Tuck Me In (17 weeks)

Tuck Me In

It wasn’t until my sixteen-week visit (which involved surprisingly more testing and checking than I had remembered or anticipated) that my OB finally came out with the truth – the second time sucks. Or to be more specific, with each successive pregnancy comes progressively more discomfort, due both to physical factors and basic “your life is just harder now” factors. More round ligament pain, less time to rest and recuperate. More all over aches and pains, less time to reflect. More stress and more to balance, less patience or wiggle room for dealing with all the side effects of building another body inside of my own.

And of course there’s this – same compromised immune system, less chance of ever taking a proper sick day.

This week I’m sick. Sick and grouchy and overworked, the same cough and cold that usually hits right around now as the semester is at long last on its smooth and windy way, right as the overtime and overdrive of all those back-to-school preparations start sinking in and the first chilly day blows in from the ocean. Only this year I’m a bit sicker than usual and a lot less patient with the process than I’ve been in the past. Because number one, moms don’t get sick days (or vacations, as the case may be), and number two, sick and tired and pregnant working moms really, really need to be able to take sick days.

There’s no space in my calendar for a sick day – not with so many things to set in place before I go out on leave in the spring – so I’m taking sick evenings instead. Which means this is it for this week’s post. Short and not very sweet (unless you happen to consider the griping of a grumpy not-even-halfway-there pregnant lady to be as endearing as an old animated Disney classic).

Here’s to sniffles and low grade fevers and tucking myself into bed before ten, and to the inevitable (if ill-timed) welcome to fall.

Tuck Me In

Escrow (16 weeks)

I only pretend its mine

We went into escrow on a house last week. It’s a scaled down dream house of sorts. Scaled down, because, of course, we’re still not quite those kind of people, but dream house nonetheless. Room for the growing family, old character details, shady, sloping street. All the things I love, all the catch phrases I’ve written so many times. All of it under one roof, contained within one property line, and just a moment away from being mine. I should be jumping up and down for joy – and I was, for a minute. Until I understood what escrow is all about.

Escrow as defined by the internet: A contract, deed, or bond deposited with a third person, by whom it is to be delivered to the grantee upon the fulfillment of some condition.

Escrow as experienced by me: Everything that can possibly go wrong in the one tiny moment sitting between me and my dream house.

I am a first time homebuyer. I spent my twenties breaking leases faster than most people break up with boyfriends, then shifted into something along the lines of serial monogamy once my husband (and double the books and furniture) entered the picture. I’ve signed fifteen leases in the past fifteen years, including some multiyear and some in foreign languages. I’m an expert at landlord relations, deposit negotiations, thirty-day notice letters. But escrow? Escrow is all new. So why does the experience feel so oddly familiar? Well, obviously. Pregnancy is to parenting what escrow is to real estate.

You find the house, or you miss your period. You are filled with equal parts fear and joy, followed soon thereafter (hopefully) by just a bit more joy than fear. Your first trimester begins, also known as the inspection period – a specified number of days for examining the property, for understanding the pregnancy, each test more costly than the last (NIPT anyone?). Some days come with easy answers, other days bring nothing buy more questions.

Then there are quite a few days following in which all those tests must be interpreted, all that information absorbed, the days in which your new reality must be negotiated – the second trimester, of course. Pregnant but still not quite taking comfort. You harbor growing beliefs that everything will work out for the best, that everything is going to fall into place, beliefs supported by statistical odds, yet made to feel irrational, irresponsible even, by all of the potential what ifs and worst cases. Just because most houses make it through escrow okay doesn’t mean your foundation is going to get fixed, and just because you got that one good sonogram doesn’t mean you’re out of the high risk club.

And so you wait. And wait and wait, until the third trimester comes. The final days of uncertainty are so limited now that the uncertainty is nearly gone. Finally now, you reach the time of nesting, of packing and unpacking, of moving furniture and preparing the nursery. Maybe, if you’re like me, you buy big kid furniture for the soon to be big sibling. It’s all downhill from here.

Right about now, I could use some downhill. Right about now I’d give just about anything to coast along even for a day. I’m feeling more secure in my pregnancy, feeling less fear that something will go wrong along the way, but I’m still wrestling with the unease of not knowing how the new balance of a new human in our family will ultimately play out. I’d like to believe that getting our housing situation sorted out will somehow fix this, but I know better than to let myself skip too far down that foolish path – it’ll simply distract me for a while, with all the organizing and getting settled and all the constant work to do.

And so I wait. And every so often, maybe every million seconds or so, that waiting allows me to just be still. To wake with the sunrise and appreciate my neighborhood during what might be one of my last little neighborhood walks. To look through my window at the trees I’ve just now gotten to know. To sit softly and feel this little human kick around inside of me. And in this waiting, maybe I’ll remind myself that pregnancy is more than just forty weeks separated into three imbalanced but equal parts. It is a singular experience start to end, in which I learn this child, and if I am lucky, maybe learn myself a little more.

I only pretend its mine

Big Sister, Little Sister (15 weeks)

Big Sis

We’re always told that being a parent is full of surprises. And it is, of course. The surprise of how little sleep you can survive on. The surprise of just how much you’re actually capable of loving another human being. The surprise of how quickly it goes – especially compared to the molasses pace life seemed to move at when we were actually growing up.

But underneath the surprises, there is familiarity, because we’ve all been here before – not as parents, but as children. We’ve all experienced the world through teen, toddler, and adolescent eyes. As we watch our children on the playground or hunching into the hallways of middle school, we have some recollection, whether conscious or not, of what it was like for us at that age, and this helps, whether consciously or not, to steer our interactions with our children, helps to color our conversations about their days, their impressions, their emotions. I understand, for example, that when my daughter insists that she’s three and a half instead of four, it goes right back to that feeling of molasses I used to know so well, that when she says that it’ll be a long, long, long time away until she’s four years old, she’s really not exaggerating, that really is how it feels.

Big Sis

As my daughter has gotten older, I’ve taken great comfort in this, because the older she gets, the better equipped I feel to draw on my own experiences to either imitate the good or avoid the bad, or at least empathize with some level of genuine understanding. But then I got pregnant, and suddenly I had nothing to draw on.

I’m the youngest of three siblings, and I’ve always known that being a sibling was one of the experiences of my childhood that I wanted to recreate rather than rewrite for my daughter. When I was growing up, I took solace in knowing that I was never alone, I instinctually felt that there was a certain safety in numbers – a safety I felt even when my brothers and I were in the midst of beating the crap out of each other in relatively unsafe ways.

Growing up, I had a profound, if unconscious, understanding of how full my life was as a result of my brothers, as a result of the DNA shared horizontally among us as opposed to the straight vertical line from parent to child. As the youngest sibling, though, I never did go through the experience of seeing another sibling added to the mix, which is exactly what my daughter is going through right now.

I worried about this a lot at the beginning. I worried she would worry she wasn’t special anymore. I worried she would worry about sharing her grandparents. I worried she would worry about me as I got more pregnant and less mobile. And then she made it clear I didn’t have to worry. She isn’t worried about me spending more time on the sofa, so long as she can sit with me and rub my growing belly. She isn’t worried about sharing her grandparents or her toys, so long as she can be the one to teach baby brother how to be nice with all of them. And she isn’t worried about not being special anymore, because she knows that now she gets to be the special big sister – as though she somehow has understood that the oldest sibling naturally inherits the leadership role, always gets the best seat at the kids table at holiday meals, and will always be idolized by the siblings who come later.

Still My Baby

I may not have had any practice at being big sister, may not have experienced a younger brother kicking my hand as it rested on my mom’s pregnant belly, but I’ve had practice at life, and I’ve had practice at family. And life is always better with a few surprises.

Quality Problems (14 weeks)

Quality Problem

Here is what I know about my coming baby:

  • He is going to be a boy (at birth, anyway).
  • He will have lots and lots of hand me down everythings.
  • He will have just about the best older sister a kid could ever hope for.
  • He will have two parents and three fish and a great big extended family who all will love him unconditionally.

Here is what I don’t know about my coming baby:

  • I don’t know what he is going to wear, because I have no room in my house or in my schedule to unpack all those hand me down everythings from big sis, best bud, and favorite cousin.
  • I don’t know how long he will have me as his one and only, because I don’t know yet how long much maternity leave I’ll be able to muster (welcome to America, for those of you reading abroad).
  • I don’t know who he will have as a caregiver when I go back to work, because nannies are too expensive and all the good daycare spots have waitlists longer than route 66.
  • I don’t know where he is going to sleep, eat, or play, because I don’t know where we are going to be living.
  • I don’t know whether he will have a mother who is sane, because the stress of juggling job and child and soon to be second child might all be enough to put her over the edge.
  • And I don’t know (haven’t even the slightest hint of an idea) what his name will be.

These are what I like to call quality problems (except for the name piece; that’s just a problematic problem). Quality problems aren’t problems with the quality of my life, but problems that can only emerge from a life of already high quality.

Big ProblemTake that daycare problem. The childcare situation for working moms in American is abysmal to say the least. But, at least I have the luxury of being employed full-time, and earning a salary that will allow me to choose the very best daycare that will give us a space. I have the freedom to worry about whether the curriculum is Montessori focused enough instead of worrying about whether or not my child’s basic needs will be met. We might need to scrimp and save, I may need to lower the hammer on my shopping habit, but ultimately I know that we’ll find a way to pay what’s necessary to ensure our infant is getting topnotch care. Quality Problem.

Or maybe let’s consider the where to sleep, eat, and play problem. This is a problem because I like living in nice old houses with lots of character and just enough space to spread out. It’s a problem because I like living in walkable neighborhoods, with nice parks nearby and beautiful old trees lining the sidewalks. It’s a problem because we want to buy a house, but the houses we can afford to buy are not actually as nice as the house we are currently renting (because we’re getting kind of a great deal). So the real problem is, I want to buy a house, but I may be forced to buy a house that’s just as nice but a little smaller, or a house that’s big enough but not as nice.Little Problem

See what I mean? When I break it down, it doesn’t really seem like something I should be whining about. I’m more than lucky to be faced with this kind of decision, when not too long ago the decision would have been whether or not to make the kids share a room. And yet spiraling I go. As we waffle on what to do next, I find one worry to follow the next to follow the next – if I don’t know where we’ll be living, how will I know what kind of furniture to buy? what new toy storage unit I’ll need? where I’ll be doing my writing? whether I need to downsize my clothing collection to make room for maternity and post-natal gear, or just box it up temporarily? Problems Problems Problems. All such Quality Problems.

Which brings me to that problem of sanity. Maybe, just maybe, if I could take a step back. Maybe if I could take a step back and just be grateful for what I have, then maybe I wouldn’t feel quite so insane. Maybe if I could be thankful to have boxes of unsorted baby clothes stuffed into my closets (and grateful to have all those closets). Maybe if I could show gratitude for my mother and my husband who will shoulder so much of the childcare when I go back to work, maybe if I could show relief at the range of high quality daycare facilities available to me in my community and in my price range. Maybe if I could get down on my knees or throw my hands up to the sky and revel in how lucky I am to have the support and success I need to even consider buying home raise my family in.

Quality ProblemMaybe if I could take a deep breath and remind myself that everything always seems to work itself out in the end, I wouldn’t feel so close and at so many moments right on the edge of insanity.

And then maybe, in that moment of quiet, I might find inspiration for that name that continues to elude me.

Thirteen Weeks

Long Road Down

This week I have no theme. I’m thirteen weeks pregnant. Through the crummy, uncomfortable first trimester. A little more energy. A lot less nausea. Just a touch of special treatment for the now obvious baby bump. It’s all downhill from here.

All downhill. Yep. Just a really, really, long and maybe a little bumpy hill.

Did I mention long? A long hill?

Long Road Down

I’m through the first trimester, and somehow, someway I seem to have gotten it into my head that the first trimester was the only trimester. That if I could just get through those first lonely weeks full of secrets and discomfort, then I would have done my duty. All the hard work would be over.

Not that I actually expected to have a baby at the end of the first trimester (I may be irrational, yes, but haven’t quite crossed over into the realm of delusion). I just feel like I’ve been pregnant for a very, very long time already, and after so much silent anticipation, the mere appearance of a potbelly seems like a miracle in and of itself. I found out about my pregnancy very early – as in, so early I wasn’t even technically supposed to even know yet kind of early (those early pregnancy tests really do live up to their advertising). Then I spent nearly my entire summer secretly pregnant. Now I’m so used to hiding it, to pretending that everything is normal, that right as word has really gotten out, I’m kind of convinced myself that everything is normal. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Just another nauseous, swollen, decaffeinated and nicotine withdrawn woman.

But then there is that potbelly. Last week my clothes still fit, for the most part. This week I was late to work every day because I couldn’t find anything to wear. I was warned that I would show early the second time. I fished out my maternity clothes weeks ago in anticipation, but now that the time has come when I actually need them, when wearing them isn’t going to out me at work, well now I just refuse to even try them on. I’m making no sense. I’m making myself crazy.

I feel like I’ve been pregnant forever, but I’m only one third of the way through this journey. And this journey is barely even a preamble to the real voyage that sits at its end – another child. Another life in this house, in this family, in this stew of crazy and chaos and love. I’m going to have another child, and this is more than a little unnerving.

I’m happy for this pregnancy. I wanted this pregnancy. But I was not ready for this pregnancy. But now that I’m past this milestone of weeks, now that the whole world knows, now that my body has placed baby on full blown display, I can no longer deny that this is happening. One hundred percent for real happening. And while I’m thrilled about how my family is going to grow and evolve, while I’m thrilled to give my daughter the experience of siblings, I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to manage it all. Hence the conflict. Hence the excitement and the denial all in the same breath.

It’s a long road behind, but an even longer road ahead – a road that will last the rest of my life. At least now I can say I’m on the scenic route.

Long Road Up

Boy Power (12 weeks)

Moose Power

Yesterday I saw my son’s penis. It was a routine ultrasound. Here’s his head, here are his ears. There’s his heart, there his liver. And there, unmistakable between the legs, his penis.

Having a girl is easy. I knew from the start how I was going to raise her, where I wanted her gender compass to be and how I would help her get there – limit the lace and sparkles, keep her away entirely from all the foo foo princess crap, change male pronouns to female in all her animal bedtime stories (because seriously, why does every rambunctious tiger, bear, llama and raccoon need to be a boy?). I knew which social mores I wanted to upend and how to provide her with a world of freedom to choose her own identity path.

But a boy. What am I supposed to do with a boy? If it’s okay for my daughter to wear hand me down boy clothes from her cousins, does that mean it will be okay for my son to wear hand me down girl clothes from his sister? If I point my daughter toward the rocket ship lunchbox during back to school shopping, does that mean it will be okay to point my son toward the butterfly hearts? And why is it that the neutral white crib and changing table seem suddenly too feminine in their slightly rounded edges?

Obviously it’s just not that simple. Our culture often compels young girls to gravitate toward aesthetics and ideas that ultimately – if taken to the girly extreme and carried over into young adulthood – will make things like equal pay and equal opportunity harder to come by in a world that is still dominated by male leaders, and that still too often treats women as tokens. But, I understand that this issue is far more complex than the girly stereotypes peddled through clothing, toys, and media; my daughter will struggle against a male power structure whether or not I manage to ward off every last scrap of pink ribbon that comes her way. All these attempts to curate her cultural surroundings are just one component of fostering an internal world for her in which she may be less likely to see herself as less than simply by virtue of her sex.

For boys, though, it’s different. I’ve yet to meet a straight, white, middle-class man who’s been tormented by the discriminatory and disrespectful treatment he’s received at the hands of the ruling class. Despite all the gains we’ve made as a society, our economic and political systems are still stacked in favor of these guys, which I suppose means I could be congratulating the little white, middle-class male growing inside of me, it means I should be breathing a sigh of relief that I won’t need to worry too much about what roads will be open to him.

But here, again, it’s more complex. I may not have met many straight white men complaining of discrimination, but I’ve met more than I can count who describe isolation, insecurity around choosing a nontraditional path, and hypersensitivity to simply being a little sensitive, because even at the top of the food chain, there’s still a pecking order. Maybe my perspective is skewed by my MFA and by my art school business card, or maybe it’s just my knee jerk feminism, but it seems the world favors not just men over women, but macho men over not so macho men. My solution to the man/woman divide has been in many ways to raise a slightly (okay, maybe a little more than slightly) macho girl. When I apply this logic to raising a boy, though, the whole construct falls apart.

To raise a responsible male in today’s society means making him understand his privilege, not so he can take advantage of it, but so he can treat everyone with equal dignity and respect. Respect and dignity are not qualities I associate with male machnoness. Quite the opposite – these are qualities more specifically suited toward the female side of the spectrum. The sacred feminine, when viewed through a Buddhist prism, refers to qualities like acceptance, oneness, love, and openness to love. Feminine though they might be, these sound like qualities I want to engender in my son. And for all the macho mommy business, these sound like qualities I want to work on in myself too, so that I can hopefully, at some point, be enlightened enough to teach to my daughter.

My daughter likes to wear boy pajamas. She also likes racecars and playing with worms. Lately she’s really taken to wearing tie-dye dresses and sparkly tennis shoes, right about the same time she became obsessed with dinosaurs.

Maybe my boy will like sparkly shoes too, and maybe he’ll like playing with her dolls. Or maybe he’ll be super into superheroes and villains, bulldozers and monster trucks. I may draw the line at monster trucks (unless we all agree that they’re solar powered electric monster trucks), but I understand that I need to let him be whatever it is that he wants to be. It’s taken me a while to figure this out for my daughter (I’ve been working on it all the way since this post), so maybe this understanding – this letting go – will be my girl’s very first gift to her brother, and her ongoing gift to me.

Moose Power

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, or, Why the first trimester sucks (11 weeks)

Hungry Bunny

I am eleven weeks pregnant. Pregnant enough to know that I’m having a boy (yes, we did the blood test). Pregnant enough to see that little boy creature skimmy away from the pressure of the sonogram wand. Pregnant enough that buttoning my skinny jeans now causes more than moderate discomfort. Pregnant enough that in my weaker of moments I am overcome with panic that I will not be ready with a name or a crib or anything even remotely resembling a plan. Because, for all intents and purposes, I’m not actually pregnant yet in my day to day life. Because, if you believe all those pregnancy website talking points, eleven weeks pregnant is actually not pregnant enough to be pregnant in public.

I’ve never understood why this is the case. The vast majority of pregnancies lead to healthy, full-term babies, so why is pregnancy not something we announce with joy at the first peed-on plus-signed stick? There is a far greater chance that each new marriage will end in divorce, but this doesn’t keep us from plastering our friends, family and Facebook with pictures of our engagement ring the minute it hits our fingers. Is it shame of miscarriage? Refusal to share our fear or grief or weird early pregnancy weight gain publicly? Or just one more way in which our culture frowns upon the true physicality of being female?

This reticence around the first trimester makes an already difficult experience even more uncomfortable. It heightens the fear that miscarriage is always looming and limits our support system in the case that miscarriage does occur. Increases the isolation of unanswered questions. Further complicates what will already be a complicated work situation. Why can’t we just come out with it?

I am obviously inclined to share early, as evidenced by my proclivity toward over-sharing (aka: why I have a blog), but my sometimes less than warm and fuzzy work environment gave me pause. Will my political adversaries take potshots at me and my pregnancy brain (what? office politics in higher ed? no…)? Will my colleagues and staff second guess my ability to maintain my usual over the top pace? Will I myself second guess my ability to maintain my over the top pace?

Initially, it was this fear that kept me quiet. And ultimately it was this fear that made me come out with it.

I’m slowing down. This first trimester has not been easy. Fitting into high heels and slim fit work fashion has not been comfortable. Sticking it out through meetings when I need to pee or retch or even just unbutton those unforgiving pants has been quite near torture. I’ve been waking later, leaving earlier, waiting several hours to respond to weekend emails because napping just seems so much more important.

In my world (or at least in my head), slowing down is stressful, scary even, especially with the fall semester just around the corner. Right at the moment when I need everyone around me to speed up, I’ve been watching myself – and watching others watch me – inexplicably moving like molasses through the day. I needed to explain that inexplicable.

I fear I may have broken some sort of secret maternal code, to stay silent in pregnant meditation until society deems it appropriate, the way some cultures isolate women through the dirty days of menstruation. But appropriate or not, this week I went to work in a dress belted above my belly, unabashedly drank milk (no coffee) at my desk in the morning, and left the same meeting twice for bathroom breaks. And while I still have hints of regret, of what if worries and of political paranoias, I have to say my molasses has been moving just a little bit faster without the weight of my big secret stressors to hold me back.

Hungry Bunny