Twenty Five

In the last year, I:
Met and helped to care for my first nephew
Lived in Maine and moved to Hawaii
Took two photography classes and started building a portfolio
Got a tan, and lost it
Went down two pants sizes (and back up one, just recently ;-D)
Visited California for the first time and saw San Francisco, Berkeley, Napa, and Sonoma
Traveled all over the islands of Oahu and Kauai and made reservations to go to Maui
Decorated — with Tom — our whole apartment exactly the way we wanted to, paint and all
Got a job that I really like, with dilemmas and stresses that I can leave at the office
Voted in my second Presidential election and saw my candidate win
Made a baby

In the last 25 years, I:
Graduated high school and received a bachelor’s degree, both with high honors
Bought and paid off my first car, and traded that in to buy my first brand-new car
Bought and paid for two computers and a really nice camera lens that cost more than the computers :)
Arranged a vacation to Paris for my 21st birthday
Visited 46 cities in 9 countries (thanks, TripAdvisor Map!)
Published a poem in a journal
Killed several plants
Lived in four states and two countries
Got four tattoos
Learned and forgot how to speak Spanish
Kept myself completely out of credit card debt and paid off several grand of my school loans
Fell in love with Tom, and got married, and started a home
Started a family

Well. That calls for a helping of leftover stuffing and a nap. Happy 25th to me.

“Evangelical Preacher Urges Congregants to Have More Sex”

You know what? If someone told me there was a church around here with a dude like this at the pulpit, I’d consider attending services again. I think abstinence-only education is unrealistic at best and negligent at worse (*cough-Bristol Palin-cough*. But I wholeheartedly support the notion that sex is best between committed long-term spouses/partners/etc, and that’s a very sensible idea to be passed along to young members of a congregation–even if the message is aimed at their parents.

Hear that, little baby? Don’t think just because Mommy and Daddy have tattoos and will talk to you about birth control means that we aren’t also trying to model real values and what love and commitment should look like. You don’t get off that easily. :-D

Q & A

Q & A Session: 21 Weeks

Question: Should I, out of anticipation and curiosity, start reading the myriad “birth stories” on the internet, of which there are legion thanks to the Mommy Bloggers?
Answer: No. No you shouldn’t. You will freak yourself out and convince your husband that your labor will be both 80+ hours long and at the same time risk birthing your child in a moving vehicle, and then he will make the confused pouty face and have to consult his copy of The Birth Partner for sane reactions.

Question: Should I ignore size guidelines when buying a baby wrap on eBay and figure that extra two feet or so of material won’t matter?
Answer: No. No you shouldn’t. By the way, anyone want to buy an Ellaroo La’Rae size S for $40? I’ll cover shipping.

Question: Should I do a custom paint motif with stenciled designs for a nursery?
Answer: Sing with me if you know the words…. No. No you shouldn’t. Ever. The kid won’t remember. Save your sanity and money for ice cream.

Question: If I do it anyway and the stencils are cheap and flimsy and the well-intentioned stars come out more like tumor-afflicted starfish…what can I do?
Answer: http://www.allposters.com, Advanced Search, set size parameters and price cap. It’s worth the money, trust me.

Question: So I stenciled anyway and now I’m waiting on my poster order, so now I just need to know…what kind of ice cream?
Answer: Fudge ripple chip takes the pain out of misguided decorating attempts quite nicely.

Question: I had my ultrasound! It was neat, 3D color and everything! Except 20-week old fetuses are kind of freaky looking! Is it insensitive to tell people that the photo reminds you of Gorbachev?


Answer: Yes. But I’m gonna do it anyway. And to me, this is the most beautiful former Soviet PM that ever did kick me in the bladder.

Hypno-whatty?

“Never promise crazy a baby.” — Arrested Development

“There’s going to be pain…”
“Yes.”
“Pain for which relief will be offered…”
“Yes.”
“But which, apparently, you won’t want…”
“Yes.”
“This is not an intelligence test that anyone should fail!” — Coupling UK

So…about that hypnobirthing.

My disclaimer is that I really, really do not care how you got your baby from point A to point B. Midwife and a bathtub at home to scheduled c-section…hey, it’s your journey. Do whatever you want.

That said…I am deeply, deeply phobic about the idea of a c-section. The idea of handing my body over to a medical team with the intent to saw me open and expose my internal organs to daylight, while my choices for pain relief are to be fully conscious and witness the carnage or to be knocked out entirely and miss my baby’s first moments–and possibly the first day, given my prior woozy reactions to anaesthesia…Not for me, thanks! See, to me, being forbidden to look is far worse for me than seeing what’s happening, as an unlucky blood drive nurse once learned to her sorrow. If I can’t see what’s going on, I freak out–not good for heart rate or blood pressure while open on a table. That said, there may be a choice for a clear partition, but I can’t be sure that I’ll want to see *that much* of the process–if there is a Creator, I’m not sure (s)he intended for a woman to know what shade of maroon her uterus is, even a woman with my need to see what the doctors are doing. “Well, the color wasn’t really ‘plum,’ think more like ‘fresh ahi’ at the fish mart.”

You may commence feeling very sorry for my husband.

The second thing is that to me, if a person is lucky, birth goes along fairly naturally without a lot of intervention. I don’t want to interrupt the process with a lot of drugs–I have no shame or sense of failure tied into taking them if I need them, but I would rather go without because I really feel that it’s better for the baby to allow as much of the process to develop as I can without plugging into an IV full of god knows what. The other thing is that I have genetics on my side. Once my sister started active labor, she was done in under 6 hours, and because of how fast she dilated she opted not to take the epidural because it would slow things down. (Later she said, “Yeah, it wasn’t so awful. I could do it again.”) My mother’s labor with me was maybe three or four hours and the doctor barely had time to scrub in to catch me. She also had two completely unmedicated labors and never considered drugs because “Maybe if I had been in labor for a long time it would be different, but I didn’t have long enough labors that pain management really became an issue. They were over too fast.”

You may commence hating the women in my immediate family for their ridiculously fast, easy deliveries and superhuman pain tolerances.

Of the three of us, I suspect I have the lowest pain tolerance. I am, certainly, the most whiny and given to excessive complaint. But basically, the fact is that given a choice between a c-section and being turned into a human wishbone by an 8-pound human hamloaf, I will happily submit to the wee loaf. And maybe it’s the hormones talking, but…I like the idea of trying it without drugs. In fact, I am excited to see how much my body is prepared to handle and how well I can work with it to bring the baby into the world.

You may commence vomiting and smiling condescendingly at the first-time hippie mother’s idealism. It’s okay, I don’t mind.

God, what was the point of this? Ah…hypnobirth. Water birth, my first option because aside from wireless internet there is no one invention of the modern age that I love more than a hot tub, is a no-go because Oahu doesn’t have a single tub in *any* of its birth facilities. We stumbled onto the idea of hypnobirthing because of one simple principle of the method: while birth may be painful, that pain does not have to equal suffering. Using mantras and visualizations, I can help my body channel it’s energy flow and redirect the pain into productivity. Women have reported great success in managing their pain with the Morgan method, and if the site and accounts I’ve read are to be believed, have been able to reposition breech babies using hypnobirthing and thus avoid a c-section. (For the record, I believe, but I know some skeptics won’t–or can’t.) It’s not for everyone, but since I already use guided visualizations and meditation techniques to calm myself and help me relax, I think I’m well on my way.

In short, it’s The Little Engine That Could of birth: I think I can I think I can…I did! It won’t mean that I won’t need drugs, or that I won’t need a c-section, but if properly applied it will mean that I can maintain my confidence levels while being an active participant in my own pain and activity management. And, of course, potentially avoid needing Ye Olde Scalpele Teame and their unholy splash guard–though if I do end up needing them, I can use the techniques to accept and adapt graciously and without fear.

After some research, the books and CDs are on the way, and I have some truly wonderful scripts sent to me from the blogger that turned me on to the idea that I can tailor for any situation (maybe I love the internet more than hot tubs). The more I read, the more I’m convinced that this is a good, sensible, and perhaps most importantly, the most natural-feeling fit for me, and Tom is on board with that.

So! My goal for the next 20 weeks: start preparing my brain to help prepare my body have this baby. I’m actually pretty excited.

Conversational

A few random conversations around my house this week:

On the phone with my mother:
Mom: And what is Tom up to this afternoon?
Me: Watching zombie movies and baking almond pound cake.
Mom: …What?

Tom: I hate those stupid cover CDs that Rod Stewart did to make money on old people. So lame.
Me: Watch it, I think my Nana has a few of those CDs.
Tom: Nana is above the law. Her coolness is beyond reproach.

Me: So you were able to find a good discount deal for Maui over the holiday?
Tom: Yep! We’re going to have a very “Maui” Christmas.
Me: *stares*
Tom: Ha, I pun.

Me: Quick! The baby is kicking! Put your hand here, can you feel that?
Tom: No…
Me: Actually, it stopped as soon as you put your hand on my stomach.
Tom: Hey! Not nice, baby.
Me: I’m sorry the baby doesn’t like you. It’s just because it can’t see your ears yet.

Crunch


My big Week 20 ultrasound is not until this upcoming Thursday, but I got a bonus one this week anyway. (We are not finding out the sex, and I can’t tell from that photo anyway. Sorry!) Let’s back up.

So, on Tuesday I rear-ended a car while waiting at an intersection. Dumb enough, but there was a cop directly next to me who saw this happen. When I screw up, I cover all the bases. Even though I barely tapped the other car, I went into full blown hysterics over what could have happened to me and the baby. Full pregnant crying hysteria is a surefire way to get the cop and the guy who was hit squarely on your side and off to the hospital for an ultrasound posthaste. Fortunately the baby is fine–and at that speed, of course it would be, but…I’ve been distracted in a car before. I was really lucky. And perhaps it’s a first-time mother’s overreaction but the worst 30 minutes of my life was between the hit itself and the all-clear from the tech, mostly from the realization that if anything had gone wrong, I would have no one to blame but myself. The tech was kind enough to offer the hospital’s sandpaper-grade tissues and a few photos from the ultrasound; I’m too lazy to scan so I took a photo of the photo using my Macbook’s iSight camera, which is why “body” looks like “ydob.”

Incidentally, I was not issued a citation or so much as a verbal warning. The cop, whom I chatted with a bit, had a pregnant wife at home and a clear dislike of the guy I hit, who was not American-born and barely spoke English. He was driving for his shady employer, who he got on the phone and the owner then tried to pressure me into not getting a police report and to settle things quietly, not realizing that the ONE POLICE OFFICER on that part of Kamehamea Highway watched me in my stupidity and was already there. The other driver, who did nothing wrong, DID get a citation for driving without a valid license and possibly in trouble with INS, if I followed the conversation about immigration lawyers and the availing of correctly. I was so far beyond comprehending anything other than “I’m an idiot and oh god I could have killed the baby” and crying all over the extra beach towel in the back of the car that it took me until Wednesday to figure out that I totally used sexism and xenophobia in my favor, even if I didn’t realize it. Then I felt extra-worse. So, I apologize, other guy. Here legally or not, your life is probably complicated enough without an airheaded blonde yuppie mashing your bitchy-sounding boss’s car out of nowhere and getting you busted by the police. Sorry, man.

What did make me happy was my call to Geico to file a claim. $100 deductible for us, no deductible for the other guy–we don’t have to pay a dime for their new bumper! Rental car completely covered! They cover whatever part of the ER trip our medical insurance doesn’t cover! Their customer service reps work 24-7 and were quite pleasant! And our policy is very reasonably priced anyway–or at least it will be until this goes on the record–even though I’m under 25. Tom was very pleased with that development, as was I. Hooray for good insurance policies! The sad thing is that we just bought all this extra coverage through Afflac for accidents and disability and the like, and we have a meeting to discuss additional insurance on my life coming up soon–the policy payout is double if I die in an accident. So being smart and sensible and responsible-parent woman has been on my mind a lot recently. Not enough, it would seem. Again, it was a 5mph fender bender, but still…I can think of other times I’ve been distracted, even just by my own thoughts, going full speed on the highway, and thank whatever gods exist that my wakeup call was at such a low speed.

Tom also reinforced that our decision to have babies was a good one by being very awesome about the whole thing; a lot of people would have gotten angry with me for being careless, especially while carrying our child, but he let it go in favor of the “You’re making yourself feel worse than I ever could” argument and just mentioned that the damage to the car was slight and superficial. We joke that he’ll be the softie when it comes to disciplining our kids, but I think he’ll hold his own well–he knows when to step back and let me punish myself, which is as important as knowing when to push the point. (I think he’ll be particularly good at the sigh-head shake-”I’m very disappointed” method of order-keeping with the kids.) I’ve seen enough of this kind of conflict resolution to know that no behavior or attitude problem or incident response was ever made better by berating someone until they feel even worse, so I’m pleased that Tom keeps such a level head, particularly when I’m losing mine.

So, to sum up–baby’s fine, I’m fine, car could use a new hood and bumper, baby photos and Geico good, xenophobia/sexism/negative behavioral reinforcement bad.

And that was the week that was.

Baby Photo Roundup

Let us turn away from things political, because frankly I’m starting (“Starting?!” says the peanut gallery) to exhaust myself. Back to more pleasant things, like babies and the growing thereof. First up: me at 19 weeks! I lost my golden Hawaiian tan–not that I had it for all that long–during my period of morning sickness confinement, and I’ve also forfeited the belly button ring. I had that damn thing for 8 years. That’s longer than I’ve had my driver’s license, my high school and college diplomas, and my husband. That was an emotional moment for me.


The shameful truth is that this is what I look like when I’m not pregnant; I’ve simply lost the ability to suck it in. My weight has maintained at the same number, it’s just redistributed to front and center. Gratifyingly enough, I can wear all my pre-pregnancy pants in varying degrees of zip, and my favorite Levi’s 518 “super-lows” without any unzipping required. Go me! Another weird body change that you can’t see in this photo is that my hair is slightly thicker and it is also almost curly. It’s always been a little wavy, but now I can actually scrunch it into something resembling curls–most weird.

Next up: nest-feathering. My cousin K sent us a cloth diaper, some diaper “stuffers,” and this basket of Burt’s Bees “Baby Bee” goodies. Who knew diaper ointment could smell so nice?! *PSA announcement: a dab of Burt’s Bees diaper ointment soothes eyebrows experiencing post-waxing unhappiness.


For those of you who have visited before, our sturdy IKEA dining room hutch that used to hold up our wineglasses, bar kit, and wine rack is in the process of being converted into a child’s dresser and changing surface (as for the wine, I’ll just have to drink it when I am able). We have purchased about 3 dozen wipes and a dozen diapers thus far, and after some informal measuring we determined this drawer will hold 30 diapers and all the accessories. And look at the rainbow of colors!


That’s some good diaperin’!

Lastly, we were in the process of researching doulas and/or midwives to assist in the delivery. I have very…let’s say “specific” opinions about how I want my birth to be.* Tom has many wonderful traits but he and I are both going to be preoccupied, me more so than him, and when it comes to being the heavy, uncompromising “do it my way or get out” sort…that’s more my realm than his. So neither of us are going to necessarily be in a position to communicate well on the big day, and not having family around means that we have to hire a 3rd party ass-kicker to act on our behalf. A woman we know through a friend but who we like and respect very much and with whom we share many of the same views regarding childbirth is training to become a doula. Her goal is to eventually be a midwife with the credentials to open her own birth center. We struck a deal this evening at a barbecue, and while she’s not certified yet, she’s an educated third party who will work with us and with our doctor to have the birth we want. So hey! Diapers, lotions, and a doula. We’re rocking out.

*I fully recognize that the ultimate goal is “live baby, live mother” and whatever needs to be done to accomplish that is what I will ultimately do, “birth plan” be damned if the situation requires it. That said, I do not want my ignorance as a first-time mother to be used against me by the medical staff–however inadvertently–to pressure me into procedures that I don’t want or need (episiotomies come to mind–yowza). More importantly, because we are going to use hypnobirthing for pain and confidence management, I don’t want my “hippie” techniques to be undermined by seen-it-all medical staff, and a doula will be instrumental in helping to communicate our wishes in that regard to the doctor (i.e.–stop asking me if I’m sure about the drugs. I will tell you if I need them.). More about hypnobirthing and how it works into our plans later.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese Op-Ed on Prop. 8 in California

I used to work for HRC as an intern in college, and it was one of the most invigorating and inspiring offices I’ve ever had the privilege of working in. This whole Prop. 8 thing makes me so very sad. Sad for Californian couples, sad for the national GLBT community, and sad for so many of my lovely and wonderful friends who have been told–again–that they are less than deserving of equal treatment. Sad sad sad.

What did NOT make me sad, however, was my pedicure today (topic change! whiplash!). Friends confirmed that getting a pedicure simply because it is getting uncomfortable to paint my own toes does not make me a bad person (although it does make me a lazy one). The massage chair was well worth the price all by itself, there was no appointment needed, and I got to sit next to a 200lb tattooed biker fellow getting a full mani/pedi. Awwwwwwesome.

President Elect Barack Obama

Dear Baby,

Today is the biggest election day in my memory. It’s possible that this is the biggest election day in anyone’s life: we saw Senator Barack Obama become President Elect Barack Obama, the leader of the free world. You won’t understand how huge that is until you’re older, what kind of barriers and discrimination were taken down tonight. Elsewhere in barriers, California is voting on a gay marriage ban tonight because some people want to reverse the rights that California decided gay couples could have. There is a similar proposition in Florida that sadly will likely pass, and while it is not my place to name these people there are folks related to you in Florida who made me very proud with their choice on that proposition. I hope as well that the gay community enjoys all of the freedoms and rights that every heterosexual couple in this country is currently guaranteed. In your life, little baby, I hope that bigotry and discrimination against loving families is a thing for the history books. That is the world I want for you–a place where love is safe and families of any shape, color, and stripe are protected.

Today is important to us on a very personal level. Your father and I got married two years ago, and since then the big question mark in our marriage was: When do we have a baby? This July all of the stars aligned, we settled the question and decided we wanted to go for it. Fast forward two weeks to a positive pregnancy test, an event that will forever reduce me to incoherent gratitude with its dazzling speed. The pregnancy, the symptoms, the very fact of you was upon us so fast that it left no time for second thoughts or doubts. And we were so happy. We wanted you so badly.

Less than a month and a half later, the American economy went straight to hell, a situation that was compared to the Great Depression. A $700 BILLION dollar bailout. People lost homes, security, investments. We lost hope while the world watched and tried to hold their own economies together, with varying success. It was terrifying to behold. The Republican candidate, John McCain, chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. She was an ultraconservative, charismatic woman who terrified us to our very cores, and together they came to represent everything we feared for the country’s future.

And during it all, there you were, still growing, still safe. We heard your heartbeat and I felt you kicking inside me. We didn’t talk about it much but the fear came upon us: what were we doing, bringing a baby into this mess? What on earth was the world going to look like in April? What future could we hope to give you? Whether we realized it or not, this was our first true lesson of parenthood: try as we might, we cannot protect you from everything.

However misguided some people may believe this to be, we believe Barack Obama is going to get us out of the situation we’re in. He’s not perfect, no candidate is or ever will be. But we believe, we hope, that he is the man who can begin to shape our country into something better. We think that under his leadership, life will become better. We voted for him for him because we believe in what he believes.

In addition to what I wrote above, the world I want for you, little baby, is one where you don’t have to be afraid. Afraid that if you are a girl you won’t have control over your body and health. Afraid that you cannot marry the person you love or will not be able to have children with them, that you cannot protect the family you want to create. Afraid that your parents will not have the resources to provide you with every opportunity you deserve because their financial stability was ruined by forces beyond their control. Afraid that you will not be able to roam the earth without seeing the ruin and havoc wreaked by your country. Afraid for the very air you breathe. Tonight we lost much of that fear.

We voted in Hawaii, and McCain conceded a half hour after our polls closed. Some people will tell you, little baby, that this means our vote doesn’t count. Don’t you believe it. It always counts when you stand up and say, “This is what I believe, and this is what I know to be right.” And because it counts, we cast our votes for us and everyone in our country made poorer and worse off in the last eight years, for those in the world who do not have the right to vote, for those who fight so that we could keep that right and deserve our utmost respect. But mostly we voted for you, my dear and darling child. We voted because we hope that you never have to be afraid.

Today is a great day.

Love,
Mama

Stirring

Even though first-time mothers aren’t supposed to feel kicking until week 20 or so–at least, not kicking that they recognize as such–I got my first one two weeks ago. I feel them off and on, not every day, and mostly at night when I shift position. It’s a very cool thing.

We went on a spree of home improvement shopping on Saturday. We are the proud owners of a new bathmat (we’d just been using a towel since we moved into this apartment in, oh, February) with matching hand towels, and four brand new pillows. You know how you’re supposed to replace them every six months? Yeah. We really hadn’t since 2005 or so. I even shelled out for one of the cool memory foam pillows for myself. What I really need is a body pillow to keep from rolling on to my back at night, which I’ve heard is bad for the baby. My OB disagrees wholeheartedly with this assertion, but old wives’ tales die hard.

And that’s the news from here.