Category: Pregnancy

Trusting

Today I am 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. It’s such a physical reality that it’s hard to believe it’ll soon be a distant memory. The midwife stripped my membranes yesterday and I’ve had some action since: discomfort, pressure, contractions. I’m at work today, so nothing that has slowed me down completely, but I am wondering. I’m waddling down the hallways, going to meetings, sipping my coffee, listening to the trains going by on the waterfront, writing copy and all the while some part of me is thinking: “what if my water breaks right now? Is that a contraction? My feet are so swollen. I want a snack.”

I’m struck by how much this process belongs to forces beyond me. “Surrender” seems to a big theme in birth literature and I can see why. Only Starling knows when he’s coming. I suppose that’s been true all along, even/especially while trying to conceive, though at the time it was harder to let go of the illusion of control.

Whether or not he comes this weekend, I’m not coming back to work on Monday. It was supposed to be my last week, but the rest of my life is more important. I really want more time with Jaybird, too. He woke up three times last night and finally ended up in our bed around 5:30. I heard the door open, cracked an eye and saw his grinning face: “Mama! It’s morning time!” I pulled him up into bed with a mumbled, “it’s snuggle time.” He wrapped his arms around me and immediately went back to sleep. He just needs that, needs us, needs the affection and the attention. I’ve been worrying about how Starling’s arrival will affect our relationship. I know that I’ll be wrapped up in the haze of newborn-land, nursing nonstop and sleeping when I can get it, while Jaybird will be his usual high-octane self. Uno’s parents are coming to spend the week with us/him after Starling comes, which I’m grateful for, though some wee part of me is jealous. I’m also jealous of his bond with Uno’s brother, who lives with us, because they have such wild fun together. “Uncle __ is my BEST FRIEND,” he announced recently. I used to be the “fun mama” but pregnancy and full-time work has sucked some of that away.

I’ve heard from a lot of couples that once baby #2 arrives, the non-birthing parent spends a lot more time with the oldest kiddo. It makes sense, of course. I just have to trust that my bond with my son is so tight, it doesn’t matter if we have less time together for a while. Trust, trust, trust. For our last birth class we wrote these affirmations and my top one was: “I trust myself and my body.” A friend of ours has passed along a related piece of wisdom I often return to: “Trust your future self.”

So, yeah. We’re on the cusp of a huge transition. Our family dynamics will shift, inevitably. I am along for the ride but I’m not driving. Uno and I like to talk about being “on the chicken bus,” from our days traveling in Central America. You’d be crammed into an old American school bus packed well beyond capacity, hurtling down a green mountain road with no guardrails, and there was nothing you could do but hold on, watch the view and wait.

 

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Getting Ready

There are some signs that this little guy is preparing to make his debut, but who knows, of course, what he’ll decide. I’m almost 38 weeks. Lots of testing these days – 2x / week for the non-stress test and 1x / week for the amniotic fluid index. The amount of monitoring is not my favorite, but Starling is wonderful. He’s cooperative and healthy in every way. Yesterday during the ultrasound I couldn’t believe how HUGE he looked as compared to our last glimpse of him. All that baby! That enormous head, my god!

I’m all sorted out with my care, seeing a midwifery group I love and delivering at a progressive hospital’s birthing center. We went to an open house to meet the rest of the midwives and to tour, and it alleviated a lot of my fears about a hospital environment. It’s a small, peaceful place that’s easy to navigate. Am I really going to give birth so soon? Hard to believe. My midwife wants to start “encouraging” things next week, i.e. sweep my membranes, have me do acupuncture and so on, because the powers that be don’t want me to go past 40 weeks. (Oh, diabetes, you pest). I’m skittish about induction and I fear pitocin. I don’t want to rush this guy out if he’s not ready, either.

I’ve been feeling sort of lonely and overwhelmed in moments. I cried in the car yesterday between my regular checkup and my NST/AFI appointment. I was running late, had to go to work after, was missing Jaybird and hating that I’d had to rush him that morning, and  grappling with how to juggle all this extra testing I’m supposed to do. Plus, my mother-in-law had written this button-pushing note about how she’s worried about how stressed out we are, and how it’s just going to get harder when the baby gets here. She’s made comments like that before and it sends me into the stratosphere. It feels so unfair. It’s not the baby’s fault. We WANTED him, we have PLANNED for him.

I keep thinking that it’s not supposed to be this way, that I’m supposed to be journaling and nesting and putting my feet up and getting pampered. I think about how this is the only time I’ll ever do this.

My mom is still out of commission and it’s so sad for me. I had always imagined her at my birth and I’d hoped she’d be able to spend special time with Jaybird around it, but no. Other things conspire to bring me down. This feeling that we’re just not READY keeps nagging at me, even though I finally washed a load of baby clothes and Uno assembled a little dresser to put them in. There’s the bassinet, the diapering stuff, the hospital bag, the birth plan: none of it is ready. It feels like there’s no space for Starling in our house. Uno is so sweet and supportive, of course, just stretched thin. We did talk last night about making a list and getting some of the above ready, and that felt good. She’s very aware of how I’ve been feeling. She juggles our other family members a lot, including Jaybird who’s been extra-clingy with her, so I don’t want her to feel like I’m dragging her down.

We’ve talked about strategies. This weekend we’re going to relax and go to the beach, plus my aunts are throwing us a baby shower. We’re working to get more rest. We have been going to a birth class, which is a good time to connect and think about Starling. I might take my leave from work one week sooner than I’d planned. And I do know that even if my water broke tomorrow, we’d be fine: bassinets can be assembled and diapers purchased or prepped, etc. We will have plenty of love and warmth for Starling no matter what.

Here’s the belly, by the way…

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Taking Care (Of)

I find myself thinking a lot about this powerful Mary Oliver poem lately, especially the ending:

“determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.”

Here I am at the end of my pregnancy and family chaos is erupting. We’re managing it and I’m grateful it’s not our immediate family. The three (four) of us are just fine and I hold onto that.

Uno’s grandma, who has dementia, recently suffered a fall after wandering out of her assisted living facility. Result? She can’t stay there any longer, and has been at our house. Thankfully, Uno’s quick detective skills located a place for her at a nearby adult family home that we feel good about. The transition is still hard. It’s destabilizing for her and requires a lot of footwork. Compassion abounds. But it’s hard.

And then my mom. She has struggled with periods of depression for a long time, and it’s gotten worse in recent years. Right now she’s having a pretty bad episode. It’s hard, it’s triggering, and while I am also very compassionate, I feel pretty frustrated with her. She went off meds that seemed to be helping, crashed, and is now waffling about going back on anything. She has a history of ditching providers she doesn’t like. I can’t force her to get better, and I know that, and I think I need to stop answering her calls. But that’s hard, too. We’re close. Lately she’s so maddening on the phone: foggy, indecisive, defensive, childlike, alternately snippy and melodramatic. I’m trying to remind myself: it’s the illness, not the person.

When my mom is doing well, she’s so great. She’s a fun, engaged grandma, she helps out a lot, she’s a good listener, she’s a loving hostess, she’s lively and witty. When she’s doing poorly, all of that seems to vanish. I can’t rely on her. I can’t talk to her about anything and she can’t be present. I miss her, the real her. I miss her something fierce.

So here I am, 8 months pregnant, and my mother is completely unavailable to me. I don’t even know if she’ll come over to meet the baby when he’s born. The timing SUCKS. She was going to be at the birth, but not now, obviously. I did line up my wonderful, funny aunt to be there instead, and I’m grateful for the extended family and friend network that we have.

There is so much mental illness in my family. To be fair, extenuating circumstances have played a role. I put my hand on my belly and think: “please, please, don’t inherit any of that.” That’s probably my greatest fear as a parent.

I’m tired of being the strong one. I went to my youngest brother’s high school graduation this weekend – my mom didn’t and then felt so guilty about it – and afterwards we had a picnic with family including Mom. She and my sister got into it. As we were about to leave, my sister came, sat in my lap and sobbed into my shoulder. Meanwhile I was telling Jaybird, who was strapped in his carseat, “it’s okay honey. Auntie just feels sad and needs a hug.” It’s almost comical, you know? All of this emotion swirling around me, and I’m just there, being strong. Or whatever. I feel numb. I need to take care of myself. I want to withdraw, to focus only on my sons and my wife. I did finally wash the newborn clothes and swaddlers and it was lovely and helped me focus on how it will feel to caress that tiny head, to diaper that itty-bitty bum.

In good news, my oral meds are really helping with my blood sugar numbers, so much so that I’ve been able to lighten up some on the dietary restrictions. I’m still careful and protein-focused, but I can indulge in fruit or ice cream a bit and not worry. Also, Starling is hale and hearty. His heartbeat is strong and his movements are confident. He’s head down. I leaked a little colostrum recently – weird! My body seems to know what to do. I am holding onto that idea in preparation for birth.

Time to take a walk, time for rest, time for good food and friends, time to turn off the phone…

33 Weeks

Creeping along through the third trimester, here. I don’t know if the reality of a new human in our lives is going to sink in until he arrives. I feel bulkier, slower on my feet and suffer from awful heartburn, but I still don’t feel like I’m about to have a baby. It’s surreal. We haven’t prepared anything for him yet. I am looking forward to washing and sorting tiny clothes, pulling out the co-sleeper and such. Seems like I owe it to this little guy. We have settled on a name (under wraps) and refer to him that way, which is fun. Jaybird often talks about and to him.

He does shift and wiggle around, making himself known. I hope he’s not soaked in sugars. I’m taking a low dose of medication (Glyburide) before bed. Hasn’t brought my fasting numbers down much. My daytime numbers had been pretty good, but I’ve had a few spikes lately that surprise me. I have my low moments with all of this. I’ve been extra-grumpy about it. It just wears me down, the vigilance.

Good news is that this new midwifery group is going to see me. The midwife was confident about my ability to try for a natural birth, and she didn’t seem trigger-happy about induction. The downside? It’s a super-busy public health clinic, so it’s packed with all sorts of folks, and they’re often behind with appointments. There was a cookie cutter feel to my intake. “Do you smoke? Do you do illegal drugs? Don’t drink soda.” Etcetera. But then the actual midwife was quite wonderful, funny and smart and progressive.

Jaybird, meanwhile, is a hilarious handful. He’s doing a fair amount of testing, lately, but he’s also so much more independent and conversational. Yesterday I said, “come inside where I can see you,” and he said back (calmly, I might add), “you come outside where you can see me.” He loves dress-up and imaginative play. I feel bad that I can’t roughhouse with him like I used to, but his uncle fills in with that a lot. His new school is great. We’ve seen a big change in him already: he talks to his peers more, he’s cheerful afterwards, he picks up bugs and makes up stories. It makes me tear up, sometimes, to see the increased confidence.

I just want to be with him more! The new school schedule has meant reduced time for us. (I can’t pick him up midday). I’m ready for my maternity leave to start. When will that be? Question of the year. I’d been thinking I’d work up ’til week 40, but now I’m thinking more like week 38, especially given the possibility of earlier labor with the GD.

Big question lately: do I come back to this job after the leave is up? Crunching numbers, we figured out that with childcare and commuting costs, my net income would be laughably small. Really, really small. Then again, we need me to earn some income. My supervisor is not open to part-time, though I’ve been thinking about pushing the point. Thing is that I can’t really do my Lead role part-time. I could go back to my old position (demote myself?) to do that, but pay would be low. I can earn the same amount, if not more, if I go back to being an adjunct English professor at the college where I taught before. My dean, in fact, is thrilled to have me back — we were just emailing. It’d start late September.

Problem is, it feels like going backwards. I made this big career leap with the intent to set myself up for better earning potential and more stability for my family. Adjuncting is the same as it always was: uncertainty about schedule, no pay over the summer or between quarters, a long slog towards ever getting a full-time position. Lack of prestige, frankly.

I like teaching. I’m good at it. The schedule is better for my family than 40 hours/week. I can be more efficient now r.e. planning and grading. The grading still sucks. Will it look bad on my resume to go back? I could always try for another corporate marketing / copy / communications type job in a year or so. What do I really want to do? These questions ping around inside my brain.

Cannot Be Controlled: Change in Plans

I just got off the phone with one of the two midwives who I’ve been seeing since early in the pregnancy. It was a goodbye. I have to go on oral medication for the diabetes, hence I have to deliver in a hospital. I’m sad and want to go home and have a good cry. I know that it’s not my fault, but it feels like a wee bit of a failure. My body is not cooperating and my morning fasting numbers remain too high, despite my best efforts. I’m one of those “cannot be controlled with diet and exercise” cases I read about. Doesn’t that sound so ominous?

I’m confused: I have no family history of this. My mom had five — five! — babies naturally, never any complications. By all accounts she was a pregnancy and birthing boss. I’d been assuming genetics were in my favor, but now I have doubts. What if Starling is too big? What if they want to induce me and the intervention snowball gets going? Induction is definitely my biggest fear. Well, no. My biggest fear is that he’ll have complications, like hypoglycemia or respiratory distress, so I understand that the hospital setting is warranted.

I feel like going to have a big old ice cream sundae. Makes me want to say: fine! This isn’t working anyway. (Instead I mildly rebelled by having half an apple with peanut butter, as normally, I avoid fruit.)

I also avoid: sugar anywhere, white flour, rice, corn, potatoes, most grains, most starches. Of course it makes me long for baked goods and lattes and peaches. I CAN have bits of dark chocolate, sandwiches on thin-slice whole wheat bread, and a tablespoon of jam mixed in with my plain yogurt. I’ve been encouraged to eat lots of fat, which is kind of fun: full-fat cottage cheese, ranch dressing, bacon, avocado. It’s a weird balancing act, trying to keep sugars down while getting enough calories. I haven’t gained a bit of weight since this began, even though the baby is clearly getting bigger. Midwives reassured me that’s ok.

Food has become a chore, which is a strange shift for me. I love to cook, to bake, to read and write about food. I am realizing just how much I expect everything I eat to be delicious. How much I take variety for granted. Talk about privilege, right? In many ways, this is a fascinating learning curve. Uno jokes that Starling is forcing healthier habits upon me. (But he cannot make me like salad. I feel like such an alien, but I just do not like raw leafy greens. Gah.)

Good news is that I *should* be able to continue with midwifery care, just with a nurse-midwife team that delivers at a local hospital. The hospital has a really low C-section rate and a great birth center, along with a Level III NICU. My current midwives highly recommend it. I have my first appointment next week. What’s hard is that I’m already 32 weeks – ! – and so I won’t have much time to get to know them. It’s a big group, so I could end up at the birth with a complete stranger attending.

I don’t want to dwell. Gotta stay focused, stay hopeful about the birth, trust. I can do this diet thing for 8 more weeks.

Did I just say 8 more weeks?

Too Sweet for My Own Good

So, my fears panned out. I have gestational diabetes. Or at least, I probably do. I failed my glucose screen rather spectacularly, and that after eating no carbs or sweets and fasting for two hours before drinking that sugary stuff. My number was 178. The midwife called to tell me that she didn’t think I needed the longer fasting test, because the number was so bad, so she promptly referred me to a nutritionist. I haven’t seen him/her yet, but I have started monitoring my blood sugar. In the last four-odd days I’ve cut out: most carbs, most fruit, anything with added sugar. My levels were consistently great over the weekend, except for once when I ate something with potato in it, when it was up slightly. But only slightly. So I was feeling confident. Thinking, “maybe I don’t even have it.”

Then I splurged and ate a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks. Ham, egg and cheese on a sourdough roll. I mean, still mostly protein, right? I also had a small cup of coffee with a splash of cream. Okay, two splashes. And my blood sugar skyrocketed. I test an hour after eating, when it’s supposed to be less than 120, and it was 159. Message received: I can’t mess around. Bread = no. (But maybe I can still get away with a little cream in my decaf? I can dream.)

I feel terrible about it. Starling is thumping around inside me and I’m wondering if I’m flooding him with sugar. Poor babe. I don’t want him to get too big or have hypoglycemia after birth or any of those scary complications. The midwife and Google reassure me that it’s nothing I’ve done, it’s just my uncooperative pancreas, but I’m still feeling guilty about not exercising enough, probably eating too many scones, and maybe not being thin enough when I got pregnant. My protein- and veggie-packed weekend gives me hope that I can control this with diet, though. So, adios to bread, bananas, honey yogurt, cereal, baked goods, ice cream, tortillas, you name it. Sigh. The hardest part? Lengthier prep for meals. Well, that and pricking my finger 4 – 6 times a day. Good lord. I’m already tired of almonds, scrambled eggs and salad. Truth be told, I’ve never liked salad all that much.

We move in a week and packing is only about 30% done. I’m trying to save up my PTO, so don’t want to take any days off work. It’s a little hectic. This diabetes thing is not fun to layer on top.

But I don’t want to have to switch to an OB and hospital care. I can do this. I whisper “vaginal birth” to myself right before I have to stick that needle in my finger.

To cheer myself up, the positive things. Jaybird’s first day at his new school went swimmingly. Uno stayed to observe some at the beginning and then again before pickup, when they did circle time, and loved how the teacher interacted with all the kids. He came home chatty and cheerful – such a marked change from before. He got to hold a snail, wear a princess dress, dig in the mud and touch the chickens. Today they have a field trip in the big park nearby, where they’ll hike through the forest. Perfection.

Also, Jaybird’s bedtime has become fun. He’s been so cooperative. We snuggle in his bed and read before singing a song and turning out the light. I usually get back in bed with him and he hugs me until he falls asleep. He often loudly sings part of the song with me until abruptly snoozing. He can sing along with “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “A Few of my Favorite Things” – you should hear him: “I SIMPLY REMEMBER my FAVORITE THINGS…” totally off-key and with his cute little “we-membah” and “favo-wit” and “tings.”

Starling Is…

A boy!

He’s a beautiful, perfect little guy who didn’t stop moving for the entire scan. Wiggle, flip , kick and shimmy: he’s an active one. I teared up seeing his fully formed little body. All looks great.

Jaybird announced to us, before the appointment: “I already know. It’s a boy.” Psychic?

I love the idea of brothers. Of course some part of me wanted / wants to raise a daughter, but I feel like this is a wonderful balance for our family. And I’m so excited to see this baby bird grow into his own unique self, gender aside.

Here he is! My favorite is the one of him curled on his belly.

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