Not long now

In addition to the string-cheese-wrapper conundrum, I seem to have picked up a new absentminded habit: forgetting to close or lock the doors on public restrooms while I’m using them. Thankfully no one has barged in on me yet. Given the frequency with which I am using toilets these days, that’s nothing short of a miracle.

Our home-birth kit is done (early!). The midwife reports that our wiggly, squirmy little co-creation is now roughly five pounds or so, while the Web sites report that all its internal organs are basically ready to ship, and now all it’s doing in there is getting fatter.

I can tell you that’s not all it’s doing. It’s also performing diaphragm workouts (read: hiccups) 2 to 3 times a day, plus some kind of butt-gyrating exercises that would make Jane Fonda proud. Also, it has figured out how to press on all sorts of uncomfortable abdominal fasciae and nerve endings with its head. This, coupled with the fact that my pelvis has turned into one of those toys that collapses when you press on the bottom, makes walking rather more unpredictable than it was a year ago.

It seems like it should feel by now like we’re all set, but we’re not. Oh, we’re getting there. I mean, we got the car seat, but our midwife reminded us Friday that it’d be a good idea to have someone show us how to actually put it into the car. My mind has been in kind of a mental scramble since then, trying to work out how to fit that into our schedule. That’s just one example among many.

We’re about halfway through our birth classes, which are part pep talk, part practice. Jane (also one of my yoga teachers) is enthusiastic and a little naughty in her descriptions, and she’s introduced us to all sorts of useful things like how to cope when a chunk of ice clutched in our hand is about to give us frostbite, and how to get down on hands and knees while our partners push on various hypothetical sore bits. Homework has included giving each other massages, cleaning the toilet to a sparkling finish (apparently it makes a good labor location), and practicing various labor positions around the house. Given that I’ve heard some birth classes spent time discussing whether newborns should get their ears pierced, I feel like this one is relatively practical.

Devin and I spent part of Saturday learning how to resuscitate mannequin infants and children (the latter represented by adult-sized torsos and heads). The infants had these detachable breast-pieces that, when a small bag attached to the creepily o-shaped mouth was secured into them, rose and fell with each “rescue breath.” Everyone in the room — which included at least one hedge-fund consultant, two reporters and an epidemiologist — did a good job of reviving their mannequins, while also admitting they’d be likely too out of their minds to actually use these skills when encountering their own unconscious child. Even working on a rubber, baby-shaped replica is a little unnerving.

(Devin also got to practice the Heimlich maneuver on me, although the instructor basically said there’s no good way to perform it on a pregnant woman without harming her or the baby, and essentially advised me to switch to a liquid diet until the baby comes out to reduce the risk of choking.)

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend of mine who is conducting a psych study on intentional conception, came by to interview Devin and I about our pregnancy, how we planned it, and so on. I forget what she asked me, but I started talking about how — no matter how much I understand the biology of conception and pregnancy, it still doesn’t totally explain: Where does the baby come from?

A book I read a while ago, The Wise Wound, has a quote somewhere in it about the womb being a doorway to another place, and how children enter this world through that doorway. I wish I could find the quote, but I can’t, so you’ll just have to trust my vague recollection instead.

Anyhow, so I was trying to explain this to the researcher, and how when I try to imagine that place on the other side of the doorway, I can’t — I am just awestruck. It reminds me a little of when I was a child and would look out into the night sky and try to comprehend how big the Universe is, and the thought was so huge that it scared me and I would have to go inside. Trying to imagine the place children come from is like that; not as scary, but no easier to contain cognitively. My mind just goes blank with wonder.

I spend a lot of time, lately, imagining who’s in there — what wormhole he or she came to us through, what s/he’ll be like, and what s/he came here to see and do and show us. It won’t be long now before we find out.

— Beth

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A peek inside the baby’s room

So, we’ve succeeded in clearing out half a room for the baby and setting up furniture, decor, etc. — possibly more than we’ll need, especially since we’re hoping the baby will like sleeping with us for the first long while. But anyway, here are a few snapshots from tonight:

From left to right, there’s a dresser with little slide-out baskets we plan to use to store diaper-change stuff, and it’s topped with a changing mat. Next to it is one of two diaper pail thingies we plan to have. Above that is the owl-and-pussycat litho I got off ebay, and above that is a not-quite-finished shelf Devin built. Then there’s the closet (door closed), the bookshelf-full-of-homebirth-supplies, and the crib. On the floor is the green cotton rag rug we ordered; it finally arrived last week.

Here’s the opposite wall. Not very exciting — more space for books, toys, etc., and more of the Mike Dutton art (the other piece, half cut off, is over the crib in the prior shot).

Our desks/”office” are still in the other half of the room, for the time being. We’ll move out when the baby starts using the room more and needing more space for itself.

We’ve also done little projects around the house. The carpets got steam-cleaned last week; Devin fixed all the over-painted kitchen cupboard doors so they close properly; I’ve been on mad, random tidying sprees (like cleaning out the freezer so I can cook and store meals). I plowed through a box of random utility stuff yesterday and Devin said he was going to tie me to something if this need to de-clutter keeps up. :P

Now all we need is … supplies!

— Beth

Affinity

We have some names picked out, that after a few weeks of saying them to ourselves now and then we haven’t come to hate the utterance of. I suppose that’s a good sign.

For some reason we decided we wanted to keep our name selection to ourselves until the actual day, though as you’ve seen we’ve shared some of the rejects. Hopefully you won’t mind the suspense. We’ve had a spreadsheet going for this process since around week 12, to which we’ve made occasional trips; lots early on, then long lapses interspersed with anxiety-besotted review, then more lapses. We checked some baby name books out from the library, read through them with the surprising speed possible when you’re rejecting almost everything you see and not trying to memorize. The spreadsheet acquired more columns for commentary, and then for preference scoring, and so forth.

Beth and I have fairly divergent aesthetic tastes, so it’s been a surprise how noncontentious this process has turned out to be. In a state of faint disbelief that we’d gotten through so much of it so readily, I eventually added a couple of scatter plots depicting our affinity distributions:

Essentially, what you see there is the distribution of our individual preferences and a representation of how much or how little we agree on names. A plot whose points fell along an f(x)=x line (that is, diagonally up and to the right) would signify total agreement. What we in fact see is that we agree, in a very general sort of way, on girls’ names. On boys’ names, we’re closer to a f(x)=-x orientation, a perfect version of which would signal perfect disagreement. Fortunately, there are some outliers in the upper right corners of both plots, and there’s a decent chance we’ll end up using one of them.

Subjectively, we found that on the arbitrary scoring range we used, I had a higher liking for girls’ names, and Beth rated boys’ names higher on the average. I suppose that speaks to our gender psychology a bit. That offset isn’t really visible in the plots because they’re normalized for the upper end of the range.

We might be a bit less rigorous about middle names, though.

– Devin

A little like Alice in Wonderland, but not very much

Someone has taken everything I normally use with my arms — the sinks, the computer keyboards, and so on — and moved them several inches further away than I remember them being. Hmph.

— Beth

Birth tales

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I read one of the classic homebirth books, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.” It includes the birth stories of dozens of women who gave birth at The Farm, a Tennessee commune, in the 1970s and 1980s, examples of laid-back hippie mamas giving birth naturally and, for the most part, without complications. It was a good book to read then; it felt like setting my pregnancy-ship on a good course.

These days — as my due date looms seven weeks away — I am fixating on the many other birth stories I have heard since then. There’s my midwife, whose own water broke at 35 weeks. Although her daughter was technically pre-term, she was a healthy weight and fully functional from the get-go. (This one leaves me imagining that I need to put the vinyl cover on the bed RIGHT NOW and that there won’t be any time after my maternity leave begins to get last-minute things done.) There’s I., who never got a chance to labor because her baby was breech, and in the doctor’s attempt at an external version, discovered she had too little amniotic fluid and ordered an immediate C-section.

I’ve heard tales of 36-minute labors and four-day labors. Our yoga/birth teacher has had more than one woman in labor in her yoga classes, including one whose water broke during a workshop. My chiropractor has had at least one laboring woman on her magical chiro table with the trapdoor section for pregnant bellies. At least two of my friends had homebirths involving birth tubs (our Plan A) that lasted less than six hours and worked out beautifully. That sounds surprisingly quick, but I suppose there’s something to be said for getting it over with. Two friends of mine had a troubled labor that ended in a C-section, and another had a variety of tough interventions plus a hemorrhage. Yikes.

Because I’m one of those people who likes to imagine a scenario before getting into the thick of it, and because this isn’t one of those situations where I can make a specific chain of events completely happen just by planning, I keep placing myself in these other stories, imagining how I’d be. I won’t know for a while yet whether any of this mental wankery is useful, but I keep turning the stories over in my mind. And I wonder, too, whether my birth story will be one that’s told — by other people besides me, I mean — when the time comes.

— Beth

The great cornholio and other unorthodox pregnancy teachers

“I woke up with a start at 4:00 one morning and realized that I was very, very pregnant. Since I had conceived six months earlier, one might have thought that the news would have sunk in before then, and in many ways it had, but it was on that early morning in May that I first realized how severely pregnant I was. What tipped me off was that, lying on my side and needing to turn over, I found myself unable to move. My first thought was that I had had a stroke.” — Anne Lamott, “Operating Instructions”

I have been very fortunate so far in this pregnancy to have a minimum of physical complaints — sure, the first weeks of nausea and somnolence were difficult, and I’ve had more than my fair share of misplacing my own belongings and then blaming Devin for their absence. But I’ve gotten all the way into my eighth month without having gained 60 pounds, or watching my ankles turn into hams, or even having more than mild back pains. Sure, there’s plenty of time for at least one or two of those things to happen, so I hope I’m not jinxing myself here.

However, I am noticing a certain lack of ability to roll over in bed anymore. I can’t roll from side to side on my back because I invariably get stuck on my back like a helpless turtle, and at this point having the baby press against my guts makes me light-headed and gasp for air. However, to roll over face-down, I have to get up on my hands and knees, and even then my belly drags on the mattress and it tugs all the poor, strained ligaments trying to keep my uterus upright like the tethers on a full hot-air balloon. Neither of these options works well in the middle of the night, and sometimes I just can’t muster the ability to budge at all.

On top of that, I seem to be having another go at hearrburn — which has emerged and vanished a couple of times in pregnancy so far. Each time I fear it’s here to stay and then it vanishes again, but this time it’s too soon to tell. Since it’s been emerging in the afternoons the past few days, I’ve been walking around the office in what I’ve taken to calling Cornholio pose to try and raise my esophagus out of my stomach. It actually works, kind of.

That said, we had our first birth class on Monday and the teacher showed us all these diagrams of the insides of pregnant women. She had one for 28 weeks and another for 36. She said, “When women start talking about how uncomfortable they are at 32 weeks, I think, ‘Yeah… sure you are.'” That’s when she showed us the 36-week diagram, which looked like a madman had attempted to reconstruct some poor woman’s entrails. I still have three and a half weeks to go before I look like that.

So maybe I am jinxing myself. Keep your fingers crossed.

— Beth

Speaking of Names

Devin and I have been talking about potential baby names for years, in that hypothetical way that many couples do. We never really liked each other’s choices. I tended to go for names with “oh-ee” sounds on the end, or names that look like they would: Zoe, Chloe, Phoebe, Calliope, et cetera. Devin hates most of those. Actually, we did agree we both liked “Zoe,” but as there’s at least one in our immediate family and two in our nearby lives, we kind of got beaten to the punch with that one.

Anyhow, early in pregnancy I put together a spreadsheet on Google documents where each of us could add names and the other could comment, hoping that somewhere along the line this would result in some kind of nexus of agreement. (Perhaps a Venn diagram would have been better). As it happens, we have a few names for both boys and girls that we both either like or could live with if we had to.

Yesterday I got to leave work a little early and Devin txted me to say he was at the Main Library. I found him at a desk poring over a tall stack of baby-name books, which we then checked out, took home and proceeded to plow through on New Year’s Eve.

Among other things, it reminded me that one of the experiments I’d been meaning to try was to look up the word “Seed” in as many languages as possible to see if any of THEM turned out to be words that could work as names. My results were somewhat limited by the fact that I don’t read the Greek, Cyrillic, or any of the Asian alphabets, so we may never know what the word for “Seed” is in Ukranian, Thai or Arabic.

Some of the rest of the results reminded me of the keen but also unfortunate etymological relationship between the word “Seed” and the word “semen,” which wouldn’t go over well once our child encounters his or her first middle-school health class. For example:

Semilla
Samen
Seme
Semente
Semintele

There’s also “Graine,” and while I’m fond of both words and names with e on the end, this just seems unfair.

Then there’s another bunch that just don’t work as names for a variety of reasons; either they’re too long, too hard to spell, or just seem silly:

Magbigay ng binhi
Sjem Enarstvo
Karna ur
Llavors
Giong

There’s a handful that might work as names — if our child was really exotic or some kind of crime-fighting superhero:

Osiva
Bibit
Sekla
Zaad

Oddly, one of the books we picked up at the library, “The New Age Baby Name Book” by Sue Browder, has more than one sidebar devoted to Miwok Indian names related to seeds. This would be appropriate, since the Miwoks inhabited the San Francisco area, but … well, check out some of these winners and their meanings:

Helkimu: “Hitting bushes with seed beater.”
Howotmila: “Running hand down the brach of a shrub to find seeds for beads.”
Huatama: “Mashing seeds in a mortar.”
Kanatu: “Making mashed seeds into a hard lump.”
Memtha: “Tasting farewell-to-spring seed after it has been mashed with the pestle but while still in the mortar.”
Muliya: “Hitting farewell-to-spring seed with a stick as the seed hangs from the bush.”

No. Just no.

So, it looks like “Seed” will only wind up being its moniker until the baby’s born, and then after that we’re going to have to pick something we like — and agree on.

— Beth