How to make a baby (out of paper)

This is one that’s been a long time coming. This afternoon Beth and I finally sat down with our lawyers, a notary and a witness and made a baby, sort of.

I don’t mean that we’re indulging in steamy law-office fivesomes at this late date, although that conference room was about the right size, and the view is right up there with the one that people who deliver at UCSF’s birthing center keep incessantly mentioning. Besides, the witness had a bit more valley girl in her than either of us care for, and I’m wondering if one of the attorneys was a Mormon. Of course, previously I’d wondered if the other attorney was gay, and today he filled in some of the lengthy stretches of time talking about his and his wife’s two homebirths. So my record at guessing the orientation, breeding and proclivities of family law lawyers isn’t anything you’d want to lay bets on.

Instead of lawyerly liasons, we were wrapping up most of the paperwork that goes into being a couple, and being parents, when you’re not married. It’s all there on paper, about a hundred pages of it. We’re unmarried, to each other. Our child will be as protected as we and the state can make him or her. Although the process turned out to be more about each other than the baby.

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Awaiting

I told Devin a few weeks ago that I have this recurring mental image of our baby’s journey: walking, naked and on two legs, with a little satchel slung over its shoulder, on a path that leads to us. We don’t know how long that path is exactly or when the baby will arrive. I imagine it smiling and humming to itself as it travels.

Here we are, in week 39. We’ve been cautioned repeatedly not to get too hung up on the “due date” since so few babies are born that day, or even within a week on either side. Still, almost everything we needed to do (both big and small) to get the house — and our lives — ready for the little one’s arrival has been done, which leaves us to wait and anticipate.

I’m not showing any signs of imminent labor. Sure, I have painless contractions now and then, and a bit of crampiness. Some of the wider-legged yoga postures now create a tremendous amount of pelvic pressure, so I’m easing back on those (with my teachers’ blessing). But psychologically, my subconscious seems to be preparing for the big event: in the middle of the night Sunday I felt a weird sudden sensation in my abdomen, which made me wonder if it was the “pop” some women feel when their water breaks. I spent about a half-hour in an adrenalized state before I realized nothing was coming out, and that the sensation had probably just been the baby moving strangely. Last night I dreamed I had another sign of labor, but it was just a dream.

On the other hand, I’ve been so tired that I haven’t been doing a huge amount of nesting lately, aside from the crazy urge to bake and bake and bake.

Also, as is probably typical, images and thoughts of babies make me super-emotional these days. If I watch a video of a birth, I’ll start crying (happily!) when the baby comes out. Television shows involving pregnancy get me all worked up — again, in a good way. We bought a few more warm baby clothes this weekend and I kept holding them up to my belly, imagining our little one snuggled into them. As s/he gets bigger and stronger and takes up more space inside me, the baby seems more and more real, more and more here, every day.

Soon, right? :)

— Beth

What I Did On My Maternity Leave, By Beth, Age 35 and 11/12ths

This morning I was waiting for the 27 by Halladie Plaza. There was a trio of middle-aged African American folks sitting in the shelter, loudly and cheerfully shooting the breeze. One of them looked at me and asked if I wanted his seat; I politely declined.

“You having twins?” he asked.

“Nope, just one — very soon.”

Thus ensued the usual questions from all three of them, two men and a woman: when I’m due, how I’m feeling, whether I’ve gotten all prepared. The woman said, “You need to walk. A LOT.” One of the men said, “My wife’s had five babies. It hurts while you’re having them, but as soon as they come out it doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“How would YOU know?” the woman teased him.

These kinds of conversations happen pretty often when I’m waiting for buses, which I do a lot these days. Sometimes I feel like an ambassador for all of pregnant-lady-dom. I don’t really mind it.

It has been kind of a pregnancy-laden day anyway; we had just seen our midwives and I was off to walk the outdoor labyrinth at Grace Cathedral. The labyrinth was lovely — two other late-term ladies turned out, along with Jane, our birth/yoga teacher. It was sunny and mild, and when we reached the center of the labyrinth a hummingbird flew straight through the center. I returned home for lunch sleepy and relaxed.

It occurred to me this morning that I have posted very little about what happens when our midwives visit — usually it’s a lot of talking and getting caught up, updates on anything new that has happened in the pregnancy, and any tests scheduled for that phase of pregnancy. Today was pretty low-key. One of my favorite bits is the short exam at the end, where they take my blood pressure (mine’s totally normal; no pregnancy-induced hypertension here!), ask my weight, and then have me lay down so they can listen to the baby’s heartbeat (also still very healthy), measure my uterine growth and feel the baby’s position.

I love how they always say “hello” and talk to the baby. Our Seed has been good about staying in an appropriate delivery position — s/he has been head-down, with head quite low in my pelvis, since about 18 weeks, and is spending more and more time in LOA position, which is considered ideal for labor. They also estimate that the baby is somewhere between 6 and 6.5 pounds, a perfectly respectable weight for this stage. S/he is also still moving a lot every day.

We’ll see the midwives every week now until I deliver. :)

Anyhow, I’ve been on leave from work almost two weeks now. I spent most of last week running around like crazy trying to get tons of things done. This week has been mellower; lots of yoga, massage and napping, though I’m trying to get out every day (especially when the weather is nice). I’m finally beginning to feel myself relax and unwind — this is the longest stretch I’ve gone without doing some kind of full- or part-time work in 11 years. I feel like being calm and relaxed is going to be an important place from which to start labor, so I’m glad I’m getting there.

— Beth

Projects

We’ve more or less reached the point where we could do more preparing, but where more preparation won’t really improve things much. It’s not so much a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good, but rather a case of the perfect being the enemy of not having your house crammed full of random baby objects you could do perfectly well without. Aside from a few obvious endgame tasks like arranging the diaper service and renting birthing tubs (and diagnosing issues withour electrical wiring so we can actually use it) most of what we can usefully do at this point is psychological.

To that general end, we went out to dinner, watched some movies, saw friends and family, and laid around a bit. We’ve done some lounging in bed feeling the baby move around, some reading of books not related to making children, exfiltrating children from the women you made them in, or how to keep them alive afterward.

We did undertake a couple of small projects, though. In one, I made baby mobiles out of some old CDRs, and in another, we covered Beth in plaster and made a mold of what she looks like just now:

The plaster casting was actually a fun afternoon project, despite the state of the kitchen afterward. The baby-production community in San Francisco, of which we’ve to some degree become a part, seems to have a lot of these things scattered around its various shops, classrooms and yoga studios. They either leave them alone as raw plaster, or they paint them up with wild earth-mothery designs, or they sand them smooth and coat them with enough coats of enamel that they resemble pregnant-lady shaped bathtub complete with mammalian spigots. Our aspirations don’t extend that far, but it might be a nice thing to have around someday. Or at least it might gather dust in a novel fashion, unlike all the random baby objects we’re not out buying.

– Devin

Term

As I type this, Mouse is in the crib, inspecting it thoroughly — poking at the breastfeeding pillow and stuffed animals, and even running around a little bit within its confines. She still doesn’t seem to sense the imminent arrival of another small being in the house, but she does seem to understand that our attentions have been decidedly elsewhere lately.

On Jan. 31 our friends Sara and Tara threw us a very sweet shower. There was much good food, laughter, mingling about, and gifts. Devin’s dad took this photo of us, showing off some of the baby clothes Victor gave us. I think I was laughing almost to the point of tears by this point, but I can’t remember why.

We came home and inventoried everything, mostly so I could take good notes on who gave us what so that when we send thank-you cards, we thank the right people for the right things. Devin piled most of the items on the rug in the baby’s room. Within minutes Mouse was rolling around in the clothes like they’d been spiked with catnip. She also crawled into the co-sleeper. There is no way we’re going to have a cat-hair-free household when the baby arrives, so it’s good we’re not even trying.

Last Saturday we took the co-sleeper on a test drive to see how it felt to have it in the bed without a wiggly, grunty baby in it. We both slept reasonably OK, although predictably it made the bed seem smaller. Smaller for me because I have a hard enough time turning over in bed these days without having limited space; smaller for Devin because Mouse slept behind his knees, pinning him into a very tiny area. We’re pretty sure she’ll keep sleeping with us when the baby comes, so we might as well get used to it.

Yesterday, Monday, I hit the 37-week mark, a major milestone in the sense that a baby born anytime between now and 42 weeks is no longer “pre-term.” (After 42 weeks is “post-term.”) It also means that if I go into labor now, the midwives are OK with me delivering at home — labor before 37 weeks would have meant an automatic hospital birth.

I’m not having any signs of imminent labor — in fact, my Braxton Hicks contractions have actually eased off this week, maybe because I am on leave, more relaxed and off my feet more. That said, three women in our prenatal/birth groups have already had their babies — one at 37 weeks, one at 38 weeks and one at 39 weeks. It’s hard not to imagine that ours could come early, too.

My last day of work was Thursday, and I’ve been pretty busy since then, doing at least a few baby-related or birth-prep (or both) items each day, trying to get myself and our house prepared. My to-do list has included everything from “buy coffee for the midwives” to “meet with anaesthesiologist.” I’ve done a mind-numbing amount of laundry, and that’s just the beginning. We finished our birth class last night and scheduled our “reunion” in May, presumably by which time we’ll all have babies.

All that said, I still can’t get over the strangeness of imagining that one day soon — and we don’t know when — my body will kick off the inevitable beginnings of birthing this baby into the world. Waiting — and yet trying not to wait — is a very strange headspace.

It’ll sink in at some point, right?

— Beth

Crossovers in work, life, and the animal kingdom

My last day of work before I start my leave is tomorrow. I know it’s really corny, but I was happy to write recently about the birth of a new giraffe at the San Francisco Zoo. Early in my pregnancy, one of the other giraffe moms died of some kind of pervasive cancer — while also three months pregnant. So hearing about a new, happy, healthy birth at the zoo kind of brings things full circle.

Plus, somehow I can’t look at this photo of the new family — Floyd, Bititi and the unnamed giraffe daughter — and imagine our little family-to-be.

*sniffle*

— Beth