulders of a little boy who thinks I am the best thing ever — and not feeling guilty and conflicted because I am not focused on my career.  I dream of putting little babies to bed, tucking them in and giving them kisses without tearing myself away to finish a project.  I am terrified of attempting to balance my goals at work with my goals as a mother.  I think of my own childhood and wonder I can offer my child what my parents offered me.

As the immensity of these fears wells up in me, tears  roll down my cheeks and I bury my face in my hands – trying to offer myself the compassion I’d offer to someone else in my shoes.  I feel like I’ve been brave for 9 months, and all of a sudden the reality of the imminent life change upon me has hit.  I tell people I am scared of giving up my lifestyle – and I am.  But mostly, I am scared of having to make choices about where I direct my time and energy, and having to own those choices – and knowing that there is a good chance I can’t do it all.

As I write these fears, I’m reminded of an amusing meditation that I read about not long ago.  As anyone involved in self-study and self-improvement knows, the concept of cultivating gratitude is very popular these days.  The meditation I am thinking of seems to embrace an opposite philosophy of embracing disenchantment and anger – and putting it out there.  This is a bit of what I’ve done here.  Only the meditation I’m referring to is a bit more coarse – for each rising sentiment you say:

“Fuck the pressure to be a supermom.”

“Fuck the abhorrent maternity and family leave policies in this country.”

“Fuck workplaces that offer six weeks partially paid disability leave and act like they have no other choice. Those fuckers should be striving for better.”

“Fuck the idea that I should be thankful to have six weeks to figure out how to be a mom, regain balance in my life, figure out who will care for my infant, and return to work.”

“Fuck those women who have done all this without complaining and make me look bad.”

“Fuck that I feel guilty for overusing the word fuck.”

“Fuck that having to make these hard choices makes me resent my job.”

“Fuck that having to make hard choices makes me resent the child that I am about to welcome to the world.”

“Fuck that I don’t have an alternate plan for being independently wealthy, and that even if I did I would beat myself up for not making it in the corporate world if I checked out.”

And so on and so forth.  And with each sentence, you just leave that thought in space.  And it’s out there now.  Not inside.  And I think that is the most important piece in this whole puzzle.

I don’t know when this baby is coming, but it could be any day now.  Tomorrow my life could change.  Everyone tells me that the day you have your baby is the most special and magical time of your life.  I hear them, but my mind brings me back to the anxieties floating around my head.  I recognize the loss of mindfulness in this post – the overwhelming fear and discordant sentiments that exist in me.  I know this is something to be reconciled, and I hope that putting the fear and apprehensions I have out into space will help me lighten my load and face these challenges with an openness that currently seems difficult to tap into.

Thanks for being audience to this rambling, and if you have anything to offer me to help ease my mind, I’ll take it!

Hello birth month! (hopefully!!)

Here I am, verging on the birth month of my first child.  Tomorrow will mark 37 weeks, meaning my baby is full term and could be expected pretty much any day now!  For most first time moms the actual birth date is 41 weeks 2 days of gestation, however.  So, I may have a while to wait but I am trying to be prepared for the possibility that he could come tomorrow.  It’s a strange dance we mammas do, of anxiously preparing ourselves, while trying to patiently wait, slow down our lifestyles, and listen to the rhythms of our bodies.  Each time I feel a Braxton hicks contraction I wonder if it’s the beginning, each time I feel crampy or achy I wonder if that is a sign that the birthing time is near.  I’m constantly scanning for evidence of a lost mucus plug.  I feel the baby lower himself deeper in to my pelvis with each step I take while I’m out walking.  It’s hard to extricate myself from thoughts of baby, but I realize that I must. Though it is tempting to devote much of my mental energy to thinking about birth, going over our plan, and reciting hypnobabies scripts to myself in my head, the reality is that I want to savor these last days of being just me.  Just Kat.  Not a mom.  Not solely responsible for the life and well-being of a small child,

I know it’s not uncommon for new moms to enter a bit of a depressive phase before the birth of their first child.  I can see how that happens.  There is certainly a mourning, in small ways, of a life pregnant with alternate endings and different scenarios that might not include being tied down by a new baby.  I scheduled a dentist appointment in January, and suddenly the other day I started to wonder, ” How does one go to the dentist with a newborn?”  Do I need a babysitter? Can I bring him with?  What if he cries and is fussy?  It’s a learning experience, I hear.  I have no doubt it will be all that, and more.

This past weekend Rick and I escaped to Leadville and stayed at my sister’s place, going for small hikes and enjoying the quaint mountain town vibe.   As we hiked I couldn’t help but feel nostalgia for my healthy, pre-pregnancy body.  My back felt achy and my feet (bearing the weight of 40 pregnancy pounds) get more sore when I walk.  My abdomen moves constantly, and the actions do not always make me smile with joy – more recently I wince and gently try to massage an errant foot back into a position that doesn’t stab my ribs or jut out of my belly at a dangerous looking angle.  Though by many accounts, my own included, I have had an incredibly healthy and easy pregnancy, the last month definitely is harder.

In hypnobabies we discuss a concept called the “bubble of peace” with which we as pregnant couples can fend off negative birth messages.  In one of our earliest classes we each visualize our own “bubble” that protects us from scary birth stories and other messages that present pregnancy and childbirth in ways we don’t feel comfortable with.  My bubble of peace, for example, resembles a zorbing ball that I walk around in, and which zaps away people who I come into contact with who are not supportive of my vision for my pregnancy and childbirth.  (Rick’s bubble is much more peaceful – it consists of a comfortable recliner, a sunny sky above him, me, Addie our dog, and a beer.  I think we took slightly different approaches to the exercise!)  Up until recently, the bubble of peace concept has carried little weight or meaning for me.  I am an information sponge and I honestly eat up every story I hear about birth.  I want to familiarize myself with the possibilities so that I feel well-prepared when I get there.  But recently, the third trimester has been getting me a bit down.  Occasionally I call people for work and their first response is “You’re still working!?” and I feel a bit sad that I am, when I’d love to be devoting my mental energy to being present and enjoying the process of change and discovery that is happening within me each day.  Or I have one particular coworker who loves to share her observations on my pregnancy with me; including but not limited to “I can tell you’re ready to have the baby because the whole shape of your face has changed!” or, “Wow!  Your belly has grown two inches since I saw you last (like a week before)!”, or the time she told me her entire birth story which ended in an emergency c-section and complaints about the post-labor recovery rooms at the hospital where I’m delivering. On the flip side, there are many people I work with who seem unsympathetic to the fatigue and mental fog that can descend in the third trimester and I struggle to try to do my job well while also acknowledging and respecting the changing space I’m in. My bubble of peace is becoming both necessary and critical to maintaining my self-image and sanity during the last few weeks. I have lamented the metamorphosis of my body in small ways throughout my pregnancy, but this last month has been the hardest for me because the physical changes have been more noticeable.  During the first trimester I felt fatigue as if I’d pulled several all nighters in a row, and now I feel that too (and let’s be honest – I’m sort of doing that with how little sleep I get), but my body ALSO sometimes feels like I was run over by a truck.  Which is lovely.

I’m not here to complain.  I know it’s easy to complain about the discomforts of a changing body and the challenges of preparing for a new, helpless, member of the family.  What’s less easy is embracing those changes with grace, gratitude for the experience and process, and acknowledgment of the strength that will come from those struggles. I think learning to embrace the challenges will make me a better mother, wife, and person.  Which is not to say I don’t feel the discomforts and stressors – I just try to reframe them in my mind to something that offers a positive outcome.

These are my thoughts today.  Though I sometimes lose perspective, it is important to remember what a gift it s to have a healthy body capable of building a new human. I am eager to meet our new addition, but trying to savor this valuable time where I am simply me.

Susie Homemaker

I feel a bit like a Susie Homemaker right now.  I’m seated at our (new!) dining room table in my apron.  I’ve been in the kitchen all evening.  Though I worked a full day (and in a perfect world that would entitle me to an evening of lying on the couch and watching the Daily Show), instead, I’m taking a break while my pomegranate chocolate tart bakes.  I’m preparing Thanksgiving dinner elements this evening so I can take it relatively easy tomorrow and make some time to go for a long walk with Adelaide and enjoy a day off work.  A. DAY. OFF.WORK.

I’m saving vacation days.  I am saving them so that I can take it easy next year and enjoy some time with the Frankster (oh, and that minor vacation we have planned to Iceland and London!).   I began working last April and I have taken no time off since that then.  Now granted, I have a flexible schedule and I work from home reasonably often.  But, those are still working days.  Tomorrow I’ve pledged to myself to DO NOTHING related to work.  This would be a simpler task if lists and tasks would stop flitting through my mind reminding me that in a short time I need to be prepared to hand over all my projects to the people who’ll be covering for me during my maternity leave – the prospect of which makes me anxious.  But, enough about work.  I have 4 days off and I will be enjoying them thoroughly.

Today was a special day.  I got a new engagement ring!  I wish I could say that it was entirely my choice – it wasn’t.  Unfortunately, the beautiful family ring that Rick gave me for our engagement lost not one, but two baguette diamonds in the last several months.  Were it not so old, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  But (and here is where I got an education on diamonds) baguette stones are incredibly challenging to work with!  These days they come in standard sizes, but with an old ring you need to have them custom cut, which can only happen in a few places in New York.  We did all this.  But, it was to no avail.  We even considered sending the ring to the jeweler in Australia who made our wedding bands, but in the end we determined the ring would become an ongoing challenge and elected to buy a new setting instead.  Though it was hard for me to part with the incredibly unique art deco design of my original ring, I have to say I’m THRILLED at my new one.  I think I must have inherited my mom’s penchant for jewels and it just took awhile to hit me – rings are fun!

As you can see, the topics of my posts are becoming increasingly insular.  Here I am talking about baking tarts, wearing aprons, and buying rings.  Just wait until I share all that I’ve learned about breastfeeding, childcare, and our pre-admission to our birthing center.  My life has taken a serious turn for the settled.  As we come closer and closer to the baby’s guess date, and as my pelvis becomes increasingly sore with baby bearing down on it, I sometimes reflect on this massive life shift.  In January of this year, Rick and I were gallivanting around Colombia.  Today, we are homeowners, pet owners, and pregnant.  I mean, seriously, WTF?

Sometimes the thought of being a mom terrifies me.  I look at my backcountry ski gear and wonder if I’ll ever use it again.  I think of the last time I went rafting and wonder how long it will be until I go again. I glance into our nursery and shake my head wondering when my life started to involve large towel hoods with monster faces on them.  I look at my maternity wardrobe and wonder if I’m doomed to a life of frumpiness.  I look at my career and truly wonder if it will still carry the weight it does in my life now.  Will I make time for another masters?  Will I write that piece for publication? Will I become one of those moms doing 800 different things at once  – none of which are for my own benefit?  I wonder if I’m too selfish for motherhood.  I wonder if I can be happy in a settled life.

Now, in fairness, my idea of a settled life basically means I now own furniture and am responsible for the well-being of a dog.  My standard isn’t THAT high.  But, soon it will bump up a notch.  And when I think of having a little man in my life, I oscillate between warm fuzzy feelings and terror.

These are the thoughts of Susie Homemaker tonight.  I’m off to go read a book about how to soothe crying babies, that is, after I put the finishing touches on my tart.  My blog (and life) have become sedate.  Wish me luck at ever being cool again.  :)