Thursday, May 31, 2012

Inside the Inside

28w6d

According to yesterday's ultrasound, baby girl weighs 3 lbs. 3 oz. (which means she's gained 1 lbs. 6 oz. this month!). She's still head down, and still doesn't like to be...ultrasounded. She spent the whole scan rolling over, hiding whichever body part the sonographer was attempting to measure, and pressing her nose into the side of my uterus. I wonder if she's camera shy or just practicing nuzzling.

28w6d

Baby profile on the left, uterine wall on the right.

Based on this recent batch of Baby Clayface 3D ultrasound images, she looks like Rob.

Rob

Same profile and pouty lips as above, just beardier.


The baby already has preferences, mostly related to how much she wants to be pressed on, measured, and messed with (hint: NOT AT ALL). Her wild limb-thrashing increases as my blood sugar drops. She definitely responds to sounds. I think she likes Rob's calm, even "reading aloud" voice the best.

I wonder how much of her strong personality is really her and how much is my imagination of what she could be like. When I lie in bed, marveling at the movement inside, thinking about the tiny girl gesturing with her tiny arms...I wonder what she's thinking about. Does she have thoughts? I imagine she must, but what could they possibly be?

When she sleeps in there, does she dream?

28w6d

.....................................

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Preschool's Out

Balloonsaber

Yesterday was Westley's last day of preschool, which means today marks the first day of his first ever Summer Vacation. When he starts up again in the fall, he'll move up a group number and have a new teacher. He'll be a senior. A year from now, I'll be registering him for kindergarten.

Flying Saucer

Preschool was a fantastic experience for Westley—after the first few weeks of tearful good-byes (and sometimes tearful all-mornings). I felt like I was throwing a non-swimmer into the deep end. Sure, there were water wings and several lifeguards on duty, but watching him struggle was alternately gut-wrenching and frustrating. I can only imagine what it must've felt like to Westley at first.

However difficult the transition was, he mastered it. Each week, little by little, his confidence grew. New situations, activities, and friends (!!!) fueled his imagination. Rob and I often looked at each other, wondering, "Where did that idea come from?" Almost always, it was something Westley did or heard or sang in school. He brought home dozens of paintings, none of which I can bring myself to throw away.

Balloonsaber

Yesterday I overheard lots of parents discussing their summer schedules: soccer practice, swimming lessons, day camps of all genres. Westley is doing none of these things. His summer is not very planned at all. I anticipate lots of park trips and adventures downtown. We'll probably hit up the pool at least a few times, if for no other reason than to give me the gift of temporary weightlessness. I have a few gardening projects that I might try to convince Westley to help me with. There will be huge stacks of books from the library, and water balloon fights, and homemade ice cream sundaes. But mostly, there will be unstructured, (pre)school's-out free time.

Flying Saucer

.....................................

Monday, May 28, 2012

Twenty-Eight Weeks

Twenty-Eight Weeks

Hello, and welcome to the third trimester!

Wow, that doesn't seem right at ALL. It seems like I was just watching that first line show up on the pregnancy test, dark purple and so very positive. Except that that was back in December—LAST YEAR!—which means that while time is racing along, I have also somehow managed to be pregnant forever.

Similarly, I go back and forth about how quickly I think August will be here. I alternate between states of denial, where I deliberately refuse to think about bassinets and diapers and freezing casseroles, and states of total panic, where the fact that there's a home birth kit in the linen closet and four giant bins of washed and folded baby clothes in the garage is NOT NEARLY ENOUGH PREPARATION!!! On Friday I enlisted my dad to help rearrange Westley's room and the playroom to make space for another small person and her belongings (and to get a jump-start on the battle to keep Westley's toys out of his sister's mouth). Our little house already looks more spacious and better-organized, but it's only a start. I can't keep my mind off how much there still is to do. Except when I'm putting my fingers in my ears, denying, la-la-la can't be not ready for a baby if I can't hear you la-la-la!

Twenty-Eight Weeks

Along with the anxiety-denial cycle, fear struck HARD this week. When I noticed a tapping sound overhead on a quiet afternoon, I was certain someone was walking around in the attic. Whoever it was almost certainly had a knife and was going to kill me. Even the kitty seemed on edge. (And the kitty is known for her excellent judgment on all matters.) Heart pounding, I went outside and stood in the middle of the front yard to survey the roof. I expected to see Leatherface. Instead, a big fat crow was pecking at a shingle. The sound its beak made was identical to, if less ominous than the tapping I'd heard from the living room.

That evening I dreamed I gave birth to a full-term, perfectly formed baby orangutan. Holding my slippery and very hairy newborn, I was horrified. What am I supposed to DO with it? I knew in that way you know things in dreams that no one was going to help me with this; I was going to have to figure things out on my own.

One of the hardest things about this whole process is knowing that I have to do it all myself. And I don't mean the eventual going into labor and pushing the baby out and breast-feeding part. I'm the one who has to eat well, keep up with a gazillion appointments, and figure out the best sitting and sleeping positions for a strange body.

Consequently, I've gotten very tired of other people asking me for things: "Can you switch your appointment from 10:05 to 8:05?" "Can you bake two dozen gluten-free, soy-free vegan cupcakes for the picnic?" "...pick up eye drops while you're out?" "...play Candyland again...and make me a hot chocolate?"

No. No, no, NO!...I want to say to all of it. I'm exhausted, I want to say. I'm overwhelmed. There is a person elbowing me in the back of the bellybutton all the time, I want to say. But instead I say, Fine. No problem. I'll take care of it.

I always hoped motherhood would somehow make me more assertive and confident, but it hasn't happened so far. Maybe I'm just saving up all my "no"s for after the baby is born, when I really won't be able to do XYZ.

Twenty-Eight Weeks

.....................................

Friday, May 25, 2012

Be Excellent to Each Other

Beach Combing

After Rob grabs his work bag off the table and kisses Westley and me goodbye, he says, "Have a good day. Be excellent to each other."

Pony Ride

It always makes me smile, though I'm ashamed to admit that being excellent to anyone, even my little dude, has been a challenge lately. Westley seems to have a highly specific ESP that enables him to pinpoint the precise moments during the day when Braxton Hicks contractions invade my entire body and I decide I absolutely must rest. He seems to choose these exact moments to make his requests for snacks, help with a project, or just plain attention.

"Mommy?"

"What?"

I realize a split-second too late that I sound completely exasperated. Shit. I'm forever apologizing for snapping, sounding grouchy when I'm not grouchy with you, Westley. I just didn't sleep super-well last night...

He always seems to forgive me. It's one of the things I love most about him. He gives me a hundred-thousand second chances.

Bird Watching

(I wish I didn't need quite so many.)

* * *

Every day I recommit myself to having as much fun with Westley as possible. Especially now that our mother-son days are numbered. He will never be four years old and an only child again. And some day he's going to be 25 and I'm going to wish we were standing in the spring rain, admiring a chicken coop.

Chicken Coop

My wish is that Westley remember the time before his sister's birth as joy-filled. I can already feel the upheaval washing over us as more and more appointments are scheduled, belongings rearranged, plans made. I remind him, "Things will change when the baby's born." I don't say, We won't be able to come here—to the Children's Museum, to EMP, to the Aquarium—as easily. And perhaps not as often.

Slide Hair
Mixing

Otter Watching

We'll still do the fun things we've always done, of course. But it won't be just us.

* * *

I wish I could save some of this for later. Our time as a family of three. Westley's and my days together, having adventures in and around our city. I try to memorize how it feels to have just this little boy, the same way I tried to memorize how it felt to hold him when he was a baby.

Touch Tank

.....................................

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Low-High-Risk Pregnancy

Every two weeks, I get in my car (with the pro-midwifery stickers on it) and drive a few minutes to the hospital. It's strange to feel relaxed walking into a high-risk OB's office. It's even stranger to be told, week after week, that everything is fine. Perfectly normal.

Having a uterine malformation means that no pregnancy of mine will ever be considered truly normal. Pregnancies in a bicornuate uterus are usually treated as high-risk. But visit after visit, Dr. K. comes into the room beaming after my ultrasound. "Everything looks great!" No opening or thinning of the cervix. No growth restriction in the fetus. Ideal levels of amniotic fluid. And the placenta previa that was threatening my chances of a having vaginal birth has resolved itself. "Perfectly normal!"


26w6d

I wonder how many "perfectly normal" pregnancies my perinatologists see. They're trained to care for very ill mothers, and complicated fetal problems requiring in-utero intervention. These doctors do fetal surgery! It's hard not to feel guilty for taking up their time.

At my most recent appointment, Dr. K. did a fetal fibronectin test. I had never heard of this, but in the time between my office visit and hearing the message that the test had come back negative ("Very reassuring," the nurse said) I had myself thoroughly convinced that something could be wrong.

"This is starting to feel like...a lot," I told Beth when I saw her that same afternoon. (I have one weekday that's easiest in terms of childcare, and because ultrasounds are every two weeks and visits with my midwife have been every four weeks up to this point, I often end up seeing a perinatologist and a midwife on the same day.) "It's more than I thought."

More checks. More tests. More wondering.

Beth just nodded. She's been catching babies and caring for mothers 10 years longer than I've been alive. I can't even begin to imagine the many, extraordinarily different pregnancies she's seen. She's not concerned about my not-really-but-sort-of-"high-risk" status. Her next question was, "Have you ordered your home birth kit?"

.....................................

Monday, May 21, 2012

Twenty-Seven Weeks

Twenty-Seven Weeks

I grew out of my leggings this week. I stupidly thought this would never happen. They're stretchy, they have a nice wide waistband that can be pulled over the belly or folded under it...what could go wrong? Plenty. Even something stretchy enough to accommodate 30 extra pounds can't necessarily take on 30 pregnancy pounds. Pregnancy weight is not normal weight, I keep reminding myself. (I haven't gained 30 lbs, but I'm well on my way, thanks in part to several helpings of Rob's birthday pie.)

Twenty-Seven Weeks

I am either not very big at all or just about to pop, depending on who's observing. As I waited to see my midwife on Wednesday, the woman next to me asked when I was due. I told her and she replied, "You're little for August! Where are you hiding it?" The very next morning, the mother of one of Westley's preschool classmates declared me to be "HUGE." I'm sure she meant it in the nicest way possible.

Size-wise, I feel Just Right—very at peace with being full of baby—most of the time. And then I try to roll over in bed. Or paint my toenails. Or I see a picture of myself before.

Beach Broad

When Rob snapped this photo last summer, I thought my body looked impossibly large. Not that you can even see any body under all that drapey fabric! Now I want to punch myself in the non-existent gut because, come on! Are you KIDDING me?! 

New this week: melasma, which I never got with Westley. Just another check in the "this pregnancy is totally different" column. Maybe there's some truth to that old wives' tale about girls stealing their mothers' looks in utero; I truly don't remember my skin ever looking this bad. Pimples, dry patches, the odd case of hives now and then...and now discoloration that my beloved mineral foundation doesn't quite conceal. Thank goodness for natural light!

Appearances aside, I'm really enjoying the middle stretch of this pregnancy (except on the days when I hate everyone and everything). I love wearing maxi dresses and cardigans all the time, and eating eleventy-skillion snacks a day, and carrying my water bottle around with me everywhere like a cylindrical, BPA-free security blanket. Whenever I remember that there's another person—my daughter—growing inside me, I'm amazed all over again. I learned at my recent midwife appointment that the clicks we hear on the Doppler along with the baby's heartbeat are the valves opening and closing. I have a daughter, and she has heart valves! Rob can feel and see her movements easily now. Sometimes in the evenings I sprawl out on the bed and we watch bellyvision together.

Twenty-Seven Weeks

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Names that Almost Were

Crayon Art

Deciding what to call our new little person was surprisingly difficult. Ridiculously difficult when you consider that her name turned out to be something Rob and I thought of years ago, sitting in a movie theater when we were barely a couple. I really thought our front-runner girl's name might change and evolve through three pregnancies, but it didn't. We just hung onto it until we needed it.

Even with a top choice already in place, names remained a frequent topic of discussion—especially before we knew for sure that this baby is a girl. Rob and I settled on a boy's name (first and middle) relatively quickly. Much like Westley, the second name we came up with was the one we both loved. Girls' names were tougher, because there are just so many that I adore and would seriously consider bestowing on a child.

Westley also played a small part in the naming process. At first, he suggested names from favorite books and movies. Then he switched gears, and became adamant that the name not be "already taken."

Without further ado, here are our shortlisted baby names. I'm more than a little sad to see them go. I would have 20 children, just so I could name them all.

* * *

Haven (F) — Any place of shelter and safety. Haven is one of my favorite words, and it sounds like a name even though it isn't one (usually).

Blaze (M/F) — A bright flame or fire. I lobbied hard for Jasper Blaze as a boy's name during my pregnancy with Westley. Rob vehemently opposes Jasper, but hadn't weighed in on Blaze, so I brought it up again. It's a strong first or middle name, and works well for a boy or a girl. (According to one baby name book, Blaze can also mean "stammerer." Whatever.)

Alchemy (F) — The magical process of transmuting a common substance into a substance of great value. We both liked this, but it didn't quite fit. And what if someone decided to call her "Alchie"?

Eve (F) — Life. This was the fiercest contender to replace our top choice. Old-fashioned, simple, and so lovely. Rob liked the connection to our mutual friend Eva. I liked the link to Preston Sturges' screwball comedy classic, The Lady Eve. (We never mentioned this possibility to Westley, but I think he might have rejected it on the grounds that Eve is already "taken" by the robot in WALL-E.)

Walker (M) —A person who fulls cloth. Rob and I briefly discussed giving all of our children matching initials. I'm not sure how serious the discussion was, but Walker was a favorite name nonetheless. Other boys' W names I love: Ward, Warren, Wolf.

Story (F) — A narrative designed to interest, amuse, or instruct... Rob vetoed this before I'd even finished saying it, but I don't care. It's feminine and beautiful, and with our film and theater backgrounds, especially meaningful.

Athena (F) — The Greek goddess of wisdom. A fierce middle name contender.

Dexter (M) — Dexterous. Increasingly popular, but still so great. It sounds old-fashioned and contemporary at the same time. I love "Dex" as a nickname.

Oracle (F) — A person who delivers wise and influential pronouncements; a divine communication or revelation. We both found this hard to say, which breaks my heart because I think it's perfectly feminine.

August (M/F) — Majestic dignity. I like this for either sex, though it seems especially cool for a girl. Except I wondered, was it nickname-able? "Gus!" Rob suggested, and I completely fell in love with the idea of calling a little girl "Gus."

Sophia (F) — Wisdom. One of Rob's favorite names ever. I like it too. But it's only the most popular girls' name in the country!

Orson (M) — Little bear. This was my top choice for a boy's name. I love the sound of it, and I love the meaning more. The meaning was my whole argument for using it. "But Rob, it means little bear!" "So you've said." "But—!"

Easter (F) — Easter (naturally). A bit too much maybe, with my name meaning "Christmastime" and her brother being Westley. They'd be West and East.

Andromeda (F) — "She who has bravery in her mind." Awesome. I love the connection to space (The Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest spiral galaxy to our galaxy, the Milky Way). But the Andromeda of mythology is one of the original damsels in distress, chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. Not awesome.

Clark (M) — Scholar. Rob brought this one up several times. All I could think about was Clark Kent (a fine, upstanding fellow, but not my favorite fictional character), so I vetoed it.

Elswyth (F) — Elf from the willow trees. I liked that this kind-of-but-not-really matched with Westley's middle name (Oliver, which means "elf army").

Oren (M) — Pine tree. Such a strong, simple name. I think it works perfectly for a tiny baby, a little boy, or a grown man.

Marina (F) — A promenade by the sea. A romantic name with ties to the performance art world. It's absolutely musical when you say it out loud.

* * *

Other names I love that didn't make the list: Wren, Zorra, Iola (pronounced EYE-o-la), Griffin, Guthrie, Sonnet.

Westley's suggestions: Rosebud, Honeycomb, Honey Penny, and Charlie.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Twenty-Six Weeks

Twenty-Six Weeks

Westley is getting tired of the weekly belly shots. "Why are you always taking pictures?" he moaned as Rob grabbed the camera and we headed outside.

"So that when I'm an old, old lady, and you and your sister are all grown up, I can look back and remember what it was like to be pregnant and have a four-year-old little boy," I told him.

He just gave me a whatever, Mom look.

After being so interested in the early stages of my pregnancy, Westley has been less than enthusiastic lately. Pregnancy must seem incredibly long and boring when you don't really understand time or calendars yet, and you don't get constant feedback from a growing, moving belly.

The baby switched from parkour to Pilates this week. I'm still feeling strong movements almost every day, but it's less like someone trashing her hotel room and more like my uterus is doing the mermaid side stretch. Supposedly, the baby's whole job right now is to get bigger and put on fat, and I must say I'm looking forward to having a cushier passenger. Right now she's all elbows and knees.

Untitled

I also changed up my exercise routine. I switched from thinking about resuming yoga to actually resuming yoga. Only in my living room, and mostly Cat and Cow into Down Dog. But it's a start, and it seems to have moved the baby's head up off my cervix a bit! Par-TAY! The near-constant downward pressure has been replaced by a feeling of overall pressure, which seems like it might be worse, but is actually much nicer. It seems more balanced. It also makes me feel properly huge.

My weight hasn't changed much up or down, but things are different round and round. Organs are in new places. Immediately after eating a medium-sized plate of food, I'm almost uncomfortably full. But 15 minutes later, everything settles and sometimes I even start to think I'm hungry again. I may have to start cutting my meals in half and eating in courses.

Speaking of food, I made glazed orange scones for Mother's Day and they were exquisite. I'm going to have to restrain myself from making them every weekend, especially now that I have a microplane grater. (How did I go this long without owning a microplane grater?)

I'm also putting chia seeds in everything. Chia oatmeal, chia pudding, chia kombucha (which can be sung to the tune of "Haga Nagila"). Fortunately, it's tremendously healthful as food obsessions go. I might have to experiment with replacing some of the margarine in the scone recipe with chia gel. Chia power!

Muscles

Between thinking about doula care and researching the magical properties of various gems and plants (activities related only by their fringe-iness) this week, I started feeling strange bursts of anxiety over absolutely nothing. I have to assume this is the result of pregnancy hormones. I don't think I'm actually anxious, just going through the motions. Then again my daughter will be "full term" just 11 weeks from now.

Twenty-Six Weeks and Friends

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Doula? I Hardly Know...la.

doula_3.234101330_std

Searching for a doula on the Internet feels how I imagine online dating must feel. Visiting Web sites, sizing up pictures and profiles, things go from zero to skeevy-weird pretty quickly.

"She's cute. I'd totally have her over to my house at two in the morning."

Or maybe that's just me.

One of the sites is even called Doula Match, which sounds like a specialty dating Web site. Single vegetarian doula seeks same for informational, emotional, and physical support. And much like a finding a potential partner, identifying doulas who might be a good match for you means wading through birth-centered buzzwords and cliches. The biggest one—and the one I have the biggest problem with—is the word "empowering."

At first glance, "empowering" seems like it would be a great thing. Giving women power over the birth process? Awesome, right?

Wrong. What's not awesome about empowerment is the "giving" part. Empowering women to give birth naturally. Empowering parents to take an active role in labor. In these constructions, the women and families being given the power are objects, rather than the subjects of their own situations. "Empower" is a transitive verb; I do something to you.

Empowerment isn't really about the person being "empowered." It's about the person or entity doing the empowering. In terms of birth, empowerment is the opposite of woman-centered maternity care.

I don't think this is what doulas mean when they mention empowerment. I'm sure there are doulas who bring their own agendas into the labor room (ego is part of being human, after all), but most people talking about "empowering" others are actually trying to avoid disempowerment.

Especially within the hospital system, medical care providers may throw around the weight of their experience, claiming the power in the situation and therein disempowering an expectant mother. The presence of a doula can support a woman in advocating for herself. That's not empowering someone; it's "anti-disempowering" her.

Why does this matter? It matters to me because I love language and I care about how we use it. It matters to society because how we talk about birth—and how we talk about transforming maternity care in this country—shapes our cultural attitudes towards women in labor (and women in general). It's not just a misogynist medical community we're dealing with here. Our choice of words in our homes to our friends, and to strangers on the Internet often supports the pervasive image of childbirth as scary and dangerous, and mothers as powerless and in need of rescue. Even when that's not the intent.

It's clear that doulas need a new word. One that reflects more accurately what happens with power during labor and birth when a loving, skilled, woman-centered support person is present. "Avoiding disempowerment" is incredibly clunky.

The word "doula" comes from Ancient Greek by way the the 1970s. Perhaps there is another new-old word that could take the place of "empowerment" in contemporary birth language. If it weren't already such a loaded word with multiple associations, I would suggest "matriarchy"—which literally means "government by mothers."

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Post-Kid Kitchen: "First Time's a Charm" Scones

Vegan GF Scones

I have wanted a scone for weeks. When Rob's mom sent Westley home with a few vegan but so-not-gluten-free blueberry scones recently, I came very close to saying "screw it" and just eating one. Instead, I made muffins that I fancied up with almonds, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips to keep myself from feeling deprived. But muffins are not scones.

The thing about craving gluten-free vegan baked goods is that you often have to make them yourself. Which, fine, whatever, I'm used to it. I'm not a fan of baking, though, because I don't like measuring. And I really don't like gluten-free vegan baking because that shit is science! There are multiple flours and meals and gums involved, and it often takes a few "practice runs" before your baked good is actually good.

But! Today was awesome. Today, I made gluten-free vegan scones out of the blue, with stuff I already had in the house, and they were perfection. Flakey and tender. Sweet, but not too sweet. And not muffins.

Plain* Gluten-free Vegan Scones
Makes 8

1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
3 Tbsp warm water
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance or other non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a small bowl, mix flaxseed meal with water and set aside. In a glass measuring cup, combine coconut milk and vinegar and set aside. Preheat your oven to 425, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together: flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Cut Earth Balance into chunks and add it to the dry mixture. Use a pastry cutter or two butter knives to work everything until it's nice and crumbly.

Give the flaxseed mixture a final whisk and add it to your bowl. Add in the milk-vinegar mixture. Stir everything together until well combined, adding flour a pinch at a time if the mixture seems super-sticky. Sprinkle a little flour onto the countertop. Place dough on top and use your hands to shape it into a flat circle. Cut into eight mostly-equal wedges and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 13–15 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack...

Vegan GF Scones

...or directly into your mouth.

* These beauties don't have to be plain, of course. Fold in 1 cup of blueberries or other fruit, or 1 cup of chocolate chips before shaping and cutting. I'm looking forward to making them again with lots of orange zest mixed in and a sweet orange glaze on top.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Twenty-Five Weeks

Twenty-Five Weeks
On Saturday morning I sat up in bed in a mild panic wondering Where is the baby going to sleep? I hadn't even thought about it until that moment, and suddenly it seemed vitally important.

Westley has weighed in on crib location—he would like it to be in his room—but I don't imagine the baby will sleep in the crib right away. We have a hand-me-down bassinet. Maybe we'll use that.

While I understand that we have plenty of time to work out certain logistics, like sleeping arrangements, this pregnancy is progressing ridiculously quickly. I enter my third trimester in just a few weeks. The idea that there will be an actual baby joining our family becomes increasingly real every day. Extra minutes of sunlight in the evening remind me. She's coming soon.

Sometime in the dark early morning, I staggered to the bathroom and caught a glimpse of my huge, shadowy reflection. I was hit with a wave of relief that, for now, I can carry her around all the time, hands-free. I can feed her in the middle of the night without thinking about it.

Twenty-Five Weeks

* * *

Yesterday Rob and I went to the movies together for the first time in over a year. It was a sweet morning out, especially since our most frequent dates the summer I was pregnant with Westley were to the same theater. We saw The Hunger Games, and the baby rolled and kicked through the entire second act.

Through a combination of intentionally ignoring the hype and living under a pop-cultural rock, I managed to go into the film knowing almost nothing about The Hunger Games. I had osmosed that the book was hugely popular, and apparently pretty violent, but that was all. I knew nothing about the story or the characters. (It's remarkably comfortable under here. I'm sure everyone will be living under pop-cultural rocks in the future.) Seeing a film with little or no advance knowledge about it is one of my favorite experiences, hands-down, and it made date-morning and a pretty solid film that much more enjoyable. I hope The Hunger Games makes a hundred-gazillion dollars, and we finally, FINALLY start seeing more major motion pictures with female protagonists.

I certainly hope to see at least a little more equality in Hollywood by the time my daughter is old enough to be interested in movies.

* * *

The calendar for May is already very full, and I wish it weren't. I'm starting to resent all of the busyness that cuts into my sitting around time. But when I do take the time to sit around, I feel antsy. There's almost always something I could be doing. To clean, to organize, to prepare, whatever that means.

I thought I was "prepared" for Westley's birth. I wasn't even close.

Twenty-Five Weeks

My first labor was a complete shock to my entire system. It shattered my confidence. I wonder how I'll cope if labor with this baby is as difficult. (I don't expect it to be. I think this girl will come barreling out on her own, with very little help from me.) At least I won't be venturing into totally uncharted territory.

Twenty-Five Weeks

.....................................

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Contraception Reflections


IUDs

At my recent midwife appointment, Beth asked if this was going to be my last baby.

My first thought was Yes.

Then, No.

Probably?

I hope not.

I said, "Uh...maybe?"

If it were up to Rob and Rob alone, we would be done. In a few months, we will have two children, and for him, that is enough. Rob is an only, and I imagine that in his world, two must seem like a tremendous lot. And a huge unknown.

I am the older of two, and the daughter of a mother (also an only child) who always wanted about eight children. For me, two is the norm. But it also seems more like a potential beginning than a final answer.

* * *

I was absolutely astounded when I turned on the radio several months ago and heard that conservative politicians were discussing women's right to choose whether to use birth control. It seemed unfathomable that in 2012, anyone was pushing to re-litigate contraception. And yet...

Women weighed in on the conversation with various points about health and safety. I wanted someone to say, "Women need contraception because we like having sex!"

I like having sex. The person I have sex with right now just happens to have body parts that can make a baby with me. I definitely want to have sex much more often than I want to get pregnant. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one in this situation!

* * *

My biggest fear after Westley was born—even bigger than "I will kill the baby"—was that I would get pregnant again right away. This seemed entirely possible, as my sex drive returned like crazy NINE DAYS after giving birth. (I got my first postpartum period six months later, despite what seemed like near-constant breast feeding.)

IUD

When Westley was two months old, I had a copper (Paragard) IUD put in. It was fantastically effective in that I didn't get pregnant while it was in place despite worrying that I would. But it gave me two-week-long periods. It also contributed significantly to my chronic back pain, which I didn't even realize until I had it removed.

My second baby will be born before we know it, and I really want to have my postpartum pregnancy protection lined up. I need a birth control plan.

Once again, I'm wondering what my options really are. I don't want to use hormones, and can't anyway while breast-feeding. Diaphragms are not so great. Latex condoms make me itch and burn. Fertility Awareness is right out with a new baby. That leaves two tried and true methods: another copper IUD, and "natural membrane" condoms.

* * *

Copper IUD 
Pros: Highly effective. Put it in once and forget about it. Insurance will pay for it.
Cons: Very long periods. More cramping. Possible return of back pain.

Lambskin condoms
Pros: Feel fantastic compared to latex. I'm not allergic to them!
Cons: I GOT PREGNANT WHILE WE WERE USING THEM.


Lamb
(There are other cons as well, but why bother?)


And then there's the big option. The very serious option.

Sterilization
Pros: Permanent.
Cons: Permanent.

* * *

I love the idea of being done having babies before my 30th birthday.

There's something very symbolic and narrative-seeming about that: turn 30; close the door on baby-making; move forward in life as mother of two. On the other hand, that magic age-number could just as easily be 35.

So on yet another hand, if I were going to have another child (or two), I'd need to do it relatively soon. And that really doesn't seem ideal. Caring for a preschooler while pregnant is one thing. Caring for an older baby or toddler while also growing a new baby? Would require me to somehow develop superhuman parenting powers.

I often see mothers out and about with two or more children who are close in age, and I always wonder if the parents planned it that way. There must be something to having closely-spaced children, or it wouldn't be so common.

Or maybe the whole idea of "family planning" is kind of bogus.

* * *

Last weekend, Westley and I went to Kelsey Creek Park to see the sheep being shorn for spring. There were pregnant bellies everywhere. (Off the top of my head, I can think of nine friends and acquaintances who are expecting babies, and a few more who just delivered. And Rob is one of several expectant fathers in his office. I don't know if this is one of those things like when you buy a house, and suddenly there are real estate signs everywhere: it's not necessarily that there are more, just that you're more aware of them. Perhaps there's something cosmic going on, and 2012 is just an awesome year for babies.) As Westley and I waited for the shuttle to take us back to our car at the end of the day, I noticed that, like every other adult female human at the park between the ages of 18 and 45, the woman next to us was pregnant. Except that she also had four children on the outside: two girls and two boys, in that order. Eyeing this family, I was overcome by some of the strangest envy I have ever experienced.

It's not that I want five children. (I don't think I want five children.) I like the fantasy of a large family, but I'm not sure I'm cut out for the reality of it. However, here I was, strangely longing to be this mother of four-with-one-on-the-way.

As Westley and I climbed onto the parking shuttle, which was actually a good old-fashioned school bus, my entire party fit comfortably in one seat. I had my child, myself, and snacks and supplies for the two of us for the entire day packed in one large (but not enormous) messenger bag. Easy. My moment of envy quickly transformed into concern as I wondered how I'd be able to manage an outing like this with a second child in tow. (Never mind four children.)

Maybe two is enough.

Test


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Friday, May 4, 2012

Burnout

Stoop

By Thursday evening, I feel like I have nothing more to give. By Friday afternoon, I just want to be left alone. Even Westley just standing (never sitting) and watching TV, or the kitty following me from room to room is too much noise and movement. 

Every weekday I make a list of Things to Do, hoping that the act of list-making will keep me organized and out of my head a little, and that checking items off will give me a sense of accomplishment. The list is always very reasonable. Eight or ten little tasks to keep our lives running smoothly, many of which I have to do anyway. Unload the dishwasher. Dinner. Wash and fold laundry. Every day, at least a few check boxes sit empty.

When I worked in an office, I made a daily To Do list and when something didn't get done, I moved it to the top of the next day's list. For some reason, this doesn't work at home. Maybe it's because a straightened bookshelf never stays straightened, and there's always another meal to prepare.

The week never really seems to end. Instead, the weekend just begins, bringing its own special Things to Do. But the surroundings—and the feelings—are the same.

There are times when I manage my life pretty well. Sometimes, I feel all right about this home/work schedule (or lack thereof). I've even been known to find it enjoyable, if not exactly "fun." But often—more often than not—I wonder if this job is so exhausting (and overwhelming and mind-numbing) because I'm just not a very good match for it.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

For the Bi-Weekly-Transvaginal-Ultrasound-Curious

One big concern for mothers with a bicornuate uterus is growth restriction in the baby. Fortunately, this is not a problem for me. I am growing an Amazon.

Stats

Okay, maybe not an Amazon, but a medium-large girl, certainly. And one who objects strongly to these regular check-ups. Baby is still head down, but this time when the tech inserted the ultrasound wand, the first thing we saw was a little pair of hands. If I may adult-opomorphize my fetus for a minute, it was very much her saying, I see your ultrasound wand and I will punch it!

Which she attempted to do, but just ended up pummeling my cervix.

The only thing more awesome than feeling the baby move is feeling the baby move while also watching her move. Tonya, the sonographer, confirmed my sense that this little one is especially active. More than once she remarked, "Wow, that was a strong kick!"

Despite my feeling major downward pressure and mutant Braxton Hicks contractions, the babyshop is still closed up tight. Huzzah! All the discomfort is just this little girl hanging out low in my pelvis, as second and subsequent babies tend to do.

So, to recap...
Cervix: still long and closed.
Placenta: still low-lying, but not worryingly so.
Baby: starring in Xena: Warrior Fetus.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Post-Kid Kitchen: Oh, Baby (Bok Choy)!

Calling this a bok choy recipe would be embarrassing, so I'll call it a technique. Which is probably better anyway, since it sounds fancy, like I have special knowledge.

My special bok choy knowledge really just amounts to It's delicious and I love it with lots of garlic! But I found getting perfectly stir-fried, perfectly garlicky bok choy with no burnt garlic taste nearly impossible until recently. And that's the non-recipe for today.

Garlic
Twenty cloves of garlic, pressed. This might have been a teensy bit too much, but it's hard to say.

Baby Bok Choy with Garlic
Serves 2

4 baby bok choys
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
Lots of garlic (maybe not the 20 cloves I used—half that would've been just fine), minced or pressed
3 Tbsp water or vegetable broth
Sea salt to taste (I used one generous pinch)
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Cut off the thick stem of the bok choy and remove the outer leaves. Leave the inner baby-baby bok choys whole. Rinse well and drain.

Put oil and garlic in a cold wok and heat to medium-high. When the garlic begins to sizzle and smell amazing, add bok choy to the wok and toss everything around for about 20 seconds to distribute the garlicky oil. Pour in the water or broth, cover the wok, and allow to cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Bok Choy

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