Monday, April 27, 2009

two videos

It's video day over at Mama, Redux--I just had to share these two YouTube finds.

The first one comes via my sister. It's a mattress commercial from Spain that features a beautiful, powerful home birth. Can you imagine if such commercials were shown in the States? It would revolutionize how birth is viewed in this country--it would help our culture see home birth as something natural, something normal, something safe and loving. Not that I expect that to happen any time soon, but at least we can circulate this through the blogosphere and open a few eyes and minds and hearts:

The second video is a little ditty called "Pregnant Women are Smug" by one of my daughter's favorite bands, Garfunkel and Oates. While I have to say these adorable singers don't speak for me, it's a nice reminder to not take myself too seriously (or smugly!)

Friday, April 24, 2009

heartbeats and drive throughs

I had my first prenatal check up today. It was a very bizarre experience--I had used midwives with my first two pregnancies, but because of my age and because of some concerns based on my previous birth experiences, I (despite my truest inclinations) thought I might need to be more medically monitored this time around. My family doctor, who I trust, suggested a local woman OB, and told me that patients he has sent to her love her.

I did not love her.

When she came into the room, after Michael and I had been waiting for over half an hour in the exam room--me in the broad-shouldered paper get-up they had given me that looked like some sort of Star Wars Empress costume--she shook my hand, but didn't even acknowledge Michael's presence. Her whole visit was curt and impersonal; Michael called it a "drive through exam". She did an ultrasound without telling me that's what she was about to do--I was open to it, even though I've never had one before, but it would have been nice to have been informed first; it took her awhile to find the baby--so nerve wracking--but eventually, she said "There's the heartbeat." This was a huge relief, of course, but she didn't turn up the sound so I could hear it and she was standing between me and the monitor, so I couldn't see anything. When I tried to sit up to get a look at the screen, she said "You can't see it" and turned the machine off. I imagine she meant I wouldn't be able to identify the images, but it sounded as if she meant I wasn't allowed to look.

Another frustrating thing--she told us that the two local hospitals where she has privileges wouldn't let me have a VBAC, even though my second birth was a VBAC (my son was born by emergency C-section). If I want to try for a VBAC, she'd have to refer me to a doctor in Loma Linda. It makes me so upset to think that women have no choice regarding VBACs in local hospitals; I'm not sure who to talk to about this, but I am definitely going to find out.

I'm glad that we went this morning--it was good to know the baby's heart is beating and to hear that the doctor isn't concerned about my spotting--but it was discouraging to know that this is the current standard of care. Michael said that the experience was even worse than the time when he went to an urgent care center with a bad respiratory infection not that long ago, and they gave him a brochure titled "I Have a Cold Just Like Mommy and Daddy"! Today's appointment definitely helped me realize that even though I have concerns, I don't want to medicalize this pregnancy and birth unless it proves to be absolutely necessary. Of course this something I knew intuitively, but I had been listening to my fears instead of that deeper place. I guess this is where the trust I talked about in the last post comes in!

After we got home, I called a local midwife and made an appointment for this coming Thursday. She talked to me over the phone for almost half an hour, and as she spoke about her practice and encouraged me to ask questions, I felt my whole body relax. This is the kind of care I was hoping for--personal, patient, the kind of care that honors a woman's journey toward birth and doesn't just treat her like part of an assembly line. Of course if there are complications, I will turn toward whatever help is needed, but for now, I feel like the right decision is to stay as far away from hospitals as possible.

My midwife sister is coming into town tomorrow (YAY!) and will be returning just about every other month through this pregnancy for various family functions (and hopefully for the birth!), so I know that I'll have the best adjunct care imaginable. I am a lucky mama indeed.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Egg, Nest, Trust

Our friends Nancy and Jenn hosted a beautiful solstice ritual in late March, focusing on birds as the central metaphor for spring. As part of the event, they walked around the circle with a stack of Bird Signs cards; we each drew one and then looked in the companion book to see what our specific card meant. I closed my eyes, let my fingers fall upon a card and pulled it from the deck; when I opened my eyes, I realized I had drawn three cards instead of one. I started to put two back, but Jenn smiled and said, "That means you're supposed to have all three."

It turned out the three cards I had chosen were Egg-Birth, Nest-Grounding, and Quail-Trust. Several people laughed and said "interesting", as if they knew something I didn't. Of course now I know I was pregnant at the time, but I had no clue then; it seemed somehow people were picking up on it, though. A couple of weeks later, when I told Nancy the news, she said she wasn't surprised, based on those cards.

I've been having some light spotting lately--nothing major, and according to everyone I've consulted, perfectly normal, but it's still very scary. I've been so focused on what the Egg-Birth card represents and am realizing now that I need to dig deeper into those other ideas that presented themselves to me. I need to find more grounding to help process the fears swirling around inside, and need to trust that my body knows what it's doing. That whatever happens--positive or negative--the nest of my body will support me through it, as will all the people who have already given so much support and love on this unexpected journey.

Friday, April 17, 2009

reading (breeding) material

When I was pregnant the first time, I couldn't read enough about pregnancy and childbirth. I had stacks and stacks of books, everything from the ubiquitous What to Expect when You're Expecting to Spiritual Midwifery (parts of which were hilariously dated--I remember a caption under a photo of a newborn that read "What a little stoner, so fresh and new"--but I loved the book; it was filled with good, reassuring inspiring information. And I was tickled by how the midwives in the book called labia "flaps.") I lent the books to a pregnant friend years ago; that friend moved away and sadly I never saw her or the books again. I may try to replace a couple of my favorites (I especially miss A Child is Born, a book I grew up with; it's so cool to be able to see the different stages of fetal development. I think I'm at the stage where the baby looks a bit like a tiny frog.)

So far, I've only picked up two belly-related books--one on vegetarian pregnancy, and one about pregnancy and beyond called My Mother Wears Combat Boots: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us, by Jessica Mills. My daughter saw me reading the latter, and had a good laugh. "I don't think you're exactly the right demographic for that book, Mom," she said. She definitely doesn't see me as a hip mama.

I felt myself get a little defensive. "The author's a touring musician and activist," I said. "I'm a (sometimes) touring writer and activist. I wanted to see how she balances everything."

"But you've done this all before," she said. "You know how it works."

I'm not sure I do. When Arin and Hannah were born, I had begun to publish in journals, but hadn't established myself as a writer yet. I didn't have to worry about book tours/teaching/etc. I had the luxury of being at home with them full time, writing when I could, not having to worry about any external obligations. This time around, I'll have two books coming out within months of the birth, I'll be teaching online within weeks of the birth, I'll be juggling the needs of a newborn and a teenager, etc. I'm not sure a book has been written about all of that yet. But it does help me to read how other women navigate their own lives as mothers and artists, and I am always grateful to learn from women who can help me understand what's going on in my body and what I can do to nurture the life growing within me (in this regard, it also helps so much to have a midwife in the family who I can call whenever I have an urgent question. And of course, now there is the internet, which didn't exist when I was pregnant before--but that's a whole other post.)

I'd love to hear about your favorite pregnancy books--there are so many new ones out there now. Which have you found most inspiring/informative/relevant?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The green slime is here

This morning, my toast looked like it had snot smeared on it. Or some sort of bilious goo. Toxic slime, perhaps. A little green, a little gray. Not the most appetizing looking breakfast, but it actually turned out to be quite tasty. Enter hemp seed nut butter into my life.

My sister, a midwife in Toronto, recently recommended hemp oil as a good vegetarian source of Omega-3s. She told me to avoid flaxseed oil (the main go-to Omega-3 for vegetarians), since it's been known to cause pre-term labor. I had been feeling good about my decision to drink Omega-3 fortified soymilk, but when I looked at the label, of course it contained flax. So now I have a jar of nutty, oily green-gray goo in my fridge and some little black Omega-3 capsules made of algal oil that create some strange-tasting burps, but hopefully will help build the little one's brain.

I was glad to find this green slime poster (from the year of my birth, no less) but I think its grammar is going to drive me crazy. Shouldn't it be "The Green Slime IS Coming"? Either way, the green slime is here and it turns out to be not so terrifying after all.

Pregnancy Anxiety Dream #5

The actor/comedian Eugene Levy tells me that he impregnated me in my sleep and the baby is actually his. I decide that if this is the case, I can't actually go through with the pregnancy. I don't want a baby that looks like Eugene Levy. Eugene Levy does, however, offer to give me half of his vast pinball earnings.

Needless to say, I am very happy to see Michael when I wake up.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Burrito lust

I had forgotten how hungry a pregnant woman gets. Even when I'm not pregnant, I wake up hungry, but now hunger is a whole new beast--a ravenous, gnawing thing.

When I was pregnant the first time, I craved egg and bean burritos; I made them on a daily basis, sometimes in the middle of the night. When I was pregnant the second time, I craved bean and rice burritos from "In An Out Burrito", a little storefront down the street from us at Family Student Housing at UCR; there was some spice in the burritos that my body desperately seemed to need. I haven't had any consistent cravings with this pregnancy yet--just the insane hunger (which co-exists with a pretty much constant, low grade nausea). Yesterday, though, I craved a bean and cheese burrito from Bakers, a local fast food chain, so intensely, I thought I might die if I didn't get one. In a cool synchronicity, when I picked up Hannah at school, she asked if we could go to Bakers on the way home--I love that my girl and I were on the same wavelength. The burrito was just as satisfying as I knew it would be, in all its cheesy fast food glory. I don't know what it is about pregnancy and burritos with me, and I don't know if this will be an ongoing craving, but man, my body is not shy about asking for what it wants.

Pregnancy Anxiety Dream #4

I am a spectator in this one, not a participant, but that doesn't make it any less horrible:

I am at an ice cream shop in some Latin American country. A woman is there with her husband and a friend and is laughing about a bullet that has ricocheted into the shop and has pierced her spoon. The pink plastic spoon is trickling blood, like a stigmata, and the woman is laughing and laughing at the sight. Then the friend asks about the woman's baby, and the woman begins to look around, frantic. Her baby is nowhere to be seen. And then the ice cream shop keeper tells them that it was the baby who had been shot, not the spoon, and that the baby had died. "They wrote TRANQUILO on his arm before they took him away," he says, and the woman collapses with grief.

Not a great dream to wake up to on my birthday, but I suppose it's always good to remember how fragile life is, how easily it can be taken away. I never had postpartum depression, per se, but I remember being unable to stop crying a few days after Arin was born because I couldn't bear the fact that this beautiful baby I had brought into the world was going to die some day. It broke my heart beyond belief. I kept thinking about Rilke writing about how each pregnant woman carries two fruits inside of her: a birth and a death. I just wanted the one fruit--the juicy new one.

In the midst of my melt down, my ex-husband Matt brought me over to Arin and made me put my hand on his new little body. "This is his arm," he reminded me, "This is his leg. He is here right now." I was so grateful to be brought back into the moment, in all its sweetness.

And that's all we have really, this moment--which is what I want to savor on my birthday. And I want to acknowledge that other scary fruit, the one that is seeping into my dreams, the one that threatens to overwhelm with its scent of ferment, but I don't want to give it power over me; I want its presence to help me appreciate the fresher fruit all the more.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Time travel

One thing that's vastly different in this pregnancy is my sense of time.

When I was pregnant the first time, I couldn't imagine actually having a baby, being a mother. I was so into the experience of pregnancy, it consumed me completely; of course I knew a baby was the end result, but I couldn't visualize it. My body couldn't imagine it. All it knew was being with child, and that was a different experience every day as my body and the baby grew. I was living in the shifting, changing moment, with no idea about what was to come.

Of course we never truly know what is to come, but by the time my daughter was born three years later, I could remember what it was like to hold a newborn, to breastfeed, to watch a baby learn to sit up, crawl, walk, talk (each new stage such a revelation.) But I couldn't see beyond three years old; I had no idea what it would be like to have an older kid.

Now I've been through the whole journey, seen my first baby grow all the way up to a gorgeous mustachioed college man, seen my daughter blossom into a gorgeous young woman. And while each child is different and I know this baby will take me down unexpected paths that I can't begin to fathom now, I know now what it's like to see the journey through to adulthood. I know the baby stage goes by in a blink. I know all of it goes by in a blink. It's kind of terrifying, really, how quickly it all goes. I hope that keeping this long-view in mind will help me appreciate each fleeting moment all the more (and will get me through times that seem interminable while they're happening, like teething and potty training.)

My dad is going to be 90 this year, and was telling me recently how he just can't believe he's as old as he is. His mind just can't seem to process his age. I feel the same way--how is it possible I'm almost 41 when I feel like a 10 year old inside? How is it possible I have such grown up kids? Time is utterly confounding; we are totally at its mercy--it shakes us off so easily, like old clothes--but I find I don't want to fight it. No Botox or plastic surgery, or any of those measures people my age use to stave off its relentless jaws (at least that's how I feel right now; time has taught me that minds sometimes change in surprising ways). Right now, I just want to slow myself down enough to enjoy time's passage. I imagine a baby will help me do that and turn time into even more of a blur all at once.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pregnancy Anxiety Dreams

As a 40-something pregnant woman, I find myself feeling so much more vulnerable than I ever did when pregnant in my 20s; I know there is a higher risk of miscarriage at this age, a higher risk of other complications. I'm trying to not live in fear--my friend Nancy who had her second girl at 42, 19 years after her first daughter was born, tells me how that sense of vulnerability during her pregnancy opened her up so profoundly, and I want to let myself open, too, instead of curling into a tight little ball, worried that every little twinge spells disaster. The fears are definitely manifesting themselves in my dreams, dreams that crack me up when I think about them later, but that terrify me while I'm inside of them...

Pregnancy Anxiety Dream #1

On my way to a frozen yogurt place with my daughter and her friend, somehow I get my arm stuck in a jar of caramel sauce. When I pull my arm out, sweet and sticky, the momentum makes me stumble, and I end up sliding across the entire length of a parking lot on my side, coming to a stop only after hitting my head on a parked car. A woman with a clipboard bends over me and starts talking as if nothing strange has happened; I wake up yelling "I'm pregnant! Call an ambulance!"

Pregnancy Anxiety Dream #2

I am sitting in my car at a gas station when two men, one Russian, one American, walk up to my window. They ask for money because they want to get something monogrammed. When I tell them I have no cash, the Russian man yanks my locked door open and lunges toward my belly. My whole body is fizzy with adrenalin when I wake, gasping.

Pregnancy Anxiety Dream #3

I am performing with an improvisational dance group, and everyone starts slithering around on their bellies like snakes on the stage, then slithering over the lip of the stage into the audience, so I do it, too, but I can feel the ground poke into my belly, and I know that I've hurt my baby irreparably.

I imagine the dreams will get only stranger as the pregnancy progresses--I'll be sure to share the weirdest ones with you here.


This blog marks the start of a brand new adventure. I have two kids with my ex-husband--an 18 year old son and a 15 year old daughter; two weeks ago, much to my amazement, my boyfriend and I found out I am pregnant. I was 21 when I learned I was pregnant with my son; I will be 41 next week. I look forward to sharing the journey here, chronicling the differences between pregnancy in one's 20s and one's 40s, between 20th and a 21st century new motherhood. Some of the differences are pretty clear already--I was in college when I first found out I was pregnant; now I teach college. I still had baby fat on my cheeks when I was pregnant the first time; now (horrors) I find I am developing a wattle along with a baby bump. Another thing is crystal clear: maternity clothes and baby gear are so much cuter than they used to be (and so much more expensive! I hope I'll be as lucky with hand me downs this time around.)

Thanks for joining me on this wild and unexpected ride--I'd love to hear from you if you've done a second round of parenting later in life, yourself...