Category Archives: life

A letter to my still-pregnant self

I’ve been a mom for a little over five weeks now and I am in love with my new role and with my new little person. But becoming a parent is an ADJUSTMENT. I can’t imagine it’s even possible to truly prepare oneself, but there are a few things I wish I’d known that would have made the transition smoother.

To my still-pregnant self, I would say:

You might not be flooded with an immediate rush of overwhelming love that transforms you on the spot into a parent who sees nothing but perfection in your child. You may instead find yourself exhausted and slightly traumatized from the insanity that is the birth experience, with so much to process. And that’s okay. You will rest and you will recover, and you and your baby will get to know each other as your love blossoms and grows.

For about a week, you will feel really weird. Your hormones are plummeting and skyrocketing and the ground shifts beneath your feet, all while you’re barely sleeping. Birth is a very physical experience and you will be recovering from that while depending on others for almost your every need. And unless you’ve spent lots of time with newborns, which most of us haven’t, you will feel like a foreigner making your way on another planet. It gets easier, and it gets easier really fast. The learning curve is steep and every single day will be easier than the one before it.

Second night syndrome. It’s a thing. The first night your baby will sleep, because he too is exhausted from birth. But the second night, he will suck, and suck, and suck, trying to get your milk to come in or trying to comfort himself, or both. THIS WON’T LAST. Which brings me too…

Breastfeeding hurts at first. Your nubile nipples are going to develop a new protruding shape, and they are going to get that way by your baby sucking on you with the power of a vacuum cleaner. Your nipples will crack and blister as they stretch and reshape even though your baby is nursing well. It will be excruciating and you will dread every feed (which will be nearly constant). But it will get better, and it will get better fast. Stick with it. Get some nipple cream, take Tylenol and Advil on an alternating basis every two hours, and breathe. Months of ease wait on the other side of mere days of pain.

Speaking of breastfeeding, strengthen your arms and upper back before you deliver. It will help you enormously. Holding an infant to your breast for many hours a day is physically demanding, and until you’ve mastered side-lying nursing (soon), you’ll be grateful to not be coping with an aching upper body on top of everything else.

People will say to you, “it goes by so fast. Enjoy every precious moment.” Before you panic that you aren’t enjoying every moment, you should know that they aren’t actually speaking to you; they are thinking of their own children, now so grown, and lost in the cloying haze of nostalgia, they are speaking to themselves. People forget the hard parts. It’s like travelling: it seems exciting, fulfilling, enriching when our friends are doing it and when we recall our own trips. But when we’re actually travelling ourselves, it may be great overall, but the bed might be uncomfortable, the water pressure might be terrible, we might miss making a cup of tea or preparing a simple meal in our own kitchens, and we might miss being able to speak the dominant language. We do not “enjoy every precious moment,” and nor will you when you are adjusting to life with a newborn.

The reality is that newborns don’t do much, and they are strange (albeit amazing) little creatures. It won’t be long before the habit your baby has of taking a funny breath (two sharp inhales followed by a relaxing exhale) or placing his hands while feeding will be precious. And not long after that, your baby will smile at you, and you’ll realize he is a little human and is becoming more of one every day. Until then, it’s okay to take some time to get to know your baby.

Have enough meals in the freezer for one week for you and your partner.

If possible, arrange to have another adult around to help out. You will be tending to the baby, and your partner will be tending to you. It will help to have another person to attend to your partner, to the house, and to other miscellaneous tasks. It’s also nice to have someone to keep an eye on the baby while you and your partner have some time together after the floor drops out from the world as you know it and you need to spend a few minutes doing something familiar (going for a 15 minute walk with your partner to return a library book, while saying on repeat, “holy shit, I pushed a baby out of my vagina. Holy shit, we’re parents,” will suffice). It’s also nice to have someone around to be amazed by your creation – you’ll appreciate the constant reminder that you’ve done something incredible, that despite the weirdness and confusion you’re in the midst of something truly great.

You won’t believe it at first, but it will be a blink of an eye before you’ll get into the swing of things. One day you’ll think you have no idea what you’re doing and the next you’ll realize you’re explaining to someone how your baby likes something a certain way, and you’ll know you can do this.

When something is wonderful, don’t worry about being anywhere or doing anything else. And when something is hard, remember: this too shall pass.

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Holy life, batman.

I was crunching on a bowl of peanut butter panda puffs this morning and thinking about how eating cereal right away after pouring the soymilk on it is so important to avoiding a soggy bowl of cereal. And that got me thinking that this was something I had to learn after eating probably many soggy bowls of cereal as a kid. This in turn made me think about how there are so many little bits of knowledge like this that we take for granted, but that we had to learn by trial and error because they aren’t innate.

I mean, so many things. And it’s ongoing. In my first decade, I learned basic truths about how things work. Things like, if I’m walking exactly in the middle of the sidewalk, my mum walking beside me isn’t actually also walking in the middle just by virtue of being beside me – no, she is being pushed off the sidewalk. Or if I gather up cherry blossoms and throw them on passing cars with my friend, they will not think we’re brightening their day with beautiful confetti, but may in fact stop the car and get out, furious, while I run away scared I’ll be in trouble because I haven’t yet learned how to articulate my good intentions.

In my second decade, I learned how to interact with people socially, in a way that involved more depth than simply a shared interest in trading stickers or Zack Morris. Not a lot more depth, but it was qualitatively different. Navigating those early friendships and relationships was fraught with perils and we were all too young to know how to manage hiccups, like conflict and jealousy, that are explosive when handled by teenagers experiencing them for the first time. We didn’t know how to recognize who we were and how we felt, so instead we dealt with problems by complaining to others, by becoming angry, by ignoring them. We had so, so much to learn.

Then, my twenties – figuring out how to put together a life, making decisions that would significantly impact the trajectory of my life without even realizing it. Travel (where, with whom?), jobs (what, where?), education (when, what, where?), hobbies (what, when?), career (what, where?), marriage (who, when?), kids (when, how many?)… these decisions were sometimes made on whims, and so informed by the random luck of context. As that decade swept me along, I became more content, more satisfied, more confident, and along with all of this, I think, I became a better person.

And now, my thirties. Figuring out how to be the kind of person, have the kind of character, I admire. How to be patient, kind, positive, reliable, trustworthy, humble, compassionate, forgiving, and strong. How to live with appreciation, maintain perspective, and keep my cool. Oh, life just starts to get so GOOD once you’ve figured out basic cause and effect, managing complex relationships, and the who, what and where of adult life, and you start to become more and more of this person whose company you quite enjoy.

This little baby inside of me doesn’t know any of this. He doesn’t even know about gravity yet, let alone how to keep his cereal crunchy, let alone how to cultivate his best self. And as I haven’t even yet learned what challenges and rewards these next decades of my life bring, our baby sure hasn’t either.

I’m so overwhelmed by all he has ahead of him to learn, constrained by youth and inexperience. These unteachable lessons, that we figure out for ourselves as we stumble along, trying and failing, unsure and oblivious, yet alarmingly confident – I think of what my son doesn’t yet know and my head spins. I hope he likes it, this business of living.

Elizabeth Stone reportedly wrote, “Making the decision to have a child… is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

I think I’m starting to understand what she meant.

31 & 32 weeks

Actually, it’s more like 32 and-a-half weeks by now, which means that I’ll be at term in less than FIVE weeks. Excuse me? While I can’t say that time has exactly flown by–I feel like I’ve been waiting forever… did I mention that patience is not a strong suit of mine?–I am still finding it a bit surreal that this baby could be here in as little as a month.

31 weeks

31 weeks

I went to my husband’s firm’s holiday party last week, and no fewer than three people asked conversationally if I’d be having a water birth. I’m pretty sure they’re benignly thinking she’s vegan, so she’s probably a hippie. While they’re somewhat right (ahem), I’m loathe to confirm that assumption, premised as it is on a stereotype that absolves them from considering veganism for themselves (i.e. vegans are hippies. I’m not a hippie. Ergo, I don’t need to be vegan.) Instead, I deflected the question by pointing out that water can be a source of pain relief for some women, and that I’m not yet sure if I’m one of them – which is true, although a more fulsome answer would be, “yeah! Do you have any recommendations for birthing pool rentals for my midwife-attended home birth? I’m totally going to give it a shot!”

While I’m not ashamed of my choices, which I’ve made based on evidence, lots of reading, and plenty of self-reflection about what’s right for me, I don’t campaign for them. Although aspects of healthcare delivery and the medicalization of birth are certainly in serious need of reform and worthy of speaking out about, it’s not an issue I feel compelled to take up at any opportunity. For the most part, I see circumstances surrounding birth largely as a personal choice. The progress we need is to ensure that women truly are given the information to make choices, not having procedures and policies imposed on them, such that women are able to make decisions in the best interests of themselves and of their babies.

My level of concern is much greater when it comes to the billions of animals who are being, no exaggeration, tortured and killed every year by us humans. It’s hard to defend complicity in this as a personal choice. A personal choice, by definition, doesn’t hurt others. Supporting industries that abuse animals, by definition, hurts others. As such, I don’t see veganism as simply a matter of personal choice.

My decisions around childbirth are not related in any way to my commitment to opting out of harming animals by living a vegan lifestyle. But as any vegan knows, when you’re one of the only vegans in the room, for better or worse you are a representative of veganism as a whole. Knowing this, I always want to be perceived as a “normal” person who just happens to be vegan. I want to be relatable and credible so that people can think “I’m like her, and she’s vegan – is this something I should be considering for myself, too?” So these days I tend to keep my personal views largely to myself (that is, my views that are actually personal, not my views that others mistakenly believe to be personal). I try not to do or say things that are good for me, that feed into my own self-concept, when those things might directly or indirectly harm these suffering animals who already have too few advocates.

Another topic that came up at the holiday party at least a couple of times was epidurals. Now, I don’t really care too much how other women approach pain management in childbirth, so long as it is undertaken with fully informed consent. If someone has researched her options and decided that she wants an epidural at the first sign of contractions, I say, Sounds great! Enjoy your hospital stay! Make sure to have plenty to do because you’ll probably be pretty bored otherwise! Can’t wait to meet your sweet healthy newborn, whom you love no less than I love mine!

But a planned epidural is just not right for me.

I think of childbirth as somewhat analogous to running a marathon. I have zero desire to run a marathon, because ow! Also, 5 km is plenty far enough to maintain good health! And why run when you can walk! But some people do run marathons, and they love it. The disciplined preparation, the pain, the self-doubt, and the eventual triumph over their minds and bodies… all of it is part of the marathon. Inherent in its difficulty is its reward. That is, the fact that a marathon is a challenge is what makes it worth doing.

And so it is, for me, with childbirth. I want to fully experience it at its rawest, to experience what billions of women before me (including my own mother) have experienced. When I doubt myself and then prove to myself that I can, in fact, rise to the challenge, I want to carry the knowledge of my own physical and mentalĀ  strength with me to other areas of my life. When my child, my firstborn, arrives, I want to think, You are my reward, and you are so worth it.

Thinking of giving birth with an epidural from the get-go feels anti-climatic to me. The baby isn’t here, and then he is here. While some women would say, um, ye-AH, exactly, that sounds perfect, that’s not how I feel. Instead, it feels disappointing, like a missed opportunity.

And did you know that an epidural is a giant needle in your spine?! Is it just me, or is that way more terrifying than the prospect of pain in childbirth? My palms are sweaty just thinking about it.

I can truly say I’m not afraid of giving birth. While I know it will suck at times, I also know that it will pass in a relative blink of an eye. I am a little nervous – but that nervousness comes from a place of excited anticipation, not apprehension. Bring it on. I can do this, and I will better for it.

32 weeks

32 weeks

June 14th

It’s been awfully quiet ’round these parts. For a couple of months, I managed to put pregnancy out of my mind and focus on getting the pieces of my career into place, which carries with it its own excitement. Lately, however, the baby fever is back. Symptom spotting, Dr. Google, mommy blogs – all of it. I want a baby.

June 14th. Thirty years ago today, my loving, brilliant, compassionate husband took his first breath. Eventually life’s current brought us together and I couldn’t be more grateful. This man brings so much joy and richness into my life. Happy birthday, darling. I can’t remember life before you and I can’t imagine life without you.

On June 14th one year ago today, our youngest kitty came to live with us. She was scared and lonely, and so small that she couldn’t even jump into the bathtub despite trying so fiercely. Now, she struts around, purring and playing, making us laugh, and terrorizing her aging feline companion. She leaps so high, it’s hard to imagine a day when a bathtub wall was an obstacle, or climbing onto the bed required multiple steps.

Happy adoption day, little sprout.

And today. Ah, today. June 14th. My husband and I don’t really get each other gifts for birthdays or anniversaries. Neither of us like clutter or consumerism, so our best gift options tend to be things we can do or eat – dinners, little activities, shows, that kind of thing. But we also dislike doing things when we don’t feel like it, and there’s no rational reason to do it now as opposed to later. So, for example, instead of planning to have a nice dinner on a certain day at a certain time, we’ll usually plan to have a nice dinner at some point during the week when we both feel like we would thoroughly enjoy it. All of the enjoyment and none of the stress. It works for us.

But I did get something for my husband’s 30th birthday today, a perfect gift, something that we both wanted so much.

It’s a faint, but there, second parallel pink line.

I’m pregnant.