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 eat 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.

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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Our Little Thumper

Just over two weeks ago, at 21 weeks pregnant, my wife felt the baby move for the first time. Out of respect for her privacy and just the fact that this is not my narrative to process and share, I will just say that she struggled a bit with insecurities in the beginning, not only as the nonbiological parent, but also just as the one whose body this was not happening in, which made her feel a bit excluded. I knew she had reached a point of connection when I woke up one night, around two or three months pregnant, to her hand rubbing my belly. I pretended to still be asleep so I wouldn’t embarrass her because I didn’t want her to stop and I wanted her to have that private moment of connection. But I brought it up sweetly and gently the next day, and she had no memory of it! She must have been doing it in her sleep, which is even more significant to me.

Then within a few weeks of my feeling the first flutters of movement, she started getting really antsy to feel the baby move. She would ask me at least once a day, “Can I feel it yet? When will I be able to?” and would say almost every time I remarked on movement, “Can you feel it on the outside? But just put your hand there in case. Just try.” This was inevitably followed by disappointment when I broke it to her that the baby could still not be felt on the outside.

About two weeks ago, after battling a cough for some time, my wife finally agreed to take the day off work to go to the doctor. I had been sleeping very poorly, as it is taking a while for me to adjust to sleeping on my side instead of my back, and decided after my alarm went off that I would take the day off as well to accompany her to the doctor. My wife was sleeping downstairs on the couch in an effort to keep me from catching her cold. I got up to use the bathroom, and when I returned to bed, I lay on the opposite side from the side I had been on before, and almost immediately felt some serious thumping. I knew as soon as I felt it that it would be able to be felt from the outside, so I put my hand down the waistband of my low-rise pajama pants where I had felt it, and sure enough, there was one and then two big throbbing motions. My heart racing, I walked downstairs, calmly fed the cats, and then woke my wife. I said, “It may have stopped by now, but I just felt the baby from the outside, if you want to come upstairs and lay with me to see if you can feel it.” She eagerly jumped up and followed me upstairs.

Assuming that the baby had been moving so furiously after being sloshed around with my getting up and then back down on a different side, I swished my hips around while standing and then moved from side to side a little once I got into bed in an effort to agitate it again. I lay on my wife’s side of the bed because I knew I had to be on my left side in order for her to have her hand on my right side where I had felt the movement. I told her to be patient and warned her gently that it may not happen again, maybe not even for days. We just lay there in bed, without the pressure of having to get up and ready for work, her hand on my lower abdomen and my hand over hers. After just a minute or two (that felt like ten), there was one, big, very distinct THUMP on the palm of her hand before it settled back down and nothing more was felt like that for almost a week. The smile on my wife’s face was priceless. She said, “Oh my God, what WAS that????”

I felt so, so grateful that this happened while we were both home to share in it. If it had happened while I was at work and then not for another week, I know my wife would have been so frustrated and antsy. She was eager to feel it again, but was content with having felt it this once, and earlier than we had braced ourselves for. Since that morning, she has been talking to my belly nonstop, putting her face right next to it and saying, “Buuuuuuuggy, wake up, Bug! I love you!” It has happened a few more times (and mostly at home, luckily!) where I’ve been able to call my wife over to feel the baby move just a few times before it settles down again, and it provides such powerful connection for both my wife and the baby, as well as for the three of us at once.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

20 Weeks

I'm at 22 weeks now, but never posted after our 20 week sonogram. Even though the excitement of it has died down a bit (just in that it's already a distant memory), I really want to remember these things later. I am the type to read my old posts over and over because I love re-experiencing moments in my life.

The 20 week sonogram is for an anatomy scan. They do it now because everything is formed that they need to see, and baby can still move around a lot so they can get the different views they need. Because they have a long list of things they have to check for, you get a nice chunk of time watching baby on the screen! I had been waiting for this sonogram impatiently for eight weeks, though the last two weeks I was less antsy since I could now feel the baby. Feeling it gave me a lot of the reassurance and connection that I look to sonograms for. 

As soon as we saw Bug on the screen, it was just like this beautiful sense of peace and contentment. Oh there you are, little one, hi! The legs were bicycling like crazy, and I said to my wife, "See?? See why I'm feeling so much movement already??" The radiologist did something to highlight the bones white, and it was so cool to see little baby skeleton! She also did something to color blood red and blue so you could see what was going in and what was going out. She checked the brain and the four chambers of the heart and each little limb and bone. She said, "your baby is perfect," and what a relief that is to hear! She also said that our baby was stubborn - well, we knew that from the 12 week sonogram! It stopped turning around they needed a different angle to finish checking the heart. They had me lay on each side for several minutes, go to the bathroom, walk around, and after each time the baby was still in the same position. The radiologist said that stuff usually works, and she was getting anxious because she needed to finish the scan and couldn't. She said, "okay, one final effort - let me get you a lollipop, and walk around while you give it sugar." That did the trick!

HOLY CRAP HALFWAY THROUGH PREGNANCY. When we realized a couple days ago that we were almost at 22 weeks and only had 18 left to go, it was such a shock to know we had less time left than what we had already gone through. It doesn't seem like much when I think of all we need to do to prepare, but at the same time, it feels like such a long time til we meet our baby! I always thought I'd feel grateful for the many months I had to enjoy peace and sleep and "us"-ness, and that it would go too fast. But honestly, it already feels like the baby is part of our family, and it feels strange to not be able to hold it and see its face. What are you like, little bug? What does your face look like? Are you a boy or a girl? What makes you content and what makes you cranky? What does your laugh sound like? Who are you?? 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Settling into Our Traditions

This is the second holiday season since I converted, and the third since we stopped celebrating Christmas in our own household. The first Christmas, before my conversion and when I had just begun my Intro to Judaism classes, was made underwhelming just by circumstance; we had just moved into our house in early December and life was too chaotic to get a Christmas tree and to find our boxes of decorations. We realized it wasn’t so bad and we didn’t miss it so much because we had enough of it in the rest of the world, and that helped us the next year when we skipped celebrating much more intentionally.

Last year was the first year we deliberately did not get a Christmas tree or Christmas gifts for each other, and I had to grapple with the question of how we create our own traditions and what traditions we can share with family, which traditions we want to try to keep consistent from year to year and which will be flexible depending on whose family we can be with. I feel a little more grounded in that this year, but also still open to changes. Basically we are creating our own Hanukkah traditions and letting Christmas be more open since it’s not our holiday, but our families’ which we participate in secondarily. Some years we may go to my in-laws’ for the traditional Christmas morning bagels and gift exchange; other times, like this year, we won’t go over til mid-afternoon when the other siblings are going over there, and we will have dinner together. Some years we will travel south to visit my parents since our child will be out of school for winter break. I’m not worried anymore about “confusing” our child with whatever happens that day in whichever family member’s home; I feel confident in and comfortable with what we have begun setting up, and grateful for all the love and culture-sharing among family that our child will get to be surrounded by.

Nicole’s brother and his wife, who will raise their children Catholic, will continue coming over to our house for the Passover seder every year. That will be in their kids’ memories, and yet their kids won’t be confused about whether they are Jewish or Catholic. They will know they are coming over to celebrate our holiday with us since we are family. Likewise, our child will not wake up to a Christmas tree and piles of presents on Christmas or have anything else happening at home or within our family that makes them think they are Christian, but they will have memories of how they spend Christmas with their extended family. They will certainly look forward to having dinner with relatives and exchanging some gifts with them. And they might even find the sparkly attraction of Christmas more appealing than Hanukkah. I would be naive if I didn't expect that. Despite its crucially important message about preserving our faith and culture against all pressure and threats, Hanukkah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, and I don't want for us to blow it further out of proportion than it already is in a misguided effort to compete with Christmas. We have our own major holidays, and our child's sense of how being Jewish is honored and celebrated and observed comes from an entire year of rituals, not just this one holiday that may be culturally overshadowed by Christmas (and not without reason - the birth of a savior is understandably a bigger deal; there is not even anything temple-based in the observance of Hanukkah). 

But at Christmas, we will have just recently finished our holiday of light, telling the story of Hanukkah and remembering the importance of maintaining culture and resisting total assimilation. We will have our newly created tradition of having a Hanukkah dinner on the weekend - how nice that there is always a weekend since it’s an 8-day holiday! We will give our child a gift every night, some much smaller than others, and we will also spend that time as a family around the menorah each night, talking and reading and playing games as the candles burn low. We will make latkes on the weekend. We will donate the tzedakah (charity) we’ve been saving all year. We will go to that week’s Shabbat service and watch the big menorah be lit and sing Hanukkah songs with our community. We will attend the synagogue’s family Hanukkah party. And within days or weeks of that festivity coming to an end, we will continue enjoying the larger culture around us - the prettiness of our neighbors’ Christmas lights, the music and decorations in stores and friends’ homes, the Christmas cards that come pouring in from loved ones. We will enjoy it as many non-Jewish people enjoy driving and walking through Williamsburg Brooklyn in the fall to see the sukkahs set up outside Orthodox homes, or as Westerners enjoy going through Chinatown during the hugely celebrated and brightly decorative Chinese New Year.

We are a pluralistic society, and I love that. As much as I love Israel and look forward to traveling there someday, and as much as I think it must also be nice to have most people around you joining in your celebrations, I wouldn’t want to be separated from other cultures. I have always loved learning about and participating in other cultures, while not appropriating them as my own.

Winter is a dark, dreary time, and it’s beautiful that several cultures have festivals of light and giving and family and celebration for us to look forward to and to keep us going until the days begin lengthening again. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

What's Next? (Is "planning for the unknown" an oxymoron?)

Realizing that I’m not even halfway through pregnancy is strange, because I feel like I’ve been pregnant for AGES, but nearing the halfway mark next week is still a reality check that THERE IS SO MUCH WE NEED TO DO. We still have an English-immersion student living in what will be the nursery (she’s been with us since September) and we haven’t even measured the room for furniture. We do have a plan for where she will go when we need to start setting up the nursery, but it feels strange that our designated room isn’t even really accessible yet for planning or fantasizing.

We are frantically saving up the $2500 needed for second-parent adoption (still necessary for travel to states and countries where our marriage is not recognized), $1200 for our doula who we will be interviewing next weekend, $1600 for wills etc. with our attorney, and approximately $3200 for two months’ worth (4 vials) of donor sperm if we want to guarantee having the same donor available for a possible second child. (What if we end up needing more than that? But we can’t afford it! This is all I can allow myself to budget for in the mad race to save.)

We also have yet to figure out our day care plan. Every time someone asks, “So what will you do for child care? You know you need to be planning that YESTERDAY because day care centers have waiting lists, right?” I panic and have an internal meltdown. The problem is we don’t really even know what we need yet. Will we be able to afford for me to go to work part-time somewhere? And will I even find something local that accommodates me in that way? If so, will the child care provider be able to do just a few hours a day, or will that take away from a possible full-time client they would prefer to have? What would those hours look like? I don’t know if I’m asking a provider to just have our child three full days a week, or four or five mid-afternoons (if I work from 3-7 somewhere), or something else. If I get an afternoon gig in Long Island that I have to drive to, how will my wife pick up the baby from daycare when she gets home at 5:30 with no car? We can’t afford a second car on part-time income! If I need to go back full-time, will I find something close to home, cutting down on my current three hour total commute? Will I be able to work 8-4 somewhere? Will I NOT find something before my maternity leave is up and end up having to go back to work in the Bronx for a few months before taking a whole different work schedule when I do find something? Will the child care provider be able to be flexible and agreeable to all eight thousand possible scenarios we are facing???

I love my job but am also ready and okay with moving on at this point. I’m glad I stayed here when I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else a few years ago (the critical point to leave if I was going to leave and accrue new benefits elsewhere before having a child). It’s comfortable, I have a flexible and supportive environment that has allowed me to go through the crazy and unpredictable schedule of fertility treatments, and I get unusually great benefits for a social service agency. I have five weeks’ vacation, five sick weeks a year plus up to five additional weeks I can save in a sick bank, three personal days, and all the major Jewish holidays off. I have a pension plan and a life insurance policy paid by my employer. I can take five months off with my baby and have my position guaranteed when I return. I have my own office (very rare in this field) and a comfortable environment. I have so many friends here.

But I also have to travel an hour and a half each way every day. I have to pay $242 per month on my railroad pass, in addition to subway fare. I have to be on call every few months, getting phone calls throughout the night for five days. I have to work until 7:00 one night a week every other month. I’m not guaranteed to leave at 5:00 any other day because crises pop up unpredictably in foster care. My heart hurts worse and worse with the emotional burden of this work as I bring my own child into the world. I am realizing that being a supervisor is something I love in many capacities (when I feel empowered to make real changes and impact on my staff and with the cases) but hate in others (I’m weak with staff confrontation, get really anxious and procrastinate on disciplinary action, fall behind other supervisors on ensuring workers’ mandates are being met even though I am ahead of most others in ensuring my own are met).

I want to get back into direct practice, and I want to learn something other than foster care. I’m passionate about it, but I’m passionate about it because this is the job I happened to land right out of school and I went into it with everything I have. I have the ability to be passionate about other areas of social work also, and a big part of the appeal of an MSW to me was how versatile it is, how very many different things you can do with it: gerontology, mental health, schools, hospitals, prisons and juvenile justice, immigration, domestic violence, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, LGBT, children and families, individual and group therapy, policy work, research, advocacy. I have always been attracted to the doors open to me as a social worker, but I felt safe and comfortable and passionate in my first job and have stayed here. I don’t regret that because I have been able to serve my clients better and better with each year of experience I get. I don’t want to spend my life dabbling, I WANT to have a focused passion and area of expertise. But it’s okay for that to change once in a while, and now might be a good opportunity. I also know that I work for the cream of the crop in child welfare, and moving to a more local agency still doing foster care is likely to leave me feeling dissatisfied, frustrated, and overwhelmed in comparison to what I left.

I’m glad I stayed here. I’m glad I got all this experience under my belt in an organization where I felt safe and cared for. My resume is very well-padded with the various positions I’ve held here. I’ve also accrued maximum vacation and sick time from all my years here, so I knew I either needed to leave years ago (when I was NOT ready) or stay until I had a baby. But now I’m in a position of planning for the birth of my child while also having to plan a major career change, and that is more than a little overwhelming. When I first got pregnant, I told myself I could just come back to this job after my maternity leave and then start looking, so that I wouldn’t have the pressure of that while on leave and the anxiety of it while pregnant. But the looming reality is that I do not want to spend even one day leaving the house at 7:00 and getting home at 6:30 earliest. I do not want to spend even one week on-call, handling crises at two in the morning with a cranky baby at my breast. I do not want to return after five months away and feel disconnected and checked out because I’m so antsy to move on. I do not want to catch up on my cases just to leave them a couple months later. I want to go into a fresh start.

And this means I have no choice but to be thinking about it now. I’m trying very hard not to obsess over it, because I can’t interview now so it’s not something I can control at the moment. I have to trust that things will fall into place, and do my part in making that happen when the time comes. But the child care dilemma makes this difficult to do.

My strong preference is to go with someone who watches two or three children from their home, like my mother and my wife’s mother did when we were young. I have two possibilities, recommendations from our neighbor and from my mother-in-law’s secretary, so I need to start with calling them and running over all the possible day care needs we will have, and see how flexible they can be. I have to start there, because maybe one will say, “Part-time, in any arrangement, will be fine and I will charge accordingly. I’m also open to doing full-time if that’s what you need. Just let me know when you know!” Wow, just imagining hearing that takes a weight off my shoulder. I can only hope!

On the Move!

Baby Bug is making such advancements! I’m 19 weeks, and already a lot has progressed since I last wrote at 16 weeks.

My breast sensitivity FINALLY abated for a few weeks, and now has come back in a different form. They feel muscularly sore and achy, in a way that I can feel with very minimal movement.

I was already having difficulty bending over my abdomen a few weeks ago to put on shoes, pick something up off the floor, etc. That’s improved only because I’ve figured out how to bend in a different way that accommodates my growing belly; I squat slowly with my knees going outward, like a plie. (Tying shoes is still difficult, but I sit down and bring my foot up on the opposite thigh to make it easier, instead of bending down to the floor.)

It’s a rare treat to get a good night’s sleep. Not only am I up every hour or two to pee, but my body is apparently aware that I’m not supposed to be sleeping on my back anymore. I can only fall asleep on my back, but I’ve been turning to my side in my sleep and then waking up out of discomfort at some point afterward. My friend gave me her pregnancy body pillow because she didn’t want to have to store it, and after five nights of trying, I haven’t figured out a way of using it that actually keeps me comfortable enough to fall asleep. I can still get away with being on my back for probably another couple weeks, according to what I’ve read, but I don’t know how I’ll adjust after that. It’s already problematic.

At my 16 week check-up, the doctor said to have plenty of calcium because critical bone development would be happening for the next few weeks. The baby will get enough calcium no matter what, but will take it from my own supply which will hurt my own bones if I don’t get what I need. Also, fat is necessary for helping your body absorb the calcium, so I kept whole milk and full-fat yogurt and cheese around. I craved it like crazy, buying chocolate milk at restaurants and carrying string cheese with me wherever I went. Then that craving faded about a week ago and now I have to remind myself to continue having dairy, though I feel like my body is telling me the critical period has passed. It’s so amazing to me how my body knows what it needs and gives me the cues to get it! I craved steak in the first few weeks of pregnancy when I needed lots of iron and protein, then hated meat and craved simple carbs for the second part of my first trimester when I needed energy, and now I craved dairy for a few weeks while baby’s bones were calcifying. The human body is just incredibly designed.

The best change is that I can feel baby move! I’ve been soooo eager for that day, for that regular awareness that there is really a life growing inside me, and it finally happened last Shabbat after a lunch at the Outback (one of our guilty pleasures that we only indulge in maybe once a year) while we were sitting and chatting. My doctor had said movement is typically felt between 18 and 25 weeks, and I was 17 weeks and 6 days at the time. I had been hoping it wouldn’t take me til almost 25 weeks to feel something! Several people have told me they didn’t feel their baby for a while longer just because the mistook the early flutters for gas or hunger pangs, but to me it felt very distinct, like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I knew immediately what it was. It felt like a goldfish was trapped in my abdomen and had just run up on the wall of its enclosure. I felt it on the lower right side of my abdomen. I didn’t feel anything the next day, but then felt it again on Monday, and then two or three times on Tuesday. On Wednesday or Thursday, it finally shifted to the lower center of my abdomen and became much more frequent.

Up until Friday, I was texting my wife every time I felt it move so she could be included. I would just text “Bug” each time, and she would know. Friday, it was too frequent for me to keep up with doing that anymore. Our baby also developed hearing about a week ago, and at the last Shabbat service, the baby was moving like crazy throughout all the music. At one point, it was so strong and unexpected that I jumped in my seat and my wife was concerned that something was wrong. Then it stilled as soon as we got outside. On Sunday, we played a Debbie Friedman CD loudly in our living room while we were organizing the contents of our desk, and again the baby was moving so much. I know all babies love music, but I also know that we chose a donor who plays jazz piano, and this was a reminder that I want to watch out for and nurture any musical talent or interest that may be there. There are wonderful artists and musicians in my wife’s family, including her own mother, brother, sister, and grandfather, and it’s just not something either of us have so it could go unnoticed by us. I also know that’s something that should be tapped into early or it could be lost. (If there is no interest or talent, it is okay for it to fade out. I am still glad I had five years of piano lessons even though ultimately it wasn’t something I felt inclined to and I lost interest. Same for ballet, bowling, and other activities I dabbled in as a kid. There is so much value in exploration and learning of any sort!)

Though I’ve only gained six or seven pounds (which is good – since I’m overweight already, I should be on the lower end of the healthy amount to gain), I very much look pregnant, and I’m loving that. I love seeing how my belly looks in maternity shirts, and I LOVE how my breasts look in their new C cup bras. I bought three regular and one sleep bra at Destination Maternity, using a sale and a coupon to get them very reasonably. I got nursing bras without underwire so that I can keep using them until I go back to my old bras (sad day that will be). I fill them out pretty well, yet there is still some room for them to grow more since I know that is to be expected. LOVING THEM.

I am so excited for the 20-week sonogram next week. After getting sonograms at 4 weeks (after a bleeding incident, but sac was a tiny dot that couldn’t be confirmed), 5 weeks (to confirm it was not ectopic), 7 weeks (heartbeat at the clinic), 8 weeks (heartbeat at the OB), and 12 weeks, going 8 weeks without one was torture!! I’ve been counting down to December 30th with ridiculous levels of excitement. The torment has eased, though, since I started feeling Bug move. Feeling the baby gives me so much of the connection and reassurance that I look to sonograms for.