Tuesday, August 30, 2011

32 weeks

I don't know if it's the case that more stuff is happening or that time seems to be going slower/faster all at once, but I find myself inclined to write an even-numbered weekly update, albeit a bit late.

Weight Gain: Amazingly, I have no clue and I don't care. I stopped weighing myself, and I think that contributed to my healthier rate of gain. We'll see what the midwife says.

Symptoms: Here's one thing: it hit 90 degrees outside one day this past week, and I felt like I was trying to walk through knee-deep pudding or something, I was moving SO SLOWLY. I was never a big fan of heat but my body just can't take it at all any more. I get all out of breath and huge-feeling. Bleh.

Also, my belly button, which was always an innie, is a... flattie. Just barely an indent. I think outies are weird, so this is going to be scary in a few weeks when I have one.

And my hips are definitely expanding. If I sit for a long time I get a pain in my right hip, and any time I start walking I have to take several steps before I'm sure my legs know what's going on. I've had a couple of night in which hip pain has woken me up. This is annoying, but I know I'll be glad for expanded hips when it's birthin' time.

Cravings/Aversions: I'm getting more interested in carbs again, like little animal-cracker-type cookies. And mac and cheese, which is what I lived on in the first trimester.

I am loving: Random acts of kindness. People hold the door for me, get out of my way on the sidewalk, and are all-around nice to me and my big ol' belly. I work with law students and they're all returning from summer break, and I can't tell you how many times I've been called "cute" at work. Normally I don't think I'd like this, but I'm soaking it up these days. I was even offered a bonus piece of fruit at a take-out place by the cashier. I turned her down because I didn't want to get her in trouble, but that was nice!

I miss: The usual life of people with waists. And being able to walk normally in hot weather.

I'm looking forward to: Well, despite the occasional discomfort, I'm trying to focus on things happening right now, like the last few weeks DH and I have just to ourselves. So I'm looking forward to quiet evenings with him before our lives become chaotic in a whole new way.

And I'm looking forward to being done with our birthing class. It was a good idea, but it's overkill and we're both burnt out on it.

I'm concerned about: Not "freaked out", but concerned: I'm a little worried about hormones and my mental health. In the interest of keeping it real, I've had two episodes this month of uncontrollable crying. Not, like, little sniffly stuff, either: falling-on-the-floor sobbing, accompanied by a pretty frightening feeling of despair. Both times it was in the late evening, at the end of a long day and at a time when perhaps my blood sugar was a little low, but it's on my radar. I do recall that I only actually threw up twice during my first trimester, so maybe this was the third-trimester version of vomit. Emotional vomit? I don't know. I feel OK now, but I'm trying to take it easy, emotionally speaking, these last weeks. Both episodes took a solid night's sleep and then most of the next day to really feel like they were over, so it all leaves me wondering what that postpartum hormone crash will be like. And this is going to sound vain, but I'm a bit concerned about which family members will be helping us out when I'm working through that. I think I need to get over being worried about my mother-in-law seeing me cry, because I'd rather there be a third person on hand to help DH with the baby (and with me) if I'm in sadness land.

Milestones: From here on out, the kid will allegedly gain a half a pound a week! I feel like yesterday I was all excited that he was as big as a kidney bean.

Movement: Still frequent, strong and enthusiastic. And occasionally somewhat painful (head-butting my bladder, jamming a foot in my rib, etc). So he's boogeying in there.

Exercise: Not bad. We've taken a couple of LONG walks in the past week, thanks to less-insane schedules and overall nice weather. I also finally did some yoga, after about a month off. I feel so much better the morning after just 30 minutes of evening yoga that I realized I really really need to keep doing that, no matter how lazy/pooped I feel at 9pm. I think my hips require it.

Diet: So-so. I find I need to eat something every 3 hours to keep from feeling queasy, and I don't always have the healthiest snacks on hand at work - especially because my well-meaning co-workers keep showing up with treats "for the baby".

Something nice: When I was taking a little lunch-time walk, a guy who was begging for change called out, "looking good, little mama!" It cracked me up. I did not, however, give him change. Maybe I should have.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Mr. Mom"

Though the connotation of the term can rankle me, I'm a feminist.

I didn't have a great deal of choice in the matter, really. My mother was the primary breadwinner of the household when I was growing up - she was, and still is, the only female judge in the county. My mom, my sister and I are all lifetime members of the Girl Scouts. Sis earned a PhD in physics and is now working in the boys' club of hard sciences. While I definitely veered more toward the education/social science world that is populated by more women, I still plan to work outside the home and support my family financially, no matter how many kids we end up having. For some reason this feels more important to me now that I know I'm having a son - I want him to know that Women Work.

With all the decisions I've made about my education and the work I do, though, probably the best choice I made as a feminist was my choice of a mate. Because, while I joke that I didn't have much of a choice in being a feminist, most men do have something of a choice. Men have the luxury of ignoring the challenges women face just because we were born women - they don't necessarily need to deal with them head-on.

I didn't fall in love with DH because he's a feminist - that would be pretty unromantic - but over the years of living with him, and especially as we've been thinking about what our lives will look like as parents, I keep being struck by the unwavering conviction he has that the roles we'll take as parents should reflect our skills and personalities rather than some outdated notion of nature.

Which is why, when we decided that one of us was going to "stay home" (more on that later) with the baby, while the other works outside the home, there wasn't really a discussion about who would do what: I'm an extrovert who thrives on dealing with assorted people in a busy workplace, and I'm married to an introvert who just finished a years-long writing project that required patiently slogging away each day at home. Had we exchanged places, we both would have gone nuts.

So, in many ways, we'll each keep doing what we did before: DH will be the daytime caregiver for our son while I return to the office. We're both happy with this arrangement: I can go back to work, earn a paycheck, and trust that my kid is in the best hands possible, and DH gets to help mold another human being to be as interesting as he is. It feels like each of us thinks we're getting the better end of the deal, but that's how a lot of our marriage has felt already.

Stay-at-home-dads aren't as unusual as they were, say, 20 years ago - good friends of ours who are due the same week as us are planning a similar arrangement - but they're still met with reactions that raise my blood pressure. When we were talking with DH's extended family about this plan, one relative (a great-aunt in her 80s, so allowances should be made for generational differences) said, "oh, so you're going to be the mommy?"

DH's response was, "I don't think that's physically possible."

Several others - cousins our age, even - referred to him as "Mr. Mom". As these are my in-laws, and not my natal family, I restrained myself from shouting, "NO, he's NOT Mister Mom, he's DAD." I find myself getting defensive about it, angry when there's a suggestion that he should be looking for a "real" job, pissed at the implication that, while it would be fine if I stayed home, this whole gig is beneath him.

Part of the confusion from folks is financial, I'm sure. No one has asked it outright, but people wonder: how are you going to support three people on your little income, Schmei? Well, by living within our means. When we had two incomes, and then one and a half, the extra money was going to pay off debt. Now the additional income is gone, but so is the debt, so not a lot is going to change for us, really. This gives us the luxury of having one parent at home, rather than shelling out ridiculous cash so someone I've never met can spend all day with my firstborn child.

I mean, seriously, have you seen how expensive child care is in Chicago? Ridiculous.

In this economy, I honestly don't know why having a parent stay home strikes people as strange. I know plenty of people who are living on less and have had no choice in the matter. We had the luxury to choose this life. Yes, we'll have to live with our 2000 Honda for a long time, but that ride is my dream car and I want it to live until my son is learning to drive, anyway. And we won't be able to take European vacations, but we have all the camping gear we need for fun family trips. Plus with the handy/crafty parent at home, I think we're going to save money in all kinds of ways that probably haven't even occurred to me yet.

A few folks - especially my mother-in-law - have shared concern that DH will go crazy if he's stuck at home all day with our small fry. We are both legitimately worried about how we'll handle those first weeks with a newborn, but we've been talking about that and we have family who will be stopping by to make sure we haven't lost our minds.

After I return to work in January, though, how will DH handle it? I think he'll be fine.

For one thing, as I mentioned before, he just spent years working from home on his dissertation, which was a frustrating project. Now he has a new little project that will likely also be frustrating but is hopefully more rewarding in the long run. For another thing, he won't be "stuck at home". There's this rumor I've heard that babies are actually pretty portable, and we live within walking distance of more than one library, parks and playgrounds, grocery stores, and just all around nice neighborhoods. He'll also have access to our car, and much of his extended family is a short drive away, so if he needs some daytime company he'll be able to find it. And, while he'll be the daytime caregiver, I'll still be home during evenings and weekends (and if I can rig my schedule, one weekday each week) and for the first months I'll be the sole source of food, as well, so I anticipate taking the kid off his hands as soon as I walk in the door in the evening so we can nurse.

[In my mind's eye, the kid is always happy when I come in the door. I suspect that in reality he'll be cranky because he's hungry, but I'm taking my fantasy life while I can.]

Here's the other thing about going the stay-at-home-dad route: I think it will make it much easier for me to return to work when my leave is over. The idea of leaving my firstborn with some babysitter kind of gives me hives. Instead, our son will be spending his days with his father, who loves him to bits already and is already good at taking care of me, an often-needy person who doesn't always know what her best interests are.

I've spoken with other women who cried on their first day back at work. Maybe I'll cry - I'm sure it's going to be a huge adjustment - but I think I'll feel a thousand times better about the situation because my son will be in the best possible hands.

So, besides living on one income, what are the downsides to having one of us stay home? I've been thinking about this for months and haven't come up with anything, especially because the setup works so well with our personalities. As our friend T, who is also planning on being a stay-at-home dad starting this fall, said, "this is an amazing opportunity!"

That's how we feel about it. I'm excited that we have the chance to start being parents this way. It might be temporary, depending on countless factors, but for now I'm grateful that the daytime hours of the first year or so of my son's life will be spent at home with his dad.

NOT Mr. Mom.

Monday, August 22, 2011

31 weeks

This baby is due in 9 weeks, but could arrive in as few as FIVE (my sister was at 36 weeks when she had my niece). Or, you know, tomorrow. Yikes. Alternately, he could be like me and come two weeks late. At my current level of preparedness, overdue sounds OK to me, but ask me again in October.

Weight Gain: 22.5 pounds... I lost half a pound in the last two weeks! I think this means that my food, exercise and stress are all stabilizing. The midwife was as happy as I was about this.

Symptoms: Leg cramps. The first big one happened about 20 minutes before my alarm was set to go off on a Monday morning - a blindingly painful cramp in my right calf that jolted me out of sleep. I was writhing around, trying to take deep breaths, and poor DH woke up to me sounding like I was in labor. He sprang in to action and rubbed my leg, which helped a lot.

Also, indigestion. I know I've been lucky and avoided it so far, but I fear that my carefree days are over. And at first, we couldn't find the Tums because they were still packed away. Happily, DH braved the remaining boxes and found them for me. He's my provider!

Cravings/Aversions: I'm definitely getting a little of the first-trimester "meh" feelings about food back... I'm trying to eat smaller meals more frequently, so my stomach doesn't get empty.

I am loving: Telling people I'm due in ten weeks and getting told, "Wow, you're not that big!" Which is funny, because if I tell people I'm due in October, they say, "But you're already huge!" Um, it's the same time, people.

I miss: Being able to bend forward, and most other things about having a waist. This includes rolling over while in bed without it being a fourteen-step process.

I'm looking forward to: A few weeks without travel, big events, moving, vacation... any of that stuff. Some normal, boring routine sounds lovely (and I think that's better for my health, too). I'd like to savor it before all routine goes out the window when we bring home a newborn. I'm also looking forward to the start of setting up the kiddo's room, now that we have the major components (crib, dresser, comfy chair) and some baby stuff that needs organizing.

I'm freaked out about: Well, again, not "freaked out", but we just learned that one of DH's cousins just had a baby and gave him the name we really liked. I believe that means we can't use the name, but DH thinks it's not a big deal because that kid and our kid are third cousins with different last names and we see them twice a year. I'm not so sure... won't everyone think we just stole the name? This bums me out, as part of the appeal for that name was that no one in either of our families had it, and now there'd be a cousin the same age with the same name. Grumble.

Milestones: I'm going to the midwife every other week now. That's not supposed to happen until almost the end of the pregnancy, right? Oh, wait..

Also, my stomach capacity is definitely getting smaller. Whereas I used to go from OK to starving in the blink of an eye, now when I'm eating I go from hungry to uncomfortably stuffed in a moment. Another reason I'm trying to eat smaller meals, more frequently. I think my digestion is about to become something I think about a lot more. That was my least favorite part of the first trimester, and now it's back! Darnit.

Finally, this isn't really quite a milestone, but we got information on a pediatrician's office that sounds good. This feels like a big step toward being responsible for this new person.

Movement: I was advised at a recent midwife appointment to start doing "kick counts" to ensure the baby is moving regularly. At this point that's definitely not necessary. He moves all. the. time. And it feels like he really enjoys doing slow somersaults, which feels weird. I'm still able to sleep through his gyrations, fortunately. We'll see how long that lasts. The fun thing was that I drank a root beer shortly before my shower on Saturday, so a lot of folks got to feel him move around, including both of his grandmothers. My mom said that I would do slow rolls the same way my son is doing, which is cool - he's being like me!

Exercise: Pretty decent over the week of vacation: I took some long walks and spent one day kayaking and swimming and climbing some sand dunes with DH. The weather this past week was much more clement, so I've done a lot more walking outside, and more stretching, exercises, etc through the day. If I don't exercise, I don't sleep, so I have all kinds of motivation.

Diet: Greatly improved until the weekend of the shower. We actually planned a week of meals and did some real cooking in our kitchen, like we live in a place instead of being mendicants who survive on take-out. The weekend of the shower involved a lot of family and a lot of rich food, and now I'm feeling like plain toast or rice sounds OK for a few days.

Something nice: I'm excited about how long this section is:

1) I passed my glucose tolerance test "with flying colors" according to the friendly midwife student, and my iron levels look good, too. Let's keep on being medically boring, baby!

2) My sister and sister-in-law threw a baby shower in my home town this past weekend. They surprised me by asking everyone to bring a favorite children's book, and we got SO MANY great books. I am really, really excited to read to and with this kid, and I love that we have so many great reads. It's a perfect range, from little baby board books to kids' fairy tale collections - something for each stage. We got baby gear, too, which is very practical and was wonderful to receive, but I know the books are going to be special to our family for years and years.

3) A friend of mine is planning a women's blessing day for me and another good friend who's due the same week. Part of the deal is that these women will pray for each of us when they hear we're in labor. There's something really comforting about that, and I'm touched that they're organizing it. As I get closer to Birth Day, I'm realizing that this life change, more than any other I've experienced, is huge and fundamental and permanent and... just... way bigger than me. So I'm grateful to have some space to consider the spiritual implications of the whole enterprise.

4) Another fantastic friend of mine just told me she's 9 weeks along with her first baby, and I could not be more excited for her and her husband. She told me at the shower and I just suck at maintaining a poker face - I basically freaked out and I'm sure everyone knew what was going on. I've been thinking about them all weekend and sending non-pukey vibes her way as she survives the first trimester. It's made me reflect on how quickly one goes from having nothing but a queasy feeling and a lot of questions to being a big-bellied quasi-expert on pregnancy: there's a lot to learn and think about, but there's a nice chunk of time in which to learn it. And even when you might not know what to do, your body usually does. I hope the process of becoming a parenting "expert" is similarly fluid!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Think of the Children

Someone I used to work with who is now a public defender just posted this link for my perusal, and it made me angry enough to want to share: read the article here.

I've found my perspective shifting when I read stories like this. I used to get angry when I considered the defendant's point of view as they navigated a Kafka-esque system that seems designed to do nothing but ruin their lives. Now I find myself thinking more about the kids involved and getting even angrier. I used to work for Child Protective Services back in my home town, and maybe the particular agency I worked with was just unusually short on resources, but we didn't have spare foster parents, money, or time to yank kids out of homes where they were living with their actual parents and were in no noticeable danger. Where does New York find the time? And all the extra foster parents? And what is the point of doing that, anyway? Why are marijuana and heroin being used in the same sentence like they're similar substances?

I'm trying to keep my blood pressure down while I'm pregnant, but New York is not helping me do that. Grumble.

Monday, August 8, 2011

29 weeks

Weight Gain: According to the midwife's scale, 23 pounds. I've found enough of a difference between their scale and my scale at home to think they just like to make pregnant ladies feel bad about gaining too much... but I haven't used my scale in two weeks because we moved and it's still packed, so I'm taking their word for it. And drinking water.

Symptoms: Occasional hip aches, some funny blood pressure stuff (I sometimes feel woozy if I stand up too fast) and shrinking stomach capacity - I'm starting to notice that I can't eat as much in one sitting as I used to. That's probably a good thing, to keep the weight gain in check.

Cravings/Aversions: I really want fresh fruit these days, but it's summertime - I always want fresh fruit this time of year. So... nothing wacky.

I am loving: That we're finally moved. The new place still needs a lot of organizing, but if this kid comes early at least I know we have a room for him. Yes, it's a room full of boxes, but still.

I miss: Summer running. I walked past a sporting-goods store the other day, and the display of sports bras and running capris made me sigh. Next year!

I'm looking forward to: the last of my three (three!) weeks off this summer. Last year I realized I had gone an entire calendar year without taking time off to relax, so this year with the End of my Child Free Years looming, I decided I'd take a week off each month of the summer. I've noticed I've been more productive at work when I'm there, and this is the first summer I haven't felt moody about missing out on summer fun, so I think it was the best move.

I'm also starting to allow myself to look forward to actually having a baby. DH and I were in the waiting room at the midwife's office the other day, and this lady came in with a little dude who couldn't have been more than a few weeks old and who was just heart-meltingly cute. His hair was sticking up all over the place, and he just looked so snuggly. We're going to have one of those soon!

I'm freaked out about: For some reason, the 30-week mark looms as the time when I need to seriously get serious about bringing this kid home. And that's in a week. So far we have a room, a dresser, a changing mat and a few outfits for him. Nothing else. So I'm starting to get concerned that we won't have everything ready in 10 (or 8... or less!) weeks.

Milestones: I think we may have come upon a name. We came up with it over our anniversary/babymoon/cation and we've both been kind of test-driving it for a couple of weeks, and I still like it a lot. Naming someone is such a huge responsibility... I keep thinking about how it will sound when he's 17 or 35 or 60 or 83, and what nicknames might happen, and how the kids in fifth grade will find a way to make fun of it. But it could be a good one.

Also, I took the glucose tolerance test. Haven't heard back yet, but the orange drink wasn't as bad as it's been hyped. The bleary, knocked-out feeling I experienced for the rest of the day, however? That kind of sucked. I hope that means I passed the test.

Movement: Frequent, stronger all the time, and occasionally just uncomfortable. He clearly likes stretching out as far as he can and trying to shove his foot in my rib.

Exercise: Except for carrying things around during the moving process, my exercise has been miserable. The heat wave plus needing to pack/unpack means few walks, no yoga, no swimming... nothing. So the weight gain thing could be accurate, unfortunately.

Diet: Again, terrible due to moving. We've mostly lived on take-out and fast food. Boo.

Something nice: Our new place is so quiet, I have slept through the night multiple nights in a row. When I wake up in the morning I have to pee like crazy, but it's so worth it for full nights of deep sleep. DH and I are both soaking this up while we still have the place and our sleep schedule to ourselves.