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Psychological

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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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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A weird thought

by Milton on Mon, Jan 4th, 2010

in Psychological,Week 22

Today, I had this strange thought and it gave me shivers: our future son isn’t born yet!

Yeah, sort of obvious, but really. Can you imagine being not born yet? None of us remember it, and none of us will experience not being born yet again.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be born in May of this year? And then that process of slowly getting used to having arms, and legs, and eyes, and this weird sensation of hunger and this overwhelming struggle to control a big head without neck muscles? And.. the first realization that sleep happens, and that dreams happen, and that you have pee and poop.

It’s all so alien, and our future son has no idea what is in store for him. Hell, even I don’t know what’s in store for him and I’ve been here 33 years. How much have I really learned in those 33 years, and how much of it is really unknowable, or temporarily knowable and then eventually forgotten again?

This crazy process of being born, and growing up, and then watching others get born, it’s something that we’ve been experiencing over and over again for millions of years, and yet it still seems new to each of us. It makes me feel like a part of the universe in a weird way. Both alien and deeply familiar. Like something I forgot about a long time ago.

This baby is gonna be a trip, I can already tell.

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Today was the momentous occasion we’ve been looking towards for some months:  The 20 Week Ultrasound!

This means that we are OFFICIALLY at the half-way point.  I also officially have a baby bump and officially know the sex of my baby (though I won’t be sharing that quite yet!).

Things are looking pretty sweet.  I have a great heart rate, have gained the perfect amount of weight and have a uterus that has grown right where it should have grown.

As far as our baby is concerned, (s)he is doing very well.  Good heart rate, good skull shape, no signs of the dreaded  spina bifida, no sign of a cleft palate, skull in good condition. 10 fingers, 10 toes…

Speaking of toes, the baby has my husband’s feet.  My big toe is considerably longer than my second toe, while my husband’s second toe is longer than his first.  While we both have long toes, Milton sports tingers, which simply means that his toes are freakishly long.  We can see in the ultrasound that our baby also has tingers.  I am also convinced that the baby has my husband’s leg proportions, which means another family runner.  This is all good stuff.

I did have a moment of nervousness after the ultrasound tech left the room and returned with (dum dum dum) The Doctor.  It was obvious from the start that The Doctor was summoned into the room to give us Potential Bad News.  First, he confirmed my age, “You’ll be having the baby when you’re 34 and a half,” he says, and suddenly I am filled with fear.  My brain immediately starts telling me that this will be my only child, that the risks are too great as I approach my dreaded (and absolutely youthful) 35th birthday.  The Doctor goes on to tell me that the baby’s heart is showing a sign of Echogenic Intracardiac Foci, as told by bright spots on the heart.  This increases my chances of having a baby with Downs Syndrome by 2.  Broken down, this means that while my age and history indicated a 1 in 350 chance of having a baby with an extra chromosome when I woke up this morning, appearance of EIF ups my chances to 1 in 200, or .5%.  SPECIFICALLY, babies with the EIF marker have a 1 in 188 chance of T-21 (Downs).

Of course, there is no indication of a chromosomal problem as far as the bone structure of the baby’s face is concerned.  The ridge of the baby’s nose and cheekbones appears to be strong and “normal”.  AND, further investigation (thanks to an immediate iPhone google search) indicates that a full 30% of Asians have EIF.  Further race investigation indicates 11% of caucasians and 6% of black babies show symptoms of EIF.  Thus,  I don’t think that there is anything to worry about… and if there is, it’s out of my control to do anything but love whatever baby we have.  I do find it odd that it’s required for a doctor to put extra fear in you, but not required for them to say, “But, hey, your baby is Asian, so there was a 30% chance the baby would have EIF anyhow.”  I mean, really?   I would hate to be a doctor who gets called into examination rooms to only deliver red flag news.  I was thinking the whole time about how awesome the job of the ultrasound technician was… and later I thought about how the stony-faced-bearer-of-bad-news doctor ‘s job was NOT awesome.  Also, WAY TO MAKE A GIRL FEEL OLD, doctor.  34 and a half. Geez louise.

All that EIF business aside, it was AMAZING to see our baby moving around in there!  S(he) is far more active than I even imagined!  Lots of times there is whole moving around that I can’t even feel.  I didn’t realize that!  The baby flips and flops into all sorts of different positions without my even knowing, all of the time!  I need to really be punched and kicked to know that something is going on in there… which means that I’m being punched and kicked all the time, too, because I feel it plenty!   So great!!

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I’ve been plagued by nightmares this week. One was about INTRUDERS that us good guys were going head to head with. There was graphic killing and maiming on both the good guy teams and bad guy teams , resulting in an eventual cat and mouse game with lots of strategy and more blood. I woke with a gasp! and ran to the bathroom (because that’s was I do about 4 times a night still), where I wondered about the mental state of my poor baby. See, I’ve been a little obsessed with the state of my baby’s emotions ever since reading about a study in the book <i>What’s Going on in There (How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life).  Read on:

“One 1982 Israeli study offers a fascinating demonstration of how a mother’s emotional state affects her fetus. Researches put headphones on pregnant women and allowed them to listen to various types of music while they measured fetal movements under ultrasound. Remarkably, most of the fetuses became more active when the music was turned on, particularly when their mothers were listening to their favorite type of music, whether pop or classical. Because the music was inaudible to the fetuses, the researches concluded that they must have been reacting to changes in their mother’s emotional state. The question is: How does an unborn baby know what its mother is feeling?”

The short answer is the limbic system, which links higher areas of the cerebral cortex to lower brain structures that coordinate the basic bodily functions from blood flow to sex drive.  The watered down explanation to my concern is that “hormonal responses can be based solely on the basis of emotional stimuli”, and that the same system that is running my hormones is busy running my baby’s hormones.

After reading about all of this, I became convinced that I needed to do my damnedest to be in a pretty good mood, most of the time. I am actively trying to not let little things about life bother me. This cuts down considerably on my typical east coast kvetching, which can sometimes become loud and cursing in my head even when there is a smile on my face. (Don’t blame me! It’s my culture!) To help me along this course, I have taken to sitting in front of a Philips GoLite blue light system on most mornings. I also stick with my regularly scheduled program of fish oil, vitamin D, yoga, walking, terrific music, and acupuncture. All of this busy blues combating behavior seems to help, too. Either that or I am actually a naturally happy person who is just being a little OCD about SAD and the kvetching voice in her head.

But, honestly?! How could possibly I protect my baby from my own bloody murderous dreams!!? Or, perhaps even worse, the dream I had right after the murderous dream in which I had a dramatic and bloody miscarriage? The second dream triggered an 8am wake up call that had me absolutely convinced that the child I was carrying was dead (until 9am, when I felt that child kick).  I can’t imagine that it’s very cool for me to impart such a dramatic, heart racing, fight or flight reaction to the child within me at the innocent age of 18 weeks.  But, then again, maybe all of life’s lessons start very early.  Maybe I should even let the occasional f-bomb rush out from my inner voice.  Goodness knows how I’m going to prevent such bombs from rushing out from my outer voice from time to time, when my baby is all ears, sitting right in front of me.

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Couvade syndrome

by Milton on Wed, Sep 30th, 2009

in Psychological,Studies and rumors,Week 09

According to Wikipedia, Couvade syndrome, or sympathetic pregnancy, is a somewhat mysterious condition where a pregnant woman’s partner begins to exhibit some of the symptoms of pregnancy.  Labor pains, weight gain, food cravings, and sometimes even post-partum depression.  Now, I think this is a great idea.  Funny, at least.

Now, most of the articles I’ve read about it make it seem like a pretty unflattering condition.  In some cultures the fathers are considered to be possessed by demons.  In others, that they are simply starved for attention and trying to get some of the same sympathy that the pregnant woman gets.  Seems sort of selfish when you think about it that way.

I am trying to rebrand Couvade syndrome into something a little more interesting.  A sort of intentional empathetic bond with my wife.  And, while she starts to show her pregnancy, I can also become more proud of my little gut.  Rather than steal the attention, I can nod my head and say, yes, I can not only imagine how that feels, but also share in a tiny shadow of the feeling.

Okay, maybe that won’t really work as intended.  The symptoms of pregnancy will always be stronger in the actual pregnant person, therefore why not just let her enjoy the special treatment 100%?  I’ll consider it.  But in the meantime, this stigmatized little French syndrome seems like an interesting thing to learn more about.

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A whole other person

by Esther on Fri, Sep 18th, 2009

in Challenges,Psychological,Week 07

This afternoon, I had a long chat with a girlfriend on the phone.  She is in the throws of trying to conceive.

I haven’t yet told her of my own pregnancy.  I’m hesitant to talk about it openly at this point, because it seems so possible that this pregnancy will end like up to 60% of other first-trimester pregnancies do- in a miscarriage.  I have shared my information with some good friends, but mostly prefer to keep my information to myself (and this blog) at this point.

Anyhow, this good friend was talking about the recent possibility of being pregnant.  She kept referring to this possibility, and saying things like, “I mean, I could have been carrying a whole other person.”

This got me to thinking… what exactly do I consider my 7 week condition?  Do I consider myself to be carrying a whole other person?

Let’s make a list of how I am feeling this week:

  1. I am stressed out about our living situation. (definitely related to pregnancy)
  2. I am stressed out about my family. (maybe only related because of the elevation of hormones)
  3. I want to puke.  Sometimes I want to puke more than other times… but I could summon the feeling at any moment if I were to really tap into it. (definitely a symptom of pregnancy)
  4. I am on a boat.  In motion.  I am constantly dizzy. (also a major symptom)
  5. I feel as if I’m stoned.  This is particularly annoying when I can’t find simple nouns in my regular vocabulary. (yep.  pregnancy apparently makes you stupid.)

All in all, taking these things into account, I am definitely 100% pregnant.  And, if the old adage of “The sicker you feel, the stronger your pregnancy” is true, this pregnancy really seems to be sticking a whole lot more than the failed pregnancy I had 6 months ago.

So… am I carrying a whole other person?  I don’t know how I feel about that just yet.

I feel as if have a condition.  That condition could progress to a birth.  I really hope that condition DOES progress to a birth.  I would like to ultimately give birth to a whole other person. But, right now, I feel detached from my body a whole lot.  Little changes are happening that impede my regular life.  I can’t drink my beloved wine.  My belly is just beginning to swell and get into the way in yoga class.  My boobs are alien creatures who apparently have minds of their own.  My usually successful attempts at fashion suddenly do not work.  I am having mild panic attacks when looking at pregnancy gear at A Pea in the Pod.

All of this, for me, does not add up to carrying a whole other person. But, hey, I’ll totally let you know when I feel differently.  Not feeling as if I’m carrying a whole other person certainly doesn’t affect my level of anticipation or excitement for the future.

Hopefully feeling that my condition adds up to a whole other person will happen at some point, but it might not happen until birth.  I guess we’ll see.

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