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Thursday had been a great day and I polished off the evening with some wings and chowder and a pair of pints at the bar up the road. Watched March Madness, did some work, and just kicked back after a great week of working hard and having fun. Lu was feeling generally okay, but her stomach had started to bother her a bit, so she went to bed early wiped out from the tough work of creating life within her womb all day/all night.
Friday everything went bad. Fast. I woke up feeling icky and before long icky had become full-blown awful. I’m not sure if it was the lukewarm chowder from the day before or an actual virus, but something got inside my belly and it tried to find every way out possible. I was leveled. Friday passed in a delirious haze that gave me a tiny glimpse into what it’s like to pregnant. I was nauseous, extremely uncomfortable, dangerously dehydrated and cloven in two by a powerful headache. Friday Lu waited on me, bringing me Pedialite, water and anything else I needed even as she cooked and fed herself, straightened up the apartment and did some work. Unfortunately, she was only a little bit better off herself.
Her stomach ache had become worse and both of us started to get worried. We knew that all kinds of weird things happen as the fetus grows and the womb enlarges, but this just didn’t feel right to her. Calls were made to the midwife and to Mom even as she searched online for reasons and explanations for her discomfort. The final analysis was either a mild gastrointestinal virus, ligaments stretching in her uterus, or most likely, that it was just one of those weird pregnant things.
But I wasn’t ‘there’ to help her through it like I would have been if I wasn’t utterly wrecked by sickness myself. Which made her feel alone and me feel helpless and both of us feel really scared and on edge. I slipped in and out of sleep all day having bizarre dreams and growing increasingly sore from being stuck in bed while she tried not to get too freaked out by the pains in her belly.
One thing that kept going through my mind both dreaming and awake was “How the hell can either of us ever get sick once we have a newborn? How, exactly, would that work?” And if both of us got ill? Forget it! Apparently as a parent illness is off the table.
Today I felt much better, but I also felt odd and different. Lighter, certainly as well as… shall we say… thoroughly purged. Saw friends at the shop today and although they were totally normal I didn’t feel that way at all. Being sick is such a private thing. It is something that is only shared with a partner or among an immediate family, but it’s also something that everyone goes through at one point or another. I kept wanting to grab them and tell them, “Look at me! I’m different! Can’t you see it? I had an ‘experience’ yesterday!”
But we all have private experiences. Moments that affect only us, that only we see on our own, through our senses and within our brains. Lu is having an incredibly powerful and private experience every day of this pregnancy, and getting sick on Friday gave me the tiniest glimpse of how she feels, just accelerated and condensed into a 24 hour period. That brief illness changed me slightly. I can only imagine how much she will change as a result of growing this baby.
That’s what I feel when I am driving on I95 with good music and the roof open just after a cop blazes by chasing someone else and there’s no traffic before my exit.
That’s also what it’s like to have a pregnant wife.
Waiting for my life to change is a strange experience. I feel like we are sitting at the gate right now about to board a plane to go on an adventure. An adventure with an unknown ending, hell even an unknown middle. Really the only thing I know is the beginning. There will be a child, then everything else will happen.
But right now it’s just “What can I get you? Are you hungry? Are you comfortable? Here let me carry that,” and all the other external things I can do to make her life a little bit easier. But I can’t relieve the nausea, and I can’t go pee for her, and I can’t have the baby for her, so really I’m just in charge of everything else. Unfortunately ‘everything else’ is just window dressing to the main event.
I guess what is going to be the most surprising is that after this whole waiting around at the gate and then slowly boarding the plane and then the taxi out to the runway of birth–where the contractions live–that at some point the plane will take off (that launch being the birth itself) and that while we are flying along with our new child in our arms we’ll realize this plane has no pilots except for us and our only training so far has been watching other people fly their little newborns through the world. Hopefully our parental autopilot is in good working order and we can all sit back and enjoy the ride. Obviously, though, I expect some turbulence on this journey. If only enough to keep it interesting.
There was an implicit ‘We’ today. She didn’t said the word but the meaning was quick and clear. We. Meaning her and the child within. She is creating life. I’m out here watching it happen and helping as much as I can, but I’m not the only other part of ‘We’ anymore.
Sure, she could do the rest of this on her own, but it’s all so much easier with me around. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. We. All three of us.
I was laying in bed last night, nearly asleep, when I heard it. Well, maybe heard isn’t exactly the right word for it and I’m not entirely sure I was actually awake, but that’s the easiest way to describe it.
The house was utterly silent. The cats were napping all curled up around Lu, who was also totally out. Not even the furnace churned below the floor. The sound wasn’t coming from the neighbors upstairs or next door. It wasn’t even an external sound at all.
From somewhere in my mind, I heard the future.
It was the lingering wail of a newborn baby that was hungry or tired or needed a diaper change or simply just wanted to cry because that’s what babies do. I realized in that instant how precious our quiet slumber was at this point in our lives.
I didn’t have to move or do anything to address the wailing from within. It was just an echo of a future-sound, calling back through time to tell me that I should cherish every quiet moment every time I find them. Because soon, quiet will vanish like the sweet sleep I fell into as my mind grew silent and the dreams enveloped me.
We humans are amazingly adaptable. Beyond where we can survive and thrive, or how we deal with setbacks and challenges, it is remarkable the way we learn to accept the reality around us. We get used to what we have. But it is important to move beyond the easy and obvious. It is important to avoid becoming so adapted to your surroundings that you cannot survive in any other environment. Travel and vacations are good for that, as is walking to work a different way now and then. I have a feeling that having a baby will be a surefire way to shake up our lives and readjust our vantage points.
But somehow, we’ll get used to it. I can already see it with my friends who I have known for years, and have only had kids for the last few. Same with my brother’s family. Their lives with their children are obvious and correct. It only makes sense that they have those children. As mind-bending and life-changing as those little creatures are in their lives, my friends and family are totally consumed and utterly enthralled by their roles as parents.
From here, though, I still can’t quite see how it will all fit together. What will be going on in this apartment 8 months from now at midnight on a Monday? Where will the crib be? Where does all of our stuff go? What will that moment be like when the baby finally falls asleep in my arms and I am afraid to move for hours? All of that is out there in the future and I am being pushed inexorably towards those moments whether I am ready for them or not.
I’m trying to adapt in anticipation but that’s not really the way it works. There’s no way to prepare for so much of this. Like so many before me, I’m going to give fatherhood everything I’ve got and figure it out on the fly. At some point I may even get used to it.
However, one thing I’m sure of is that Lu already knows where the crib is going. She probably has a few other things planned out, too.
I’m a reader, so finding the right book(s) to help me understand and enrich this amazing time in my life is really important to me. Friday night I flipped through a ‘Dad-to-be’ book and realized it was not at all what I was looking for. Sure the ‘what-your-wife-will-be-complaining-about’ list at the end of each month’s chapter was mildly amusing at times, but the other advice was sheer lunacy. The author suggested that in response to my feelings of “helplessness and uselessness at this point in my wife’s pregnancy” I could–and I quote– “buy, buy, buy!” Over $3000 worth of baby-crap was suggested for purchase. I suddenly realized this wasn’t a book so much as a 150 page advertisement for exactly the opposite of the type of life I lead, and the life I want my family to have.
We are psyched about second-hand. Our friends and family have kids quickly growing, and all of them have tons of stuff for us to use. We are thrilled to have it. Not only because of the cost-saving and eco-friendly aspect of reusing perfectly good baby equipment, but also because of the love and happiness associated with those objects. We enjoy being on that chain of sharing and helpfulness. The expertise of the people around us will definitely make our new-parent-lives easier.
Our baby is the size of a lime this week. Reflexes, squinching eyes, and clenching fingers and toes are in motion in my wife’s womb. If we give a little poke to her belly, the baby will respond but she would not be able to feel it. The baby is about 2 inches long and weighs about a half an ounce.
Friends just gave birth today. Dylan Diego is his name and he was 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 21 inches. That is at least ten times the size of our’s right now and we’ve only got 6 months to go. Now wonder Lu is uncomfortable. That baby-to-be grows at a ridiculous rate.
I also just realized that someday our kids will be teenagers together, and frankly, that has trouble written all over it.
Today’s actions on the part of my wife may have radically shifted my thoughts on my unborn child.
Girl, I’ve thought, right from the start. But I always said that if my vegetarian wife ever ate meat while she was pregnant, then it would definitely mean that she was having a boy. Obviously, this theory has no basis in reality and is merely the idle wanderings of a brain going through a major reboot. But it’s all I’ve got right now, so I’m going with it.
The fact of the matter is, my wife had a few bites of the organic, lightly breaded and delicately fried chicken fingers I made for dinner tonight. She was terrified and uncertain, but she was utterly compelled. They were delicious as usual, but she has never been truly tempted before. This time she had to have some. Either that, or my unborn son had to have some, and for him it get it, he’s gotta go through Mom.
This is the week where the gender of the fetus becomes externally detectable. The timing of that makes it even more obvious to me. I bet Lu has a bit of chicken every now and then for the rest of the pregnancy and then after she delivers never again. Unless, of course, we have another boy.
First trimester is almost over and Lu is very much looking forward to tri-2. Supposedly there is less nausea, less discomfort and more feeling-awesome in general. It’s hard to believe the number of times I have heard the following sentences: “I have to pee,” “I’m starving,” and “yeeeuuuuck!” Not that I’m complaining. Lu is an absolute champ in the being-pregnant department. It’s just crazy what this condition does to a woman’s body.
So yesterday we saw the midwife and decided that a home birth is the way to go for us. Today, Lu was teaching her kid’s yoga class at a local school and one of the 8 year old girls in her class asked her “if she was going to have a hospital birth or a home birth?” That triggered the recognition for Lu, and she realized that this little girl is actually the daughter of the midwife we met with the day before.
That’s crazy enough on its own, but then later on in the day at another location, in another town nearby, Lu was walking out of another children’s yoga class she had just finished teaching when that same little girl and her midwife mother came strolling into the facility.
I’m not necessarily one for signs or portents, but when the Universe starts hitting me over the head with the same good people, I have to sit up and take notice. The midwife and her family are similar to us. They go to the same places and share our perspective and ideals. That makes her perfect to help our baby into this world.
Our first doctor’s appointment was a few weeks ago, and we were seeing a midwife practice that is associated with Yale/New Haven Hospital. They were okay, but the head doctor made me feel uncomfortable. While trying to be nice and encouraging she also spent some time really trying to scare the shit out of us. Tests we must have, age concerns, that we should wait to tell people, all kinds of stuff said through a big fake grin and eyes that seemed to stare at the wall behind us. It was extremely unpleasant and I walked out of there feeling icky that this was the woman that was going to be delivering our baby.
It didn’t set well with Lu either, so we started talking about what we really wanted out of this experience. A home birth has always been Lu’s first choice, but that would not have happened if we stayed with this midwife practice. So we’re done with them. We want to do this our way, the way women have been doing it successfully for thousands of years. On the recommendation of our friends who have had 2 wonderful home births we went and met with another midwife practice that specializes in this.
The woman was amazing. I could tell that this was a person that celebrated the amazing beauty of childbirth as a natural, normal event. A woman that loved helping other women to have the most calm, loving, supportive and beautiful experience possible. And they are experts at it. They have all the necessary skills and equipment to deal with any situation that arises, and if things get complicated of course we will head up the road to the hospital as soon as we need to. But we won’t need to. Lu is going to excel at this. She is made to have children and she is going to have no trouble at all.
Another thing about the home birth experience is that it makes it all a whole hell of a lot more fun and interesting for me. Hospital birth = me holding her hand saying “you’re doing great!” That is until they shove me out of the way so they can do their doctor thing. Home birth = me involved involved all the way through. Preparing the pool, readying the house, gathering all the other stuff we’re going to need, but best of all I get to literally catch the baby as it emerges. This is us. This our family at its most basic and real level.
The fact of birth on a day down the line is both exciting and terrifying. But now re-imagining that day in the warmth and comfort of our own home, surrounded by women that have done this thousands of times, that truly love the experience all the way through, it takes the edge off the fear. What is going to happen is not an emergency or a surprise. They know exactly what is going to happen, and they are going to do everything they can to help us enjoy the elemental magic of birth.
Besides, if there is a more interesting way to do anything, you can bet your sweet ass Lu and I will give it a try.