Monday, April 30, 2007

Speak of Temptation...

The books have beckoned Peter from the time he could crawl:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I kept hoping he'd get tired of them.

Not so much.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A couple of weeks ago, I'd decided somethings gotta give. Tomorrow: find out The Great Solution.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sunday Brunch: Great Expectations

At a recent playgroup, the kids sat around a small table for a snack. One of the mothers put Peter in a chair, where he happily nibbled on a cookie.

I didn’t know Peter was ready for that. Not the cookie, that is, but the chair. I’d never tried it, since I pictured him flailing off the side or climbing on the table. Yet there he sat, calm as could be, as if he sat in a chair every day.

Maybe it’s a first-time mom thing, but I’ve always had trouble gauging Peter’s abilities. I’m just as quick to expect too much of him. When he wasn’t playing with his toys at 8 weeks old, I was nervous. Then I saw a normally-sized infant of the same age, and I understood: Peter could fill out a 6-9 month sleeper, but he was still a newborn.

Why does this matter? Discipline. When my 14-month-old goes to the forbidden drawer ten times in one hour, melts down for the fourth time in one day, and refuses to come when I call his name, I find myself asking whether I’ve asked too much… or not enough. A toddler’s life is one of temptation, and it’s my job to filter those temptations and to know when he’s crossed the line.

I want to parent like my heavenly Father, who respects me enough to expect my obedience—yet who also doesn’t allow me to be tempted beyond my abilities. As Paul says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (I Corinthians 10:13).

Am I doing the same for Peter?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Before I Get Off My Soapbox, One More Thing...

I’m wary of marriage advice that treats children as impediments rather than blessings. Thus I find myself defending things like the family bed or a lack of date night.

That being said: I do believe it’s possible to let children come between you and your spouse. I’ve seen it happen. Many times. Sometimes, I guess, it happens because the marriage was shaky even before babies. Other times, I imagine couples grow apart, and the kids are a nice distraction. Next thing you know you’re planning elaborate celebrations for your child’s birthday while your wedding anniversary goes by with little notice.

It’s easy to think “It could never happen to me.” Do people see the headlights before the train?

I don’t know. So I will watch my marriage with vigilance.

I want to honor my wedding vows in deed—and in heart. I want for Tom and me to have the sort of solidarity that our children can clearly see and, in that, find comfort and security. I want for Tom to still be my best friend fifty years from now. (Yeah, barf, but I mean it).

God, grant us health!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Marriage & the Family Bed

My grandparents were quite liberal. When they married, they were first among their peers to share a bedroom. Being decent folks, they slept separately in twin beds.

People in most parts of the world, though, practice the family bed. Mom, Dad, baby, and sometimes even kids! Countries that practice the “family bed” have divorce rates five times less than that of the US.

I’m not silly enough to think the US divorce rate would radically drop if parents just quit putting their babies in the crib, any more than I believe “peace begins with breastfeeding.” But I have to mention the statistics because I was raised to believe that co-sleeping “contaminates the marriage bed.”

As far as I was concerned, the family bed was the crutch of parents too weak-willed for sleep training or the shield for women wanting to avoid their husband’s touch. In fact, before Peter was born, I wanted to put his crib in the dining room. Tom thought that was strange and kept suggesting our bedroom. I kept saying, “Do you ever want to have sex again?”

Since Peter’s arrival, I’ve read most sleep books written in the past ten years. And then some. I’ll save that story for another time—but I will say this:

Tom and I and Peter now share a bed for a good part of the night. And you know what? We cherish our mornings together, especially when Tom doesn’t have to get up super early. With our little family all snuggled up, we wake to Peter’s pats and babbles. The three of us will laugh and linger in bed for close to an hour! We have decided that Peter is welcome in our bed for as long as he needs it, even if he’s five.

In the meantime, I’ve discovered that what can kill sex is not location but stress, working long hours, and sometimes even hormones. Our intimate life is feast or famine depending on Tom’s work schedule—which isn’t a whole lot different than before Peter came along.

So our marriage flourishes. It flourishes in a different room, but it flourishes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Top Ten Ways to Retain Intimacy

in your day-to-day life.

10) Make eye contact when asking, “How was your day?”
9) Eat dinner together. At the table. Every day. Put on lipstick, or brush your hair, whatever it is you do to make yourself beautiful.
8) Turn off the TV. Better yet, turn off the internet.
7) Flirt.
6) Find out what makes your spouse tick (gifts? words of encouragement? touch? acts of service?) and do it.*
5) Fight. It’s better than the emotional distance created by festering wounds.
4) Make up before bedtime.
3) Laugh together. Laugh at your kid, laugh at a movie, laugh at a memory—just find something, anything, to laugh about.
2) Say, “I love you,” at an unexpected time.
1) Remember that sex is like Bible study: you may not always feel like it, but you’ll always be glad you did.

* I highly recommend the Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Date Night

Every Friday night, our family of three goes out to eat. This means keeping a steady supply of crackers in front of Peter before the food comes, feeding him off our plates to keep the cost down, picking his sippy cup off the floor, and racing home to get him to bed before 7:00.

A few months ago, we bumped into friends at the restaurant. Dressed to the nines, they were eating out before the symphony. The symphony! I wanted to go. And I wanted a dressy dinner without the slobber monkey.

Why not line up a sitter and go? Well, Tom and I can’t afford disposable diapers. You think we can afford a sitter? Our families, meanwhile, live too far to help on any regular basis.

Then there’s Peter’s separation anxiety. He pretty much screams like I’ve left him with terrorists any time I walk out the door. Unless he’s with Tom, without whom it’s not date night. So there you go.

Maybe things will be different with the next child. After all, my Symphony Friend is a stay-at-home mom who breastfeeds on demand and wears her babies. Her girls just happen to have temperaments quite different than Peter’s. So she gets date night, and I don’t.

Date night is a luxury, not an entitlement.

You’d never know that, to read some of the advice given to married couples. “Need to save your marriage? Get a sitter!”

Boy, the divorce rate must have soared prior to the twentieth century. Before that, restaurants were for travelers (or for the superwealthy who might, if they lived in a large enough city like Manhattan, venture to a restaurant once or twice a year). Families ate at home. With their kids. Every night. Even pre-marriage “dating” took place in the home.

You know, I think my marriage is going to make it. In fact, if we had to have a date night to save us, that would only indicate a larger problem.

Perhaps what would help couples more than a date night would be to retain—or reclaim—intimacy as we go about our daily routines. It’s possible. Tomorrow, I’ll share my Top Ten ways to do it. No sitters required.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Child Care, "Spouse" Care: Friends or Foes?

Gently placing Peter in his car seat for the first time, I fought the urge to ride in back with him. Why? Symbolism. Convinced that our marriage should be the primary relationship in our newly-grown family, I felt that our seating arrangement should reflect that. Parents sit up front. Baby sits in the back.

When we got home, and I raced to retrieve Peter, he was curled in a ball. His head rested literally on top of his feet. I had forgotten to lift the chest bar to hold his torso in place. Knowing what I know now about positional asphyxia, I realize how tragic this mistake could have been.

The moral of the story (uh, besides the fact that symbolism is lost on the five-day-old newborn)? My marriage comes first, but that doesn’t mean I have to neglect my child.

In fact, the longer I’ve been a mother—and it’s been a whopping 14 months, so I’m an expert, right?—the more I’ve decided that you can be a total hippie mama* with a babe suctioned to your breast 24/7 and still put your marriage first.

For starters, your offspring is the product of your love. The more you nurture him or her, the more respect you show for your spouse. Like, if your spouse bought you a really nice car (which I wouldn’t know anything about), you would show respect by getting the oil changed, rotating the tires regularly, and not running it over curbs (something else I wouldn’t know anything about).

The problem is that I live in a society which tells me that childcare and “spouse”care necessarily, at times, conflict. “Don’t put the baby in the bed.” “Have a date night once a week.” “Don’t let a child disturb your dinner conversation.” Shoot, I even have a friend who didn’t want to nurse her baby because her “breasts are for her husband.”

Hmm… I want to take a closer look at some of these “conflicts.” Tomorrow, some thoughts on date night.

*For what it’s worth, I’m not a hippie. I don’t even own a pair of Birkenstocks.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sunday Brunch: Married with Children

I've decided to offer some soul food each Sunday. Though since I'm getting ready to leave town, this one's coming early:

“I love my husband more than my children,” the author said to Oprah’s shocked audience. I can’t remember the mother’s name or even the name of her book, but you know what? I agreed with her.

That was before Peter was born. Now, a couple years later, I…

Still agree. I’d put things another way, of course. I don’t quantify the love I have for family members—I love them all fully, in different ways—but I appreciate the woman’s point: the primary relationship in a family is that of the parents.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). My child has my genes, my blood, but I am not one flesh with him. I am one flesh with my husband, and he with me. One day Peter will leave our nest and, God willing, be made one flesh the person of his choosing to begin a family of his own.

Still, the immense caretaking a child requires can sometimes make my marriage feel secondary. Peter is with me twenty-four hours a day. Tom, on the other hand, usually works 80 hours a week. How do I meet my child’s needs while retaining the primacy of my marriage?

That’s a sticky wicket. Seriously. And I’m going to talk about it all this week.

Friday, April 20, 2007

How to Shop in Peace

As I loaded groceries into the trunk, a car slowed behind me. An elderly man rolled down his window and asked, “Do you think he’s going to appreciate what you’re doing now when he’s fifteen years old?”

I assumed this was a reference to Peter’s riding on my back. Not sure whether the man was being facetious, sarcastic, or honestly curious, I just smiled and said, “Who knows? But it makes my life easier.”

Though, even if I could have read his tone of voice, I'd have given the same answer. I wear Peter for my sake more than his.

There, I said it.

When Peter’s on my back in the grocery store, he’s content. He’s not trying to wiggle his way out of the cart. He’s not grabbing apples out of the bins. He’s not reaching behind him for the cereal box. He’s not whining in boredom. He’s just along for the ride, and sometimes I even forget he’s there.

If he happens to benefit from it himself, great. But really, I'm just a lazy mom who wants to shop in peace.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Changing Times

“Changing Peter is like trying to give a lion a rectal exam,” said Tom, after diapering our then six-month-old.

Those were the good old days. Now Peter is stronger, more determined, and loud as a siren. I’m willing to bet our neighbors have considered calling DHR.

“Try singing to him,” the books say. “Offer him a toy. Make eye contact and turn it into a pleasant interaction.” Yeah, right. I’ve sung so many rounds of Old McDonald, I’ve run out of animals. Appropriate ones, anyway. Peter’s going to think that tigers and dinosaurs live on the farm.

We’ve had the most luck with crackers. Is that a choking hazard? Is that using food for reward? I don’t care. It works. At least 75% of the time.

That other 25%? We’ve had some ugly interactions. Let’s just say I’m not about to win Mother of the Year.

But Peter’s antics have inspired an awesome creation: the clear-vinyl pad cover. You could put your great-grandmother’s hand-embroidered pillow case on top of the changing pad, with this to protect it:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I just wish vinyl were an easier sewing medium. I won’t be marketing these anytime soon.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Welcome to Martha's World!

If I'd given birth to one of those quiet, placid, naturally-compliant babies, you wouldn't be reading this blog. Oh, I'd have started a blog all right, and probably much sooner. I wouldn't be able to resist "helping" those mothers who were weak enough to co-sleep after six months and whose toddlers throw frequent tantrums.

But it wouldn't be... this blog. Nope. God gave me Peter. He's that kid in Kindermusik who doesn't have time to "hide, hide, hide the egg" but will madly shake that sucker as he runs laps around the room.

I've been forced to consider some new ways of parenting (or old ways, depending on how you look at it). I pray daily for wisdom, actively seek it, and process these thoughts and our experiences here for all to see.

You're reading the thoughts of a 32-year-old wife (to Tom) and mother (to Peter, our toddler). We've got another kiddo due in November.

A note to those who know me in real life: I keep this blog on the down-low, since I increasingly take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach to sharing my parenting practices.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Day in My Life (Wk 6: NEWBORN DAZE)

March 22, 2006

Looking Back at Peter's Sixth Week

It's our sixth week together, and we've got something of a daily rhythm. It's not a precise schedule, but I'll take it.


Tom wakes me with a good-bye kiss. Before heading to work, he stands over the cradle, watching Peter say good morning with his smiles, gooh's and gah's. Unable to resist this cheerful wake-up call, I pull the baby in bed with me to nurse. Sunrise has never been so divine.

Afterward we head to the nursery (i.e., laundry closet turned Bunnykins) where I change Peter on the dryer. As a baby-clothes aficionado, choosing his outfit is one of my favorite events of the day.

Now to the living room couch, where I place Peter in the corner, and we smile. We smile and we goo and we gah and we smile some more. I walk back and forth between Peter and the kitchen and bring back my cheese toast and apple, then smile and goo and gah some more while I eat. All this activity wears the little man out, and into the bouncy seat he goes for a catnap while I shower.

The rest of the morning varies. Either he naps in the car as I run errands around town, or he naps in his stroller as I run errands in the nearby village on foot.


Mommy time! Unlike the short, scattered naps of the morning, with much nursing in between, Peter takes a solid 3-4 hour nap in the afternoon. This is when I get things done, from house chores to personal pleasures like reading.

It's also when I watch Days of our Lives. I swore that when I was a stay-at-home mom I woudn't watch it more than once a week, yet another principle I've thrown out the window. I'm one step away from sweatsuits and bon bons. To make myself feel less guilty, I'll often do something productive like ironing while I watch.

By the end of Peter's nap, I am re-invigorated and miss my little boy. I rush eagerly to nurse him when he wakes.

Evening-- the Witching Hour

Good thing Peter's nap renews me so much, or I don't know how I'd get through the next few hours.

After his first feeding, Peter is pleasant. We play the smiling game. Soon, though, begin bursts of fussiness. "I don't just want to be held, Mama," he says with his choppy squeals. "I want to be walked around or rocked or have you hold the pacifier in my mouth." This is when it would be nice if he'd let me wear him in the sling, something I try every day in hopes that he'll decide he likes it. (Update: I later learned our pouch was way too small for him and me both.)

At least Peter can be consoled. He responds to soothing methods for as long as we continue them. In fact, he'll even smile between bouts of fussing. Every now and then, he is willing to sit in the bouncy seat for thirty minutes listening to lullabies.

When Tom walks in the door, he eagerly takes the baby, much to my relief. While daddy and baby play, I prepare supper, glad for some time to myself. We're still enjoying meals from friends, so really all I have to do is pop something in the oven.

Supper can be exasperating, since Peter's not wild about his bouncy seat. Tom and I take turns replacing his pacifier, sometimes several times in one minute. It can take a long time to eat this way.

Then Tom and I take turns soothing the baby as we watch television or read. A couple hours more of alternating between frustration, laughter, and relief according to Peter's fussing, smiles, and catnaps.


Now that Peter goes to sleep within half an hour of being laid down, I don't dread the night.

His cradle is pulled up to my side of the bed. He doesn't actually sleep in it, though. He sleeps in his car seat which is inside of the cradle. He's decided nothing beats a car seat for sleeping, which works out well for us both since that puts us on the same level. I can pick him up for feedings without having to lean down or get out of bed.

With him so easily brought into bed for feedings, nursing him in the middle of the night isn't so bad. He wakes up twice, and I breasfeed him lying down. Both of us doze through it. I put him back in the cradle/carseat, and he's usually back to sleep in minutes, if not instantly. The whole thing is so uneventful that I'm refreshed in the morning and don't have to nap when he does.

When the sun comes up, we do it all over again.

Babymoon (Wk 5: NEWBORN DAZE)

March 22, 2006

Looking Back at Peter's Fifth Week

Tom's touch on my thigh awakens me. He stands dressed for work beside our bed. The cradle is pulled up next to me, and Tom nods his head at it for me to see Peter grinning and cooing at him. It wasn't his first grin, but it was the first in his new routine of greeting us each day with smiles.

That first tender morning, one of those moments that I will return to in my mind until the day I die, I looked at the pacifier on my bedside table and remembered when a thermometer had been there instead. Our efforts to conceive had been fulfilled, and the honeymoon had finally begun.

Mother & Child

After a month of surviving motherhood, at last I began to enjoy it.

Until that point, my love for Peter produced only stress as I tried fretfully to meet his needs for food and sleep. There was little time for introspection. With the necessities in better order, though, I could spend vast amounts of time dwelling on the dimple in his chin.

Finally his constant activity was a source of joy rather than consternation. I listened intently to his goo's and ga's. I watched with pride at his wiggling, his slicing the air with his arms and forever kicking those long skinny legs. And that smile-- oh, that smile!

I say that as if there were only one smile, but Peter has many. Anytime he smiles, it's an energetic affair. He opens his mouth long, then spreads it wide, then opens and closes his lips, all the while undulating his head like Stevie Wonder.

And those sounds he makes while nursing! He grunts and growls and punches a tiny fist in my breast, then his eyes roll back as he settles in to nurse contentedly.

It is all I had hoped.

Father & Child

Greater than I had hoped has been watching Tom in his new role. Throughout the pregnancy, we'd both been a little nervous and excited about what was to come. He was nervous, I was excited. When Peter was born, we traded. A few days after Peter's birth, Tom cozied up next to me in the narrow hospital bed and said, "Isn't this the best that life has ever been?"

As I struggled in pain that week, zapped by the c-section, he relished caring for the baby. He was an expert swaddler after one lesson, burped Peter like a pro, and became the family photographer.

Seeing him take Peter's pictures to work, cheerfully learn how to fasten a cloth diaper, and pridefully push the stroller around the neighborhood has been almost as great a joy as becoming a mother.

That's not all. He's a better husband. Well, maybe that's not the best way to put it, but I'm getting to see new sides to him. I mean, not only was he willing to go to the nurses' station and ask for extra disposable panties after my c-section, but he was the one to dry me off and dress me after my first shower, when I could still hardly move.

He was my encourager when I felt inadequate as a mother, my comfort through Peter's sleeping issues. It's been a long time since I let anyone take care of me. It feels good.

Ferberizing a 4-Week-Old (Wk 4:NEWBORN DAZE)

March 22, 2006

Looking Back at Peter's 3rd Week (Update: If I had known then what I know now about how to wear a baby and how to safely sleep with one, you wouldn't be reading this.)

I talked to several pediatricians about Peter's inability to sleep out of my arms, and they agreed: he'd have to do some crying.

"No!" I thought to myself. I'm of the school that believes going to your baby when he cries builds trust. How could I break that trust with a newborn still learning the way of the world outside the womb? All the sleep books I'd read, even those that accept "crying it out," indicated Peter was too young for this.

Yet I could picture Dr. Phil in my cluttered living room saying to me, "How's this working out for ya?" as I sit emaciated in my bathrobe, bloodshot eyes as I held my baby for the tenth day in a row.

Learning How to Soothe

"Every baby has a way that they soothe themselves when sleeping," one doctor said. "For your baby, it's YOU. When you put him down, and he realizes he's not in your arms anymore, he panics."

I couldn't deny it. I thought back to our time at Children's Hospital when Tom and I held Peter around the clock for two days. When we got home, Peter went from being difficult to put down to impossible.

I knew that he couldn't be in my arms 24 hours a day, and I knew that he needed to sleep. For his sake, we'd have to at least try this.

We did the Ferber method, something I never dreamed I'd do. I could go to Peter every five minutes, pick him up every fifteen minutes, and feed him every hour.

Who Cried More?

It's difficult to write about letting Peter cry. Partly because I want to forget it, partly because my words are inept to describe the pain. To hear your infant sob and know you could comfort him, but not, goes against every maternal instinct.

I wanted earplugs, but the thought of softening his cries to my ears made me feel too guilty. If he were suffering, I must suffer too. Each wail of his brought a new onslaught of tears for me, and I began to feel that I wouldn't have the strength to do it. At the same time, everything else had failed, and I knew that my little boy must sleep. I prayed with new fervency and clung to Tom.

This is what I will say about the crying: it worked, but it will always haunt me.

Now Peter naps in the morning and afternoon, goes back to bed between feedings at night, and gets 12-15 hours of sleep each day. Getting him to take an evening nap on his own still eludes us, and on that I've given up. Between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. we rock and walk and soothe-- but 3 hours a day beats 24.

Mr. Sandman (Wk 3: NEWBORN DAZE)

March 22, 2006

Looking Back at Peter's 3rd Week (Update: If I had known then what I know now about how to wear a baby and safely sleep with one, you wouldn't be reading this.)

Peter bucked the newborn description from the time he was born. In the pediatrician's waiting room and emergency room the week before, people asked me how many months old he was. Some people were startled by his size, but just as many folks remarked on his activity level.

This energy and alertness made putting him down to sleep difficult. He was-- and is-- a baby easily consoled, but he is not a baby who can just "sit there" and be content. He must be rocked. He must suck. He must bounce or eat or be on a walk.

While I enjoyed these soothing techniques, my frustration grew his third week when Peter would awaken as soon as I put him in his cradle to sleep. Aren't newborns supposed to sleep 16 hours a day? We were quickly regressing to as little as 6. That's not a typo. Six hours in a 24-hour period.

Every Trick in the Book

I tried everything. I could list what all I tried, but that would take entirely too long. Sufficed to say, the technique I finally latched onto was a routine of nursing Peter to sleep, then rocking him for a good twenty minutes to get him into a deep sleep, then placing him in his cradle. And he'd sleep!

For five minutes.

We'd rock some more, as I lamented not rocking longer the first time. And I'd put him down, and he'd sleep.

For five minutes.

This is what we'd do all day, with breaks for eating. HIS eating. By this point, I was down to one meal a day, when Tom got home and could do some rocking.

I did manage a daily shower, since the sound of rushing water relaxed Peter in his bouncy seat. Dressing was another matter. My bathrobe and I were one. You could forget doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher, or even sorting through mail.

Each visitor was a source of joy and panic. Joy, because she'd have a meal in hand. Panic, that the knock on the door might stir the baby before I could get him down.

Giving Up

So I decided that my present life had ended, that I was the only person on the planet whose newborn didn't sleep, and that I needed to inform friends that I must retreat from life until Peter sleeps somewhere besides my arms.

I envisioned hiring a maid with money we don't have. I mourned for the life I once had with Tom, convinced no babysitter would ever take on this child.

And I cried. Several times a day. Usually it happened when Tom called from work. I wouldn't even know the tears were there until I'd start to talk, then I'd lose it.

Amazingly, I didn't become depressed. (Okay, maybe there was some depression, but it was situational as opposed to a true postpartum depression. When you are not eating, not sleeping, not dressing, not knowing when you will ever do those things again, it is natural to cry.) It amazed me how a good hot shower could refresh me to start all over again each day. And those times I managed to eat were pretty renewing too.

Peter continued to melt my heart, and my greatest sorrow was that he wasn't getting the sleep he so badly needed. Honestly, his lack of sleep bothered me more than my own. By the end of this week, I knew something had to give.

Hospital, Round 2 (Wk 2: NEWBORN DAZE)

March 22, 2006

Looking Back at Peter's 2nd Week

Our first night home from the hospital, I curled up on the bed and cried into Tom's chest. "He's so fragile. I don't know what I'm doing."

I had imagined that all first-time moms were granted instinctual maternal knowledge at the moment of their child's birth, leaving them confident and sure. What was wrong with me that I didn't have this?

Crying every day, I clung to the family there to help. By the end of that second week, I didn't feel ready to do things on my own, but I felt like it was time I learned. I went to bed the night before my first day alone with Peter trying to imagine what the next 24 hours would bring. I even began to feel optimistic.

I had no clue.

Sick Baby

When Peter's cry woke me in the morning, I immediately noticed what appeared to be brown spit up on the side of his face, in his hair, and on his sheet. "Why isn't it white?" I wondered, resisting the urge to call my pediatrician before office hours.

After the first feeding, I knew why it wasn't white. It was vomit, which Peter repeated all over my sheets.

Several vomitting episodes and hours later, I explained to my pediatricians partner that I knew what the problem was: pyloric stenosis. I had it, as did my mother, my oldest brother, my great-grandfather, and two cousins. This is a hardening of the valve leading from the stomach which prevents digestion, enlarges the stomach, and causes projectile vomitting.

The doctor told me that it can be difficult for a "new mother" to tell spit up and vomitting apart (would he like to see my sheets?) and for me to watch it over the next several days.

I returned home, watch my son throw up three times in one hour, and called my husband in tears. "Take him to Children's Hospital and have them do an ultrasound," he ordered.

Off we went. The emergency room doctors seemed deaf to my cries of pyloric stenosis, since it doesn't usually show up until the baby is at least three weeks, whereas Peter was only 10 days. His vomitting was serious enough, though, that they admitted him.

Finally we got an ultrasound, and I was vindicated. Once the doctors diagnosed him, I thought the worst was over. The surgery for pyloric stenosis is fairly simple, and I imagined it might even be an outpatient thing.

Nope. We'd be in the hospital for several days. Fortunately both Tom and I were able to stay in Peter's room.

A New Kind of Pain

I discovered what it's like to truly wish someone else's pain on yourself.

I thought blowing six IVs during my labor was bad, but watching my newborn baby blow five was horrific on a whole new level. With each insertion of the needle, his entire body stiffened, his feet curling up. He'd turn scarlet, his out opening wide for a tormented cry that wouldn't come at first. They say that newborns don't produce tears, but I saw Peter's first: a fat round drop that balled then rolled from his left eye.

The fifth IV was in his scalp, which meant that Tom and I would hold Peter in our arms in shifts for the next 36 hours. We were afraid he'd knock it out if we lay him down, and I couldn't let him go through getting a new one.

Then there was the nose tube. It was supposed to go to the stomach but came out through Peter's wailing mouth the first time the nurse tried to insert it.

The worst part? His favorite comfort, my breast, was denied. The nature of his condition and the impending surgery meant his only sustenance was to be the IV. I held him in my lap, rocked him, tried to hold a pacifier in his mouth, and still he would turn his head sideways and root into my dried-vomit t-shirt.

The best we could do for him was help him to sleep. We kept him snuggled tight in our arms, replacing the blankets when he threw up (several times even after the nose tube drained his belly). The warmth and cuddling seemed to do the trick, and Peter slept pretty constantly until his surgery the next day.

All's Well that Ends Well

The surgery was nothing. Quick and successful, just as I'd imagined. Peter recovered easily, as do most babies with pyloric stenosis.

We did have some long hours after the surgery. We held him in shifts for another 24 hours, at first because of his IV, then later so he'd be upright and less likely to throw up. It was difficult watching him root and fuss, since we had to re-introduce breastmilk in small, measured bottle feedings more slowly than he'd like.

After awhile, I felt that if I could just put him on my breast and let him eat as he pleased, we'd both be okay. I'd be doing all I needed to as a mother, and all his needs would be met.

As we came home from the hospital together for the second time in two weeks, with Peter back on my boob, I felt like I could do it this time. The third week would be better, right? If only I knew!

Reality Bites (Wk 1: NEWBORN DAZE)

March 22, 2006

Looking Back at Peter's First Week

In my birth fantasy, I labored at home then popped into the hospital just in time to push. After my med-free delivery, the baby remained in my room, never to see the nursery. The next day we'd bring home our exclusively breastfed, uncircumcised baby who effortlessly slept 16 hours a day.

An induced, 31-hour labor followed by a c-section wasn't in the picture. Nor was waiting several hours before attempting to breastfeed, not because of hospital policy but because all I could think about was sleeping for the first time in two days. Nor was watching everyone but me hold the baby for the next two days, as I was in too much pain to do much more than hold Peter in a football clutch to feed him.

What else wasn't in the picture?

Got Milk?

Both the lactation consultant and in-house pediatrician told me to nurse frequently and don't supplement to hasten the arrival of my milk. That is, until Peter's third day in the hospital, when he became inconsolable even with hourly "feedings," quit producing dirty or wet diapers, and had peeling lips. He had lost well over a pound and was becoming dehydrated.

On day four, with no sign of my milk, the pediatrician had us supplement Peter's feedings (while continuing to nurse) until he produced a wet diaper. Demoralized as I felt, watching him gnaw his fist in hunger was too much for me not to follow orders.

As I lamented my inability to feed my newborn like women have done for thousands of years, one nurse told me she sees it all the time with the c-section moms. "You don't hear about women in developing countries with milk problems, but they're not having c-sections." For an almost 10-pound boy born ready for a steak dinner, the colostrum of his c-sectioned, first-time mother was leaving him hanging.

When did my milk come in? I'm still not sure. I never became engorged, never felt full or heavy, never had any of those textbook signs...

The pediatrician, though, ordered me to quit supplementing as soon as that wet diaper came through, less than 24 hours after we started. She assured me that my colostrum would increase until my milk came in. Sometime since then, without ceremony, it has surreptiously arrived.

My Friends, the Nurses

Even aside from the feeding fiasco, my feelings of ineptitude surged.

I've learned dead languages in their original alphabets. So I can learn how to swaddle a baby, right? Wrong. Each time I saw a new nurse, I'd have her give me a lesson, not letting on that a nurse from a previous shift had already shown me. Then she'd leave the room, I'd try it again on my own, and Peter would kick his way out.

Every sneeze, every hiccup, every fuss Peter made had me frantically unsure of myself. I started calling the nursery for advice. Next thing you know, I was asking them to take the baby so I could have a one-hour catnap. Then another. Within a couple of days, I was sending Peter for overnight visits to his new aunts in the nursery. They still brought him back every two hours for me to feed him.

When discussing discharge dates with the doctor, Tom and I opted to take a fifth day in the hospital. I just wasn't ready to go it alone yet.

Snip, Snip

Given how everything else played out, I guess it's only fitting that my last remaining principle was out the door too.

Months earlier, my husband and I had discussed circumcision. Tom had said there was no compelling medical reason to do it, and that he'd probably opt against it if we had a son. His saying that gave me the generosity to say, "I'll let you make the final call on that one."

Well, Tom still says there's no medical reason to do it. But we did, based on the whole like-father, like-son argument. It was done by a pediatrician using local anesthetic.

Reality Bites

So much for the fantasies. My first week of motherhood wasn't the love fest I'd imagined. It was survival. I lived the week in a fog, vulnerable to the whims of everyone around me.

When I (reluctantly) left the hospital, I told myself that one week later-- certainly within two weeks-- I'd have things under control enough for me to start enjoying my new role.


Our First Few Weeks (NEWBORN DAZE)

February 26, 2006

My newborn doesn't sleep.

Everyone told me this would be the easy time when you change him, feed him, and put him back to sleep in a neverending cycle in which the baby sleeps 14-22 hours.

Well, Peter would be happy to sleep 22 hours-- if it were in my arms. Instead, our cycle goes change him, feed him, put him down to sleep, and pick him up within 10 minutes because he is wailing.

I've tried changing his sleeping venue, warming his sheets, putting him down asleep, putting him down awake, feeding him longer, rocking him, swaddling him, not swaddling him, using the pacifier, not using the pacifier, and every combination of the above. (Update: If I had known then what I know now about how to wear my baby and safely sleep with him, you wouldn't be reading this...)

These few weeks have been the most challenging of my life. Most things until now I've felt I could accomplish with enough study or practice. This, on the other hand, is beyond intellectual or physical determination. It breaks my heart that the one thing in life I have not been able to "accomplish" involves the little boy I love so much. I just want to give him the basics: food, warmth, SLEEP.

Not to mention that Mama needs some rest too. She also needs to eat and get dressed and unload the dishwasher now and then. These things aren't happening.

So right now I'm in survival mode. I'm taking help from family and friends and seeking the advice of pediatricians. I have lowered my standards on things like whether or not my teeth get brushed. And I'm grateful that I cleared my calendar before the baby arrived.

What this does mean is that I'll need to take a little hiatus from keeping this journal. I plan to take off the month of March and return in April, hopefully with these sleep issues worked out.

The Birth

written February 16, 2006

I took out the birthing earrings my husband had given me early in the pregnancy. No jewelry in the operating room. After 31 hours of labor, I was headed for a c-section.

The day before, I had sat on the couch watching a rerun of Sasha Cohen's appearance on Project Runway. Tom snuck up, leaned over me, looked at his watch, and said, "So how many hours warning did you want before the induction? Two and a half?"

With quivering legs, I jumped into the shower. I blow-dried and even curled my hair. I wanted to look my best welcoming our baby into the world.

The Induction

At the hospital, Dr. E. inserted a saline foley catheter into my cervix. The idea was that it balloon over the next four to eight hours, falling out when I reached three to five centimeters.

My contractions began immediately. The first hour, they were like menstrual cramps. "Was that one?" I'd ask. Soon, though, there was no questioning. About every five minutes, a belt would pull tightly across my abdomen, growing tighter and tighter as the night wore on. Sleep was out of the question.

It wasn't a bad night, though. The hospital brought me food and drink, and I didn't have to have an IV... yet. Even once those contractions required my full concentration, I gloried in it. It meant I was making progress.

So I thought. Eight hours later, that catheter still hadn't fallen out. I could see on my doctor's face that that wasn't a good sign.

We waited awhile longer, then I started pitocin. This meant having an IV (the first of six, since I blew one out every few hours) and continuous fetal monitoring. As my contractions grew more intense and closer together, I wanted to rip from me all these lines, drips, and monitors.

Still, I managed to remain mobile. I changed positions in the bed and stood beside the bed. I rocked on all fours. Tom massaged every part of my body.

My frustration began when, after several hours on the pit, I was only four centimeters dilated. My doctor wanted to break my bag of waters. While I had originally planned to postpone this step, knowing it would place a time limit on my labor, I agreed. By this time, I wanted a time limit. Plus, the doctor said we could quit the pitocin if my contractions got strong enough, and I figured breaking my water might do the trick.

I had somehow forgotten that the force of contractions greatly increases after the waters are broken. Oh, the pain! I added visualization to my coping strategy, but when I pictured "riding the ocean's waves," all I could picture were tidal waves.

The contractions came every two minutes. I spent a couple of hours like this with no progress. After a total of 20 hours laboring on my own, I asked for an epidural.


Unfortunately, my luck with epidurals wasn't much better than with IVs. It took two tries to get one to work, and it quit working on one side after several hours. Still, it provided much-needed relief. For a time.

As the time drew near to push, though, I remembered all the reasons I didn't want an epidural. I dreaded the thought of pushing that baby out on my back.

Furthermore, I didn't feel capable of pushing. By then, I hadn't slept in over forty hours, 31 of which had been spent in labor. My stamina was gone. I cried to Tom, cried to the nurses (Brandi and Candy!), telling them I couldn't do it.

So when the doctor checked me again and found that after 4 hours in transition, I still had not reached 10 centimeters, and apologetically suggested a c-section, I could have hugged his neck.

The C-Section

Efforts to up my epidural proved fruitless. As the anesthesiologist gave me a spinal block, I blew the fifth of my IVs and received the sixth.

I shook uncontrollably. I began to feel delirious, like I couldn't catch my breath. Tom held both sides of my face to keep my shaking jaw from ramming into my head over and over.

Then came the most beautiful sound I'll ever know. I wasn't even sure the c-section had begun when I suddenly heard a loud, strong baby wail. Tears streamed down my face.

I heard the medical attendants saying "wow" and "whoa" and "I want to know the weight on that one." Then the doctor whipped the baby around the curtain and showed me my screaming babe.

"I can't see what it is!" I cried, and Dr. G. moved the umbilical cord. "A boy! It's a boy! I knew it!"

I continued to cry. So did the baby. All 9 pounds, 11 ounces of him! My husband was able to hold him, and I kissed his head.

Our First 24 Hours

After I was sewn up, I took a while to recover. The hospital offered to bring him to me to nurse, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't try, I mean. I still feel guilty about this, but all I could think about was how tired I was. I wasn't myself. I was jacked up on morphine and still in extreme pain from the surgery.

It wasn't until 4:00 a.m., almost four hours after his birth, that I was ready to see him. My memory of this is vague, since I was still on morphine and had been unable to sleep (whether from pain or excitement, I don't know). I had an IV in the crook of my arm, which made holding a baby difficult. A nurse and my husband held Peter to my breast to eat.

I remember feeling overwhelmed, a feeling that hasn't left me. I am overwhelmed with the responsibility. I am overwhelmed with joy. I am overwhelmed by the new side I see to my husband, now a father. I am overwhelmed with worry. I am overwhelmed by my own emotions.

Most of all, when my son meets my eye, I am overwhelmed with love.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Facing Induction (Wk 41: PREGNANCY)

February 3, 2006

Still no dilation. Tom has scheduled an induction date sometime between 10 and 14 days after my due date, and he'll give me two hours warning when the time comes.

This has not been easy. On one hand, I know that normal gestation is any time between 38 and 42 weeks. On the other hand, I know that complications can occur starting 10 days past an accurate due date, and I know mine is accurate.

So let's assume that I don't go into labor before the induction date. The pitocin will require constant monitoring. Perhaps my hospital has telemetry, and I can still walk around? If I do have to stay put, who says that requires me to lie on my back? I can ask to be hooked up in an upright position, and if those monitors fall off as I move around, the nurses can put them back. That's what they get paid for.

Since pitocin contractions are more intense and frequent than natural ones, I'm going to ask that we begin with a low dose. Assuming I make progress, I will ask for the drip to be removed to see if my body takes up the contractions on its own.

All along, I've said that I will probably have an epidural if I have to be induced. I may. But the closer I get, the more determined I am not to.

While there's still a possibility of my going into labor spontaneously, it doesn't help me to think about that. I'm at a point when I need to grieve my laboring-at-home fantasy and make peace with other possibilities. I need to walk into the hospital with my head raised and heart ready.

Full Circle (Wk 40: PREGNANCY)

January 30, 2006

My doctor didn't bring up induction dates last week, much to my relief. This week, though, at 40+ weeks, I imagine the talk is coming.

I've realized that my reasons for not wanting to be induced go beyond the practical. It's not just my desire for a med-free birth or the increased risks (though waiting beyond 10 days has risks of its own). It's that... I've had months to daydream about how and when labor would begin. Where will I be when that first contraction strikes? At home, in the grocery store, driving the car? How will Tom react? Where will he be?

How long will I labor at home? Will we watch movies, bake bread, or by completely focused on my bodily sensations?

To be induced, to drive to the hospital to be hooked up to machines, is an anticlimactic way to begin.

Still, I've got some time for things to happen on their own. I'm not much past forty weeks, and most first babies are a little "late."

Back to Waiting

So I'm in the waiting game. Again.

I'm reminded of the wait I had before trying to conceive, when my thoughts were divided between baby daydreams and efforts to distract myself from them. I recall my waits to ovulate once we did start trying.

Most of all, I remember the "two-week-waits" when I'd analyze every bodily symptom with hope and hysteria. I'd pore over pregnancy books, frustrated by the lack of information on that time before the missed period. I'd search the internet for strange, rare signs with which I might relate.

And so now, I again watch and wait over my body, reading about other women's prelabor symptoms and hoping to relate... with little luck. I've come full circle.

Savoring Pregnancy (Wk 39: PREGNANCY)

January 23, 2006

What do venus fly traps, Japanese fingertraps, and steel metal have in common? A resemblance to my cervix.

Not that I'm worried. At 39+ weeks, would you believe I am still comfortable? I want to shout it out to tall girls everywhere: it may not be fun towering over boys in the 7th grade, but height sure does come in handy when you're carrying a baby.

This physical ease makes it much easier to enjoy these last days-- or weeks-- of pregnancy. Every kick and wiggle still makes my spine tingle. I savor Tom's expressions when he feels the baby's hiccups.

Hot Body

I'm not even tired of my silhouette. I still moon over myself in the mirror, changing angles to admire my potbelly stove.

As Tom and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary, I didn't let a little (well, big) thing like my belly keep me out of my original wedding-night lingerie.

No kidding. When I purchased this ridiculously expensive pinoir, the boutique ladies showed me how the ties on the side of the robe and back of the gown could be loosened. They assured me that this flexibility would enable me to pull the set out every year regardless of how my body might "change shape."

Staring at the ensemble last week, I had my doubts. But darned if those women weren't right! Proud to fit into the gown and robe without so much as a strained seam, I positioned myself on the bed to wait for Tom.

First I sat with my back toward the door, since I look pretty normal from behind, but I felt like a cheeseball looking over my shoulder. Then I lied on my side, but that made me feel like a sea lion. So finally I just sat up with my legs tucked under me, looking like a giant marshmallow. Or the Michelin Man.

When Tom walked in the door, he laughed out loud. And continued laughing. And then laughed some more. When he burst into laughter at breakfast the next morning, I didn't have to ask.

The Big "I"

My only concern as I wait for this baby is that I do not want to be induced. It would be difficult to have the birth I envision with the intensity of contractions one feels on pitocin or with the limited mobility electronic fetal monitoring would bring.

When I meet with the doctor this week, I imagine he'll ask how long I want to wait things out. There is an increased rate in stillbirth beginning 10 days after the due date. However rare that may be, it scares me. Before then I'm willing to come in for any number of fetal stress tests. If there is a valid reason to induce other than "the baby might gain 3 ounces," I'll do it.

After I make my wishes known to the doctor, I'll have Tom schedule all remaining appointments, tests, and the induction deadline. I don't to know the induction date because it would

1) make me feel pressured to go into labor sooner, the stress of which would make it less likely to happen,
2) take away the fun and mystery of not knowing when the baby will be born, and
3) render me unable to sleep the night before the big day-- not a good way to enter labor and the night feedings to follow!

I plan to laze about these next few days or weeks in blissful ignorance, hoping to go into labor spontaneously.

Unemployment (Wk 38: PREGNANCY)

January 17, 2006

After working in the same place for over seven years, I'm now sitting at home waiting for a whole new journey to begin.

People ask if I'm sad about leaving. Despite some high stress situations this fall and the usual workplace complaints, it's been a fulfilling job. (A dream job, really, as a co-director of Christian Education.) Yet my leaving feels too unreal for me to feel sad. On my last day, I went through the motions, was flattered by farewell gifts and honors, yet felt like I'd be coming back the next day.

Nope. Here I am, sitting at my computer mid-morning, wondering what to do with myself.

The Surreal Life

When will it sink in? When will it sink in that my day-to-day life will never be the same? When will it sink in that I am having a baby? When will I get the guts to pack my hospital bag?

I keep waiting for some lightening bolt to help me process this change in identity. While I know that your work doesn't define you, that's easier said than believed. Especially for someone as Type A as me. I work, therefore I am.

I know what it's like to be the getting-paid-for-what-I-do-with-a-product-at-the-end-of-the-day Martha. How will I recognize myself when I stay home all day with an infant and nothing tangible to show for it?

I can't flip the switch in my mind.


So why try? Right now, I'm on holiday. I've got friends to visit, floors to mop, long baths to take, and hopefully some uninterrupted hours of reading. As far as I'm concerned, the baby can stay put as long as she wants. (And it looks like he will: he's firmly entrenched in my rib cage with no sign of dropping. I have no dilation, no effacement, and not even any Braxton-Hicks.)

My old job gave me vacation time. The new one won't.

Denial (Wk 37: PREGNANCY)

January 10, 2006

At 37 weeks and 3 days, no one would be all that shocked if I went into labor tomorrow. I hold this knowledge in a detached sort of way, as if thinking about someone else. It's someone else who will have a baby next month, someone else who will soon nurse for the first time. Someone else will bring a baby home. Someone else will do those night feedings.

As for me, I'm in a perpetual state of pregnancy. I've grown used to it. I'm not even uncomfortable. I don't have to pee as much as I did in the first trimester, I have no swelling, and I sleep well. My body has made the necessary adjustments for carrying a nineteen inch life form in the belly.

What Would Freud Say?

I'm not being sarcastic here. Really, I am quite comfortable in my present state and take comfort that I've probably still got another two weeks of it. Oh, and two weeks? That may as well be two years, but I'm not sweating it.

This newfound patience astounds me. Is it some sort of subconscious defense mechanism to help me through the last stretch of the wait? Is it a form of denial stemming from a buried worry that I'm not ready for a baby? Maybe some of both?

Who knows. What I do know is that I expected to be bursting with eagerness to meet my baby by time I'm reached this point. Instead, I want to prolong the inevitable.

And Yet...

Of course, I still get tears in my eyes when I do think about the baby's birth. I can't imagine the joy of kissing the foot that's been kicking me. Or finding out if it's a boy or a girl!

I can't imagine holding a baby without having to ask the mama's permission and eventually hand it back. This baby will be mine.

I can't imagine holding a baby knowing that there's no where else that baby would rather be.

A Pregnant Christmas (Wks 35 & 36: PREGNANCY)

January 4, 2006

Hope everyone's enjoyed their Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Santa or simply I-don't-have-to-go-to-work celebrations. As a good Episcopalian, I'm only on the eleventh day of Christmas. (Tom has decided against getting me eleven pipers piping).

I guess it shouldn't come as any surprise that this is quite an emotional Christmas. How can you expect a woman great with child and suped up on hormones to sing emotive hymns about the Christ-child in a candlelit church without crying?

Meanwhile, I find myself thinking obsessively about what the birth of Jesus must have been like. How many hours did Mary labor? How far along was she? How long did she spend in transition?

A Protestant Ponders Mary

Let's make one thing clear: I'm a steadfast Protestant. I've thought about naming my dogs after Reformers: "Sit, Luther! Heel, Cranmer!" To me, Hail, Mary is a football term.

Yet this pregnancy has turned my mind to Mary so often, I feel some sort of kinship with her. Like, if we were to meet, we could talk over our symptoms. She might say things like, "Yeah, that first trimester was a real kicker."

With this kinship comes a new compassion for the circumstances of her birthing Jesus. Everyone says that no matter how you fantasize your labor, it's never how you expect. Well, Mary is living proof. Not that she expected an epidural, but I'm sure she didn't picture laying her child in a feeding trough.

Was she afraid? Did she know what to do? Chances are, she had witnessed female relatives giving birth. She probably had a better idea of what to expect than women today would. Still, I doubt she imagined being alone for the experience. Or, rather, with a man twice her age and with whom she'd never slept. Women in her day labored with the support of their closest female relatives.


Yet I also know how little all these circumstances must have mattered to Mary when the crying child was born. What were her first words to him? How her heart must have throbbed when he first wrapped a hand around her finger!

"What a miracle!" she must have thought. In her case, it really was.

Belly Pic Week 36

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

More Checklists (Wk 34: PREGNANCY

December 19, 2005

A dozen onesies. Check.
Six gowns and sleepers. Check.
Booties. Check.
Hats. Check.
Receiving blankets. Check.
All items washed, folded, and waiting for baby. Check.

Just when I think I'm ready, I realize I'm not.

Since I didn't get any cloth diapers in the newborn size, we'll use 'sposies the first month. A friend gave me a stack her baby outgrew, and all this time I've had diapers checked off the list. Rocket scientist that I am, I forgot all about disposable wipes.

Then there's the breast pads, which have had me back to Babies 'R Us three times now. Throw-away ones crinkle up and make me look like I've stuffed my bra. Washable ones give me the supernipples of an Amazon. Silicon shells give me a flying-saucer look. I've just ordered some large hemp pads on line, and I'm hoping these will work out better.

The infant car seat, a hand-me-down from my brother and his wife, will take up residence in my sedan this week. What about the stroller that goes with it? My parents, who were storing it in their house, can't find it. How do you lose something that big?

Still, these last-minute chores thrill more than frustrate me. We're far enough along for me to deliver a healthy baby. All these items will soon get some use. The rocking chair's about to see action.

Exclamations (Wk 33: PREGNANCY)

December 12, 2005

I keep poking the baby. I can't help it. I need to feel him move.

I'll start by gently rubbing. If that fails, I start calling, "Baaa-by? baaa-by? What's going on in there? Let mama feel you wiggle." As a last resort, I'll push on the fanny until I get something.

So last night, Tom started poking me in the head. "Maaar-tha? Maaar-tha? Let me see you move." Poke in my neck. Poke in my back. Okay, I get the point. Our baby probably does not appreciate all these taps and pushes, especially if I'm waking her.

Losing My Marbles

I just can't help that I've developed a need for constant reassurance.

Last week, I debated calling my OB when my baby got the hiccups three times in one day. Usually he only hiccups once a day, between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. With the last vestiges of self-respect falling from my body, I finally dialed the office. They assuaged my fears and gave me the option of coming in if I were still worried.

Two days later, I was convinced I had carbon monoxide poisoning. With a day of fatigue ending in a vomiting episode, I was certain our furnace had a leak.

I knew that maybe, just maybe, my fatigue had something to do with an overly busy week. And the vomitting-- well, a large enough serving of movie popcorn will do that to you, especially if you begged for a triple serving of butter. Still, off I went to Home Depot at 8:00 p.m., unwilling to go to sleep without installing a new detector.

I woke up the next morning back to my energetic self, and the detector has yet to sound.

Neurotic Mom

Who have I become? These hormones just excite my every thought and whim. I think in exclamation points. Seriously, "That was an incredible sandwich! I need to take the garbage out! Tom put the shampoo in the wrong place! Time to do the dishes!"

My brain has turned into an annoying ALL-CAPS EMAIL.

The Shower (Wk 32: PREGNANCY)

December 6, 2005

People are nicer to you when you're pregnant. I've been offered enough chairs to fill an auditorium. The woman who works at the deli across the street from my work who's scowled at me for the past seven years has suddenly developed the social skills of a first lady.

Then there's the gifts. Okay, so they're for the baby, but it feels like they're for me. When my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, the answer was things off of my registry.

My Bible study bought us our convertible car seat, along with some other sumptuous gifts. My workplace is planning a shower. Last weekend, close friends threw a shower too. They had offered to do it co-ed or just ladies, but since Tom hates the spotlight and doesn't give a rat's tail about booties, the co-ed idea didn't thrill him. I'd always imagined my shower a special time to share with women, so that settled that.

Pickles and Ice Cream

With an outfit that proclaims my belly to the world, I eagerly arrived. Pickles and ice cream awaited, an adorable and tasty theme. My cup literally overflowed with cake, cream, fot fudge, and cherries. My baby kicked with joy for all that sugar. He even moved enough for folks to see through my clothes.

Meanwhile, the arrival of every guest made me kick with joy. I felt so loved, so appreciated.

It was funny to see how people's personalities show in their gifts. Practical gifts from practical girls. Lavish gifts from luxury-loving girls. As I later piled gifts in my living room, I didn't need a written list to remember what came from whom. I could see the face of the giver on each one.

One More Milestone

With this shower behind, I feel all the more ready for the baby. We have clothes, car seat, and crib bedding. We have a bouncy seat. We have diapers. If he came tomorrow, no one would be making an emergency run to the store.


Really, wow. I can't believe I've made it so far, from the fake registries of a year ago to a real live baby shower. The weeks tick by with increasing speed, and Christmas will keep the clock moving. Two months from now, I'll hold a baby in my arms.

Belly Pics Week 32

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Transition (Wk 31: PREGNANCY)

November 29, 2005

I've got the seven-year itch. No, not with my marriage. We're still five years out from that one.

I'm talking about my work. "Well," you ask, "Aren't you leaving in January?" My last day is less than two months away. How bad could it be?

The Sky is Falling

Pretty bad. This fall, I've faced crises that I never knew could come with the job. Normally simple tasks have taken complicated turns. Every day brings new drama. I'm not just being hormonal here. Some really crazy things have happened.

Still, the hormones don't help. I put on my game face to forge through the day, only to weep behind my computer screen. I come home and cry some more.

"I can't do it," I wail to Thomas. "Not another day."

"Quit," he says. "You can always quit earlier than we planned."

"No, no I can't," I say. "We need the money, and I'm not going to make my replacement start early. And I can't leave my job with so many knots untied."


It's hit me that this period of my career is akin to the transitional stage of labor. Dilating those last couple of centimeters, from 8 to 10, is usually the most excruciating part. The contractions come so quickly, with so little rest in between, many women begin to think they can't finish the job.

This is when some women who want a med-free childbirth will hear strange things coming out of their mouth, like "epidural." A good partner will remind them that this is the shortest stage of labor and that the discomfort means the reward is closer than ever.

And so, as I have (literally) labored over these seven years, I now find myself in the transitional stage. The stressors hit harder than ever, with little rest in between. I feel that I can't go on.

Can I ride these waves with perseverance, even find a joy in them, like a woman well-prepared for labor? Can I keep perspective, that this is the shortest stage?

Right now, I'm not. Picture a hysterically screaming woman, and that's me.

Hospital Tour (Wk 30: PREGNANCY)

November 21, 2005

University Hospital isn't "the place" for having a baby. Nope, if you want the hardwood floors (well, pergo probably), large birthing suites, hospital equipment encased in wood veneer cabinets, and soccer moms in the rooms next door, you go to the place down the street.

With our insurance, though, tied into Tom's employment at this hospital, we can have a free baby by going with the vinyl floors and seventies decor. We're talking no copays, not for prenatals or the hospital stay! And as an insured patient on the private service, I won't have medical students or residents in observation.

Tom also likes that our hospital has the highest level NICU in the state.

I, on the other hand, would be just as comfortable in a midwife's care at a birthing center across the street. Except that there's not a birthing center across the street, or a midwife for that matter. (Update: I've since learned of some-- and fortunately, there's a chance my state may soon legalize them!) So my biggest worry hasn't been the decor of my delivery room but how supportive the staff will be of my childbirth choices. After our tour, I'm feeling relieved about things.

Actually, my relief started at my last appointment, when Dr. G. referred to episiotomies as "vaginal cesareans." He confirmed yet again that I can have intermittant monitoring rather than be flat on my back with the continous electronic stuff.

Our Tour Begins

So, back to the tour. I was like an eager high school student touring the college campus.

We began at the Maternity Evaluation Unit. Tom and I found ourselves in a diverse group, perhaps typical for a hospital that specializes in care to high-risk patients, residents and their families, and the uninsured. All ages, all socio-economic backgrounds, we smiled awkwardly at one another.

Perhaps it was most awkward for Tom, one of only two men there. Thank goodness for that other guy.

Our guide led us through the stages of delivery, showing us different rooms and their amenities. Unlike more posh hospitals, we'll recover from labor in a separate room from labor and delivery. I decided I could live with that, especially after learning some other perks. When I found out that our "mommy" gift was a Medela Pump-in-Style, you couldn't pull my jaw off the floor.

Beyond the Perks

It wasn't the $300 gift that most pleased me, though. It was recognition from our tour guide that different women choose different births. She prefaced her many comments with, "If you are planning on an epidural..." and "If you are planning other forms of coping..." She showed us a squatting bar and how it attaches to the bed before I even had nerve to ask about it! I was also pleased to learn this hospital has the lowest c-section rate in the city.

Our guide described how the baby would be placed on our belly after birth, and how wonderful it will be to discover the sex of the baby that way for those of us who don't already know. She went on to say that the hospital prefers for mothers to room with their babies rather than sending them to the nursery. She warned us not to allow the "grandmother's bottle" or any kind of formula, since our milk supply is based on demand.

Only problem? I could just swear this baby is lying sideways in my uterus. A good, old-fashioned transverse lie. The sort of thing even Ina May Gaskin, midwife to many a breech birth, says calls for a c-section. Here's to hoping I'm wrong-- or at the very least, that this baby will flip!

Let the Sacrifice Begin (Wk 29: PREGNANCY)

November 15, 2005

By the fourth prick, I had tears in my eyes. No one likes having blood drawn, least of all five times in four hours from the same spot in the arm. Especially not needle-phobes like me!

I whined to Tom, whined to my friends, whined as if something were really wrong. As if taking the 3-hour glucose test for gestational diabetes were akin to a spinal tap.

Taste of What's to Come

This glucose test meant rearranging my entire work schedule with little notice so I could sit for hours in a waiting room. A little taste of how a sick child will shake up the best-laid plans? It also meant fasting the night before, which to a pregnant woman borders on martyrdom-- but how often do new mother's complain they can't find time to eat?

Then there's the international, Nobel-peace-prize-winning speaker that Tom and I looked forward to hearing at our alma mater this week. It's been on our calendar for months. Only thing, I just discovered that the night of his address is that only night we can tour the hospital (due to travel plans, it's now or never).

How many more speakers will we miss because we can't find (or afford) a babysitter? Or because of a child's school play?

On Saturday, I realized that we're nearing the end of football season, and I haven't had a single beer. Pizza, yes. Beer, no. It's not quite the same. Yet I won't be downing them next fall either, since I'll be nursing a baby. And before you know it, those Saturdays will be spent on cold, wet bleachers for children's soccer games.

Lay Me on the Altar

I say all of this as if it were a big deal. You know what? It's not.

If you had told me a year ago I'd spend all day getting poked with needles for a glucose (which, incidentally, I passed), I'd have leapt for joy. Yesterday, I knew deep-down there was nowhere I'd rather be.

Hearing a speaker versus seeing where I'll deliver my baby? Didn't even have to think about it.

Okay, so I do miss the beer. But what a greater rush I will know when my baby wraps his hand around my finger for the first time! What a great rush I will know every time I hear her giggle!

Such small sacrifices I'm making for a great gift. Sacrifice isn't even the right word. It's all a gift.