The nursery-ish

Update: I am still pregnant. I am extremely grateful for this fact, considering that I finally got around to scheduling my birth class, and it’s tomorrow, when I am officially 39 weeks pregnant. Nothing like cutting it close I guess.

This weekend, my sister came out and helped us with the nursery. She and my wife stripped and painted this bookcase, which used to live in my sister’s old apartment in Hells Kitchen.

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I finished setting up the crib and changing table and guest bed as well. Not pictured here: pile of bathroom stuff in corner, blinds waiting to be hung, drill and toolbox on the floor, etc. Also the cat has taken to sleeping in the bassinet, so I suppose that I will need to re-wash the sheets. Turns out cats LOVE sleeping in places intended for babies. I am glad that ours are too lazy/lack the ability to get their furry little feline bodies into the actual crib. Most expensive cat bed ever.

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The little signs that say Welcome Baby aren’t permanent. They are from a little shower that I had at work, but we don’t really have much for the walls and I want our little one to know how excited we are to bring him or her home, especially since his or her older siblings are still…. Less than excited.

The super-hazardous lamp from our living room that’s sitting on the changing table is also not permanent, but the floor lamps I like are pretty gendered, so we are waiting to see which gender-stereotypes to enforce before we get one. You know, hot pink or football, that sort of thing.

Anyway, still lots to do, but I’m feeling like if I had the baby next weekend, it wouldn’t be a total shit-show of unpreparedness. So this is progress, right?

And for good measure, a bump selfie and one in the nursery.

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the OB swap

Starting around 20 weeks pregnant, I became worried about finding a good birthing class. I really want to try to have a medication-free birth if possible, so I feel like to need a class that focuses more on natural pain management, rather than medication. All of the classes offered by my hospital are one part Lamaze, which I’m not crazy about, and one part medication focused, so they didn’t feel like a good fit to me. I thought about Bradley classes, but we just don’t have the time to commit (they seem to be 3-4 hours a week for 12 weeks). Plus, since we share custody of our kids, we really like to be home on the nights we have them. Suddenly, I thought to myself, “This is stupid. I’m sure my doctor’s office has a list of classes I can take home and pick from.”

So, at my 24 week appointment, which was really during my 25th week because of my crazy work schedule, I asked. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I was wondering if you had any information about childbirth classes. I really want to try to have a natural birth (I hate that phrase, by the way, because what exactly is an unnatural birth? But it was a short-hand). I looked at Bradley classes, but the time commitment is too much for us, so we were looking for something a little more low-key.
Dr. Condescending: I really don’t like Bradley method. Let me tell you why. They are very anti-doctor. I’m an excellent doctor. I know what to do. I’ve won (some random award I don’t give a shit about) for being so great. So I will tell you what you should do. I’ll tell you when to have the epidural, you don’t have to worry about that. I’ll tell you when to push. Etc. (I sort of stopped listening here because it was all just the same.)
Me: Okay. But I didn’t want to do Bradley classes. I was wondering if you had any information about other classes. And I really wanted to avoid an epidural if I can.

You can imagine how it proceeded from here. It was basically a monologue by Dr. C at this point because I was speechless. Some gems include:
“If you wanted a birth like that, you should have gone to a midwife or some kind of Chinese medicine, not come to a doctor’s office.”
“Just take the class at the hospital.”
“Stop worrying about this stuff so much and try to enjoy your pregnancy a little more.”
“You’re in the significant minority here.”
“Only 10% of women can give birth without some kind of medical assistance.”

He wrapped it all up with a delivery horror story about another doctor who did not force his patient to have an epidural against her wishes, and how she ended up in all kinds of pain. The story concluded with, “Maybe it’s true what they say about male OBs but I don’t like to see my patients in pain when I know I have the power to fix it.”

All in all, it seemed to me like he had some kind of God-complex. Like he was the bringer of life and I was some kind of extra, wandering around the set and getting in the way of the drama he was starring in. I left the office without saying anything, got in my car, and called my wife sobbing. I wanted to switch practices.

A couple of things about my wife. First, this was the first and only appointment she didn’t come to. It was supposed to be an easy one! Second, she has given birth three times, all of them with an epidural. So while she is supportive of my desires, I am more firmly in the trenches on this one. I’m not an idiot, however. I’d rather have an epidural if there is a chance of having a c-section, because then I am awake. I would have an epidural if my labor was really stalled and they thought it would help me progress. I don’t want to do these things, but I will. I want the baby to be healthy, right?

So we devised a plan. Rather than switching doctors at 25 weeks, we’d meet with one of the women in the practice. We would explain what was said to me, and what we wanted, and they would reassure me and everything would be fine. And Dr. C would not deliver our baby, no matter what. I could live with this, I thought. Also, I got the sense that my wife thought I might have been overstating things just a bit. So I was willing to give it a try with her there to help me out a little.

So at the 28 week appointment, with the one female doctor that was more senior than Dr. C, I launched into it. I didn’t repeat verbatim all the really nice offensive things that were said to me, but I did throw in the bit about Chinese medicine, because it was too good to leave out, and I think gives a good sense of the tone of the conversation.

She started out great, with some nice words about how that is horrible and of course it’s my body, so no one can make me have an epidural if I don’t want one. But then it shifted a little. She started lobbying me to change my mind. She told me that most people can’t handle the pain, even if they go into it thinking they can. She said that many labors stall, and the epidural is the only way to get them started again. She made a joke about a woman who brought a birthing ball. She said she didn’t like birth plans, especially if they requested no pitocin after the birth, because “most women need it to stop the bleeding.” I didn’t say anything, because my mind was pretty made up at this point that I wanted to change practices.

After all of this, my wife threw her a softball. “But she gets to consent to anything, right? So for example, you wouldn’t just do an episiotomy?”

“Oh, we do them all the time. Otherwise you tear. We don’t really ask about it, there isn’t time.”

And with that, we were done. We thanked her, and left the office without making my next appointment. It wasn’t so much what she said, but the whole attitude of the office. No one has ever mentioned nutrition to me, other than once when Dr. C said, around 12 weeks, “don’t get fat, and you’ll be fine.” No one has mentioned breastfeeding. No one suggested a flu shot, or any resources to educate myself about anything.

In the car, after the appointment, I think my wife was more surprised than I was.

So that is why we changed. I found an all female OB practice that uses the same hospital, since I really wanted to deliver there. They have a midwife on staff. I made an appointment and walked in 32 weeks pregnant to meet my new doctor, with a horrible feeling in the back of my mind hat it was totally possible that she would be just as bad as the practice I left, and I would still be searching for a doctor, four weeks more pregnant than the last time I did this.

When she called me back, my wife and I stood up. “I’m sorry,” she said. “We need to see the patient alone first. Then we’re happy to meet with both of you.” I was actually elated by this. Not because I had anything I didn’t want my wife to hear, but because what if I did? What if I was secretly eating laundry starch in the closet or something? I had a safe space to talk about it. I sat down in Dr. O’s office and said I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth.

“If you’re determined, we’ll do everything in our power to help you. I had an unmedicated birth for my two sons, so if I can do it, I know you can too.” The whole conversation basically went like this. She noted in my file that I wanted an unmedicated birth and asked me to bring in my birth plan so they could add it to my file and have it sent to the hospital. The next appointment, the doctor asked me to get a flu shot, talked to me about how to keep having a healthy pregnancy, and said she had also had an unmedicated birth. It was so nice to feel like my doctors supported me.

And you know what? I never brought in that birth plan. I thought through the issues, and talked about it with my wife, but I never brought it in. I guess I will, maybe at my next appointment, but it suddenly seems so much less important. I guess when you actually trust the care you are getting from your provider, it’s a little easier to let go and see what will happen. I would feel 100% ok having an epidural if one of these doctors thought it was the best thing for me. I would have felt bullied, and pressured, and like a failure having one at the recommendation of one of the doctors in my previous practice.

Changing providers late in my pregnancy was scary, but I would absolutely recommend it if you don’t trust that your doctor is giving you the kind of care you need and deserve. Oh also. The wait times at my new doctor’s office are less than half the wait times at the old office. Just another way they treat their patients respectfully.

Locked and Loaded

Nothing like a good gun metaphor when talking about childbirth. But it is kind of violent, isn’t it?

Today I am 37 weeks pregnant. I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning after everyone else had left, eating toast and watching a little video on my phone about baby’s development, thinking about how not ready I feel for all of this. I got up and went to the bathroom before work, and there were three big globs of snot on the paper, one of which was tinged with blood. I guess this is the mucous plug, right?

I called my wife, who DID NOT ANSWER. I called right back and yelled at her, of course. That phone needs to be stapled to her head at this point, and anyone she is on with is going to have to wait through the periodic updates of my bodily functions. We are having a baby, here, people.

I decided to quickly pack for the hospital, even though I know from the one-pager that my OB gave me just two short days ago that it could be a couple of weeks still, and that passing the mucous plug “does not bear much significance.” It feels significant to me, nonetheless.

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So there we are. A bathrobe, a camera, some nipple cream, one of the three outfits for baby that I have washed so far, and a boppy, all lined up and ready to go. I already have a mental list of the things I have forgotten, which I suppose is why you pack in advance. For example, I wonder what I will be wearing home from the hospital? My work clothes, or perhaps the bathrobe? And what good are breast pads with no nursing bra to put them in? These kinds of things.

Even so, it feels good to have that bag sitting there, just in case.

Thirty-six plus five

Well, the holidays are over! I took my last trip of the pregnancy last week. My family went skiing in southern Vermont, while I hung out with the dog and ate cookies. It was nice for them to get a ski trip in before the baby comes, but I have to be honest — I am ok with the fact that there isn’t another 4 hour car trip in my near future. I never knew how exhausting sitting in a car could be.

I feel like the last few months of this pregnancy have slipped by in a haze of chores and work, work and more work. Suddenly, here I am, a week and 2 days away from being “full term.” I am big. I have a rock-hard basketball appended to the front of my body. I can still shave my legs and tie my shoes, but both require bending in not-so-graceful ways. I tried a couple of prenatal yoga podcasts, and while the stretching felt great, anyone who recommends half-moon for a 37-weeks pregnant lady better put a net out, because the weight of the baby pulled me over every time. Sleep is elusive and my pelvis is uncomfortable.

And yet, I am so grateful to be here. Lots of my friends have made it to this point having dealt with “complicated” pregnancies — gestational diabetes, horrible morning sickness, and the like. Others have not made it to this point at all, being unable to get pregnant or carry their little ones to term. When I think of these ladies, I want to complain just a little less and be just a touch more grateful. And yet, there is someone regularly kicking me in the cervix.

The benefit to being kicked, jabbed, and head-butted in the cervix is that I learned today I am a centimeter dilated. The baby is really coming, it turns out, and soon, in relative terms. At my OB appointment this morning, we talked about labor and what it feels like and when to call. My doctor encouraged me to labor at home as long as I can, both to be more comfortable and to allow the labor to progress without undue monitoring as long as possible. And also so I can eat. I like all of these points.

The centimeter of dilation has made this real in a way that being huge and watching the weeks tick by has not. Suddenly, we find ourselves on the brink of delivery without a car seat, or a birth plan, or a tour of the hospital, or having taken a birthing class, or a crib and with a too-small stash of diapers and clothes. Oops. Time to get real, I guess. We will tour the labor and delivery floor of our hospital on Wednesday night and stock up the nursery a bit this weekend.

We also need to talk to the kids about the reality of the baby. In much the same way it has not seemed real to me, I am confident that it’s not quite real to them. We talk about the baby in the vaguest of terms, but that does not mean they appreciate that there could literally be a baby here tomorrow. We need to talk logistics, and also let them know what to expect with a new baby in the house. They have heard me say “January 28” to so many strangers that I am sure they have not entertained the idea that baby could be early, or late. And I expect that if I go into labor when they are around, it will be a bit scary, especially so since I have had such an easy pregnancy and thus there has not been much focus on the physical changes I have been going through.

All of this is to say that, now that I have emerged from the fog that is work and the holidays and my ever-traveling lifestyle, it’s time to get ready for a baby!