Here I am, on the due date and still no premonition or telltale signs that Zelda’s on her way. I’ve asked a couple of friends if there was any secret to it, like some kind of mother spidey-sense or small bodily signal that could be a sign, but it looks like I’m out of luck and just have to wait.
Quite frankly, I’m getting anxious.
Not anxious in a bad way, mind you. I’m not talking about the anxiety associated with birth and the pain and the fear of things going wrong. I’m not talking about the anxiety associated with trying to balance work and no sleep, the lack of maternity leave, or the dreaded feeling that I’m going to somehow fuck this up royally. That’s still there, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as overwhelming as it was before.
I’m getting anxious because I want to meet Zelda.
Truthfully, I’m a bit relieved at this feeling. I’ve gone through this pregnancy with what I’ve considered a large amount of ambivalence. I’ve been what Rebecca Walker phrased as
viewing motherhood with more than a little suspicion. Can I survive having a baby? Will I lose myself—my body, my mind, my options—and be left trapped, resentful, and irretrievably overwhelmed?
In a way, Walker has said what I’ve been feeling and even writing all along in this blog: I’ve been concerned about my body, what’s going on in my head, and the societal impact of becoming pregnant this whole time. I’ve been worried about losing my autonomy, my body revolting against me. Me, me, me. I, I, I.
The Plath poem was the first one I can recall reading about motherhood that wasn’t completely rosy or cute. She makes her amusing comparisons (the melon on two tendrils image always made me smile), but her tone changes near the end, sort of trailing into a lamentable state of being “a means” and a “cow.” At the end she realizes that the pregnancy is only the start of the journey, and the journey will continue into motherhood. It may be ominous to quote Plath, but her poem resonates with me. Our lives are about to massively change.
A friend of mine said that becoming a mother more or less means saying goodbye to the person you once were. I’ve already had one perception of myself laid to rest a few years ago, and that was a difficult lesson. I’m not saying that fresher perception of myself is inaccurate like the previous one, but I am feeling the transition into a newer version of myself is happening. I think I realized it as much as a week ago, when I was showering. As I went through the ritual of washing myself with my much-coveted Snow Fairy Lush soap, I paused while I was soaping up my belly and smiled. I felt comforted by the presence of my bump, of Zelda. It was a fleeting moment, but it was there long enough for me to acknowledge it.
And that was the start the change. I found myself talking to Zelda more and more, resting my hand on my bump more frequently, and imagining what her personality will be like.I informed Matt she would be an Aquarius, and therefore would be a force to be reckoned with: progressive and independent, but temperamental and aloof. Matt thinks astrology is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, and opts for the more Chinese route as a way to pinpoint her personality. She’ll be born in the Year of the Monkey, the same sign as myself, so that means she’ll probably be a lot like me. While Monkey signs tend to be curious and intelligent, they are also impatient, irritable, and stubborn. God help us.
I spend more time sitting in her room and trying to imagine what it will be like getting up in the morning and seeing a baby in the crib right away. I think about what it will be like to take Zelda to the National Mall or the Zoo on a weekend, if she’ll have the same sweet tooth I have, or if she will inherit Matt’s calm demeanor. The big change here is that I’m not thinking about me and how I’m going to survive anymore. I’m not fully
concentrated on the injustices of the social world around me. My head’s not spinning with the thought of me, me, me, I, I, I. Instead of think about Zelda and how pleased I am that we’ve come to the end of this part. I hate not knowing when she’ll be here, but one thing’s for sure: it could happen at any time.
I’m not as afraid as I thought I would be. I’ve gone through this pregnancy dreading the end because I know it ends in a trauma of sorts. But, as everyone who has been through it says, it’ll be more than worth it. I have no doubt in my mind.
I’ve got a confession to make. I love the film Rosemary’s Baby.
I saw it for the first time when I was in my early twenties. I was a senior in college and taking a class called American Gothic, a course that would shape my academic trajectory through my MA and even my Ph.D. Rosemary’s Baby was on the required viewing list, and I went into it not knowing what to expect. I think all those feminist and women’s studies courses did a number on how I approached the film. It was not Rosemary giving birth to a demonic baby that bothered me, or even the deeply disturbing imagery of the conception scene. What bothered me the most was Rosemary’s lack of agency throughout the entire film.
Now, one week away from my due date, I feel that theme resonating with me more than ever.
Before I explain, if you haven’t seen the film, here’s the quick version: Rosemary Woodhouse and her new husband Guy move into a swanky New York City apartment (the movie was actually filmed at the Dakota), and soon talk about having children. They become friends with their elderly neighbors, Roman and Minnie Castavet. Unbeknownst to Rosemary, her husband makes a pact with the Castavets: promising their firstborn child for a successful acting career. It turns out that Roman and Minnie are members of a Satan-worshipping witch coven, and they want Satan to impregnate Rosemary. Needless to say, their scheme works and the film follows Rosemary’s painful, complicated pregnancy and her quest to find out the truth.
A popular reading of the film is that it is a commentary of patriarchal culture regarding pregnancy (Berenstein, Skal). Many scholars also attribute this desire to take control of the body as a reaction to the advent of the pill in the 1960’s. On the surface, those readings are completely accurate. At every turn, Rosemary is told what to do, what not to do, what to eat, what medications to take, and is not expected to question any of it. She tries to resist the forces that are building up against her. She attempts to reclaim ownership of her body in a multitude of ways: throwing out the daily “health drinks” Dr. Saperstein prescribed her, getting rid of the pendant with tannis root Minnie had given to her as a gift, and speaking up to Guy about wanting a new obstetrician because she doesn’t trust Dr. Saperstein. Two interesting points raised in an article about the film mention the commentary Rosemary receives about her appearance and her decision to cut her hair (and to be fair, I adore that pixie haircut and rocked it a few times myself). The commentary about her gaunt and pale appearance, Smyth comments, is indicative of the societal notion that the pregnant body is under constant surveillance. She views Rosemary’s haircut as one of her many attempts to reclaim her body.
All of these points resonate with me. I do not necessarily feel, though, that this is a product of patriarchal society alone anymore. I agree that the film reflects anxieties about female agency and the pregnant body, but I think it goes beyond patriarchal forces. Adrienne Rich published Of Woman Born in the late 70’s, before my time, and she clearly shows how pregnancy and motherhood have been institutionalized by these forces. In one example, she examines the tool of the forceps, a tool that involves “the effective displacement of the midwife through the male monopoly of that invention” (p. 142). However, in our recent childbirth class we learned that forceps are more or less a last resort, and used when only all other options have been exhausted. In another example, Rich contrasts labor with forced labor, and declares that the availability of anesthesia in childbirth makes the female more passive in her experience (pp. 158-159). I’ll be the first to come out and say it: I plan on having an epidural. The thought of the pain frightens me. That fear is reinforced by the literature and the stories around me, and the stories are written and told by women themselves. Sure, there’s a push for natural childbirth, but the midwife in our birthing class rather wryly said most women can’t stand the pain and ask for drugs, an offset of “I told you so.”
I’ve found that the suppression of bodily autonomy does not just come from doctors, but from peers. I’ll say that I don’t think this is a conscious act; I believe that peers mean well and believe they are helping as opposed to hindering. And in many ways, peers have helped. Rich emphasizes the importance of the informal network of women, and she’s right to do so–it’s crucial. At the same time, the voices turn into a litany of “do this” and “don’t do this.” It turns into an overwhelming barrage with many different voices, and it’s hard to discern what is right and wrong. In some cases, the assumptions made are belittling and harmful. I do see the inverse, the “in my pregnancy” comments a little differently. In a way, I think they are a way for women to fight back against these forces, a way to declare some kind of autonomy in their pregnancy because they were brash enough to go against the doctor’s rules. It’s a way of saying, “I broke the rules and I did ok,” which is another way of saying that some kind of control was taken back.
As for the surveillance angle, I have felt it ring true more since I only started to show at seven months. Various individuals are all of the sudden telling me what activities I should and should not take part in, where I should and should not be going, and the things I should and should not be ingesting. People comment on the size of my bump, ask if the baby is doing ok because the bump is on the smaller side, and question whether or not I am going to breastfeed. Once again, perhaps it’s well intentioned or done unconsciously, but sometimes I feel like Rosemary, just swimming in a sea of intentions that makes me feel disconnected from my own experience.
The common theme, and the link between Rosemary’s Baby and Rich, is that the woman’s body is a battlefield. Things are done to a pregnant or laboring woman’s body, and in the end her voice is not the one that rises above the others, it becomes diminished. We are told that we can have a birth plan, we can say no, and that we can make our own choices, but we are not the final say. Rosemary tries hard to reclaim her body and make her own choices, and the true horror of the film lies in the fact that she ends up giving in to those forces instead of continuing to fight.
I have not watched the film since getting pregnant, and Matt hated it. I joke about watching it sometimes, especially since birth is right around the corner, but I’m not so sure Matt finds it funny. I will rewatch it sometime soon, though, mostly because Rosemary’s lack of agency is the most terrifying thing of all, and the most real.
See Part I here. I had a lot to say, so I decided to break it into two posts.
Not just the first three months may suck, the whole thing may suck.
I had a tough first few months. My morning sickness was like a 24/7 hangover that felt never-ending. I was fatigued all the time, and the thought of trying to eat something was completely out of the question. My family practitioner wouldn’t give me anything for the nausea until I’d seen an OB/GYN, and the OB/GYN was booked for at least two weeks. I was absolutely miserable and eagerly waiting for the magical second trimester everyone was telling me about: bursts of energy, cheery disposition, hearty appetite, and just a general lifting of the black cloud of fatigue and nausea. The second trimester was better, but not by a lot. With the advent of the third trimester came severe acid reflux, trouble breathing, sleepnessness, depression, more fatigue, and even some nausea thrown in on the odd nights. Yes, Every Pregnancy is Different™, but I think it’s safe to say I kept hoping it would get better. It never really did.
Most of the time, people don’t care if you’re pregnant.
Right off the bat, I’ll say that “people” does not include friends and family, because they certainly care. What I mean by “people” is general people outside of those categories. Case in point: the metro. I commute on the metro daily, and at this point, 8 1/2 months into the pregnancy, it shows. My feet are swelled, I waddle when I walk, and I huff and puff from walking short distances. The metro gets pretty packed in the evenings, and I usually have to elbow my way around just to get on a train. And when I do, it’s standing room only. A handful of people have offered me a seat when it gets like that. By a handful, I literally mean 4 people. I don’t need to sit all the time, but there are days when I sure would appreciate it. I actually had one woman, from the luxury of her seat, tell me it wasn’t good for me to be standing or even riding the metro when I was so far along. Her concern did not extend to giving me her seat.
The first few months when I was having marathon puke sessions in the bathroom, waking up in the middle of the night to puke some more, and feeling like I needed to sleep in the afternoons, I couldn’t let any of it on. I’d just started my job and wanted to look good. And even now, if I’m not feeling well or something is off, I can’t really say, “I’m unable to do X because I’m pregnant.” It sounds lame. Of course, the second I try to lift something or I volunteer to do something else, I get told I shouldn’t be doing those things “because I’m pregnant.”
I don’t like the 12 week rule.
I understand that the “12 week rule” for announcing is there for multiple reasons: fear of miscarriage, unwanted advice, work worries. However, I don’t really agree with it. One article says, “The thinking is that if you tell your friends and family before 12 weeks, and experience a tragic miscarriage, then you need to share that news, too. Many women believe it’s just easier to keep the news to themselves than to share their sadness with others.” I call bullshit. BULLSHIT. I get that everyone is different and processes their experiences differently. If a woman chose to take this route on her own, I would not fault her for it. What I have beef with is how other people spout it like it is gospel. To me, it’s essentially saying, “You should not tell anyone until 12 weeks because you need to suffer through a miscarriage alone.” Unsolicited advice? Meh, you get it at all levels and I’m sure I will get it post-birth, too. The last reason is probably the most understandable, because discrimination against pregnant women is still very real in the workplace. At the same time, a woman is expected, should she experience complications or morning sickness, to keep silent. Somehow it all seems really unfair to me. Even one person I saw announce before 12 weeks on FB got blasted for sharing too early, but she pretty much gave an e-shrug and said she could announce when she wanted.
PMS is nothing on pregnancy hormones.
I’ve always been a pretty emotional person. It was pretty easy to tell when it was my time of the month, mostly because I’d alternate between weepy and irrationally angry. You could almost say I was the poster child for every stereotype about PMS. I found out later, after trying many different kinds of birth control, that hormones were not in my cards because they amplified every terrible feeling I had tenfold. So when I got pregnant, naturally the onslaught of hormones was going to make me a little crazy, right? I’d read about mothers-to-be getting weepy at silly things and figured I was in for a little bit of a roller coaster of a time. Sure enough, the smallest things got me going. I bawled my eyes out on the Winnie-the-Pooh ride at Disney World because there was a family in the cart in front of us and I was picturing me riding with our little girl. I got misty when I saw mothers with their children at the mall. I’d cry at songs on the radio I never even batted an eye out before. I think, at first, it was normal. But then the tide turned. I was irrationally sad and angry all the time, which I talk about in a previous post. I’m happy to say I’ve finished the acupuncture treatment and I’m still doing fine. I feel more adjusted than I have since I got pregnant, to be honest. It’s a good feeling.
You will lose friends, but you will find support networks in places you never thought possible.
I didn’t expect to lose friends. I was even more shocked to learn you lose ones you had for a long, long time. Instead of hash on that, though, I will say I realized that support networks and encouragement come out of the woodwork. Friendships that have always existed have grown even stronger, which I am infinitely grateful for. I’ve had people reach out that I have only spoken to every now and then, or people I’ve only kept in touch with via social media. I know social media gets a bad rap a lot of the time, but I will say that it has proven invaluable for letting me know that people care and that I’m not alone. It reminds me that even though some people find it necessary to cut you out of their life for whatever reason, there are plenty of others that are just fine with having you around, whether it’s virtual or in real life.
BONUS: People suddenly turn into MDs.
One of my big pet peeves are those “just you wait” comments. My poor husband got the JUST YOU WAIT the other day when he was getting his hair cut. I said it was a good thing I wasn’t there because I would have said something. Anyway, the other one is when people say, “Well, in MY PREGNANCY . . .” (or the derivative “In X person’s pregnancy”). I say I’m abstaining from alcohol? “Well IN MY PREGNANCY I drank and my baby was just fine.” I’m watching my caffeine intake? “In MY SISTER’S PREGNANCY, she drank a ton of coffee and her baby came out perfect.” Hell, in Disney I said I wasn’t riding certain rides because I was pregnant, and some lady nearby piped up, “MY DAUGHTER rode all those rides when she was pregnant and her baby was fine.” Well, aren’t you special. Where’s your decade or more of schooling to make such a bold statement?
I get it, some of the rules seem extraneous. I’ve even cheated on the coffee rule a handful of times. But last I checked, personal anecdotes don’t trump the recommendations of a doctor. Hell, if we took personal anecdotes as gospel, I’m sure we’d end up with a lot more unvaccinated babies, too. Also, if Every Pregnancy is Different™, how do I know what worked for one person would be an assurance that my baby would be absolutely fine? I can deal without drinking, or riding thrill rides, or raw fish, etc. for nine months. II’ll bitch about it, but I can deal. I’d rather be a stick in the mud and be safe than sorry.
I’m sure I’ll look back on this list and laugh my ass off. Oh, I still have so much to learn.
Some surprising truths I learned about being pregnant, the hard way. Slightly vent-like post follows.
You may never get that earth mother/goddess feeling.
From the second I saw that second line on the pregnancy test, I expected to get overwhelmed by these warm and glowy feelings about motherhood. I expected to be constantly amazed of the prospect of growing another human inside of me, to be one with the earth and maybe understand the circle of life a little better. Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating a little, but I definitely expected to feel something about it. I envisioned myself walking around, a hand on my bump and feeling serene. Instead I was strangely ambivalent for a long time. Matt even commented in a past blog post he forgot I was even pregnant sometimes, mostly because I wasn’t in this dewy-eyed cloud of impending motherhood.
Then I started to worry. I think, to a degree, I’m still worrying: daycare, no maternity leave, complications in labor, freak accidents. It’s like there was no time for me to “enjoy” the pregnancy because too many other things have clouded my mind at the same time. I’m pretty convinced that anyone who said pregnancy was a wonderful and beautiful experience either A. Left out the unpleasant parts, or B. Is comparing it to their situation now, which is likely having a screaming child somewhere nearby.
You can’t believe the things your body is doing. Some may make you feel awe, and others you may feel horrified.
Feeling awe and horror at the same time is starting to be a common occurrence for me. I didn’t really start ballooning out until fairly recently, so I didn’t have a sense of the changes that were occurring in my body. Oh, I remember feeling the stretching uterus in the second trimester and watching my breasts get to ridiculous anime-sized proportions, but I didn’t really grasp the magnitude of what was happening in there until the birthing class Matt and I took last week (read Part I and Part II). One of the things the teacher explained was how the organs in the body shift around. The lungs apparently move upwards and get bunched up, which is why breathing gets to be so tough. Somehow the thought of my lungs expanding outwards to the sides as opposed to the normal way shocked me. I still haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. And the intestines? Woof. Even now, I’ve been informed that all my ligaments are stretching out more and more in preparation for birth. I can’t even.
Then there’s the feeling when Zelda moves. At first it was small, light pops and taps, and they were like this comforting white noise in the background. Now they’re prods and twists that make me short of breath, need to pee, and send my stomach into odd sideshow displays. Remember that scene in Ghostbusters right before Zuul kidnaps Dana? Here’s a refresher:
The dog’s face pushing against the door and leaving imprints? Yeah, it feels like that. Sometimes I think it’s cool. Most of the time I’m kind of creeped out.
Peeing happens. A lot.
I must say, I had no idea how much bladder control I would lose during pregnancy. I guess you read about “dribbles” and “some loss of control,” but the literature doesn’t really prepare you for it. I went from having a nice, regular 34 year-old bladder to a 100 year one in no time. The first run-in I had with incontinence came when I was experiencing morning sickness. When I vomited, I lost control. Completely. I’ve had some humbling experiences, but peeing myself while heaving into a toilet is up there. Luckily I managed to avoid it at work, but it was one hell of an effort.
In the second trimester I got a month-long cold that involved lots of coughing and sneezing. Every single time I coughed or sneezed, I’d pee. I started having to wear maxipads all the time. I even considered Depends. Now, in the third trimester, I know my way to the bathroom without a light. I hear that incontinence comes post-birth, too, so . . . yeah. Good times. Don’t even get me started on how many times a day I have to run to the bathroom.
“Just you wait” becomes a common moniker.
I can deal with unsolicited advice. In the end, it always comes from a genuine place and is not meant to be harmful. What grates at me, though, are what I call the “just you wait” comments. Think you’re tired now? Just you wait! Or how about, I’m sure you’re enjoying your night out now. Just wait–you won’t be able to do this soon! I can see it now: You’re complaining about incontinence now? Just you wait till AFTER the baby’s born! I digress. I think these kinds of comments grate on me because they come off as kind of smug (and to be fair, I’m pretty sure I’ve used them in some kind of context other than childbirth so I’m no angel, either) and not helpful in any way. What happened to comments like, You’ll be tired as hell, but you’ll make it or Your life will change, but not in a bad way? Solidarity, not one-upmanship. And yes, as a result of this experience I’m going to be a lot more mindful of what I say from here on out.
Cereal is a perfectly acceptable meal.
On a lighter note, cereal. I can’t live without it. I’ve consumed more cereal in the past few months than I probably have in my lifetime. I had cereal for dinner tonight, as a matter of fact. Maybe I should be worried about getting essential nutrients in my body and eating healthier, but no one really tells you how freaking hard it is when the thought of food makes you want to upchuck most of the time. The funny thing is, the doctors don’t seem too worried about it either. So I’ve accepted the fact that having cereal is better than nothing.
NOTE: I know pregnancy is a huge gift and should not be taken for granted. I’m thrilled that Zelda is a healthy baby and everything’s been great on her end for the past 8 months. But in the end, I feel like there’s a hush-hush unspoken rule about pregnancy in our culture–that we can’t talk about the uncomfortable parts because we come off looking bitchy, or ungrateful, or some other form of “shut up and deal with it.” I’m putting these things out there as a way of making peace with the things that were not what I expected. I also want to let others know it’s okay to vent and not feel bad about it.
On the insistence of my in laws, we signed up for a birthing class. It’s an “intensive, two-day seminar” to get expectant parents “in the know” on all things baby and birthing. For the sake of scientific curiosity, I wanted to document the entire two-day process from start to finish.
The first thing we did with what little time we had before our 6pm class was go to the McDonald’s down the street. Angela had a pretty tough day at work, so she agreed to go there to eat her feelings. I don’t need an excuse to crush McDoubles (AKA McDubs, Dubs, DJamz), but I probably should. I scarfed my burger in the car as we sped towards the Alexandria Innova Hospital in light to moderate traffic. Innova is also the location where Zelda will be entering into the light world in less than a month. LESS THAN A MONTH. Jesus.
5:40pm We get to the hospital and walked the very long and brisk walk towards the visitor entrance. The classroom was completely empty at 6:45. This was mostly due to the fact that a. the classroom was hard to get to on the other side of the hospital and b. we had to walk up a long flight of stairs to get to it. Come on. No elevator? Eight months pregnant? No problem!
The RN Instructor greeted us warmly(ish) and told us we had our pick of where to sit. I chose the middle of the classroom, because that is where the cool people really sit. By the time we signed in, another couple had arrived. They were carrying a big bag of what I can only assume was “stuff.” I guessed it had something to do with the class. Were we supposed to bring something this evening? Dammit. It’s like the it’s day of school all over again, and I’ve forgotten to bring my colored pencils. I am coming home with just a “satisfactory” sticker for the day.
5:50pm More couples begin to show up. All of them have bags of “stuff.” Angela swears up and down that we did not need to bring anything. Eventually, a couple shows up WITHOUT a bag. Phew. At least we will not be the only assholes that have not come prepared. [Update: We didn’t need to bring anything.]
The class is just about full. Looking around, I am noticing that most of the women in here at least “look” like they are around Angela’s age. That means that some of these women are going through the ridiculous notion that they are “advanced age” and a “high risk” pregnancy. I hate that. All because she is 35.
6:05pm Where the hell did the damn teacher go? I want this to start on time. I am usually in bed by the time this thing lets out (9pm).
The room is now completely full with couples. There are some women who look like they are at the start of their second trimester, while one woman in the back with a British accent looks like she is about to burst.
The class FINALLY starts. Within the first few lines of her opening statement, she has already made reference to the difficulties of dealing with a baby “once the father comes home from work and you need to prepare dinner.” So much for women’s lib, right?
Everybody is going around the room and introducing themselves. It was also a time for the women to open up about some of the main questions they had about giving birth. There was a constant theme of two words: pain and tearing. I think that could be a central theme of the evening. (Angela takes her pen and writes two words on the page: Natural Childbirth…oooOOOoooOOoo)
The RN just mentioned how your ribcage runs the risk of expanding and never completely going back into place. Damn. Being a woman is the worst! She keeps using words like “bend,” “stretch,” and “break.” Over and over again. What’s that? Oh, it will bend, stretch, and then fucking break. Let’s all laugh about busting your hymen because the kind of breaking that has the potential to happen will make that look like a picnic. I am pretty sure that my penis has retracted into my body. I am sorry for everything, ever. I might need to call my mom on my break to tell her I understand.
6:22pm What the hell is a mucous plug?!
The teacher is mentioning Warning Signs for women during pregnancy. One of the bullet points is “vomiting or diarrheal lasting 24 hours or longer.” I’m sorry for everything, Angela. I feel like I should go put on a Smiths record and really think about the choices I have made in life.
We watch a short video about a woman in pre-term labor. She had her child at 32 weeks. Being that I was also a premature baby (3 lbs., 4.5 oz. at around the same time frame), this all scares the living shit out of me. It would be like Angela having the baby…tonight. No. No no no no no no.
Nesting: This totally explains why we had to spend the whole damn weekend arranging things and throwing stuff out. It was cathartic for Angela. It was necessary either way. We threw away at least 100 pounds. of Angela’s former possessions. That is putting it nicely. These items have been purged on two other occasions (her move from her parents’ house and her move from our last house). How a bag of used tissues made it up here, I will never know. BUT SHE BLEW HER NOSE WITH THESE TISSUES THE NIGHT OF THE KMFDM CONCERT!!!!
6:43pm They finally graphically explain what the mucous plug is…
“Water may release in a trickle or gush [. . .] the liquid could be green, yellow or brown.” Hamburger churns in stomach.
“Have any of you seen your cervix?” (crickets)
Apparently, there will be a mirror in the labor and delivery room, just in case we want to get a peek. Score. She then proceeds to us powdered donuts to explain the 3cm dilation of a cervix. I used to really like powdered donuts.
She is now using a sock puppet to further explain effacement and dilation. This all looks so painful. I used to like puppets, too. It’s a long road to 10cm.
I think my penis is done. I am trading it in. One-way postage. It’s only been in hour and I can’t keep my toes from curling every five minutes. It must be my weak mind. Obi Wan would have a field day with me.
7:05pm So, I am apparently supposed to cut the umbilical cord. She is now going over the need to “push out your placenta.” It looks like a giant bag of redness coming out of your body. It actually closely resembles a face hugger from Alien.
A woman in the room asks what contractions are like. Her response? “It’s like menstrual cramps….x100.” Ooof.
7:11pm I have counting 17 times she has mentioned “vaginal bleeding” in the last ten minutes.
Apparently when you are 7cm dilated and need to go to the hospital, a woman is likely to feel “serious” or “focused.” I think that’s a really nice way of putting it. I don’t think those emotions are going to be going through her head at that point. I feel like it’s all going to be a bit like the labor scene from the first Look Who’s Talking.
7:25pm Internal rotation is important. It’s like a good spiral on a football. Zelda, I am telling you right now: you better come out like a perfectly thrown Kirk Cousins TD pass come February. I like that.
The human body is so beautiful and terrible. We talk briefly about natural childbirth, and the questions are immediately thrown to the importance of an epidural. When I think of natural childbirth, I can’t help but run through the scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Unfortunately, I think Morgan Freeman will not be in the greater DC area to give birth to my child. It’s a shame. He truly is the great one.
7:30pm Take note: your child will be “warm and sticky.” We watched our first of two childbirths. This particular woman did it standing up with a midwife. When the baby came out, so much came out with it. SO MUCH.
7:40pm Ten-minute break for Chex Mix/Soda/Rethink my life.
7:50pm We are about to watch a full childbirth, or the “greatest hits” at least. I feel like I am sweating, but not. Let’s call it ghost sweat. I am ghost sweating in anticipation.
We start to watch “Christina’s Birth.” This video reminds me of those poorly shot, grainy videos we watched in sex ed. Everything seems kind of scripted and a bit inauthentic. But oh shit, it was authentic. We watched that baby come out Christina, crowning and all.
8:15pm The video is now over. I think I’ll be able to tough it out and keep my burger in me. We move to discuss what we should pack in “our bag” for the trip to the hospital. One of the suggestions is a “mix cd.” I don’t think Innova Alexandria is ready for “Birth Jamz 2016.” It’s going to be the hottest mix tape to drop this year.
We finished the evening by practicing some breathing and meditation exercises. The floor was very hard and cold, and I had to lean up against the bottom of a heater. Needless to say, I was uncomfortable, but I could not begin to think how uncomfortable Angela was (very, apparently). The meditation was kind of meh, so I won’t go over that.
The breathing exercises were interesting. We tried four or five different types of exercises. Everything from short breaths (Two in, two out) to the standard 4 and 5 (four in through the nostrils, five exhales). The one I found really interesting was the classic Lamaze breathing (hoo hoo hee). Everybody started to do it out loud. I swear, the first thing that came to mind was the opening to the Prodigy song “Breathe.” I leaned into Angela while we were doing it and whispered “Psycho-Somatic Addict-Insane.” She laughed. After sitting hard for nearly 45 minutes, I think she needed it. If you think about it, that entire song is about pregnancy breathing methods. I mean, the song is called “Breathe” after all.
Let’s hope less ass-sitting and more Prodigy lyrics. I wonder if we can fit “Firestarter” into our birthing plan.
Today marks one month until the official due date.
I’m in the home stretch and boy do I feel like it. The acid reflux is so bad I wake up in the middle of the night to vomit. If the reflux doesn’t get me, I’m up in the middle of the night to pee. My feet are swelled so much you can’t see my ankles. I’m chronically tired, and walking from one end of the room to the other is enough to both wind me and make me want to take a nap. My back aches worse than ever. Bending over is agony. I’m grateful for the ability to get pregnant and have a baby, don’t get me wrong, but losing some of my autonomy has made me look forward to when my body can be my own again.
Bodily changes are one thing. Emotional ones are another. I’ve often posted on Facebook about the odd triggers that would make me get weepy. A lot of times I found them amusing. I mean, come on. Getting weepy at the Soarin’ music? But then, sometime in late October, that weepiness started to shift. It got more frequent. Sometimes I didn’t even know why I was crying at all. it happened everywhere, without warning: in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, at work in the bathroom stall, on the metro ride home. It wasn’t just sadness affecting me, either. It was irrational anger and an almost crippling anxiety. According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. I decided it was time to do something about it and spoke to my doctor about options.
Matt and I decided to avoid medication and explore other avenues of treatment. I don’t know how, but when I was talking to a friend about the depression and what course of action I thought I would take, acupuncture came up. I did a little research and found acupuncture is actually used to treat a variety of pregnancy-related ailments: infertility, morning sickness, depression, headaches, sleeplessness, and many others. I decided to give it a try. I didn’t relish the thought of getting stuck with needles, but crying and feeling like a bag of snakes was in my chest every day wasn’t a picnic, either.
With the blessing of my doctor, I looked up the number of some fancy wellness center in Old Town and tried to get an appointment. Unfortunately, the doctor only saw new patients at certain times during the week, and my leave is more precious than ever now. I wrote that doctors off and made a list of doctors that stayed open past 5. I got lucky my second try. There was a Chinese acupuncturist and herbalist nearby that stayed open till 7. He could even see me that evening.
I’m not sure what I expected. The doctor didn’t speak much English and he didn’t explain much, but he went right to work asking me questions about my emotions, my diet, and my habits. He took my pulse and started to hit pressure points with this pen-type device. Then he took several needles out and inserted them at different points in my feet, hands, and arm. Some stung a little, some I hardly felt. He turned on a heat lamp and left me to my own devices for awhile. And that’s how every visit goes.
He did tell me that first visit that I’m “out of balance.” He said my lung qi (pronounced chee) is low and my liver qi is high. The goal is to get me more balanced out. I looked up some of the terms he used when I got home to try and wrap my Western head around the ideas of qi and imbalance. According to one source, the lung is associated with the emotions of sadness and grief (funny enough, the liver is associated with anger). The lung is partnered with the large intestine, and both work together to take in and expel. When the lung is out of balance, there is a prolonged grief that leads to depression (which is, the article points out, Western term), or dampness.
It was easy enough to wrap my head around it, honestly. And I’m really happy to say that the treatment has helped. I don’t get weepy anymore, even when there are triggers. I don’t dwell on the things that have been making me anxious, but the anxiety still manages to creep in here and there. Yesterday, I was even able to purge a monstrous amount of things I’ve been holding onto (since the lungs are also associated with emotional attachment and letting things go, apparently). I’m hoping that this fresh, more balanced feeling lasts into the postpartum period, as I know that’s also a time for depression.
I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time, but as it seems with most things pregnancy related, it’s more acceptable for women to keep silent about the issues and the problems related to pregnancy. One things I’ve learned the hard way is that no one really cares about your morning sickness, or your debilitation, or your depression. Some do, but those are the people who are close to you. In other situations, you’re supposed to, in the name of what people view as equality, be tough and act like nothing is wrong. I’ve seen women bravely declare that they’ve gone through these things, not for sympathy, but for the simple fact that they are sharing an experience with the world in hopes others might see it and relate.
I’m sharing this as a way of saying, yes this does happen. No, you’re not a terrible person for admitting it. There are options. I’m lucky; I know my experience is not as bad as some. I’m lucky that the acupuncture has worked. I’ve got an amazing husband and friends willing to listen and help me though it.
And as I feel Zelda kicking around in my stomach, ready to make her debut sometime in the not too distant future, I know the decision I made to get help has been more than worth it.
i guess that doesn’t make much sense, considering I’ve covered woes such as morning sickness, fatigue, fetal movement, and other telltale signs of pregnancy. I had a lovely baby shower back at home. Yet the pregnancy always seemed to be like this secret I had carrying around. Then, if I told someone I was four, five, six months along, I’d get met with the incredulous comment, “You don’t look pregnant!” Equally as maddening is the “you’re carrying well” comment, which baffles me.
I’ll admit it, I was a little worried. I think I’d expected to start showing by four months and be a mountain by the time I was seven. Not so. People who know me saw the difference way before. Heck, I had a picture taken at a friend’s wedding last month and to me all I could see was boobs and belly.
I asked the doctor about it, and she said I should never compare my size to other pregnant women, since Every Pregnancy is Different™ and I have no idea how my body will react. Also, since it is my first baby, my muscles aren’t stretched out like they would be if I chose to have another. When I consulted my mother, she informed me that she didn’t really start showing until her seventh month. And sure enough, like clockwork, at the seventh month my belly started to grow rapidly and people outside of my circle of friends started to notice.
With the seventh month came some new side effects. My feet have started to swell. Some days they’re so swollen I can’t see my ankles. I have acid reflux. I found out the hard way in the middle of the night when I aspirated some in my sleep and woke up choking. Now I have Tums on me all the time. I’m perpetually exhausted, and even just getting up from a sitting position is a feat of strength. I commute to work on the metro, and let me tell you: the days when the escalator is broken really, really suck. I want to take a nap by the time I reach the top. Breathing is a lot harder, and trying to breathe quietly at work is downright impossible. Pregnancy brain? Oh, it’s real.
Side note: I was definitely curious to see what it would be like pregnant and riding the metro. I wondered if it was standard etiquette to offer a seat. The answer is no. To date, I have had two people offer a seat. I don’t necessarily expect it, and I only have to stand about ten minutes max before I can sit. No big deal. What I find really interesting, though, is the way people look at my stomach, then look at my face. What exactly do they expect to see?
The biggest thing, though, is how much Zelda moves. Some days it’s just a small series of kicks, and other days it’s like she’s doing backflips and tour jetes in there. Just yesterday I felt something round protruding from my stomach and twisting, which seriously made me think about the Alienchestbursting scene again. After the ultrasound today, though, it was confirmed that she’s head down. More than likely that was a foot trying to poke through. I really think I should be enchanted, but I’m more like, “Yeesh, that’s weird.” The good news is that’s she’s healthy and growing just fine. The movements have kind of become like a comforting white noise and I get anxious when there aren’t many.
There’s less than two months to go, and we’ve got a tough road ahead of us due to little maternity leave options. Yet it still doesn’t feel real. Maybe it will after we get her nursery in order, a task Matt and I plan to tackle this weekend. I don’t feel particularly attached yet, either. I don’t know if that’s normal or not; I’m finding that a lot of pregnancy tales are fluff that kind of reinforce what pregnancy is supposed to be, not what it is.
After all, it took me seven months just to feel pregnant.
Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. I’ve been to a lot of concerts since finding out I was pregnant, so technically I’ve taken her to quite a few. Some, like Billy Joel and Morrissey, were while I was in the deep throes of morning sickness. I figured if I was able to get up and go to work every day, even when feeling like I had a 24/7 hangover, I could handle a few shows. Others, like Hum, were after I leveled out a bit. However, the concert last night was special.
It was Garbage’s 20th Anniversary tour. Their self-titled album came out in the summer of 1995, when I was a ripe and angsty 14 year-old. I got to see them live the next year at the Hampton Coliseum, when they opened for the Smashing Pumpkins’ Infinite Sadness Tour. By then, I was 15 and starting to rebel against the world. Or so I thought. I remember that the tickets were 30 dollars, and to me that was out of sight expensive–but it was going to be worth it. To an impressionable 15 year-old, seeing a show like that was cool. In hindsight, it was an experience of a lifetime.
Fast-forward almost 20 years later. I live right outside of DC, and when Garbage announced their anniversary tour with a stop at the 9:30 Club, I knew I had to go. Two awesome lady friends of mine (who also saw Garbage back then) jumped on the bandwagon, too. Before you could say #1 Crush, tickets were bought and the three of us were, to quote of the ladies, “Garbage’d.”
I was a little apprehensive about going to a concert six months into the pregnancy, to be honest. One, my feet were starting to swell. I was kind of worried about how long I’d be able to stand. Two, I’m starting to show a lot more. A part of me was a little nervous about whether or not people would react to it. Last, I’ve read the baby can hear by now. Some small, paranoid part of me was worried about whether it would harm her or not. Luckily, all of these fears were unfounded and I did just fine.
It was a fun night out. I know I’ve got to soak these kinds of nights in as much as possible before Zelda comes. We had dinner at a Mexican spot, then camped in the nearby Satellite Room until about 20 minutes before Garbage came on. The ladies had a beer and cocktail, I had a milkshake. Hey, it’s a damn good substitute. Damn good milkshake, too.
While I’m on the “damn good” kick, I’ll say it was a damn good show. When the band played “Supervixen,” the second song of the night, I flashed back to a fond memory of listening to this song in the car with my brother years and years ago in his crappy little Honda Civic that reeked of bagels. It sounded like 1996. It sounded like black hair dye, cheap drugstore kohl eyeliner, flannel shirts, and Doc Martens.
SIDE NOTE: I wanted Shirley Manson’s dress and boots from the Stupid Girl video so damn much. Or maybe I just wanted to be her.
I didn’t really think much of the present until Manson said, “We’re not a band who believes in nostalgia, at all,” followed by the comment that this was more for us, the fans, who have stuck with them for the past 20 years. It kinda hit me then. Almost 20 years ago, the last time I saw this band, I was a teenager with blue-black dyed hair that had no clue how to apply eyeliner properly and was flunking Algebra in high school. I was hopelessly in love with a dude that didn’t care about me. I wasn’t thinking about where I would be 20 years from then. The world was then, and it was all I knew. I still thought I knew everything. When they did “Only Happy When it Rains,” a song I considered my own personal anthem at 15, I sang along and reveled in the then and now. In some ways I’ve grown up so much, and in other ways I’m still that girl without a clue.
I reflected on that, then considered that now, I’m seeing this band as an almost 35 year-old with a growing baby in my belly. I summed my feelings up in one succinct social media post:
The feeling still kind of floors me. I’m guessing that will take awhile to get used to.
I’m also hoping Zelda grows up with an appreciation for Garbage. I’ll be sure to tell her, when she’s old enough to understand, that this was the first band she really got to “see” (by which I mean be physically there for and hear) in concert.
I kept on meaning to write a post-Disney World reflection, but time and the vapors and megrims got me. Ready for the quick version? Good. I had a ball, realized I could still have fun and not drink/ride thrill rides/be in the parks 13 hours a day, and realized I absolutely cannot wait to experience it all with Zelda.
Matt and I have pretty much settled back into our pre-Disney lives: up before dawn, commuting to work, back when the sun is setting. I pretty much only want to sleep on the weekends now. I hear I need to enjoy it while I can. However, one major task loomed ahead last weekend: the baby shower registry.
Talk about feeling like a stranger in a strange land. I had solicited some friends and family for advice and got some pretty good tips, but I was still feeling quite overwhelmed when Matt and I stepped into Babies ‘R Us and requested the fun little price gun for making the registry (I’d only seen them in the movies until now). The lady helping us handed me a list and said, “Good luck!”
We needed it.
We decided to be strategic about it and start in one corner, then work our way around. The first thing we came to was all the breast pumps and nursing gear. Matt looked in horror at the hands-free pump, and I was consulting the list, wondering if I could put something like “nipple cream” on our registry (we decided we’d buy it ourselves). We ended up skipping the section because I still have some research to do. Matt amused himself by playing with all the training potties, until I told him one day he wouldn’t find it so amusing.
Everything else we worked through slowly and methodically, but it felt like we were just haphazardly shooting that gun at anything and everything. Receiving blankets? What the hell are those? Crib sheets? Are they all fitted? SO MANY NIPPLES. WTF. A couple of ladies nearby heard our frantic tones, and, after telling us they were adopting, assured us they were just as overwhelmed and lost as we were. Solidarity. Registry roulette, anyone?
We got some “unsolicited advice” from another lady about toys, but I didn’t mind. I told Matt to get over it and added the suggested item to the ever-growing list. By then I was kind of feeling like I was in the Twilight Zone. Entering another dimension. I had no idea if we were doing this right, and I got the feeling that is going to be a common theme from here on out. I mean, we were just buying the stuff. What about when we have to use it?
I’m guessing I’m not alone in this feeling, and that all seasoned parents encountered this cluenessness at some point. I think Matt and I have kind of put off REALLY thinking about what it will be like when she comes. Putting that registry together made it more real, somehow. I’m six months along. In the grand scheme of things, three more months isn’t that long. It’s a reminder that we still have so much more to do. But, one day at a time, right? We’ll get there.
Even as I write, I can sense the mounting panic. I’m thinking one day I’ll also look back on this post and have a good laugh.
I should have known better when Matt told me we would take it easy this trip. According to our FitBits, we’ve averaged out 8 to 9 miles of walking a day. Then again, this IS Disney. Can’t expect any less. Besides, walking is good for Zelda. And in Epcot, you do a lot of walking. More on that in a moment.
Matt left out a couple of details from yesterday’s blog, mostly because he wanted to leave the topics up to me. The first is The Nautilus Adventure. See, we got tipped off about this elusive Nautilus mug from Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. Trader Sam’s is a lot like Jock Lindsey’s: light on the food, heavy on the libations. Matt just wanted to get his hands on that Nautilus (RIP 20,000 Leagues ride). Both of us have fond memories of that ride, though mine are remarkably more fuzzy since I only rode it once in 1986.
Well, we made it to the Grog Grotto after a mid-afternoon nap. Unfortunately, it was pouring, which meant the outside deck was not open. The wait to sit inside was an hour. I said what the hell, let’s wait. After a bit, the bar in outside opened up and we were able to order a drink. Matt ordered The Nautilus and found out he had to drink it separately from the souvenir mug due to the inclement weather (don’t ask, I don’t get it either). Only when she handed Matt two full-sized drinks did we understand that The Nautilus was a drink for two. And it was potent. The Nautilus “mug” was the size of my head. Matt declared he would drink both “for the child” and proceeded to drink. By the end of it, he was serenading anyone that would listen to Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike.” He rallied for the rest of the evening and we went on to Mickey’s Halloween Party.
Oh yeah, and I got some unsolicited advice about rides. I’d done my research about what I could and could not ride. On the monorail, a lady asked me when I was due. I said February. I added I was happy to be in the Magic Kingdom that day because I could actually ride the rides, unlike Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios MGM. “Oh,” she said, “My daughter was pregnant and she rode EVERYTHING. Even that elevator ride. Her kid turned out fine.” You know what? That’s frikkin’ lovely. I’m sure your daughter’s pregnancy is the shining example of what all pregnancies are like.
Today was an Epcot day. It’s also special because it’s me and Matt’s three year anniversary. We woke up early to some excellent room service for breakfast and took our time getting out of the hotel. When we got to Epcot, we spent our time walking around the World Showcase and sampling various foods at the Food and Wine Festival. We did stop by Club Cool and try the different sodas, including the ritual tasting of Beverly, the WORST soda I have ever tasted.
Matt made a beeline for the lamb meatballs from New Zealand, easily his favorite. I wasn’t particularly hungry, so I watched him enjoy various foods and beers. I was bummed I couldn’t have my favorite lychee vodka drink from China, but I noticed a lychee iced tea option and found it quite lovely. We spent a fair amount of time camped out in Japan, our favorite spot to relax and people watch.
SIDE NOTE: I have sampled more fru-fru nonalcoholic fruit drinks and flavored iced teas these past two days than I have in the past year. Also, our food and libation tabs are remarkably lower.
We went to Le Cellier, the Canadian steakhouse, for our anniversary dinner. He had a ribeye, and I had a vegetarian potato cannelloni dish. Both were delicious. The only dampener on the whole day was how utterly humid it was (see what I did there?). It was so humid I felt like we were swimming through a sponge. We both spent the entire day covered in a sweat sheen. At one point, Matt put his hand on the back of my neck and remarked how gross it felt. I said, “Yeah. And Do you have any idea how gross the rest of my body feels?” Even as I type this, I am anticipating a nice, hot shower and getting this film off.
Two bonuses to the evening. One, my cousin came out with her family and we spent the evening doing another lap around the Showcase. Two, Wilson Phillips was randomly doing a show for the festival. For real. All in all, a fun evening. I ended it on a bright note, sitting on chaise lounge in the Grand Floridian, listening to the pianist play random Disney tunes.