Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Final Countdown (Orig Post Date 10/28/10)

As the hour of sunrise and sunset get closer and closer to each other, the days tick by faster and faster. With less than two weeks before the baby makes landfall, I find myself scrambling to get all those random projects around the house done while there’s still time. Sadly, I’ve run out of projects that I can do on my own, and now have to rely on my husband. I fear I may be turning into a nag with constantly asking him to do this or that around the house. I just want to get rid of the clutter. We’ve been in this house for seven years, and have accumulated a lot of junk. I feel as though I’m drowning.

There’s just so much stuff.

Boxes in the basement that are still packed from our move, box after box of movies and books, more candles than any human could ever hope to burn in a lifetime, clothes, shoes, toys, and it’s all suffocating me.

With the addition of another person, that means more stuff. I’m afraid that if we don’t clear some of this out, there won’t be room to move.

I’m already having difficulty breathing.

But it’s probably from all the dust.


Why I love Fall (Orig Post Date 10/19/10)

As the sticky heat of summer surrenders to the refreshing cool of fall, my favorite season begins.

From spring to summer, the only real change is more heat and less rain. But the slide of summer into fall means crisp nights that are perfect for sweatshirts and hot cocoa; beautiful fiery leaves clinging to trees lining the roads and peeking out from behind houses; and frost sparkling in the bright morning sun.

Fall is also when some of my favorite activities happen. Back to school, National Novel Writing Month, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and my birthday all happen in the fall (though back to school seems to be creeping farther and farther into the summer). Then there’s apple picking, pumpkin hunting and carving, and hay rack rides with hot apple cider.

The view from by grandma's back porch in Penn.

I look forward to fall every year, but this year I have a few new reasons. With the baby due soon, I’ll have another birthday to celebrate as the days grow short and the nights get chilly. I love birthdays and having parties just to celebrate another year of life. I also love to make birthday cakes. My daughter has had at least one every year, everything from butterflies to mermaids and horses. Invariably, my daughter will walk into the kitchen when her cake is half done and tell me: “It doesn’t look very good” or “I don’t think that’s going to work” or (my personal favorite) “That’s not what I wanted at all,” but once I pipe that last flower, sea urchin, or rosette she is able to see the grand plan, and suddenly I’m the hero of the day. (If only I could get her to remember that from year to year.)

This year, the best part of moving from summer to fall has been the return of my ankles. With my daughter, I was at my most pregnant in early July, so it was hot, but not the infamous “State Fair Hot” that all Iowans are familiar with. My feet would swell daily and I lived in flip-flops, but thankfully it was only for the last few weeks. This time, things were a little different. There was a stretch of about six to eight weeks where my poor feet were unrecognizable as feet. If I slept with them elevated, they looked a little better for a few hours in the morning, but it rarely lasted past 10 am.

Then the weather started to cool and the humidity dropped off, and suddenly I had my feet back. I could wear shoes again! Putting socks on and getting the shoes tied is still quite a production, but I’m managing.

So, while the highlight of the seasonal shift this year is the return of my feet and ankles, I know that that is only temporary, and soon will be eclipsed by the joy I’ll feel as I hold this perfect new person for the first time. I’m already looking forward to Thanksgiving (mere days after the baby should arrive) when I’ll have one more thing to be thankful for, and I’m even looking on to next year when I’ll have another life to celebrate, another cake to bake. I can’t wait to find out if it will be a flower or a fire truck.

Change Of Heart (Orig Post Date 10/8/10)

If you’ve been following along with my posts the past few months, you know that my family will be growing by two feet soon, and I haven’t exactly been doing back flips. This baby was a surprise, to say the least, and for the past several months it has been the source of much stress and anxiety. That is, when it’s not a surreal notion that I’m not able to fully wrap my mind around.

I have struggled. I’ve had extreme emotional swings. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve also revealed a lot to my husband, bringing us closer than we have ever been in nearly twelve years together.

After a little scare last week and a trip to labor and delivery for a non-stress test, things kind of jelled. I had distanced myself from this baby for so long that even with daily movement, VBAC classes, and birth preparation classes, it took a potential problem for that critical emotional connection to click on.

I did a complete emotional one-eighty in less than one second.

After speaking with our midwife, and making the decision that a non-stress test was the best course of action, I called H (my husband) to let him know what was going on. I had been strong and detached during the conversation with our midwife. With H, I broke down completely.

The thought that something could actually be wrong brought my baby to life in my heart.

At some level, the baby has always been there. He was there when I was cursing the hormones that caused morning sickness to hang on well into the third trimester when it should have stopped by the end of the first.

He was there when the same hormones caused me to become overly emotional at a funeral for an in-law that I didn’t really know. He was there when I got weepy over every scene in the final week of my favorite soap before it went off the air.

He was there in so many ways, but he had yet to crack the emotional barrier I had set up.

After one class, where H had a huge revelation about just how important the actual birth and bonding process is to both mother and baby, I felt the urge to unload my biggest fears and worries while he was still in a receptive frame of mind. I’m so glad that I followed that urge. He listened to my concerns, and was uncharacteristically reassuring.

I think his words helped to crack that emotional barrier, but it took that scare, that whisper of distress, to really break through.

I’m making a conscious effort to interact with this baby every day, now. Mostly I just talk to him. He’s not a mover like his sister was. I was able to play games with her. He seems to respond better to conversation than physical stimulation (which gives me hope that he’ll be more like me than his father or sister).

I’ve reached a Zen place of sorts. I’m feeling some anticipation, and even some excitement, when I think about meeting this new little human. That’s a far cry from the dread and despair I felt for months after I saw that second line appear on a home pregnancy test.

I’m coming to terms with the change that is quickly coming to our family. I’m not fully there yet, but hopefully I will be soon.

Getting there before the baby gets here would be nice.

Indoor Slip ‘n Slide…A Sure Sign Your Husband Needs A Babysitter (Orig Post Date 9/18/10)

On Tuesday, my husband, R, picked The Angry Midget up from school. He also invited a friend of hers over for a play date. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem because this particular friend is very well behaved. However, there is, as they say, a first time for everything.

I was out at the grocery store and completely unaware of the play date in progress, or the disaster that was about to befall my living room.

After settling the girls in with a movie and some popcorn, R left them on the main floor while he went downstairs to work on a project. That was his first mistake. All children, no matter how well behaved, have the ability to be mischiefus. All they need is the right opportunity.

Living on a tight budget means I keep a close eye on prices. I keep an especially close eye on the ever-fluctuating price of gasoline. That vigilance may have saved my husband’s life.

After I called to tell him that gas was cheaper in Altoona, he went upstairs to check on the girls.

I’m sure panic set in as he turned the corner and saw the girls. They were in the middle of the living room in swim suits, soaking wet from head to toe, standing in a pool of water.

Not just a little puddle, but gallons of water all over our 50 year old hardwood floor.

I wish I could have been there to see the look on his face when he saw the scene and realized that he had less than ten minutes before a crabby pregnant woman was going to walk through the door, knowing he would be in much bigger trouble than the girls.

R launched into the fastest clean up he's ever had to do, while simultaneously getting the girls dry and back in their clothes. He knew the clock was ticking.

I returned home to him, mop in hand, innocently cleaning the floor and looking a little too happy to be doing it. Looking closer, I saw he had his “lie face” on when he hadn't even said anything yet. Usually, he has to at least verbalize the lie before the “lie face” shows up.

My “Mom Sense” kicked in immediately. It was apparent that something was going on. The floor was way too wet to be from the Swiffer mop R was holding, The Angry Midget’s friend, Emma, looked very guilty, and TAM was nowhere to be found.

At first, I thought maybe he had over filled the fish tank, and I asked Emma if that's what happened. That kid couldn't lie to save her own life. She is just too sweet and honest. She just shook her head no. When I asked where The Angry Midget was, she said, “In her room.” I then asked, “Is she in trouble? Did you two spill the fish tank somehow?”

All I got was the same response: “She’s in her room.”

The Angry Midget showed up then, wearing a different outfit from the one I sent her to school in. I asked her the same questions about the fish tank and the water on the floor. Let me just say right here that my daughter, while very loyal to her friends, will not go down for a crime alone. She saw the bus coming, and pulled Emma under it with her.

It took all of one minute for The Angry Midget to tell me that her friend had dumped a bottle of water on the floor. When I said that one bottle would not make such a big mess, she informed me that the bottle was refilled and dumped several times.

Why did they pour all this water on my floor? To make a slip ‘n slide, of course.

The whole time I was trying to get the real story out of the girls, R had his own strategy. He was trying to tell me that he had mopped the floor to "make me happy.”

It was sweet of him, but he does not mop floors. Ever. That’s when I asked the girls if R had been upstairs with them. He hadn’t.

That’s when R asked if I got my hair cut, because it “looks so nice.” He also asked if I wanted a back rub. He knew his goose was cooked.

I really wasn’t upset by it. By the time I got home, the girls were dressed, and the pool was cleaned up. Sure the floor was still wet, but the puddle was gone, and I didn’t have to be the one to clean it. I really wasn’t upset about it. Was I disappointed in the girls that they thought it was a good idea? Sure.

But R had invited someone else’s child over then went downstairs instead of being a responsible parent and staying with the girls. That upset me. What if something had happened? One or both of them could have been injured. Thankfully, nothing serious happened.

Once her friend had left for home, The Angry Midget turned to me and said, "Mama, I am so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?" Of course I said yes (it was just water).

Then I look at R, who had the most pathetic look on his face.

He said, "What about me? Can you ever forgive me?" It was so pathetic it was funny.

"It'll take a little longer to forgive you," I said.

On the plus side, he started dinner when I asked him to without a single peep, and he was extra attentive all night.

What do I hope he has learned from this? That no matter how well behaved a child is while under adult supervision, there is always that potential for misbehavior, given the opportunity.

What have I learned from this? Not to leave my husband unsupervised. Ever.

Back To School (Orig Post Date 9/1/10)

Ahhh…Back to school time.

It’s a bittersweet time of year for most mothers. It signals the beginning of another year in their child’s life. It reminds them that time is forever moving forward, no matter how much we may want to stop it. Even, if for just a few seconds, we want to freeze our children in a stage of development, or at a specific milestone so that we can really take it all in, time denies us.

Back to school means new clothes and books, freshly sharpened pencils and crud-free glue sticks. It’s the end of summer, but the beginning of autumn. The carefree days of summer, spent by the pool and running through the sprinkler, are left behind for the structure of school and homework, sports practices and dance lessons.

While most moms shed a tear or two on the first day of school - especially if it’s the first day of pre-school or Kindergarten - the emotion behind those tears is not the same for each mother.

There are tears of sadness, because their baby is entering school for the first time, taking that first step on a path that will eventually lead them off into the world.

There are tears of pride, because they’ve done such a good job raising their little one that their child is ready to take that first step.

Then there are the tears of joy. These usually come from the “experienced” moms, the ones with a First Grader or higher. These moms shed a few tears on the last day of school, as they look ahead to twelve long weeks of summer vacation with bored kids. They count down through the hot summer days to that first day of freedom, to the day when they can drop their kids at school and return home to a quiet house.

Last year I was the first type of mom: sad and even a bit lost when I returned home. I wandered the house, unsure of what to do. At one point I even thought, “I better go check on D, she’s been too quiet for too long.” It took a beat or two before I remembered that she wasn’t home, and that’s why she was being so quiet.

Then the snow started. The snow started and it seemed it never stopped. Mixed in with all those snow days was Christmas break (almost a month long) and I had a glimpse of what I was in for with summer vacation. I was whimpering in surrender six days into the break. I had no idea how I was going to get through twelve weeks with a bored child.

The public library offered some relief in the form of a summer reading program. Still, I quickly found myself counting down the days to the first day of school.

I was proud that I managed the first day drop-off with just a threat of tears - a glaze that blurred my vision for a moment, but never actually fell. It wasn’t until I returned to the calm emptiness of the house that a tear escaped.

I wasn’t sad, really. I knew she was in good hands, and that she was going to do even better this year than last. I’m always proud of her and all of her efforts. Whether she is successful or not doesn’t matter, it’s the simple fact that she tried her best and put her heart into it that matters to me.

No, that was a tear of joy. I love my daughter, and I would never trade her for anything. However, we do not always mesh personality-wise. In fact we rarely mesh at all, and that makes for a stressful day when you spend every moment together.

It’s good for both of us to have time apart from each other so we can be happier in the time we do spend together. I know it makes me appreciate her more when I haven’t seen her for seven hours. I honestly don’t know how she feels about it. I’m a little afraid to ask. What if I don’t like the answer?

So, for now, I’m enjoying the peace from 8 am to 3 pm, counting down the days left until our newest addition shows his or her face, and trying not to think about the fact that Christmas break is only 113 days away.

Ashes (Orig Post Date 8/23/10)

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult and everyone handles it differently. Some people internalize it, afraid, unwilling, or just unable to show any emotion. Others reach out to friends and family for support, wearing their grief like a banner for everyone to see.

Still others fall between these two extremes. They may reach out eventually, but not right away. They may hold their emotions in check for days, months, possibly even years, afraid to let go. Afraid that if they grieve or mourn, the memories of their loved one will start to fade, leaving behind nothing but the pain of their loss.

Yes, memories fade over time. It becomes harder to recall the sound of their voice greeting you, the peal of laughter after a story or joke, the warmth of a hug, distinctive footsteps walking through the door every night.

Still other memories stay with you, sometimes creating anniversaries that remind you every year that someone is missing. Or there are the habits that remind you, sometimes harshly, that someone is gone.

A close friend’s grandmother passed away recently. She was one of her grandmother’s main care providers and had developed routines and habits over the years. When a heat advisory was posted shortly after her grandmother’s death, her first thought was: “I need to go check on Grandma.” It took a moment for her to remember that she didn’t have that responsibility any more.

I had a similar experience earlier this month. While at my grandma’s house, I kept waiting for my little brother to walk through the door. He never did. He never will again. Last April, he was killed in a car accident.

He was only 28, and left behind four little girls. The youngest was only nine months old.

As my cousin, H, prepared a birthday cake for her mom, I couldn’t help but think how wrong it was that only one name would be on it this year, and every year from here on out. Her birthday is just three days after my brother’s, and in our family, we did monthly birthday cakes with everyone’s names on it. We had to, or we would be eating birthday cake all the time.

That cake, nothing more than flour, eggs, sugar, and butter, set off emotions in me that I thought had been resolved. Perhaps they were close to the surface, because I was about to leave my family to return to Iowa. Perhaps they were spurred on by the extra hormones pregnancy has flooded my body with. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was too much.

Everything from the past year came bubbling up to the surface, boiling over in an uncontrollable torrent of anger, frustration, sadness, and an overwhelming sense of how unfair life was.

As I stood there in my mother’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably, I was comforted by her calm strength. I had lost a sibling, but she had lost a child. I still don’t know how she has been so strong through this. How she copes, alone in her apartment, my brother’s ashes in a plastic box sitting on her bookshelf. Maybe she’s just a stronger person than I am. Maybe she already had this moment with her own mother months ago, getting it out of her system before it had a chance to boil over. It’s something that I will likely never fully understand.

I hope that I don’t have to.

A Step In The Right Direction (Orig Post Date 7/30/10)

Last week KCCI reported on a new set of less restrictive guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that now favor vaginal birth after Caesarean (VBAC) as a viable option for women, even after two previous Cesarean deliveries. You can read the article in Medscape Today here (free account set up required) and the ACOG’s press release, which has even more information, here.

These new guidelines are an important step in the right direction. I agree, however, with Lamaze International that there is some wording in the new guidelines that can still limit a woman’s access to VBAC. As my doula explained, that’s where women, as consumers and paying customers, need to stand up and challenge the care providers. We need to tell them that this is what we want, and as the paying customer, we have every right to have the option.

The section of the ACOG’s press release that really gives me hope is this:

Restrictive VBAC policies should not be used to force women to undergo a repeat Cesarean delivery against their will if, for example, a woman in labor presents for care and declines a repeat Cesarean delivery at a center that does not support trial of labor after Cesarean.

The part that does worry me a little is the next sentence:

On the other hand, if, during prenatal care, a physician is uncomfortable with a patient's desire to undergo VBAC, it is appropriate to refer her to another physician or center.

I’m worried that physicians will just start refusing to see patients who want a VBAC.

I know that Iowa City is very pro-VBAC, and I have heard that there are some physicians here in Des Moines who are willing to talk about it, but with limited access to a willing facility, the conversation soon transitions from “We’ll see how you progress” to “Let’s go ahead and get you scheduled.” I sincerely hope that these new guidelines and the patient’s desire for options will help expedite the process of change.

A C-section rate of 31% is too high (up from just 5% in 1970), and I hope that these new guidelines will help lower that rate. However, I think the ACOG needs to look at the reasons for first time C-sections and work on changing the policies that lead to unnecessary medical interventions and, ultimately, a surgical delivery. It stands to reason that, if the initial number of C-sections can be reduced, then the number of subsequent C-sections will drop as a result.

This is a step in the right direction for a woman’s choice in how to birth her baby, but it is just the first step of what is likely to be a marathon. Let’s keep this momentum going. Talk to your doctor, and demand the options that are rightfully yours.

This Time It’s Different (Orig Post Date 7/17/10)

Most pregnant women have heard at some point during their pregnancy: “Every pregnancy is different.” Usually they are given this sage wisdom just after they make one of two declarations: “I love being pregnant, and I can’t wait to have another!” or “Ugh, I never want to be pregnant again, this is awful!”

I never really put too much thought into the phrase. That is, until I was faced with a second pregnancy that is so very different from the first.
 Sure, there are similarities: how it happened and the simple fact that there is a baby growing in there are the two most obvious ones. But there are other more subtle similarities that I hadn’t even realized until I started taking note of the differences.

For example: I am terrified. The last time, I was scared that something would go wrong because I was a year out from a miscarriage, and that loss was still very fresh in my mind. I also had the very bad habit of reading too much. I was quite possibly a little too informed (if that’s even possible.)

This time, I’m afraid of all the change this new baby will bring. I don’t know that it will have a big impact on my relationship with my husband. I got used to sharing him a long time ago. I’m more concerned with the impact on my relationship with my daughter. As I’ve mentioned before, she doesn’t share well.

I’m also worried about the impact it will have on my relationship with myself. I’m only just now starting to feel “normal” again after the last addition to our family.

Last time, I had complete confidence in my ability to have a healthy baby at home with a midwife. After a very traumatic emergency c-section because of complications late in my pregnancy, I didn’t even get to try to birth at home. This time, the option to birth at home in a relaxed environment is not open to me. I am currently fighting tooth and nail to have a VBAC, and dealing with the daily worry that complications will arise again, and I will once again have to endure a surgical delivery. More proof that too much information can be a bad thing.

With The Angry Midget, I never wanted the pregnancy to end. I loved being pregnant and feeling her move around. I was in no hurry to meet her, and she was in no hurry to come out. This time, I can’t wait for it to be over. I can’t wait to meet this person, and hold him for the first time. On the other hand, I’m 23 weeks into this, well into the second trimester, and I’m still dealing with the fatigue and nausea of the first trimester. Not fun.

Now I’m adding to that a growing belly that is starting to make everyday tasks difficult. Washing your feet or shaving your legs, is not so easy when you can’t really bend over any more (not to mention the danger level of being off balance in a very slippery shower), and I am now remembering the difficulty of putting on a pair of underwear or socks. If someone wants to invent truly genius panties for pregnant ladies, they should have Velcro sides, or pretty ribbon ties so you don’t have to bend over to put them on. Another genius service would be someone to come and put your socks on for you every day. Right now, I’m lucky because it’s hot and I can wear flip flops. No socks needed. The down side is I’m not due until early November, and as we all know, October and November are not flip flop months in Iowa. Perhaps I should start looking for a nice cozy pair of slippers that could pass as shoes for a few weeks. You know, just until I can touch my toes again.

This baby’s movement is different from The Angry Midget’s, too. She was, well, hyper. Once she started moving, she didn’t stop. Though I was able to sleep through it, she would wake my husband up at night with all her kicking and squirming. When this baby moves, it feels different because he seems to really like my incision from the C-section. I feel movement along the incision site often, and when he kicks, he seems to be aiming right for it. He is more of a stretch and roll kind of baby while The Angry Midget was a jumping-jack kind of baby. She could poke out in four different directions at once, and do a flip at the same time. The cats did not appreciate this particular talent, and would often hiss or grump at my belly when they were prematurely rousted from their naps.

Yes, this time it is very different. I’m older, I wasn’t ready for this, I wasn’t happy about this for a long time, but despite all of that, I’m adapting. I’m finding the pleasure in it where I can, and I’m trying to be more like a duck and just let it all roll off. That may end up being nearly impossible, but I still think it’s worth a try.

Does the phrase “Every pregnancy is different” still hold true? Sure.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. As with all things in life, it depends heavily on your perspective. Don’t get hung up on the unimportant stuff, or you’ll miss the really great stuff.

The Baby Shuffle (Orig Post Date 6/12/10)

Just because babies are small doesn’t mean they can fit in anywhere. Often, there is a lot of juggling that needs to be done when a new baby will be arriving soon: room switching, furniture shuffling, and of course, all the “must have” baby paraphernalia. Those are all the physical, tangible things that must be shuffled and juggled to make room for baby, but what about the things you can’t see? The things that don’t take up space in your home but are just as, if not more important? Like priorities.

While trying to write this post, I had some writers block. Not the traditional type where you don’t know what to say, but more of the emotional kind where you know what you want to say, but you can’t make your fingers create the words. There was a block between my heart and my hands that wouldn’t let me get the words out. Yesterday, I had a great conversation with a good friend of mine. She is a writer, but more important than that, she’s also a mom.

I told her what I wanted to write about, and she knew and understood what I was trying to say immediately. I explained the problem, and even though we were on the topic for no more than ten minutes, those were the most important ten minutes for me, as a mom, that I’ve had in a really long time.

There’s a lot of emotional and mental shuffling and rearranging that has to happen, too. A lot of it probably happens without you even realizing it; usually that’s with the first child. When the second one comes along, you may be more aware of how things are going to change and be different. Then again, you might be one of those parents that just takes everything in stride, and have a basic trust that everything will “just work out” no matter what gets thrown your way.

I really wish I could be one of the relaxed “It will all work out” kind of parents. Sadly, I’m the type of parent that over-thinks everything. I’m also a worrier. I’ve tried to change, honestly I really have, but I just can’t seem to do it. Once the baby arrives and starts to grow, once it proves that it’s ok and will survive, once it meshes with the family and the current schedule, then I’m able to relax, and my blood pressure is no longer a health concern, but until then, I’m a mess.

One of the major concerns I’m having about this baby, is this: where will it fit in my heart? My daughter has been my one and only for six years. Sure, my husband was there too, but that’s different. How will I make the adjustment from one to two? More importantly, how will D make the adjustment from only to older? She doesn’t share well.

This is where the wisdom from my mommy/writer friend DH comes in. She told me that even if D doesn’t appreciate having a sibling now, she will later when bad times hit. DH is an only, and she has always hated it. That’s why she plans on having at least one more so her daughter has someone to help her through the difficult times. As DH said to me, “If it all works out the way it’s supposed to, you will not outlive your children, and it will be easier on them if they have someone they can lean on for support.” This, of course, assumes a few things that really are out of everyone’s control - for example, the simple fact that my children will outlive me. As I learned firsthand last year, that doesn’t always happen.

How do you make room in your heart for another child? Does your heart just grow to make room the way your belly does? How do you explain that to your first child when you don’t understand it yourself?

Is this all part of the mommy wisdom that just magically appears in you when the child arrives?

Boy, I hope so.

Expecting and Unenthusiastic (Orig Post Date 5/7/10)

What do you do when you’re pregnant and unhappy about it? What do you say to people when they say “Congratulations!” “I’m so happy for you!” “How exciting!” or my personal favorite: “You must be so thrilled/excited/happy about the new baby!” Why? Why must I be so thrilled/excited/happy? Can’t I be sad/depressed/ambivalent? Where is it written that pregnancy and happiness go hand in hand? I try to be a trouper, to smile when I want to roll my eyes and snarl. My closest friends know how I really feel about the situation, but every day it gets that much harder to keep the mask in place.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder. Am I the only one who feels this way? There have to be other women out there who are pregnant, and not happy about it. There is no way that I’m the only one who’s not just absolutely bursting at the seams with joy at the thought of another mouth to feed and bottom to wipe. Why are we so afraid to admit that we’re not happy?

Does it go back to the hard wiring in our brains that make us subconsciously yearn for another baby, even though we have decided that we really are happy with what we have? Or is it guilt - that ever present specter that haunts every decision, thought and feeling a mother has?

My money is on the guilt. We are told over and over by society and the media that having a baby is a happy and wonderful time, but for many women, it is the opposite.

Postpartum depression, baby blues, whatever you call it, is a serious medical condition that can quickly deepen to something more. Approximately 13% of women suffer from some sort of depression during pregnancy or after delivery. Several factors can cause an onset of depression, and if a woman has a personal or family history of past depression, then her chances of becoming depressed during pregnancy increase. Also, if a woman is depressed during pregnancy, then her risk of suffering from postpartum depression is increased after delivery.

There are many important things to keep in mind if you think you may be depressed, but I think the most important ones are:

  1. Depression is not your fault. You did nothing to bring this on yourself, and you are not to blame for what is happening.
  2. There is help out there, closer than you may even realize. Don’t be afraid to reach out for the help and support you need. You don’t have to do it all. Really, you don’t. All you have to do is breathe, feed your baby (however you want: breast or bottle), and keep that precious baby in clean diapers. Everything else will work itself out.
  3. This is for the people around a pregnant woman or new mother: BE SUPPORTIVE, NOT JUDGMENTAL. Watch for signs of depression, ask her how she is feeling and allow her to be honest with you. Offer to help her out and follow through. Think before you speak. The last thing a new mom or mom-to-be needs is more guilt over her decisions.
All of this, I know, is easier said than done, but I still think it needs to be said and said often. It would be even better if it were practiced, and still better yet if it were practiced often.

Now, having written all of that, am I any happier about being pregnant at this point in my life? No. Am I aware of the risk factors I face for depression now and once this baby is born? Yes. Am I still feeling guilty over my ambivalence about the life growing inside me? Yes.

Why? Because I know that there are women out there that have tried for years to have a baby with no success. I know that there are people out there that would love to share their lives with a child, but for one reason or another, they are unable to do so. Meanwhile, here I am with one child already, and another on the way, and I have days where I wish I had no children at all.

I love my daughter. I love her more than anything else in existence. She is living, breathing proof of the love my husband and I share, and the rational side of my brain knows that this second child will be yet another physical reminder and display of that love. But that is the rational side of my brain, and as I have said before, so often the rational side and emotional side have problems playing well together.

The emotional side is afraid. It’s afraid of so many things; if I listed them all, this post may never end. The biggest fears are based in what I see as past failures as a mother and wife. Failures that my husband has assured me were not failures at all, but again, there is that barrier between the rational and emotional.

I hope that this time, I will be better equipped to ask for the help that I just didn’t know I needed so desperately, or was so close at hand.

Blame It On CBS and KCCI (Orig Post Date 4/21/10)

This is my husband’s theory anyway. What are we blaming on the national and local television stations? The fact that our family will grow by one this November. What is the basis for this line of thought? Twelve years of successful birth control with the same method came to a screeching halt when I was offered a position as a Local Voice. At that time on KCCI, there were three ladies pregnant, on the CBS Early Show there were two, and there are two sitcoms on CBS that feature a pregnant character. Coincidence? Maybe. I have a feeling that due to the harsh winter we had all across the country; there will be a huge boom in the population this fall. So while my husband is blaming the national and local stations, I’m sure there are other husbands out there who are blaming Old Man Winter or Mother Nature.

Logically, I know it’s just proof that no birth control is ever 100% effective, but as so often happens, the logical side of your brain doesn’t always mesh with the emotional or superstitious side. Aside from getting the position with KCCI, I also gave away all of the baby items from when my daughter was little. Everything. The swing, the crib, the bouncer, it was all gone, and honestly, it was a relief. It felt good to give all that to someone who I knew needed it, would take care of it, and would put it to good use.

So where does that leave me? Expecting a second baby six years after my last one was born, and starting from scratch again. Is it acceptable to have a baby shower? I know that usually you only get one, but what’s the rule on a surprise arrival after you’ve given everything away? I’ve already had friends back East offer to have a shower for me, and friends here in Des Moines have offered as well. I count myself very lucky to have such wonderful friends.

Have you ever noticed how pregnancy is contagious? Not contagious in the traditional sense like the flu or the plague, but when one pregnancy is announced, or noticed, it’s not too much longer before another one comes to light, then another and another. Is it because there’s just a cycle or ebb and flow to life and the creation thereof, or is it something more primal? Is it that we as women are hardwired to want to create life? I know that there are some women who have no desire to have children of any kind ever, and there are women who seem obsessed with being pregnant and giving birth to child after child. Those are extremes of course, but there is a wide range between those extremes. Is there something in a woman’s brain that is triggered by seeing a pregnant belly, something that causes a woman to yearn for a baby when she sees that big beautiful belly on another woman? I know I felt that longing when I would see a pregnant woman or a brand new baby, especially after my miscarriage. Even after I had a little girl of my own I would still feel that pull, that tug of something deep down inside. Even after I was sure I didn’t want any more kids, after my husband and I decided that one was enough (sometimes more than enough), I still felt a twinge somewhere around the region of my heart whenever I was faced with the proof of someone else’s procreation. Was it just the remembrance of what I once had, or was it that wiring telling me “You shouldn’t be done yet”?

I guess no one ever really knows for sure. I know I was done. Sure, I still got the twinges and longings. I even felt it when Katie Ward made her announcement a few months ago, but I was sure I was done with babies. I was so sure I gave everything baby away.

Then I caught pregnant too.

Be Careful What You Wish For… (Orig Post Date 4/13/10)

…Because you just might get it.

How many of you have heard that from your mom at some point in your life? Yeah, me too. I honestly didn’t put much thought into it until about eight years ago. Then I pushed it from my head, thinking it was just a coincidence. Then it happened again. Sad thing is it never seems to work on the million dollars I wish for, or the contest that wins me a new house, or even just improvements on my current house.

Maybe it’s the power of the human mind, maybe it’s the strength of the human spirit, maybe it’s the strength of a person’s belief in a higher being, whether that being is a religious figure or a spiritual figure, or maybe it’s something else entirely that we have yet to discover. Whatever it is, I have found in my case that it picks and chooses which wishes to listen to. Often times, like a crabby genie, it twists and distorts the actual wish so it comes true, but not exactly the way I had hoped.

What have you been able to wish into being? Did it turn out the way you wanted, or was it distorted in a way that caused a feeling of regret? Do you feel it was simply coincidence, the power of your own mind or spirit, or some higher power that helped bring your wish to fruition?

Tranquility Lost (Orig Post Date 4/1/10)

There was a break-in today. On my street. Two doors down from my house. At 9:30 in the morning. Broad daylight. The filthy little bastards boldly propped the front door open and cleaned the place out. The best part? A neighbor across the street saw it all and didn’t think that she needed to call the police. Thought it was perfectly normal to see a bunch of punk kids loading several large flat panel TV’s into the back of a gray car along with several other items, then drive off down the street with the door on the car hanging open because the TV was too big to fit in the backseat.

Really? Not even the faintest glimmer that there was something wrong with that situation? Her response to the police for not calling while the robbery was in progress: “They always have so many cars coming and going from their place. I just didn’t think anything of it.”

Well, she has one part right: she didn’t think.

Have we as a society checked out of the obligation to check up on each other? To keep an eye out for evil doers? For wrongs against our fellow man? Have we all just collectively and silently agreed to turn a blind eye, to ignore a crime in progress, because we don’t want to get involved? To come up with a weak excuse when our lack of action is questioned by the victim or the authorities?

Having been on the victim side of that situation - not once, but twice (the second time just a few months ago) - the feeling of violation, of helplessness and anger is all consuming. It haunts you at night. It makes you wake at 2 AM, sure you heard something outside. In some cases, it makes you consider buying extra protection for your home, for your family.

Why do these people feel that it is their right to walk into someone else’s home, and just take what they want? Why do they think it’s ok to take from someone who has worked hard to earn the money to afford those things, when they apparently have not? When caught, will they reason it away that they were let go from their job, and had to resort to stealing from others to provide for their family? Will we, as a society, then go easier on them because they were just doing what they felt they had to? I certainly hope not.

However, I fear that this kind of thing will become more and more prevalent in the coming weeks and months. As the weather warms, home invasions rise. Combine that with the recession finally truly starting to affect Iowa, just in time for the extension on unemployment benefits to expire, and you have the perfect mix to create a major crime wave.

Get ready Iowa, the ripple effect is already in motion. It’s just a matter of time before it touches you.

Brutality in the delivery room (Orig Post Date: 3/10/10)

Hello uLocal members and Local Voices fans. This being my first post, I really wanted to ease you all into my style, but it seems that the greater forces out there had other plans. Eventually you will get to see the post I was originally going to put up, but right now I have something I need to get off my chest.

 A woman’s options for the birth of her child in Des Moines are appalling. Activist groups are making strides for more rights for midwives and for reasons that, quite frankly, make me sick to my stomach, they are running into more opposition than the pro same sex marriage folks. Unfortunately, you don’t hear about the opposition because birthing options are not as news worthy as Gay and Lesbian marriages, and birthing options don’t make for good campaign speech fodder. Unless you are directly related to the issue either as the expectant mother, a care provider, or the spouse or family member of the expectant mother, you are most likely unaware of the current climate. It is very hard to get any support or coverage for birthing rights and options for women.

You, as the patient and expectant mother, are just expected to blindly trust your obstetrician. To believe that he or she will make the best decisions for you and your baby, go to the hospital like a good little patient, lay on your back, let them bully you and tell you that you’re doing something wrong and that’s why X part of labor isn’t going according to the textbooks, and that now a Cesarean Section is the right thing to do. That the C-section is saving you and your baby, and you should be grateful to your doctor because they are rescuing you from this horrible situation.

Are there cases where a C-section is necessary? Sure. Are there cases where a C-section is done and it is absolutely unnecessary; when the mother simply needed time to work through the stall in her labor? You better believe it!

Anyone who doesn’t believe that there are doctors out there that are only in it for the money are just lying to themselves. A local midwife told me about a conversation she had with an ob/gyn shortly after moving to the area. He flat out told her that he wasn’t in it for the joy of catching babies, or to help women have the best possible birth experience, he was in it for the money. He didn’t care about what the mother wanted, or what was in her best interest not just for that pregnancy and delivery, but for any future pregnancies and deliveries she would experience.

All it takes is one bad experience and that can damage a woman in ways that she may not even realize. Whether it’s a rough exam during labor that causes a stall that leads to a C-section, or an unnecessary C-section that leads to complications post-partum or with a subsequent pregnancy, labor and delivery. Any one of those things can scar a woman either physically or emotionally, and she may never be able to overcome that injury. There is a palpable hostility in the labor and delivery wing, and it becomes more pronounced in direct proportion to the level of assertion and education the woman has and exercises in regard to her right to have the kind of labor and birth experience she wants, rather than submitting to what the doctor and nurses feel is best.

If a woman has already had one C-section, her options are that much more limited. The medical community in Des Moines does not look fondly on VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). There is only one hospital in town that even allows a woman to try for a VBAC, and because of the monitoring that they require she is stuck in a bed on her back. She is not allowed the freedom of movement necessary for birth to progress, and is unfortunately moving towards another C-section. At this time, a woman’s best bet for a successful VBAC is to get on with the midwives at the University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City, and hope that one of the local Des Moines midwives can assist with her prenatal care so she doesn’t have to drive two hours each way to her appointments. It of course helps if that woman was a previous patient of a Des Moines midwife, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker if she wasn’t. Thankfully the University midwives are all too aware of the sad state of birthing options in Des Moines, and are willing to work with women and their Des Moines based care providers.

Being the capital city, I would think that Des Moines, with its three large metro hospitals or West Des Moines with its two brand new hospitals, would be better equipped to monitor a mother trying for VBAC in a way that she could actually have a chance of being successful. Perhaps it’s not a lack of ability, but a lack of desire to want to help a woman in that situation. A successful VBAC will not make as much money for the hospital, and requires the doctor to be available throughout the woman’s entire labor so he can “deliver” the baby when it’s time. If a woman is denied a VBAC, then a C-section is scheduled when it’s convenient for the doctor, and there is additional revenue for the hospital because a surgical delivery costs on average $2000 more than a vaginal birth (patient cost after basic insurance).

For all the people out there that say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a C-section.” Let me remind you that it is not “just” a C-section, it is major abdominal surgery, and it’s not a small incision either. It is at least five inches long, and the surgeon typically uses approximately twenty staples to hold the incision closed.

Not only are they cutting through the abdominal wall (your core muscles), but they are also cutting open an organ that is primarily muscle and has stretched to five times its normal size. That’s a lot of scar tissue that has to stretch again for any subsequent pregnancies which, in turn, are limited in number and further complicated, as well as classified as high risk, simply because of that first C-section.

If you have ever had a scar in a place where it stretches or bends even a little, you know how uncomfortable and even painful that can be. Now imagine that pain and discomfort as a constant for nine months.

Yeah, doesn’t sound like a lot of fun does it?

So if it could be avoided by not forcing a C-section on a woman because there’s someplace the doctor needs to be in an hour, it’s Christmas Eve, or Thanksgiving day and she has stalled at seven centimeters, don’t you think it would be worth it to let her work through it?

You can’t become an obstetrician and expect to have banker’s hours or a banker’s income. That’s not the way nature works.

You want banker’s hours, and to be where the money is, be a banker not a baby catcher.

We Were On A Break

I'm not sure if you noticed , but I haven't posted for a realllly long time. I took a job posting for a local television station on their website. A few months ago, they decided to discontinue the local blogger section of the site because it didn't attract enough traffic. I managed to get a few followers on the site, and since that blog is no longer active, they have been wondering where I went.

I'm moving all of those old posts over to this blog, and will hopefully be better about posting.

If you are one of my uLocal readers, and have found your way here, welcome, and thanks for reading!