Thursday, September 25, 2014

Preparing for labor

I am not ready to give birth. Both in the sense that the babe needs more time to grow (though at almost 35 weeks, not much more) and that I am mentally unprepared to go through labor again. I have known this for awhile, but the depth and reality of my unpreparedness became clear when I came down with the flu last week.

So why exactly did the flu make me dread labor? Because it reminded me of being in labor. As I was doubled over in pain losing fluids at an unnatural rate, I kept remembering how similar I felt during labor with HP, and how I would be going through that process again shortly. I just kept thinking I don't want to do it. I am never getting pregnant again. The morning sickness that lasts for weeks, and then, at the end, while you're in some of the most intense pain of your life, you're also throwing up. It's the worst. Is there any way to get out of it at this point? Maybe an epidural wouldn't be so bad...

Leading up to labor with HP, ignorance was my friend. I did not fear or dread labor. In fact, I had a bring it on attitude. If billions of women have given birth in the past, so could I. It appealed to my competitive spirit. So many people complete the task every day, how hard can it be? Turns out, pretty damn hard.

Before having my naivety shattered by the reality of birth, I took comfort in the fact that I had successfully taken on challenging physical tasks in the past. Not the same thing at all. When I was running a cross-country race or doing wind sprints for ultimate, I was the one pushing my body. When I was in labor, my body was dictating what happened with no input from me. I did not get to decide how far and for how long to push myself; I had to go along for the ride.

This time, I have no such illusions. Labor is painful. Labor is uncomfortable. I am not looking forward to it.

But let's stop the whining. Labor is coming, so I might as well prepare myself. Here's what I'm doing to reframe my mindset going into the birth:

(1) Remember the mantra that I found helpful in labor with HP. I call this one my "Gambian mindset" because I learned and applied it when I lived there. In labor it goes something like this: "Right now I am in pain. It is terrible and awful and miserable. Eventually I won't be." (This can apply to anything. For example, "Right now my toddler is tired, upset, and whining which requires me to use every ounce of willpower I have to remain calm. Eventually he won't be." or "Right now I am biking up a steep hill the heat. Eventually I won't be." Etc.)

(2) Reread the birth stories in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I read her book during my first pregnancy, but I think I will get more out of the stories after having been through the process once myself.

(3) Remember that this is likely the last time I will experience labor and delivery. Yes, it's painful, but it's also amazing to see what my body is capable of.

(4) Spending time each day focusing on my breath. I cannot control the contractions during labor, but I can control my mind and how I breathe. In order to hold onto that, I need to practice.

(5) Focus on the reason for the process: a new baby. I can't wait to meet this new little person who will be joining our family.

Only a few more weeks!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Life lately

Seedlings sprouting.
I was struck down with the flu last week for three days. It is always unpleasant, but feeling that ill while eight months pregnant with toddler running around is its own special form of misery. I thought I was in the clear, but was struck down again last night. And now HP has a cold. Neil is fine other than his seasonal allergies. Let's just say things have been a little rough 'round these parts.

I cannot stop getting rid of our stuff. I would say it's a problem, but I love it too much. We've decided to move HP into the office and make his current room the baby/playroom. Making that switch means we need to find a new home for some of office furniture. The desk we'll move into our room, but the filing cabinet and the bookshelf are getting sold on Craigslist. Getting rid of so much stuff you can eliminate pieces of furniture? Amazing.

Next project: sorting through all of the clothes for the baby and HP figuring out what we need/want to keep and what we can pass on. There is no need for such tiny people to have a wardrobes three times larger than their parents. Besides, the three giant boxes of clothes in the closet are taking up precious space that could be empty instead.

I know I already posted a list of things to do before the baby arrived, but it feels never ending. I have become more productive than usual in my efforts to get everything "ready" before a new person joins our family. Even so, it feels like the list is getting longer rather than shorter. Making curtains for the office/HP's new room (though that's Neil's domain--he's the genius with the sewing machine in our family), finishing up cloth book gifts for friends, figuring out what insurance we are all going to be on next year, take books cleared from the shelf to a used bookstore... It feels like as soon as I cross one thing off another takes its place.

The weather here is finally cool enough to open up our house in the evening. It was so chilly last night we had to turn off the overhead fan. Crisp fall mornings, how I love you. I am so looking forward to the long, mild winter of Central Texas. We went outside the other morning and HP said, "It's cold out!" It was 75 degrees. Oh, my little Texas boy.

Happy Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall planting

Since we've moved into the rental house, I have let myself off the hook for gardening.

I have plenty of excuses, the most notable being that we moved in June--a terrible time for planting in Central Texas. While it is true that the summer heat that fries most plants to a crisp, I was ready to take a break. In fact, I mentally gave myself permission not to worry about growing food until the fall of 2015. Because let's be honest--gardening is not going to be a priority once the baby is here. know myself and am confident that weeding, planting, harvesting, and watering are going to be low on my list of things to do in the sleep-deprived days of having a newborn.

While I am still scaling back, I have reentered the realm of gardening a year sooner than anticipated. We had compost leftover from the spring, four-inch pots for seedlings, and seeds that were begging to be planted--all the ingredients for growing seedlings. If they are a success, I will use some of them plant a (small) garden in the front bed of the rental house and sell the excess through the Yard to Market Cooperative. A little extra income and/or food is always appreciated.

When HP saw the bucket of dirt on the table, he immediately wanted to help. He filled up the pots, planted a few seeds (quite liberally--not sure we need or want ten broccoli seeds per pot), and watered with the watering can. I love that he is at an age where he can help grow food and start to understand the process. Though for him, it is mostly about digging in the dirt. His first impulse after we finished planting was to dump the pots back into the bin. Looks like I'll need to find a safer place than the deck for the trays if I want the seedlings to flourish...

I had low (read: non-existent) expectations for gardening this fall, but am glad I decided to do something. Next step: clear out the grass that has taken over the front bed to make room for cilantro, collards, chard, broccoli, and cauliflower. A project for next weekend.

Here's to cooler weather and the crops that come with it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hill Country

Over the summer I had been toying with the idea of taking a weekend getaway before the baby is born--a babymoon, if you will. HP is in such good place with his routine and sleeping (sporadic napping aside) that I knew he would be comfortable having someone else staying with him. Once the baby arrives, it will be a long time before we will have the freedom to be child-free overnight. I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity this fall before we are in the throes of newborn-dom.

Before I had firmed up any plans, Neil's parents offered to fund a weekend getaway as their birthday present to him. His mom even came down to visit so she could watch HP all day and night Saturday while we headed out on our own. Don't worry, I fully appreciate both their generosity and our good fortune.

So on Saturday morning, we got picked up a rental car and headed west into the Hill Country. The weather was more Oregonian than Texan--unseasonably cool, cloudy, and drizzling. In a word, perfect. We hiked, we read, we ate, and generally enjoyed breathing in the country air.

Our weekend adventure was the first time we had both left HP for a full day/night. We have each taken trips away from our son, but HP was always with the other parent overnight if the one was gone. Unsurprisingly, HP did great and loved spending time with his grandma. He didn't even ask about us once, which I take to be a good sign.

Now we are back in the city, with no plans to leave in the near (or far) future. We both appreciated the break from the city and the chance to spend an extended amount of parenting-free time together.

A happy birthday indeed.

Monday, September 15, 2014

(Maybe) a family of three

I have been going back through some of my old writing from last fall, and wanted to share this piece. Clearly, we have since decided to have another child. Moving from where we were when I wrote this to where we are today is a different story for another time, but I wanted to publish this to remind myself where we were and what it looked like for us to wrestle with opposing viewpoints in our marriage.

At just shy of fourteen months, my son mastered walking. After weeks of taking hesitant steps before returning to the more familiar motion of crawling, he now happily toddles across the room. He is unabashedly proud of this newest accomplishment, and often throws a sneaky grin over his shoulder when he reaches his destination. When he is feeling less modest, he enthusiastically claps. In moments like those, it is hard to imagine not adding another child to our family.

If you had asked me a decade ago how many children I wanted to have, I would have confidently answered three or four. Two seemed too few, more than four seemed unwieldy. If you had posed the same question on the eve of my wedding, I would have responded two or three and my soon-to-be husband would have said one or two. I figured we would end up compromising with the overlap--two. But children are not something you compromise on and today—more than a year into parenting our son—we would both answer maybe just the one.

It was responsible and productive to talk about having children before we got married, but it was a purely speculative exercise. We tried our best to imagine what it would be like and how we would feel, but thinking about it and living it are different beasts. After wrestling with the reality of the latter, it was clear we needed to integrate our past ideas with our present lives to create a workable vision for the future.

At first, this integration looked more like manipulation as I struggled to let go of my desire for a larger family. I knew that my husband was leaning toward only having one child, but I naively thought I could change his mind. Sure, you only want one child, but I really want two, so that’s what will happen. I did not say that out loud, because even at the time I could hear how selfish it sounded. Children require a lot of time, attention, and sacrifice from their caregivers. They bring joy into our lives, but they also bring stress. Despite what well-meaning strangers on the street would have us believe, the joy does not take away the stress; you have to make room for both in your life. Our son brings love and happiness to our home that would not be present without him, but acknowledging that fact does not lessen the sleep deprivation, accompanying irritability, or feeling of being spread too thin.

After months of going back and forth, we reached a stale mate.  I wanted another child; he did not.  When I got desperate to bring him around to my side, I resorted to the regret card.  You know the one--the I just don’t want to look back on my life forty years from now and wish that we had had another, and the I can see myself regretting not having a child, but not the reverse.


If I was asking him to seriously consider the idea of having another child, then I needed to seriously consider the idea of stopping with one.

So I did. I set aside my preconceived notion that a family of three would be incomplete and sat with the idea of our son being an only child. In that process I realized that holding on too tightly to a decade-old idea of what I thought our family should be was preventing me from enjoying what our family is.

Ironically, one of the things that convinced me I could be happy stopping with one was the very regret argument I tried to use on my husband, only now I worry that we might regret having a second child, not the reverse.

I do not worry that we would not love that child; there is always more love to give. I do not worry that we would be unable to adjust to new routines and schedules; our parenting journey so far has been nothing if not a crash course in flexibility. I do not worry that we would resent the child; we are capable of dealing with our emotions in a way that would not transfer them onto our son or daughter.

But I do worry about the impact a second child would have on our family system. My first obligation is to our marriage and I fear that another child would ask more of it than I am prepared to. Yes, it is a sacrifice to put aside my desire for a larger family. But it would be more of a sacrifice to put our family in a position where the balance between stress and joy tipped in the wrong direction. If having another child means stretching us further than we are capable, then I want to stop with one. Could our marriage survive having another child? Yes--I have no doubt.  But merely surviving feels like an awfully low bar to set.

If circumstances in our life were different, this conversation might have had another outcome. But part of living in the adult world is making decisions based on the cards we are holding, not the ones we hoped to draw.

Intellectually, I came the conclusion that stopping with one child might be the smartest course for our family. But it took longer for my emotions to catch up to my brain. I needed time to mourn the future we may never have and acknowledge what I was losing.

I may never be pregnant and get to feel a child growing and moving inside of me. I may never hold a sleepy newborn of my own as she drifts in and out of sleep. I may never see another child learn to crawl, walk, talk, read, or dance. I may never witness a second child’s first day of school, graduation, wedding day, and the thousand moments before, after, and in between that make a life.

And that’s okay.

I am doing my best to embrace the journey as it unfolds with my son. Even if we have another child, all of those experiences would eventually be in the past. Time moves forward, children grow up, and all of the milestones and sweet moments become memories, no matter how many children we have. 

The longer I sit with the idea of being a family of three, the less it feels like a sacrifice and the more it feels like it could be right choice for us. When I told my husband that I was comfortable with the idea of our son being our only child, he was the one unwilling to permanently close that door.

Before these recent conversations, I always strongly and passionately argued for having another child—and soon! My enthusiasm made him feel the need to stand more firmly on the side of stopping with one lest he become swept away by my relentless attempts to persuade.

Once I stopped approaching these discussions with an obvious motive, we could both admit our doubts—his about our son being an only child, and mine about adding to our family. The tables had turned. Now he was the one convincing me not to abandon on the possibility of another child.

We have tentatively decided to remain a family of three. It is not the final word for either of us; it is more of a natural default position while we decide the best path forward for our family. I still feel the pull to have another child and find myself daydreaming about how our family would look with two children instead of one. He still has reservations about expanding beyond our current size, both logistical and philosophical. But neither of us is willing to convince the other while we have lingering doubts about our respective positions. 

I have come to accept that it is a leap of faith either way. If we decide not to have any more children, we have to let go of all of the possibilities another child would bring. If we have another child, we have to let go of our anxiety about how we would juggle the competing needs of a new child, our son, our marriage, and ourselves.

Decades from now, I am confident we will not regret our choice—whatever it may be—because neither choice will leave with some less-than version of an otherwise ideal family; it will leave us with our family.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

To do before I'm due

We are two months (or less) from this baby being on the outside. Before s/he makes his or her appearance, there are a few things we'd like to accomplish. Forgive the long list, but it helps me to take all of these thoughts out of my brain and onto the page.
  • More decluttering/minimizing/organizing. Specifically:
    • The big closet. We've sorted through the stuff we want to get rid of, but what's left is inaccessible. We need to create a system so we can easily get to our winter clothes and other items.
    • The pantry. I have already gone through this area once, but it could use more culling and organization.
    • The back porch and utility closet. I'm looking forward to spending more time on our deck once the weather cools off. Having a clutter-free area will make the experience much more pleasant.
    • Our external hard drive. We've been through multiple laptops since we started using this drive and I know we have duplicates or even triplicates of many photos stored under different names. I need to sort through, delete, and organize the files in a way that is easy to understand. We also want to start using a cloud backup system for our documents and photos.
  • Make freezer meals. I'd like to have several meals stocked up along with muffins, bread, and other staples to help us in those first few months. 
  • Decide where we are going to put the baby and set up that space. Our rental house has a weird layout and we aren't sure how to best use the space. Eventually we want HP and the baby to share a room, but that won't be for at least a year. For the first few weeks the baby will be in our room, but after that we need to have a plan in place. I am leaning toward converting the office, even though it means the baby will be on the opposite end of the house from us. Either way, it will require some consolidation and reorganization.
  • Build these shelves for HP. He loves to read and his books are everywhere, which makes me batty. Once these are in place we can rotate books through as needed.
  • Sign me up for life insurance. Neil has coverage through his work, but I do not. We'll just get a short term plan in case anything happens while our children are young. I have looked into it multiple times, but have never followed through.
  • Go to the dentist. At our two-year well-check they told us HP should start seeing the dentist yearly. It will be much easier to take him before the baby is born. Neil had his cleaning yesterday and mine is next week, so we'll all be set in that department soon.
  • Make Christmas plans. We are staying in Austin for Christmas, but we need to find out if anyone in our families is traveling and how we are handling gifts this year. My family just buys for the kids, but I am not sure what Neil's family's approach will be this year since it is unlikely that we'll all be together. I know I will not have the mental or physical energy to find thoughtful gifts after the baby arrives, so I want to get everything together early.
Writing it all out makes the list seem manageable. Neil's mom is visiting this weekend, but then our weekends are open until the birth. Right now, I am feeling a lot of motivation to tackle these tasks (nesting, anyone?). Hopefully that feeling lasts for the next seven weeks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Labor of love

I hate making cookies. I am not much of a baker to begin with, and of all the types of baking, cookie making is my least favorite. With a cake you just mix up the batter and dump in the pan. But with cookies, you have to make the dough, spoon them onto a sheet, bake them, then take them off to cool. I know, I know--it's not that hard. But it's hard enough that I make them only once a year, for Neil's birthday.

I regularly make all kinds of things from scratch and cook dinner most every night, so it is not as though I avoid time in the kitchen. But for some reason, I have a mental block about cookies. Case in point: for his birthday dinner I made a butternut squash galette, which took longer and was more involved than a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but it was the latter I dreaded making.

I almost skipped it this year since Neil's mother is coming into town a few days after his birthday and I am fairly confident that she'll bring cookies. Not only that, she is a cookie making expert. My cookies never turn out as well as hers, so I figure, why bother? He'll get a treat and I will be off the hook.

But it is his birthday, and he does love cookies, so I managed to stop my whining and made him a batch. They're a little thick and floury and a few got overdone on the bottom, but they are still cookies.

Happy birthday, Neil. For you (and only you), I will make cookies.