Friday, October 26, 2007

Take the best

People say weird and sometimes inappropriate things to pregnant women. I know I probably did this myself before I was pregnant.

Two women in my birthing class who are pretty close to their due dates told me that people ask them all the time, "Oh my god, are you having twins?!" I mean, why not just come out and say to them, "Wow, you are really huge!" It has the same effect.

A couple weeks ago a woman said to me, "Wow, you look like you're about to pop any time now! When are you due?" This was in early October. I replied flatly, "January 3." As in, I'm not even close to popping, you inconsiderate bitch. Her response, "Oh, well, wow!" followed by some strange nasally exclamations that may or may not have been actual words. Then, she walked away.

Then, there are the people who "mean well." In my experience, lots of well meaning comments come from older women who had their babies decades ago. I'm acquainted with some older women who ask me from time to time how I'm feeling or how things are going. When I report that I'm great except I can't sleep, my back hurts, etc. they, almost without fail, usually say, "Well, just wait until the baby comes! Then you'll really know what it's like not to sleep!" Um. OK. Thanks.

Some people think it's inappropriate to touch the belly of a pregnant woman. Here is where my feeling is very different. I think it's almost instinctual for people to reach their open palms toward the belly. Toward the baby. Some people believe that our hearts are connected to our palms. Our hearts reach out to babies on a very basic level and so it makes sense to me that their hands would follow that path. They just can't help doing this. It's reflexive. Sometimes, people's brains catch them in the act and they stop midstream, hands outstretched but not yet touching my belly. "Is it OK?" they might ask or they're eyes might say to me. My answer is almost always, "Of course." And I place their hands on my belly. On the baby. And, I welcome the warmth from the heart. You've got to get it where you can. ~ Nicole

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We're having a . . . BABY!

Sometimes I forget I'm pregnant. Like when I went running through the airport in my flip flops to catch . . . my bag off the conveyor belt! And, tripped and went splat! right down on my side. That was a couple months ago when my belly wasn't even very big. Aside from a couple of bruises on my knee and elbow, I was fine. Fortunately, the baby is very well cushioned. Now that my belly feels enormous, you'd think I'd remember I'm pregnant. But, no, I still forget from time to time. The other day I was lying in bed (on my side, not on my back -- oh, how I long to lie on my back!) reading for a while. I got up and started walking down the hall toward the kitchen, probably to make some sort of snack (for the baby!). As I walked, I absentmindedly smoothed down my shirt over my stomach and was imagining my normal, not totally flat but kinda skinny stomach. Seriously, I was actually surprised for a second to feel this giant basketball-sized belly under my hand! Weird. You'd think after more than seven months I'd remember. Other times, I remember I'm pregnant but have these moments of "Hey, I'm actually, truly, really having a BABY! Like, a baby is actually going to come out of me. Crazy!" It's really mind boggling. Or am I just nuts? Matthew thinks I'm a little kooky for saying these things out loud. Things like, "We're really having a baby! A baby is going to come out of me! I can't believe it!" But, it's really a strange thing to wrap your brain around. This other person is growing inside my body. A baby is living inside me, squirming around, hiccupping (a lot lately), kicking, punching, flipping, floating, sleeping, looking at his or her placenta (the thing he or she loves best right now) and who knows what else. Another whole person is right now, at this very moment, living inside inside my body. It's kinda bizarre when you think about it. Or is it just me? ~ Nicole

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I need to explain myself. Why would anyone in her right mind wish for the Red Sox to lose? Normally, the devoted wife of a die hard fan would do no such thing. She might be a little irritated by her husband's general agitation and moodiness, sure, but it happens every year. She might tell him he better chill out because he's acting like a lunatic and it's driving her nuts or insist he watch the games anywhere else but home. But, to utter such blasphemy -- even with all of his hat throwing, foot stomping, and swearing at the television and scaring the cats -- was never something I thought I'd ever do! As bitchy as I can be sometimes, I would never go that far -- unless, unless, unless I was seven months pregnant and feeling overwhelmed by everything we still have to do. It's hard to have any sympathy for your half-crazed husband when you are half-crazed yourself. About things like finding a pediatrician in the next six weeks who supports homebirth, promotes exclusive breastfeeding and doesn't think you're crazy when you don't want to shoot your baby up with vaccines -- but also takes your crappy HMO. About finding the time to gather all the supplies we'll need for the birth, while wondering which of our bowls would be best to catch the placenta and what the heck do we need a phone book wrapped in a plastic bag for? And, about lots of other things like signing up for breastfeeding classes, assembling the crib, getting rid of junk in our tiny apartment to make room for the baby and all the wonderful gifts that are arriving, scheduling more and more frequent prenatal appointments, attending our birthing class and actually doing our homework for it, calling day care centers (who can't seem to keep us on their waiting lists) and trying to figure out if a nanny would be a better option. Not to mention that we both work 40-50 hours a week, including the occasional weekend, and have just a few free hours just a couple times a week to fit all this stuff in around all the regular chores and errands, like folding the mounds of laundry scattered about, shopping for toilet paper so we don't have to resort to paper towels yet another day, cooking meals that will make our Bradley teacher proud, reviving my half dead, neglected plants and taking care of those damn cats! I'm sure all of this is nothing compared to what's it will be like when the baby is actually here rather than kicking around inside me all day. But, the other day, I was at my wits' end and I took it out on Matthew.

Today is a new day. We went to our birthing class tonight. Matthew wore his Red Sox hat and shirt to class. Very cute. We learned a lot as usual and ended with a very nice positive birth affirmation exercise that made us feel all warm and tingly. Luckily, class ended just a half hour before the big game started. The very important game. I know. I know! And, luckily, the bar where he is watching the game tonight is right between our class and home. So, I walked him to the bar, kissed him goodnight and wished him luck, hoping that tonight he comes home in a good mood, knowing that if my wish comes true I will certainly witness more nights of hand-wringing anxiety over the fate (or destiny?) of his (our) team. But, he looked very happy when I said goodbye to him tonight and that made me happy.

One night not long ago, I was very angry with Matthew because he was going to miss one of our birthing classes. He had forgotten and scheduled himself to work. I was pissed because I signed us up way in advance and gave him the schedule way in advance to avoid such conflicts. Of course, I was so angry and disappointed that I started crying. As I sat there crying, Matthew got more and more frustrated with me. He said something like, "I don't know why you are so upset. I have to work! There's nothing I can do." I felt a little silly about my blubbering. All kinds of responses went through my head to justify my behavior, but then it hit me. There was a good reason for my tears. "I'm pregnant. I'm upset and I'm pregnant and that's why I'm crying. It's OK that I'm upset because I'm pregnant and I deserve to cry." And, Matthew listened to this, paused for a minute in silence and then finally said, "You're right. I'm sorry."

Go Red Sox! ~ Nicole

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Season of Discontent

Nicole is not happy with me. I've been ignoring our birthing class homework, neglecting our baby blog, staying out late, drinking, swearing, and throwing things. I've been a miserable person to live with. And how will I explain my insane behavior to our future son or daughter? All I can tell them is: "Your Dad is a fan of the Boston Red Sox."

Yes, it's that time of year. The Playoffs. An emotional roller-coaster. When I annually question my love of this team and this silly ball game. My behavior is utterly ridiculous and totally indefensible. Yet I can't help myself. I actually argued with Nicole last night about the importance of the playoffs. She pointed out that we were suppose to sit down and write out a birth plan (our homework assignment this week) but I was busy throwing my Red Sox hat across the room and yelling obscenities. (The 100 Million $ pitcher can't get out of the 5th inning!? WTF!) Are the playoffs more important than our unborn child? Well, it is the American League Championship Series and they are three wins from going to the World Series, but NO!!! OF COURSE NOT!!! ARE YOU CRAZY? This is a baby we're talking about here! A human baby! Our own flesh and blood! But man, they won the first game and looked unstoppable before dropping the next two and now they're making me crazy! But how cool would it be to tell little (insert awesome baby name here) that the Red Sox won the World Series when they were in the womb? Of course, if that happens we'll have to name the baby Papi. Which is perfect because it works for either sex. Our we could just call the baby Red - a classic old school name! (Why don't people have old school nicknames anymore? Like Lefty and Dutch?)

Anyway, I plead temporary insanity. Annual temporary insanity I suppose. If I am to be a responsible parent I should just swear off the Red Sox (something my father has tried and failed to do several times) and forbid my child from ever getting sucked in like me. But, let's face it: that's not going to happen. So, on Thursday night when the Sox are playing one of the biggest games of the year - I'll be in birthing class. Am I complaining? No! I have a lot to learn before "Little Papi" get's here and obviously that's more important. But I just wish Nicole was a little more understanding. She actually said she hopes the Red Sox don't make it to the World Series - she said that OUT LOUD. Some husbands I know would file for divorce over that, but not me. I know she didn't mean it. She just doesn't want to live with a crazy person any longer. I was talking to a friend of mine who is - ready for this? - is a huge Yankees fan. (I didn't know this when we became friends .) Anyway, we were talking about this time of year and how despondent we can get and I said something like "yeah - Nic hates me in the fall." Apparently it never occurred to him. He was like "Man, I never thought about that. We must be miserable to live with!" He was probably insane from the start so she didn't complain. In our case it was more of a bait and switch move. When Nicole & I first got together , my love of the Red Sox had been long dormant. I gave up on them early in childhood (after watching my father become a miserable bastard every autumn.) But then Nic moved to Boston. We went to see three games at Fenway that year - 1999. All three games were Pedro starts and he struck out like a million guys (won the Cy Young that year.) Well, that's all it took. I was back to routing my ass off for better or for worse. She quickly noticed the changes in my behavior - swearing, grunting, pacing back and forth in front of the TV, dramatic mood swings, emotionally unavailable during playoffs or any games vs. the Yankees . She was not happy. "You weren't really a 'Sports Guy' when we met. You tricked me!" No trickery, it was fate. Just like 2004 when... well you probably know what happened in 2004.

Well the Patriots are looking like a pretty good emotional safety net this year, so I might survive the playoffs after all. Come to think of it Brady is a nice name don't you think?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Be nice

Sometimes people are nice.

Today, I had to stay late at work to make photocopies, of all things. Photocopies! By the time I left work, I was really ready to get home. My job is super busy right now and I'm pretty much always exhausted or at least a little bit tired. I've been walking home from work often, to get some exercise and fresh air and wind down after a long day. It's really nice. But, today, I just wanted to get home as fast as possible. So, I headed for the bus stop.

When I got about a block and a half away from the stop, I noticed my bus coming along. I realized that the only way to catch it -- and avoid waiting another five or ten minutes for the next one -- is to run.

I know, I know, I'm not supposed to run. I'm clumsy to begin with and having an extra 20 pounds on my frame doesn't make me any more graceful these days. But, I run anyway because I really, really want to get home.

I can't run very fast so I'm not sure I'm going to make it. As I run, I can see one or two people getting on the bus. But, I'm still about a half a block away when the driver closes the doors. I'm so bummed because I'm almost there!

But, then, I see the bus doors open again and I hear a voice, a woman, saying, "Open the door! Open the door!" A woman is at the bus stop waving to the bus driver and yelling at him to wait for me. It was just enough of a delay that I was able to reach the bus before he drove off. I rushed onto the bus, laughing a little and very happy to be on my way home.

By the time I caught my breath, I realized -- in my rush to get on the bus -- that I hadn't even thanked her.

I don't know who that woman was, but she was very nice to me today. And, I'm thankful that she helped me get home quickly after a long, hard day. ~ Nicole

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Art of Worrying

I had my 28-week prenatal appointment today. When my midwife asked if I had any questions, I rattled off a list of complaints. "I'm exhausted all the time," I said. "I'm hot and sweaty. Sometimes, I'm short of breath or a little breathless from just walking up the stairs. I have heartburn, my back hurts and I have these shooting pains in my groin. My face is puffy and I feel like a beached whale." All the while, she nodded and looked sympathetic. When I was finished, I was sure she was going to tell me that these were all signs of some horrible complications, or at least that I probably was starting to get high blood pressure, or worse, that I was obviously too high risk to use their services and would have to switch to an OB and hospital. Instead, she simply smiled and said in her usually calm voice, "What you are describing is completely normal." Then, she took my blood pressure and I was sure it would be high. "Normal," she said. "Is the baby in the right position?" I asked. She felt around and said, "It's too early to worry about that. There's still lots of space and the baby is moving all around." She listened to the baby's heartbeat, but kept losing it. "The baby is sure moving!" she said. She finally found it again, listened for a few minutes and said, "Sounds good!" My heart palpitations were slowing down. I had finally stopped sweating from my rush to get to the appointment. The lunch I wolfed down before leaving work had finally started to settle and no longer felt like a lump in my ever shrinking stomach. By the time my midwife drew some blood for my glucose test, I was joking and laughing. I won't get the results of the test for a day or so . . . just enough time to convince myself that I do, indeed, have gestational diabetes. Like Matthew always says, "At least you have something to worry about." ~ Nicole

Friday, October 5, 2007

A few of the "8,000" books I'm reading

When I started telling people I was pregnant, people started giving me books. It seemed that every friend I visited, especially women with children, loaded my arms with books about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, baby names, baby gear and more. I'm sure they were excited to share what they had learned, but I also ended up with a few books that I think they were glad to say goodbye to, as in "Oh boy, here's my chance to get some of this stuff out of my house, which is now overrun by baby toys."

Sure, I ended up with a few books that I'll probably never get around to reading, but having friends give or lend me all these books was a blessing. It spared me from having to go to a bookstore or library and stare at the shelves wondering what the hell I'm supposed to read.

Now my house is full of books, and I will very likely be thrilled to pass some of them along when the time is right. For now, I thought I'd share my current list of favorite books about pregnancy, birth and childcare. I hope that it will make your trip to the bookstore or library a little more pleasant.

Two page-turners that I quickly read cover to cover:

Birthing From Within
by Pam England, Certified Nurse Midwife, and Rob Horowitz, PhD. I read this early in my pregnancy, a time when most women are overcome by both joy and fear (quite possibly freaking out a little). This book made me feel more and more excited about giving birth. A small warning: The first few chapters talk a lot about making birth art, which I love the idea of, but am not really inclined to do, even though I sort of wish I was. If birth art isn't your thing, stick with this book anyway. You will feel happier having read it, even if you're having horrible morning sickness.

Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Originally published in 1975, this book is full of real birth stories of natural births on The Farm, a community in rural Tennessee where women learned from other women and a few sympathetic local obstetricians how to give birth in their own homes or the community's birthing center. The language used by some of the women writing about having babies in the late 60s and early 70s, like calling their "rushes" (the word they used to describe contractions) "psychadelic" and their births "holy," adds to the books charm. Today, Gaskin is still considered the mother of all midwives in the United States.

What I'm reading now:

Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth
by Robert A. Bradley, MD. Dr. Bradley was the guy that brought fathers back into the birth room in the 60s and 70s. His language is a bit hokey and old-fashioned, but his instruction shows all the things that happen in labor, even the pain, work together to allow a mother's body to give birth. Mess with it, and you can throw off the whole process, ultimately making things more difficult. He empowered women to take back control of their bodies and births and dispelled the myth that fathers are a bumbling lot best left to nervously pacing hospital waiting rooms.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. This is Gaskin's (more contemporary) follow up to Spiritual Midwifery. It's full of more birth stories and practical advice from someone who has spent her life helping women birth their babies.

What I should be reading now:

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. This book is recommended reading for our birthing class. In fact, our teacher says this one is good to own. So far, halfway through our birthing classes, I haven't really dug into it yet, but I will. I think the book's shape is throwing me off a bit -- it's wider than it is tall -- and it's hard to read on the bus or subway without intruding on the "personal space" of the guy next to me.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
by La Leche League International, the gurus of breastfeeding. This book is also recommended by my birthing class teacher as a keeper and is known as the bible of breastfeeding. Fortunately, a good friend gave me her copy so I didn't have to buy it. I know I should dig into this one soon, well before I need to learn how to nurse my baby.

A good reference book: The Baby Book by William Sears, MD, and Martha Sears, RN. One friend recommended this as the only book you need from pregnancy to birth to toddlerhood.

Here's one that Matthew is reading: The Expenctant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash. This was a gift from my sister. It puts a smile on my face every time I look over to Matthew's side of the bed at night to see him reading it. Right now, Matthew seems to be alternating between this book and a book about the Red Sox.

And, finally, when it came to figuring out what the hell kind of stuff we need to buy for the baby (and what is a waste of money), this is a book that we couldn't have done without: Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields. If you buy it, and you should, splurge and buy the most up to date edition. It's well worth the $18.

I'm sure more than one person has told me, "Don't read too much. You'll drive yourself crazy." But, so far, I haven't found that to be true. In fact, the reading I've done has had the exact opposite effect. I am more excited every day about being pregnant and giving birth and having a little baby. One of these days, I hope to start reading novels again -- and I'm sure the women in my book club will be glad when I can actually find the time to finish the book -- but for now I'm happy with the stack of books at my bedside. ~ Nicole