From the monthly archives:

February 2010

Bad Days Happen

by Esther on Sun, Feb 28th, 2010

in Challenges,Pregnancy by week,Psychological,Week 30

For the most part, it’s not difficult to dedicate myself to making a whole human being that will be a part of my family linage and history forever.  It’s a pretty beautiful job to have, after all, and I am the only person I know in this family who can bare children with my husband, so I’ve got to be up to the challenge if I want to expand our awesome little family…

But, honestly, there are some not so nice days.  On Thursday, I had my first full-on pregnancy break down.  I had worked for my usual 8 hours, but was exhausted with horrible acid reflux and counting down each client and each hour.  Luckily, it’s easy for me to keep my game face on when I’m with my clients.  After all, their time is time that they are paying me for!  It’s not my time to collapse into a ball of pregnant emotions.  I have to not only tough it out, but be the best I can possibly be for the people who make my livelihood possible.  So, that said, I was perfectly fine at work.  I had my amazing and warm-hearted assistants helping me out with shampoos while I took 5 minute breaks to sit quietly and rest my back.  I made it through 7pm, 8pm, and finally through the wicked-tired hour of 9pm…

I packed my bag, walked home, and opened the door to a dark house at 9:30.  I stood in the kitchen for a minute and thought about cooking dinner.  My feet screamed.  My back moaned.  I literally threw up in my mouth a little for the hundredth time that day… and then dear friends, I just lost it and began to sob with the drama of a heartbroken teenager.  I gave it a minute before trying to gather up my senses into some semblance of adult and motherlike behavior, and then I lost it again.  I moved to the bed and just cut loose.  My husband arrived home a few seconds later.  Of course he was super concerned that I was bleeding or contracting, and searching for signs of a newborn on the floor… and I here I was having a hard time even communicating through my sobs that I was totally fine and just needed to cry for a minute.  Eventually, we set our communication straight, he held me and soothed me, and I ultimately got out of bed to make us a delicious and highly complex late dinner of almond butter, jam and apple sandwiches before settling back into bed (bringing my sandwich along for the ride) with a book I couldn’t concentrate on because I was having so much ligament discomfort… Eventually I just did a whole lot of hypnobreathing practice until falling asleep soundly in my fortress of pillows.

That seemed to be a somewhat late official introduction into the third trimester.  I’m puffy.  I’m farting.  I’m getting bigger and bigger.  I’m super tired.  And I’m getting annoyed!  I don’t like that Saturday night means DRUNK IDIOT NIGHT to everyone but me.  I don’t like that everyone wants to walk faster than I can handle.  I don’t like that I have to ask for an anchoring hand to help me off the darn couch.  I don’t like that I stepped on the new closet shelving system that I just built and broke it like an idiot.  I don’t like having to order my thai delivery with no spice like a total weakling.  I don’t like that there are so many things that I don’t like.  I annoy myself when I get off my regularly scheduled program of being a happy person who honestly has everything she could possibly need.

Luckily, there will always be good days to balance out the bad.  I intend to dive into those days, eat them up, savor them, and digest them like the fantastic nutrition they are.  Apparently I’m going to need the extra good-feeling nutrients for the next few crazy months.  In the meantime, I leave you with an image of what I look like when I’m having an ill-tempered moment:

When the 3rd trimester can suck it...

While I’m at it… bad days don’t only happen when I’m pregnant, that’s for certain.  I’m wondering what will happen when I want to tear my hair out and I have a child that I have to behave for.  Is this when parents switch off for a little while?  OH the things I need to learn!

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Imminence

by Esther on Sun, Feb 28th, 2010

in Parenthood,Pregnancy by week,Psychological,Week 30

The other day, one of my wonderful clients was booking her next appointment for her haircut and color at the salon. I asked what the date of her appointment was, and it turned out to be a good 11 days before my last day at work. I was surprised that I had so much work time left and searched for a word to explain my surprise.

“Everything just feels so… so….” I stumbled to find the words.

“Imminent!!” she exclaimed.

And that has become my word for this week. Maybe it’s my word for the next few years. Every moment Milton and I have alone makes me grasp to hold it tightly – these moments are bound for imminent change. Every kick I feel is one less kick I will feel with this baby inside of me. Everything precious is only precious for right this moment, and about to give way to other new and precious things, which will in turn slip away for even more things new and precious.

I looked up at him today and said, “Can you believe we’re having a baby?”

He replied, “And that baby will turn into a kid, and that kid will turn into an adult…”

“And he will be a member of our family,” I said, “And it will always be the three of us, after all this time of it being the two of us.”

It’s a pretty magical and confounding thing to realize that life as you know it is about to become completely and beautifully upheaved.  It will become life as we never knew it.  It will be a completely new journey that we can’t possibly be completely prepared for.  No amount of book reading or closet cleaning is going to make us more aware of what life will really be like once pregnancy ends.  And pregnancy ends in the not too distant future….

Milton and Sopor cuddle at dusk.

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Alcohol and pregnancy

by Milton on Fri, Feb 26th, 2010

in Managing risk,Research,Week 29

It’s true that drinking during pregnancy is seen as a big taboo, and part of the reason is the lack of information about the causes, risks, and chances of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome along with the rather scary warnings in pregnancy books and on pregnancy websites.

Here are some interesting numbers that I got from this article called “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the Social Control of Mothers“:

  1. Only 5% of alcoholic mothers give birth to babies who are later diagnosed with FAS.
  2. Drinking alcohol, while a requirement of being diagnosed with FAS, doesn’t seem to cause FAS by itself.  Other environmental factors needed include smoking, poverty, malnutrition, high parity (i.e., having lots of children), and advanced maternal age.
  3. There is a genetic component to FAS that makes you more or less susceptible to FAS.
  4. Almost all public health campaigns, whether sponsored by states, social movement organizations, public health institutes, or the associations of alcohol purveyors tell pregnant women not to drink alcohol during, before, or after pregnancy… at all… or else.
  5. Women are being blamed for FAS, even though they do not cause FAS, and neither does drinking alcohol (by itself).
  6. Very few women drink at the levels correlated with FAS, even when they aren’t pregnant.

So, the question is, are the FAS campaigns by all of these organizations merely another way for society to blame women for something bad that might happen?  To treat pregnant women as women with some kind of problem that needs to be “fixed” by hospitals, doctors, professional advise, and medication? Why does our society do this to women, and what can we do to help be a little more rational and fair to women and less scared, protective, and controlling?

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Organizing for the unknown

by Milton on Fri, Feb 26th, 2010

in Home,Psychological,Week 29

One of the differences between the way Esther and I think, when preparing for our son, is our various strategies for the ominous task of “feeling prepared for parenthood” and all that goes along with that foggy idea.  I feel prepared by making lists.  Esther feels prepared by preparing (admittedly, a more direct strategy).  But in a way, they’re both valid strategies against this amorphous goal.  Esther’s has the advantage of actually getting things done, mine has the advantage of knowing exactly what needs to get done.  My list making, so far, has only shown me that I don’t need to do anything yet.  Well, read a lot of books.  Check.  Enjoy the ride.  Check.

Selling the house was also a big thing on the list of things we absolutely needed to do in order to feel prepared.  Until, as of this week, our house still wasn’t sold and so we took it off the market.  One would think that we would therefore feel like we failed at preparing.  But the strange thing is that we both feel more prepared now that the house is off the market.  Selling a house, buying a house, moving everything, getting used to a new setting, etc, all feels counter-productive at this point.  I feel like we’re out of limbo and can make the best of what we have.  Deciding to make the best of what we have is a huge step in the direction of “feeling prepared”.

And, now that that item has been decided, if not completed, it sets in motion a lot of other things on my list of things that I need to do.  Starting with re-organizing our little loft.  Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be moving few pieces of furniture into storage, a bunch of art that we took down (in the house-selling attempt) but probably aren’t going to put back up just yet, and begin to move things around until things feel “ready”. I have some big ideas of making the room more ready for watching movies on the projector, playing music on the keyboard, and changing diapers.

Why all the quotes around “ready” and “feel prepared”?  I’m not sure.  I guess in a weird way I’m realizing that this is not about reaching some final end state for our house, because we had already thought the house wouldn’t work at all.  It’s about getting our minds ready, creating the solid feeling in our guts that the house will work, that everything is ready.  And of course it will, and is.  There’s not a huge list of requirements for taking care of a baby.  A boob, a blanket, and attentive caretakers are probably sufficient for 99% of the baby’s needs, especially during the first months.  But our brains… they need some serious work before we’re ready to take care of our baby.

And slowly, we’re adapting, and our house is adapting with us, and by the time he gets here everything and everyone will be ready.  And it will be difficult to determine what exactly it was that finally made it ready, other than a certain amount of worrying, questioning, doubt, stress, debate, brain storming, furniture shuffling, color-picking, and out of it all comes readiness.  Through a little whirlwind of fretting and confusion and worry we earn the right to feel ready.

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We had our 30 week (or, to be exact, 29 weeks and 5 days) appointment this afternoon!  It went quite well.  My blood tests from our 28 week appointment came back with some interesting results:

1) I have no issue processing sugars.  This was surprising to me!  I ate some white flour a few days before the test and felt horrible.  I’ve also been having some flora imbalance issues that are taking a rather long time to completely work out.  THUS, the pessimist in me felt 78% certain that I must have gestational diabetes.  Alas, this is not the case at all.  My sugar was on the very lowest end of what one’s normal glycemic range should be after consuming sugar, sugar, and more sugar for breakfast.

2) My Hematocrit levels were EXCELLENT.  My iron is off the hook with badassary!  One would think that I paid more than what I feel to be a minimal effort to eat well!  I suppose that it’s a very good thing that I don’t really crave horrible foods.  All this good iron indicates that I will have a much smaller chance of hemorrhaging during our home birth.  If pregnant woman’s Hematocrit is lower than 30%, she has to deliver in a hospital.  I am at 38%.

3) I have gained 22 pounds.  Frankly, I find this a little excessive.  This is because I very suddenly gained a few extra pounds during the month before I got pregnant, so I technically feel as if I am up 27 extra pounds.  She says that my 22 pound gain is perfect for my 5’10″ height.  What she says goes; I guess I’ll chalk these pounds all up to baby fat and pat myself on the back for all of the really really hard work I’m doing on keeping pregnancy so healthy.  Yeah?  Ok, just kidding.

I am serious when I confess that I am a lazy lazy pregnant lady who does exactly as her will tells her to do.   I just now had lunch at Chipotle and then stopped at the Cinnamon Works counter   on my way home for a blueberry bar.  And, no, blueberries are NOT local right now!  But my will made me do it!  Granted, Cinnamon Works bakes with far less sugar a whole lot of nuts- it is definitely the healthiest cookie option in town! But still!  Who needs a blueberry bar after a 790 calorie lunch at Chipolte?  Surely, no single Wednesday evening yoga class could heal this type of gluttony?

Milton did say when we stopped into Chipolte that I was sure to gain 3 more pounds by tomorrow.  But hey!  I have an idea!  Why not just not weigh myself again until next week?  Yeah, perfect.

4) The baby, though still a mover and a shaker who is not necessarily staying head down, seems to have progressed normally according to all the listening, poking, and measuring.  He’s still very playful in his movement, and has always been pretty active.  Go, little Benson, go!

With all of this good news, I have to tell you that the pessimist in me is waiting for the other shoe to drop.  The chubby-cheeked optimist in me is healthy enough to handle 10 pairs of shoes that are really really cute.

Thanks to my girl Kathy T for these!

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Dear Baby B

by Esther on Wed, Feb 24th, 2010

in Letters to baby,Pregnancy by week,Week 29

It’s getting harder for me to torture the cat. The floor, from which I scoop her, seems to be getting further away as you grow bigger.

My grunting must concern her a bit, because she was just terribly patient with me as I held her like a reluctant little ball on my shoulder. Maybe she is intelligent enough to be a little afraid of the fact that she will very soon lose her status as the cutest thing in the loft.

I can almost guarantee you that she will not display much patience when you are old enough to figure out how to torture her in your own special baby way! I’m sure that we’ll have many laughs at her expense when that time arrives. We like to have laughs at the neurotic cat’s expense in this house. It’s much better fun than watching television!

Poor Soap-Face! We will be sure to feed her lots of wet food between your bashings. She’s a sensitive beast, but the key to her love is hidden in a very simple place. You’ll get some good early life lessons through watching her, I’ll bet.

Love,
Mom

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All the Songs We Love the Most

by Esther on Sat, Feb 20th, 2010

in Pregnancy by week,Week 29

Since it’s important to me that our kid gets used to sleeping through all the sounds he’s going to be surrounded by while living in our one room loft, I am sure to listen to music as much as possible. As has been my tradition for as long as I’ve been rocking out, the music is always at a pretty high volume. Compound the home listening by my work in a pretty high-energy salon and I feel like this kid should be pretty soothed  by(or at least used to) the sounds of beautiful rock and roll.

One thing that I have been trying to do is become obsessed with an album. I had a client tell me that she and her husband listened to Rat-a-Tat-Tat constantly during her pregnancy a couple of years ago. As a result of this obsession, whenever they want the kid to go to sleep, they put on that particular album and it works wonders.

Upon hearing this story, Milton and I went on a quest to find upbeat but chill music that we would never tire of. Unfortunately, we like to buy a lot of music. Our obsessions are always relatively short lived, and clock in at about a month. A full season might find us listening to 4 albums regularly, peppered with 5-10 other randoms. Add this to the fact that we are addicted to iTunes genius playlists, and this kid will never hear the same selections played soothingly, ever.

Luckily, we do seem to have favorite genres in this house. We like rock infused electro pop, apparently. Lots and lots of it. Unless it’s winter, when we like what I’ll have to call Coral Rock. Of course, on any given day, these preferences could tip heavily in the direction of The Beatles or Ludwig Van Beethoven (in fact, there has been some debate in this house about actually naming the kid Ludwig, but that’s another post).

If I had to choose 2 albums that our kid knows well right this second, I’d venture to say that he’s a big fan of anything by Royksopp and the new Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album. Personally, I think that this is a good start for the type of kid we hope to have… one who goes to outdoor concerts with his parents starting at the age of 1, looking like this:

Come to think of it, I’m going to add those headphones to our baby registry right now.

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Random thoughts on a day off

by Milton on Fri, Feb 12th, 2010

in Psychological,Week 27

This is an abstract post that came out of my stream-of-consciousness writing for my daily 750 Words.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how my brain is subconsciously shifting gears into parent mode. My whole life I’ve assumed that this is a choice you make at some point to switch priorities and move from ambitious entrepreneur to ambitious parent. Where ambitious means two completely different things in context. But, I’m finding, that the changes are happening in some chamber of my brain that my conscious brain doesn’t control. And I’m actually relieved about that since I don’t know if I could’ve moved my whole thought process over as easily as it seems to have done over the last 6 months.

Back to the point though, context, like continents along fault lines, is what’s changing here. And right now I’m in that purgatory land between contexts, and it’s that brief little moment when both contexts can be seen from the sky for what they are… tectonic plates rubbing against each other. From any given context’s perspective, each looks like an entire world, and it’s every other context that’s driftless, a game, a system that works within itself but has no real meaning outside of the context. Monopoly money. But all contexts are like that. Life itself is like that. We build an empire and then leave it behind as building blocks for other empires. In the end all of our Legos go back into the shared community box.

In a meaningless world, meaning must be created. It comes from each of our own interpretations and stories of the world, of our place in it, of our people within it. And the context that we call home is the context that we hang most of these meanings on. We become attached to our preferred contexts. Worker, family person, singleton, etc. I’ve always thought of myself as an ambitious person, I stake part of my sense of self on the fact that I want to be successful, I want to be creative, I want to build companies and communities and have lots of friends. Backlash from growing up in Orange County made me shun the easy path of college -> marriage -> kids -> corporate job. Of course, along the way I’ve gone to college, I’m married, I had a semi-corporate job at Amazon for 5 years and even gave up my original dream of being a novelist in order to hop on at the top of the first big bubble in 1998.

Now as it comes time to shift contexts, I’m leaving behind a lot of self-made meaning. And am getting ready to create a whole new batch. The world of parenting comes with quite a few meaning templates though. Tones of voice, warnings of self-sacrifice, lots of reassurance that all of the bootcamp like habits are “worth it”, trained scripts on what to say when, what’s life-changing, what’s safe, what’s wise. It’s weird, and I’m ready to jump in, but am a little hesitant to take anyone else’s word about what I will or will not think, feel, or experience. That’s my own stubbornness.

The one I was thinking about today though was about this miracle of creating a baby. Creating a life from our lives, creating a new being from our being. It’s probably one of the most amazing tricks this universe has come up with. Condensing billions of years of biology into a 9 month process. And, even more interesting, is that we each get our own to play with. Each of us who decides to become a parent, if lucky, gets to experience this trick of the universe in the most personal and intimate way imaginable. It’s as if there were some way, between one and a dozen times in our lives, to create a new solar system. Or experience our own self-made sunset, or volcano, or to invent a new species of animal. Except even more amazing than those other examples. A merged copy of you and your favorite person in the world, with other slightly altered bits from previous generations, and a few random alterations. It’s crazy when I think about it that way, and find the meaning in this experience outside of the rough-cut templates that others have come up with themselves.

But, and here’s the twist, I think the danger of this magical event is to be afraid of it. To think it’s impossible, or likely to fail, or to be cynical about it from the start. Why can such horrible things happen in hospitals that people get away with? Because, despite all the unneeded drugs, lazy and biased excuses for surgery, repetitive sharing of the worst horror stories, cold, impersonal treatment, etc, in the end you still get your own amazing new human being. And it’s “worth it”. And, one might even say, there’s a part of us (some more than others) that think that all good things have to come at a cost. That, the drama, fear, and horror are part of the price that you pay for the privilege of becoming a parent. And that’s just wrong. Part of the reason I want my new child to have nothing to do with the institution of ritualized and religion-sponsored guilt systems. No pain no gain is NOT a law of the universe, and it sucks that so many of us were taught that and even expect that or are comforted by it. Work and pain are two different things. Work can build meaning, work can be joyful, work is good. Anyway, random rant, I guess.

I am of course studying every parent I see these days. I’m excited to join the ranks. I can’t wait, really. The whole thing is out of our control, largely, but it is not scary, it’s not going to suck, it’s going to be awesome. Being out of control is one of the best parts about it… because things are going to happen that are way more complicated, beautiful, awe-inspiring, magical, and rooted in the deepest secrets of the universe than anything I could ever build out of my own intentions.

I get to see a brand new baby that a friend just made in a couple hours. We’re bringing her tatertot casserole, some amazing cookies, and some wide eyes.

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The umbilical noose

by Milton on Fri, Feb 12th, 2010

in Doctors, midwives, and doulas,Week 27

Had our 28 week midwife appointment today.  Esther got to drink sugary orange juice plus sugary white bread plus a spoonful of sugary honey and get her blood drawn in order to test for gestational diabetes.  I got to be coached yet again on how to feel for our baby’s head, and butt, and legs, etc.  We all think he’s upside down already (I felt a hard little head way down there, it was cool), and it would be great if he just stayed right there.  Though maybe he needs the exercise and should do a few more warm-up laps around her uterus so he comes out extra strong and ready to go.  That’s up to him I guess.

Today I voiced my somewhat irrational fear of him getting too tangled up in umbilical cords before he comes out.  You know, after reading 3 bazillion birth stories certain fears lodge themselves.  For me it has been the tangling.  Not sure why.  But I guess because I so much enjoy to rock him back and forth in Esther’s belly to try and figure out where he is, what he’s doing, etc and the thought has crossed my mind that I may be making him move more and get tangled more than he otherwise would.

Luckily, Beth reassured me that almost all of those horror stories of hospitalized births “failing to progress” where the doctor later says, “Oh, it was because he was all a tangled up and had his umbilical cord around his head 25 times and that’s why he wasn’t coming down” are really usually confabulated stories where, yeah, there might have been some tangling, but that wasn’t what was causing the labor to halt.  Drugs, anxiety, impatience, etc, much more likely to be the cause.  Yeah, sometimes the cord is in the way, but only once in a blue moon (Beth said once every 10 years even) does the chord actually inhibit the birth from progressing as normal.  Yeah, sometimes it’s around the neck, even twice or three times, but a little looping around and pushing the cord and all is well.  Very rarely they’ll clamp the cord and cut it if the baby is really close to being born, but even that almost never happens.

So, that was all good to hear.  Nature wasn’t silly enough to put a noose in the womb.  It’s stretchy, and easy to move around, and not a problem at all.  After I voiced this fear, Esther also confessed to having the fear, so it was good for us both to talk about it and then move on.

Weird how fear works like that, sometimes.  It’s a full-time job to worry less.

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Housing Challenges

by Esther on Sun, Feb 7th, 2010

in Challenges,Home,Money,Pregnancy by week,Week 27

I read in a book yesterday that putting together a nursery is an important part of early bonding with your baby.  According to this book, objects and art around the baby will be a part of the baby’s first stimulation.  What we choose to expose our child to will become the building blocks of who our child is to become.  This will be the first way for us to give some culture to our child.  It will be the first teaching of our family’s aesthetic style.

Well then.  If this is the case, I venture to guess that our child will have a strong foundation in urban minimalism.  Our house has been on the market (with a small break around the the winter holidays) for the better part of 4 months.  We will give it another 3 weeks before pulling if off of the market in favor of getting ready for some baby arrival.

I love our little condo!  It was first Milton’s perfect bachelor pad.  Then we redecorated and made it our perfect love nest.  It has a great view of the city, a private roof deck, and is just blocks away from anything you could possibly want in Seattle.  It is my most very favorite place that I have ever lived in.  As a wife and cook, I work this small place like it is a machine and actually love that everything is so close together.  I don’t even think I would ever want a big huge house.  It just seems like too much work, and I feel like my husband and I would be too far away from one another if we had more than a few good rooms.

The thing is, our place is a loft.  It doesn’t have any separate rooms unless you count the bathroom.  It’s just one big happy box.  I don’t think that most couples could get along in a living situation like this one, but Milton and I are very very happy.  We know when to be quiet and we know when to have a discussion from the lofted bedroom to the living room below.  I don’t think we’ve ever had a difficult moment between us that is spatially related.  Adding a baby, however, could potentially cause a problem.  The slippery stairs don’t have a railing.  There aren’t any doors to close to block Junior from devastation.  There are nerdy wires falling from several computered surfaces.  It’s kind of an adults only sort of place.

Or so we’ve thought.  If this place doesn’t sell, we’re going to begin an endeavor in March that will redecorate this place once more to make room for this baby.  Some shelves.  An old-fashioned pram for use as a bassinet.  A few less computers.  An open space for lounging about on the floor.  A new easy to clean rug underfoot.  The key has got to come from a few creative solutions for urban baby nesting.  We can handle that as long as we can scrape together a few bucks.

The more I think about it, the more I think we’ll be just fine with our urban minimalist baby.  We don’t ever plan on living outside of a city (‘burbs scare me, I gotta be honest), so our son can just get used to slippery stairs, the sounds of cars outside, cavorting on the streets, and our voices shouting from the loft to the living room.


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