My D&C, Or: I Know It Was Supposed To Be Terrible, But It Wasn’t & Here’s Why, Or: On Barbecue & Babies, Manicures & Miscarriage

I like painting my nails. It’s sort of how I like cleaning the bathroom, a small room that can be done in an hour.  I can’t handle the commitment to a daily makeup or hair routine, my clothes are a mess, but I can find a color that makes me happy, and throw it on my nails with skill, and look down at something that pleases me, every once in a while. I write with those hands, too, which isn’t lost on me.

 

That day, my nails were pretty delightful. I’d tried out these crazy stick-on things that week, white polish with black script, as though I’d really taken the writing metaphor all the way. We woke up and went to the place we were supposed to, gripping each other. I went to sign in, and the person at the desk looked at me, and my hands, and said kindly, “Oh, my! Those are beautiful! Can I see?” She took my hand. I wanted to stay there, to say thank you for holding my hand, I know you know what I’m here for, that I thought I was nearly about to break except they told me I was already broken, and here you are holding my hand, sharing this interest that holds no weight, no special tie to the fetus that is still inside me, but holding my hand anyway.

 

I sat back down.

 

I read an email from a colleague. We had a work trip planned, something new and exciting, a project that showcased my skills and took me to a place I’d never been. Colleague was keen to get a move on planning it. Colleague had heard the bad news, said the email, but colleague didn’t want to talk about it, colleague said. Oh. Okay. Well, anything for you, colleague.

 

Text from another colleague. They knew I’d told them before, but could I remind them of the password? It’s “buzz off”, I wanted to write. Don’t you know where I am? I texted back the password, plus some pre-emptive answers to questions I knew would come up in my absence. “Just FYI, I’m going offline,” I wrote. ‘Gotta dilate this cervix and remove the fetal tissue now, deliverables, etc,’ I didn’t write.

 

We went back to an exam room. There was an ultrasound machine, on, but with no picture, just a grayscale blank the shape a windshield wiper clears in the snow. This was the same sort of screen on which we had seen the heartbeat weeks ago. This was the same sort of picture we had sent to friends and family. This is the same sort of screen we had been peering at when a technician I’d never met said, “No. No baby! No heartbeat. Growth stopped. No baby. Sorry.” Sorry. No baby, no parents. Go back to your day job.

 

I lost it. I hated that screen. I wanted to smash it to bits, to ban it from all medical facilities everywhere. “It’s okay,” the doctor said. “You can do whatever you need to.” He had curly hair, and his scrubs were a green blue that the internet tells me is something called “terrace garden” or “forest canopy”, printed with the name of the hospital, ad infinitum. He was a resident, I learned, and he was so good at his job.

 

What followed was what I think every doctor, every patient wants but almost never has. It was just time, time spent talking, time spent quiet. Time filled with logistical questions, and unanswerable questions, and resolutions that the doctor didn’t need to know but I told him. “We thought we were parents,” I said. “You still are, you still can be,” he said. “This is hard,” he said. “Impossible.”

 

He laid out my options, with no judgement. You can go home, he said. Right now, he said, if you want to. You can wait, or we can give you a medicine to help the process along. It’s hard, he said. But you might want it, he said. You’ll need to come in for another ultrasound to be sure there is no remaining tissue, and it can be quick and painless, or take a long time and have lots of cramping.  But it’s about what you need emotionally. We’re here for you.

 

And they were.

 

The other option was what I came for. General anesthesia. Dilating my cervix. Removing the fetus. Curettage or vacuum aspiration to remove the remaining tissue. And then I would wake up, and no longer be pregnant.  And then I could mourn my loss, because I would have lost it, and it would be done. It would be done.

 

I was thankful for modern medicine. I’ve suffered trauma, and that makes me sort of afraid of the range of emotions I know I’m capable of. Structure is good where grief is concerned. Let’s not do this in my bathroom at home, the one where I saw the positive test, the one where I soaked in a bath, the temperature of which I’d measured so as not to harm the growing fetus.

 

I still felt pregnant. I was still vomiting every day. I’d been on my honeymoon with a dead baby in me, taking pictures of my still growing belly, calling the little bundle a strawberry. We canceled all of the cider tasting, pub visiting, horseback riding across Somerset when we found out. There was joy in being pregnant, so I didn’t regret it. But–well, it was what it was.

 

I’d lit a candle in the Wells Cathedral. I wonder what that candle ended up being for, after all. I took a picture of it, the singular flame. I don’t believe in a tit-for-tat kind of God, the kind who agrees that I know best and gives me just what I ask for, even if I rarely ask. I didn’t think that candle provided special womb protection, traveled back to the moment of conception and assured against any chromosomal abnormalities that would lead me to miscarry. But when I lit it, I did think it carried the light of my new role, the light I felt glowing around me each time I remembered I was pregnant.

 

The D&C, the removal of the tissue, the procedure, the anesthesia, etc, was decided. The doctor left me, and a nurse came in. She read the room, and declared that she had to see my nails. “The whole office is talking about them,” she said. Never had a girl felt more impressive with a drugstore accessory than I did that day. And never had I experienced such an unobtrusive way of coaxing me into being cared for, doted upon, for having an excuse to hold hands when I would have never asked.

 

We moved from the room of the barren-ultrasound-machine to one of a series of curtained off sections in a large open area, like an ER of sorts. Conversations buzzed around us, welcome distractions and reminders that we weren’t alone. It felt strangely comforting to hear snippets of the experiences of others, people we couldn’t see and wouldn’t see again. “You can take ibuprofen for the pain, or call us if it’s not enough.” “You’ll see bleeding for a few days.”  “When can we try again?” “You might feel some cramping.” “Could you tell what it was?”

 

The anesthesiologist came to see us. I was most worried about the anesthesia, as I’d never gone under before. It seemed like diving off the edge of a great precipice, being robbed of all sensory input, of all cognitive awareness, of the ability to feel and think. It seemed frightening– and completely glorious. To learn of none of it.

 

The pace picked up, and soon I was being wheeled into another room. There was a chair with stirrups, lots of lights, instruments, some sort of mask for me to inhale things through. It hit me that I was having surgery, that I was in an operating room, that I was surrounded by surgeons and they were preparing to operate on me. And I was terrified.

 

Everyone spoke in calm, soothing voices to me, and in the most professional, no-nonsense tones to one another. I choked out to a nurse, across the room, “Please help. I am scared shitless.” It wasn’t my most eloquent. It was how I felt. Again, the hand. She grabbed my hand and started rubbing it furiously.

 

“I like to talk about food,” she said. “You must be starving! And after all this, you can eat whatever you want. What are you going to eat first?”

 

I hadn’t eaten for something like 16 hours. Food sounded fabulous. I had a craving deep down for something heavy and comforting, rich and overwhelming. I wanted barbecue so bad.

 

“Barbecue. All I want is barbecue. And I have no idea where to get it! I don’t even know of any good barbecue spots in the city!” I wanted the kind of weird but glorious barbecue you can find in crock pots and chafing dishes in gas stations in the south– or maybe cheap and delicious Tex-Mex, a banh mi from that building shaped like a milk bottle and an Indian taco served at a fundraiser, fourteen thin paper plates supporting its weight. I wanted food from home.

 

The resident perked up. “BARBECUE! YES! How about Fette Sau? It’s insane.” The room buzzed. “Ooooh, where is that?”

 

“Is that French?” The awkward anesthesiologist chimed in.

 

“It’s barbecue. It’s fucking delicious,” replied the resident.

 

The oxygen mask went on my face. A kind doctor stood over me. I remembered her from my initial google searches for gynecologists upon my move to this new, foreign city. “I know you,” I said. “You have an MPH.”  It was important to me, a focus on public health. It didn’t really matter right now.

 

She smiled. “I do!” Things sped up, slowed down, at once.

 

“Okay!” chirped the anesthesiologist, done futzing with whatever it was he was doing with the drugs I would soon be breathing in. He seemed less than impressed with barbecue. That’s okay, he wasn’t invited anyway.

 

Everything shifted, monumentally. “Whoa,” I muttered. “I feel craaaaaaaaaaaazy.” I was flying, or swimming, or something. Maybe I was falling into my own womb.

 

“Go with it,” said the resident, and I could have sworn we held eye contact as I floated away.

 

I awoke 15 seconds, an hour, or a couple of years later. Mike was there. I immediately tried to sit up, to shake the sleep off, to acknowledge that I was still alive. I mean, I think they knew, but I wasn’t sure.

 

Dr. Public Health had gone to let Mike know everything had gone okay. She told him I needed barbecue and they recommended Fette Sau.

 

The nurse who brought him back to me in the recovery area had also reminded him that I was hungry, and he should take me out for barbecue. The place was in Williamsburg, she said, and the other doctor would know the name.

 

They came to give me the summary: all went well, and they were able to remove all of the tissue. I was grateful. I had been sitting in grey-blue light of spring, alone, for far too many hours with death inside of me. Even though a part of me had died, was wounded, needed to grieve, I was glad to be rid of that talisman. Ready to create some space for Mike and I to cry and cling; and then, eventually, to move forward.

 

And barbecue. Two more people stopped by to remind us. They told us to order the burnt ends. The resident stopped by again, and noted my MPH comment. Oh. So it had happened. I really had outed my encyclopedic memory of the credentials of every person I’ve ever googled. “I’m glad it’s important to you. It’s important to us. It’s intrinsic in what we do,” he said. “We care. We care a lot.”

 

I got dressed, took home discharge instructions on a brightly colored flyer. Mike and I ordered take-out Indian food and ate it on the couch that night. I wasn’t in any shape to go out for barbecue, but deeply appreciated the theatrics and continuity of care regarding my next meal, even if we all had an inkling that it was a ruse.

 

We went camping the next day. I didn’t want to be in our home. It was quiet, and some deer took a walk with us. We rowed a boat on a lake, meandered, and I drank a beer, because I could now. I cried because I could. It felt awful. It tasted fine.

 

It took us just a few months before I was pregnant again, pregnant with the nearly three-year-old girl now following her daddy around the house, telling him stories a mile long. My due date with her  (and many subsequent days) came and went, and so I showed up at the hospital for an induction in the same way a kid shows up to school on field trip day. The high-risk OB I’d seen a few times during the pregnancy stopped by to wish me luck. “Trust your pelvis,” she advised.

 

I walked back to the labor ward, where I would, in a few hours, deliver Winnie into an overly warm and terrifically welcoming room. Among the doctors and nurses , I caught a glimpse of the curly-haired resident, furiously entering notes on a computer. I didn’t need to go back to that place, didn’t need some great catharsis. But I noted to my OB when she checked in between contractions later that he and the rest of their staff had made what should have been one of the worst experiences of my life into one of the most healing, and I was glad to see his face. And maybe I’d get that barbecue, one of these days. It came highly recommended, after all.

 

Interests Include Mommy Blogging & Tandem Nursing

Two funny stories

One: About a year ago, I was courted to be a mommy blogger. For real! Like, for money. Lololololol. And I wrote some things, emails stopped, payment never came, etc. I moved on to other things, like having another baby and moving across the country. But I have these funny sort of clickbait-y posts hanging around in my Google Drive that I see every now and then. Titles like, “10 Things You Can Do While Babywearing”, “Why I Vaccinate My Baby (And Why You Should, Too)”, and “5 Things To Consider Before Tandem Nursing”. That last one becomes important with the next little vignette.

Two: When I became pregnant with Georgie, I experienced horrible nursing aversion and agitation when breastfeeding Winnie. I didn’t have enough energy to parent without the boob in my first trimester (seriously, the boob + B6 + magnesium + Daniel Tiger saved me), but in my second, we tried gentle weaning (weaning while cosleeping is no joke, y’all!). Our timing worked out, Winnie was fine with it, and she weaned in three days, with few tears.  I was a little sad, but it felt right.

Georgie is now nearly eight months old. She is just mad about food, and eats three meals a day. Like, full meals. And now, at the age of two-and-a-half, Winnie has decided she needs to nurse again. And I am sort of fine with it. I’m not going to say things like, “You’re a big kid, and big kids don’t nurse” because I don’t believe that. She’s been sick, and she’s going through some HUGE developmental changes right now (she’s been getting herself fully dressed, her verbal skills have gotten crazy, and her physical coordination is growing by leaps and bounds), and it’s comforting to her.  It’s funny because she’s asked to nurse about once a week ever since she weaned– I didn’t want for it to be a point of contention, and frankly it wasn’t that I didn’t want her to nurse occasionally, just that hormonally I couldn’t handle the constant nursing– and I always gave her a nonchalant, “sure”. She would start to latch, and then sort of laugh, and say, “No, thank you!”  Except then one day she didn’t. So here we are. Tandem nursing after a year of being weaned and eight months with a little sister.

It’s… fine. She needs it, and I’m fine with it. Her ability to understand bodies and boundaries has grown significantly, and I’m confident she’ll understand when it’s time for me to stop.  She’ll probably hate it, sure, but she’ll get it. And from that she’ll learn that she can ask for her body to be respected, too.

Anyway, here’s the hilarious blog post I wrote. My notes from actually being a tandem nursing mother in italics. Because writing about parenting issues before they happen to you is the biggest LOL of all time. #noscreentime #nocoffeewhilepregnant #onlyorganicwoolgarmentsforthelittles #weclothdiaperedwinnieforalmosttwoyearstho

5 Things to Consider Before Tandem Nursing

I always knew I would be a nursing mother, but I never guessed I might be a tandem nursing mother! [Because I didn’t ever look at a calendar?] When I found out I was expecting, with a due date just shy of my not-yet-weaned daughter’s second birthday, I found myself faced with questions. [Like “HOLY SHIT WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?”]  Should I wean before the new baby arrives?  Would I be able to nurse them both?  Tandem nursing (breastfeeding more than one child, either together or separately) isn’t for everyone– but many mothers find the process incredibly rewarding. [Note: I have yet to meet them. My tandem nursing Facebook group was full of moms on their phones wearing stretched out shirts, lap full of kids like, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.] Deciding whether or not to pursue tandem nursing is an individual decision, but thinking about the following can make that decision easier. [LOL “decision”]

 

Do you want to tandem nurse?  It sounds simple enough, but if you feel like you should tandem nurse out of obligation to your child, partner, or the judgy mom down the block– don’t worry about it!  Your body is yours, and every major health organization advocates breastfeeding as long as it is mutually desired by both mother and baby.  If you don’t want to, don’t! At the same time, don’t let anyone dissuade you by saying it’s weird or impossible– neither of which is true. [Almost everything I do is either weird or impossible, especially re: raising these two humans.]

 

Who is your tandem nursing team? [I don’t know but I would like to subscribe to their newsletter.] Now that you’ve nursed one child (or more), you know how important a nursing support system can be.  Identify people who can help you through your next chapter, like your partner, family members, friends, organizations like La Leche League, or even online support like Kellymom.com [Also, refreshing the Iowa caucus results and FiveThirtyEight.com on your phone can be really helpful online resources for feeling connected to the adult world while nursing a brood.]

 

How can others help you tandem nurse? Once you’ve made a list of those who can support you, think about the ways in which they can do so.  Maybe your spouse can pick up a greater portion of household tasks, or leave the fridge stocked with easy snacks and filling meals (you’ll need the fuel while nursing two!).  Set a weekly date with other nursing moms in your neighborhood.  Plan for family or friends to visit to change diapers, play with your toddler, and give you a break from being “on.” [AHHHH SEND HELP]

 

Does tandem nursing work with your lifestyle? [If not, too bad!] Do you plan to co-sleep or settle your newborn in her own room?  Is your toddler night-weaned?  Will you head back to work soon after the birth and tandem nurse on weekends and after work?  Think about the logistics of your time, sleep, and space, and tweak anything you can now to be prepared for later.  

 

Make a tandem nursing plan– and be okay with letting it go.  After you’ve lined up your team, sleeping arrangements, and identified your motivation for tandem nursing, you’ve got the makings of a great plan!  Now visualize letting it go.  You may nurse your toddler for longer than you plan– or you may decide that you’re too exhausted to nurse more than one baby.  You may prepare for agitation while nursing both children– or it may not be a problem at all.  Stay flexible and in tune with yourself, and you can’t go wrong. [Okay, this part is for real, tho.]

 

How I Cope

It’s no secret to anyone who has known me for any amount of time (or sometimes even to the nice mom I meet in the coffee shop, within about five minutes of chatting–sorry, nice person!) that I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. Like many chronic illnesses, it ebbs and flows, and I’ve had varying degrees of success in treating it over the last sixteen years. Indeed, it was half a lifetime ago that I booked my first appointment with a mental health professional, and I can’t help but feel some sense of strength and accomplishment from this journey, from what I have learned, and from the nitty-gritty work I’ve put in.

The years have been full of trial and error, and when I first became pregnant in the spring of 2012, it felt as though the rules of the game had changed.  Now, my body (and accompanying hormones) were rapidly changing; now, I had to consider the growing bundle inside of me; now, I scared my psychiatrist, whose experience in treating pregnant women was lacking. Within that time, I lost the pregnancy, which brought a new set of challenges, of grief and hope, for both Michael and me.

All of the bits and bobs of this story, of the journey up and over, around and through the darkness and light warrant another post, or two or three. But through three pregnancies, two births, and many, many, many-many cups of coffee and tea with my fellow mothers-in-arms, I’ve learned a few things. Right now, I am at the point postpartum with Georgie where, with Winnie, I recognized that things had become very dark, and thus I am hyper aware of the challenges I face right now and how I can work through them. I write this in the hope that perhaps my footsteps can serve to help another mother who struggles with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder— but also as a roadmap, a reminder, for myself as I work through the next months and years.

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Mindfulness Practice

Far and away the lowest barrier to entry, most effective, “bang-for-my-buck” if you will, tool in my recovery toolkit has been mindfulness practice, both through dedicated mindfulness meditations and the continuation of those practices throughout my day. Guys, I am not a meditator. Before I started mindfulness meditation, I could barely close my eyes if not asleep nor could I concentrate on breathing if not, you know, gasping for air or something. The suggestion of “deep breaths” was enough for me to never return to see a therapist or psychiatrist. Part of this was, of course, that I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of childhood trauma– closing my eyes and opening my mind to the possibility of re-experiencing the trauma was terrifying. I half-heartedly read The Healing Power of the Breath, which was developed with trauma survivors in mind, and much to my surprise, I found the tangible focus to be helpful; in fact, I used its techniques during Winnie’s birth. Also while preparing for Winnie’s birth, I stumbled on Mindful Birthing, which utilizes mindfulness techniques to help women work through the sensations of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the postpartum period.

After postpartum depression and anxiety reared all manner of ugly heads when Winnie was around seven months old, I established an exceptionally trusting relationship with a healthcare provider (more on that later) and when she suggested mindfulness practice, I took her up on it and checked out Mindfulness for Beginners from the public library. I uploaded a few meditations onto my phone and began to practice daily. Holy crap, you guys– it worked! Unsurprisingly, I suppose, when you practice something, you get better at it. The dedicated daily time to practice breathing, to practice allowing thoughts to exist without judgement, to practice moving between difficult thoughts and comforting sensations in a safe space reduced the fear I had of my emotions and my ability to co-exist with them. It particularly helped with the heightened emotions I had as a result of hormonal changes during my pregnancy with Georgie, and with the intrusive thoughts that followed a few weeks after her birth. With Winnie, I spent nights awake in a panic, in fear and disgust at such thoughts– how could a good mother think such things? Where were these thoughts coming from? Did intrusive thoughts mean that I would act on them? No, it absolutely didn’t– but my fixation on the thoughts, my judgement of them and my fear of them exacerbated them. Mindfulness practice taught me to allow the thoughts to pass without judgement, and because of this, they resolved quickly, without the panic and terror they had previously caused.

Now, I practice mindfulness daily: I set a meditation goal using the Strides app (my other Strides goal is flossing, in case you were wondering) and use either the Mindfulness Coach app (developed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs for veterans suffering from PTSD, but helpful for anyone) or the free guided meditations from the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA (the Working through Difficulty and Loving-Kindness meditations are my favorite). To me, mindfulness practice is, at its core, a way to practice being the person you want to be, with the brain you want to have.

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Finding My Team

Real talk: finding a mental health team is a pain in the ass. No, it’s worse. It’s nearly criminal. It’s expensive, time consuming, requires a ridiculous level of information literacy and perseverance, all of which is completely overwhelming to someone suffering from a mood or anxiety disorder. When you think you’re worthless, when you think you’re helpless and hopeless, how are you supposed to justify the hours of google searches, phone calls to doctors, messages left, phone menus navigated, “not taking new patients”, “out of network”, ad nauseum? If you’re a danger to yourself or others, go to the ER, otherwise you’ll need to wait months and months in your own emotional hell to see if this provider might– just MIGHT– be a fit for you. It is a dance I have done, and one I wish to avoid for the rest of my life.

Luckily, there are some resources. First, from my own experience: Postpartum Support International. PSI offers a warm-line, online support meetings, free weekly phone support meetings with a postpartum expert, a Facebook group, and– my personal favorite– a resources map with area coordinators. Before we moved to New Mexico, I contacted the PSI coordinator for the area, and she provided me with a list of resources, tracked down doctors, support groups, and therapists. She even called doctors’ offices to see if they had experience treating PMAD. So much footwork done, so many obstacles removed. (PS: PSI has resources for dads, too.)  I haven’t personally used their services, but many recommend Postpartum Progress, as well.

I also can’t stress enough how important a trusting relationship with a mental health provider is, once you’ve jumped through those hoops. I was lucky to find an incredible psychiatrist with training in reproductive psychiatry, who took an integrative approach to my care: she ran blood work to test for nutritional markers and any other physical problem that could interfere with my recovery, she recommended mindfulness practice and respected my desire not to delve into trauma work, instead recommending structured Dialectical Behavioral work. She helped me balance breastfeeding, pregnancy, and medication, giving me the vocabulary I needed to approach the issues with my birthing team. I had never before put in the work that I did with Dr. Hermann, and it was the trust we built that led me to do so.

I was, admittedly, nervous when I moved and changed doctors. Memories lingered of a bad experience following my first pregnancy loss and subsequent pregnancy with Winnie. The psychiatrist I had seen then was less than supportive, reluctant to provide any information about treating depression with medication during pregnancy outside of FDA pregnancy categories, and seemed to think that my decision to get pregnant while still struggling with depression had been a mistake, and that was that. But after the work I put in treating my PPD/PPA after Winnie,  I felt armed with the knowledge that the medications I was taking were safe, that any risks were outweighed by the benefit of having a whole, present mother, and that I deserved answers to questions and treatment as a human.  And lo! The psychiatrist I saw here in New Mexico totally agreed! We discussed each medicine, each supplement, and concrete exercises to overcome a recent flare-up of traumatic experiences, recurring nightmares. We both talked about how if a doctor/patient relationship doesn’t work, you can and should find someone else, but at the end of my appointment, when I expressed relief and my previous apprehension, she smiled sincerely and said, “Don’t worry– I’ll take good care of you.” Isn’t that just what every patient wants to know?

So, I don’t do therapy, and I won’t until I’m in a place to pursue trauma work, but I know it’s so important for people. My other “team” tool, in addition to a capable mental healthcare provider (be it psychiatrist or therapist), is pretty simple: other moms.

For me this meant  a local moms group (shoutout to my Summer13 Cortelyoumoms! woo woo, party people!), full of women who had and hadn’t experienced depression and/or anxiety, full of women who were approaching the same challenges every day, full of women who could go for a walk, or make a joke about diaper on Facebook. Parents’ groups are an invaluable resource– I’m not a joiner, and I was afraid that either I would hate everyone in the group, or everyone in the group would hate me, but it turns out that people are people, and being able to talk about Dinosaur Jr while wrangling a toddler or about Judith Butler while nursing is pretty rad, and definitely helps mental health!

Finding my mom team also meant attending a support group after Georgie’s birth to process my experiences and learn new tools. Hearing the varied experiences of other women, empathizing, and in some cases, even being able to offer my own experience as valuable, as a tool for others, was incredibly empowering. Brooklyn moms, I highly recommend Sarah Moore’s PMAD group as a part of your toolkit.

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Self Care

Okay, here’s the fluffy but oh-so-important stuff:

  • Taking a shower.
  • Brushing my teeth, not once but twice (!) a day.
  • Eating good fats and proteins.
  • Having a hot (or warmish) cup of coffee in the morning.
  • Getting sun on my face.
  • Putting on real pants. If I’m feeling extra in-need, real pants THAT FIT.
  • Listening to WQXR.
  • Calling a friend.
  • Wearing wool socks.
  • Spraying this stuff on my face.
  • Checking out a library book, because it feels kind of like guilt-free shopping
  • Taking my prescribed medicines at the same time, every day
  • Taking the vitamins I need, like B-Complex, postnatal, and vitamin D
  • Turmeric supplements for depression, because it might help, and my doc says it can’t hurt

This list changes, but there is *always* a list, and there must be. I need to start each day with a bank of things that can lift me up if I start to fall. When I was in crisis mode following Georgie’s birth, after Mike had gone back to work, family was all gone, and I was alone with two lovely creatures who desperately needed me and also sometimes hurt me (I struggled mightily with the physicality of parenting) and a rollercoaster of postpartum hormones, I sometimes felt like the sky was (metaphorically) falling. And during those times, I put Georgie in the carrier, Winnie in the stroller, filled up a mason jar with coffee, and walked and walked and walked and walked. Miles. All throughout Prospect Park, where I could find a grassy spot, near people but not too near them, let Winnie sleep in the stroller and Georgie in the carrier, in such a way that they were cared for but I didn’t have to actively engage, and I would just CRY. Quietly, but fully. We were all safe. We were all loved. I’d certainly rather have filled my days with less crying, less emotional turbulence, but there it was. We did it.

We’re doing it. Every day, getting by.

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Is Your Fetus More of a Cheddar or a Blue?

How far along are you? Lentil (six weeks)? Lime (twelve weeks)? Leek (a whopping 38 weeks)?

Better question: do you find the goofy emails letting you know what piece of produce your fetus currently resembles to be as off-base as I do?  I mean, come on.  No way does my baby go from a rutabaga to a wimpy scallion in a week. Have you ever even seen a scallion, BabyCenter? A twenty-six week old fetus eats alliums like that for breakfast.

The produce-as-incubated chart seems nearly ubiquitous among us breeders.  It’s adorable at first (my little peanut! baby is a whole peach this week!), but I soon grew weary of the not-quite-accurate fruits and veg my growing baby was compared to. For one, there’s the wild discrepancy between individual pieces of produce themselves– I mean, are we talking a wee heirloom green zebra tomato, or a fertilizer-fed big honkin’ beefsteak? Plus, you know what’s better than head of lettuce?  A whole wheel of cheese.

Armed with the belief that cheese > all things, especially lettuce, and a pretty solid working knowledge of the weight of individual cheese wheels (or in the case of the early weeks, the weight of bits and bobs of cheese), I correlated estimated fetal weight by week with the weights of wheels of delicious, delicious cheese. So now you can tell people your growing babe is the size of a wheel of meaty, savory cow’s milk cheese, handcrafted by members of the (THE) vonTrapp family, rather than a sad Idaho Gold.

I started at eight weeks because before that, your embryo is basically a speck of casein protein floating amidst individual fat globules. Here, my friends, are your cheeses:

Week 8: Grain of Ricotta

Week 8: Grain of Ricotta

Photo Credit: Rebecca Siegel

Weighing in at a whole gram, your cheesy embryo is about the size of one of the grains of ricotta that gets stuck to the cheesecloth as you strain it– in other words, tiny, mild, and totally unripened.

Week 9: Cottage Cheese Curd

Hey, your embryo doesn’t have a tail anymore, weighs a couple of grams, but is now the size of a whole cottage cheese curd!

Week 10: Perle Mozzarella

Week 10: Mozzarella Perle

Photo Credit: Lioni Mozzarella

Kumquats are fine and all, but I’d rather have a bitty ball of mozzarella growing in my belly.

Week 11: Cheddar Cheese Curd

Week 11: Cheddar Curd

Photo Credit: Wisconsin Cheese Mart

Since your fetus has started to hiccup this week, it’s only right that it would be the size of a squeaky cheddar curd.

Week 12: Marinated Ciliegine

Photo Credit- Lioni Mozzarella

Photo Credit: Lioni Mozzarella

Sure, this ciliegine is basically the same cheese as the perle above, just coated in herbs, but fetal development at this stage doesn’t leave me with a lot to work with. Hey, herbs!

Week 13: Chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano

Week 13: Chunk of Parm

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

Phew! As we leave the first trimester, we get to head into the good stuff, like the chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano that weighs about as much as a fetus at 13 weeks– nearly an ounce.

Week 14: Cabecou en Feuille

Week 14: Cabecou en Feuille

Photo Credit: Fromagerie Sciboz

A sweet little disc of goat cheese, dotted with peppercorns and wrapped in leaves macerated in a fruity eau-de-vie– that’s my idea of a solid week 14. Also, your fetus can pee this week.

Week 15: Vermont Creamery’s Bijou

Week 15: Bijou

Photo Credit: Vermont Creamery

Would you look at the rind on that! Delightful buttons of Vermont Creamery’s soft-ripened goat’s milk Bijou line up perfectly with 15 weeks of gestation. Since morning sickness is on its way out the door for most people at this stage, I highly recommend a Bijou or four to make up for lost cheese-eating time.

Week 16: Rivers Edge Chevre Up in Smoke

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

Nuggets of dreamy goat cheese wrapped in maple leaves and spritzed with bourbon before smoking are the closest you’re going to get to either bourbon or smoking for a while, so celebrate your hundred-gram fetus with a round of Rivers Edge Chevre’s Up in Smoke.

Week 17: Prairie Fruits Farm Angel Food

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

I very distinctly remember the first time I tasted this cheese, on the top of a butcher block in the classroom overlooking the counter at Murray’s Bleecker Street store. “YOU GUYS!” I am pretty sure I yelled, “THIS PASTE. You have to touch this paste. It– it– it– it quivers.” Also, this is maybe my favorite cheese description that I ever wrote:

Amidst the sprawling soybeans and copious cornfields of central Illinois, if you listen closely you can hear an occasional bleat or baa and can sometimes catch the scent of just-formed curd on a warm breeze. Here you’ll find Prairie Fruits Farm, owned by soil scientists Wes Jarrel and Leslie Cooperband, just a few miles away from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where people take farming so seriously that they built their library below ground so as not to block the on-campus corn plots from sunlight. Leslie and Wes take the care of their land and creation of their cheese just as seriously, as the first farmstead goat cheese makers in the state—and their attention to detail shows. The carefully hand-ladled curd lends the paste a supple, delicate texture, which slowly ripens to near liquidity, only just held in by a paper-thin white rind. Prairie Fruits’ herd of Nubian and LaMancha goats graze among the berry brambles and fruit trees, producing exceptional milk whose quality shines in the clean, lactic finish with a hint of milky sweetness. Honor its Midwestern roots with a lemony wheat beer.

If you listen closely, she says. Just formed curd, she says. Oh, boy.  Good thing this fetus in my belly is half-Illinoisian.

Week 18: Vermont Creamery Coupole

Photo Credit: Vermont Creamery

Photo Credit: Vermont Creamery

I’d say the delicate wrinkly rind on Vermont Creamery’s soft-ripened goat dome Coupole very nearly resembles the velvety, squishy skin of a newborn sprinkled with a fine layer of baby powder.  Except baby powder is a major no-no for newborns (and babies in utero, I’d imagine), and everything about Coupole and its clean, citric tang and subtle minerality is a definite yes-yes.

Week 19: Jasper Hill Farm Harbison

Did you register for three wheels of Jasper Hill Farm’s Harbison, a cow’s milk custard bomb encased in a mushroomy, living, breathing rind and bound with a belt of spruce cambium that imparts just enough of a woodsy aroma to make you feel like you went camping, but with hot showers?  No? Well, you have about twenty-one weeks to rectify that.

Week 20: Capriole Piper’s Pyramide

Photo Credit: Capriole Goat Cheese

Photo Credit: Capriole Goat Cheese

Let’s be real: we WISH our halfway-done fetuses looked as gorgeous as a Piper’s Pyramide (named after maker Judith Schad’s granddaughter, how perfect is that?!), a goat milk treasure boasting a fresh, lactic paste encased by a thin, velveteen rind that just softens the sprinkling of paprika cozying up to the creamline.  Crafted by Capriole Goat Cheese, just across the Indiana-Kentucky border from Louisville.

Week 21: Robiola di Capra en Foglie di Fico

Photo Credit: La Casera

Photo Credit: La Casera

Just as your baby is snugly encased in your growing belly, this Italian goat cheese ripens within the loving embrace of fresh fig leaves. And much like your wee one, this guy can pack a punch after weeks of ripening, transforming from a bright, tangy wheel to a molten dollop of vegetal goodness.  That last part doesn’t really translate to your baby, but you get what I’m saying.

Week 22: Reblochon

Reblochon is said to have originated as cheese made from the milk left in the cow to cheat the farmer’s landlord out of his full tax. You know the old game– milk the cow, but not all the way, pay the tax on the not-quite-full milking, go back and get yours in the form of that left-behind milk. Sticking it to the man tastes inherently better than not, which is why Reblochon is so completely delicious and pretty much illegal in the US (jk, it’s because of moisture content and import laws). Incidentally, 22 weeks is the developmental stage that most experts recommend that you begin reading socialist tracts to your developing baby, in lieu of consuming soft, unpasteurized cheeses produced in countries with single payer health care programs. As always, consult your doctor before making this or any other parenting decision.

Week 23: Jasper Hill Farm Moses Sleeper

Moses Sleeper, so completely lovely. Downy rind, buttery paste redolent of roasted cauliflower, creamy beyond measure.  Also, it has “sleep” in the name which lol babies and sleeping amirite?

Week 24: Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere

As if this list isn’t evidence enough, I, like much of the cheese world, have kiiiiiiind of a thing for the cheeses of Jasper Hill. Winnimere is the kind of cheese you want to eat, kiss, go swimming in, have raise your children, and be mayor of your town. Plus, the dang cheese is named WINNIE of all things and won the Best of Show award the very same year we took our Winnie to the American Cheese Society conference (ooooOOOOooooOOOOoooo spooky).

Week 25: Chaource

Photo Credit: Chaource

Photo Credit: Chaource

Chaource, a soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese from the eponymous French village, is a little like a small, spritely wheel of Brie decided to have a baby with a slice of cheesecake.  It also has a lot in common with babies! For example, it’s been made since at least the Middle Ages, just like babies, it’s soft and mild, just like babies, and is generally eaten when young, just like babies! Yum.

Week 26: VonTrapp Farmstead Oma

The hills are alive with the sound of the end of your second trimester coming to a crashing halt.  Hope you didn’t get used to all that lack-of-nausea and cute-baby-bump business– this fetus is about to start kickin’ you in the ribs, woo hoo! Placate the imminent heartburn with the savory, umami-laden meatiness of vonTrapp Farmstead Oma, carefully ripened by the experts at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. If you’re one of those people who likes to live dangerously and occasionally consume a portion of an alcoholic beverage during your final trimester, pair that Green Mountain goo-bomb (what did I just say?!) with a few sips of a Trappist ale like Orval.

Week 27: Tete de Moine

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

This cheese is named “Head of Monk” and you serve it by putting it on the above wacky contraption and shaving tiny rosettes which is like giving a monk a haircut and then eating his hair and I don’t know what else I can possibly say about this except that it kind of tastes like Gruyere and also hey there third trimester.

Week 28: Brie Fermier

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Saveur

Brie seems ubiquitous in the States, but real Brie, that is, authentic Brie de Meaux, is actually illegal for sale or import into the US.  By law, name protected Brie must be made from raw milk, and for quality purposes cannot be ripened beyond the requisite 60 days required by US law for raw milk cheeses.  Have no fear! Excellent pasteurized versions exist, like this Brie Fermier, or farmstead Brie from Ferme de Jouvence– the Farm of Rejuvenation or literally, the Farm of Youth.  Youth!  Like a baby!

PS: Here is a photo of me feeding cheese from this same farm to my dear sweet niece when she was five months old without her mother’s knowledge. I am a terrible aunt.

zari camembert

Week 29: Consider Bardwell Manchester

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

Consider Bardwell’s Manchester, a raw goat milk jewel from a bucolic farm that straddles the New York-Vermont state line, just might be the cheese that made my babies. That sounds weird, huh? It was the first cheese I bought at Murray’s before I’d moved to New York– the cheese that led me to apply there, which led me to a job there, etc., etc., and then I met my husband in a cheese cave, etc., etc., babies. (When visiting Consider Bardwell years ago, I thought I’d lost my engagement ring [OH MY GOD IS IT IN THE CHEESE VAT?!] but it was just in my pocket. Also on that trip I almost ran into a chicken crossing the road.) #coolstorybro

Week 30: Pecorino Foglie di Noce

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

Birth and cheese are all about timing, and nowhere does this ring more true than with Pecorino Foglie di Noce from Emilia Romagna. The raw sheep milk cheese (aroma: fresh cut timber + wet stone + rain on a wool sweater) is aged in barrels of walnut leaves that must be gathered during a precise window, meaning the cheese can be aged but twice a year. Two times a year probably still seems like too many times for a mom gestating a baby, especially in her third trimester. Luckily, aged cheeses are packed with the protein and fats that a growing fetus needs!

Week 31: Fourme d’Ambert

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

Fourme d’Ambert, an amiable cow’s milk blue from central France, is delightfully pleasant, but its real outstanding quality in this context is that it could almost certainly be smushed into the shape of a baby and secured on your chest in a Baby Bjorn should you ever need to smuggle a few pounds of blue cheese into a Music Together class.

Week 32: Tomme Crayeuse

Cheeky mongers like to call this cheese “Tom Cruise” but I refuse because I think that’s mean to this cheese. It’s like lions mane mushrooms cooked for a million hours in a broth made exclusively of Kewpie mayo + alfafa + loam. In other words, some healthy pregnancy cravings + pica.

Week 33: Meadow Creek Grayson

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

Meadow Creek Grayson can be funkier than a Diaper Genie, more yellow than a wicked case of jaundice, and more umami-laden than breastmilk (I’ve heard). It’s all raw milk all the time, given kindly by sweet Jersey mama cows in Galax, Virginia, so it’s the perfect post-baby gift for those moms who abstained from the good stuff for 40ish weeks. (Note: BabyCenter says your 33 week fetus is about the same size as a pineapple, which is just about the only thing that sounds like it’s more painful to give birth to than a human.)

Week 34: Quadrello di Bufala

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

<Insert joke about how a pregnant lady is like a water buffalo here.> <Eat lots of Quadrello di Bufala to quell the pain of getting decked by a 34-weeks-pregnant lady after comparing her to a large ruminant.>

Week 35: Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue

Vermonter blue cheese fetuses are outnumbered by cows, love all things maple, can tolerate several dozen feet of snow and subzero temperatures, and are really good at forestry. Also, not unlike Jasper Hill’s Bayley Hazen Blue, they pair well with dark chocolate or roasted fennel.

Week 36: Chiriboga Blue

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

With its dense fudgy texture and mild savory flavor, Chiriboga Blue seems like the result of some sort of alchemic fusion of a whole cheesecake, many sticks of butter, and a smattering of blue cheese.  Which, hey, you’re nine months pregnant, you can probably just go ahead and indulge in those things, too.

Week 37: Manchego

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

Nutty (like a new parent with sleep deprivation), gamey (like the pajamas you will wear for a week straight during said sleep deprivation), and utterly delicious (like that sweet sweet new baby smell), Manchego– like puppies, kittens, and wrinkly little babes– is a crowd-pleaser for a reason. Pair with a handful of Marcona almonds for the fat, protein, and minerals a growing baby needs, and with fruity membrillo for the sweet kick mom most certainly deserves.

Week 38: Salva Cremasco

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

A curdy center paste that smacks of buttermilk, a dank, mushroomy creamline, and the gnarliest rind of them all– a few wedges of this passed round to the L&D staff is bound to get you the primo IV placement.

Week 39: Gorgonzola Cremificato

Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese

Photo Credit: Murray’s Cheese

Oh, sweet decadence: mild Gorgonzola Dolce taken up a notch with the addition of heavy cream. Pretty fluffy and delicately cheesy, just like a newborn!

Week 40: Beenleigh Blue

Photo Credit: Neals Yard Dairy

Photo Credit: Neals Yard Dairy

Ever-elusive: Beenleigh Blue and babies born on their due date.  Oh sure, I’ve heard about them, I’ve met them.  I’ve tasted and sold Beenleigh Blue before, too, and I think I’ve seen it since then. I can just barely conjure up its fudgy texture, seaside bouquet, tempered sweetness. But they mostly exist in whispers and message boards and Google searches and the experiences of others.

Week 41: Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Photo Credit: Uplands Cheese

Photo Credit: Uplands Cheese

Considering that I had Winnie at 41 weeks, Georgie two days shy of 41 weeks, and they’rewas pretty much perfect, I think this pairing of Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin–all  fruity brightness, toasted pecans, and fresh hay– with 41 weeks of gestation sounds just right. I’m kicking myself for not packing a hunk of this and a bottle of vin jaune in my hospital bag.

Week 42: The World’s Largest Cheese!

Photo Credit: NYWF64.com

Photo Credit: NYWF64.com

Get it? Because jokes about how huge your baby is when you’re postdate are hilarious, right?

Hey, that’s it.  All the weeks! Now I just need to have another baby so I can pose with each of these wheels under my shirt week by week. That won’t be weird at all!

I wasn’t lying when I wrote this post about feeling more relaxed this pregnancy than I did when pregnant with Winnie.  I do.  I’m also terrified. Not at all of what remains of this pregnancy or of my birth– though I’m not naive enough to think that birth will certainly be a breeze and that postpartum recovery while caring for a toddler will be anything less than a joyous hellscape– but because I’m not sure how I’m going to grow the size of my love along with the size of my family.

Our first pregnancy forced us to shift our priorities, to hold paramount needs of someone we hadn’t yet met but who would form the foundation of our family. My subsequent pregnancy with Winnie was both a fulfillment of what I felt that first pregnancy had promised and the manifestation of our family, of Mike and me as parents. But now I have this magical, real, burgeoning human who blows my mind every single day and is just right there in front of me– I can see her, hear her, touch her– and I’m wondering if it’s possible to duplicate the love I feel for her for another little one.  Have I limited our moments together by introducing this new being? Will I make enough love, or energy, or security for them both?

In flipping through a birthing book recently, I shook loose an ultrasound print from my third trimester with Winnie. In the grayscale shadows, you could make out her little nose, her chin, her mouth.  It was Winnie, and it broke my heart, because I didn’t know her yet, even though she knew the kuh-thud, kuh-thud of my heart and heard my voice and felt safe inside of me.  My body doesn’t feel like a safe space to me– I can’t see the babies it carries, I can’t do anything to be sure I’m giving those babies what they need.  And despite the reassuring kicks and elbow pokes and that kuh-thud kuh-thud on the doctor’s doppler every few weeks, I don’t know them.  I didn’t know Winnie before she was born, and I don’t know this baby. Part of that is amazing– because they so quickly become PEOPLE, with will and desire and inquiring and discerning minds– but right now, it’s utterly terrifying.

I heard Winnie before I saw her as I pushed her out into being, and I remember needing to mark that moment with something, anything, so I cried out the words, “That’s my baby!” with whatever shreds of energy I had left after so many hours of labor. And then I saw her, and she wasn’t who I thought she would be, she was who she was, which was delightful– but it also meant I’d never met her before.  This was the first moment, and she was telling me who she was.  I hadn’t known before, I couldn’t have known.

Here I am again, knowing I just can’t know who this human inside of me is.  I don’t get to pick, I don’t get to know until she decides to let me know.  And I trust with even more faith than I should be humanly capable of possessing that I will love this child, with more love than I have, with more love than I know to exist in the whole world, but it really seems impossible to love anything more than I love my little, tangible family right now.

I don’t know what it says about me or my faith or my parenting skills that I find it easier to believe that the wine and bread I consume each Sunday becomes the very substance of God than that I will soon love my children and not just my child. But here I am. This babe will be loved, and we will do the loving, and it will grow all of us.  I guess I don’t need to know how or when, so long as I know that it will.

twenty eight weeks

This pregnancy is different. I mean, they’re all different, right?  Every baby is different, every pregnancy is different, every stretch mark is like a special snowflake of love that represents the unbreakable maternal bond and the whole of the history of humankind, right there in the scarred tread marks of life’s snow tires.  I think I read that somewhere.

My first trimester I was sick, and it made me kind of a bad parent, the kind of parent who feels a little bit of joy when her toddler asks for Barney instead of snuggles and is content with eating bowls of cold cereal and avocado halves ad nauseam. Not that I think that anyone else who prefers those things is a bad parent, just that I had such high hopes for the kinds of practical life activities and creative expression projects we’d undertake as Winnie grew, and instead of being concerned with offering developmentally appropriate anything, I became concerned with us both being alive and not covered in Mommy’s puke when Mike got home from work. So, Barney.  And cereal. And maybe some raisins that fell on the floor a few times, so what.

Despite thinking that I’d tandem nurse until the kids could each write an essay on why they would like to wean, I developed an overwhelming aversion to nursing.  I started to dread our nursing sessions, and then feel guilty for the dread, and then resent the guilt and the dread, and usually by this point I had to hork again. Our routine changed, and pregnancy stretched out before me like it would never end, and I struggled with making a connection with the bundle of cells in my belly that was losing its tail, gaining its fingernails.

A few weeks into my second trimester, a fog lifted.  I had more energy, less nausea, could parent my child with a sufficient level of engagement.  We got back on a schedule, and Mike and I started making plans for the future.  Winnie weaned, and we both felt better for it.  It turns out I am actually capable of parenting when not nursing, a delightful surprise.  I’m not sure if it’s creepy or hilarious or both that Winnie’s current favorite joke is to yell, NUUUURRRRRSE! and come at me like she’s going to nurse, then yell NOOOO AH HAHAHAHAHAH and crack herself up for several minutes. I think as long as she finds another joke before eighth grade, we’re fine.

Here we are, a few weeks into my third trimester, about two and a half months from my due date. This pregnancy is still different.  My brain is different, and my body is different, and my family is different, and this baby is different.  During my first and second pregnancies, I read everything I could get my hands on, wanted to know how and why and when my body would change in reaction to its beloved invader.  This time– and this is going to come as a shock to those who have seen my pregnancy book collection– I couldn’t care less.  I mean, it’s just going to grow a baby, right?  With or without me?  Mostly with, of course, but it’s not like my knowledge of progesterone is going to help things out. I take all of the vitamins I need, shove all the choline and folate and fiber into my diet that I can, and the baby grows.  I check in with my provider, listen to a heartbeat that sounds delightful, do all the non-invasive tests that might identify a problem for which there is a solution, and that’s that. (I’ve also been reading some new books on the birthing process, if not pregnancy– so much good stuff out there!)

As with Winnie, there have been a number of supplementary ultrasounds due to placenta previa because apparently the placentas I make are realllll lazy and don’t like to move up to where they should be until later, but no one seems particularly concerned– it’s statistically likely that it will move, and that I won’t need to have a c-section.  It’s so likely, in fact, that it seems silly even writing that.  Also in the category of weird-stuff-I-find-out-when-pregnant, it turns out my joints are delightfully flexible, so flexible that the bones that enable me to walk/run/stand/sit/twirl/swirl/glide aka my pelvic bones don’t really like to stay together as a unit, thus causing all sorts of fun problems. Imagine one of those high school anatomy lab skeletons trying to walk with a midsection held together with old Bubble Yum.  Congratulations! You just imagined my pelvis. Now imagine that skeleton wearing a super cool heavy-duty-elastic-and-velcro-support belt.  Boom, that’s me.

Winnie seems about 70% excited about the fact that my belly has become a baby and that a new baby will be joining us at some future date.  We’ve started checking a lot of new baby books out of the library, and dropping one or two into her book baskets and suggesting them for storytime here and there.  I’ve created a list of the books we’ve read/intend to read if you’d like to check it out here.  So far we’re loving:

hellointhereHello in There!  A Big Sister’s Book of Waiting // Jo Witek, Christine Roussey

I mostly love the aesthetic of this one, with a growing sphere of belly on one page, a little lift-the-flap to see the hilariously-besmirked fetus, and a big sister with a cool bob.  Winnie likes lifting the flap, but the text is just a smidge too old for her.

 

 

 

peter's chairPeter’s Chair // Ezra Jack Keats

There is an actual Peter’s Chair at Prospect Park! The first tiny chair Winnie ever sat on was that bronze chair, and she thought it was a potty and started making amazing grunting sounds. (So glad stories told on the internet live forever.) Not sure she gets that Peter’s Chair is actually about a new sibling, but we like it anyway.

 

 

waiting for babyWaiting for Baby and My New Baby // Rachel Fuller

These are by far Winnie’s favorites.  They’re full of observations and questions, said in the voice of the older sibling, about the baby: “Is the baby still asleep? The baby smells like milk! Why is the baby crying?” paired with simple illustrations. According to the wisdom of Amazon one-star reviews, some people don’t like these books because they aren’t stories.  They aren’t!  They’re malleable statements and illustrations that serve as a jumping off point for conversations about the new baby.

my new baby

Both the baby and the older sibling are gender neutral (though there is a mom and a dad in each book, because heteronormativity), the child’s observations can take on a positive or negative or neutral voice, and there is lots of room for discussion.  Winnie gets excited that she recognizes things in the illustration (Nursing! Diaper change!  Milk! Apple! No baby, no apple, apple Winnie!).  Oh, and there is also a page where mom is laying on the couch asleep while partner and sibling prepare dinner while whispering, which is my personal favorite because that is basically my life/dream.

It’s fun to go through this with Winnie, to see how she reacts to other babies, to see her understanding of the people in her life grow.  She loves identifying and listing her friends and family members, and I hope this is laying a framework for processing the growth of our family.  It’s going to blow all of our minds, I know, but so did Winnie, and we’re all the better for it.

This pregnancy is different, this baby will be different, and our love will be different and bigger once she is here. Somewhere between nine and fourteen weeks to go!

 

The First Trimester is the Worst Trimester (and other reasons I’m telling you I’m pregnant)

My left eye won’t stop twitching.

I sleep nine hours a night, take hours long naps, and I’m still exhausted.

I feel like if I grit my teeth really hard, I might not retch, but then again, I might, and I have a splitting headache from all this teeth gritting, or possibly from not drinking enough water because it makes my stomach all wobbly or also possibly from the aforementioned eye twitching.

And I’m growing a baby!

I mean, it’s not a baby yet. It’s a fetus, about the size of an olive, and it had a tail until a few days ago.  The sentence structure up there sort of implies I’m actively doing something here, which I’m not— mostly just the teeth gritting and the deep breathing and the toddler parenting and the prayers of “whoa, thanks for this!” followed by prayers of “are you nuts?!”.

Most people wait until 12 weeks, or even more, to start telling people about a pregnancy.  There are a million and one reasons for doing so, and people who want to wait to talk about it should absolutely be respected for doing so.  But then there are those of us who do like to talk about it earlier than that, and not just out of sheer inability to delay gratification.  (Fun fact: as a kid I was OBSESSED with the Stanford marshmallow experiment [I have literally no idea how I knew this was a thing], and so I would constantly try delay my own gratification, by meting out Halloween candy across months, drinking my Hi-C realllllly slowllllly, or [gag] eating all of the gross Lucky Charms cereal pieces before the vastly superior marshmallow pieces.  I have since changed my ways.)  

It’s no secret that I miscarried with my first pregnancy.  Mike and I found out we were pregnant at the end of February, told everyone we knew in March, honeymooned in April, and found out that I miscarried in May.  It was without symptom, without warning.  We knew it could happen, but that didn’t change the outcome.

With Winnie, I worried for nine months, because that was all I could do.  We still told everyone early on, because our openness borne out of naiveté in the first pregnancy was a blessing— we were surrounded by a support system, and we had been able to inform our loved ones (and even just our well-liked ones!) of our pregnancy with joy in our voices instead of tears in our eyes.

We met with some resistance, for sure.  People would raise an eyebrow when I answered how far along I was with a “six weeks” or “eight weeks”.  Someone told me that while she didn’t consider it so, didn’t I know it was considered rude to tell people before twelve weeks?

But beyond the logistics of I-can’t-stay-awake-or-keep-down-my-lunch, and beyond the building up a supportive nest on which to fall should healthy pregnancies go awry, there are other reasons that we choose to tell people earlier rather than later that we’re expecting.

We tell others because we want to share our joy. By no small miracle, joy is joy is joy is joy is joy.  There’s little better.  And hiding that under a bushel 1) doesn’t work and 2) doesn’t change a darned thing.  I don’t expect everyone to find as much joy in my bringing life into the world as I do, of course, but I’m not going to cloak happiness in secrecy under the auspices of protecting myself or others.

On the other side of that coin— fear is fear is fear, and it’s not ever going away, not out of logic, anyway. The first time I rode the subway without Winnie, I felt the intensity of separation more strongly than I thought possible.  I recalled how many train rides we had taken with her strapped snugly to my chest, and how many (many many) rides before that we had taken together with her nestled inside of me, with all of ME to protect her.  The very act of having a child is, as a friend put it to me, like tying your heart to the outside of your body.  Or like leaving a vital organ at daycare, I guess.  The possibilities are enough to keep anyone awake at night, even if the truly scary bits never happen to most people.  But that trust is an act of joy in and of itself— every moment that your babe grows into her own, above and beyond your input, is like a one-two in the solar plexus, sure, but in the moments you can move around and through the scary stuff, it’s glee.  It’s glee when she walks, when she says your name, when she has a friend.  It’s glee, so much glee, when she learns— and it’s fear every time she inches outside of those carefully set parameters.  Even though it is statistically more likely for a pregnancy to end in the first trimester than it is in the second or third, and certainly more likely than something happening after your child is born— we can’t build a life around that fear.  I can’t even build a few measly weeks around it!

So that’s why I’m here, in this space, telling you that I’m pregnant, and that Mike and I are expecting a babe sometime around Winnie’s second birthday.  Because I want you to share in our delight, if you’d like, and I want you there if we stumble.

PS: Other voices in the same vein:

“I’m Pregnant. So Why Can’t I Tell You?”| Abigail Rasminsky | Medium.com (This one is so, so good.  Read it.)

Why We’ve Never Waited Twelve Weeks to Tell People We’re Pregnant” | Kris Buse | Offbeat Families

+ Duchess of Cambridge, x2

+ Every online pregnancy discussion board, x1,000,000