Thursday, November 19, 2009

Navel Gazing

Never has staring at my own belly button been more rewarding. What was once a definite "innie" is stretching out and becoming alarmingly shallow to accommodate the growing girl inside. This weekend brought about a whole new experience: I can now see the baby moving. While the feeling of movement has been an exciting and comforting, if sometimes sea-sickening, feeling, seeing my belly move independent of me is a whole new ballgame.

There is something disorienting about watching a very familiar part of me moving because of someone else, someone else inside. Our active little girl can now be seen to stretch my skin out or roll herself over. Andrew, lying his head on my belly, felt her little hand or foot not just kick out, but drag down his cheek. He is now regularly coaching her on the continuation of her exercises. Yes, we occupy a bit of our time these days staring down at my expanding belly.

I should say, the lines on belly are bothering me. Why aren't they centered properly? Isn't my body aware that I am a White? Do they know who my father is? He is a man who uses a level and carpenter's square to set up a Jenga tower. We missed a party once because we as a family needed to stay home to mourn the discovery that the kitchen cabinets were off by at least an eighth of an inch. Do the lines indicate that my belly button is off-center? And what if it is? It's a most disconcerting development.

Occasionally, I have the feeling that my skin is at its limit and isn't taking this anymore. I woke up the other night imaging that the breathe-taking pain on my right side could only mean that I was tearing in two. But in fact, my body is shifting everything into place and I am apparently going to follow the course most women take and not be the exception who somehow burst open.

Friday, November 13, 2009

There's no crying in baseball

Tom Hanks, as baseball coach to 1940s women's team, memorably yells this to a sobbing player in A League of Their Own. This line has become a mantra of sorts between me and my mother. That's maybe not accurate, let me try again: During the many times that I have burst into tears throughout my life, Mom has responded with this line. She even told me this on my wedding day; granted she said it through her own tears.

There may not be crying in baseball, but, my god, is it present in pregnancy! I have burst into tears so often this week, I'm in danger of becoming dehydrated. Granted I am no stranger to tears. I tend to cry when I'm sad, or angry or happy or touched or overwhelmed or on Tuesdays, but this is getting ridiculous. I called Kim this week, said hi, everything was fine, I had no discernible source of agitation (rare moment - I know) but she asks how I am and I became a sobbing mess. I'm holding back big, gulping, choking sobs.

I have cried this week while driving, shopping, eating, reading, emailing, talking, thinking. This is getting out of hand. Who cries because Marty Robbins is singing? Yes, it is a rare thing to hear on Canadian airwaves and I am from El Paso, but really? tears? Today, I read an email from a dear friend, laughed at her wit, and immediately let loose a flood. Remember when I wondered if I had lost my mind or if I was just pregnant? Apparently, it's a double positive.

Yes, I know this is normal, I've got oodles of hormones running around with no place to escape except my tear ducts, apparently. Mom kindly pointed out that all women cry a lot during pregnancy. I just happened to be one who cried a lot before pregnancy. Last night, Andrew asked if I could just stop being crazy. I told him I'd quit right about the time he stopped saying stupid things. God help him.

I think the truly bothersome thing about the random crying is the feeling that I'm not in control. Intellectually, I realize that I'm not and I have some vague inkling that this feeling is intrinsically linked to motherhood. The actual experience of it unnerves me. The feeling is altogether similar to that of depression - with the elephantine difference being the noticeable lack of suffocating sadness. The similarities have kept me from sitting back and riding the hormone rush and laughing about how totally ridiculous it is to cry continuously.

But this is, in fact, different. There is no sadness, just my body making adjustments for our house guest. It's nice to be here at this point. We're in week 23. The baby is weighing a whole pound! From here on out, we just have to beef up, while she explores all the possible organs into which she can stick her appendages. She's occasionally found what, I can only guess, is my spleen and boy does it hurt. But it's a pleasant kick to my internal organs - that's how I know she's there. It's nice to say, "Oh yes, I am six months pregnant." Even if I have to follow it by saying," Yes, I know you can hardly tell. If you say that again, I may start crying."

Monday, November 9, 2009

We have no plan

During one of our first snow storms in Vancouver, Andrew and I were exploring the joys of navigating rear-wheel drive vehicles on icy hills. This was going smashingly well for us, as you might imagine. I still remember the helpful people who honked their horns as we slid sideways back down the hill: "Ah, Thank you for that reminder. We should straighten-out and go forward; we were just waiting for you to recommend it."

At one point, shortly before we abandoned our car and searched out the safety of a friend's couch, we were stuck behind a stranded, tire-spinning minivan filled with Korean women. Andrew left our car and went to assist these women by letting some air out of their tires and suggesting that they stop gunning the engine. As they rolled down the window to greet him, he said, "Well ladies, what's the plan?" "We have no plan!" they chorused plaintively.

All that to say, I'm feeling more like those women from the snow storm, than the confident, in-control, over-planner whose pose I usually assume. Birth plans and planning are not for the faint of heart. Have you considered that there are about a billion different scenarios to account for and each little factor can have some lasting effect on your child or your body? Well if you haven't, then you and I probably haven't been reading the same books on childbirth.

A small side note: My father said I'm "strangely obsessed" because I'm reading and learning and forming opinions about my birth. He never did any of this, he assures me. His caution is hard to take seriously though, since he also thinks mom is "strangely obsessed" with "weird ideas" like "being a grandmother" or "retiring." You have to love him.

But back to the birth plan. I have been trolling the internet for a sample plan from which to work and get ideas. There are a lot of options, but interestingly not one that I feel easily fits our situation and preferences. It tempts me to become obsessive (my dad hasn't seen anything yet) and start a plan that has sub-plans and multiple endings, like a choose your own adventure book. Just when I think I'm the most incredibly picky woman to give birth on the planet, I realize that I don't even have a preference for some things. How am I supposed to know what exact position I want to be in when the baby comes? What water temperature will I prefer?

Thanks to my God-son Roberto's arrival, I do know that even the best laid plans must be set aside to account for what comes. I know that the most important goal of all is to work to ensure the health of me and my baby. I know that being flexible, relaxed and open will enable me to make the right choices and surround myself with people who will support and augment that. But a small part of me thinks: I could just write up that 40-page thesis on how I want to give birth which takes into account nearly all imaginable factors. Can you picture it? "Turn to page 16 for preferences involving smells and acceptable lighting options."

For those who have not considered the intricacies of birth plans you may be blissfully unaware that a great deal of effort can be spent researching and preferring various interventions or aspects of birth. Most birthing plans spell out what pain relief options a mother would prefer: massages, ice, drugs, no drugs, what kind of drugs, what dosages of drugs (see how these things grow complicated). Essentially, the reason I see the birth plan as being most useful is that it provides people with a concrete reference of the expectations that I'm bringing into this situation. This can be incredibly useful. How often do miscommunications, hurt feelings, disagreements, and even fights erupt because we are unaware of our own or of another's expectations?

On this occasion, I think it advantageous to let Andrew and my midwife and anyone else involved know that I expect to labour and birth at home. I expect to be allowed to walk if I want to walk, to eat if I want to eat. I don't expect to be cut open; if it comes to that, I think it's important that the doctors and nurses know. If we were always so clear in listing our expectations, we could save ourselves some trouble.

It might be useful for me to know that Andrew might expect the house to be shining clean and dinner to be on the table. I'm not saying that this expectation will be met, but if I know of his expectation then I might better understand and handle the situation. "A quick guide to my expectations of the experience: a birth plan." That's what I'm hoping to provide for the midwife, for me and for anyone else who may happen to find themselves at our birth.