Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Quick, while she's sleeping.

Signs that you may be on heavy pain medication and/or the sleep-deprived mother of a newborn:

In the middle of the night, you try to drink from the moisturizer instead of the water bottle.

You cannot subtract 15 from 36 without a pencil and some paper.

Your first taste of non-hospital food almost makes you cry with its goodness.

(Baby girl. Born at 2:30 am on June 18. Everyone now delighted and happy and healthy and home.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Month Nine: Evolution

In the first part of my pregnancy, as I was excitedly watching my body's appearance change, I had a little sadness in the back of my mind for the old body I'd never see again. It made me feel silly to be diluting my joy with vanity, but it was like saying goodbye to a friend, knowing I'd see them again eventually, but that things would always be different.

Well, nature has an answer for those mixed feelings. It's called the ninth month. Now the way my body will look after pregnancy seems inconsequential compared to how my body will feel. I'm no longer fazed by the prospect of the new squishier me. I'm instead completely captivated by the idea that one day, I'll again be able to run up a flight of stairs, walk a brisk mile or two on a whim, and even roll over in bed without first planning a strategy.

These feats all seem especially miraculous because there's a little, primitive part of my brain that believes that I will be pregnant forever; that maternity clothes will be my permanent wardrobe, that my feet will forever be strangers to me, that I'll always be this awkward and feeble.

Fitting into my skinny jeans by Christmas? Whatever. The ability to lift and tote and bend and jog? Yes, please! Oh, please. And soon. Please.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Month Nine: What? This is the Easy Part?

When I was trying to get pregnant, I was worried. Would it take a long time? Would I be able to? The waiting was stressful, and I was intent on our goal. I had this idea that once I was pregnant, I could relax and everything would be fine.

And then we found out I was pregnant! Hooray! We were both excited, I was relieved, and I did relax. For about a week. And then I started worrying about the baby. Was it okay in there? How about now? And now? Now? Each time we passed a milestone (end of the first trimester at 12 weeks, 20 week scan, viability at 26 weeks, full-term at 37 weeks), I'd again be relieved and happy, with relief and happiness giving way to worry again eventually.

I feel silly worrying so much, since I know we've been very lucky so far, and there's no sign that anything's wrong, but while I can turn down the worry, I can't shut it off completely.

And now, with birth coming so soon, I have this feeling that I'll finally be able to stop worrying once she's born. We'll hold her in our arms and everything will get better and easier and less scary.


I am delusional.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Month Nine: Small Scare (No Suspense, Happy Ending Edition)

By now, the birth is getting so close we're going to see the midwife every week. Wednesday's visit was shaping up to be routine, until the nurse looked at my blood pressure and said calmly, "I think I'll just check your other arm." It has been routinely 120/80 for months, but Wednesday it was 138/90. On both arms.

That means one of two things: either I have high blood pressure from gaining 25 pounds in six months and running around like a headless chicken, or I have high blood pressure from pre-eclampsia, a reaction some women's bodies have to pregnancy. The cure for the first is pretty much just to chill out already. The cure for the latter is to induce labor and deliver the baby.

So they had to figure out which one it was. This got me a ticket to the lab to test various bodily fluids and also something called a Non-Stress Test, which, let me tell you, is badly named. It was stressful. The wires and printouts and monitors were bad enough, but the absolute worst part was when the nurse had to hunt around, looking for and not finding the baby's heartbeat. It probably took her 30 seconds, but it was not a reassuring moment. She finally found it, strapped me to the various devices, and left us to our appointed jobs for 20 minutes: baby to happily kick and squirm, mother to freak right out, and father to remain calm, tell a few jokes, and make conversation in a casual and reassuring way. We all performed exactly as described.

The midwife came in to review the printout, and said the best words ever: "That's a very happy baby. Just what we like to see. She's doing great."

So, while we're still waiting for the lab results, things look fine. I've been taking it easy and checking my blood pressure at home (it's gone and stayed back down a bit) and even bad news from the lab wouldn't be too bad. It might just speed up the baby-getting timetable a little, which is fine, since I'm almost 39 weeks along.

The really good news is that the baby is head-down and starting to engage, and I'm 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. If you don't know what any of that means, that's okay. You can just move right along and think no more about my innards. It's good news.

And the less-important-but-still-good news is that I have official medical advice to: "Lie down, rest, eat bonbons, and read." Well, okay.

Update: For the third time in the last couple months, the lab results are... mixed. They need some more absolutist lab techs over there, if you ask me. People who can really commit to a one decision or another, and stay the course, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. It's a great way to run a country, right? So it would be for medical care. Oh, wait. Never mind.

So, mixed results. They'll retest on Friday. Keep up with the feet up and the bonbons. Check.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Month Nine: Maybe I'll See Her at Naptime

My dreams are usually swashbuckling adventures, with lots of running and hiding and good guys and bad guys, but pregnancy changes your dream life as well as your waking life. Last night, I dreamed about my grandmother for the first time since shortly after she died, seven years ago. In the dream, it was morning, and I was going to take her a cup of coffee, a piece of leftover birthday cake (whose, I don't know) and the newspaper. She phoned down to the kitchen from her room and we chatted a bit. Eventually, she sweetly asked for a cup of tea and a novel instead, if it wasn't too much trouble.

It was really nice to dream about her again, but the downside of pregnancy dreams is that they're often interrupted. My pregnant self woke up to go to the bathroom before my dream self made it up the stairs with a cup of tea, a cup of coffee (one for her, one for me?), and a pile of books.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Month Nine: Maybe This Will Be My Eggplant Casserole

There are many steps along the path to motherhood. The biggest one, of course, will be some time this month, but there are also more subtle shifts. For example, an interest in trying a recipe that looks like this one.

Month Nine: FAQ

People keep asking me the due date, which is a natural thing to ask a woman who looks like I do, but I'm trying not to dwell on it. All the books like to remind me that the due date is a bit of a shot in the dark, and that the most specific prediction we can really make is that the baby will probably come sometime between week 38 and week 42. Beyond that, there's no saying with any more certainty (after week 42, though, they get out the crowbar. Or something).

I'm officially 38 weeks today, which puts me in kind of a funny place between gearing up and trying to stay patient. It's hard to hold both "any day now" and "maybe not for another month" in my head at once.

But it does make sense to approach it this way. It's like having a soft opening for a restaurant: you get ready, you see if what you think is ready actually is ready, you have a chance to get a little more ready, and then you see how that seems before things get all official.

So we've been doing all kinds of ready-getting. My nesting instinct has been satisfied by a pretty motley collection of accomplishments. We weeded and mulched the backyard, we got the car detailed, we planted some annuals, we got a huge stack of kids' books at a baby shower, I washed and stacked lots of ridiculously small cotton items, I cleaned out my office, we installed the car seat, I organized the basement, we took a carload of castoffs to the Salvation Army, we hung a new laundry line, and I made six casseroles for the freezer. I realize that most of those things have nothing to do with keeping a newborn happy and well, but a primal need was satisfied all the same.

After they ask about the due date people then tend to ask, "And are you all ready with the nursery and everything?" with visions of matching curtains and dust ruffles and crib bumpers obviously dancing in their heads. And well, no. We're not. It still looks like a half-moved-into room, any matching that's going on is accidental, and frankly, that probably won't change much before she gets here. But, really, yes. Yes, we're ready. And if she waits another month to make her appearance, maybe we'll have regrouted the shower, cleaned the gutters, and fixed the porch step too, so we'll be even more ready.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Month Nine: Progress?

We've been watching a lot of old Star Trek in the evenings, after our nightly midwife-mandated creep around the block. It's been hot here, and there's something cooling about outer space and the future.

In addition to a wide and entertaining variety of Space Unitards and Space Cocktails, the show features Captain Picard, who likes to give orders with a stern, deep, "Engage."

Well, it finally feels like the baby's been listening.

Month Nine: Malachite

Although I grew up in the friendly south, where smiling at strangers on the street is a way of life, I've lived up north long enough to develop a stern don't-mess-with-me face that I wear when navigating urban crowds. It usually helps would-be solicitors pick someone else to approach, but it's not always effective.

The other day, despite my best efforts, a man gifted with hair and deprived of teeth came right up to me and said urgently, "Excuse me, miss? Miss? Excuse me?" I couldn't sidestep his persistence or his politeness, so I said, "Yes?" while, I admit, stepping back a bit and holding my bag a little tighter.

"Here, take this. It's malachite. It's good protection for your baby when she's born. Just keep it by her bed."

And he handed me a little green rock. As my brain hustled to accommodate this unexpected development, I realized that in every folk tale I'm aware of, when a scruffy stranger offers an unsolicited kindness to a pregnant woman, she'd best take it and be grateful, unless she wants her first-born child to have some sort of colorful life-long curse.

So I did take it, I was grateful, I thanked him sincerely, and he went on his way. The stone is now on my bedside table. I'm not usually superstitious, but there are some archetypes you just don't mess with.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Month Nine: The Open Mouths of Babes

At the pool, in my belly-friendly bikini, I apparently make quite a spectacle. Women smile, men try not to look alarmed, and kids just stare, gaping at my mass.

The other afternoon, I came out of a bathroom stall into the ladies changing room, and surprised two eight-year-old girls. They stopped mid-chatter, mouths open, and proceeded to follow me with huge eyes as I washed my hands, dried them, adjusted my suit, and made my way back out into the sun. I didn't mind the inspection, and would have happily answered any curious questions, but I think the visual was as much information as they could handle, if not quite a bit more.

Neighbors of ours who swim at the same pool, three and five-year old boys, know me better and aren't afraid to ask questions. So far, the favorites are, "Have you started cracking open yet?" and "When are you going to crack?" and, "Is the baby naked in there?" and "Are you sure it's a girl?" (the last very skeptically, with a wrinkled nose). The youngest likes to pat my belly, which is the sweetest thing ever, and once evolved into him gently patting it with his knuckles, which made his poor mother have a heart attack when she glanced over, and yelped, "No punching pregnant ladies in the belly!"

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Month Nine: I Chose a Pale Pink, Myself

Taking an infant first aid class at the hospital, we were surrounded by expectant women. They all looked to be about as pregnant as I am, which is to say, very. There was a wide cross-section, with people from all over the area, all over the economic spectrum, variously partnered and unpartnered, and of lots of ages, colors, and sizes (although there didn't happen to be any small women. Just large, larger, vast, and huge). But we were all learning about choking, bleeding, and anaphylactic shock together. And we'll all be mothers of infants pretty soon, and, based on a quick visual survey of all the toes I could see, none of us can reach our feet any more. I've never seen so many pedicures.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Her House Is On Fire, After All

I know that among my readers are a good many soft-hearted folks who are inclined to be friendly to helpful insects. Well, now's your big chance. The good sciency people of Cornell are trying to figure out how native ladybugs are doing all over the country (the answer so far? not that great). So they're soliciting photos of the ladybugs in your yard/garden/neighborhood. Catch some bugs, take their pictures, mention where and when you found them, and that can be your good deed for the summer. Cheap karma, if you ask me. More details here.

Month Nine: Gem├╝tlichkeit? Bildungsroman?

As I get more and more pregnant, and the summer wears on, people keep asking me with delighted looks, "So, how're you feeling now, pretty awful, right? All swollen? Can't sleep? Achy joints? Real cranky?" The long German word for this is schadenfreude, I think, but I don't know the long German word for how I feel, which is: pretty satisfied to be able to say right back, "Nope, I feel great, actually! Never better!"

And it's true, too, just as long as I don't try to do much and stay off my feet and take a daily nap or two and eat every couple hours and drink lots of water and take my vitamins.

So, yeah. Short answer: great. I feel great.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Month Nine: A Review of Fetal Development

Dear Baby,
My main cravings over the last eight months have been for fruit, and as the seasons have changed, so have the fruits. As you grew your various parts, month by month, I kept up with various fruits. I ate other things too, of course, but a lot of you is constructed out of produce. For future reference then, my dear, a list:

Your heart is made of apples.
Your bones are made of red grapefruit.
Your teeth are made of prunes.
Your fingertips are made of pineapple.
Your eyebrows are made of cantaloupe.
Your eyelashes are made of cherries.
Your chub is made of blueberries.
Your lungs are lined with peaches.

And everything is held together with cheese, almond butter, and ice cream sandwiches.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Month Eight: Famous Last Words

As you might guess from what I've been writing about lately (food, dinner, recipes, eating...), I've been feeling a lot more like myself lately. Still pregnant, but not particularly hampered by it. Maybe my best month of this whole thing so far. It's really only in the last week that I've started feeling like that very pregnant woman you see in movies and on TV: huffing and puffing, walking funny, finding any opportunity to put my swollen feet up, and going to the bathroom every half hour. But, still, I feel good as long as I don't try to do much.

This feeling-good, not-doing-much does not lend itself to Exciting Writing Topics, though, so I've limited myself to the always-reliable subject of food. However, I want to have a record of the happy-pregnant part of this process, and not just the dreary-pregnant part, so I'm going to try to up my writing frequency, which will probably result in a related increase in the why-would-anyone-care factor. You have been warned.

One recent accomplishment is worth noting, though. Not knowing anything 'bout birthin' no babies, we took a class. The aim of the class was to teach anxious yuppies how to relax enough so that their bodies could take over and do what they were made to do (see "birthin" above). The curriculum sounded great: a lot of emphasis on letting go of anxiety, relaxing muscles and positive thinking. And gravity. Gravity is your friend in labor, apparently. All of those sound like good tools for a natural labor and birth, right? Right! Except when the teacher is shriller than your high school gym teacher, more anxious than any of the aforementioned yuppies, and keeps barking, "RELAX!" and "NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS!" and "IT WILL BE PERFECT IF YOU JUST RELAX!" There was some serious message/messenger disharmony going on.

But in the end, it worked out just fine. We survived her drill-sergeant-style guided meditations, we practiced our calming breathing techniques, and we relaxed after every class by laughing at her teaching style. Our last class was a couple weeks ago, and it was a relief to be done. Now we just have labor and birth ahead of us. Piece of cake, I'm thinking.