Internet Attention & Training Weekend

I’ve always been a ham, a lover of attention. I did Singing Performances at age 4. I once wanted to be a professional actress. I blog. I would do community theater right now if I could find a play to audition for. Love. The. Attention. Today, I got attention in two separate places!

At Baby Zone, I was quoted about drinking coffee while pregnant. People really overreact to that “rule” and need to stop with the all judgey, stink-eye expressions around pregnant ladies.

I shared at The Fearless Formula Feeder about using breasmilk, donormilk, AND formula to get Baby Walter fed without sacrificing anyone’s health or happiness. Because we need all the health and happiness we can get, and no “shoulds” are allowed to get in the way.

Tonight is my last night in this horrific hotel which reeks of cigarette smoke and can’t handle anything but processed crap and tiny cups of coffee for their “continental breakfast” – seriously, how hard would an orange be to bring in? – and it’s been a roller coaster.

First, we learned all about hypnosis, and the difference between what you see on a stage for entertainment, what people use in therapeutic settings (quitting smoking, overcoming a phobia) and what is used in HypnoBirthing®. That was super cool. I will go into that in some later post, I’m sure. For now, just take my word for it that no one controls anyone’s mind in any of the above. Mind control is a pipe dream, sadly for us mothers. ;)

Then, at the lunch break on Friday, I nearly drove all the way to my mother-in-law’s house to hold my baby, after hearing a couple classmates talk about how they avoided leaving their babies for a year or more. I think they meant well when they said they couldn’t have done this (leave for 4 nights, 4 days), but it hurt. I sobbed on the phone. My heart ached. But I stayed. I’m so glad I stayed.

I completely adore the philosophy, techniques and results I’ve seen with HypnoBirthing® and cannot wait to share my knowledge with the couples I will get to teach. It will be such a privilege to serve women and their partners in this way! My teacher, Vivian Keeler, is usually a chiropractor, doula and Certified HypnoBirthing®  Childbirth Educator while helping to run two amazing places for pregnant ladies in South Florida. She is a wonderful teacher, and came highly recommended by my instructor and doula, Kate. We are learning in a beautiful home setting, thanks to the generosity of our host. I am so excited I can hardly contain it!

In case you are wondering, YES, I want to give birth again. Strangely, NO, I don’t want to be pregnant or raise a second child. Check back with me in a few years, but I have an odd feeling that nurturing my Walter and being a birth worker will be all the baby fix I need. Can’t I please just experience a water birth without having an actual child or spending 40 weeks in pregnancy? No? Ah, well. (Does that give you an idea of how exciting this is for me?)

Oh, and since I already mentioned feeding the baby, a note: I have crazy amounts of respect for women who pump at work. Pumping whenever I feel full while I’m away from Walt (he is having pumped milk, formula and solid food) is pumping far too often. I am sick of that machine. Even if Walter does bite, sometimes, at least he smiles at me! 

Love from a happy place,

Anne-Marie

The Stigma of Mental Illness: Three Stories from Readers

In exactly one week, I have received questions from three very different readers about three very different struggles. I love hearing from you. It keeps me writing, and it gives me a sense of purpose for this space. But I cannot begin to express how sad it makes me that these three women have come to me, each asking “Where do I even begin?” While I am a readily accessible voice happy to help, I believe that they are asking me because the stigma of mental illness, the reason so many of us end up feeling ashamed of our struggles, has made it difficult to find help in the “real” world.

I have some ideas specific to each question, but I want to take a minute to say this: if our culture did not stigmatize mental illness, maybe our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers would feel more comfortable talking to professionals. Asking for help in real life can trigger so much: what will friends and family think? What will it cost, financially? How do I find someone qualified to help me? If we were talking about something else, here, diabetes, for example, there would be no end to the resources available to help manage the issue. No one would call us weak for depending on insulin. No one would tell us to “tough it out” or “get over it.” But we say these things to people who admit to struggling with mental illness, so three women who each need a different kind of professional to guide them through very difficult decisions have come to me, a blogger with personal experience but no medical credentials.

I repeat: I love hearing from you. I am happy to help when I can. Overjoyed, really. But it should not be so hard.

Now. Please send your love to three souls in need of support:

Em is thirteen-years-old and at a loss. She has asked me what to do, because the panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms are overwhelming. She feels depressed. She wonders if maybe it would be easier if she were dead.

At 13, I felt every single thing Em described to me. I don’t know if she has “active” suicidal thoughts, but wondering if things would be easier for everybody if you died is called a “passive” suicidal thought. It’s a big step from feeling so tired that you want to give up to actively making plans to end your life. But it’s not a good way to live. It sucks.

In a strange way, being thirteen and anxious/depressed is a bit like being pregnant and anxious/depressed: no one knows what to do with you. It’s hard to find someone to give you a realistic picture of your options, because we are terrified of what the side effects medication might have on a fetus or on a child. There is a bigger risk, there. I truly believe that meds are just one of many tools, but being in a place where no one wants to touch that issue with a ten-foot pole? That sucks. If your doctor isn’t willing to discuss the risks, you may not be able to try something that has the potential to offer relief.

When anyone feels the way you feel, Em, we want relief. We want it NOW, especially when the work we are doing, like your work in counseling, doesn’t seem to help us at all. I am so truly sorry that you have to go through this. It gets better. I promise you that life is better on this side of thirteen-years-old. Please, do whatever it takes to get through this time. It is amazing, the amount of pain a human can feel and still keep going. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. Just believe that it cannot last forever.

CC is forty-two-years-old and facing an unplanned pregnancy shortly after the death of her mother; she is not thrilled to be finding out this way that, despite feeling sure that she could not become pregnant, surprise! she can. And is. And there’s more. She writes,

“I was taking a boatload of everything and pretty much had some of my issues ironed out until this happened. Now I am told that, oops, that 3 mgs a day clopanpin a day you take could be the worst thing in the world for you. … do you know anyone who took that much clonapin in the early stages and had a healthy baby?”

I wrote back, immediately, of course, that those doctors are OH SO VERY WRONG! And here is where I get angrier than the Hulk. In this country, a woman has the legal right to terminate a pregnancy. But we are talking about a woman who wants to have a baby! CC sat at her computer at 4 am wondering who on earth to talk to, without a cell phone or money for a phone card, because she left a doctor’s office believing that she had to choose between her mental health and the physical safety of her fetus.

Just take a minute to let that soak in. An adult woman left the office of a licensed care provider with the idea that the medicine she considers a lifeline, her only path to sanity, would destroy the health of the fetus she is carrying.

I don’t even know where to begin, there is so much wrong with CC’s experience at her doctor’s office. I reread her letter so many times, wondering if it was possible that she had misinterpreted a responsible doctor’s explanation that there is a risk in taking meds to mean “meds will definitely hurt this fetus.” But she did not leave that office thinking that medication in general is terrible during pregnancy, a myth that many people believe. She left thinking that only one of several medications she takes is basically poison. It takes a special kind of incompetence to so severely misinform a patient.

I don’t know the end of CC’s story. I hope that, whatever she has decided, she is doing ok. Obviously, I told her that she deserves a care provider who can show her enough respect to at least do an internet search on her meds before telling her which to stay on and which stop taking. I also told her that I took four mg of Klonopin every day of my pregnancy and had a healthy baby, but that this did not mean that everyone taking the drug would enjoy the same outcome. But the specifics just don’t matter, here. At the root of this woman’s encounter with a medical professional is the idea that she can just go without the medicine and that she should, because she is pregnant. Did you know that asthma inhalers pose risks to a growing fetus? Did you know that some women end up hospitalized because they try to go without their inhalers? Do you know what doctors tell them? They say, “Use your inhaler! You are breathing for both you and the baby, and neither of you can do without oxygen!” CC told me that she is afraid that she will become suicidal again without her medication. She is also afraid that she will become suicidal if she terminates this pregnancy. If she were not pregnant, every doctor would see the risk of relapse after stopping a medication like Klonopin. But as soon as there’s a fetus involved, most stop seeing that risk to the woman and only see potential birth defects. The worst part is that most of them don’t even know the actual probability of that happening.

And this brings me to the last letter, written by a woman very much like me. Laura put off thinking about the potential conflict between her desire to have children and the use of medication to manage her anxiety and depression. Now that she and her husband of three years want to have a baby, she has no idea where to begin trying to understand her options. She wants to stay healthy, mentally and physically. She wants to have a healthy baby. She went looking for “resources” on this topic and found nothing.

I started this blog in summer, 2010, because I couldn’t find any sort of guide to help me understand my choices. In the eighteen-plus months since I went looking, not much has changed. There are articles about individual studies that have come out since then. There is more information in the world about pregnancy and mental health. But it’s not any easier to find.

I’m simply not qualified to create that resource guide, nor do I have the time and energy to do it. Maybe it should be done. Or maybe our doctors should look up the medical research that exists on databases that are readily available to physicians and, at the very least, translate what they have read for their patients from medical jargon into English. Maybe medical schools should look into training obstetricians to prepare for the fact that this is going to come up, given that, as the Mayo Clinic website reports, “About 1 in 5 women develop depression at some point in life.” You know how I learned that? I did a Google search for “percent of women with depression.”

Somebody. Please. Tell me why it is too much to ask that doctors who exclusively treat women prepare themselves for the possibility that some of us will have such a common illness? Why do we just accept it when a doctor is uneducated or, worse, misinformed, about something that happens all the time.

The only answer I can come up with is the thread that connects these three letters, for me: as a society, we send the message that depression and anxiety are not “real” problems. In a thousand ways, we imply that medical treatment for depression and anxiety is optional. Those of us who struggle with mental illness learn quickly that others become uncomfortable when the topic arises. We learn to hide it. We learn shame. Even if we manage not to feel shame, we hide it for the sake of convenience. We learn to justify taking medicine, going to therapy, seeing a psychiatrist, because our culture still promotes the absurd idea that, unlike a heart condition or diabetes, mental illness can be willed away. It is not a “real” illness; it is more like a weakness.

Just get out of bed.

Just stop crying.

Just go for a walk.

Just talk to someone.

Just go off the meds for the pregnancy.

It’s been weeks/months/years, aren’t you past this, yet?

Are you going to have to take that stuff forever?

It’s all socially acceptable, even for doctors. It’s all wrong. I love that my little corner of the internet is a place where we refuse to accept that kind of nonsense. I have carefully crafted this blog so that it will show up in search engine results for the very specific problems I encountered (“klonopin and pregnancy” is quite common). But my heart aches, because for this one safe space, there are a hundred hostile environments. Em, CC, Laura and all the rest of us deserve better.

The Birth Story: Healing Through Childbirth

Two months ago, on October 19th, I gave birth to my son, Walter. Birthing was the most amazing, healing, life-affirming, empowering experience imaginable.

I went to bed on October 18th in complete misery. The baby’s rump was wedged under my ribs. I could hardly breath. I somehow managed to fall asleep around 8:00 pm. At midnight, I woke up with a contraction (which I will now call “surges” because that’s the term we use in HypnoBirthing and it’s a lot more accurate, I think). I immediately knew it was different from the Braxton Hicks/”practice surges” I had been feeling for a few weeks. Those felt like a pretty extreme tightening at the top of my huge belly. This one seemed to travel down into my pelvis, with the pressure at the top releasing as the lower muscles tightened. I drank a lot of water and went back to sleep; if this was it, I wanted to be rested and hydrated. It was technically October 19th, one week after my 28th birthday and nine days before Walter’s due date.

Another “traveling” surge woke me up at 4:00 am and again at 8:00. As luck would have it, I had a routine appointment with my midwife at 9:30 anyway, so I just kept hydrating and resting. That appointment turned into a non-stress test (they monitored the baby and my surges while I lay still) which turned into an ultrasound appointment. My surges were not regular, even though they were happening. I was one centimeter dilated, which means pretty much nothing–a pregnant woman can stay there for weeks. But the reason for the ultrasound check was my crazy monkey baby–he just never liked being monitored! The kid would move away from every monitor ever put near him, and he even managed to kick them or punch them. The readings for his heart rate were not indicative of anything, making the results of the test inconclusive (if you remember the monitoring after the car accident? similar deal).

I breathed deeply through a trip to Ikea–can you say “nesting”?–and a therapy appointment before it was time for the ultrasound. Everything was normal with our beautiful boy, but there was a lot of fluid in there. The nurse told me that they’d make an appointment for me on Monday to keep track of the fluid, because if it got any higher, there’d be some danger of something. I don’t remember. She also said that she didn’t think that my baby was staying put until Monday, so good luck with the birth!

Serendipity struck again at 5:30 pm, when my doula, Kate, arrived for a meet-up we had set up earlier in the week. I was supposed to be finalizing my birth plan. I sent Nathan to do laundry, even though I was pretty convinced that this was it. Within an hour, Kate and I knew that this was IT. I called the midwife, Elise, to let her know what was going on. She told me to keep doing what I was doing, rest, and call again later. Part of me wanted to go to the hospital, because my body was just taking over and doing really intense things! And it hurt! I knew better, though. I also knew that they’d send me right home again if I went too early. Kate held my hand as labor progressed.

By 6:30, we were both pretty shocked at how intense things had become. I was vomiting and laboring on the toilet (both very normal). Kate called Nathan, who came home with wet laundry to find me unable to speak. I wanted to move to the birthing ball/stability ball. It didn’t take much rocking back and forth on that before my water broke. A little later (I was not watching the clock!), I felt a warm gush. Nathan and Kate (doula) talked to Elise (midwife) for a bit while I moaned and tried not to freak out about the pain. I really struggled with this phase. I could not believe that I was still supposed to stay at home! I felt like as long as I was at home, this intensity, the pain, could go on indefinitely. I didn’t feel like I could handle this indefinitely. I wanted to know that my body was moving forward. I felt terrified that labor would stall here. I needn’t have worried.

Kate helped move me to the bed (I didn’t want to move!) to labor on my side and conserve energy. That baby moved as soon as I lay down, because immediately, I blurted out “I want to push!” I remember Kate saying “Alright, get up, let’s go!” She called Elise to tell her we were on our way to the hospital. Nathan ran around getting things together. I remember wanting to kill him for pausing in the hallway to ask our neighbors to walk the dog (this now strikes me as a very smart thing to have done…) and wondering how I was supposed to get to the car door, since walking over the small patch of grass seemed impossible.

I spent an interminable amount of time trying not to push in the car. There seemed to be a ridiculous number of red lights and busses stopping in front of us. I think we got to the hospital around 7:30. Fast, right? It still seems unbelievable that I went from chatting on the phone to triage in about two hours.

That’s long enough, so I’ll leave it for now! Stay tuned for the rest of my beautiful story.

Week 34 Belly Pics (And Football)

This shirt was a gift from me to my husband. I gave it to him with a Jets onesie, so the baby will be a fan before and after birth. He’s not a rabid fan by any means, but the man watches a lot of football. The gift got a big smile! Also, my belly is surprising me every time I catch a glimpse in a mirror or a photo…

Joining the Club: Our Baby Shower

I have now been to one baby shower in my life–mine, last Saturday. This is what comes of living so far from close friends and family; I couldn’t even go to my sister’s shower. I found out months ago that my sister-in-law Peggy was planning to host a shower for me, and I was excited ever since. Peggy is a consummate host and a creative part-planner. But she’s also just really warm and lovely. My husband’s family (Peg is his sister) has embraced me as one of their own in a way I never thought was possible. Peggy and I were pregnant at the same time, until her third baby was born in July. Knowing that I’m not the most traditional mom and that most of my close female friends live far away, Peggy and my mother-in-law, Judy, planned a co-ed, family friendly backyard tea party. They called it “Anne-Marie in Wonderland” – my “un-shower.”

It was perfect. (The weather did actually threaten a tornado at one point, but that was before the party, and the rain waited until after we were done being outside to come down!) There were incredibly generous gifts and a bin full of books that included many I knew and loved. Friends drove all the way from Philly, and my cousin took the train all the way from Brooklyn. I often have a little social anxiety at parties, but there’s a magical perk to being the mom-to-be at your own baby shower–no one expects you to mingle! I sat on my “throne” decorated with beautiful hydrangea flowers and people came over to me to say hi!

We had tea, scones and finger sandwiches on beautiful china in the backyard. My friend Joseph is English and he said, “It’s like my childhood on a table!” so Peggy must have done her research. There were tiny signs on toothpicks in the sandwiches that said “Eat Me” just like the signs in the original Alice illustration. Corresponding “Drink Me” signs adorned the wine and iced tea that was served before the tea got started. The warmth and welcome was just palpable.

We eventually did go inside to open gifts (and many of our male guests retreated to the basement to mix cocktails at the full bar and avoid cooing over baby gifts) and this is where I really start to tear up at the memories. I hardly knew many of the guests, who were friends and family of our baby’s lovely grandparents and aunt and uncle, but as the evening progressed, I felt like they were welcoming Nathan and I (Nathan opened gifts, too!) into the Parents Club. It’s hard to explain, but all the smiles and thoughtful gifts and the stories shared about putting children to bed (or not) and favorite books… it all added to this feeling like we are about to do this very difficult thing (parenting) that many have done and survived before us. They seemed so happy for us at the joys we were about to experience and good-natured and funny about the not-so-joyful sleepless nights.

I did start to cry when my mother-in-law came over with a special gift just for me; it’s a series of little things, really, that are all about helping me experience childbirth in the positive, sacred way that I have planned. I had entertained the idea of throwing myself a Blessingway, a party that is much more about birth and is, admittedly, very “hippie.” Knowing that, Judy had made me a necklace with special beads to wear in preparation for labor. She started a scrapbook for me, not a baby book of traditional milestones, but of words and images that represent the joy and the calm that I want to surround my family as we move forward on our little journey. She had even found a CD perfect for playing in our hospital room to keep the ambiance calm and sweet. And she wrote a card expressing feelings I share: we are so glad to have one another as family.

My baby shower weekend turned into a celebration of family. I have heard stories of awful showers with the sharing of birth stories, some of them frightening, and advice, much of it based in fear. I have heard stories of moms-to-be overruled by grandmothers-to-be who want everything this or that way. I know a family whose registry and desire to use cloth diapers was completely ignored; instead, they received cases of disposable diapers and are now finding the money to buy diaper covers themselves. I was a little nervous. Not very nervous. Just a little. There was nothing to worry about. This party fit my taste and personality so perfectly, you would have thought that the closest friends in the world had planned it. Turns out, the family I married into is as close as my closest friends (even if topics of conversation are a bit different). We know and love each other well.

I am so happy to be bringing my baby into this family. Of course, far-away family sent gifts and good wishes, and they are part of my joy. Still, there is something special, something I grew up with and would never trade, about having family just a car-ride away. I am so lucky–to have the gifts we received on Saturday, of course, but much more to have the love of such kind and generous souls.

Prenatal depression gets some attention. And why I’ve been hiding.

I have been hiding for these past few weeks. At BlogHer, I overdid the walking in the no-support-but-very-cute ballet flats and got myself some seriously swollen ankles and feet. Ouch! Then I came home and slept for about three days. In the week that followed, I had time to think about all the amazing women I had met and their amazing blogs and feel, well, not so amazing by comparison. I was so pumped while I was there! And then I felt so inadequate when I came home. I still feel inadequate. But, I love my little blog with few readers and no advertisers, so I am going to keep writing. That is the beauty of this whole enterprise. No one can stop me!

First, I want to let you all know about an amazing series of articles written by Jessica Grosse for Slate called Not Just the Pregnancy Blues. There are three. They aren’t very long. Do read all three!

I really have nothing to add to the brilliant reporting Grosse has done, except that I am so grateful to her for bringing this to the public eye. Many of you have written to me with stories similar to those she shares; my hope is that one day, no woman will stand for it when a care provider brushes off her concerns and feelings. Which brings me to the other reason I have come back…

You. Those of you who come back here, who have shared your stories with me in comments or email or on Facebook or Twitter–you are amazing. This has been a gathering place of sorts, and I do not want to give that up. Especially when the comments sections that adorn any Slate piece attract any and all variety of mean and nasty. If you want to talk about Grosse’s writing, I suggest you send her email if it’s about her or comment here if it’s on the general topic. Do. Not. Look. At. The. Comments.

For anyone curious about pregnancy news: there is no real news! Which is good news! I am 30 weeks, 4 days, so we’re in the home stretch. My belly is beautiful and round and getting bigger every day. I can feel my baby moving a lot, which is really reassuring. I’ve been super lucky to have had, well, almost no symptoms. No heartburn, no constant aches or pains, just glorious pregnancy! I think more pregnant women would feel good if they could sleep whenever they wanted and never had to leave the house except for midwife appointments… I’m very grateful that, physically, I am darn good at this pregnancy thing. Mentally, I’m doing well. I have my days. My therapist has been on vacation which I do not like! But I suppose therapists are people, too, and probably need vacations more than most. I suck at leaving the house. I suck at getting enough exercise.

I am loving HypnoBirthing–the class, the book and the CD. That deserves a whole post of its own, but it actually relaxes me! I know, I was shocked, too! I put on the relaxation CD and I relax and fall asleep and wake up relaxed! I was feeling very scared of the birth and of life after my sweet baby was no longer so deeply connected to me. But our instructor/doula and the affirmations that are part of the HypnoBirthing technique have helped me become very excited and confident.

Finally, here’s a picture from early July that shows off how fabulous I look in general and how round and awesome my belly is. I had to cut out the other people, because I don’t have their permission to put pictures of them here, so I apologize for the poor quality.

On Denial and the Third Trimester

Yes, I am hiding. I am pulling the covers over my head and pretending that nothing is changing, even as my belly grows and the baby’s movement becomes more insistent. I used to pore over descriptions of how my baby was developing. Now that they say things like “practicing breathing” and explain that the babe just has to get bigger–no more major structural development–the descriptions freak me out. I am going to have to parent someone. And before I do that, I am going to have to get that someone from inside of me to the outside world. He/she weighs pounds, people. We are talking about fetal weight in pounds now. And I can feel that weight behind the indescribably weird movement that is also magical.

I do have an excuse for some of the time. In true Anne-Marie fashion, I managed to injure some nerve in my right elbow by using the keyboard/mouse incorrectly. It hurt a whole bunch and I could only type with my left hand for a week or ten days. I normally type at lighting speed, so that was really obnoxious. I’m all better now! And practicing better keyboard habits. (Did you know they were serious about that stuff? It’s totally true! Wrists up and elbows off the arm rests, people!)

In happier news, we started taking HypnoBirthing classes from the lovely Kate Sullivan; I can’t recommend her highly enough, New Haven/Connecticut residents. She comes to our apartment and everything! (That did cost extra, but I sometimes feel so anxious about group things that I refuse to go, so I really think we’ll get more out of it this way.) Kate is practical, funny and very calming. I’m already working on using some of the breathing techniques I learned to calm myself down now. Somehow, she and HypnoBirthing are starting to make birth seem like something that I can do and that will be beautiful and precious. And thank God for that, because I was really starting to wonder how I, of all people, was going to calm down long enough to experience the birth of my child without trauma.

I have one more therapy session before my therapist goes on vacation for three weeks. So there’s that. [I simultaneously totally understand why a therapist would need a good long vacation every year and wish that they were not allowed to take them.] The worst that can happen is that a lot of anxiety builds up and I rattle around until she comes back. She’ll come back, though, and we’ll work through it all. Still, I wish that we were NOT working on acceptance and surrender re: the fact that I could actually give birth any time now. It’s not likely, but it could happy. And I didn’t think of that until she brought it up. I just blithely assumed that I had nothing to think about until October 26th or later. So now I’m working on accepting the fact that I have no control over when this baby decides to come out and surrendering to my body and its incredible strength.

Here this! I affirm: my body is strong and amazing and my baby is, too. They will do this thing if I just listen to them and get out of their way. I am not afraid. I trust my body and my baby. I am not afraid.

Convinced? Yeah, well, I was once told that affirmations are obviously for things that are not true (yet) or we wouldn’t need to affirm them. We’d know them. So I am affirming trust until I feel it.

I do have a strong connection with this child. I thought for sure I’d be one of those women who talks to her belly, but really I just talk to the baby in my head. I do sing out loud. With so much movement (really, if you see me, you won’t have to wait long for a chance to feel the baby kick), it’s easy to remember that this is a person with a personality. I think that that is completely awesome. I’d rather be a vessel and caretaker than actually be responsible for shaping a human character, personality, all that, from scratch. Be whoever you are, kiddo; I’ll just do my best to pay attention and respond.

Let’s end on a funny story, shall we? So, I’m going to this huge blogging conference in New York, BlogHer; the plan since I bought a discounted “early bird” ticket sometime in January or February was to go to the city on Wednesday, August 1st. This is how big a dork I am: I got all freaked out and nervous and took forever packing and got us in the car on June 25th, believing the entire time that it was, in fact, August 1st. I figured it out with the help of the friend I’ll be staying with next week somewhere around Greenwich. It was about 2.5 hours, round trip. Yes, that’s right, I thought it was this week and actually almost got there when, in fact, it is next week. We laughed. I laughed especially hard. This is totally the kind of thing I do.

Why I Love My Midwives, Reason #10,000

I woke up this morning around 3:00. A few hours later, despite having downed quite a bit of water, I found myself being kicked vigorously by this active fetus of mine and then–the pain. Oh. My. Lord. Most of you are female, right? A majority? So imagine a menstrual cramp, multiply it by 100 and add the fact that you are not supposed to be getting cramps. Because of the whole pregnancy thing. This pain continued to stab me in the lower abdomen for 10 minute spurts (5 seconds in actual time, at most) until I was thoroughly freaked out. By then, it was 7:30. By 7:45, I worked up the courage to call my midwives’ emergency number, and by 8:00 I was on the phone with Laura.

Funny thing about Laura–I have spent an inordinate amount of time with her. For some reason, bizarre scheduling things keep happening so that she has to take over or check in on my appointments. I’m supposed to be seeing all three midwives in the practice, in rotation, so that I get to know each of them. Whoever is on call will deliver my baby.

Anyway, I know Laura pretty well by this point, so it was easy to tell her what was going on. I tried to do this quickly, because she was, at that very moment, in the hospital, with two of her patients pushing! She told me to drink two big glasses of water, lie down on my left side, calm down and wait.

It’s a good thing her voice calmed me down, because waiting to see if awful “am I going into labor at 24 weeks?!” pain comes back is not exactly a calm activity. I took a Klonopin (it was time for one anyway). Here I am, at 8:45, pain free for the last 45 minutes and nearly ready to hop in the car for a road trip to Philly to spend a couple days with two of my favorite college friends (three, if you include our brunch date tomorrow). Don’t worry, Nathan is driving.

And that, my friends, is yet another reason to love midwives. No panic on her end. No fear. Just calm instructions and simple remedies. Oh, and she even told me that she was glad I had called–“If you have pain, I always want you to call.”

This is also a testament to how much I love you, Alyce & Christina, because I am so not letting anything short of actual pre-term labor stop me from visiting you.

18 Weeks Pregnant: Update

How Far Along? 18 weeks, 6 days

Maternity Clothes? I’m loving them! Thanks to my lovely sister-in-law Peggy, I have a closet full of lovely things. I’ve just added two pair of leggings, since my belly does not always appreciate the jeans as the weather gets warmer. My maternity bathing suit arrived, and it is simply adorable! I love it! I even have a floppy straw sunhat with a black ribbon. You’ll have to wait until it’s beach weather for a photo of the vintage-y outfit, but here’s the picture of the suit on the model:

The print is red floral. The top flairs out from under the bust, and the bottoms and top are tied with red polka dotted fabric. It's made by the Spanish company Pez d'Or, but I got it for well over 60% off from Gilt.

Weight Gain?

I’m not exactly sure, but it’s probably more than the recommended amount. I’m not sure because I’m now seeing midwives instead of an OB/Gyn, and as much as I loved my OB/Gyn, the midwives really are marvelous at putting me at ease. Their nurses do the weight and the blood pressure so fast that I can’t see the numbers. When they check the heartbeat, they just say “Perfect!” and don’t even check the actual number. They can hear if it’s too fast or too slow (there’s a large range that qualifies as healthy). I’ll talk about them some more soon, because they deserve a post all to themselves. I feel like crying in gratitude every time I think of them and their calm kindness.

Stretch Marks?

I can’t actually find any new ones. I have quite a few left over from adolescence. It’s a good thing I’m so pale–the silvery marks practically blend in. New stretch marks are bright red, and I can’t find any of those! That’s pretty remarkable, since I’m pretty sure I’ve gone past an H cup bra size by now.

Sleep?

It’s hard to get to sleep these days. It’s either anxiety or heartburn or just plain discomfort. Once I fall asleep, I seem to be able to sleep through anything.

Best Moment so Far?

Hearing the doctor and ultrasound tech reassure me yesterday that every measurement is normal and that there is no sign of cleft lip. I’ve been waiting for the moment they could see the lip clearly on the ultrasound, because the risk for the birth defect might be higher for a fetus exposed to Klonopin, one of my medications. Seeing our baby looking so perfectly baby-like on that screen yesterday lifted a thousand-pound weight from my shoulders.

Movement?

I don’t think so. A few times, I have felt things that might have been movement, but I’m just not sure. We found out yesterday that I have an anterior placenta, which is not at all a bad thing, it just means that the placenta is in the front, behind my belly button. You know what’s pretty cool about that? It shows us where the egg implanted in the lining of my uterus!  But some people think that it’s a bit harder to feel movement with an anterior placenta. I might also just not recognize the feeling because I’ve never felt it before! In the next week or two, I should feel something. We saw Bug moving around a whole lot, so I’m sure I’ll start to feel all that squirming pretty soon!

What I miss?

I really miss having my internal organs in their proper places, especially those that digest my food. They’ve all been squished, and I’m looking at months more of discomfort every time I eat anything.

What I’m looking forward to?

This one is a little silly, but I can’t wait to go swimming in a lake. I’m told that all the fluid in my uterus makes me buoyant, and I want to float on my back the way I did when I lived in Minnesota. I love to float with my ears underwater and my face above water, so things get really quiet and I can either look up at the sky or close my eyes and just feel the sun on my face. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of sunscreen!

What I’ve Learned about Pregnancy:

No one could possibly warn you about all of the things that you might feel. Ligament pain is indescribable and so painful, as is “pelvic pain,” which is what happens when hormones tell your pelvis to start getting ready for letting a baby come through. Why does my right hip ache when I wake up or walk too much? Why am I getting a weird new kind of headache so often? When will the vivid dreams stop? It’s apparently different for everyone. And I don’t even want to know what’s coming anymore!

Milestones:

Our last ultrasound was yesterday! Unless something seems very wrong, the midwives won’t order another one. After this last one, where they measure everything, the baby is really too big for it to do much good. And the weight estimates they sometimes use ultrasound to do are rarely accurate. I just heard about one woman who was told her baby was 9 lbs and it was really 11 lbs! I’ve also hear about women who were told they had to have C-sections because they’re babies were “too big” only to be cut open to find a much smaller baby than they expected. Unnecessary surgery? Not a fan. Anyway,

Emotions:

All of them. One minute I’m beaming, and the next, I’m in tears. I’ve gotten angry because Nathan forgot to turn off the light or the TV or because I can’t sleep (which is obviously always his fault). You never know what you’re going to get around here!

Photos!

 

My Future, Revised: From Child Care Provider to Stay-At-Home-Mom

I am bound by both conscience and a confidentiality clause in my contract from providing any details. I really need to talk about one issue, though: pregnancy discrimination. There is a federal law against firing or demoting or otherwise discriminating an employee, but the federal law provides an exemption for businesses with fifteen or fewer employees. The state where I work has an even better law–you aren’t exempt unless you have three or fewer employees. Here’s the law, helpfully explained by the Connecticut Network for Legal Aid:

Q: I’m pregnant. Do I have legal rights to protect me in the workplace?

A: Yes. There are state and federal laws that protect you from discrimination because of pregnancy. If you work for an employer (private, public, or employment agency) with 3 or more workers, your employer cannot discriminate against you because of pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions. A pregnancy must be treated the same way as any other temporary medical disability. This means:

  • You cannot be fired, denied a job or a promotion simply because you are or may become pregnant.
  • You cannot be forced to take a leave because you are pregnant if you are able and willing to work.
  • Employers (or potential ones) cannot ask you about your plans to have children or your pregnancy unless this information is directly related to a specific job.
  • In general, employers must not treat pregnant employees any differently from other employees. For example, the employer cannot provide health insurance that treats pregnancy and childbirth any differently from other medical conditions.

If I were not the only employee here, I would have a job waiting for me after a state- and federally-mandated maternity leave:

Q: Am I allowed to take a leave of absence?

A: Yes. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the state and federal Family and Medical Leave Acts (FMLA) and CT’s Anti-Discrimination Laws protect eligible employees who need to take leave during or after pregnancy (maternity leave). If an employer offers sick leave or disability leave to its employees, it must permit pregnant employees to use that leave for pregnancyrelated conditions. “Family and medical leave” allows an eligible employee (man or woman) to take an unpaid leave of absence (generally up to 12 or 16 weeks) to care for a child upon the child’s birth or adoption.

Because I am the only employee here, I have access to none of these rights. In New York City, I’ve heard, there is a union for nannies. I belong to no such union, but working conditions in New York really are awful. Access to basic workers’ rights is a problem for many nannies and domestic workers. I asked an expert once, and she had never heard of a maternity clause in a nanny contract. It seems utterly ridiculous counterintuitive to ignore the possibility that someone who loves children enough to take care of someone else’s kids full-time might want to have one or two of her own.

I’m sure you can piece together what’s happened over hear. Now, I find myself suddenly planning a future career as a stay-at-home-mom. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m already so attached to this baby; I can’t imagine leaving my child in someone else’s care while I go to care for other kids. I’m in shock, a bit.

I have no problem applying for WIC, food stamps (or SNAP, as the program is now called), or welfare/cash assistance. This is precisely what those programs are for. Unfortunately, I do not live in one of the small handful of states that offers short-term disability or unemployment insurance to pregnancy women. If I wanted private short-term insurance, I needed to apply for it before the pregnancy. And I just didn’t know that. It never occurred to me to check. We’ll make it. And it will be worth buying nothing new for ourselves and not visiting relatives outside driving distance. We can do all of that later. We will never get the first years of our child’s life back. And now, one or both of us will be there for every moment.

My mother-in-law has promised to drive up from Long Island to keep me company; I am carrying her only biological grandchild and married to her only son. But we’re friends. Dear friends. And I’ll have time to go to play groups and spend time with the friends I have met here. But other child care providers who work in private homes are not so lucky.

The discrimination I have encountered may be legal, but it is still wrong.