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Eva’s Birth – Part 1

Disclaimer: This is a birth story. There will be talk of fluids and mucous plugs and poop and vaginas. You have been warned. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014, approx. 8:30 p.m. 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant. 

We finished an episode of “Justified” and I struggled to keep my eyes open despite how much I love the show. So tired. Always so tired. It was almost 10:30 p.m. I’ve got to stop staying up so late, I thought to myself. Gotta conserve my energy because this baby could come any day now (but she probably won’t come for at least three more weeks) and I need to have energy for her birth. Can’t be so tired. Tomorrow night we’ll go to bed early. I swear.

“Bed?” Mike asked.

“Bed. Will you fill the humidifier?”

“If you walk the dogs.”

“Ugh. Okay.” I got up, slipped some shoes on, led the dogs onto the landing to leash them up and promptly pissed myself. I was awfully confused because I had not pissed myself once in my entire pregnancy, and don’t pregnant ladies usually only pee themselves if they laugh or cough or sneeze? And I’d done none of those things. I stood on the landing, the wet spot on my favorite cozy pajama pants spreading, the dogs pulling at their leashes. Could it be my water breaking? It couldn’t be. Only 12% of women break their water before labor starts. But there were butterflies in my tummy. I left the dogs on the landing and went back inside. Sat on the potty to see if I just needed to pee when another gush of fluid came.

“Um, Mike? I either pissed myself or my water broke.”

“Does it smell like pee?”

I sniffed my pajama pants. “I can’t tell! I think it’s probably just pee. It has to be just pee.”

My water was not going to break. I was going to labor at home, peacefully, with no doctors or nurses bothering me, listening to my lovely labor & delivery playlist, while I shampooed the carpets and cleaned the baseboards. I was NOT going to spend my entire labor at L&D with a broken water sac.

“You should probably text Brenda.”*

Over the next half hour I texted back and forth with Brenda about whether or not I’d lost control of my bladder or broken my bag of water. I walked the dogs, fluid dripping between my legs. She suggested a maxi pad to catch the flow. Good call. The fourth or fifth time I gushed, there were two tiny drops of blood. Adrenaline rushed through me. This was not pee. Shit was about to get real.

“Oh. Yeah. This is definitely my water breaking. I guess I should pack my hospital bag?” I’d been meaning to pack it, but was sure I had plenty of time…

I called Brenda and she said she’d come right over. I wasn’t tired at all anymore, but wide awake, adrenaline coursing through my body. I’m having this baby tonight, I thought. And then, but I haven’t washed the dishes! Or shampooed the carpet! Or vacuumed! And the dogs need baths! And  I NEED A PEDICURE.

I texted my girlfriend Michelle, “Water broke. I need a pedicure! Come over and paint my toes before we go to the hospital!” That was at 11:30 p.m., but she wouldn’t get the text until after 2 a.m. the next morning. No pre-hospital pedicure for me.

Brenda arrived, and Mike cleaned the kitchen (bless him) while I packed our hospital bag. I changed into the comfy skirt, top, and bra I’d planned to wear during labor. I looked in the mirror and felt truly beautiful for the first time since the Bell’s Palsy came on. Mike loaded our car with the laptop, a giant suitcase full of things we’d never touch during our hospital stay, and a yoga ball I’d borrowed from my parents. The car seat, installed just the day before, was ready with soft blankets to tuck around our girl on the ride home. We hopped in the car and I called and left messages to cancel my acupuncture appointment and pedicure (ugh!) for the next day. We checked into the hospital a few minutes after midnight, January 17, giddy with excitement.

“So… I think my water broke….”

“The theme of the evening. You and every other woman in here. It’s a full moon. Going to be a busy night. Are you having contractions?”

“Mild ones…”

The nurse who checked us in led us to triage room 3 – the same room Mike and I had spent 12 hours in just 10 days earlier, when I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, which I suddenly couldn’t care less about. I was glad they put us in the same room. It was familiar. We’d be comfortable.

“Go ahead and undress, put this gown on –”

“I was told I could labor in my own clothes.”

“Oh. Well. As long as you don’t mind if we have to cut them off you in an emergency.”

“I don’t care.”

“Fine. Go ahead and give us a urine sample. Then sit bare-bottom on this pad so we can make sure you’re leaking amniotic fluid and not urine.”

I lost my mucous plug in the urine sample. Only I didn’t know what was happening.

“Ummmm…. whoa…. lots of mucous… whoa…. so…. much…. my word! What the…”

“Wahoo! That’s your mucous plug! Good sign!” cheered Brenda.

Once I was situated bare-bottomed on the pad on the bed in the triage room, we met the nurse who would be taking care of us until the morning shift change. Her name was Bethany and she was lovely. She went over our birth preferences and wrote them on the white board in the room. She hooked me up to the baby monitor and chatted with us about what my ideal birth would be like. My contractions were steady every 7-10 minutes, mild enough that I could talk and laugh through them. I leaked all over the pad on the bed so she let me get up and put my skirt back on, gave me some awesome mesh panties and a maxi pad the size of a canoe to soak up new leaks.

A little while later the doctor on call came in. I walked across the room and shook his hand, I think it put him off a little. He wanted to examine me to check my progress, but I said no. I wanted as few vaginal exams as possible. The prednisone for the Bell’s Palsy was screwing with my immune system and I didn’t want to risk infection. He confirmed I was gushing amniotic fluid and not just pissing myself. He confirmed that the baby was doing fabulously and that my contractions were regular, but that I still had a long way to go.

Brenda suggested we walk the halls to see if my labor would kick up a notch, so we did. We walked and we walked and we walked in circles all over the L&D floor, outside, around, back again. The night air was cool and lovely, the full moon shone bright. Mike or Brenda, I can’t remember who, challenged me to start walking the stairs, and I took that idea and ran with it. Over the next twelve hours we’d hike up and down five flights of stairs dozens of times. Up, up, up, up, up. Down, down, down, down, down. Again. Again. Again. Every 45 minutes we headed back to the triage room so Bethany could monitor Niblet’s heart rate and my contractions, but I refused to get into bed. I’d sit on the yoga ball, opening my hips, telling the baby to move down! Patting my belly and saying, “Listen kid. You started this. I was happy to let you stay put for a few more weeks, but you broke the water sac, so now you need to get out. Let’s get this party started.” The night turned to dawn, to early morning. We tried to nap but no one slept. We walked some more. My contractions grew further apart, not closer together. They got weaker, not stronger. Brenda and I walked to the cafe outside the hospital so Mike could get some sleep and she could get some coffee. We went for breakfast in the hospital cafeteria. The hospital staff changed shifts, the night doc introduced the day staff and I was delighted that there was a midwife on call who I knew and liked. She wanted to check my progress and again I declined.

We kept walking, left the hospital grounds and walked down Burbank Boulevard in the hot morning sun. I sent Mike home to get my running shoes so I could walk harder and faster, and because my flip flops were giving me blisters. I took a shower, tried twiddling my nips because nipple stimulation can kick up contractions. Michelle came by, brought coffees and gave me a pedicure while I kept my hands up my shirt, futzing with my now very sore nipples, praying my contractions would get stronger. Mike came back with my running shoes and with my toes painted and dry, I tied them on and we hit the stairs again. An hour had passed since my last contraction. I was starting to worry.

Around noon the midwife, Pat, came in to see us. Talked me into an exam. It had been more than twelve hours since my water broke and she needed to see what kind of progress I’d made. I was certain that I was dilating, so I was crushed to find out I hadn’t dilated at all. Not even one centimeter. I was 40% effaced, but that’s it. And my contractions had stopped all together.

“What are my options?”

“We aren’t going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. You can hang out as long as you’d like. Your baby is doing great, you’re welcome to keep walking the halls and going up and down stairs as long as you want to. But in all honesty, if labor was going to kick in on its own, it would have by now. So I don’t think it’s going to. I recommend a drug called Cytotec. It’s an oral medication that causes contractions. You might only need one dose, you might need four, we’ll have to see. But the nice thing is you won’t need an IV, you’ll be able to keep walking the halls, you can stay out of bed, it’s nothing like Pitocin. Your other option is, of course, Pitocin, but I don’t think you want that.”

“Can you give us a minute to talk together, in private?”

“Of course.”

Mike and Brenda started googling “Cytotec” on their phones. We learned it’s an ulcer medication which (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) causes pregnant women to go into labor.

“Pat’s right,” Brenda told me. “You’ve done everything you can do to try to start labor naturally. The Cytotec is a great option.” Mike and I agreed. Pat came back in.

“I’ll take the Cytotec.”

“Excellent! How do you feel about an enema? An enema irritates the bowels which can also bring on contractions.”

“Um… I don’t want an enema, but I’ll try it. I’ll try anything.”

They brought the Cytotec with my meal tray. My mother came to visit and brought Mike and Brenda lunch. We filled her in on my progress, or lack thereof. I ate lunch and afterwards, enjoyed (HA) a lovely enema dessert. Then I sat on the potty and shit my brains out. And then we hit the stairs again.

*Brenda is a dear friend I’ve known for 17 years, who is also my doula.

To be continued…

Gremlin Face

I call this “gremlin face” aka the face she makes when she’s hungry and PISSED. It cracks me up when she screws up her face like this right before she CHOMPS down on my nip. My lord I love this kid.

Eva Milan

Eva Milan, named for her Dutch grandmother and her Austrian Great-Grandfather.  Born January 17, 2014 at 8:09 p.m. She was 6 pounds, 14 ounces, just over 18 inches long, but by her 3 day pediatrician appointment she was already 7 pounds, 2 ounces and 19.75 inches! Such a good little eater!

A post about her birth is coming, I promise, I cannot wait to write it out, it was incredible. The short version: Seven hours of labor, about 25 minutes of pushing, and BOOM. Our lives were altered, beautifully, forever.

We’ve spent the last eleven days in absolute bliss, snuggled in a cozy nest of love and happiness. Being this little girl’s mama is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. Mike is the best Papa ever – I’m constantly knocked out by how sweet, gentle, and loving he is with her. He melts my heart constantly. There is not a single moment that goes by where I don’t feel humbled by the miracle of her in my arms. I feel like my cup runneth over, my blessings are sky-high. She is my heart, my soul, my love.

The minute my water broke and I realized she was coming, I forgot about the Bell’s Palsy – it didn’t matter anymore. And since her birth, I’ve fallen in love with my body and my self in a way I never could have imagined. She’s given me a new life – so her name, which means “giver of life” is more perfect than we could have known. I feel like a warrior, a goddess, a tiger with her cubs. I feel incredible. She is incredible. Oh my gosh I cannot stop gushing. But that is enough for now. More later. Promise, promise.

In the meantime, here are some photos:

Eva’s Birth Day

Newborn Bliss

Love you all.

Day 6

I really wish that I could tell you that I’m getting used to this new face of mine, that this situation is getting easier to live with, that I’m doing okay. But the truth is that it’s getting harder, not easier. I’m getting more discouraged, more frustrated, more depressed, not less. Every morning I wake up and I hope I’ll see some kind of improvement, and I don’t. It hasn’t been a week yet, everyone reminds me. It’s too soon, they say. But they aren’t the ones with the half-frozen face.

It really surprises me how much of my identity was wrapped up in my face. I thought I’d grown past that. But I don’t recognize myself anymore. I look in the mirror and there is a stranger looking back at me. A sad, lonely stranger. I am grieving for my lost smile, the ease with which I once sipped soup from a spoon or bit into an apple. I can’t wear my contacts anymore because my left eye doesn’t close all the way and dries out too quickly. I feel lost and terribly alone.

A week ago I felt great, everything was great, I was happy, I was so excited to meet my baby girl that I was actually hoping she’d be born before her due date. I couldn’t wait to experience labor, birth, then hold her in my arms. Now, when I have a particularly intense Braxton Hicks contraction, I weep and beg her not to come because I can’t bear the thought of bringing her into this world when my head is so fucked up and my heart aches so much.

Then I hate myself because really, I’m so terribly vain. And selfish. Things could be so much worse. I am so lucky. I am healthy. Everyone I love is healthy. I’m surrounded by people who love and support me. My little girl is developing beautifully. Nothing is wrong with her. I look weird, that is all. Get over it already.

I wish I was a better person. I wish I didn’t care so much. I wish I had enough self-confidence that I could hold my head up high and grin my lop-sided sneer of a grin and not give a fuck what anyone thought and not think anything bad about myself. But it just hurts. I don’t even know how my husband can stand to look at me. He didn’t sign up for this, I tell myself. And yet here he is, stuck with a disfigured wife.

He keeps telling me I’m beautiful but I just feel like he’s lying.

And I feel like I’m failing my baby. My feelings, my emotions, every sob and gasp filters through me and into her. I’ve destroyed her peaceful nest in my womb, poisoned her with all my self-hatred and fear. She hasn’t been born yet and I’m already letting her down.

I made a video. So you can see what I look like now. So I can look back later, perhaps with a little more self-love, and remember what this felt like, what I really looked like. Maybe I’ll think it wasn’t that bad. Maybe it will improve. Maybe it will be permanent. Maybe I’ll heal completely. Maybe I won’t. There’s no way to know. But somehow I have to figure out how to love myself like this, how to be okay like this, I have to get my head on straight and remember what’s important and count my blessings and get ready for this little girl to be born because she could be here tomorrow and she needs a mama who isn’t a complete fucking wreck. She deserves that at least.

My New Face

I woke up Tuesday morning and lounged in bed for a bit, relaxing. I’d slept well. I felt good. Except for my left eye, which felt a little weird, like it wouldn’t close all the way when I blinked, but whatever. Mike was grinding coffee in the kitchen, the whirr of the blades drew me from bed. My small cup of morning coffee always a treat, something to look forward to. I brushed my teeth, filled my mouth with water to rinse, and water sprayed from the left side of my mouth, down my swollen belly.

What. the. fuck.

I smiled at myself in the mirror, a strange grin, because only half my face smiled back at me.

I thought I was having a stroke. Mike tested me (thank heavens for EMT-trained husbands) and assured me that wasn’t what was happening. “But call the doctor,” he said, “let’s get you checked out.” While I was on the phone, he was googling, and bless his heart he didn’t tell me what he read. Later on he mentioned that I should NEVER google medical symptoms, but darling, I told him, I already knew that.

We checked into Labor & Delivery around 10:30 a.m. It’s where Kaiser sends any pregnant woman with any medical concerns. They had me undress, put me in bed, hooked me up to a million machines, wanted to keep an eye on the baby. She’s doing fine, they promised. She’s perfect.

Thank God.

My OB came and checked me out. Said it’s probably Bells Palsy, but he wanted the house MD to see me too. He left. We waited. They brought us lunch – sandwiches and fruit salad. The house MD came in, made me run through a million stroke tests, just to rule everything out. Was perplexed by the pain in my neck and the numbness in my tongue. Left. We waited.

My OB came back and said he’d spoken to someone in neurology. It’s probably just Bells Palsy, he assured us, but they’ve ordered an MRI to rule out stroke, blood clots, brain tumors. He left. We waited. I cried. Mike held me.

“Everything has been perfect so far, so easy, why is this happening?”

“Because things can’t be perfect all the time. Life would get too boring.”

The nursing staff was lovely. Brought us snacks, water, cranberry juice. I tried to nap. Got up and walked around. Did some yoga stretches on the bed. Practiced my deep, slow, labor breathing.

At 4:25 they brought a wheel chair in, guided us through hallways and corridors, me in my hospital gown, a blanket around my shoulders, my bare feet on the cold metal foot pads. I thought, “I’m so glad I’ve kept my pedicures up.” And then, “If its a stroke, or a blood clot, they’ll probably have to do emergency surgery. And they’ll start with a c-section. And I might never get to hold my baby.” And then I practiced my slow, deep breathing some more.

The MRI wasn’t so bad. I can see how easy it would be to panic inside one of those machines. I kept my eyes closed the whole time, except my left eye which leaked in bright lights, white, clinical plastic. I took slow, deep breaths. A single tear slid down my right temple, pooled in my hair. I started counting my inhales and exhales in time with the unbelievable cacophony of the MRI. Inhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Exhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12. When thoughts crept in I reminded myself, Inhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Exhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12. Twenty-five minutes passed like five and we were done.

I waited for the nurse to collect me, Mike from the waiting room, and take us back to L&D. I cried quietly into my hands, so people wouldn’t see. A woman in scrubs congratulated us on our new baby, assuming that’s why we were being wheeled into L&D. A stupid assumption from a medical professional, especially when the mother is weeping silently, face buried in shaking hands.

I got back into bed. Mike rubbed my back and whispered sweet things in my ear. We waited. They brought us dinner. At 6:30 we got the results. All clear. It’s Bells Palsy for sure. No big deal. A strict regimen of Prednisone (completely safe to take while pregnant, they insisted) should show improvement in a week. I should have full use of my face again in about two weeks. It could have been so much worse.

They released us at 7:30. It was 8:45 before we left the hospital, long lines in the pharmacy. Sick people coughing all over us.

I’ve been “the pretty girl” most of my life. An awkward child with glasses and gap teeth, I bloomed in junior high and never looked back. I haven’t always felt pretty, or thought I was pretty enough, but it wasn’t until I was a grown, married woman that I began to learn that my pretty face isn’t the most important part of who I am. Still, I’m vain enough that this, this paralysis of the left side of my face, the lopsided smile and gecko-blinking eyes, hurts my ego in a very deep, hard way.

“I deserve this,” I told Mike.

“You do not deserve this.”

“I do. There’s a lesson to learn here.”

It’s okay if you think I sound shallow and silly. I feel shallow and silly. I am so, so, so unbelievably lucky, I know. For all the things it could have been, it’s likely only temporary. And most importantly of all, no matter what happened to me, the baby girl in my belly is 100% unaffected and totally, absolutely healthy. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

I consulted with four doctors, my midwife, my doula (who is more than my doula, she’s been my friend for seventeen years), and my family before I agreed to take the Prednisone. I haven’t even felt comfortable taking Tylenol since I’ve been pregnant, and Prednisone is a serious steroid. But everyone told me the risks of not taking the Prednisone far outweighed the risk of taking it, so I’m taking it. I started acupuncture yesterday, too, because Mike read that it yields the best results for Bells Palsy.

Talking is difficult. Eating is difficult. I drool a little. When I drink, whatever I’m drinking leaks out the side of my mouth. Using a straw is worse because I can’t wrap my lips around it properly.  The muscles in my jaw and the right side of my face ache from over-compensating. I’m terribly self-conscious. I’m working on my attitude. There’s a lesson to learn here, I know it. But I’m still trying to figure out what it is.

 

Not much longer…

33 weeks and 5 days..

We’re half-way through the eighth month of pregnancy and Niblet is approximately 18 inches long and about five pounds. If she were born now, she’d have an excellent chance of survival and likely wouldn’t have any lasting health problems. HOWEVER, the longer she stays in, the stronger her lungs, the more developed her brain, and the better off she will be. So, Niblet. STAY PUT. Trust me, life inside the womb is about a million times easier than life outside the womb, so no rush baby girl. No rush.

She’s as busy as ever. I don’t really feel “kicks” anymore, just elbows and knees sliding around, and little feet poking out under my sternum when she stretches her legs. Mike has always said that sleeping next to me is like sleeping next to a sack of elbows and when I’m out of town he says he only needs to put a pile of rocks and twigs in the bed and he wouldn’t miss me at all. So now that there are all these knees and elbows sticking out of my belly all the time, he teases that Niblet takes after me completely. I like to press my belly against his back when we’re falling asleep and let Niblet poke at him with all her pointy appendages. It always makes him laugh. I can’t believe I’m going to be putting those little appendages in my mouth soon. (What? You don’t want to eat baby elbows and knees for supper? YOU KNOW YOU DO.)

I’m still feeling great, though my energy is beginning to lag. My midwife put me on restricted work hours, so I’m down from 40-45 hours a week to 30 hours a week max. I thought I’d use all that extra time to finish the nursery and get ready for the holidays but Niblet has had other plans. She insists I spend all that extra time napping and who am I to argue with a developing fetus?

Most of my symptoms have stayed the same: Lush hair, gorgeous skin on my face – but don’t hate me because my behind and the backs of my legs tell a different story. (Who the F gets acne all over the backs of their legs?? ME WHEN I’M PREGNANT, APPARENTLY.) I’ve developed a faint linea nigra and I kind of love it. I have heart burn sometimes, but it’s never awful and it never lasts long. I can’t hide my toots anymore. They just poomp out whenever they want. I have no control. Mike laughs, thank goodness.

Everything makes me cry now, it’s such a cliche. I mean, I don’t CRY cry, but pretty much everything makes me choke up. Happy things, sweet things, anything baby related, you get the idea. My bellybutton is turned completely inside out and my favorite thing to do is torture Mike by trying to stick it into his inny bellybutton. I call it “sweet sweet bellybutton lovemaking”. HE HATES IT. And he’s afraid to push me away because he doesn’t want to hurt Niblet, so I just torture him and torture him and torture him. Bwahahahaha!

The Braxton Hicks contractions I’ve been having since week six have started getting pretty intense. I never have more than a few a day or three in an hour, so midwife insists it’s just good practice and nothing to worry about. This probably sounds nuts, but I’m really looking forward to labor. I’m not super jazzed about the part where an eight pound human pushes out of my girl bits, but I’m really looking forward to the rest of it.

Pregnancy brain is in full force. I completely forgot to take a 33 week photo and I haven’t updated my handwritten pregnancy journal since week 30. Christmas is in less than a week and I haven’t done any Christmas shopping, or any Christmas baking. I haven’t finished my State Bar Law Study Semi-Annual Report and I haven’t made any progress on Niblet’s nursery since before Thanksgiving.

HOWEVER, I had lovely maternity photos taken and even got a Christmas photo out of them, and then I proceeded to send out over 30 Christmas cards, which felt like a HUGE accomplishment. Last Sunday I had a Super day and decorated for Christmas, washed six loads of laundry, then sanded Niblet’s dresser so Mike can paint it (using no-VOC paints with no-VOC colorants, OF COURSE.) But most of my time is spent napping. And keeping my feet up. And marveling at the water monkey and her adorable uterine acrobatics. And practicing my non-medical labor comfort techniques with Mike every night before bed. And attending Baby Care and Child Birth classes. And reading baby books.

Only four to eight weeks left of this journey and then our lives change forever. I can’t wait.

 

Officially 8 Months Pregnant

Whoo boy! It’s been nearly a month since I posted, I have no idea how that happened. Well, actually, I do. I’m knocked up and nesting and maniacal. No seriously, the nesting hormone is no joke. I’ve been obsessed with clearing out our second bedroom so it can become Niblet’s nursery. And it’s a good thing I’ve been so focused because it has literally taken me the entire month to clear out, clean up, organize, and purge. I’m finally at the point where I can start decorating, but now I have to take a break from my happy nesting and prepare my 18 month State Bar Law Study report.

Oh life. Why must you be so BUSY all the time?

In the last month Niblet has:

  • Grown to be nearly 18 inches long and weigh approximately 4 pounds
  • Learned to move her head from side to side
  • Gone from having see-through skin to opaque skin
  • Gotten strong enough to grasp your finger (not that I want you poking around at her)
  • Has developed all 5 senses
  • Is begun experiencing REM (dream-cycle) sleep
  • Continues to practice her breathing
  • Begun losing the lanugo that covers her body

My last midwife appointment was awesome. Our stats are great, I only gained three pounds in the last month (yay for walking every day!), and Niblet is in the head down, back to my belly position, getting ready to make her grand entrance into the world. (She could turn, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll stay put.) She’s super active. I’m feeling a lot of elbow-jabs and feet sliding back and forth under my boobs. I’m having Braxton-Hicks contractions daily, which my midwife says is an excellent indication that labor will kick in on its own and progress beautifully. We started a child birth prep class two weeks ago and it’s wonderful – I’m daydreaming about labor, I’m so looking forward to it.

People’s comments have been much kinder lately. A couple of weeks ago a man came up to me in the market to tell me his wife was in labor at that very minute. “What are you doing HERE?” I asked. “I’m going to make her a lasagna! When are you due?” When I told him I still had 2 1/2 months left he said, “Gosh, you look like you’re due any minute! WAIT THAT CAME OUT WRONG, YOU’RE GORGEOUS, YOU’RE REALLY BEAUTIFUL. YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE. YOU’RE NOTHING BUT BELLY. YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL!” It was pretty much the sweetest thing ever.

I’m falling more and more in love with my enormous pregnant body, even as I become more and more uncomfortable maneuvering it around. Getting shoes on and off is increasingly difficult. Getting up off the sofa and hauling myself out of bed illicit grunts and groans. If I sit on the floor I need help getting up again. I have to keep my feet up at work so they don’t swell like hobbit feet. I stand sideways in front of the kitchen sink when I do the dishes. I have to be careful on the treadmill so I don’t slam my belly into the machine. I can’t hug Mike as hard as I used to because, ouch, squishing the baby. I painted my own toenails for the last time the other week, dear lord that was exhausting and difficult. The only reason I’m still shaving my legs is because my shower has this wonderful ledge about chest-high that I can put my foot on (THANK YOU 14 years of yoga) and thus shave quite comfortably. (Maybe I should try it for pedicures?)

This ‘having to pee all the time’ thing is no joke. I frequently pee an average of once every twelve minutes. No exaggeration. And it’s not like, “oh, I kind of have to pee. I’m just gonna squeeze a little out.” This is, “IF I DON’T FIND A POTTY RIGHT NOW I’LL DIE.” It is entirely Niblet’s fault. Sometimes she positions herself right on my bladder and I want to cry. The other day I went on a nice long walk with the dogs because the weather was too beautiful to walk on the treadmill at the gym. So I peed, leashed up the dogs, peed again, and headed out the door. I wasn’t ten minutes into the walk before I had to go again, so badly I had to grit my teeth. But then Niblet moved off my bladder and I was fine, so I kept walking. And then she moved again and I thought I would die of needing to pee, until she moved again and I was fine. So I kept walking and she kept moving and at one point I was sure I was going to have to squat on the sidewalk like a dog and piss in the shrubs. With all of Canoga Avenue speeding by. I had two thoughts in that moment: 1) Pregnancy strips you of any dignity you once had; and 2) how hilarious/humiliating would it be to get ticketed for pissing on the sidewalk of a busy main street at 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning?

We’ve only got two months left of this little adventure and it’s bittersweet. On the one hand, I am giddy when I think about holding her in my arms and eating her face every day. On the other hand, I’m really going to miss keeping her in the safety of my uterus. I mean, this is probably the easiest parenthood will EVER be. I always know where she is. I know she’s eating well and getting enough sleep. She’s not running around with unsavory people or experimenting with drugs or sex or doing any of the other terrifying things that children grow up to do. So, you know. I’m going to miss this.

I’m acutely aware of how quickly time is passing. Yesterday I was staring at a positive pregnancy test in utter disbelief and today there’s a very active water monkey doing acrobatics in my giant belly. Tomorrow I’ll be sending that water monkey off to college. So I am blissfully soaking up every swollen, uncomfortable moment. Treasuring every kick to the ribs, relishing every elbow-jab, and in general, feeling the happiest I’ve ever felt in my whole little life. I’m genuinely looking forward to the sleepless nights and bleeding nipples and diaper explosions and all the other awful-wonderful things that caring for a newborn entails because I know that that will also be over before I’ve had a chance to blink. And I don’t want to slog through it waiting for it to end. I want to live through and enjoy every poop and tear-filled moment. I tell you all this so you know that, even when I’m bitching and moaning, I’m so, so, so very grateful to be able to bitch and moan. What an unbelievably beautiful blessing.

Miss my weekly belly pics? I don’t disappoint! 

31 weeks

30 weeks

29 weeks

Welcome to the 3rd trimester (and pregnant lady whining)

28 Weeks

This week, Niblet is about 2 1/2 pounds and between 15 and 16 inches long, depending on which pregnancy website you’re reading. She’s getting so strong and her movements so frequent and varied. Sometimes she jabs, sometimes she squirms, I can feel her rolling over, turning, and sometimes it feels like she’s stretching her arms and legs out, pushing her butt and back out against my belly so that it gets very hard and makes my belly button pop out. She also does this thing where she bounces from left to right, like a rubber ball bouncing between two walls, or a kid overdosed on sugar in a bounce house. It always makes me laugh because it’s so weird and it really feels like she’s just playing around in there, having a grand old time.

I’ve let my nesting instincts out of their cage and have been working my tail off (with my sister and Mike’s help) to clear out the second bedroom (formerly Mike’s office/our TV room) so we can turn it into the nursery. By the end of last weekend I wanted to crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep, I felt so overwhelmed. It seems like the more work I do, the more I discover still has to be done. I’ve already taken three carloads of crap to Goodwill and there’s still more stuff to go through. (WE’RE I’M A HOARDER.) We moved the TV, the dog crate, and the snake’s tank into the living room, and Mike’s desk and computer into our bedroom. In one weekend our apartment went from spacious to teeny tiny. I can’t move in any room now without banging my knee on an awkwardly placed piece of furniture.

Whine, whine, whine, I know. Poor me, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and all the comforts of modern living, blessed with a healthy pregnancy and a loving husband. Play that tiny violin a little louder, please.

But I’m not done yet.

Getting dressed every day is like waging a small battle with myself. I’ve gained 24 pounds so far and I waffle between loving my pregnant body and wanting to die a slow death because I feel like an obese hippo. Nearly all the office-appropriate maternity clothes I borrowed from girlfriends are too small in the thigh and rear, my underpants are too small, dresses that were cute two months ago look like tents now, and nothing is comfortable. There are tears nearly every morning and Michael, bless his heart, has to talk me off a ledge. A couple of days ago he insisted that I go out and buy a few more things to get me through the next three months because “crying in front of the closet every day isn’t productive”. I hated the idea of buying clothes this late in my pregnancy, but I did, and I’m so glad I did. It’s helped. I bought size large non-maternity leggings, tunic-length camis, and a few flowy, wonderfully cozy sweaters. All clothes that are soft and stretchy, oh-so-comfy, and will hopefully still look cute post-partum when I’m hiding my I-just-had-a-baby-so-I-still-look-pregnant belly.

As much as I love being pregnant (and I really, really, really love it), I do not feel beautiful or sexy or feminine. I just feel huge. I can’t stand looking at myself naked. Which is probably why people asking if I’m pregnant or just getting fat especially stings. I’m really struggling with this because I want to raise my daughter to love, respect, and appreciate her body – not to hate it and abuse it the way I’ve spent most of my life hating and abusing mine. I want to somehow shield her from society’s expectations of being “skinny” and all the bullshit that goes with it. And I know that it starts with me – that I’m her first example of how a woman should feel about and treat her body. So I’m really trying to love my 150 pound body and appreciate it for the miracle it’s creating, instead of getting angry and saying mean things to it every morning while I try to squeeze into too-small maternity pants. I’m also cutting out ice cream and making an effort to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day (per my midwife’s gentle urging).

All that said, I adore not having to suck in my stomach constantly (I was a chronic sucker-inner pre-pregnancy) and being able to eat a big meal and not worry that I look pregnant afterwards because I AM pregnant is freaking terrific. See? UPSIDES TO EVERYTHING.

Also, Hi. I’m pregnant. And the hardest part is feeling fat. So, I’m done complaining and I will go back to being blissfully happy and excited and stupid-crazy-in love with the acrobatic water monkey who keeps making my belly button pop out whenever she wants to stretch her legs. Because honestly? I’d take a fat ass for a healthy baby any day.

10 Unexpected Side Effects of Being Knocked Up

1. I still haven’t suffered pregnancy acne. My skin is clearer than it’s been since before puberty and the awful bacne I had in the first trimester is totally gone! It’s a pregnancy miracle.

2. I only have to wash my hair twice a week. Pregnancy-related dry skin? It reminds me of when I was taking accutane in college (just discovered this drug is no longer available in the U.S. You’re about to find out one reason why…) and my skin was so dry I couldn’t shower more than once a week and every time I pooped my butt would split open and bleed. My skin isn’t that dry, but my hair looks fantastic after three-unwashed days which (except that brief stint in college) has never been true. I LOVE IT.

3. The Itching stopped at 17 weeks when I started using Mama Mio’s Tummy Rub Stretch Mark Oil, recommended by my cousin Stephanie, bless her heart. That stuff has been my saving grace and I totally recommend it to any pregnant mama, it’s worth the price tag, I promise. Also, so far, no stretch marks. Woot!

4. I can’t see my feet anymore. Or my crotch. I’m supposed to bring a cup of urine to every prenatal appointment and it’s supposed to be the first urine of the morning (that’s a great band name, btw: First Urine of the Morning). It’s a cruel joke because, here pregnant lady! Take this tiny cup and pee in it first thing in the morning, when you have to pee REALLYBADLY, and you’re still half asleep, and you haven’t seen your crotch in ages. Because what every woman wants is to pee all over her hand first thing in the morning. Seriously. (Also, I hope no one at the office finds out I keep a small cup of pee in the fridge next to everyone’s lunches. Super awkward.)

4.a. The other day I had to pee (again) and I was wearing these tie-front pajama pants and when I pulled the drawstring to untie them they tangled into a knot and I couldn’t see past my giant belly to untie it and I had to pee so badly that I started crying because I was trapped in my pants and I was never going to get them off and I was going to die of needing to pee. Then I finally got the knot undone and oh lord the RELIEF.

5. I haven’t been able to bend over in weeks, but my thighs are getting super strong from squatting down all the time. Also, I totally hurt my back taking a bag of garbage out of a garbage can because I’m 90 now.

6. Everyone says, “Sleep now because as soon as that baby is born you’ll never sleep again!” which is a horrible thing to say because you know who else doesn’t sleep besides new parents? Huge pregnant ladies. Every time I have to move my enormous body, I wake up. I wake up to pee. I wake up when she kicks. I wake up because I’ve sweated a pool into the bed despite the running the AC at 68 degrees. And once I wake up, I can’t fall back asleep. Two weeks ago Mike bought me a body pillow because all my thrashing around to get comfortable was keeping him awake, and the pillow has helped tremendously, but now I wake up every time I knock it to the floor. And lately I keep waking up on my back which is weird because I’ve never ever been a back sleeper and I’m super paranoid about it because doctors are like DON’T LAY ON YOUR BACK. Not awesome.

7. My boobs are the size of small countries. The D-cup bras I bought at around 18 weeks feel like tiny torture chambers now. I’ve given up on wearing anything besides stretchy sleep bras and tube bras. They look stupid under my clothes and they are not flattering, but they’re comfortable.

8. Also about boobs: they are still awfully sore. Sometimes I get shooting pains in my nipples for no apparent reason. Super fun times!

9. Haven’t really had any cravings besides beer, tequila, wine, excessive amounts of coffee, unpasteurized cheese, raw fish, under-cooked meat, nitrates, and runny eggs. All the things I’m forbidden from consuming. I want sweets constantly, but that’s true even when I’m not pregnant. There was a week when all I wanted to eat was goat cheese, and another week when I neeeeeeeded lemonade, but that’s it.

10. And just for fun, here’s some stupid things people* have said that people should never ever say to a pregnant lady:

  • At 20 weeks: “Ugh. I hope you’re pregnant.”
  • At 22 weeks: “Are you pregnant or are you just getting fat?”
  • At 26 weeks: “You must be due any minute!” and “Every time I see you, you’re eating.”
  • At 27 weeks: “You want some tips on how to get your body back after you push that kid out?”

*By people I mean men and I hate to point that out because I think men don’t get enough credit or encouragement in our society for being sensitive and gentle and I don’t want to generalize, but come on. Plenty of men have said lovely, complimentary things, yes, but only men have said rude and thoughtless things. Ladies have, on the whole, been supportive and kind. Why?

27 Weeks

Ok, so I really really did not intend to let nearly three months pass between posts, but there was life, and work, and naps, and eating, and of course, studying for the Baby Bar Exam six hours every day. I took the (SEVEN HOUR) exam last Tuesday and I have to say I felt pretty awesome for sitting through a SEVEN HOUR exam while seven months pregnant and having to pee every half hour. The bathrooms were super far away but I totally hung in there and I felt really good about myself at the end of it. I spent the rest of the week in a kind of post-legal-exam haze, not sure what to do with myself now that I didn’t need to spend six hours studying every day, so I caught up on all my t.v. shows and some chores around the house, and then on Sunday my sister came over and between her, me, and Mike, we ninja-kicked our way through the second bedroom, clearing it out, cleaning it up, and getting it ready for some serious nursery decorating. We didn’t finish, but we made awesome progress and I am hopeful that I’ll be doing the fun stuff (DECORATING!!) in the next couple of weeks.

And how is Niblet growing, you ask?

Pregnancy hormones are making me grow hair in weird places!

At twenty-seven weeks, Niblet is around two pounds, 15 inches long, nearly completely formed and (with a lot of medical intervention) would have an 85% chance of survival outside my womb.

*Note to Niblet – PLEASE STAY PUT FOR A MINIMUM OF TWELVE MORE WEEKS, MMMMKAY? Mama loves you.*

We found out at 19 weeks that Niblet has a VAGINA, so technically I have two vaginas right now. I’m basically a vagina superhero. BabyCenter.com says Niblet opened her eyes for the first time last week and she’s added blinking to her list of special skills, among which are breathing and drinking amniotic fluid, sucking fingers and thumbs, grabbing her feet, playing with the umbilical cord, touching her face and amniotic sac, making the poop she’ll poop when she’s born, peeing, sleeping and waking at regular intervals, and clog-dancing on my cervix. How’s THAT for her LinkedIn profile?

Kid is ACTIVE. I started feeling little pops and bubbles at 18 weeks, but it wasn’t until 20 weeks that I was certain I was feeling Niblet and not the after-effect of too much ice cream. That was when she started kicking hard enough that I could feel her from the outside of my belly. At 24 weeks I could actually SEE her moving in my belly. It’s super freaky – like watching an alien trying to escape. These days it’s like I’ve got a little gymnast in there, turning, kicking, punching, wiggling. Sometimes she kicks/jabs in two places at once, sometimes she kicks on the left, sometimes the right, or up near my ribs, or, like I said earlier, she’s clog-dancing on my cervix. Her wiggles wake me up in the night, keep me from falling asleep, startle me at work, and sometimes they tickle. She’s had the hiccups once, so far. And still, after nearly ten weeks of feeling her, I have to stop whatever I’m doing to sit in awe whenever she starts her water ballet. Her movements make me indescribably happy. Even when they keep me up at night. Especially then.

It’s really amazing how easy this pregnancy has been. (Yes, I know, I’m super lucky.) I keep telling Mike that it’s too bad we’re not planning a family of fourteen because I feel like I was meant to do this. I’m the happiest, calmest, most laid-back I’ve ever been in my life. The worst part has been watching my waistline vanish and my behind take over, but that’s only because I’m a vain and superficial monster. Other than that, pregnancy has (mostly) been a cake walk.

And since I know you’re DYING to see (please note the hint of sarcasm) here’s that link to my Flickr stream of weekly belly pics.  I wish they weren’t mostly selfies in my bathroom, but between my schedule and Mike’s schedule it’s a wonder I ever got knocked up, so finding time for him to take my photo has been near impossible. (Click photos for captions.)

Niblet will be born in about three months and I still can’t believe I’m really, actually, truly pregnant. It’s all going way, way too fast.