New Year, New baby, new outlook

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First First Man 2016

Hello world.  I think as part of 2017, I’d like to resolve to blog more regularly.  I also think I’ve made this resolution before.  We’ll see how that goes…

 

I’m writing today from inside the haze of week of headcold.  I’m hoping that through my fingertips, fuzzy brainwaves will convert to clear sentences.  Wish me luck! (She purposefully pours more coffee into her slightly depressing “Bill Clinton – First First Man 2016” mug.)  Pictured here!

Well, 2017 is upon me.  With it, comes the standard malaise of reviewing your year – accomplishments, goals, progress, and all that.  I’ve found myself caught in a bit of a funk driven by the fact that my break felt like – not so much of a break.  For a quick rundown on that, here’s a recap of the last few weeks:

2016 ended at a sprint with a major FASTLANE grant application at work and several year-end close out items that kept me going right up to the end.  We called it, flew home to Milwaukee on the 22nd for Christmas and spent the next 4 days doing various Christmas celebrations there.  It was a fun opportunity to be home and see family, but the quickness of it all left us feeling a bit wiped out.  For a good mental image of this, see a few weeks back in my instagram, the photo of Rick slumped across the back seat of my parent’s car. We were a tired lot. While we were home though,  we did make a FUN announcement.  We learned we are having ANOTHER BOY!!!  Two littles under age three starting in May/June.  Ha.  If I’m complaining about being tired now, check in with me again in about 6 months.

We made it back to Denver on the 26th in time to catch Rick’s dad, stepmom, and step sister here for their holiday celebration.  They stayed with us and it was lovely to have the company and help as we did some preparation for some upcoming things.  First, we switched over Cody’s room to a “big boy bed” and moved his crib and other nursery furniture to what will be the new nursery.  This transition actually went remarkably well – at least in the immediate aftermath.  Cody took to his new bed and now we are 3/4 of the way there with a new nursery set up.  I also was able to go through all our infant clothes, toys, and other stuff and begin to organize – fill the drawers,set up the monitors, and figure out what holes needed filling that might make up a registry for our upcoming shower in March (with my sister Max!).  We also cleared out our mudroom and began preparing to clear our kitchen because …da da da DAH…after 2 years of permitting gymnastics with the City and County of Denver – we finally got a building permit to renovate our kitchen/mudroom, and pop the top to expand our upstairs bathroom and put a laundry/utility room up there.  It has seemed like the project that would never actually be real, but lo and behold, as I sit here today our contractors are putting down foundation for our kitchen expansion and I’m praying to all the powers that be that we can get this thing most of the way done before we have baby number 2.  Demo began on the 27th of December and we have a 4-6 month renovation schedule tentatively in mind.  For more on this, follow my instagram where I’m documenting the remodel.

Speaking of that, we burst a pipe in our kitchen last week when temps dipped down to single digits.  Our remodel is less than a few weeks in and already we have issues… and that isn’t even the beginning.  Just wait until we tear down the walls to uncover the unaccounted-for spaces – we have already discovered an drywalled-over bathroom.  What’s next!?!?

The goal of this post was a year-end recap, mostly as an exercise in testing my memory and pulling myself out of a year end funk.  So here’s a quick recap of major 2016 things:

  • I rediscovered a semblance of normality after a harrowing postpartum year in 2015.  2016 saw new work opportunities, got me back into a (sort of) groove with fitness, and my brain started functioning again.  Hooray!
  • I started a group at work to discuss/ and promote family friendly policies in the workplace.
  • I wrapped up my year as a member of the EnGen Leadership program through the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.  It was a fantastic year of working with other young leaders in the Denver area, networking, and learning more about the industry.  I’m so glad to have made some great friends through the program and to have been exposed to high level executive leaders from the C-suites of some major E&P’s here in Denver and nationwide.  What an amazing program!  I’m already volunteering as a mentor for next year.
  • I gained 3 new mentors – they are fantastic and I’m so thankful for the time they spend working with me and helping me progress as a professional.
  • I finished year 1 of a 2 year internal HDR leadership program.  Our cohort has gotten to know each other, interviewed managers across the company, and are gearing up to write a white paper on improving our company’s management training practices.
  • I led an awesome, and first of its kind,  “school ambassadors program” at work to facilitate outreach to non-english speaking populations in Denver.  We worked with high school students who are also bilingual (in this case they spoke Somali, Spanish, or Vietnamese) and trained them to conduct surveys about infrastructure needs in their immediate communities so that we could get input from sources that are typically hard to reach.  It was a total success and a really fun way to connect with the community.  The program ended up being promoted internally across HDR’s company website and the American Planning Association wrote a newsletter piece about it!
  • I went back to Mac for my 10-year college reunion.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but really had a fantastic time.  College, in the moment, can be a weird experience but as we have moved on from our time there I’ve realized just how amazing and unique my peers at Macalester are and I felt very invigorated by seeing so many of them in St. Paul this past summer.
  • Rick, Cody, and our support crew of family and friends rode the better part of the circumference of Lake Michigan this summer on our bikes.  It was a fun and wild adventure.  We learned about some new challenges of traveling with a toddler and we also got nearly two full weeks on our bikes just talking to each other …about life, stuff, our dreams and plans, to think out loud and muse about our surroundings.  As new parents our conversations are often in the weeds of logistics and the time we shared together this summer was magical and renewing. It reminded us both of all the things we love about being together.  It helped remind me of how much I love Rick.
  • We got pregnant with number 2!!  My sister is also pregnant and our due dates are 9 days apart.  It will be a wild ride!
  • I traveled to Belfast and saw Van Morrison live with my family.  It was a special trip as Van has been the soundtrack of so much of our lives together.

There are parts of the 2016 year that I certainly wish had gone differently.  I won’t dive too deep here, but I will say that a close family friend passed unexpectedly this year which left a cloud over me in surprising ways.  It was an honor to share so much of my growing up years with Jo, and when I think about her now it always serves a reminder to live life with enthusiasm, generosity, and with gratitude for what I have.   More than anything, her passing made me think hard about my attitude towards life’s challenges and helped me better evaluate where I want to have spent my time and energy when my time comes.

2016, I bid you farewell and look forward to riding the waves ahead in 2o17.

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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 to me, and the fact that I would have a baby and be a mother at the end of it all 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 hypnobirth.  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 beginning the process with an induction felt like a failure from the start.  Yet, on the flip side, 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 the cervical softener cervidil in place of cytotec.  The nurse on duty pushed back on me, essentially telling me I was uninformed.  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 were thrilled.  We also asked that she massage out some scar tissue on my cervix from a LEEP and colposcopy I’d had several years before which was inhibiting dilation for me.  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 previous procedures.  This is truly something that women and other doctors should be better informed about given how prevalent LEEPs and colposcopies are to treat unusual cell formations that show up on pap smears.  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. Because I was group B strep positive, breaking the waters posed more risk, but I REALLY didn’t want 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.

 

 

 

Getting there

It’s hard to believe that mid-November is here.  This week we’ll hit the mark of being one month out from our guess date!  At times that one month seems interminable, while at other times I think it will fly by.  Knowing that priceless value of each moment now, Rick and I are trying to take it a day at a time and savor the last precious days of our relationship as a couple rather than…a family.

I must admit that having a baby around the holidays does present some interesting logistical and emotional challenges.  The first, which presented itself to me this weekend, is the challenge of dressing a bump in cocktail attire.  We hosted an engagement party for a dear friend, and it was a fancy event.  I spent the week before planning food and decorations, but the one thing I chose not to focus on was my outfit for the night.  I knew I’d spend the first part of the evening in and out of an apron, and moreover, I have reached my threshold on buying new maternity clothing. I chose to dress up a non-maternity work-dress and it was fine.  But, had I really cared about it and not felt I could be a little slack as a pregnant host, it  would have been a serious challenge.  And it’s not just cocktail attire presenting a challenge now! I made it through the summer on versatile dresses, which carried through to fall, but now that snow is covering the ground I actually feel the need to wear pants – leaving me with two options: leggings and real pants.  Leggings are awesome.  They make me very happy and comfortable.  But they have limits – I really don’t think they are super work-appropriate.  And, when I wear boots and leggings, I recognize that by the end of the day my legs have swollen such that my boots have a calf-muffin top which is not my ideal of attractiveness.  On the other hand, I can’t bring myself to buy any more maternity pants.  I have two pairs and that seems like plenty to me.  I can still fit in some of my normal-ish pants if I wear a belly band, and I have been doing that…but there are limits.  I may have to give in and buy some more pants to house my orb-like belly through the next month.

More holiday maternity dilemmas include: alcohol-less Christmas parties that wrangle your weekends away from you.  Over the next few weeks, I can’t think of a weekend where we don’t have any events planned, except for the weekend right before my Monday due date.  So, though the third trimester is renowned for being uncomfortable and producing fatigue, there will be little weekend resting for me.  I am not so much concerned about the rest, but with a busy work schedule, birthing classes, and other obligations life has felt so full that I have struggled to make the time in my mind to really sit down and think hard about the major changes happening in my life.  I want to approach this milestone mindfully, and therefore I hope to find the space in these busting weekends to meditate on the upcoming changes in our lives.  The feeling of being busy as I approach our birthing has made me feel emotionally disjointed – on the one hand I feel physically fine, with only minor discomforts to complain of, so I treat my life as though nothing has changed and stay busy – that’s all good.  On the other hand, my physical limitations have not really hit me, so there has been little to incite me to slow down and give full credence to this very special and unique time in life – something I think I’d really like to do more of.

I find that planning for life post-baby is also interesting.  We have a trip to Mexico planned in February.  I have no idea how it will feel at that point to leave the baby and I worry that I will be distraught.  But, on the flip side, I think we could probably both benefit from some beach time to ourselves to recall some of the magic that may be lost amidst breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and the chaos of a newborn.  Then, looking further out onto the year, we have a trip planned to visit Rick’s brother in the UK and to make it a larger trip by spending time in Iceland either on the way there or back.  This is one trip we will definitely be bringing baby along for – so it will be interesting to discover the ways that travel changes with an infant.

I find that the process of trying to anticipate these scenarios is extremely exciting, but it takes me away from my present moment:  here on a couch with a sleeping puppy and a belly moving around of its own volition.  It takes me from the sweet back massage that Rick gave me during our four-hour birthing class today.  It takes me from the wild observations that come daily with a belly that has now eclipsed any views of my feet, legs, or hips.  It takes me away from the novelty of a playing with an inside out belly button, or the sweet exchanges that go along with the imaginings Rick and I share about how our baby will look and act.  I want to focus on these small moments – to observe them and write them down.  I want the steps of this life-changing journey to be documented so that when I have a house full of chaos and little wild children I can look back and recall the beauty and novelty of these hours, days, and weeks of unknowing anticipation.  Like your first time, your first love, your first travel – THIS time in life merits a pause to stop, reflect, and recall who you were before and after.  I want the time to internalize these feelings and to understand that we’ll never have these moments back.

 

 

Reflections on roundedness

Excuse the alliteration there.

Roundedness has many meanings in my current state.  For one thing, as I sit cross-legged on my couch, laptop in lap, my increasingly globular belly encroaches on my keyboard view.  I have to reflect on what that feels like for a moment.  For one thing, when you see pregnant women, you often think warm, kind thoughts about their state – bringing new life into the world.  It seems like such a happy and picturesque existence.  I am here to warn that the photos you see on pinterest of lovely pregnant ladies looking maternal and serene, perhaps offer a glimpse of a rare and lovely moment – but on the whole do not reflect reality.  As least, not mine.  I don’t sit around all day mulling over my belly and the new life I’m creating.  Rather, at almost 27 weeks – on the cusp of the third trimester, I marvel at the fact that maternity clothes, which I bought early and used to be swimming in, now fit me.  I look at my body and I don’t even know it anymore.  Whose thighs are these?  Whose hips? Where did my previously toned arms go? Where did these boobs come from?  Why do my ankles have to look like that?  And, holy shit are my feet sore!  My belly – well, that was to be expected.  The rest, I wasn’t as prepared for.

It’s hard losing control of your body.  And it’s weird that someone I’ve never met is kicking me from the inside.  Kicking my cervix, kicking my ribs, occasionally causing a mug I’ve gently rested on my belly to quake from a rogue elbow jab from within.  I think people expect that as a woman you are somehow prepared and intuitively knowledgeable about these things. I’m not!  All I know is that my bed has become a structural challenge that requires several pillows propped in just the right spot to make me feel at ease.  My hips, always narrower than my shoulders, are no longer.  They ache.  They are moving.  My posture is changing.  My body is operating under the command of hormones and I no longer have a real say in the way things go around here.  By the end of the day, my entire belly feels stretched to its limit.  I wonder if there is enough shea butter and vitamin E in the world the allow it to continue to grow without bursting.  Then I remind myself that I am only just beginning my third trimester.  And then, I get a bit nervous.

Meanwhile, as I observe these bodily changes day to day, during what I’ve heard is one of the biggest periods of growth, Rick and I are taking on some fairly challenging things.  Rick began an entirely new career as a teacher this fall.  He teaches honors Algebra II and pre-Calculus at the highest-ranking school in Colorado.  Let me say it again, he has just begun his teaching career.  It’s no small task to be thrown into an incredibly rigorous and notoriously grueling school as a first year teacher.  He is burning the candle at both ends.  I try to pick up the slack.  I manage dog responsibilities, cook dinner, keep the house in order, and arrange doctor’s visits and birthing classes and doula interviews.  There is also the small matter of my full-time job where I am taking on major projects and doing an increasing amount of travel.  WE are burning the candle at both ends.  We are a tired pair.  In our lives at this stage, we have not found the ideal balance of well-roundedness that I think we both strive for.  And we both are intimidated knowing that we haven’t even HAD the baby yet.

This morning I had a little bit of a breakdown.  I had a hard week at work.  We hosted a going away party for some friends last night, so I was getting the house ready all week, and Rick’s mom is staying here for a few days.  We have a lot happening! Plus, we haven’t had a weekend at home in a month! This morning when I woke up, I guess I just felt the strain. As Rick and I talked in bed, I found my eyes tearing up, asking him to remind me that he still thinks I’m pretty.  (He tells me all the time, actually. So clearly that wasn’t really what I needed to hear.) I guess it was my overly simplified way of asking him to reassure me that all the stress and pressure at home and at work and changes to my body and our lives won’t change what WE have.  I needed to know that the way we understand each other and work together and approach the world with a unified front wouldn’t be undermined by the myriad changes in our lives.

When I look at Rick, his strength and his character and his toughness draw me to him.  It makes me stronger and tougher and better. He is such an inspiration to me each day and he drives me to set the bar higher. When I look at myself and I feel sore and tired and, well, pregnant, I feel bad that I can’t give him the full support and encouragement that I want to.  I feel like I am falling short trying to be the best employee, the best wife, and the best-prepared mother.  I feel constantly as though I need to give more and be more.  Perhaps it is my hormones, or my pitta drive that makes me feel like I need to live up to external standards and measures of achievement. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that I am tired.

I wonder if this feeling that life is getting overwhelming comes to all pregnant women?  I know stress definitely is normal, and I wonder if I am conflating external stressors with my internal hormonal tides.  It’s hard to say.

When we got engaged in March of 2013, some of the best advice we got was to just relax and enjoy the time we had together as an engaged couple – knowing we had the future ahead of us and each other.  I fall back on this advice now, telling myself to enjoy these moments of just Rick and me, (and Adelaide the puppy, of course) knowing that together we’ll get through the challenges we face.

The Heart



My life up until a few years ago rarely featured my heart.  It showcased my sense of adventure, my need for freedom, and my conflicts over how to love in light of those things.  There were many pieces of me on display, true.  But the way my heart works wasn’t among those pieces.

In recent years, I have worked through yoga and through some soul-searching to open my heart, to accept and love myself in spite of my flaws (and because of them), and generally be more honest and authentic in recognizing what I need and what I want.  I feel good about what I’ve done.  It’s been a lot of work, and a lot of truly amazing reward.  But, nothing so far has prepared me for this.

Today, I heard my baby’s heartbeat.

Via a monitor on my stomach, through some little speakers, this wildly powerful little chug-a-lug of a heartbeat shook me to my core.  I’ve seen the little one on ultrasounds a few times, and watched the little flicker of his or her heart blink along in the sepia swirls, trying to see limbs or a discernible form.  Today, though, hearing the little being within me thumping along made it all seem more real to me.

It’s been a few months (3 to be exact!) since Rick and I found out we were expecting.  In that time, I have suffered barely any symptoms besides being a little tired and uninterested in eating.  As a result, the fact that I’m carrying another human inside of me has at times felt unreal.  I have been reading voraciously about birth, fetal development, and trying to absorb everything under the sun about this massive change which will soon be a reality in our lives.  But, all the reading, diminished appetite, and the increasingly tight waistband of my pants has not really sunk in for me personally.  That is, until today.

Maybe this will make me more protective of myself and my cargo, where I have otherwise been treating my life as normal – going rafting, hosting parties, riding my bike around, running, doing inversions and twists in yoga.  Who knows? I recognize that pregnancy in many ways is a test in flexibility and managing expectations.  Things can move fast, and even though I seek a healthy and safe pregnancy, that could change in a moment.  As such, part of me doesn’t want to give up too much too quickly. I am trying to keep a good handle on my life, recognizing that there will be PLENTY of time for me to alter my life to accommodate another little member of our family soon enough.

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Baby’s first Elephant Rock! 62 miles in the saddle and first ride since October!

What I have actually found to be the most noticeable part of being pregnant, for me, has been a very deep recognition of the incredible man who got me into this position.  Comprehending the immense experience we are sharing together (be it as common as ever) reminds me of what I love about Rick.  He is reading pregnancy books and following along with my apps that tell me what fruit compares to my baby’s size (lime this week).  He listens to my every observation and constantly reminds me that I’m pregnant, and not getting fat.  He busts his butt to keep up on the schoolwork to get his teaching certificate and just got a great teaching position, all the while doing daily projects on our adorable little house and managing a totally deranged little puppy.  And when I come home from the office he, more often than not, has dinner cooking for me.  He is coaching me back into running so that I can run a race in Aspen this summer, and he supports me in all the little things I ask of him.  He is so truly a good man.  And, I think in knowing I am bringing another human into the world his goodness gives me such hope and joy for the whole process.  I am recognizing that this is an experience I can’t imagine with anyone else.

So, to bring this back full circle, let me finish this post on a point about the heart.  Today when my heart cracked open a little bit as I heard thumping through a little speaker, I recognized that there is so much still to feel within me.  At times I look at Rick or my puppy and feel like my heart will explode a bit, but today assured me that there is another threshold of love that I’ll soon be aware of.  The vulnerability that comes with pieces of your heart being outside of your control is absolutely terrifying and incredible.

 

 

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Baby’s first rafting on the Arkansas! I think we all enjoyed it! And I am doing my best to “show” here. Not showing too much yet…

Big changes

Outside my window the snow falls in torrents.  I sit in an upstairs bedroom at “The Wolf Den”, the place my mom is renting for the month up in the mountains. (The name Wolf Den was not her doing – that honor goes to the unit’s owners.  I wonder often at who these wolves are in real life.)  Below me are the voices of my mom and some of her oldest friends, all together in Colorado for some hiking and girl time. It’s wonderful.

I feel a fatigue in my bones from a month of hard work and busyness.  I have complained at length on this blog about the tyranny of uncertainty in my life.  Today, I aim not to complain but to observe that perhaps the uncertainty is ending – and feel a sense of gratitude in that.

This has been a week for the books.  Rick and I became the proud Aunt and Uncle to a sweet little baby, Mary.  So, Lisa (Rick’s mom), Rick, and I dropped paintbrushes and sandpaper and flew home to New York for a few days.  Our arrival timed perfectly with the new family’s return from the hospital.  We came, filled up their living room with tears and smiles, lots of cooing over the precious baby, and heaps of freshly cooked food.  Rick and I were so elated to have a kitchen (after months!) that when we weren’t holding the new baby we cooked most of the meals for the family and guests while we were there. We took turns holding the little one in her perfect swaddle and pondered about when this all might be a reality in our lives.  I picked their baby nurse’s brain to learn about the challenges and joys of her job with new families.  I observed the new parents, and watched with such joy as Rick snuggled the newest addition in his arms and gave her lots of sweet kisses.  It was such fun to have a short reunion with his brother and his brother’s wife in this precious time, with the newest little baby, and before they move abroad later this spring.

In addition to this wonderful news, after over a month of interviews with an engineering firm in Denver, I received an offer this week for a position that I am thrilled about.  Though there remains much to determine, it is beginning to look like our lives may take a more permanent form here in the very place that they melded together. It is a welcome event.  Though we have looked in many other places, Colorado feels like home, and fulfills many of our overarching desires for a long-term place to settle.  We are meeting with a realtor tomorrow and beginning to look into giving this move some permanence. Joy!

By way of observation, I have witnessed many friends undertake the unpacking of dreams and plans that follow a marriage.  It sometimes goes quickly and sometimes slowly, but in every case it is fun to watch two souls building their lives together.  It is such a joy to be undertaking this process with Rick – working to accommodate his needs and mine, piecing together the pieces of a bigger picture that only the two of us have a clear vision of.  I find that each day I am floored that I am actually a participant in this process, that I have somehow found myself in this place.  I look at my finger and I am astounded to find that I am married, building a life, and acting the part of an adult, even if I sometimes don’t believe I’m qualified for the title.

 

Australian Post Script – Weekend #2

It’s a bit odd living in a post script.  And, what I mean when I say I live in a post script is that  the greater part of our Australian adventure has concluded.  We have packed up our home, moved in to a friend’s extra bedroom, and we’re living out the next six weeks of our time here from the comfort of a futon and extremely disorganized suitcases.  But, like the juiciest information in a letter is often shared in the postscript, so too does our postscript contain some real treasure.

Last weekend Rick and I went to Cooroy to bid a final farewell to our friends Heidi and Joe and bask in the aura of their dream lifestyle.  They recently made the choice to follow their passions and left Brisbane to buy an amazing, self-sustaining property in the hills outside Noosa.  They opened a yoga studio, mediation centre, and ayurvedic clinic where they work together, alongside their new puppy Shakti.  They are getting married in October, just two weekends before Rick and me – so it’s fun to compare notes.  Our weddings will be quite different I think!  They fed us mulled wine, lemon butter, and sourdough bread until we could eat no more, and sent us on our way with half the citrus in their orchard.  It was such a beautiful weekend; a huge bonfire, great conversation, puppy snuggles, a great yoga practice (while Rick surfed), and some time to enjoy each other’s company.  I couldn’t have come up with a better way to spend one of our precious postscript weekends.

Well, there is one way that might be better – or at least comparably good.  And, that’s what we have planned for this weekend.  Tomorrow, I have a three-hour spa session that my mom got me as a 30th birthday present.  I had been saving until it no longer made sense to save it – NOW!  So, I am taking off Friday, going for a luxurious morning at the spa, and then spending the remainder of the weekend (and Monday!) in the company of some lovely friends on Stradbroke Island where we have plans to whale watch, cook, and generally having a blast!  I went whale watching several years ago in Alaska, but whales have long been one of my favorite creatures and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do it again.

It feels good to be in this postscript mental space I am right now.  We are (thankfully) mentally present for these last weeks in Australia because we have most of our wedding details sorted out – at least for the time being.  So many friends and family have stepped to the plate to sing, conduct our ceremony, coordinate various wedding details, throw showers, give tours of Milwaukee sights, and generally help out.  I always knew I wanted my wedding to be a  community affair, but little did I know how much I’d actually NEED it to be.  I have been amazed at the enthusiasm and dedication of my friends and family, particularly my amazing parents who are helping with so much of the planning AND doing a throwback to their wedding and literally wearing what they got married in over 30 years ago (which actually is perfect considering we’re using almost the same colors and my dad wore a nice coat and my mom wore a beautiful women’s suit and not an actual wedding dress.)

I love the way things are shaping up for both the wedding and the time on either side of it.  I have had several talks with Heidi (above) about how in pursuing one’s dreams and their dharma the path opens up before them with each step; for Heidi that was moving to the hills with Joe and living off the land. For me it was everything that has come to be with Rick and me.  From our fortuitous meeting while I was still in another relationship, to our subsequent meetings after, to our courtship, our move to Australia, the dramas that came with it that strengthened our bond, our engagement, and to our decisions to move home and make massive career and lifestyle changes.  It feels as though each new opportunity presents itself when it should and when we have the means to make the best of it.

Last week I finished writing up the answers to some questions that were asked of us by the friend who is doing our wedding ceremony.  They were simple questions, but knowing he would take the answers and use them to help shape his words made me give strong consideration to my answers.    I recognized in my answers the lessons of several challenging years coming to roost as I emphasized our partnership, our shared joy in the successes and passions of the other person, our mutual desire to foster each other’s strengths and support their weaknesses, to truly face the world with a united front, and commit fully to our partnership through the obstacles and challenges we will unquestionably face.  It’s true that passion can be the spark of love, but it’s commitment that leads to the most meaningful intimacy.   And with Rick, commitment which always felt so hard to embrace for me, barely feels like a choice.  Rather, it reminds me of whitewater canoeing – you can ferry yourself, stressed and neurotic, around and above obstacles, constantly fighting a current which will take you to ruin on obstacles downstream.  But if you put yourself in the proper channel you can release yourself to the current with little fight or need to direct yourself and you can gracefully navigate the myriad challenges that surround you. My relationship with Rick feels like this.  It’s not a constant struggle to avoid ruin (even if the struggle was invigorating and exciting), it’s graceful and effortless – and it looks damn good.

I have always used rivers as metaphors in my relationships, and this is no exception. I feel so lucky to have Rick – my amazing fiance, friend, and co-pilot through rapids, and anything else we’re faced with.

Yeah, so in short postscript life ls pretty amazing. So good – life is just, plumb incredible.