Monday, July 30, 2012

Thirty-Seven Weeks

Thirty-Seven Weeks

On Friday morning, everything shifted and I suddenly became VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. The pregnancy aches and pains have been so much milder they were during my first pregnancy (minimal sciatica and NO leg cramps—thanks, I'm guessing, to being in better shape going in and getting regular chiropractic adjustments), but my body has reached its pain-free gestation limit. Walking and standing get old fast, and sitting isn't much better. My low back is achy in that I'm-about-to-get-my-period way.

Thirty-Seven Weeks

"Maybe that's it!" I exclaimed to Rob. "I'm going to get my period!"

"It's been a while," he agreed. "You're overdue."

This is how we amuse ourselves while waiting.

Thirty-Seven Weeks

We also sit around speculating about who the baby will look like. When Westley was born, he was the spitting image of Rob for about three hours. Then he looked exactly like himself. And as he gets older and less baby-like, Westley resembles me more than ever. With all the ultrasounds (I've actually lost count), you'd think we wouldn't need to speculate about this little girl. However, at every recent ultrasound, she's been upside down and hiding. I know what her brain looks like (gorgeous!), but I haven't seen her face on the screen in weeks—which makes me that much more curious to see her live and in person. Based on one particular 3D picture from two months ago, I'm still guessing she'll look exactly like Rob.


I like the idea of having one "mini me" and one "mini him," but it would be hilarious if we ended up with two blue-eyed, left-handed blondes. Children of the Recessive Genes.

Thirty-Seven Weeks

Despite being newly achy, I'm still energetic. I can't squeeze into tiny spaces anymore (no more parking in the very compactest of compact spots), but I'm still going strong in the errands and chores departments. Rob flat-out refused to let me mow the lawn yesterday, so I moved a bunch of things around in the garage. And I still insist on carrying my own groceries.

I really should accept help, though, as I've started grocery shopping for two—or twenty. Yes, I'm hoarding food. It's not exactly a conscious thing, but since I'm at the store already, and buying one bag of brown rice pasta already, why not pick up, like, five more?

Baking is one of the most satisfying things I can imagine right now. Chocolate-chocolate chip cookies, strawberry-plum crisp, banana-bread muffins...I can't stop. I recently spent something like $80 stocking up on gluten-free flours and starches. Baking is usually a necessary evil in my world, like driving, but these past few days it has just felt right. Baking is what I'm doing and what my body is doing.

Thirty-Seven Weeks

After a much, much-needed haircut this weekend, I'm feeling surprisingly attractive for the first time in months. I'm not in an all-fire hurry for this pregnancy to end. I mean, yes, I'd like to be able to wear pants again and not sneeze-pee all over myself daily. But looks-wise, this isn't too bad.

Thirty-Seven Weeks

Thirty-Seven Weeks

Which brings me to a not really baby-related question: what mascara do you use? Finding a mascara I like almost guarantees that they will have stopped making it by the time I go to the store for more. Mascara is one cosmetic I never ever leave the house without. (Blond eyelashes, holla!) I anticipate that caring for a newborn will reduce my "face" routine to mascara, blush, and lip balm, so I need the good stuff. Preferably the cheap good stuff. What are your favorites?

For those who are curious, my search for a diaper backpack has ended. Stylish lady and mama-of-two Autumn pointed me towards the bag she carries. I love that it's unisex and handmade, and that I would totally wear the model's outfit.


P.S. Olive green goes with everything.


Every time I take Westley out somewhere, it occurs to me that this could be the last time. The next time, there might be a baby. That seems insane. Didn't I just hit my stride as a mother of one...last week? And now there's going to be another one?! There's something surreal about this time: watching Westley's days as an only child tick down, while not really knowing where the last edge is.

In a similar vein, Rob has started ending all his plans with "unless I'm on paternity leave."

Have I mentioned that Rob gets four whole weeks of PAID leave? And that all of the filling out of paperwork and getting approval for that went off without a hitch? Such a relief!

I've been getting major Braxton Hicks contractions for the past few days. They're much stronger than in weeks past, and my whole pelvic area feels kind of twinge-y, like things might be shifting around down there. I think the baby may have dropped a little, since my "belly shelf" seems to be further below my bra-line than it was last week. It's all very exciting.

My chiropractor, who is also a shaman (natch), thinks the baby is coming on Thursday.

Thirty-Seven Weeks


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tea, Flowers, and Sex


We have begun Operation: Evict the Baby.

I was very interested to hear my midwife's thoughts re: my suddenly-skinny fetus. Beth, ever sage, said she'd seen much scarier ultrasound reports. When I asked about possibly encouraging this little girl to come in the next few weeks, she said, "You're full-term. Go for it."

Nodding in Rob's direction, she added, "He has a natural prostaglandin-maker on his person."

And that's what I'm going to call it from now on.

As much as I want to try every labor-inducing trick I can think of right NOW, I know that no amount of my saying, "Into the world, child!" will make the baby come before she wants to. (I also think she's an August baby for sure.) Furthermore, natural induction methods do nothing if your body isn't ready.

So instead of thinking, "I'm going to jump-start this crazy thang!" I'm re-framing it as preparing my body for labor with red raspberry leaf, evening primrose oil, and as much oxytocin as we can generate.

Or a prescription for tea, flowers, and sex as, Désirée Fawn of So Fawned puts it—which sounds genuinely relaxing. And not at all like, Let's get this baby born before her due date OR ELSE!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Into the Closet

Planning a home birth means many things, but the one thing that has been consuming my thoughts most recently is this:

People will be in our house, and they will be looking in our closets!

On one hand, this feels like a totally ridiculous thing to obsess over. On the other hand, I don't want to look like a total disorganized slob while I'm having a baby. So a couple nights ago, I cleared out the bottom half of our hall closet and filled it with home birth equipment.

Birth Kit Closet

It's part nesting, part real preparation. Just looking at all those absorbent underpads and folded baby blankets makes me feel more ready.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Post-Kid Kitchen: Craving Crackdown and Some Things I've Been Eating

Not an apple fritter.

I was more than a little envious when Rob and Westley went on an early-morning coffee-and-donut date recently. An apple fritter sounded absolutely delicious, but our vegan donut place has not yet branched out into gluten-free-dom. (Some women with food sensitivities find they tolerate more things during pregnancy. I have done the gluten experiment, and I am not one of these lucky women.) Besides, I didn't want to butt in on Daddy-Westley time.

But I still wanted an apple fritter.

I've finally cracked the code on my pregnancy cravings, and it's fairly simple: not every "craving" is a pregnancy craving. Brie en croute, for example. I haven't eaten it since my wedding reception seven years ago, and I basically always want it, pregnant or not. Ergo, not a pregnancy craving. Ice cream, on the other hand, is firmly on my "pass" list. I don't usually care for it. But for a few weeks there, it was all I wanted to eat (especially Trader Joe's Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip, which we've taken to calling "Cherry Gorghadra"—because we love super narrow-audience humor).

And then there's fruit. I'm almost always down with fruit, but pregnancy has made my fondness for it ridiculous. I don't usually eat pounds of it in one sitting. We're talking two and three apples at a time.

Which brings us to my apple fritter-cure.

Baked Breakfast Apples
Serves 2 (or 1 pregnant woman)

2 Granny Smith apples
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 275 F. Peel, core and slice apples and arrange in an 8"x8" baking dish. Sprinkle apples with lemon juice. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle about half the mixture over the apples. Pinch off bits of coconut oil—pea-size or smaller—and arrange them over the top of the apple mixture. Top with remaining cinnamon-sugar. Bake 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Baked Apple Slices

* * *

Overall, I haven't been very interested in food lately. Cooking and eating both seem like so much effort.  I've been falling back on easy, throw-it-in-the-oven-and-forget-about-it meals. The Forty-Clove Chickpeas and Broccoli from Appetite for Reduction has gotten a lot of play, and we've had pancakes for dinner more than a few times. Easy, comforting foods are my culinary touchstone.

Chickpea-Broccoli Casserole from Vegan with a Vengeance:

Chickpea-Broccoli Casserole

I substitute cooked quinoa for the breadcrumbs in this and other casserole recipes, and it works really well.

Cucumber-tomato salad, a favorite from my childhood, with homemade gluten-free vegan sausages and mashed potatoes:

Dinner in Progress

I was photographing my food, and Westley wanted me to take a picture of his dinner also:

Dinner in Progress

And I can't stop baking muffins. I use the recipe for leftover fruit and vegetable muffins almost exclusively. These are strawberry-lemon-poppyseed. I don't know why this combination isn't standard in coffee shops everywhere:

Strawberry-Lemon-Poppyseed Muffins


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More Weighty Issues

My baby is too thin.

This isn't what I was hoping to hear today, but the news wasn't surprising either. After all of my bellyaching over gaining weight during pregnancy and trying to fit into the magical 25-35 pound range, I've gained almost nothing over the past month. While I'm sure the whole pound-a-week in your third trimester is equivalent to the centimeter-per-hour dilation in labor thing (that is, complete bullshit your mileage may vary), I also know that this is when the baby is supposed to be putting on most of her weight. And according to today's growth scan, she's not measuring up.

The baby's head, arms, and legs are where they're supposed to be, but her tummy measurement is almost three weeks behind. She's tall and skinny. Perfect for shopping at a sample sale. Not so great if you're a fetus.

The good news is that everything else looks beautiful. When a baby in utero stops growing in proportion to herself, doctors look for high blood pressure in the mother (nope) and signs that the placenta is starting to deteriorate (none). The baby is energetic, and her practice breathing looks beautiful. But it would still probably be in this little one's best interest to get her out in the next few weeks.

Dr. K. was very quick to mention that the baby isn't in any danger. She didn't seem worried, but I could feel her curiosity-bordering-on-concern as she double-checked the sonographer's measurements.

"You're lean," she said. "It could just be her build."


She weighed nearly 5 lbs. four weeks ago. Today, she's 6 lbs. 1 oz.

As I left the hospital parking lot, I reflected on how skinny Westley looked when he was born. I wondered if maybe this is just the growth pattern my babies follow, and we just never knew with Westley because my prenatal care wasn't nearly as high-tech. (Of course there's no way to know now.) I also reflected on my long mental list of the natural induction methods.

Just last night Rob and I were laughing about people's odd inclination to ask expectant couples things like, "So...any idea when the baby'll come?"

The baby will come when she's good and ready, I always want to say.

I still trust that answer. I just hope she gets ready soon.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Thirty-Six Weeks

Thirty-Six Weeks

I was on the verge of tears at 5:30 AM this morning. It seemed so unfair that it was morning already, when I swore I'd just closed my eyes. Rob was prepared to let me sleep in, but sound carries through our house like crazy. Rob is usually so quiet you'd never know he was here, but once Westley is up, the bedtime game is over. Those tiny feet on the hardwood sound like Bigfoot plodding around, and Westley's cough shakes the windows. (He's sick again or possibly still.)

Being tired all the time, even after what should be a full night's sleep, is its own special kind of tired. It's the "I will never feel like myself again, ever" tired. When I feel rested, I can handle anything. It's a dirty trick that these last few weeks of pregnancy are all about disrupted sleep. Evening workouts with cal-mag supplement and passionflower tincture chaser are a much better cure for insomnia than the late-night Food Network programming I watched while pregnant with Westley, but there's really no escaping the tiredness at this point. I'm worried about possibly having to face labor head-on in my current state of exhaustion.

The baby is up to something. I've been feeling more big, sweeping movements this week. Over the past few days, the downward pressure has gotten to the point that I can't make it go away by resting or changing positions. I have to watch myself, though. Every time I moan a little because the baby is pushing on something in a not-so-comfortable-for-me way, Rob looks VERY CONCERNED.

Thirty-Six Weeks

It's fine, I tell him. Just getting ready.

"Just as long as she waits 'til Thursday," he says nervously. (July 26 is the soonest the baby could be safely born at home. We'll both feel more relaxed when we're past that date.)

Tomorrow is (what I hope will be) my final ultrasound. We'll find out how the baby is growing, and what my cervix is doing. I'm especially interested in the baby-growth part, since I've managed to gain almost no weight this entire month. And I keep having this insane idea that the sonographer will suddenly tell me we're having a boy.

* * *

Rob and I had One Last Night Out on Saturday. Being hugely pregnant in a bar is an interesting experience. I thought about ordering a whiskey sour but chickened out. I ended up with a mocktail that tasted like a Slurpee would taste if it had real fruit in it, and matched my outfit exactly.


We didn't just belly up to the bar, as it were. We saw the opening performance of Rent at the 5th Avenue Theatre. I don't know whether it was this particular production or the 16-year-old play itself, but the whole thing really felt like a period piece.

On Sunday, it was back to business. My dad came over with pumps and hoses and compressors and we tested out the birth pool. My dad did an incredible job cleaning and packing up the pool after Westley's birth. It looked absolutely pristine and brand new when we set it up!

Birth Pool Trial Run

It wasn't nearly warm enough outside to climb in and really test the pool out, but Westley still had a good time playing with the hoses. And part of our back yard is now a swamp.

Birth Pool Trial Run

* * *

Oh, hey! Guess what? This dress is actually maternity! It's one of the few things that I saved from my first pregnancy. Not the most attractive thing I own, but at least it fits.

Thirty-Six Weeks

I'm so over clothes at this point, but can't quite bring myself to pose in the ensemble I typically wear around the house: a pair of seven-year-old knee-length knit workout pants (with bleach stains and holes in the butt, of course), and one of Rob's T-shirts. Even that's not really comfortable, per se.

My wardrobe options are disappearing, and my bellybutton is trying to turn itself inside out. It can't be much longer now.

Thirty-Six Weeks


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nest This Mess


Baby girl is not going to have a nursery, which has me feeling both sad and relieved. I love the idea of decorating a space especially for this special little one. But only the idea. Actually decorating any space completely overwhelms me.

When it comes to interior design, I am a total dunce. Half the time, I don't even know what I like! I adore how things look in showrooms and catalogs—often just because they're in showrooms and catalogs. When everything has been arranged by people whose job it is to make you fall in love with objects (whether they're gazillion-dollar, one-of-a-kind treasures or affordable pieces of Swedish particleboard) I can't help but swoon. I'm easy. Even if you go in with some design know-how and a clear sense of style, showrooms aren't playing fair, with their sky-high ceilings and luxurious square footage.

Our little house was built in 1970. It has popcorn ceilings and teensy rooms. The "master" bedroom is big enough to accommodate a king-size bed...and nothing else. The playroom, which would be the nursery if there were going to be a nursery, is barely nine feet square. And it's a huge problem.



Since we moved into the house two-and-a-half years ago, this little "bed"room has functioned as a poorly organized walk-in toy closet. We experimented with putting a daybed in it, but that somehow made the room feel more closet-like, not less. My dad recently helped me swap the playroom shelving unit with the bookshelf from Westley's room, which made some difference. (Both shelving units have been pushed back into the rooms' closets, creating a touch more floor space.) But that was just a start.

The playroom will have to become shared space before too long. It's currently the only room in the house with space for a dresser and diaper pail. And I decided that as long as I was cleaning and organizing the playroom, I'd add a nursing-friendly chair and swap in the curtains that have been sitting in the linen closet for ages.

It's already much better.


(Now with the flash, so you can actually see it.)



There's not a lot going on, but at least most of the toys have a place to live and we can actually see the carpet again. And even though you can't tell, I fixed the dresser. Go me.

The playroom/not-really-a-nursery is definitely a work in progress. There's no telling how much of that progress will get progressed before the baby is born. In any case, this is probably the first of many nesting progress reports.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cloth TP FAQ

Cloth TP

When I mentioned cloth toilet paper* in the context of postpartum perineal care, I should have guessed there would be questions.

*Many advocates of reusable toilet paper refer to it as "family cloth." That phrase seems a little precious and euphemistic to me somehow. I prefer "cloth toilet paper," or even more simply, "wipers." That's what we call them around the house, as in, "Can you get the wipers out of the dryer?" But type "family cloth" into a search engine and you'll get all kinds of useful anecdotes and information about how, when, and why people made the switch.

If you have a question that I don't address here, leave it in the comments, and I'll update this Q&A to include it.

* * *

You use cloth toilet paper? Really?
Yes, I really do. It wasn't a big mental stretch for me to make the switch.

I grew up with a mom who never used paper towels, opting instead for kitchen towels and old washcloths to do the clean-up. We always had cloth napkins and place mats on the table. And I started flirting around with cloth menstrual pads and sea sponge tampons in high school.

Yeah, but that's not the same as toilet paper.
Of course tabletop, housecleaning, and period-time needs aren't the same as toilet paper. I mention it because the idea of wash-and-reuse cloth stuff has seemed normal to me for as long as I can remember. In fact, as a child I was a bit scandalized by the ubiquitousness of paper towels despite their obvious waste.

Westley was cloth diapered for his entire diapering "career." It didn't occur to me to use cloth wipes on him right away, but I found disposable wipes so unnatural-seeming (even the "all-natural" ones). And they were pricey! Really pricey if a brand new package got left open by accident, and ended up drying out and needing to be replaced. So I started using cloth wipers on the baby.

When the baby turned into a boy who potty-trained himself but still needed help wiping, I moved the wipers to the bathroom. It honestly never occurred to me to start wiping him with toilet paper just because he was no longer using a diaper! And once the wipers were in the bathroom, I decided to try them out on myself.

What are the wipers made of?
Mine are made from two rectangles of cotton flannel surged together for extra thickness, and so there's no "wrong" side. I didn't make them, but if you're at all handy with a sewing machine, making wipers like this would be very simple—and a great way to upcycle some receiving blankets.

I also have a few bumGenius flannel baby wipes, but I don't like them as well.

How big are they?
The two-ply flannel wipes aren't all exactly the same size, but the biggest ones are about 6 inches square.

The bumGenius wipes are larger, closer to washcloth size. They're a little on the large in my opinion, and better suited to being used as handkerchiefs.

How long do they last?
Many of our wipers are almost four years old, and they're just now starting to wear out.

Where do you store the cloth before and after use?

Cloth TP

Clean, dry cloths live on a plate on the bathroom counter, between the toilet and the sink. For a while, when we still had a diaper pail for overnight diapers, we were shuttling the wipers out to the diaper pail (in the garage) after use. Our house is small, but the trip still made using cloth seem like extra work. Now we have a thrifted ceramic cookie jar for used wipes.

How much more laundry is it?
Not so's you'd notice. You know how you can always squeeze a few extra socks and pairs of underwear in an already-full load of laundry? It's the same with cloth wipes. I wash them every two days, with the other "heavy duty" laundry (workout and play clothes, for example). I wash on hot, tumble dry on warm.

What about stains?
Nothing major. The flannel wipes are all busy prints, which hide stains well (even after four years of use). Also, I use Charlie's Soap for all of our laundry. It's diaper-friendly and gets everything really clean.

If the idea of staining is the only thing keeping you from using cloth, just get yourself some dark-colored wipers!

Is there a smell?
I haven't noticed any smell. The clean wipes smell like nothing at all. The used ones can be a little stinky when you're moving them from the jar to the washer, but nothing like an overnight cloth diaper! And the jar doesn't stink up the bathroom either.

What do guests think?
I have no idea. No one has said anything to me. (The idea of someone walking into our bathroom and being totally baffled by the cloth set-up always makes me think of the three seashells from Demolition Man.) Oh, and there is a roll of regular toilet paper on the toilet paper dispenser.

I've noticed that [Big Box Store] sells 12 washcloths for $4.99. They come in white and several cool colors! Can I use those?
You can, but it will hurt. Your butthole deserves better. Get something soft. Those cheap washcloths are great for kitchen clean-up instead of paper towels, though! (You're not still using paper towels, are you?)

I know you're all about loving Mother Earth, and that's great, but isn't this a little...over the top?
I'm not sure I understand what you're asking me. Toilet paper comes from trees, and each roll of takes water, heat, and chemicals to make. Yes, you're using water to wash cloth wipes, but you can wash them in loads of laundry you're already doing. If you've ever diapered a solid-food-eating child, you've dealt with way worse in terms of poop—

Yeah, about that...
You really want to ask me about poop, don't you?

I really, really, really want to ask you about poop. Do you...? I mean... It's POOP!
True. And thanks to Japan, we know that Everyone Poops. But everyone's poop and everyone's tolerance for poop varies. I get that.

In my experience, very little poop touches the wipers. It's nothing like the amount of poop that gets on a cloth diaper, for example. If you've ever washed a diaper (or a didn't-quite-make-it-on-time pair of toddler undies) at home, you've dealt with much worse, I assure you!

I've noticed that people who are really skeeved out by the poop aspect of cloth TP struggle with the idea of "adult poop." The difference between "kid poop" and "adult poop" is in our minds. If your kid eats what you eat, she poops what you poop. In fact, I think my child's poops are probably grosser than my partner's and mine. He's not as reliable about eating raw vegetables and drinking water!

Lastly, I'm not going to get all "Dr. Stool" on you, but if your poop is really, really foul, you might want to see someone about that.

Okay, if that's the way you insist on being, I can't help you.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Baby Man

Serious, Muscles

This morning while hustling us out the door, I defaulted to a nickname I haven't used for Westley in a long time.

"Let's go, Baby Man!"

As soon as I said it, I realized how stupid it sounded. So I backpedaled. "Wait, that's silly. You're not a baby..."

Westley just looked at me with his Giant Eyes of Infinite Patience for Maternal Crazy.

"You can just call me Westley."


Thirty-Five Weeks

Thirty-Five Weeks

Hello, and welcome to Eight Months Pregnant!

Thirty-Five Weeks

Thirty-five weeks feels waaay pregnanter than 34 weeks. I know it's just seven days difference, but the shift is huge. Maybe those days were longer somehow. It could be. Pregnancy time is not normal person time, after all.

Time is speeding up faster than I can adjust my internal clock. The number of people asking me when I'm due spiked this week. I've been telling them, "In about five weeks," which is true. But I was thinking—in the slow part of my head—that five weeks is about two months. News flash: it's not. It's closer to one month.

With time speeding up, I'm acutely aware that it is also running out. There is just more to do each day than I have the hours (or the energy) to tackle. I can't decide if there's actually more work to do right now, or if some kind of overactive nesting instinct is making me see dirt and clutter that I used to be able to ignore.

Thirty-Five Weeks

Yesterday morning, I got out the cold cream to remove (what I thought was) leftover mascara that had settled under my eyes during the night. A slathering of Pond's and a warm washcloth later, I realized the discoloration was all me. It might be time to start okaying extra movie-watching time for Westley and insisting on a daily nap for myself.

On the topic of movies, I no longer have any desire to watch them. For one thing, an hour and a half (or more) in any one chair is just too much. Between my uterus extending up under my ribcage and having a pointy little butt wedged into my diaphragm, sitting gets uncomfortable fast. For another, my brain is just so foggy that following any narrative is more business than pleasure. My attention-span is YouTube shaped.

Thirty-Five Weeks

Brain-wise, I'm here one day and gone the next. Body-wise, things have been pretty even. My weight hasn't really increased for the past three weeks (I'm hovering at 28-29 pounds gained), but I still outgrow an item or two each week. I was glad to find this dress, which I purchased last-minute for Westley's baptism, still lurking in my closet. Like most of my pregnancy wardrobe, it's not maternity, but it is a size bigger than normal. And it fits in nicely with this trimester's (accidental) theme of stretchy prints. I am starting to feel a little upholstered, wearing so much floral print all the time.

Overall, I'm still pretty comfortable, as long as I don't sit too long, walk too much, or try to squeeze into pants. (There's no pants like no pants!) By far the strangest new body discomfort here in third-trimester land has to do with my feet. If they're swollen I haven't noticed. But they are consistently already tired when I wake up in the morning. I feel like I've walked seven miles by 7:30 AM. Yesterday, the tired feeling started in my feet and extended up my calves. Extra water and an arnica cream leg massage from Rob helped a little.

Speaking of Rob, I need to thank him publicly for being an awesome human being. He's not getting much more sleep than I am, but he somehow manages to whisk Westley off on all-morning adventures every weekend without so much as a grumpy expression. He's beyond patient with my sudden weirdness about food. (In short, I now hate almost everything.) And every time I take my shirt off in front of him, he goes, "Look at that belly!" Like it's the greatest thing he's ever seen.

Thirty-Five Weeks


Friday, July 13, 2012

Taint Misbehavin'

This is probably the worst title I have ever used for anything. But once I thought of it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I normally just say "perineum"—but I've been getting it wrong. (It's per-uh-NEE-uhm, not per-EN-ee-uhm. And while confirming this, I also learned that the anterior part of the perineum is called the "urogenital triangle"...where very small ships disappear under mysterious circumstances.) But if taint is good enough for Ina May, it's good enough for me.

Oh, in case you hadn't caught on already, I'm going to be talking about vulvas and vaginas and other private parts for the next several paragraphs.

* * *

Thirty-four weeks pregnant is a big week for the taint. This is when you can begin daily perineal massage if you're so inclined. The idea is to prepare your tissues for childbirth—or at least familiarize you and your nether regions with a stinging, stretching sensation. There are instructions for perineal massage in The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, and all over the Internet. Your midwife might even give you a perineal massage handout, complete with awkward diagrams!

I am a big advocate of perineal massage. Even if it doesn't reduce the likelihood that you'll tear during delivery, touching an area of your body that a.) probably doesn't get a lot of touch to begin with, b.) holds a lot of tension in general but especially while you're pregnant, and c.) sees a bunch of action when there's a baby emerging from you is great childbirth preparation. In fact, the sensation of the baby crowning was the ONE aspect of birth that I felt genuinely prepared for.

Unfortunately, I did tear a little with Westley's birth. Fortunately, it wasn't the scary downward, vagina-to-rectum tear I had worried about. It was more like I skinned my vulva's left knee. My midwife offered to stitch it "for cosmetic reasons"—my left inner labia tore in half—but I was high on oxytocin and all, "Nah, whatever, an asymmetrical pussy never hurt anyone."

Except it totally hurt. For little a while. That part I was not prepared for. I naively thought that once the baby was out, the pain went away.

This time I know better, and I'm researching my postpartum perineal care options. I see lots of birthy people advocating frozen pads. And with all due respect to ice and its healing properties, oh, hellllll no. My physical therapist was always trying to get me to put cold packs on my lower back for swelling, and that seemed too uncomfortable. So a padsicle between my legs after birth? Never going to happen.

Instead, here's what I have lined up for my down south.

Peri Bottle Herb Tea

I've mentioned my love the peri bottle before. The first time, I just filled it with warm water and sprayed myself down every time I used the toilet. It was the only way I could get comfortable enough to pee. This time, I'm planning to make a big batch of chamomile-comfrey "tea" to use as a perineal rinse. I'm thinking about a handful each of comfrey leaves and calendula flowers steeped in half a gallon or so of water (maybe as a labor project).

Sitz Baths

I didn't do these after Westley's birth because we didn't have a tub. I know you can buy those little portable sitz bath seats that go over the toilet, but that kind of speciality medical gear makes me feel very...I don't know, injured? Which I guess I was after forcefully pushing out an almost eight-pound baby.

Anyway, there are dozens of recipes for herbal postpartum sitz baths, all slightly different. (But only slightly.) The one I plan to use is similar to a prepared mixture recommended by my midwives.

1/2 cup comfrey leaves 
1/4 cup uvi ursi leaves 
1/4 cup shepherd’s purse 
1/4 cup calendula flowers
1/2 cup sea salt 
1/4 cup lavender flowers 
1/8 cup myrrh 
1/2 gallon water 

Mix herbs and salt together in a heat-proof jar. Bring water to a boil and pour over mixture. Cover and let steep at least 30 minutes, or up to two hours. Strain the resulting tea and refrigerate (if preparing ahead of time). Pour 2 cups into a shallow bath or portable sitz bath. Store unused portion in the refrigerator.

Arnica Montana 200C

I love arnica for overworked muscles, and it's great for swelling and bruising too. Done.

Cloth TP

Oh yes we did.

To be fair, switching over to cloth toilet "paper" has been a gradual process. When Westley potty-trained himself, I moved the stash of cloth diaper wipes to the bathroom. Cloth, especially when slightly damp, got him cleaner faster. Once cloth was convenient, I found myself using it too, off and on.

Cloth TP System
I don't know what took me so long, but about a month ago, I challenged myself to use only cloth in the bathroom. I already use cloth for everything else, so why not? And let me tell you, I am never going back to toilet paper! With the addition of witch hazel, cloth TP even seems to be helping my pregnancy-grade hemorrhoids settle down.

Cloth wipes (sprayed with a combination of witch hazel and lavender essential oil, if you're feeling sassy) might just be a postpartum care secret weapon. Show your perineum some love!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Backpack to the Future

I am newly obsessed with finding something to replace my totally awesome diaper bag.

The first Christmas Rob and I were married, he gave me a large Queen Bee "Trucker" bag and I loved it—except that it wasn't lined and there weren't any pockets inside. (This was back in the day. New Queen Bee Truckers are lined with water-resistant nylon and have an interior pocket.) Still, I raved about it: perfect size, rain-resistant, basically indestructible...

I raved so much that when Rob needed a new work bag, he chose one of Queen Bee's Chickpea "Trucker" diaper bags in the now-retired Minima, a.k.a. decidedly not-flowery, design.


My child-free self got a kick out of Rob hauling a diaper bag to and from the office, even though the "diaper" part was really just code for "water-resistant lining and lots of pockets inside."

After Westley was born, I used my Trucker as a diaper bag, and it was great. It's still great. I highly recommend Queen Bee Creations to anyone searching for a mom/dad/kid bag that will last forever (mine is approaching seven years old and looks almost new) and hold all your shit. I wouldn't be searching for something new at all except my body demands it.

As much as I love the enormous-purse-in-lieu-of-diaper-bag concept, I can't do the cross-body or one-shoulder thing anymore. My back is just too picky. And with a baby, a child, and myself to haul around stuff for, possible injury via an overstuffed tote is a real concern.

Enter my new obsession: a diaper backpack. Good weight-distribution, plus I can wear it while also wearing the little one in the Ergo. Awesome idea! Unfortunately, almost everything that calls itself a "diaper backpack" is...not cute. The only official diaper backpack I kind of dig is this one, which is just a touch too utilitarian-looking.

"Tactical Tote" — Scout by PPB


This one might go too far in the opposite aesthetic direction.

"Floral World Backpack" — Oilily (also responsible for this adorable baby dress)


My beloved Queen Bee just started making a backpack. It's adorable and comes in lots of colors! Yay! But it's too small for my purposes. Non-yay.

"Billy Backpack" — Queen Bee Creations


My current front-runner is this one, though I'm just not sure about it. The price is great (under $70.00), but I can't decide if I think it looks cheap.

"Sand Gestures Bag" — ModCloth
Shoulder bag
I just don't know.

I know I need a backpack to make gear-hauling easier and less painful. And it needs to be on the large side. And I'd vastly prefer something attractive enough that I'd happily carry it even if I didn't have a day's worth of cloth diapers and snacks on board.

Please tell me this is not beyond the realm of possibility.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Thirty-Four Weeks

Thirty-Four Weeks

It's not just sex. I've lost the ability to enjoy anything.

Sundays are often challenging around here, when everyone is tired and cranky after a Saturday of "togetherness" and a poor night of sleep. (Rob and I still have this crazy idea that we can stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights, like normal, non-child-having people. It doesn't matter that 10:30 is the new "late." We never get enough sleep. Westley still climbs into bed with us—and thrashes around—every. single. morning. Sometimes it's at the reasonable hour of 5:30 AM. Other times, it's 3:00. On Saturday night, I was just drifting off to sleep around 11:00 PM when he came padding in. I promptly got up and spent the night in his bed. Practically the next thing I knew it was "morning," and Westley had hauled out all his musical instruments for a sunrise concert. And if anyone says anything to me about real sleep deprivation, or how the tiredness is only going to get worse, I will belt that person. Or at least "unfriend" her.) Yesterday, we were going to nip the Sunday Blues in the bud by having a family meeting and Problem Solving. With a 4-1/2-year-old. Because we are delusional. (See also the previous parenthetical essay on sleep troubles.) I asked Westley what fun thing he would like to do for the day, and wrote down his answer—a very official family meeting tactic indeed. Then I asked Rob what he would like to do, and wrote down his answer. When it was my turn, Rob took over the asking, but I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to do. Not one! I couldn't even think of anything extravagant and impossible. I just sat there, staring at the guys.

You know what I finally settled on—because they were staring back at me, waiting for an answer so we could get on with our stupid family meeting? "Something outside."

Something outside. It wasn't even a "thing," and I didn't really want to do it. But the sunlight was coming in through the blinds being all beautiful and Casablanca-esque, and you're supposed to go outside when it's clear and summery. Especially when you've been hoping for this weather since January. I answered out of desperation and guilt.

Thirty-Four Weeks

The real problem is that when I sit quietly without my family staring at me, I still can't think of anything that I would enjoy doing. Every idea I have gets dismissed on the grounds that it is either way too much work, or it costs a gazillion dollars.

Having this baby is going to cost us a gazillion dollars. The issues with insurance that came up three years ago when we were merely considering possibly maybe having another child are in full swing. Our health insurance does not cover our wonderful midwives. It does not cover home birth. Insurance certainly does not cover food-based vegetarian supplements, herbal tinctures, placenta encapsulation, shamanic healing, postpartum binders, on-call lactation support, or any of the other measures I'm putting in place to keep myself healthy and relatively sane. There are not words to express my gratitude and relief that insurance does cover bi-weekly transvaginal ultrasounds and perinatology appointments. If it didn't, we'd probably have to sell everything we own and move to a tiny house in the woods.

For the record, I'm sure Westley's birth also cost a gazillion dollars, but somehow I didn't notice. Things were much more shaky then. Now we have an actual savings account that, in my role as family treasurer and budgetrix, I get to watch waste away month after month.

Thirty-Four Weeks

Focusing on our finances and the worry that it stirs up in me is a fantastic distraction from so many things. Mostly it keeps me away from my sudden horror at the idea of going through labor again. I know I can do it—I do have a kid now, after all—but wow did the whole thing suck the first time! And recovery? Some days I think I'm still recovering.

I'm supposed to have a birth plan ready for an appointment on Wednesday. And I just...I don't even know. I think written birth plans are kind of stupid. Especially when you have a skilled, low-profile, home birth midwife whom you love to the ends of the Earth (and who seems to think pretty highly of you and your ability to grow and birth babies). Anything I would write down in a birth plan, or a birth "wish list" or "list of birth preferences" if you prefer, is something my midwives are already on board with. That's why they're my midwives! And that's why it's worth it that Rob and I are paying out-of-pocket for my prenatal and postpartum care.

But since I do my best to complete my assignments, here's my birth plan:

Go into labor.
Push out baby.
Cuddle and breastfeed baby.
Take a nap.

That last one may or may not happen, and that's fine. And if I end up with a hospital transport, it will be because the baby or I need special attention. Because things didn't go as planned. Writing up a "hospital birth plan, just in case" seems like a complete waste of time.

If I seem extra cantankerous, it's because my feelings towards life in general have been very negative lately, despite my best efforts. I don't know whether it's lack of restful sleep mixing with pregnancy hormones, or if this is just what "over it" feels like.

Thirty-Four Weeks

The good news—and there is some—is that I'm still doing awesome, health-wise. I'm too big for most of my clothes (hence this week's fall outfit), and I get the teeniest bit of heartburn now and then. Today was the first instance of having to encourage my ring to slide on, but it does still fit! I alternate between completely famished and, "Food? What's that?" And I've eased way up on concerns over the stuff we'll need once the baby arrives. (Except for a diaper bag. I'm suddenly obsessed with what to do about a diaper bag. But that's its own story.) I have also received some lovely care packages from friends in other time zones, which almost makes up for the "all alone, so, so alone" feelings of last week.

Despite fears about Labor: Round Two, and the possibility of Postpartum Depression: The Revenge, I'm actually pretty excited to go through it all again. It makes no sense to me that I'm excited. It's not a sane kind of excitement, that's for sure. But here we are.

Thirty-Four Weeks