Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ready to Meet You!!!!

Friday was supposed to be my last day at work, but I started feeling random sharp pains Thursday around 5:30 so I didn't go in the next day. I was afraid of having that progress while at work or going into full-on labor in the Bronx, over an hour from home. But it faded during the day Friday, returning Friday night and alternating with cramping. Then nothing most of Saturday except off-and-on intense pressure on my cervix. Same Sunday. I kept thinking labor might be imminent, and then nothing! But my sister pointed out that my body is preparing in a smart way - starting to get ready, and then relaxing so I can rest. Working its way up to the big task ahead. So I've let myself enjoy the sloooow lead-up, appreciating that at least something is happening to let me know my body is progressing.

Yesterday (Monday) was my due date. As planned, my mother and I celebrated by getting pedicures and lunch before going for the 40-week sonogram. The sonogram showed everything to be healthy and well. A week earlier, I had gone in for my weekly appointment and the doctor had said that if I hadn't gone into labor by my due date, we would schedule induction. I really don't want to be induced, on a practical level because it will make it more difficult to fulfill my wishes for an unmedicated vaginal birth and on an emotional level because I want to have "my story" about how it happened when I went into labor rather than memories of being hooked up to an IV. If there's a valid reason to be induced, then okay, but I don't want it taken lightly. I asked her if there was any way to avoid induction, and the doctor said she would give me a week after my due date if everything looked good with the gestational diabetes.

So yesterday, she said, "I remember that you don't want to be induced. Your sonogram still looks really good, fluid levels are good, and your sugar numbers are good, so I could let you wait until 41 and a half weeks. How does that sound?" Knowing that it's medically unsafe to let a baby go past 42, I thought that sounded quite reasonable, and I felt relieved that she remembered my reservations about induction, respected it, and brought it up herself with some flexibility. Then she did the cervical check and said, "You're over 2cm dilated and your cervix is stretched really, really thin. We'll schedule a sonogram for Friday, but I honestly don't see you making it that long." This made sense with what I've been feeling. I feel so much pressure that, even sitting, it can make me gasp and shift around in pain when the baby is moving. It feels like the baby is pushing right up against my cervix but just can't get out because it's not open enough.

The house finally feels ready, and now that I'm off work, I feel relaxed and mentally and emotionally ready. Instead of rushing around and trying to finish things up, I'm now just sitting and waiting. That impatience is so much better than the panic of "But wait, there's still so much to do!!!" I feel like I'm open and ready and waiting for this baby to come when it's ready, and that's a welcome feeling. Though the delicious torture of anticipation is very difficult!

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Baby preparation has been utterly overwhelming in the past few weeks. I've barely had time or energy to stop, think, feel, let alone write. It seems like we were coasting for a while and then suddenly had a deadline racing toward us (but an ambiguous one, which makes it even more stressful!). I feel disorganized, unfinished. stressed.

We finally put the nursery together two weekends ago. At 37 weeks pregnant, it was pushing it in my opinion, but we just kept not getting around to it. I felt great relief when the crib and dresser were put together and in place, and I was able to start washing baby clothes and bedding and set up the room. That relief was short-lived when I realized how much still needed to happen: putting together the changing table for downstairs, setting up both diaper stations, hanging things in the nursery, sorting out what toys and items we need right away versus which are for older ages and can stay stored in the basement a while longer, realizing we needed more bins and ways to store these items, trying to figure out how we re-arrange our own overflowing stuff in this cramped space so that we can fit in baby's stuff (WHERE WILL ALL THE BATH THINGS GO), figuring out where the litter box goes because we don't want it in our room where baby will be sleeping for a while and breathing it in yet we have no other good places, reorganizing the basement which we had just made into a beautiful guest area and now looks like a crazy storage zone after our baby shower, getting a carseat check which is apparently booked up at EVERY LOCATION until mid-June and then panicking about how well we were possibly figuring it out on our own, practicing buckling in a teddy bear, watching the infant CPR DVD my sister lent us, watching Happiest Baby on the Block my doula recommended and my parents had actually gotten us before we conceived, putting the cloth diapers through the mandatory five wash cycles (even though we don't need them right away, I won't be focused on that the first few weeks postpartum), putting finishing touches on the hospital bag so that we have everything we need, making sure we know what to do with the cord blood kit (free processing by the bank owned by our sperm bank so we just have to pay for the kit and shipping, $320!), waiting for our living room furniture which was supposed to be here in 3-5 weeks and the 5 week point just passed this weekend and WE HAVE NOTHING, bringing up the cradle from the basement and figuring out somewhere for it to go on the main level as a napping zone because we have no room upstairs, learning at 38 weeks that the glider that was going to be handed down to us no longer is and we now have nowhere upstairs (which is just bedrooms) to rock a fussy baby in the middle of the night until we figure out a new plan, choosing a mohel in case we have a boy, booking a newborn photographer, booking a maternity session which now at 39 weeks I'm just trying accept isn't going to happen.

On top of this, I have a stack of about fifteen pregnancy and childbirth books - most handed down and a few bought that I was really interested in - that I've barely touched in the "third trimester and birth" sections and feel super guilty about, like I'm not informing myself enough and not making use of these resources And my doula spent time teaching us all these exercises for keeping baby in optimal position and sent us a video for a routine that will help prepare my body for labor and I bought two prenatal yoga DVDs at 36 weeks so that I could relax and prepare my body in the last month, and I've had time for NONE OF THIS. Or maybe I don't MAKE time for it. I get home late from work, cook, feel exhausted, and just want to relax with TV the last couple of hours. If I have energy or time to do something more, it's one of the million tasks listed above (of which I've currently completed about 5%) and certainly not the self-care I claim to value so much, the ways I can soothe and prepare my body for labor and read and prepare myself mentally for it. Those get pushed to the wayside.

I broke down to my wife today and she was such an amazing support. Generally she is the one stressing about how the house looks and the tasks ahead, and it can make her irritable and snippy and unpleasant to be around. This time it's me, pregnancy-induced as it may be, and it helps me empathize with her because I can't imagine feeling like this about life all the time! I had gone upstairs to change into pajamas before she shut the lights to go to bed, and when I went to the bathroom, she called out, "Are you okay?" She really meant physically, because she's been worried about my exhaustion and near-constant Braxton Hicks (after only having like five ever in my pregnancy until the past week) and sudden inability to do much after making it 37 weeks being quite limber and active and comfortable. But I just said, "Cranky. I feel cranky and irritable and that's not like me. I don't like feeling this way. Is it okay that I'm feeling this way?" And she came out of the bedroom to meet me in the hall and hug me and said, "Of course it's okay, you're 39 weeks pregnant! Be cranky! What's bothering you?" And I went into all of the above. I love my wife to death, but she is not generally known to know the right things to say or to be the strong one in our relationship. But boy did that kick in when she saw I needed it, that I was the one who needed a rock this time. She reassured me while also not minimizing my stress, and gave realistic solutions to almost everything I said. Most of which were, "I'll take care of that this week/when I come home for a shower and to feed the cats while you're at the hospital/with Dad in the first few days after baby. It'll be okay and I'll take care of it. You don't need to worry about anything."

I'm so, so, so excited and ready for this baby to join our lives. We both can barely stand the excitement. I love seeing my wife kissing and talking to my abdomen, saying, "Come let us meet you, we love you and miss you!!!" And yet the pressure of feeling my home, my nest, isn't ready is killing me. I'd like to write about the incredible baby shower our families threw for us, and the one my coworkers threw for me that incorporated so much about my personality and preferences and current dietary restrictions that I felt so known and loved. I'd like to write about the excitement of our temple community who are on the edge of their seats, waiting for the Friday night they DON'T see us and know it's time, checking in with us excitedly and happily every week. I'd like to write about the snuggly moments in bed with my wife and our baby-to-be nudging against her hand when she talks to it, moving around at the inflections in my wife's voice as she reads to our friends' two-year-old daughter, dancing as it listens to us singing to the radio (so much more active when we're singing along than when we're not). I'd like to write about finding a mohel, and my anxiety regarding circumcision despite my certainty about our decision. I'd like to write about the experience of working with our doula and all the amazing empowerment and support that has provided us already. But my head is swarming with tasks, to-do's, unfinished business, and I went over a month not processing anything here. Losing those moments that I would love to be able to relive in ten or twenty years through my descriptive writing. Losing the opportunity to revel in them and think through them in the way that only writing can help me do.

Is this what parenting will be like too? Will it feel like frantic chaos that I'm constantly lagging behind in preparations for? Will I always be stressing about the next thing I need to do, or the things I should have done but haven't? Or is this pregnancy-induced panic that is part of trying to prepare for something that is about to turn our world upside down, and then after the birth, I will let go of some of this need for perfection and just start enjoying it and realizing I have everything I need? I'm hoping the latter, because this way of feeling and being is out of character for me. I'm glad it didn't take over until the end and that I got to fully enjoy and revel in pregnancy for the vast majority of this journey. Now I need to let my wife be my rock, allow and trust her to lighten my load, and try to stay focused and calm on the transformative experience right around the corner.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Motherhood Sisterhood

Late last year, somewhere in my second trimester of pregnancy, a pregnant panhandler came through my subway car. She was farther along than myself, looked to be in her third trimester, and she was in pretty rough shape.  She asked for food or money, and my heart just broke. Homeless people are always hard on my heart, but seeing this woman down and out while her body was creating a life just ripped at my every seam. I gave her a snack from my bag and she thanked me profusely while I tried to brush it off as no big deal.

She may not have even been able to tell I was pregnant in my coat, but I was painfully aware of our shared truth. We are both insatiably hungry while our bodies are undergoing total transformation, building new bodies. But I can pack snacks in my bag for the day to help stave off the hunger and cravings, and tonight I will go home to my house and my supportive wife. My friends and family will throw me a baby shower to help me get the things I need for this baby. They will ensure this baby is never in need, and if they didn’t, we have steady jobs and would still somehow be able to figure it out for ourselves. We are safe and warm at night. We can prepare for our child.

Who helped you make this baby and where are they now? Did you even feel you had a choice, or are you just left to deal with the consequences of someone else’s choice? Where are you sleeping tonight? What fears and anxieties keep you up at night as you feel your due date looming closer and have no one to turn to for help and advice? Do you worry that your child will be taken from you because you can’t provide proper care? Do you worry that your child WON’T be taken from you and you will spend every moment frantically trying to prepare for the next, worrying about how to keep your child safe and thriving? How do you protect yourself and stay safe as you become increasingly more vulnerable? Who helps you when your back and hips are aching so much you feel you can’t walk one more step, and yet gathering another few quarters makes the difference in whether you can eat tonight? I wanted to cry and scream at the injustice of the world, and also take her home and let her run a hot bath and elevate her swollen feet and be able to feel the wonder of the creation within her instead of the exhaustion and anxiety and loneliness I saw weighing her down.

Then a week or so ago, as spring finally turned the corner (how far away my spring baby seemed when winter was only just approaching!), I saw a fat squirrel sitting on a tree branch. In unspoken agreement, my wife and I always sit still in the car when we pull into our driveway and see cardinals in the backyard. This time there were a male and a female bouncing around from branch to fencepost to bush, and we watched them until they finally flew off. Then I noticed the squirrel on the branch of our tree, contentedly eating a nut. I was initially surprised at its rotundity after a long, harsh winter, and then after a few seconds it hit me that she wasn’t fat, she was pregnant! It seemed like a logical conclusion at this time of the year, and I just watched her in awe. I wondered if this was her first pregnancy and if she knew what was going on. Did she feel extra hungry and thirsty and tired? Did she start to notice more and more strange stirrings and squirming in her abdomen and wonder what the heck was going on? Or does she just go through life unblinking and not pay much attention to these changes when she’s just trying to survive each moment, focusing on finding food and safety? She’s so strong - she just goes through her pregnancy finding the next nut, lugging her heavy body up the tree. She can’t play the pregnancy card. Other squirrels don’t encourage her to just relax in the grass while they watch for predators or offer to fetch her an acorn. She’s just gotta keep going! She doesn’t know any different, and those male squirrels have no clue what she’s quietly enduring in order to propagate the species.

Pregnancy is the first nearly universal condition that has made me feel so connected to beings across demographics and even species. I wonder about the teen mothers I work with, both the reluctant and the intentional. I wonder about the experiences of people older than me, like my mother, my wife’s grandmother, and my rabbi (who adopted, but who I imagine experienced similar planning, anticipation, fear and excitement, and impatience waiting for her daughter to join their family). I feel so connected to all of these mothers, and also so curious about how different their outer experiences are or were within their own contexts despite the fact that exactly the same thing was happening inside each of us. Sometimes this breaks my heart and sometimes this lifts and moves me, but I’m always grateful for the connection.

Pregnancy Guilt

(Written in December 2014 for
After four failed cycles of intrauterine insemination, my wife and I conceived a few months ago. We’re elated, but during the time leading up to our pregnancy, we faced much uncertainty and anxiety. Before beginning insemination, I was tested for every possible fertility barrier and all of the test results were negative. This was a mixed blessing, since my insurance would have covered the $1900 per cycle process fully if I’d had even the slightest issue. But of course I was grateful for my health.
That was an incredibly difficult time, when hopes rose and fell. For support, we reached out to family and friends as well as our dear rabbi, who witnessed many tears and helped comfort and encourage us.
We also reached out to a couple of friends who, like us, were experiencing difficulty conceiving. We bonded intensely during that period, because we got each other. When a very close friend of mine became pregnant immediately, we struggled as we watched her abdomen grow every month and felt envious– like that’s where we should be too. With our friends who also faced difficulties conceiving, we were able to commiserate, share stories, and vent about our hurt.
And then we did get pregnant, and suddenly we were the ones struggling to figure out how to tell our friends who hadn’t yet conceived.
(Read the rest at the link below)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

All the Sugar

Before the fertility clinic would proceed with our first cycle, they sent me for a one-hour glucose tolerance test to screen for prediabetes, due to my bloodwork having shown that my blood sugar levels are slightly elevated. I passed the test and all was well. When I had to take the same test around 29 weeks gestation, I did not pass and was referred for the three-hour test. I had read that many people who fail the one-hour pass the three-hour because many people’s bodies just need that little extra time to handle the sugar. Many people in my personal life confirmed this, telling me that they’d failed the one-hour also but then had been fine. So I went in pretty optimistic. I drank the nasty, syrupy drink and then, ravenous, sat and read a book while getting blood drawn every hour. The phlebotomist asked with each blood draw if I was feeling okay, and since I was, that also made me optimistic.

I was a little anxious anyway, just because I know I’m genetically predisposed to diabetes and have already had signs of insulin resistance since high school (rough, scaly dark patches of skin in my armpits and under my belly; some skin tags; cellulitis at 20 years old which took doctors forever to diagnose because it’s usually only seen in elderly, obese diabetics), but after hearing even my own mother and sister say they passed the three-hour, I kept talking myself down and convincing myself that I really probably didn’t have it. Then I got the call from my OB’s office saying my results were “abnormal” and I needed to call an endocrinologist RIGHT AWAY to schedule an appointment.

Heart in my mouth, I called the one they recommended who took my insurance and set up an appointment for the following day. The doctor was very warm and friendly. He showed me my results from the three-hour test, showing what levels are normal at each hour and how high mine stayed throughout. He asked me about various symptoms (excessive hunger and thirst, how many times I pee in a night, etc.), family history, etc. He explained why this can happen in pregnancy, and that since the placenta is the source of the issue, it will go away as soon as the placenta is delivered, but for now may worsen as the placenta grows. He said the baby is not harmed, but that the baby is overmaking its own insulin to counteract the high blood sugar flowing into it, and that high insulin can lead to too much growth and complicate delivery if the baby gets too big. Having the baby’s pancreas on overdrive throughout gestation can also increase baby’s risk of developing diabetes and childhood obesity later in life, so it’s important to regulate my own blood sugar so the baby doesn’t have to overcompensate for me.

Then he talked to me about diet change and handed me a whole packet with recommendations for meals and snacks, what I can have in unlimited quantities, what I can have in moderation, and what I can NEVER EVER have. Some of the never evers really surprised me – I mean bananas, really?? The “bad” things that I craved and had been indulging in freely were on that list, as well as some things I thought were really healthy for me (like watermelon and grapes).

He showed me my target range and what numbers should worry me. He told me to stick to this diet and test my blood sugar fasting and then an hour after every meal, fax in the results every few days, and then come back in a week to evaluate. If the numbers were concerning in that first couple of days, like my blood sugar was out of normal range even with diet changes, then I would need insulin and have to come back in immediately for that. He offered to show me how to do it then and send me home with some supplies so that I wouldn’t have to come back in so soon if that happened, but said it was my choice. I said, “No thank you, I’m feeling utterly overwhelmed as it is and would rather not have to learn injections on top of it when I may not even need them. I’ll come back in if I have to.” He told me to keep fat in my diet because now is not the time to be losing weight. Then a nurse came in to show me how to use the glucose monitor, which looked intimidatingly complicated at first use.

I didn’t even make it to the car before tears were streaming down my face. I felt utterly overwhelmed at all that was in front of me – having to plan every meal and snack, having to avoid so many things I love and just am not sure how to replace at meals, figuring out the glucose monitor and remembering to take my blood and log my food choices after every meal. And I felt overwhelming guilt at my poor diet up to that point and how my baby had been having to work its poor little pancreas to death to try to make up for it. It didn’t matter that this was coming for me no matter what, and that people get it no matter how they were eating before and during pregnancy. It didn’t matter that baby was fine and not being harmed right now. I couldn’t stop blaming myself for not doing enough to protect my baby and keep it as safe and healthy as possible. I’ve struggled with willpower when it comes to food my whole life, and all I could think was that even my baby hadn’t been enough for me to change that, and how shameful that feels. I felt anxious and overwhelmed by the path ahead of me, the major diet overhaul and monitoring, and then ashamed that it felt so difficult. I called my mom to get it all out of my system, and then faced the challenge of figuring out where to go for lunch that wouldn’t make my first blood sugar check be elevated. (I chose Chipotle: brown rice, grilled chicken, tomatoes, guacamole – all approved items.)

As I sat at home and tried to remember all the steps for using the glucose monitor, stuck myself multiple times trying to figure out how to take the needle back out, and then tried to plan what I could eat the rest of the day and the next day at work, I let myself shed a few tears of frustration and then told myself that I would be a master in no time. This was all new and a lot to learn and figure out at once, but soon it would become routine. It just felt so unsettling to have everything in my daily life have to be looked at and managed differently, and to not be exactly sure how yet. Feeling incompetent is my quickest route to frustration and tears, and my instinct is to quit immediately (usually when it's something like assembling a product), but I couldn't with this. And I told myself, "You're going to feel this times a hundred when you're suddenly responsible for the care of a newborn, so you'd better humble yourself and get use to feeling this way and still functioning through it to get the job done."

My numbers were stable with the diet change so I didn’t need to come back in for insulin. This was and is my main motivator to sticking to the diet strictly, because I desperately want to avoid injections. I’m grateful that, while my body is clearly very sensitive to sugar (I’ve seen it spike just going from half to a whole wheat English muffin in the morning), limiting that has been enough to keep it under control. My fasting numbers are good, which they look at closely because blood sugar spikes overnight and is the highest in the morning, so some people wake up with high blood sugar no matter what they eat during the day and need at least nighttime insulin. Meeting with the dietician has been helpful, teaching me things like which foods equal how much of a serving of starch, how to pair a starch with a protein at every snack or meal (apple with string cheese, plain yogurt with blueberries) because the protein helps my body process the sugar, how to split up my breakfast (NO fruit in the morning when your blood sugar is most sensitive) into two small meals so that I stay satisfied without sending my sugar overboard, how to watch my patterns and what sets me off and what doesn’t so that I can find what works for me (“I hate telling a pregnant woman that any fruit is completely off limits – have a small banana and then check your sugar, it’s about what YOUR body can handle”).

I lost four pounds the first week. Actually, within the first four or five days. I was at a 13 pound total gain and went down to 9. I couldn’t eat enough butter, full-fat dairy, and nuts to keep my weight from going down. I called my OB’s office out of concern, and the nurse said that she was surprised the endocrinologist said not to lose weight because it’s impossible not to with such a diet overhaul, but that it’s only my own weight and I should just be focused on making sure I’m getting proper nutrition. She said as long as the baby’s weight is on target, they’re not worried about mine dropping. At our 32-week sonogram the next week, the OB confirmed that baby’s weight was perfect, exactly average, and that I didn’t need to be worried about my own. I stayed stable at this new weight for many days, and then slowly started gaining again, and I’m now up to 11 pounds total gain.

My wife has gone on this diet with me. I did not ask for that, and in fact told her just not to eat things I love right in front of me (cakes, ice cream) but that she could do it behind my back and not tell me, just so I’m not tortured. And she could eat anything she likes that DOESN’T torment me (chips, hard candies). But she insisted that this is how we both should be eating and that she knows she is predisposed to diabetes too, so why not use this as our wake-up call to being healthier? She doesn’t have to be as picky with planned out snacks or about having fruit in the morning, but she’s made her own diet overhaul. She measures her starches at dinner and has the same amount I do, and has cut down on how often she snacks and the portion size of her snacks. She’s been losing weight too!

At my second dietician counseling yesterday, we were going over my charts and she asked if she could keep the most recent week’s. I had an immediate reaction that made me want to say, “No, it’s mine!” and I had to figure out where that came from and how to explain it rationally to her. I said, “I’d like to keep the originals. I have all the rest of them and it just helps me look at my own patterns.” So she made a copy for herself and gave it back. She had told me earlier in the meeting to keep trying to fatten myself up, to make sure I’m getting enough nutritious calories in, and said I could make my breakfast more filling by having a whole light wheat English muffin instead of a half. I’d had to go back a few weeks to show her where I had tried that and my sugar had gone right over. Clearly I can’t do that! But that reference point is important to me. It’s important that I could look back at all the times whole wheat pasta has been fine for me, and try to figure out why the fresh whole wheat fettucini made me go over that one day, and then realize that I’d used store-made Bolognese sauce instead of our own homemade sauce, which the dietician pointed out usually has starch in it to thicken it. I’m not just tracking numbers for a doctor to look at and approve or disapprove. I’m learning my body and foods that are problems for me and foods that work for me and how much I can tolerate of different things. I want control over that, because this is for me.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Home Stretch (AKA OHGOD are we there yet?!?)

I've been extremely comfortable with only minor complaints throughout my pregnancy. One of my friends teases me for it because she was miserable in both of her pregnancies: throwing up until the day she gave birth, swollen in her whole body, just very uncomfortable. When she sees me at work, she rolls her eyes with a smirk and says, "Oh here Rachel comes all glowing again. Haven't you thrown up yet?? Tell me when it gets bad, I don't want to hear anything til then."

I have a coworker due three days before me who reports utter misery and discomfort, and has from the beginning with little relief. I had another coworker tell me about a different pregnant coworker, "I'm glad I can see how much you're enjoying pregnancy, because if I was only seeing ____, I may never want to do it! She does NOT make it look appealing!"

I read a "humorous" pregnancy book recently where the author started off by saying that this book is not for the perfect, non-complaining pregnant women that seem to breeze through everything, but for the REAL pregnant women who deal with the REAL issues of pregnancy, which she then listed and most of which did not apply to me. I felt like I was supposed to feel this instant relief and sense of inclusion in the sisterhood of exhausting and uncomfortable pregnancies: "Oh yes, I hate those women who never get a varicose vein or a stretch mark or morning sickness or swelling! Who ARE they anyway??" I felt like a model starting to read a book that was meant to validate "curvy girls" by creating an atmosphere of comfort and laughter that I'm not a part of, but also know I'm privileged not to be a part of. Like maybe I should put this down since I can't sigh and say, "YES, I go through that too, isn't it awful?? I'm glad I'm not the only one! I hate those women who seem to have it easy, they make me sick!"

The reality is that I was turned off to the idea of most foods except simple carbs and had passing waves of nausea, but never threw up. It also only lasted a few weeks. I had smell sensitivity for maybe a week, with a few specific issues, but none that made me feel sick or have to leave a room. I haven't had insane hormonal swings where I've screamed at my partner or demanded she meet certain needs; I was just a little extra sensitive and more emotional my first trimester, and it's just starting to come back a few weeks into my third. My feet swelled for about two days, though I'm sure that can get worse later on. I haven't been constipated my entire pregnancy, which is supposedly one of the most common complaints, though I do the things naturally that are recommended such as drinking a ton of water and walking (I get a decent amount just in my commute) and eating lots of fiber. I haven't yet gotten stretch marks, though I'm pretty sure the last month will fix that. Discharge has been very minor and almost odorless (I know people who had to wear pads for it at this point in their pregnancy). My lower back started to ache around 28 weeks from carrying the off-center load in front, but I bought a pregnancy support belt that was recommended to me and wear it just during my commute and that has been a miracle. Nothing but my belly has grown or changed, so I haven't had to buy new underwear or change styles to find something flattering to my new shape. I feel very fortunate, and I also think I probably minimize the few inconveniences I HAVE experienced because they feel like just that, and I don't expect pregnancy to always be cushy and comfortable. Those same inconveniences have also always been fleeting.

The only one that was bad enough for me to complain much about was severe lower back pain that made me actually feel like I was breaking in half when I went from a lying or sitting position to standing. It was so bad that I needed to use my arms to pull myself by grabbing onto something, and then would have to stand hunched over and sloooowly come up as I stretched it out. This made commuting and midnight peeing a source of great dread and anxiety! This was happening for almost three days, and yesterday I became concerned and called my OB to make sure it was normal. I was told that it is, as long as I don't feel any cramping in my lower back, and that it will come and go depending on how baby is positioned, what he or she may be laying on. Today has been much better so I'm optimistic that it's not something that will be consistent for the rest of my pregnancy.

I still have eight weeks left, and I know they'll be the toughest eight weeks. So maybe all of this will start happening. But I feel grateful that I've made it this long feeling mostly comfortable. Even my   one main issue I feel I have well under control now, but that's a long enough story to merit its own post.

(Update: four weeks left and still feeling great!!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Bear Cub

The level of protectiveness I've felt while pregnant is unlike anything I've ever experienced. The first time it washed over me was as raw instinct. When I was about four months pregnant, one of my teen male clients was becoming very disruptive at the front of the agency, and as the supervisor, I had been called out to assist. He was becoming loud and verbally aggressive, so several people had gathered, and his social worker was there also, attempting to de-escalate him. He finally got around the staff to charge into the lobby, and I immediately stepped back behind a column, with my hand on my abdomen.

This may sound like a normal precaution for anyone to take. But I am not easily scared off by my youths' anger. They have plenty of reason to be angry, and if I know their personalities, their triggers, and their behavior patterns, I can negotiate the situation boldly and safely. This is a youth I've known for many years, and one who has never physically hurt staff. I honestly do not believe he would, and logically I did not feel in danger. I certainly did not feel like his target, and there is no part of me that rationally thinks he was going to head in my direction or throw something at me or do anything else that would put me and my baby in danger. But my instinct to protect this baby forming inside me disregarded all of that. Had I not been pregnant, I would have approached him, followed him, addressed him. Instead, I shot back the second I saw him shoot through the doors, and noted that his social worker was following so I knew it would be okay.

On a more regular basis, my protectiveness come through as hyper-cautiousness. When I walk through Penn Station on my way home every evening, I keep a hand over my belly. The evening rush is always more dangerous than the morning rush because no one wants to get home late and everyone needs to MAKE THAT TRAIN!!! People are just running amok. I've always just been part of it, but now I walk more slowly and I keep my hand on my belly because otherwise people and bags will just slam into it. I'm used to being prodded and slammed, and fat squishes and it's usually fine. But my baby bump is firm and sensitive and just so damn out there, the first part of me to reach any destination, and I find myself having to really ensure its protection. I walk further to the inside of subway platforms than ever before. I always grab railings on staircases.

My wife feels this in a whole different way - and she worries about both me and the baby! She gets so nervous about me going to work on snowy or icy days. I had my 28 week OB appointment this morning, which I planned to drive to and then drive to work, and she went into work a few hours late just so she could walk me out to the car before she got on the train, since our driveway was full of thick ice. She stays on the outside of me on any sidewalk or pathway. She texts me throughout the work day to make sure I'm okay and that I made it safely. She worries about BOTH of us, while also having the least amount of control over what's happening in a typical day and what I'm doing to keep us safe.

Many times I am disappointed by how people will watch me in late pregnancy leaning on a subway pole, my back and pelvic area just ACHING, and not offer me a seat. But recently I was surrounded by a pack of mama bears and that's what I will choose to remember for as long as I can. It was a holiday weekend (MLK Jr. Day?) and everyone was getting out of work early and there were train delays and cancellations because of ice. I squeezed onto a car where I literally took up the last standing space. There were a bunch of women around me, and one of them noticed my belly and said, "Oh dear, you should ask for a seat!" Even if I'd felt comfortable doing that, I couldn't have made my way to the aisles to do so. You could barely have thrown a jelly bean into that train car. So I said, "Thank you, but I'm comfortable enough to stand. I'm just worried about being pushed into people and protecting my belly, so I'll stay here where I can lean against the door." Someone said, "We're all women here, and we're going to keep this bubble around you. No one's going to push into you!" One joked that she was a nurse but didn't think she could do much if I went into labor. I said, "At least I hit 24 weeks, so I'm at viability now!" And she said, "Oh dear no, you aren't ready yet!!!"

As rushed commuters would come to the door and say, "Is there any room? All the cars are full, is there anywhere to squeeze so I can fit?" or would just try to slam themselves in, those mama bears would all yell at once, "BACK UP, we have a pregnant woman here, no one is shoving into her!" After a few times of that, a couple of the women just wanted me safely out of the doorway and started calling down the aisle, "we have a pregnant woman here, can someone please give their seat? She's going to get squished in this crowd!" And it was yet another woman who gave up her seat for me. She was down the packed aisle, and the other women formed a wall around me to get me there safely without having to squeeze into things. And when I got off to transfer at Jamaica (fortunately to a significantly less crowded train where I easily got a seat), those same women formed a barricade to get me out safely, and I thanked them and teared up as I got off. I have never, ever, felt such a sense of community and sisterhood. To feel so protected and cared for by complete strangers is something I hope I never forget.