Sunday, June 30, 2013

adventures in prenatal yoga or, what is a vaginal sphincter? 15 weeks, 2 days

I’m going to be honest. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to yoga. Which is surprising. Because in every other way, I’m a progressive stereotype; a liberal wet dream. I’m a vegetarian, NPR is always on in at least one room of our home, I drive a Subaru, I’m a human rights lawyer, YAWN. By all indications, I should be a full time practicing yogi; I should be on a silent retreat in India and combination juice fast at least monthly. And believe me, there’s part of me that wants to be. Part of me that really wishes I really liked yoga because, you know, all the cool kids are doing it.

So it was with great trepidation that I ventured[1] into my very first prenatal yoga class on Wednesday evening. A long, narrow room, lined on either side by proverbially glowing pregnant women, in various compilations of stretchy spandex tanks and leggings and a healthy dose of lululemon. All sitting serenely, with their hands on their massively-pregnant-bellies, mats before them, and what are those giant couch cushions doing behind them? And me, by far the smallest and least pregnant among them, at barely 15 weeks, scrambling nervously to pay cash and quietly explaining to “Bec” that it was hi, my first time, <incomprehensible>, I’ll just go to the back, <incomprehensible> mmmkay? I felt like a fraud. I felt inexplicably naked without proof of my pregnant-ness on full display.

Soon, after everyone had used the bathroom 18 times because ohmygoodness uterus! bladder! madness! pregnant stereotype! we began. If only I had known then what I know now – kegels-vaginal-sphincter-pelvic-floor-oh my!

First, we went around the room and everyone said how far along they were, how they were feeling and what they hoped to get out of their practice.

In sum:

More than half of the women casually mentioned they were between 35-39 weeks.[2]
Literally every single woman, when describing how she was feeling, offered – in a kind of devastating, terrifying, such-a-dark-place-harbinger-of-what’s-to-come! kind of way that belied her glowing face and beautifully rounded belly – I am so, so, tired. SOVERYTIRED.
Other such positivity included, “I feel fine, I’m just annoyed with the world” and “I’m just happy to be away from my other kids.”

As I wondered distractedly whether this was what AA was like, it suddenly became my turn. Again regressing to some version of an insecure 7 year old on her first day in a new school, I mumbled my name, cheekily joked that I was just happy to be done with the first trimester, HAR HAR HAR – upon which time I realized that for many women in the room, the first trimester was, you know, approximately 45 weeks ago. If that wasn’t enough, I then proceeded to lie[3], closely followed by an attempt to brown nose? win points with women I hardly knew and might never see again? be totally deep and sincere because 10 minutes in and I was already feeling SERIOUSLY ZEN? offer some kind of olive branch by stating how impressed I was to see all of these full term women doing yoga and how I *cringe* hoped I would be like them one day! Everyone smiled, polite laughter, <buries face in hands.> (Or something like that. I’ve blacked it all out at this point.)

With that over with, we proceeded to the yoga. Let the estrogen roll!

If it wasn’t already apparent, this yoga class was different. The words “vaginal sphincter” were dropped at least half a dozen times – and yet I remain uncertain about what exactly I was supposed to be doing with my lady parts during those unexpectedly frequent moments? A lot of women took pee breaks[4]. And there was much discussion of Kegels[5] and “the pelvic floor”.  

There was also some deep ommm-ing and, admittedly, some legitimately difficult yoga poses. During one especially terrifying encounter, we were asked to partner up. Luckily!, I was paired with a woman who is clearly 39 weeks and carrying triplets. She was supposed to hold my wrists and lean back. And I was supposed to support her. Because, you know, I’m 5’7 5’3, 115 and we just met. The look of terror in her eyes as she slowly leaned back was, honestly, kind of priceless[6]. Also, TERROR!

90 minutes later it was all over and I was at peace with the world and all of humankind. I still don’t know where my vaginal sphincter is but I do plan to return to find out.

[1] I chose this word carefully. Because the way I – the least pregnant among us – entered this yoga class was distinct: the other women –and I say this fully knowing that I am one of them ohmygodsoverysoonwaddled.
[2] You just take a moment to let that sink in. 37 weeks is full term, like ready to have a baby right this very minute.
[3] Truth: I said I was 15 weeks so I would sound cool. I was really 14 weeks, 5 days. <guilty look.>
[4] And I was one of them.
[5] Seriously though, please raise your hand if you’ve done Kegels. Did I just totally miss the boat on this?
[6] Update: mother and baby (babies?) are fine.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

let's talk about sex: 14 weeks, 5 days

To my mother and my aunt and, in an exercise of caution, to some mysterious, yet to be named, third relative who might be reading, lurking anonymously, and discovering my inner most secrets and, well, let’s just be honest, to anyone else who is over 40 and knows us in real life – please, I implore you. Skip this post. And, instead, here is an adorable video of a baby chimp, tiger cub and wolf puppy on a play date.   

<Okay, is everyone gone? Is it safe to start?>

Sex. All the cool kids are talking about it. It’s at the periphery of all discussions of conception and infertility – when you’re having it, how often, on what schedule. Or, sometimes, in the case of IUI or IVF, it’s about what you’re doing in lieu of sex – feet in stirrups, knees up, a totally vulnerable position of exposure that somehow no longer phases you, fluorescent lighting, threesome with the fertility clinic nurse.

We often talk about it, but not explicitly – substituting elementary school names (baby dance) and insufferable acronyms (BD), alongside the more inventive and aspirational (jungle time/trapeze style swings/etc).

During the months of Clomid and IUI it was foremost in our minds – timing was, literally, everything. When C had to work nights in the ICU, when we were away for the weekend in tight quarters with friends, when we were just too tired – we still had to have sex. A schedule, a timeframe, a veritable biological clock. In some ways it brought us closer – although there was timing, there was also, somehow, an increased sense of spontaneity. Until the dictates of my cycle required it, and after more than a decade together, we didn’t always try to fit in quickies in all manner of times and locations.

So (deep insight here) infertility shaped our sex lives – at least temporarily. And ironically, it was ultimately IUI, and not straight up sex that yielded a (seemingly *fingers crossed*) viable pregnancy.

But infertility sex did nothing to prepare me for pregnancy sex. Or, more honestly, first trimester pregnancy sex. It’s almost inexplicable now, looking back *whistful sigh as she recalls the distant, long ago first trimester, less than two weeks past*.

*Deep breath* let’s cut to the chase because it has now taken me nearly six paragraphs to get here: I wanted nothing to do with sex, romance or intimacy in the first trimester. It was, in a word, in my words, catastrophic. Any interest I had was obliterated; I, albeit temporarily – though I did not know that at the time – became wholly, and completely, uninterested in sex. I was *cringe* a completely a-sexual being – robotic, unfeeling, uninterested. Did we have sex? Of course – the first trimester is 12 (and, by the math of the clinically insane, THIRTEEN) godforsaken weeks. But it wasn’t… the same.

I realize I am running the risk of hyperbole and have long since passed the threshold of over-sharing – (YOU’RE WELCOME). But I want to be honest about this because as I was going through it, I felt, well, OUT-OF-MY-MIND-CRAZY. I felt like I would never be myself again. I felt like I would never look at C the same way. I felt exhausted, nauseated, bloated and hormonal. I felt selfish. I expended what little energy I had on buoying myself through a long day and by six o’clock, I had very little left to give. My primary interests were long walks on the beach and candlelit dinners maintaining some minimal level of effectiveness at work, eating as many bland carbohydrates as possible, keeping a firm hold on my SeaBands, and trying in vain, with what little energy remained, to exercise. And that was it. The sweet overtures of my (usually) patient husband were – gosh I sound like a total wench – secondary.

Thankfully, it was fleeting. Slowly, as week 12 approached, and then receded into my distant memory, I began to feel more like myself. I’m still exhausted, I still have intermittently strong food aversions (garlic, lime, seltzer water, chocolate[1]), I still have exciting new pregnancy stuff going on – like, Where is all this snot coming from? and Owww, that’s my uterus! – but I feel more whole. And of course, the sex is much, much better.

(I know what you’re thinking: well, shucks, that was a big transition from funny baby capitalism post about Guantanamo baby hoods and all-things-Sophie-the-giraffe to profound! explicit sex talk. But you know, I’m a woman of mystery, etc. Anyway, tonight is my first pre-natal yoga class so… I’m anticipating plenty of funny to report. In the meantime, tell me that a swaddle-sleep-sack doesn’t inevitably, and instantly, turn your cooing infant into a fundamentalist cult member?)

[1] If that isn’t a totally bizarre assortment, I don’t know what is. Seltzer is not even a food.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

baby capitalism, 13 weeks, 4 days

We’ve done it. We’ve dipped our toes in the treacherous waters of baby commoditization and THERE IS NO TURNING BACK NOW. Hold on to your Sophie the Giraffe[1] and Manhattan Toy Winkels!

It all started with Adam Davidson’s recent piece in the NY Times Magazine, The Sippy Cup 1%. The article is a rather startling ethnography of the hypercompetitive commodity market of all things baby, through the lens of the Brooklyn Baby Expo – which was, no doubt, an insufferable affair, full of children named “Seneca” and “Juniper” and “Grover[2]” and parents comparing their children’s raw diet and “diaper-free” living.[3] The article tells tales of a $5000 stroller – which obviously converts into a spaceship because, GAH, so much money! – but is also an interesting and profound commentary on the fact that, basically, all parents are TOTAL SUCKERS who will buy anything if it keeps baby safe/BPA free/ivy league bound.

Of course, it left me wondering. How much does a stroller cost? And does this mean I can’t name my baby Juniper?

So, first trimester safely under our belt and nausea now relegated to an every-other-night-annoyance, C and I took a dive into Amazon-baby-registry-land. The only safe space, behind the glow of a laptop, where other moms-to-be can’t judge and where my future employer, who does not yet know I’m pregnant, can’t run into me in the cloth diaper aisle. <Furtively looks left to right>.

[Cut to C and Sarah perusing the Amazon Baby Best Sellers feverishly and with abandon]

<Exclamations of panic and horror over the price. OF LITERALLY EVERYTHING.>

<Labored breathing/wipes sweat from brow/tries to contain self/checks bank account/recovers>

C: Ooh diaper bags, what’s going on in the world of diaper bags? (Dead serious, and interest piqued. Inexplicably. Is this my husband?)
C: We’re not getting a prissy diaper bag, are we? We need something made by craftsmen.
S: <perplexed look>. So… you want a diaper bag made of reclaimed wood?

C: Oh yeah, look at that baby gate, that’s the kind of gate I like!
S: A gate? There are bath towels with bear ears and you’re interested in a gate?

S: Ooh, I like this ErgoBabyCarrier. But “supportive hood” just makes me think of Guantanamo – it sounds so dark.
C: What?! Who ARE you?

Then, in between describing various “bouncers” as “frightening” and debating the merits of a diaper genie – utterly disgusting or shockingly necessary? WE MUST KNOW NOW! – we were stopped dead in our tracks.

"Am I busy? Oh no, not at all!"
(I’ll give you a minute to digest this totally amazing photo).

How on earth can this “mother[4]” be casually chatting away on what appears to be a giant, antiquated Blackberry. Doesn’t she know there are giant plastic contraptions dangling from her boobs, meanwhile she is suffocating in some kind of restrictive, medieval girdle? LADY! GET IT TOGETHER!

We laughed our heads off for entire minutes. We are so much better than this woman! This woman is CRAZY!

We said. Before growing eerily silent. We both knew what was coming. I plan on breastfeeding. I also plan on working full time. <Deep breath, looks at feet>.

<Quietly now, and with great resignation>. I will be buying a restrictive, medieval girdle and hanging giant plastic contraptions off my boobs EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

You win, Amazon. You win.

<End scene.>

[1] Seriously though, what is it about this giraffe?
[2] I think we all knew that a Portlandia clip would make it in here somewhere.
[3] For real. I could not make this up – a friend of mine just confided that one of the other parents in her son’s day care subscribes to some totally bananas heretofore-unknown-potty-training-“method” wherein after two months, she goes entirely diaper free. She literally holds her infant over the toilet at… random intervals? Every ten minutes, just for good measure? WHO KNOWS. One thing is for sure, she spends an inordinate amount of time dangling an infant over a toilet making futile pleas for it to act on demand. (Moments later: Okay, so I totally just Googled “diaper free” and the first hit was a thoughtful commentary about diaper-free support groups and “elimination communication.” I can’t even. I just can’t.)
[4] I put mother in quotes because her stomach is far too flat and clearly not-recently-the-carrier-of-a-fetus. Amazon, you devious bastard.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

work it girl, 12 weeks, 6 days

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about work. About work and babies and my career and babies and childcare and, also, babies. I’ve been looking back at my self-assured-but-actually-totally-na├»ve self who ranted on just months ago about Sheryl Sandberg and leaning in and leaning back and can’t I just sit up straight?

I’m currently doing work that I love, in a two-year fellowship that wraps up this summer. This summer, the summer that I am, finally, so much later than I expected to be, pregnant. The summer where I have to contemplate things like maternity-bathing-suit and no mojitos. The summer that I have spent, pregnant, hiding my SeaBands, and interviewing for new jobs.

Last week, I got two job offers. And in my decision-making, there was something new I contemplated – What will this job mean for an infant? How will my commute affect the additional costs of childcare? What kind of career do I want? *pulls out hair* WHAT KIND OF LIFE WILL I LEAD!

It all felt, quite frankly, really, terrifyingly, adult.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

novice mistakes, 11 weeks, 6 days

First, thank you to all of you for your incredibly kind and thoughtful words and cheerleading on my last post. Celebrating this pregnancy – instead of, you know, persisting in a state of completely paralyzing anxiety – has at times been challenging. But if my laugh-crying is any indication, I’m getting there. Mostly though, just thank you. I know that many of you are still deep in the infertility struggle, so the kind words mean even more. And now, on to the funny!

I’m no expert. In fact, the act of simply writing this – as if I even sort of know what I’m talking about – is bound to induce the M word or some other parade of horribles. But because I am completely unhinged calm, cool, and TOTALLY CONFIDENT, I press on.

So. Here is a totally non-exhaustive list of completely random things that I did do, and that you should not do, under any circumstances, during the first trimester of pregnancy. I hope you can learn from my novice mistakes:

1. Riding a ferry
Seriously, what are you, some kind of deranged masochist? We all know that non-drowsy children’s Dramamine is a joke. 

2. Interviewing for a new job
No matter that you’re wearing tightly-cinched-at-the-wrists long sleeves under your suit jacket in 85-degree weather and look like some iteration of a clinically insane prairie wife. One wrong move could reveal your wrist-bound SeaBands – literally the only thing standing between you and projectile vomiting. Sure, whatever, you know they can’t nix you for being pregnant – hello lawsuit – but you also know that would never be the stated reason.

3. Being present – or anywhere within smelling distance (which, when you’re in your first trimester, is, approximately, 18 miles) – when someone is eating marrow[1]
I don’t even know what to say about this one. Just writing it out so disgusts me that I can hardly continue. It may be true that prior to being pregnant, your partner has never, ever, eaten bone marrow. But the first trimester may, inexplicably, find you at a series of pretentious-hipster restaurants where bone marrow is somehow featured prominently on the menu as a kind of appalling “appetizer”. And your beloved partner, or one of your dear, dear friends, will say something convincing like, I mean, seriously, WHEN are we ever going to have THIS again? To which the only appropriate response swill inevitably be – NEVER! LET’S EAT IT RIGHT NOW! LET’S ORDER TWO!  <everyone breaks into frenzied and delirious excitement>. If you find yourself in this situation, I implore you. Intervene! Provide a reasoned analysis. Namely, there will be other times to eat adventurously. Like, you know, any time, whatsoever, when you are not pregnant. Like, literally, ANY FUCKING TIME THAT IS NOT RIGHT NOW. 

4. Fiendishly consuming an entire bag of sour gummy peaches under the auspices of a legitimate sour candy craving that must be sated IMMEDIATELY
Purely hypothetically speaking, you may find yourself, in an aisle of a northern California Walgreens, as your partner, in his most soothing, understanding, but secretly terrified voice, tries to bring you down off the ledge of mass corn syrup consumption. In an escalating series of let’s face it, pained exclamationswhispers” you will assure him that you know exactly what you are doing, despite his desperate entreaties to PLEASE EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION since, really, you haven’t had anything but oatmeal and pasta for days. No matter. You press on, defiant. Of course, as everyone knew it would, it all ends in four words: EXCRUCIATING HEARTBURN FOR DAYS.

[1] I know what you’re thinking. Marrow? You can’t be serious. It’s disgusting, it suggests I only dine in the lavish castles of medieval kings, etc. But here I am, subjecting you, loyal reader, to it’s very being. SO. Without further adieu, I invite you to replace marrow with “anything remotely adventurous that has a pungent odor and looks like the inside of your elbow.” There. That’s better.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

total dream, 11 weeks 2 days

I’ve struggled with how to find the right words to start this. Everything continues to feel very surreal.

On Friday we saw two arms, two legs, a brain and a heartbeat; a fetus, which, according to the book, is what it should be called now, however painfully clinical that sounds. Little hands, up by it’s mouth, legs a kicking. Heartbeat of 167. Even as I write this, it still doesn’t feel real. I came home Friday intending to post – to try to capture that raw emotion that one feels right after an appointment. But I couldn’t. It still seemed like a dream[1].

Throughout the entire thing, as C held my hand and grinned from ear to ear – hi, little baby – I couldn’t stop (wait for it) laughing. There were tears streaming down my cheeks but I was also laughing. In fits and starts, and in that kind of frenetic emotional state where you say out loud what everyone else can actually see – I’m laughing, I’m crying – because it’s all just so strange. Because I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. I just couldn’t believe that we were here. I couldn’t believe that I had graduated and moved across the hall from fertility clinic to bona fide OB office[2]. I couldn’t believe that the waiting room was full of visibly pregnant women – so pregnant that one was eating a football size burrito[3] while she waited and another was rubbing her belly and pacing, as though labor was imminent. I just couldn’t believe it – not any of it, frankly.

In our chat with the OB afterward, I was still floating. She was primed for my disbelief. When I began to ask her, so now that we’ve made it to 11 weeks, what is – she cut me off, the risk of miscarriage? I guess she’s been to this rodeo before. I could hear C’s deep, I’ve had it up to hear with your negativity, sigh but he also smiled – I think somehow content that he can read my mind; he too knew exactly what I was going to ask.

The rest of the visit is a bit of a blur. We talked about early screening tests, we talked about my B12 levels, I gave the lecherous nurses about nine pints of my blood, etc. All very riveting, I know. And then we walked out of there, still, as if on a cloud.

We have some prenatal care decisions to make – apparently I’m now a woman who says things like that <shakes head disapprovingly> – and believe it or not, the life outside my uterus has also been, in a word, busy. In addition to fetus arms and legs[4], the last week has been full of, ahem, milestones – potential new job and I ate my first salad in over a month (those two things are totally equal in my book). So, you know, BIG WEEK HERE tempered excitement.

[1] Also, let’s be honest, I was starving. And you know, pregnancy has its priorities… <nom, nom, nom>.
[2] Apparently, I also graduated to a less invasive form of ultrasound. No more transvaginal wandings for this uterus. Which is why, as I motioned to the tech if I should like, you know, strip from the waist down <unbuttoning pants>, she was horrified. Oh, you just want me to pull my shirt up? C had his palm to his forehead at this point, basically hysterical.
[3] Woman after my own heart, naturally. Of course, this particular burrito smelled like iceberg lettuce, LETTUCE! – which, I promise you, has a smell when you’re pregnant – and had my stomach in somersaults. But whatever.
[4] I am aware that the phrase “fetus arms and legs” sounds totally creepy.