sleeping like a baby

Life has been particularly hard these days. My mom, who has MS, slipped in the shower on Monday and knocked herself unconscious.  There is some debate over whether she in fact slipped, or whether she actually had some kind of neurological event (like a mini-stroke) which caused her to be unconscious in the shower.  My mom is a fantastic denier and tried to tell me later that day that she was “fine now” because her speech was only a little slurred (the S’s were  fine, just the W’s were still giving her trouble) and she could use her right arm again, just not her right leg. Uh huh.  The same day, I found out my 91 year old grandfather was having surgery and had been in the hospital all weekend. Also, Christmas with 4 kids, and working, and having new windows installed this week. Also, my mother in law broke her wrist ice skating with our big kids on Thanksgiving weekend, and lived with us for a week until she acclimated to life in a cast. Then, last week, she had skin cancer removed from her leg and stayed with us for another few days since she could not walk her dog.  Etc., etc.  Ii have been stretched as taut as a wire, ready to snap at the slightest additional force. 
Bumby has been feeling it, I think, and his naps have been all over the map lately. Some days he does not nap at all. Some days, he does not nap until after 4pm. Some days, he naps at 9:30 am and then again at 1pm. Once, he was awake from 1-3 am.  I begged my nanny today to tell me that he pleasepleaseplease was not going to be one of those kids who drops his nap all together at like  2 1/2. She promised he would not.
You may recall that when Bumby was born, he wouldn’t sleep anywhere except on me. I held him about 23.5 hours a day and was totally fine with that, for a while. By about 6 months, I desperately wanted him to sleep on his own. I felt trapped under him every time he would nap, and was itching to get up and do other things all the time. Plus, his sleep was in very short little bursts, because he would often be awakened by his reflux.  I wanted to roll over at night instead of spending 8 hours in the exact same position because there was a little nugget (and by little, I mean like 20 lbs) who was sleeping on my chest.  I wanted him to sleep more than 90 minutes in a row. Anything, to have a little break.
Now, he’s almost two, and sleeps in his own bed. Normally I nurse him and rock him in the rocking chair until he is sleepy, then he goes in his crib with his moose and kitty cat and that’s that. Today, I heard him on the monitor at nap time saying “Mama help you with nap.” You know, to himself, so that I would come up and help him. So I did. I came up and nursed him again, and rocked him in the chair. He fell asleep on top of me for the first time in months. I tell you what, if I had any confidence that he would have stayed asleep in the awkward position he was in, I would have spent however long he would sleep trapped under that kid. I so miss being trapped under a baby, with nothing to do for 90 minutes at a time other than smell his head and stare at his face with those squishy sleeping baby lips.

in which I try the blood-absorbing underpants

Shortly after Bumby was born, when my mother-in-law discovered that we were planning to cloth diaper him, she told me about her experiences working in hospitals in the ’60s and ’70s. Disposable diapers were relatively new, and the new mothers were afraid of them. What were they made of, that they could absorb such massive quantities of liquid without feeling wet? The prevailing fear was that they would absorb all of the water right out of the baby, leaving nothing but a shriveled up husk lying in the crib.

It was with this same sense of trepidation and awe that I purchased the blood-absorbing period underwear.

In case you are not familiar, they are called Thinx, although for some reason in my head I always call them Spanx. I don’t know why. I realize that this is another brand with an “x” where there should be a “ks,” but common misspelling aside, I don’t know why I get the two brands confused. You may be familiar with Thinx because of their bizarre ad campaign involving women covering up each other’s ears and eyes:

Covering-Eyes-2

or falling to the ground:

fainting woman

I have no idea what these ads are supposed to convey (maybe she has fainted from lack of blood?). Also, the orange and brown is not that flattering.  Anyway.

Now is the part of the post where you hear a lot about my particular period. Fair warning.

Despite exclusively breastfeeding, I was lucky enough to start my period right away, six weeks after Bumby was born. Thanks, body, that was awesome of you. I was still sore, and did not want to wear tampons. “Fortunately,” I had a huge pack of super-sized overnight pads in my wife’s closet, and even some of those free hospital underwear to put them in, so as not to ruin my beloved maternity underwear (I seriously love and still wear my maternity underwear). I was sexy, y’all. Since then, my period has followed a familiar pattern:

Day 1 – Light flow, always a fucking surprise now that I am no longer tracking my cycle.
Day 2 – Super heavy in the morning, then gradually tapering off to something normal. Need to wake up to change tampon at least once overnight in order to avoid a murder scene in bed in the morning. Almost always ruin at least one thing because of walking all the way to the bathroom at work and forgetting to bring a tampon, or not realizing that one hour has passed so clearly I am about to start hemorrhaging all over the place.
Day 3 – Same as day 2.
Day 4 through ??? – Very light, just enough that I have to wear something all day or I ruin underwear and clothes, but not enough that I can really use a tampon because pulling out a dry tampon hurts like a mother and yet you can’t leave it in because of toxic shock and all kinds of other grossness. Usually at some point I “forget” I am on my period and just wear dark underwear and hope for the best. I never know how long my period actually lasts because my annoyance and “forgetting” ranges from day 5 to day 7 and I don’t know when it actually ends.

So, there it is. I still don’t love tampons, since Bumby was born. I just feel a little uncomfortable still, and don’t really like putting bleach and asbestos and who knows what else in my vagina more than I have to. Don’t say diva cup at me, either, I just can’t. So I thought, what the hell, I will give these things a try.

I bought one pair of hip huggers (for heavy days), two sportys and two cheekies (each for medium days). In retrospect, look back at the list above, and ask yourself why a person with two heavy days would only buy one set of “heavy day” underwear? I don’t know. It was stupid of me. Anyway, this ran me about $135.

Do they work?

Yes, they work. I tested this by pouring 1/4 cup of water into one of the pairs before putting them on my body, to make sure I wasn’t about to ruin (yet another) pair of pajama pants or set of sheets. They somehow absorb a lot of liquid while still feeling relatively dry and not getting all bulked up and weird. Science, is all I can say. For the record, I also did not wake up as a shriveled up husk. I am still a normal person with water in my body.

For my first heavy day, I wore one of the medium day underwear as a backup (the cheekies), and used tampons anyway. I was going to work, and could not risk an “issue,” plus even the heavy day Thinx are not designed to absorb 900 tampons worth of blood. The bottom line was that I could relax a little. When I walk all the way to the bathroom and forget to bring a tampon with me, no big deal. I can still take out the old one and just put a new one in next time. That kind of thing. No issues, no smell, not wet feeling, overall pleased.

The second heavy day, I was at home, so I thought I would see what happened if I just wore the Thinx alone. I decided to go to a yoga class that morning for a lot of complicated reasons that are irrelevant here — normally I do not spend my weekday mornings doing yoga, but particular day I did. At the end of the class, I had a feeling much like the feeling I had in seventh grade band class, when I did not expect my period so all that was between me and my ergonomically correct chair were my jeans and white Hanes Her Way. You know the feeling I mean. It’s a scary, scary feeling. I was like, please Spanx, please work. (By Spanx, I meant Thinx, of course.) And they did, but they could not handle what all of the twisting and lunging and warrior poses had caused. Luckily both my yoga pants and the seat of my car are black, so that unnecessary embarrassment was avoided, but let’s just say I need to do the “backup” method for the heavy days, and leave it at that.

For the light days, these things are perfect. I can just go about my business without worrying about the dry tampon problem or wearing pads like I am back in the 7th grade band class and also without ruining anything. Also, my days of waking up overnight to change tampons are over, because I use the Thinx as a backup for the tampon overnight.

Overall, 8 out of 10, I would say.

Washing: You are supposed to rinse them, then cold wash, then dry. The first time I washed them, I rinsed right away and then put them in a wet-bag (the kind you use for cloth diapers) until I had collected enough to wash. But after the fateful yoga class, I was in the shower with my Thinx soaking in the sink. Bumby was tooling around the bathroom doing Bumby things. And wouldn’t you know, that little shit threw my wife’s toothpaste into the sink where my Thinx were soaking. I didn’t even know he was tall enough to reach! Gross. Oh well, at least it wasn’t my toothpaste. So then the next time, I washed them the way I do my cloth diapers – throw them straight into the wet bag all nasty, and then when it’s time for a wash, dump the whole thing into the washer, run them through a cold-water rinse cycle first, then a regular wash cycle. Seems fine.

Now, the cost: I had hoped that these things would prove cost-effective in the long run, like cloth diapering, but because I can’t eliminate tampons all together, I am not sure that is the case. So let’s do some high-school algebra:

5 pairs of Thinx, which is enough to get me through one cycle having 2 washes = $135.

Tampons, in this stupid city where everything is more expensive than it should be = $0.36 each.

Number of tampons before Thinx: Maybe…… 30? or so? = $10.80 per cycle

Number of tampons after Thinx: Maybe…. 10? = $3.60 per cycle (and 1/3 of the bleach, asbestos, etc.)

So that’s a savings of about $7 per month. So these babies are paying for themselves within about 2 years. This is not SO bad, but it’s not going to make all the difference in your budget, either. Especially since, if I could do this again, I’d probably buy 7 or 8 pairs to space out the laundry a little more. I always have this feeling like they are a little scarce, and I am about to run out. And although you technically do not need to change them during the day, I liked to put on a fresh pair at night. I don’t know how long they will last, either — it is possible I will need to buy new ones after two years.  Although, I will have saved a lot more if you think about the number of sheets and pajamas I will have avoided ruining, and my entire family is probably grateful that instead of waking up overnight to change my tampon during a time of the month when I am not at my most patient anyway, I can now sleep through. God and Bumby willing, that is.

honey, I’m home.

I work part time. 

Most days, to be honest, I work because I “should.” I have run through this list with my wife ad nauseum as I have alternatively floated/asked/begged to be a stay-at-home mom. We like our lifestyle, which requires two incomes. It’s a good example for the kids to see working moms, killing it at their careers and earning respect in the workplace. It keeps you current to regularly interact with adults of all ages. It’s not good for the kids to be my “everything” because (wah wah) they will one day leave me to live lives of their own. Etc. 

Some days, I work because I really enjoy what I do. I’m on an interesting deal, I got to take on a role I’ve never had before, I drafted something that went straight to the client with no one else reviewing it. These days it’s easy to love work, because it involves positive feedback and pats on the head and excitement. 

Then there are days like today. Bumby has not been sleeping well at all lately, and has been grouchy and contrary as a result. Also, because he has not been sleeping, I am exhausted and have been, well, grouchy and contrary. Today I grudgingly dragged myself out of bed at 6:45, just an hour and a half after the most recent nighttime wake up, and took my shower to get ready for work. I drank an unspeakable amount of coffee, put on some clothes that were not leggings, and dragged myself to the office. 

The day wore on. It was boring. I checked Facebook a lot. I looked at online pictures of our new house and fantasized about the day I will not be too exhausted to start running again, while I ate chocolate at my desk. I bought a new nursing top from Gap.com. I did a little work. I researched “sleep schedule 14 months”. 10 minutes earlier than usual, I packed up and left the office and got on the train to go home. 

And you know what? I can’t wait. I’m excited to see the kids, both big and of the Bumby variety. I am looking forward to cooking something interesting for dinner involving leftover ham. I can’t wait to hear about their days, and I won’t even be annoyed if Bums wants me to hold him the whole time I make dinner. 

So sometimes I work (or “work,” as was the case today) just for a break, so I can actually tolerate my life again. Or even muster some enthusiasm for it.  That is ok too, I think. 

there was a day

Over the summer, I had the hardest day. We were out at the beach house, and my wife was at work, so I was totally alone with Bumby with no access to any friends or family or other support. He was in the middle of a no-sleep patch, and I was exhausted. I was trying to make the huge, horrible decision of whether to go back to work or not. It was 80 degrees but like 900 percent humidity so we were both uncomfortable and soggy all day. And Bumby would. not. nap. and give me just ten minutes to be alone with my overwhelmed thoughts. And then the dog started asking to go for a walk. 

I thought to myself, I just can’t. I can’t deal with any of it, and now this dog wants a piece of me too. I can’t. I can’t stay home with him, and I can’t bear the thought of going back to work. At that point, I had literally not been away from him for more than 2 hours, and had been away for  2 hours only once. I couldn’t stand the thought of a day without my little barnacle by my side, and I couldn’t stand the feeling that I was never alone even for a minute. We were still bed sharing at that point, so he was literally on top of me 23 hours a day, even at night. 

Also, he was teething. 

I just couldn’t deal with the dog, and the baby, and never being alone, and being so totally alone. 

And then…. I just did it. I took Bumby’s clothes off so he would be more comfortable in the heat and humidity. I put him in the carrier, and picked up the leash and put it on the dog. I walked slowly around the boardwalks until she pooped, then I awkwardly squatted down and picked it up, which I hate hate hate so much. I was miserable, but I did it. 

I went home, and Bumby caught sight of mama and Bumby, our little duo, in the mirror. When his eyes met mine, he broke into a massive grin. And with that, I was through it, and I was fine. 

  
 I put Bumby on the floor of the bathroom with some toys, and finally showered for the day so I wasn’t so sticky. My wife came home, we cooked dinner, I had a glass of wine, and it was fine. I decided to go back to work. 

I was fine. 

my biggest fear

Before I was pregnant, I knew how much I wanted to be pregnant. I had always wanted to be pregnant. From the time I was about 16, I was envious of pregnant women I saw walking around in public. Being pregnant! How lucky.  What I never thought much about was the baby part. I knew this was an error, but I couldn’t help myself.  I sometimes thought of myself like those twenty-something year old brides, consumed with the wedding but not a thought about the lifetime of marriage. This is analogous, because there is nothing quite as life-long as becoming a parent. So, my biggest fear was that I was going to absolutely love being pregnant, but not be able to love the baby.

I love sleep.  I love time to myself. I do not like to be touched much.  I get cranky when other people eat a food item that I want.  Maybe I am selfish, too selfish to be a parent, I would sometimes think. I would see these other parents with their kids hanging all over them, sharing what was on their plate (often the best thing! The thing with cheese!), laughing about how when you become a parent, you never sleep again, and I would think, I can’t do that. I won’t be able to do that. I am going to get pregnant, and it’s all going to be fine, and then the baby will come and my life will be over. And because of it, I will resent the baby. Or hate the baby. Or just not love the baby.  I was pretty confident I would not love the baby.

I have been a parent before, yes, but the kids are bigger.  I can explain my boundaries to them, and while they might not understand them all the time, they do their best to respect them. I am still me, you see. Who does not like to be touched much and who wants you to knock before you come in the room. And who wants the cheesey thing for myself.

Recently, one of my besties posted on facebook about how harmful it is to bombard new parents or parents-to-be with negative messages about how life as you know it is over when you have a baby, and you will never sleep again, and all the trite things we tell each other about how horrible new parenthood is.  I guess I didn’t realize how much I had internalized all of that, because this fear loomed larger and larger as my belly grew larger and larger. I was not excited to have the baby. When people asked me this, in a small-talk kind of way, it was like a punch in the gut.  Haha no. I don’t really want to have the baby, thanks for asking. It can stay inside, thankyouverymuch. I love those little kicks and flutters, but not so much what’s about to come after.

I didn’t tell anyone about this. Not my wife, not my therapist, not my new mom friends. It seemed too big and too dark and too scary to admit it to anyone.  What kind of pregnant woman thinks she is not going to love her baby?  Especially after taking nearly a year to get pregnant in the first place.

And then he was born.  I have really, legitimately, never slept again (although many parents do by now).  Some small guy is already grabbing at my food with his grabby little grab hands.  I am almost never alone, and when I am, there is a corner of my brain, an edge of my heart that is elsewhere, where he is, following him, a little distracted.  Even when I’m supposed to be sleeping, there is sometimes a 23 pound weight on my chest and/or shoulder, cutting off the circulation to my arm and giving me chronic back pain, or at a minimum, I have one ear on the monitor for his eh-eh-eh that comes before the cry. Breastfeeding was painful and hard at first.  I once cried in the night, while he tried to nurse, and woke my wife up just to yell at her for having the nerve to sleep when SOME OF US were trying to BREASTFEED OVER HERE. All of this is true.

And I have been filled with the most awe-inspiring, heart-exploding love for the last seven and a half months. It is more than I can even put into words. Sometimes I want to cry because my heart is breaking into a million pieces because it has just exploded from so much love.

I don’t give two shits about the food.  I love having him hanging off of me like some kind of little primate. I don’t even notice all the ways he touches me, unless he has cut the inside of my nose with one of his sharp little claws or has pulled my shirt down in public. I am pretty fucking tired, yes, but I already know from experience that this actually will get better at some point, and frankly, I have amazed myself with my ability to cope with sleep deprivation. I love nursing, and if I didn’t, I would stop by now.

I even love my wife more, because if my heart explodes from watching that little baby try to pull himself up to standing but failing because his fat little foot is stuck on his blanket, my heart doesn’t stand a CHANCE against the woman I love more than life itself untangling that foot and laughing with him as he gets it right for the first time.

So yeah, I would say it’s pretty damaging to tell new parents or parents-to-be how awful parenthood is. I could have spent that last month of my pregnancy excited instead of afraid.  I probably would still have been a little afraid, but more in the sense of how is this 9 pound ball of baby getting outside of me without ripping a hole in some vital organ, and less in the sense of what if I can’t love him because he takes too much of me and parenthood is horrible.

So I am here, from the other side, to tell you.  I am still me, and I am still a pretty selfish person.  But parenthood is not horrible.  Parenthood is the best thing that ever happened to me.

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.

“vacation” (or, things that are much more difficult while pregnant)

Well, internet, I wish I could say that I missed you in the week that I was camping in the woods upstate, but honestly, I love a good technology break every now and then.  This one was driven less by a lack of cell service (which is my favorite kind of technology break) and more by a lack of chargers.  I’ll take what I can get.

We had the kids for vacation this past week, and decided to camp.  We ended up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  You want to know what is not as fun pregnant as it is when you’re non-pregnant?  Camping.  Getting up in the night to pee is always a pain in the ass, but it’s actually much worse when you have to get up, put on boots in the dark, walk through the mud up a hill with a flashlight, and pee in a cement building with spiders in it. While not waking up the dog.  Also, you realize that your children are actually very active sleepers when you are trying to fall back asleep afterwards to the harmonious sounds two out of three of them flailing around like fish out of water in their sleeping bags.  Also also, hiking at 1,000 feet of elevation is noticeably more difficult when you are pregnant.

I was honestly surprised I struggled so much with all of it.  Everyone says the second trimester is the best of pregnancy, and I sort of expected to feel more like my non-pregnant self.  I do feel better, but I am definitely still pregnant. This camping trip was a big reminder of that.  I move slowly, I tire more easily, and I need to eat more often.  Things that I used to do easily were a chore, and things that used to be a chore were basically impossible. So yeah. Still pregnant over here.  And bending over repeatedly to put up a tent?  Not all that easy while pregnant.

All complaints aside, there were some good moments.  The kids had apparently never walked on active train tracks before, and found it super-exciting.  Also, when they asked if they could climb down a muddy cliff by hanging on to tree roots to go swimming in a natural pool at the base of a dam, in violation of both park rules and common sense, they were totally shocked when the answer was yes, and my psychic-or-something wife had actually packed all of our swimsuits in the day pack. My wife, the dog and I also swam in the pool, and we had all just changed back into our clothes (except the dog, who wears the same fur coat no matter what she’s doing) when a group of teenage boys came careening down the same muddy cliff to illegally swim in the same pool.  Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of all of this, because let’s be honest. Carrying around a fetus and a water bottle on the hike was enough of a struggle; I wasn’t about to also be carrying around my camera.

The kids are still sort of working through their feelings about the pregnancy, so when we dropped them off with their dad for the weekend and met up with our old friends at the beach, it was a relief to let my guard down, relax and just be happy about it again.  Also, sleeping in a bed was nice.  Still, the fatigue of the week really caught up with me yesterday, and I was basically unable to do anything but lie around whinging about nausea and vague abdominal pains which may or may not be this “round ligament pain” I have heard about.

Today, I am back in my beige cube in Manhattan, slogging through the workday.  It’s tough to say that it was a “good” vacation, which is what everyone asks you when you come back from a week away, given the emotional drama with the kids and the unexpected difficulties I had with the camping trip.  But I did have time for the blister caused by my work shoes to heal, and I did actually have a day to lie around whinging without any work to do, so I suppose in that sense, the week away from work was a success.

the fog

This month, I am pretty sure we messed up the timing of our insemination (again). I was sure that my body had settled into a pattern, and that day 17 was the day. So on day 16, when the OPK line looked a little light, I assumed it was the OPK that was a little off, not my timing. I had decided we were going to step down to one insemination a month — mostly because of the money, honestly, but also because of the stress and missing work, and because I think inseminating the day after you ovulate is pointless. So when we only had one sperm vial left at our doctors’ office, I wasn’t worried. Do you see all of this ominous foreshadowing? We had our insemination on day 17, and they did the sonogram — my follicle was again on the left (apparently my ovaries don’t alternate) and it was at 21 mm. Not terrible, but not great. The next day, my temperature didn’t spike. I went up a little, but not a lot. Meh. Actually my temperature graph looks like a Picasso line drawing of the Rocky Mountains, so who know what it means anyway.

On day 18, my wife and I sat down to talk about the fact that I almost certainly wasn’t pregnant, again, and what this meant. If we try again next month, the baby would be due December 28. Not that that would be the worst thing that has ever happened, but we don’t really want a Christmas baby, if we get a say in the matter. Which, it turns out, we do. So, we decided to take April off. We are going to skip it, and relax, and not be pregnant, and then try again in May. And in May, it’s all-in. We’re going to ask for a trigger shot, to take some of the guesswork out of the timing, temp, pee on sticks, and do two inseminations. And if May doesn’t work with the trigger, it’s Clomid in June.

My wife is really disappointed, and for the first time, I think, realized how much of this is all. on. me. She didn’t agree with the decision not to bring more sperm over this month, but she didn’t even know about that decision because I just handle all of that.

It’s like a fog has been lifted, knowing I’m not pregnant, and not about to become pregnant. We decided to run a 10k at the end of April, so we’ll start training this weekend. I joined weight watchers, to try to shed some of the 15 or so pounds I’ve picked up over the past couple of years. We have spent more time being “intimate,” if you catch my drift, and less time bickering.

I knew that trying to get pregnant was stressing both of us out. But I guess I didn’t really realize the practical implications of a constant, low-level preoccupation on a marriage and a life. Deciding to take April off was the best choice we could make.

I didn’t realize how much I had been living my life in a holding pattern, circling in the air above all the things I wanted to do, waiting for that second pink line to tell me to land. It turns out, you can lose weight while trying to get pregnant, especially if its only 10-15 lbs and you do it slowly. You can run while trying to get pregnant. If you become too pregnant/exhausted to run the race, then you cancel, or you walk it, or whatever, but you can sign up. But knowing that I am not pregnant, and knowing that I have a break from pee sticks and thermometers and doctors appointments and cervical mucous is just such a relief, and it freed me to get back to living my life, rather than sitting around waiting for it to happen for me, or to me.

let’s do it anyway

This weekend, we did nothing but chores. Well, technically, we also sat outside in the freezing cold to watch one football and two soccer games. We went to Home Depot twice, since we are working on repainting the kids’ rooms. We switched out summer clothes for winter and went to Target. My wife did about 37 loads of laundry (she has a very particular system, and does not appreciate anyone messing with it, even if that someone has actually managed to do their own laundry without ruining anything for their entire adult life). I tried to go for a run (something for me! Something fun!) and tripped over a metal pipe buried in leaves on the edge of the sidewalk, twisting my ankle and skinning my knee. I limped home after only being gone for 10 minutes.

Yesterday, the kids were off from school, so we worked from home. Sometimes this means about 4 hours of work sprinkled with fun activities for the kids. This time, for me, it meant my ass at the desk from 9:30 in the morning until midnight, with breaks only to pick my son up from a birthday party, eat dinner, and clean up the kitchen afterward. To top it all off, my boss warned me at about 7 pm that I was “about to get really busy.”

To say that I resent the men I work with who have stay at home wives or part-time wives is an understatement. I promise you none of them were up at 6:45 to make dinner in the crockpot before they left for work. I promise you none of them were responsible for making sure their awkwardly-sized pre-teen daughter had long sleeved shirts. When I told my wife I was “about to get really busy,” she correctly observed that we were ALREADY really busy. And then the cat peed on the bed, which is her way of also observing that it has been a little too hectic for her liking.

As I sat at my desk, researching laws I don’t care about at 11:30 at night, I thought about busy, and our lives. I thought about adding the complication of a pregnancy and a baby to our already full plates. When I climbed into bed, I asked my wife if I would be happy soon. I don’t think anyone would be happy working a a job they don’t like for 16 hours a day, and spending their leisure time cleaning up cat piss, so she hopefully does not take these questions personally. I asked her whether we were stupid to add another complication to our already overbooked lives. “Well,” she said, “according to the New York Times, having more children is totally likely to make you even more miserable. But let’s do it anyway.”

I should note that this is how we approach most things in our lives.  Oh a dog, that sounds like a lot of work and something we don’t have time for. Let’s do it anyway.  What’s that, we never have a weekend with more than an hour of free time?  Let’s go ahead and re-decorate all three kids’ rooms anyway.  Etc.

No one would say that coercing your 10 year old daughter into a shirt that isn’t $55 is fun. No one wants to run around from practice to practice, packing snacks and dealing with messes and broken things and cat pee and dogs barking and teenagers stropping. On balance, it probably nets out to less overall happiness. But still, no one who has kids would really change it. As my wife said, they also add so much light to your life.

So no. Having another kid won’t make me happy. It will probably even make me less happy (on a net basis), if the New York Times is to be believed. Whatever, lets do it anyway.

focus on fertility: week 2

This post is part of an ongoing series of posts regarding my experiences working through the book Fully Fertile, by Tami Quinn, Beth Heller, and Jeanie Lee Bussell. For previous posts, click here.

The second week of the Fully Fertile program focuses on the role Oriental Medicine (OM) plays in a fertility journey. This week’s exercise required a list of Qi-filling and Qi-draining actions in one’s life. In brief, this required a “pros and cons” style list, where I wrote down the activities in my life that add life energy, and those that drain it.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t do the list. I don’t need to make the list to know that there is an extreme Qi-drain in my life. I don’t get enough sleep. I work too much. Etc. I’m tired all. the. time. I am a 2000-billable-hours-a-year attorney with three kids, two houses, and a cat, whose spouse also happens to have an extremely demanding job. I don’t need a list to tell me I am burning through my life energy but quick. So I didn’t make the list. I thought it would just depress me.

But here’s what I DID do. I got a massage. My wife and I had a gift certificate from our birthday last May (we have the same birthday, just a *few* years apart), which we had never used. So I booked the couples massage. Then, I called back and upgraded it. One Saturday, when our kids were otherwise occupied, we walked to the train station and went into the city, where we then got the best massage of our lives. I am not telling you where it was, for fear of you flocking to this place and booking up all the weekend slots. But it was awesome.

After the massage, we walked around the city in the sunshine without our jackets on and ate Indian food. Then we stopped by my office, because I had the appointment with Dr. P coming up, and needed to get some stuff set for Monday. Yes, our relaxing day included an hour-long stop at my office. But it wasn’t too bad, and by the time we got home we were relaxed, and tired in a good way, for the first time in a very long time. We spent the day together, just BEing. It was just the dose of Qi I needed.