Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Not a doctor in the house...

From "yishaq" meaning "one who laughs"

Isaac Raphael was born on Sunday morning, February 20, 2005 at 4:14 am, after a suprising, short, and relatively easy labor. He weighed 6 lbs, 7 oz, and was 21 inches long.

He was born at home, with the assistance of our midwifery team: Maggie, Rachel, and Pam. Momma, daddy, baby, and cats all are doing well.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

what’s driving you?

I got my driver’s license on the day of my 17th birthday – as soon as I could, according to the laws of the state of New Jersey. I had been waiting impatiently for this event. I wanted to drive so badly. In the meantime, I frequented all the driving games in the boardwalk arcades and, for the length of a quarter, gathered a hint of the sensations of life behind the wheel. Today, 18 years later, one of the things I dislike most in the world is driving. For better or worse, whenever I can, I relegate myself to passenger. It doesn't solve my problem, and sometimes I wonder - because I have a bad habit of wondering things like this - if it's an analogy for something larger, but that's another entry... sort of.

I can’t stand spending my time in a car, isolated from the natural world and losing more and more faith in humanity. The Toyota Forerunner behind me nearly fore-runs me over, and the BMer convertible in front of me lazily misses light after light.

I especially don’t like driving these days since Baby’s little head is right where the seatbelt crosses my lap. I get extra upset (and I didn’t lack for upset previously, believe me) at stupid drivers – don’t they know I have a baby in the car?! Besides, I hate to break it to some of these idiots that they can drive like freak-a-zoids, but it doesn’t change the fact that they laid out money for a Ford Windstar. (hee hee hee hee hee.)

Regretfully, we’ve been car shopping lately. Car shopping is a sport. The dealers are truly skilled. They always see you way before you see them, spot you wandering amongst the family sedans and the used hatchbacks. They size-up. They circle, flicking the edge of their business card in their pocket. They come in for the kill. Apply smile---and … "How we doin’ folks!" Then, they see it. The belly. It wasn’t obvious from across the lot but now that they’re right up next to their prey, they can hardly believe their spectacular fortune. They gonna sell a car.

They talk about things we already know and other things we don’t care about. I count the number of times they use the word "family" and leave my back fixedly turned away from the army of SUVs. From the used car lot, notions blare in our direction through florescent stickers pasted to the windshields – SHARP! They yell. And EXTRA CLEAN! I feel dizzy. I want to leave here and sleep a very long time.

Speaking of which, several people have told me (one of them a car salesman) that they drive their kids to sleep. Whenever they can’t get the baby down, they pack em in the car and tour the neighborhood or head to the highway. While I understand the benefits of the soothing motion for some kids, somehow I am opposed to this method of managing wakeful little people. Maybe I’m afraid instead of dreams that send them meandering through dense jungle and sifting through sand, behind their veiny eyelids, they will see slick worlds that snake over smooth asphalt. They will wake not rested, but restless. They may grow up with a distorted view of the world, a world that goes by them so very quickly, out of reach, and within which they are merely passengers.

Friday, February 18, 2005

nothing in common

The woman approached me in Target. She had an infant, I had a tell-tale belly. We each had a husband in tow.

"Excuse me, we’re new here. I wonder if you know where we could buy a crib?" I didn’t really. Certainly not first-hand. We have nothing ready for this child, although we did bring home the borrowed bassinet that had been decorating Mike’s office for some months. Why buy a crib? One would show up when we needed it. (Or else Mike would decide to make one…) But being the habitual observer and compulsive eavesdropper that I am, I had heard word of a Babies R Us hidden inland about 20 miles. I had never been there. I had no plans to go.

I told the woman about what I’d heard. She nodded askance, like she was waiting for the rest of the list. "We’ve only been here a few days, but we haven’t found a Walmart!" she told me, her palms turned up to the florescent lights. Her husband cut in: "There’s only a Walmart in Salinas, and it’s not a SuperWalmart." He was clearly disgusted.

I looked at this couple, a bit younger than us, building their life, perhaps planning another baby. Maybe our kids would go to school together, give each other nicknames, stand at opposite ends of a jump rope. For now, these parents were new in town, a town without a Walmart, and my heart, well, it didn’t really go out to them so much as it curled back on itself in confusion.

We drifted away from each other, the woman and I - she, toward the strollers, I, toward the exit.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


So when I climbed back in bed with "breakfast" – a piece of cream cheese toast and a chocolate bar, then later found myself "lunching" as I cracked open my second Coke, I knew it was a "day". We get by, day by day, with the resources at our disposal. Please, no one call Child Protective Services. No one write me and tell me about caffeine or high fructose corn syrup. I can write the pamphlet. Two Cokes, if it stops Baby’s mom from convulsing with more wracking sobs, is just fine and preferable to the effect from the wracking sobs. (I have more concern for my teeth than my offspring in this particular case.) We’re working it out. Baby promises less hip pressure, and I promise not to greet his/her father with a two by four when he gets home. Baby gets orange juice and black beans and rice, mom gets Coke and indigestion. It all works out.

If I could just fall down with this pain, it would be so much easier. It’s the coping that does me in.

My midwifery team has talked about incidents where a baby may be born who is slow to respond to its new world, and the mother’s voice is what brings it to breath, to life. After the last, brief episode of hysteria, I calmed myself in an attempt to soothe my little stow away with my voice, should s/he be absorbing my emotional distress.

I know that my baby knows my voice, will recognize it when s/he finally emerges. I know Baby can hear me just fine from where it is and where my voice is, but sometimes I can’t help feeling like I should lean down closer to my distended bellybutton to get my point across. Kinda like you want to do at those customer service windows there aren’t that many of anymore except in subway stations – the ones with that little half-circle of window at elbow level that you use to push through money or signatures. It’s the only opening save those useless holes in the plexiglass that the clerks seem to talk to you through, and even though they can presumably hear you fine, you stick out your butt toward the person behind you in line and place your mouth closer to the opening. It’s like that. Of course with Baby, I have the advantage of hands on belly – like co-conduits of sound – the baby hears better if you rub the belly while you are talking, or so goes the theory.

There, there, Baby. It’s me, mom. We’re okay. We're okay.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

i don’t want to grow up

When I woke up at 3:00 am, and some of the anger had drained from my right temple. I could breathe a little better.

But still, I am furious at my husband. Simply furious. These are the times that I just don’t want to be a grown up. I don’t want to resolve things calmly, rationally, or lovingly. I want to shatter crystal against brick. I want to jet off to somewhere else. And I definitely don’t want to be responsible for a child. This is not something I asked for. This is not something I can handle. These are the times I’m most distressed about Baby. I just can’t do it. Time must stop, rewind. It is the only solution.

Let me tell you, I’m so looking forward to having my body further taken over for the next however-long as I move into my new careers in milk production and solid waste management. So I’m supposed to be calm while nursing (for those unaware, that will happen every two hours for starters, by the way) so as not to transfer any "negative energy" to the baby. Do you mean to tell me that all day, every day sad, angry and hysterical are out? Cause that’s gonna reaaaally limit me.

The whining continues in this paragraph too, so bail now if you need to. I am so tired of walking through my days biting my tongue, smiling at people I’d like to trip and then kick in the ass. I can blog about it, but, no offense, it’s not the same. I endure stupid, rude people who feel they can say anything they want about my pregnancy, my body, and then run me over with tales of their own miserable lives. I listen to my exercise instructor dismiss my contributions to the conversation because "that’s midwife stuff". I watch as the preggo communities I frequent treat me with kid gloves like I might be contagious – Ssh! She’s the one who didn’t plan her baby. She’s the one who talks about post-partum depression. Go on and get your fetal monitors, eye drops for your baby that interfere with initial sight and bonding, your little caps with the hospital emblem on them. Have your family come to help for a month. Round up your gift receipts from Target and cash them in for more pink and blue shit. See if I care.

So, I think I’ve gathered to me a few pieces of the world that I can relate to, rest in, that speak to what I know and don’t require any armor or warrior stance to manipulate around. And then I’m reading this article in the Utne (it also appeared in Orion) written by this guy about the birth of his daughter. It made a couple good points, which were hidden at the end and underdeveloped. For the rest of the time he blathered on in trite metaphors about the awe of it all, beginning with how he knew the night they conceived. Shut the fuck up. And as for the blather itself, I’ve never encountered just absurdly inflated language. Here’s one of my favorite lines: "We have all learned how gestating embryos recapitulate their phylogeny in the womb…" Ah, yes, haven’t we though. I was just cutting my toenails the other day thinking about how gestating embryos recapitulate their phylogeny. What?!?!! He’s like the John Kerry of fatherhood or something. Spare me. Spare me, spare me, spare me. I need hope in the world and I get phylogeny??! And while I’m pissing on the Utne – nice going with the article on "simplicity" and how lots of people are putting up one-room "retreats" in their backyards to sit in and get away. How sweet. How upper middle class charming of you. What a great idea. I’ll escape the insane busyness of my life by forking out $$$ for a room in my "back yard" – which I don’t fucking have, you blindly insensitive hypocritical bastards. Perhaps I can invite you over for some tea cakes and organic decaf in my one-bedroom apartment and we can spend an afternoon writing checks to charities. Bite me.

I’m not an adequate container for my own emotions. I am not ready.

Monday, February 14, 2005

valentine’s day headlines

This just in. A warning on this Valentine’s Day: studies have confirmed that men may cause pregnancy in women.

In a separate study, it was also concluded that, like the age-old rumor suggests, the male species does in fact have "cooties". Scientists gathered empirical evidence on the subject from playgrounds worldwide over a four-year period. The Center for Disease Control had no comment at press time.

(Of course, if you get pregnant now, you still have time for that 2005 tax break. But, hey, I’m just getting swept away in the romance of it all.)

In a brilliant marketing move, Tums has decided to merge with the company that makes those little conversation hearts. The new antacid hearts, designed to be laid out to form long, sentences of shaky syntax especially for that preggo in your life, will include sentiments like "I’m sure it’s a girl" "Nice boobs" "Your first?" "My niece just had a baby and…" and "Get the epidural". A special family values edition will contain phrases that support the moral fabric of society and can be used with preggos of questionable character. For example, in place of that long time favorite "Marry Me", Tums will print them as "I’ll Marry You".

Happy Valentine’s Day from K-PREG.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

wonder twin powers, activate! (please!!)

Years ago when I was preparing to travel through eastern Europe, when it was a region of the world still unsure of itself, having just emerged from beneath the fist of Soviet dominance, I collected recommendations from various sources on what to have with me on my trip. While shopping for these items, I found myself again and again in the camping section. I naturally concluded that visiting eastern Europe must be something like camping. When I got to eastern Europe it wasn’t really like camping so much as it was like backpacking – which made sense since much of the time I was backpacking. And backpacking can resemble camping, and well, I can’t drink the water here without getting sick either, and overall, it was a fine time.

We’ve received a list of supplies from our midwife that we’ll need for the homebirth. Off we went to shop for said supplies, some, about which I admit, I had no idea. (underpads? is that something you wear or something like a drop cloth?? - which apparently we also need (!) could it be something super heroes wear beneath their capes and leotards? maybe Underdog wore underpads?) We wander into the various drug stores and pharmacies attempting to check off another item or two, and each time there we were - in the aisle marked "Incontinence". Oh dear. Underdog wouldn't be caught dead hanging out around here. I look to my hands for a special ring of some kind, something to talk into or flip open. I need something to to create a laser beam. But I find only my wedding ring, wedged below a knuckle swollen with nine month's worth of prenatal body juices.

Many comparisons could be made of preggos to the old and frail, and yet I have to think of myself as strong. I caught myself thinking of myself as weak – after all I’m tired, achy, and getting out of my spot in the memory foam on the bed requires a something equivalent to a nine-point turn. I have to change my idea of myself though. I’m strong like dental floss is strong, like wild flowers are strong, like water.

Boundaries continue to blur. The life "cycle" is a tangle of mobius strips and pregnancy is part of a secret club I didn’t bring the right attire for, so the maitre d’ forced me to put on some too-big jacket with an ugly crest. I’m way out of my league.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

a curious phase of life

Under what other circumstances could someone send you a package containing a copy of The Pokey Little Puppy and not include any sort of note or other scrap of explanation?
Thank you, Ruby.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bring your own towel

Okay, so you know how when you learn a new word suddenly you start to see it everywhere? Or how you never noticed Ug boots before until your sister tells you about the pink pair she bought but then resold on Ebay, and now every person you pass on the street is wearing them? It's the same thing with preggos. I can't remember seeing a single preg before, but now, I swear, it's like the entire female population is with wee one. We're taking over. I'd watch out if I were you, we're an unpredictable lot.

The other night, Mike and I took a walk to get some dessert at my favorite Italian café (Besides the killer snacks, it's my favorite because it stays open later than anything else in town, including the gas stations. And when I say "late" I'm talking sometimes 10 or 11:00 o'clock! I know, hold me back. Town on fire). It's at this point that I'll try not to mention how I really wanted the raspberry mousse covered in a perfect dome of dark chocolate shell but got the chocolate cheesecake instead cauz we were splitting and that was Mike's choice (Don't let anyone tell you marriage isn't about compromise.). So, afterwards, we started home and ran into a new shop that had apparently just moved in - upscale la-la preggo clothes. Preggo mannequins and everything.

I'm just too practical to look good pregnant. I can't bring myself to buy clothes I know I'll only wear for a couple months. Besides a couple shirts and one pair of official preggo pants, I've pretty much made my way over the last eight months with elastic waisted skirts I already owned and some drawstring pants I collected at garage sales and Goodwill, the cost of which totals maybe $20. Yesterday I was wearing an outfit someone passed down to me - what amounted to pajama pants and an enormously oversized turtleneck with wide horizontal stripes - classically good-looking, smart fashion with just that hint of sexy.

I see the other preggos. The ones still going to jobs outside the house on a regular basis. The cute ones in the cute clothes, who have WAY more patience than I do and so visit that bloody maternity clothing store or some other belly fashion center on a regular basis. I'd like to look good now, but I'd rather save my money to buy a killer wardrobe when I get my other body back. So I guess that means I'm willing to look about 80% of the time like Humpty Dumpty and the other 20% like that guy I used to see sitting at bus stops all around town who always scared me a little and who showed up at our garage sale and bought all our art prints for 50 cents each.

There is another solution. Naked. I think pregnant women should be allowed to walk the hell around naked. It should just be what we do. I'm supposed to be bonding with my body, no? My body temperature is higher than normal, right?

A friend of mine was showing me an album/scrapbook she'd made for her daughter who is in her 20s. She pointed laughing at one picture of herself. "That was the only picture I could find of when I was pregnant. Everyone should have a naked pregnant picture."

In the living room of my midwife's house (which is where I have my appointments) there are more pictures and paintings of naked pregnant women than I am SURE most people see in their lifetimes.

We have a funny relationship with naked. Ever read David Sedaris' story "Naked"? (If you don't know Sedaris go out right now and get his stuff. Start with "Me Talk Pretty One Day" but do your Kegels first because you will likely want to pee your pants.) There's a recurring line in his naked story about bringing your own towel. It takes place in a nudist retreat. Just read it.

At a little gathering not long ago a co-worker of Mike's was telling the story of how she used to work as a water tester in Maryland. When she started, there was one stop on her route that no one had been to in ages - the nudist colony. She set out for the nudists, test tubes in hand, on an extremely cold fall day. When she got there, she told us, they were wearing only sweatshirts and sneakers. Now that's dedication to your cause.

The naked pregnant form is wild, unique, dare I say, beautiful. A world in which stretch marks beat out horizontal stripes would be one I could live in.

Monday, February 07, 2005

just my personal experience, but…

Time is getting short! So much to write, so much else to do, so little time for both. The "date" is one month from today (and February is a short month!), unless things happen early – which is always possible too. Looking back, here’s a summary according to my experience:

The truth: Pregnant women drop things and are generally clumsy.
The lie: Pregnant women "glow."

Good idea: Naps.
Bad idea: Tropical fruit Tums.

What everyone tells you: "After the baby, your life will never be the same."
What no one tells you: Your life was already changed forever after the pregnancy test came back positive.

The beauty of it all: Mike’s face when my belly undulates like a wave pool.
The rub: In the end, I’m still in this alone.

The part you’ll want to forget: The first three months.
The part you’ll want to remember: Every time your midwife found the heartbeat and announced "Happy baby!"

One of the most frustrating parts: You have to go to the bathroom every half-hour.
The perfect irony: In a few weeks, you’ll be lucky if you can get to the bathroom at all.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Relaxation is hard work: a preggo meditation

Relaxation techniques and guided imagery can help you immensely during labor. The more you practice it now, they say, the more comfortable with it you will be when the time comes. Lord knows I need practice relaxing. I’ve practiced in birthing class, at home, at preggo yoga. The most difficult place for me to practice it is in exercise class. Splayed on a thin mat too many other bodies have also graced, I attempt to send slack my jaw and breathe loose my thigh muscles…

Feel your body start to sink into the floor. Relax your shoulders, your face. Deep, slow breath. Imagine you are on a bed of soft pillows. Can’t concentrate. The girl in the back is hacking and coughing on leftover flu. Untense your arms, your fingers fall limp. Are you holding tension in your jaw? Part your lips. Release. There is always one. This one stomps around like a horse in her hospital scrub pants and sniffles into her sleeve. Gross. Then belts out whiny questions to the instructor in anything but a lyrical voice. Your eyes are lowered, neither open nor closed. But of course, her name is "Tiffany." You know her. Maybe yours is named "Crystal". Start to feel your lower body gently melt. If we were younger, it would surely be "Brittany". This is exactly why you shouldn’t decide definitively on a name until you meet the baby. Empty your mind. Good. She’s juuuust charming. Rest your legs. Check in with your ankles. Don’t hold onto anything. If you feel thoughts crowding into your head… Oh, damn. Here comes a thought. I’m trying not to think it.…just acknowledge them, and then gently blow them away again. Uh, are you sure?? Thoughts are not good or bad. They just exist. Okay, then. You asked for it…Someone SLEPT with her?!?

Friday, February 04, 2005

maybe i am a real blogger after all...

Another link?! You'd think I was a blogger or something.
Thank you, Kate. This article on expectations of motherhood is veeerrrrry interesting and I'd like to check out the book.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

animal dreams

I have an assignment from my midwife: get out of my head and into my body. I am an animal, she tells me. And I have an animal growing inside me. These are not new ideas for me, though they are ones that I've yet to master. I would like nothing better than to slip away into animalistic trances carried by the beat of tribal drums, (Think what it would do for my writing, too.), or to have my first thought after I awaken be about my toes, the sensations in my ribs, instead of what time it must be and how I have to remember to charge my cell phone. I may process my world heavy on the cerebral, but there are worse things I could do.

It's true I overthink. But if overthinking got me out of the blasted doctor's office and into the home of a midwife, if it had a hand in deciding not to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl so that social constraints and gender stereotyping could at least wait til it was - for godsake - out of the womb, then I don't mind overthinking. So many pregnancies are so carefully planned nowadays in every manner possible that there must be someone out there thinking harder than I am. Here's where I get to be the free spirit – I didn't plan this at all! I just rolled with Nature's punches – took one for the team! Doesn't that make me just a little bit animal?

I ran into an acquaintance on my way to preggo exercise earlier this week who was dropping his new wife off at the same class. They'd started "IVF" right after getting married, he told me. Come again? In vitro fertilization, he kindly clarified. [Prayer to the gods of acronyms: May I never speak like this. May I always find it incredibly bizarre that other people do.]

When it comes to the unplanned kind of pregnancy, I'm learning that it can be unplanned or it can be unplanned-unplanned. Since I'm oh-so-comfy in my role/fate/situation now, I don't usually feel the need to tell people anymore that it was unplanned. But I used to tell them, regularly. And they would mostly shrug or chuckle. I realize now why what to me was a series of hairpin turns on my road of life, seemed to most other people a common speed bump. They thought I meant unplanned as in, "didn't mean to have kids quite yet," when in fact I meant unplanned-unplanned as in, "in this lifetime hadn't really meant to ever get pregnant."
Now to state the obvious. Pregnancy – planned or otherwise – is a woman's concern. I'm not saying men aren’t part of the equation – duh – or that they shouldn't be as involved in the process as possible, I'm saying, well, keep reading…

In our very first birthing class recently, I took for granted that I was in easy company where folks might take more uncommon issues in stride. After all, we are the 2% of the population that choose homebirth. Consequently, I was surprised when there was something like a gasp that circled the room when I off-handedly explained the unplanned-unplanned nature of my condition during introductions. But maybe I'm wrong – it could have just been some other sharp intake of air that was audible to everyone present. Here's the question: Why is it there was no equal show of shock or discomfort when one husband stated how he "only knows how to make babies," he "doesn't know anything about birthing them." Zzzzzzz. Yawn. Oh! Sorry, I must have fallen asleep because that line is so FREAKING TIRED. Or, why didn't anyone even blink when another husband admitted nonchalantly that his desire to be surfing far outweighed his interest in being in a birthing class. Now, he can do what he likes, and be as forthcoming about it as suits him, that's cool. My question, however, is this: Would the rhythm of the room have ticked on so undisturbed had his wife said she would frankly rather have continued her weekends scuba diving or her career in real estate than gotten pregnant?

We say choice is a good thing. And we pretend women have choices – to have kids or not, to parent full-time or work full-time. These are not choices. The first has become (or, was never anything other than) to have kids now or wait to have kids. The second, well, the second is silly, you always parent full-time, regardless of what else.

Men don't necessarily have these faux choices to make. Under other circumstances, lack of choice would seem bad, unfair. However... My husband's boss can slap him on the back and congratulate him on his "first" while simultaneously plopping down a folder detailing the next project he should work on. There is no interruption of service, so to speak. No one challenges him on the "choices" he's made or might make in the near future.

I’m probably just overthinking again, and god knows that this morning, once again, I did not wake up thinking about my toes, and my alarm did not go off to the beat of tribal drums, but… I guess feeling like I'd made it down a dark road of significant danger to finally arrive at acceptance, I've been particularly taken back lately by a few reactions (like the one in my birthing class) when I tell them "unplanned" means unplanned-unplanned. And through these encounters, the gender split rears up again, taunting me.

Whenever we get an emailed birth announcement from friends, there is a predictable set of pictures. There is the baby, round and wrinkly or small and pointy-headed; there is baby with mom, tired but smiling; and there is that picture of dad – sleeping. Yes, indeed, all those hours of labor must have been exhausting for him. In reality, I suspect the men are exhausted by what might need to be planned next, and from this quandary they retreat -- to their place of societal and biological freedom, to a dreamscape of animal dreams.

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