Monday, February 23, 2015

The Final Month

{Selfie} Taken the day I went into labor with our daughter...

Today I bought nursing bras and newborn sized diapers. Because the purchases were made online, it didn't have the same thrill as picking out products and putting them in a shopping cart, wheeling them to a checkout clerk who knowingly eyes the products and my oversized belly with a smile. It's a bit less climactic picking them up at the post office wrapped discreetly in boxes, loading up a cart full of mail before loading up the back seat and eventually bringing it all home. 

With our daughter I wasn't totally prepared when she arrived two weeks early. We had one package of newborn diapers--provided by the hospital--and another package of size 1 given to me at a baby shower. With her delicate weight of less than six pounds, we hardly had an outfit that fit her, and I totally forgot to pack one to take to the hospital anyway. I took a trip to Target with my four day old baby to buy nursing bras, a task I was planning on taking care of that week, just without a baby in the changing room with me. I chuckled to myself as I struggled to try on the different sizes without leaking all over them, ever aware of the sleeping time bomb resting on the bench next to me. 

I have been warned not to expect the same delivery scenario as last time; a first child born two weeks early hardly ensures that the second child will do the same. It seems presumptuous in some ways to plan on having a baby at all. Sure, at 35 weeks the baby is viable, more than able to survive outside the womb, but I know so many people whose babies don't survive thanks to genetic issues unforeseen, delivery complications, or even spontaneous death before labor and delivery even start. Many would say it's morbid to even acknowledge or consider that these possibilities even exist, but I tend to believe that they are good reminders to appreciate what you have--every day, every week, every month. Nothing is guaranteed.

Lately one of my daughter's favorite toys has been a metroishka doll my sister gave me after a trip to Russia. When she can't find it, she walks around looking in the usual places, muttering to herself "Baby, mama, baby, mama". If she can't find it, she will come up to me proclaiming the same thing, hoping I can offer some insights as to its whereabouts. A couple weeks ago when I gave her the doll, I was hopeful that this might help enlighten her 23 month old brain about what is about to happen in our lives: a baby with pop out of a mama and then exist out in the world out on its own. I am hopeful that I won't be completely split in half (as the doll does) in order for the smaller version of myself to make an exit. I am also hopeful that the baby won't be lovingly thrown down the stairs by our toddler, and then retrieved with a squeal to repeat the exercise again.

It is impossible to prepare for a life changing event as an adult, even more impossible to impress upon an almost two year old how her life will shift dramatically. Our house will turn into a regular host of visitors from in and out of town, and while everyone gleefully celebrates the entrance of a new child into the world, she will undoubtedly struggle to process what exactly is so great about this mini-human that cries and sleeps and grunts. 

Perhaps the preparation we do in advance of delivery is more of a comfort to us than a practical plan of attack. We can freeze meals, wash clothes, and stack diapers, but nothing will hint at the temperament of our child: whether he or she will sleep or cry or eat well or rest contentedly in the swing. Until the details come to light, in a glorious influx of data met with sleep deprivation and exhaustion, we wait, ever thankful that the data comes alongside a precious, tiny bundle that smells delightful and inspires gentle care and deep attachment--even in the most discouraging moments. 

Stretching {35 weeks}

Taken at 32 weeks...
I have always been very aware of my body. As a runner engrossed in training, I constantly assessed aches, pains, strains, strength. My shoe wardrobe has never been particularly fancy, mostly practical more than anything--a testament to the desire to support my joints and not add any additional strain to a body that I put to work--sometimes in gut-wrenching ways--challenging and testing and seeking to create new limits.

Pregnancy feels very similar at times, a rigorous, daily workout that I have no say in. I wake in the middle of the night and feel my spine adjust to the weight imbalance. I crouch to pick up a fallen Cheerio and sense the extra weight I have to bear as I struggle to stand. I walk and I bend and I groan, weighing the activities I desire to accomplish and my body's ability to realistically do them. 

My daughter sensed this shift in ability the minute I stopped carrying her as frequently. It's worth noting that she is generally very independent and enjoys being off to enjoy her freedom. With that said, when in the company of large groups of strangers (or in the company of good looking food decidedly out of her reach), she seeks to be held. And about two weeks ago, my ability to hold her--while also carrying her sibling--was fading. Thanks to my large belly, I was unable to hold her in a neutral position out front any longer, and hoisting her on a hip out to the side created a strain on my back that wasn't sustainable for long. 

Her persistence in asking to be held was admirable, and she wouldn't take anyone else for a substitute. At times I would sit on the floor and offer my lap as a peace offering. Other times I would be forced to ignore her please for my arms as she expressed her dissatisfaction at being held by someone else. In some ways this is good practice for the near future when she won't be the only child I'm caring for, when her needs won't be met quite as quickly. Perhaps this is good practice for me, conceding to the reality that I cannot be everything to everyone--now or ever.

This new child, still happily in the womb, challenges and stretches me already. His or her growing body is pushing the limits of the space I have available--head driving down, feet in my ribs, torso arching against my stomach creating an arch that grows by the week and sometimes by the day. My shirts are getting shorter; my meals are getting smaller. Shallow breathing plagues me when the child settles just right, cutting off the expansion of my lungs. 

Even still, I find myself content with the status quo---one child that sleeps within me, the other in the next room. My nights are far from peaceful, thanks to restless legs and hormones that cause my mind to race. Yet the quiet is something I cherish, knowing these evenings are numbered. One night, not so far from now, this child will stretch my body to the breaking point and emerge an independent (and oh-so-dependent) human being, and our lives will be changed. And though my body will begin to recover from the strain it has experienced in pregnancy, we will be stretched in different ways beginning the minute the child emerges. It is coming, ready or not. 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Familiar


I was recently asked what it is like to expect a second child, as opposed to a first. It is an interesting question, one that I have thought about sub-consciously as I weathered the ups and downs of this pregnancy, but never thought to put words to--until I was asked.

There's no question that it's different. I don't excitedly read the weekly updates that give me the fruit or vegetable estimation of the size of my child; I don't dwell on the minute developments of the liver or eyelids or hair follicles the way I did before. 

I do revel in the movement of the child that grows larger and stronger from day to day and week to week, poking and prodding me from the inside with more vigor. I do note with appreciation the milestones I have known were coming: the last day I wore jeans without an elastic waste, the day the baby pushed into my rib for the first time, the night I had to get out my collection of Tums the moment I tried to lay down for the night. 

The first pregnancy the onset of discomfort and inconvenience was not something I savored. In a sense I was a newly-wed, enamored with the newness of everything and annoyed with all the details I didn't see coming when living with this new person. This time I embrace the familiarity of these nuances with an appreciation for the brevity of the time--this child, living and growing under my nose, will not be there for much longer. 

It will be less than two months from now, if my delivery follows similar timing to my first child. Soon, I will wake in the night not from the discomfort of rolling over, but because a loudly, breathing newborn is hungry--again. Soon, I will ache as I go throughout the day not because of an imbalance of weight but because of gross need for sustained sleep. Soon, my body will reach the arch of transformation and begin to slowly return to the shape from whence it came--altered and marked with souvenirs of the journey.

Yes, the second pregnancy is different from the first: less naive and shocking, more rich and comfortable and known. I have always been one to prefer the pair of shoes broken in and familiar. Knowing the road ahead can be intimidating, but it can also be freeing. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Looking forward, Looking back

Shortly before taking our first little one home from the hospital.

This evening I sat in the room that will belong to our second child. I had gone in there to assemble the pack-n-play that he or she will sleep in, relishing the undisturbed minutes of productivity that come after my daughter has gone to bed but before I hit my own exhausted state. I put together the pieces, quickly and without much thought--much different than the experience of putting it together with my daughter's birth. And as I stretched the oft-washed and well worn crib sheet over the patterned mattress I could hear my daughter singing from the next room, carrying a made up tune in the dark as she likely cradled her beloved puppy and worn pink blanket. 

I settled into the glider to read, while being serenaded by my toddler who is not yet two, who still sleeps in a crib, who learns new words every day but still speaks in sentences of gibberish a good portion of the time. In some ways she seems so old to me when I mentally prepare myself for the needs of a newborn. In other ways she is so young: completely unaware of the upheaval her life will experience when this new child comes along--a reality we try desperately to prepare her for, while we aimlessly seek to prepare for it ourselves.

It is a very different task to prepare for a child for a second time, when you know the challenges you faced the first time will now be complicated by the needs of your other child as well. Yet there is comfort in the known: the complete sleep deprivation, the experience of having nursed a child before, the survive-at-all-costs mentality that takes over sooner or later. And there's comfort in knowing what comes after the chaos, when full nights of sleep resume once again, when the child eventually transitions out of diapers, when he or she gains independence and conversational skills and is more than just a feeding, crying, pooping mess. Because one day, instead of putting the child to bed and crumpling in a heap of exhaustion that can't be far enough away for need of independence, I found myself hovering near her room to listen to her sing herself to sleep. And when she finally drifted off, I was almost disappointed. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

{30 weeks} & Indecisive Nesting

A couple days ago with the toddler in bed and Curtis at work, I crawled around the kitchen on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floor where it dipped beneath the kitchen cabinets. When I mop the floor, I can't get these areas very clean, and it suddenly seemed extremely important that the deep recesses of the kitchen floor be spotless. Never mind that I'm carrying a basketball under my shirt and an extra thirty pounds--it was time to crawl around on my hands and knees wielding a wet rag. Today I found myself wiping out the frames of the windows where dust and dirt collect, a chore that hardly existed in my mind until a few days ago, all of the sudden the bane of my existence.

Thus, third trimester is upon me. The urgency of getting the house in order--kitchen corners, window frames and all--is difficult to fight this time around, a problem I didn't have last pregnancy when I worked full time. All extra energy the first time went to twelve weeks of substitute plans, on top of the normal prep and grading a full time teaching job requires. Anything beyond that went to working out 4-5 days a week, with little energy left to work on the organization, cleaning and even painting that could have been getting done at home given our move three months later. The reality is I didn't understand this "nesting" urge that everyone spoke of. This time I do.

Yet, there are days when I can't fathom any tasks beyond the immediate needs. After the overly productive days of early week, Friday found me lying on the floor most of the morning. My daughter woke before 7am, and after breakfast and the assembling of dinner in the crockpot, I crashed--at 8:55am. I proceeded to kill the next four hours until nap time carrying a pillow and blanket around the house while my daughter entertained herself. She emptied her dresser drawers while I lay there smiling at how happily entertained she was. She assembled lego towers while I dosed off--which she graciously ended by tapping me on the forehead and giving me a big grin when I opened my eyes. By lunch she was exhausted as well, and took a glorious three hour nap--of which I could only sleep one.

I am convinced a third trimester is one that is indecisive: some days craving clean, other days tolerating sheer chaos; some hours falling asleep on a cold floor, other hours unable to sleep in a comfortable, cozy bed. The preparation for a newborn is not lost on me, as I'm learning quickly to function in an increasingly sleep deprived state, with a body that is physically growing more and more uncomfortable. 

I have ten weeks and change until my due date, eight if you consider that I delivered early last time. Some days this seems like a long wait, most days I am content with the time table. Even when I can't sleep, I still enjoy hours of reading in the middle of the night uninterrupted. Even when my body is uncomfortable, I don't have a little human attached to it at hourly intervals. Even when holding my 23 pound daughter tests my compromised frame, I'm still able to hold both children at once. These realities are going to disappear soon enough, and our life will shift in huge ways whether we are ready or not. For now I'm doing my best to enjoy the status quo, indecisiveness and all.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Both


We picked up a few souvenirs on our Christmas vacation this year: me, a nasty cough and a head full of congestion, and my daughter a gastrointestinal bug that has her clearing out her system on both ends. While I'm glad that neither of us has (yet) shared germs enough to swap bugs, it is safe to say we have our flu bases covered. Curtis, meanwhile the typical beacon of health, assures me that it is likely all viral and will pass soon enough.

I hope soon enough means tomorrow, because at ten (for me) and seven (for her) days, my hands are so dried out from the ubiquitous washing that they are cracked and scaly.

Apart from the germs we picked up in the midst of our travels, the nine days we spent with family were glorious. There was oh-so-much eating--which I enjoyed thoroughly having recently passed my requisite welcome-to-third-trimester glucose tolerance test. There was a sleigh ride under the early evening moon, and a snow cave constructed to start the new year. There was a lot of present opening and picture taking and story telling and game playing. I milked my sick and pregnant state for all the naps it was worth. We went on walks, and enjoyed the beauty of days that were slow and without a schedule, which our toddler translated to mean that getting up at 6am for a week was perfectly acceptable. We read books and caught up with details that only come out when you have days together, no television and nothing you would rather be doing. 

At the end of a trip, as sad as it is to go, there is something satisfying in returning to routine: the familiar morning with just me and my little girl: eating breakfast, getting ready, going out for whatever tasks we have that morning. As we pulled up to the toddler play time this morning, she recognized the parking lot and excitedly asked about playing with the balls, pulling her shoes off as soon as we got inside to jump in the bouncy house, and eventually transitioning with familiarity to the coloring table. I chatted with friends who were also there with their little ones, and we discussed the events going on in town this week and when we will see each other next. We caught up on pregnancy progressions, and plans for track season and post-holiday cleaning house. Later back home eating lunch, I texted my husband the basketball schedule for the tournament in town this weekend, and we talked about how well his work schedule matches up with the games.

These are the moments that make up day-to-day living: the real, non-vacation life we lead. I love going home; I love my family. I love that when I am with our people I can back off and relax a bit more, knowing that my daughter is entertained and loved by so many people far beyond what she needs and more than some people may ever experience. And I love that I have lived where we are long enough that I have people here too--who know me, and share in my life, and love my daughter as we exist in the everyday tasks that get set aside on vacation.

I am so thankful for both. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Trash Collection, Mess Detection, and General Disappointment

Tonight I am exhausted. This day was supposed to be "not that bad": I had very little on the agenda, and a fridge full of leftovers to eat to boot. 

But then, the morning babysitter called off and a few of us traded off moderating the dozen crazies that occupy my downstairs during the ladies Bible study held at my house. The part of the study that I didn't spend downstairs I spent wondering if, as host, it was more appropriate for me to be upstairs hosting the adults or downstairs "hosting" the children. Consequently, I hardly participated.

And then, my darling daughter--beacon of patience and grace--had a total meltdown the minute our study was over because she was starving. I have many friends whose toddlers are picky eaters, or barely eaters, or both. My daughter is neither. She eats nearly everything, and she eats a ton. While we regularly work on this thing called delayed gratification, she is neither a fan nor a believer. Many tears ensued while the ladies chatted and gathered their belongings and her lunch preparation was delayed. Oh that all meals could appear on the table at the snap of my fingers. {"And what would that teach her?" my mind then questions...}

Yet nap time was soon too follow, and unfortunately soon to end. She slept just long enough that letting her whine a while and fall back asleep was clearly not going to happen, and short enough that my nap had barely begun. I hadn't even gotten around to cleaning up lunch. 

Later in the afternoon we ventured out to drop off a meal for a friend with a newborn baby: cuddly, cute and oh-so-bad at sleeping. These conversations remind me that complaining about a ninety minute nap really isn't fair. Especially when my child slept twelve hours last night, straight. 

We continued to venture around town making a few stops for gifts I have been meaning to pick up. Outings have been interesting fact-finding missions as of late, as my daughter has picked up two very important skills in the last week: using a toilet and throwing away trash. Every place we go I quickly scout out the bathroom location and mentally calculate how long it has been since her last successful use of the facilities. While these consistent visits to the restroom keep her from going through two dozen pairs of underwear daily (a laundry reality that I feel like I am still catching up from), she seems to care less about the visits than she does about learning how to flush various models of toilets, how to make various soap dispensers work, and how to scour the bathroom of all pieces of trash and properly dispense them in the conveniently provided can. Never mind that she has likely gathered all sorts of nasty bugs with her newly developed passion for trash collection; the island is cleaner because of it.

For all the minor failures we were meeting throughout the day, the silver lining was that we were nearly 36 hours without an accident: all waking hours had been free of messes--at home, in the car, or on some poor unsuspecting local business owner's floor. And then, less than ten feet from an available toilet, as I sat staring at her waiting for some sign of needing to go (a habit that is formed quite quickly when you clean up endless puddles for days on end), as she rearranged her favorite dog pictures on the nurses' lockers while we waited for a chance to see Curtis...she let loose. 

Some days I feel like I am in a groove: the to-do list gets done, the toddler is happy, and everything just works. Other days, tasks require much more struggle than they should, and the time to accomplish them wanes more quickly than it ought. And on those days, I appreciate moments like this to appreciate the humor, the irony, the reality that my "bad day" really wasn't bad at all--it was just different than I expected. Today my family was clothed and fed; my husband has more work than he needs and we both have jobs we generally enjoy. We are healthy. We are warm. We are blessed.

Tomorrow, perhaps things will turn out like I expect. If not then, maybe the next day.