Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Planning for Peanut: Into the Home Stretch

I now feature a built-in end table.

I'm at 37 weeks, which means I could give birth to a healthy baby any time now! It could be tomorrow or it could be in five weeks. Since I have no idea how often I'll be able to write during that time (or the next couple months, years, etc.), I figure this is a good moment to tie up a few loose thoughts and observations, one last pause at the threshold of a new life.

Little physical things I will no longer take for granted post-pregnancy
Sleeping on my back and belly.

Doing any of the following without a "plan" - clipping my toenails, putting on socks, picking up anything I dropped on the floor, getting in an out of the car.

Not crying every time I laugh or smile. I've sad-cried only once in recent months (after a truly awful experience with a customer at work), but in the last few weeks my eyes have turned to faucets any time I feel the slightest joy. I mean, it's better than being bummed, but it's a little embarrassing.

Unswollen fingers and feet. Regarding the former, I feel pregnancy has given me some small notion of how arthritis must feel, and you know what? It really sucks! Also, I miss my wedding ring. As for the latter, I've come to accept that I have one, sometimes two pairs of shoes that fit these days. That's okay in the short-term. More than anything, I miss the way walking used to feel, when I didn't really think about it.
Speaking of swollen feet, where did those pools of blood come from anyway?

Definitely from my head. The vessels expanded and the blood that once powered my better-than-average brain crashed to my lower extremities. As a result, I have experienced moments of startling stupidity during this pregnancy. But what happened last week was the worst...

I'd just dropped Dan off at work and was heading down Amnicola Highway toward downtown Chattanooga. A quarter mile ahead, a long line of cars with hazard lights flashing come off of Dupont Parkway. They were getting into my lane (on the left). My immediate thought, based on I-don't-know-what, was, "Hmm. They must be from the new Volkswagen plant and going to an auto show." (???) Since that didn't strike me as being altogether urgent, I made no effort to move out of the left lane, but just fell in the middle of the pack. When I stopped at the next traffic light, a driver behind me honked - a barely audible, mere tap of the horn. Was that intended for me? Well, what was I going to do, run a red light just to get out of their cool kids' caravan? These VW dudes sure are clique-ish.

Well, I wasn't going to ruin their party. When the light changed, I moved to the right lane, which was delightfully empty. Amnicola was usually a mess that time of day, but there was just the merest dot of a car visible in the rearview mirror and absolutely no one ahead of me. I'd never driven down this road with such ease! Those suckers in the left lane were all slowed down and I felt like I was flying, even observing the speed limit. Occasionally I'd hear a couple of blippy little honks as I passed the long line of cars. Geez, do these guys think they own the road or what? At some point I noticed that none of the vehicles were VWs or particularly new or particularly alike, which didn't jibe with my auto show theory. Hmm, that's funny. It's almost like a funeral procession, but they don't have the little flags, so it can't be that (have I mentioned that I've been a licensed driver for only two years?). Whatever. Aww, yeah - Andy Gibb's "Shadow Dancing" came on the radio. What a jam! I rolled down the window and cranked the volume as I merrily cruised toward the green light at Wilcox Avenue.

And then, in the left turn lane, I saw the long white hearse. No doubt it was heading toward the National Military Cemetery, for the burial of an extremely popular veteran whose beloved memory I had just dishonored with my asshole joy ride down Amnicola. I wanted to die. I was just so grateful that I didn't get caught at that light. My immediate reaction was paranoid Yankee fear. Oh god, what if one of them comes after me? I will totally fake early labor. Then I recalled the gentle honking and realized that most people around here are too polite to exact revenge in the midst of such a solemn affair. Once the fear passed, I was left only with my immense mortification.

I now understand that my mind and my instincts and my normally acute sensitivity are all tied together and without enough blood powering the brain, I am sometimes an utter jackass. I also understand that my body has reallocated its fuel for the sake of the placenta and I'm cool with that. But forget the swollen feet and the big belly and the nausea and sleepless nights. As far as I'm concerned, brain function is a pregnant woman's greatest sacrifice.


Contrary to some of the sentiments expressed in this blog series, I don't have a lot of complaints about pregnancy. If anything, being preggo has only proven to me how great my life is. I got knocked up really fast, with no effort beyond old fashioned, unprotected sex. I haven't experienced complications or medical issues of any kind. My husband is kind, considerate, smart and supportive, and has a good job that provides us with health insurance. I've worked part-time most of this pregnancy - just enough so I can bring in a little extra cash and not die of boredom, but not enough to really wear me out. We found a gem of a house rental in a beautiful neighborhood. I enjoy the resources that come with good friends and family, from thoughtful advice to gifts to kind words of encouragement when I feel overwhelmed. We have this super nice, calm doula who is going to assist us through the birth, and every interaction with her gets me more excited for it. And for those and many other reasons, I feel really good. Even though it's getting harder to move around and I ache more easily, I still feel pretty damn good.

I don't know why I get to have this awesome life when so many other people struggle in ways that I haven't, but I sure do appreciate it. I guess I can take some credit for my mental and physical health, but mostly I think I've just been lucky. I just hope the streak lasts long after Peanut's arrival. Of course, she'll gets to enjoy all the aforementioned bennies. And to the extent that our good fortune has contributed to the creation of a warm, love-filled nest, I think she's set up for success. So I continue to trust in the alright-ness of our affairs, as only a lucky bastard would.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Planning for Peanut: Consumer, Know Thyself!

If hell is real, I will spend eternity roaming the aisles of this place.

I was so tired. It was around 11pm at Dan's birthday party and our guests were having too much fun. Most had yet to approach their peak levels of drunkenness; I estimated at least two hours of celebratory verve in their systems. After a long day of work and party-prep, I could have gone to bed at 9:00. I'd have been fine if it were someone else's shindig, but hosting involves too much conversation and not enough eating. "Why do I suggest these exhausting social affairs when I'm seven months pregnant?" I thought to myself. As I stood in the dining room, listening to another mother tell me how I should go about hiring a doula, I actually considered swiping all the food off the table, climbing atop and going to sleep. Instead, I took her chattiness as an opportunity to shove cheese in my face.

"And don't just settle for the first doula you meet. You'll definitely want to interview three or four candidates. And be sure to ask them lots of questions. And if you need help interviewing them, just call me and I can help you come up with a list of questions. It's really important that you find the person who is just right for you."

Between mouthfuls of cheese and pulled pork, I muttered, "Oh, yeah. Uh huh. For sure," but even in my half-conscious state, I knew that would never happen. That isn't how I shop for anything. It would play out just like the obstetrician search - do lots of advance online research (to eliminate anyone who is a definite "no" - doctors with creepy photos, those who are explicitly pro-life, etc.), come up with a short list of "maybes", call the person at the top of the list, schedule an appointment, hope they're cool so I can hire them immediately but give myself the option of backing out if they seem weird. And since I really, really hate shopping, I always have strong hopes that candidate #1 will be great, which may give that person an advantage they don't deserve.

Yeah, that's almost exactly what happened with the doula, except the first person I called wasn't available. So I called the first person she recommended, set up an appointment and met her the following week. We all got along great, so we hired her. And I fully expect that she'll do an excellent job assisting me through my natural birth, just as my OB has been the sort of calm, easy-going but thorough medical professional that I wanted. I guess I've been lucky. So why do I feel guilty for not comparison shopping as that mother had suggested?

I think of myself as a responsible consumer. I try to avoid purchasing products that are toxic to our planet or to the people making or using those goods. And I try to be thrifty. Often, those two endeavors combine in such a way that I ultimately decide, "I don't need that," which is my favorite consumer choice of all. But then there are the things you really must have - a bed, clothes, food - and when you decide to have a baby, the "need" list gets way longer. Even eliminating things that won't be immediately necessary (like baby-proofing gear or a high chair), the stuff we need to be ready for Peanut's arrival include:

A crib with a mattress
A car seat
Diapers and wipes
Baby clothes
Maternity clothes
Bottles (in case of a nursing emergency)

Then there's the Strong Want/Almost Need list:

Nursing pillow
Reference books
Bouncy thing to mellow out the baby

I never required any of this stuff before I got pregnant. Researching and registering/purchasing each of these items represents a massive increase in the amount of time I spend shopping. That doesn't even account for the hours I've spent delineating "necessary" from "desirable" and "absurd". I've found this spree a dreadful experience and I admit that my primary goal is to just get it over with.

But it never really ends, especially since we recently decided that I'm going to stay at home for the first six months. Mostly, I'm thrilled about this decision. I'd been trying to figure out a way to go back to my part-time job after one month. Instead, Dan had the brilliant thought that I could just not work until he's done teaching at the end of April, he can switch to being at-home parent and I can (hopefully) find work beginning in May. Initially, my biggest concern was that we will likely accrue debt when I'm not working. Having been a very irresponsible consumer in the past, I look at debt the way a recovering person looks at alcohol - I just don't let myself go there. But when I consider it as a long-term investment (especially because I can keep Peanut out of daycare for the first ten months and nurse her without breast-pumping for the first six), I realize that it's totally worthwhile. The other advantage to having a parent with the baby at all times is that cloth diapering becomes a more convenient option, and no matter how high-end you go, cloth diapers will always be more economical than disposable. So given this change in circumstances, switching to cloth seems like an easy choice. Right?

Wrong. Of all the baby items we've researched, cloth diapers come with the greatest number of choices. Ah, choices - the bricks and mortar of capitalism's pretty prison. Isn't great to have so many options? If you love shopping, then the answer is a resounding YES! But if you're like me, sorting through the possibilities is pure drudgery. Fortunately, I have several friends who've gone the cloth route, so I contacted three sets of parents who've used them in the past year (just like cell phones and computers, the models change and upgrade frequently). They were able to give me some good starting tips, which made the task less overwhelming. I accidentally revealed my search on Facebook, leading to lots more advice. I think the most common tip was, "Try a few different models and see what works for you," which is a really smart idea. And yet, I know I'm definitely not going to do that.

And again, I feel guilty. If I were truly a responsible consumer and a good mother, shouldn't I make the effort to comparison shop? Isn't it important that I find the type of diaper that is just right for little Peanut? Ridiculous as it sounds, this was really wearing on me until it occurred to me a few days ago - even trying two or three options with the expectation that you'll find "just right" is like going on dates with two or three different people and expecting one of them to be your soul mate. Even if "just right" exists, who's to say you'll stumble upon it when there are so many choices available? So, I'm going to stick with my trial and error approach. If one type of cloth diaper (or bottle, or sling, or whatever) doesn't work out, then I'll try a different one. But knowing myself and how much I hate to shop, I imagine I'll often compromise and adapt. Poor people do that all the time, and some of them make awesome parents.

I'm really excited to have resolved this issue, if only in my brain. As I get ready for life with a newborn, one of my goals is to make those first couple weeks of sleep-deprived zombie mode as pleasant as possible. I want to give Peanut and us a great head start on our new life together, which is why I'm so focused on natural birth. I also have my sister M on call when I go into labor (I've never been so grateful for a mere six hour drive from Greensboro, NC to here!) and some local friends lined up for dog-walking and food-bringing. The last thing I want to be doing when all of my efforts will be focused on feeding and caring for my baby is comparing consumer goods. If taking a shower, cleaning the house or socializing can wait, so can the shopping.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Useful Stuff My Mom Taught Me

Don't eat cereal that changes the color of your milk. It can't be good for you.

You'll never have enough shelf space, so don't buy any book you could get at the library. Why spend the money? Are you really going to read that book again? Sure, you could give it to someone else to read, but the library does that for you. (A good reference book, on the other hand, is totally worth buying.)

Old, unwearable socks make great dusting rags.

When I was five or six years old, I asked my mom, "What's a Democrat and what's a Republican?" After a brief explanation of what a political party is, she said, "Republicans usually care more about things like money and Democrats usually care more about taking care of other people." I thought about it for a moment and said, "Well, I think it's more important to take care of other people." She smiled and said, "Oh, that's what I think, too!"

If you get bored sitting in a waiting room and you don't have anything to read, look at signs around you and anagram the words into other words.

When making deviled eggs, don't get stressed out if you tear one of the hard boiled egg whites and can't use it. You'll just end up with extra yolk filling and that's the best part of it anyway.

Forbidding your child from watching TV shows like "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Three's Company" will make those programs seem really attractive, and he or she may sneak over to a friend's house to watch. But when that child grows up, they will eventually realize that you banned those shows because they were stupid.

When traveling, pack light. If you're flying, stick to just a carry-on bag. Who cares if you wear the same things over and over? Either you're visiting friends (who shouldn't mind) or you're seeing people you'll never see again.

Avoid buying clothing that says "Dry Clean Only".

It isn't fair to dislike a group of people because of the way they look, what they believe, or how they live, as long as they aren't hurting anyone.

Yes, childbirth is painful, but it's what your body wants to do. When you're ready, you're ready. And during pregnancy, when the baby reaches up under your ribs, it doesn't hurt. It's just sort of... awkward.

If you smile a lot and you're a really good talker, you can brighten the grumpiest customer service worker's day, even the surly, underpaid grocery store cashier. I'm more of a "make the interaction brief and polite", path-of-least-resistance kind of gal, but engaging in friendly banter with everyone is my mom's default. And I have to believe her success rate - measured by the number of people who reciprocate with a sunny response - is in the ninetieth percentile. I'm just glad there are a few people like her in this world, to help make up for all the jerks and the self-absorbed cell-phone talkers and the introverts (like me).