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The swoon and growl of baby making

I spent the morning with a friend whose 2 boys are the same age as mine–her first is 9 days older, her second is 9 days younger. I love the symmetry there.

She’s rounding out nicely with baby number 3 and told me with a knowing grin that they had the test–it’s another boy and we laughed and joked. She admitted that sure, there’s a pull she feels towards having a girl, but the boy will be just fine, she’d expected it. A couple of times, after running over to distract her middle son from overly smother-hugging another kid, she said, “I must be crazy. I don’t want another baby.” This was the ‘I don’t want another baby’ of the ‘I’ll totally have the baby, but Lord, what was I thinking?’ variety. The anticipation of something you know will be both joyous and hellish. Admitting you might have been overly optimistic before sperm met egg. You can see now that this thing you made will take what you have and then some.

And before that, I stood on the sidewalk listening to another pregnant friend, who also just found out she’s having another boy. I hugged her for a long time and let her have her anguish. I knew how much she wanted a girl. I saw the craving and dream in her eyes as we sat with our boys in the sand one afternoon. Given the teeny-tinyest Godly spark, her energy and intention and manifesting magic would have crafted a fully formed and smartly dressed girl baby right there in the sandbox between us. But instead, she made a baby the heterosexual way, and his penis and scrotum, or whatever comes before those are fully formed, are floating all sea-anenome-like in his watery cocoon. I found a strange comfort in her wrecked grief.

Maybe because it balances out the giddy joy I see in other pregnant ladies that I can’t relate to–rather, could relate to but can’t anymore. Maybe because it carves out ever more emotional territory for all of us in a life that can seem one day magical and fated and the next utterly bereft.

There’s something about that time on the verge of creation when you just open up your arms to the sky in welcome. And then boom. The shift into form–from the hazy fluff of what might be into the sure and solid thud of what is.

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“Tiny Roots” by Todd Moon

There’s such a thrill to the idea that you could make a whole, alive person. And sometimes a terror in realizing you have.

Creation is no joke.

Given the chance to root, it so greedily becomes its own thing. Just like we did once, inside our own mothers.

Trembling on the edge of baby number two

Here we are again. This strange, in-between time just before a baby is born.

I remember this trembling-on-the-edge feeling from the days before I birthed J. I felt fiercly protective and nostalgic about my life as I knew it, so I printed out a whole bunch of pictures and hung them over our couch.

Pictures of A and I canoeing the Green River, being pelted with flower petals and rice at our wedding, skiing with family, riding the train to Paris, decked out in orange for Queen’s Day in Amsterdam. After every picture I hung, every nail I pounded into the wall, I would stand back and look at my work.

This will insure that you don’t forget. That you’re not lost after you have this baby. Your old life will be right here, anytime you need it.

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I loved looking at all those pictures in my early days with baby J.

See. I’m not losing myself at all. I did all those things. I remember what it was like and how it felt.

Time passed.

J started climbing onto the back of the couch. He would fiddle with the frames, knocking them down. Then he’d pull the nails out of their holes.

I don’t even remember when I took them all down, but I did. I shoved them into a drawer somewhere. (Sort of like this sweet tradition that we forgot about for a few years.)

Before becoming J’s mother, I was really scared about how that would feel—moving into a new phase and leaving the old one behind. At the time, I would have told you that I was NEVER going to take those pictures down. They were my grip on reality. I needed to hold on. But when I carted them off to the drawer, I didn’t even think about it. I was just sick of picking the pictures up with J’s sticky fingerprints all over them and hearing the nails ping on the floor.

At some point during those first couple years, without knowing it, I fully crossed over into my new life.  I didn’t need the pictures anymore.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling that same fierce protectiveness—this time, over our life as a family of three.

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I sent off a bunch of new pictures to be printed. Soon, they’ll arrive in the mail and I’ll tuck their corners into frames and look at them and feel some sense of relief.

There. I did it. This baby can come now. My life as I know it is protected.

Naturally, it’s not. It’s going to change. Radically. And who knows what the future of these pictures will be—whether they’ll still be on the mantle in 2 years time.  It doesn’t really matter, because I probably won’t need them like I do now.

Nothing like being 39 weeks pregnant to remind you on a daily if not hourly basis that you’re not in control. That everything is constantly changing. That the life you know can and will be radically altered at any moment. And you won’t have a choice. You’ll have to dive down under and swim across, to a new place you’ve never been. You can’t go back to where you were.

That’s why I need the pictures.

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This was originally posted over at Get Born, which is awesome. You should check it out.

Is fetal origins research ruining my fetus?

Here’s a titillating preview of my latest post on the rad Get Born blog:

Maybe, like me, you read this Time magazine article a couple years ago and it scared the crap out of you…

Fetal Origins

Head over to Get Born to read the rest and share your reaction to whole fetal origins palava.

Two big announcements

You may have already connected the dots: the exhaustion, the infrequent posts, the hamburger eating and overwhelm.

I’m pregnant.

This was a deliberate impregnation of the lightning fast variety.

I got the news after 10 days of systematic pregnancy tests. Every day I got a negative, I would mentally scream “Liar!” at the benign looking single-striped stick and drop it in the trash. I had been exhausted in that basement-floor-dropping-out-from-below-you kind of way, and I had also intuited that if we opened the door to this second baby, that he or she would come rushing in.

Confirmation of my pregnancy came right on the heels of a night out I had with the doula who supported us through J’s birth. I asked her at the bar over our beers, “If I’m 37 days after the first day of my period and I’m still getting negative pregnancy tests, I’m probably not pregnant, right?” She said that no, I probably wasn’t and so we proceeded, among other things, to go outside and share a cigarette. Two days later, I was chatting with A about this and was saying something to the effect of, “Now that we know I’m probably not pregnant, let’s talk about this whole idea again. After this first month, and thinking that I was pregnant, it kinda freaked me out to have it happen so soon, and I’m wondering if we should delay things a bit. How do you feel about the whole baby #2 thing?” As I was saying these words, I was somewhat absent-mindedly taking a pregnancy test, since doing so had become as routine as brushing my teeth.

While A was answering me with his typical response in times like these (and at most times, really) the “I feel pretty much the same way I have for quite a while” response, I saw that second purple line fill in.

I felt vindicated. I laughed. I was terrified. I swore a lot. And after A left for work, quite dazed and twitter-painted, I sat and stared into space with something between an elated and crazed look on my face. And I kept swearing. A lot.

That was week 4. I’m now 11 weeks. The swearing has lessened. The complex array of feelings has not. It’s been really hard for me to share the feelings I’ve been having around this pregnancy both because they’re socially unpopular and because I’m uncomfortable with some of them. But a couple of weeks ago, I felt some clarity during a post-toddler-bedtime online chat with a friend from childhood, JS.

JS: does J know he’s getting a baby yet?

Me: J does know.
he thinks its a girl and he doesn’t want a baby in the house.
somewhat representative of my thoughts too.

JS: ha!

Me: its been hard.
i’ve just felt sort of passionless about it.
which makes me feel sad.
and we all know how much it sucks to feel bad about your own feelings.

JS: but that’s legit too.

Me: and then sometimes i get scared.

JS: lots to feel all at once!

Me: it can feel like this big lid clamping down on my life.

JS: oh shit that’s heavy

Me: to be quite real about it, i’ve felt more negative emotions than positive thus far.
and that’s just the truth.

JS: amen

Me: and here i am. still pregnant. moving forward.
thanks for being a gal who digs the truth.
i haven’t really said that to anyone.

JS: hang in there, friend. at least you’re not trying to pretend it’s otherwise right now.

Me: RIGHT NOW i’m not.

JS: honored!

Me: but its hard when i tell people the news and its all CONGRATULATIONS blah blah

JS: yeah, feels out of sync, right?

Me: totally. just on some other plane.

JS: I hear you, lady. and it’s all the right way to feel. all of itMe: nice.
thanks yo.
that is the hardest part.
oh lord…J is in his room saying “hush little baby don’t you cry”

JS: awwww
look out!

Me: hardest part: judging my feelings for being wrong.
i think i just didn’t expect to feel this way.
and it worries me that the feelings mean that i shouldn’t have done/do it.

JS: hmmm…I could see that. you guys didn’t have much time to get used to the idea of trying again before it happened…could still be catching up with all that processing, yeah?

Me: yeah. i think so.
and just saying it out loud, i know that the feelings don’t mean that i shouldn’t do it.
they’re kinda separate.
i want to do it. i’m inspired by it AND i’m also scared and overwhelmed and tired.

So, there you have it, big announcement number one, in all of its awkward glory. As for big announcement number two? I actually think I’m too tuckered out to go into that now. But after a night of out-like-she’s-dead, crazy-dream sleep and some uninspired snacks eaten over a foundation of nausea, I’ll shore up enough energy to let *that* cat out of the bag. It’s a good one, so stay tuned.

The Second Time Around

I started interviewing new moms for my “Becoming a Mother” video series back in December. Getting to know them and editing the footage of our conversations (albeit slowly! I’m aiming to post another video soon, of T and her baby at 3 and 7 weeks postpartum) has reminded me of the joy and power of sharing our stories. It connects us to each other and reminds us we’re not alone. And I can think of no better way to steward new families than to share the specific taste and texture of the joys and sorrows of this experience. In that vein, I asked a writer that I met through the kick ass Get Born community if she would write some guest posts on my blog about her experience of becoming a mother the second time. And she said yes! So allow me to introduce you to the unflinching writing of Lesley L. McKinley. She’s 17 (ish) weeks pregnant right now. And we get to hear what she’s thinking and feeling about this baby #2 business every month! Thank you, Lesley.

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I can’t get a read on this baby at all. Who the hell is this kid? I mean, with my first, her whole identity was mapped before the end of my first trimester. Her name, our secret codes, handshakes, and a seed of feminism so deeply imbedded in her soul that it would sprout a giant, magical beanstalk and she would be able to climb as high as she liked. She would be my daughter, a reflection of all that I have come to learn about this twisted world. She would see the beauty, yes, but she’d be wise and wary, too. Then, just when I was about to pick out her clothes (not pink ruffled crap but onesies with Rosie the Riveter) they told me my future daughter was actually my future son. It nearly stopped my heart. So invested was I in this fantasyland, that I actually wept as if I was grieving her loss.

Now, I have my son here with me in the flesh. He’s mercurial. He’s whip smart. He’s dirty constantly. He’s sweet. He’s my marauder. He would ride the dog to Tijuana if left unsupervised. He’s my boy.

And I only know boys. And I want another. But if I invest in another fantasy, I will miss out on the mystery of imaging both sides. And in the end, let’s be honest. I’ve already been to this show. Pregnancy is now more of an inconvenience getting in the way of caring for my two year old. I puked like a drunken sailor for six weeks, as just one example. It’s not a “magical” time for me right now. It’s exhausting. I feel fat, not radiant. I want to eat everything that was ever made and just completely give in to my gluttonous desires, and use this baby as the excuse. Sometimes I forget about the baby altogether.

The dirty marauder himself

For now, I have bigger things to worry about. Like the fact that my marauder can open doors…to the outside world. He ran out the other day and streaked past the mail lady and our landlord coming up the walk. Lucky for us both the front and back yards are fully fenced. I’m attempting to work again, for money, not shells. And I am beginning to think a social life might once again be possible, as the crushing isolation of motherhood has driven me to the eccentric and beyond.

Perhaps when I can feel this baby moving, rearranging my innards, and the heartburn kicks in, I’ll be better able to decide if this baby is Country or Rock n Roll. Right now this baby just is.

So this time around, I am not going to fall in love with an idea. Like I did so many times with crappy college boyfriends. This time, I want to fall in love. Full stop. Not with this whole pregnancy which I find to be a ginormous bummer, but with this kid, this being, this person. And frankly, I am happy to wait until I have this babe in my arms.

Lesley L. McKinley is a singer/songwriter and freelance writer who dreams of changing the world. Raised by wolves and pirates, her irreverent approach to most everything gets her in a lot of trouble, but she wouldn’t trade her battle scars or her sarcasm for all the trophies in the world. A mother, a wife, an artist, and a champion of the underdog, she can often be found outside, barefoot and muddy with her marauding toddler, hatching plots and running wild. She is currently crafting songs for a new album and thinking of ways to meet your pirate needs. Her website is being created as we speak. She also writes on the 10th of every month for get born, an online magazine. Find her there at www.getborn.com. Email her at llmckinley44@yahoo.com.

On becoming a mother

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I recently assisted a childbirth class as part of my doula certification. On the last night of the class, all of the couples took turns talking about their fears, how excited they were, what they’d learned. One woman said something to the effect of, “It’s crazy that we’ve prepared so much for and have so many feelings and anxieties about a journey that is, essentially, one foot long. I mean, the baby only has to get from here (gesture to belly), to there (gesture to crotch).”

I was struck how funny and truthful and earnest they all were, and how it seemed that we were all in awe of the same thing—birth as a rite of passage. You’re on one side of that fence your whole life, and then you’re pregnant and know you’re gonna have to cross it. And then, by the grace of god and medicine and your own body and the support around you, you reach the other side. It’s endlessly mysterious and inspiring to me. And it’s just nuts. There’s this baby on the inside. And you have no earthly idea what its actually going to be like until it comes out. And then it’s there. Sheesh.

I decided to pursue my endless fascination with this whole process by having a couple of conversations on video with two women who volunteered from the group – one when they were around 38 weeks, just weeks or days away from having their babies, and one when their babies were a few weeks old. A sort of video time capsule, as it were.

Here’s a glimpse of the chat I had with T before she had her baby. (Turns out, we recorded this conversation 6 days before she birthed her baby boy.) My next post will be a little video time capsule from chat we had last week, when the wee babe was a month old.

On pregnancy and birth

I’m all awash in thoughts of birth and pregnancy because I just finished assisting a birth class for the doula/childbirth educator/lactation consultant extraordinaire, Janaki Costello, and every couple of days we hear from a new couple who has just had their babe. I’ve been talking with one of the moms from the class who is, today, 7 days after her estimated due date (EDD) and who has been challenged with frightening pressure to have an induction much earlier than she expected. And nothing about her un-complicated, textbook pregnancy has changed. Other than going past her EDD.

Even though this photo was taken a month before I was full term, it accurately expresses the following: "Why the hell won't my body go into labor?!"

Her experience rings so true with my own–J was born (a beautiful, healthy 8lbs 2oz) 13 days after my EDD, and the pressure I felt to induce and my exposure to terrifying-dead-baby-scenarios skyrocketed in those few days. Why wasn’t my body going into labor? How did my perfectly healthy and complication-free pregnancy suddenly look like a train wreck to my OBs office on the day I passed the 40 week mark? And didn’t it make any difference at all that I passed my non-stress test with flying colors (meaning that they tested the baby when I was 40 weeks and 5 days and everything looked healthy and great)?

I’m all for making a decision informed by a variety of things, including statistical evidence, but I know there are many ways to talk with a 41 weeks pregnant lady about reasons for considering an induction other than, “Well, you don’t want to have a stillborn baby, do you?” As you might imagine, body-gripping worry and fear just don’t create ideal conditions for life in general, let alone helping a woman’s body go into labor on its own. Wow. I digress.

Anyhoo, talking with this 7-days-after mom has renewed my desire to create a pregnancy resource page, with some specific information for women who go well past their due dates. And I’ve already started page on birth too. So this one’s for you, 7-days-after mama. I’m cheering for you and your capable uterus.