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.

my afternoon

1. Get phone call from new OB/GYN (whom I love!) confirming appointment for tomorrow morning. 34 weeks!

2. Notice 2 voicemails from the weekend. One is from the plumber who is supposed to fix our sewer pipe, which has backed up twice in the last two months, apparently because it is cracked.  The other is from my mom, whom I am mad at.

3.  Feel guilty, because I am supposed to call back the plumber, and also don’t want to deal with my mom.  I red-buttoned her yesterday when she called, because I was napping (and also mad) so her sad-sounding voicemail makes me feel even worse.

4. Think about how once, I was a baby in my mom’s belly, and how much she must love me, and how horrible I am for being mad at her, because someday this baby is TOTALLY going to be mad at me, and red-button me on a Sunday afternoon, and I will be leaving sad-sounding voicemails.

5. Become overwhelmed with being responsible for other people’s feelings (remember, I am the wronged party in the dispute with my mom!).

6. Begin to feel similarly overwhelmed with the sewer pipe issue, and the nursery, and the fact that we still don’t have a car seat, and when am I going to schedule the childbirth class (I could give birth any minute, seriously), and Christmas present shopping, and work responsibilities, and the cats need their claws clipped but the clippers are missing, etc., etc., etc.

7.  Without warning or preamble, fall sound asleep sitting completely upright at my desk for an hour.  An entire hour.  Wake up when the phone rings.

8. Call sewer man, email my sister to complain about how guilty I feel about our mom, buy my wife two Christmas presents  (accidentally from our joint checking account, whoops!).  Is it time to go home yet?

work and babymoons

Holy cow. I normally don’t like blog posts that start out really apologetic for not posting more often, but seriously, it has been a long time.  Since my latest appearance, I have been doing two things (and only two things).  Working, and going on vacations. Specifically, babymoons.

First, working.

The type of work that I do (I am a lawyer) is basically a glorified hourly position. Sure, I am salaried, but there is a “minimum expectation” (code for “we can fire you if you don’t do this”) that I will bill (not work, bill) 2,000 hours a year. This means that if I am not actively doing client work, it doesn’t count.  So those hours that I spend sitting at my desk waiting for someone to give me something to do? Those don’t count.  Same with required client development, administrative tasks, and anything else that my boss tells a client we will do for them as a freebie in order to bring in more work.  Also, lunch, or those 10 minutes you talk to your mom in the middle of the day, or your co-worker’s birthday cupcake party, or a bathroom break. None of that counts.  If you are pretty efficient, you can bill 8 hours and work 9 or 10.  But some days, I come to work, don’t have much to do, and although I am here from 9:30 to 6:30, I walk out having billed only 5 or 6 hours.

So, what, you ask, is 2,000 hours on an annual basis (okay, you didn’t ask this, but I am telling you anyway, because I love the billable-hours rant)?  It’s 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, every day other than 10 federal holidays.  Gosh, I wonder why new moms struggle with this job. Anyway, that means that if I want to take a vacation, or am sick, or if i have one of those 5 or 6 hour days, I have to make up the time later.  I know, wah, wah, cry me a river, I make boatloads of money to work that much. But it’s a lot of pressure at the end of the year, when the end date for those 2,000 hours is approaching.  At my particular firm, that end date is October 31 (so that they have time to tally up the hours and pay bonuses out by the end of the calendar year).  Coming into September, I was about 125 hours behind, from aforementioned vacation days and slow periods.  I had basically given up on making it. It seemed kind of insurmountable, working an extra 60-70 hours each month on top of full time, but then I got staffed on a crazy-busy project and started working 17 or 18 hour days (plus an hour commute each way), and the 2,000 hours bogey was suddenly within sight.  Anyway, 8 weeks and some exhaustion-related braxton hicks contractions later, I hit my target hours.  The bottom line for me, hitting those 2,000 hours, is a pretty big bonus, that would make it so that I could, if I so chose, stay home with the baby for an additional 6 months without pay. So that was part of the driving force.  And also, I didn’t exactly have a choice about the 18 hour days, so it at least gave me a reason to do that.  At the end of the day on October 31, I had a grand total of 2,002 billable hours.  Hopefully, I didn’t mis-count my hours, because that is sort of uncomfortably close.  But I made it!  And then I took a nap.

Now, the babymoons.

In October, smack in the middle of billable-hour hell, we had planned to take a cruise with the kids.  My wife was adamantly anti-cruise for a very long time because she thought only old people went on them.  I lobbied for years, and finally, we had a long weekend with the kids, couldn’t think of what to do with them, and got a great deal.  And so, in honor of Christopher Columbus enslaving/exterminating native populations in the Bahamas, we took the long weekend and visited the Bahamas ourselves (although we did not enslave anyone or bring disease).  As I have sort of vaguely mentioned a few times, the kids are not that kicked up about the fact that we are having a baby (yes, still).  So we thought it would be fun to do something all together, one last hurrah for the family of five before we are a family of 6 and there is a long list of things we can’t do because of nap schedules and age restrictions and the like.  Of course, we did not phrase it like this to the kids, we just said, “Yay! We’re going on a cruise!”  The kids had a great time. The wife is a total convert.  I am, weirdly, a little freaked out by the whole experience.  Here are the pros and cons of the cruise, for me:

Pros:

1.  No cell phones or wi-fi.  This means I can’t work. At all.  It also means that the then-13 now-14 year old had a forced break from all social media. She was super-pissed about this at first, but for the 4 days we were gone, she was seriously so much happier than I have seen her in a long while.  Apparently that horrible feeling you aren’t cool enough in high school but get to leave at the door when you go home, you don’t so much get to leave at the door when you are literally getting numerical popularity rank updates on an ongoing basis in the form of Instagram likes.

2. No planning of what to do.  We just kind of showed up and had a vacation. We didn’t have to decide where to go to dinner, or what the schedule was, or anything. We just turned up, put on some sunscreen and had a vacation. After years of planning trips with kids, this was such a relief.

3. It was really fun. It was cheesy, yes, but fun. We were all just sort of relaxed and happy, bopping around doing fun activities and playing a LOT of shuffle-board, while totally unreachable by the outside world.  Did I mention no cell phones or wi-fi?

Cons:

1. The food buffets.  They are truly frightening.  I can’t say more because I don’t like to think about it.

2. The drinking.  I am a big drinker (seriously, I love to drink) and even I was a little horrified by the sight of the pool deck bar at 4 pm on the day we left Florida and headed out to sea.  On the other hand, all 3 kids can now do the Cupid Shuffle in the midst of a herd of wasted and uncoordinated adults, so I guess that’s something.

All in all, a great trip for everyone.  And 4 much-needed days of relaxation for me in the middle of billable hour hell.

The second babymoon, which was just for myself and the wife, was this past weekend.  The kids were with their dad for Veterans Day, so we took Friday through Monday and snuck off to the Turks and Caicos.  This is the view from our little balcony (and also the only picture on my phone — the rest are still on the real camera, so in 3 years when I get around to uploading them, someone can see them).

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We did a lot of sleeping (both in bed and on the beach), a little exploring, and a lot of eating. And, ahem, “re-connecting,” shall we say.  It was so nice to actually spend time alone with my wife for the first time in weeks.  Also, let’s be honest, this will be the last time in a long time. We are entering the crazy-busy holiday season, and then we will have a new baby. It was nice to be reminded why I like her so much.  She’s so funny. And thoughtful.  And buys me ice cream whenever I want it.  If you are pregnant or your partner is pregnant, and you’re thinking you don’t need to take a babymoon, I respectfully urge you to change your mind.  Maybe you don’t need to in the strictest sense, but if you can swing it, it’s wonderful.  You don’t need to go someplace fancy.  I am honestly only about 90% certain our hotel did not have bed bugs, for example. But spending time with the person you have chosen to make this baby with, away from the to-do lists and chores and jobs and friends and kids, even if it’s just the Holiday Inn 2 towns away from where you live, is so nice.  And you can just pay off the credit card later, whatever.

And now, to keep you hooked on the saga that is my life, later this week I will tell you all about how and why I changed obstetricians at 29 weeks pregnant. And also, at some point, the nursery.  I know, the suspense is killing you.