7 Days and Counting...

It's so hard to believe that we're only seven days out from the big event. I feel like I’ve entered a surreal zone. March 9th is the scheduled C-section, and despite everyone’s predictions (including my OB’s) that I’d pop early, here I am still pregnant at 38 weeks.

Telephone calls have become comical. Now, when I call good friends, they skip the hellos and how-are-you’s and blurt out, “Is it time? Do you need me? What’s wrong?” My sister sounds anxious each time I ring her. I have to make it sound as if I’ve popped a few valium beforehand or risk giving her a heart attack. When I call my mom and reach her voicemail, I have to begin each message with “Don’t worry, nothing is wrong…” before I continue.

I’m definitely quaking a bit about what’s to come—the big C itself, the drugs they administer prior to surgery (I HATED how they made me shake uncontrollably before O’s section), the possible length of recovery, the chance of infection—and how painful it may be to stop my breasts from becoming a milk factory. And that doesn’t even take into account the emotional letdown I may feel when my sister and brother-in-law take custody of the baby. I’ve been prepping for that moment, psychologically, for a full year now and feel in my heart that I’m ready. But who knows? I’m in un-chartered waters here.  

Another reason for some trepidation. A Marin IJ reporter just finished interviewing my sister and me yesterday for a human interest story that will run this weekend. Given how inarticulate and monosyllabic my pregnancy brain has made me, I just hope I don't sound like a complete idiot in print! Or look like a beached whale in the pics. No matter how small people tell me I'm carrying, I still feel like a waddling obese sea creature. 

I gave the reporter this blog address so he could read up on our 9-month chronicle. I guess my sister and I are finally ready to share this blog with the world, ironically, now that the pregnancy nearly over. I think I was opposed to do so for a long while because of that genetically-embedded Jewish superstition factor. Same reason my mom didn't want a baby shower planned in January. It's just not done. You don't speak, think, plan for or shop for that baby until it's breathing safely in your arms. Superstitious tendencies don't run as deep in me as they do in my mom, but they're still in there, making me knock on wood every time I say anything optimistic (no, I’m not spitting yet, mom).

In the meantime, all of my good friends are calling and checking in on me this week, making sure I have the support I need, and offering play dates and future meals. Two good friends, Sari and Michal, are both planning ways to celebrate me after the birth. And most importantly, my friend Nancy made sure to deliver my favorite kind of Girl Scout Cookies, Tagalongs, yesterday. What a blessing it is to be surrounded by such a great group of gals, every one of them. I know they’ll help me get through whatever lies ahead. That and a few good bottles of wine.  


Breast is Best?

Thanks to the considerable efforts of La Leche League, joined by a fair number of medical professionals and corroborated by countless mothers who have been there and done that, our society would have us believe that nothing is more natural than breastfeeding one’s baby. I am living, breathing, snarling proof that while this ethos might apply to some, in my case it may be a crock.

A few months ago my sister sent me an email with the following suggestion: “You should post about the breastfeeding consults! It's quite a story with drama, intrigue and a great ending.” The great ending bit may have been a bit premature and I’m afraid there’s very little of the type of intrigue that would hold any sort of audience captive. In order to join the legions of “natural” mothers, I have been popping birth control pills like it’s candy, along with another pill called domperidone (sounds like a good time but the reality falls woefully short), which I have taken, 2 at a time, four times a day, for the past 2 months. Domperidone is not administered in the U.S. so I’ve been making bi-monthly calls to New Zealand for a fix. After sailing through that portion of the process, I have now moved onto herbs (Fenugreek, Goat’s Rue, and a concoction called Mother’s Milk three times a day) and pumping, which is achieved using a Medela Symphony hospital grade pump, an Easter-egg-yellow 7-pound leviathan of a machine. That the pump came from a store called Yummy Mummy adds insult to injury as far as I'm concerned. (My other option was a shop called Upper Breast Side...seriously.) This machine is strapped to my chest every three hours, day and night, for 15 minutes at a time, using a variety of wires and bottles that make me look like a futuristic cow straight out of Blade Runner. My husband much more generously referred to me as a sci-fi Fragonard. For anyone who might actually be curious what it actually looks like, consider the included image. While I understand that the point of a pump is as far from fashion as one can get, I still don’t know why a system that is currently taking up so much of my waking hours couldn’t have a less degrading design, or at least one that doesn't have me moo-ing at my reflection in the mirror. The good news is that after 5 days and counting of waking up twice each night and slipping off to my work bathroom each day, I finally have the technique down to a science. Three minutes for assembly of the pump; 15 minutes on the thing, followed by 5-7 minutes for clean up and storage. In the morning I set out a pot of water to boil while I pump, for sterilization of the parts. This I now do as casually as I would make a pot of coffee. All said, time devoted to my breasts currently tops 200 minutes each day. And my hormones are as free flowing as the proverbial milk, which finally gives me a very real physical and emotional kinship with my pregnant sister. This is to my husband's detriment, who really thought that he could get through the gestational period without having to soothe an often tearful wife whose moods fluctuate with dizzying speed. So close, JP. You almost made it.

Given the amount of accoutrements the pump requires means that my unencumbered days of gallivanting through Manhattan and Brooklyn are finished...whirlwind evenings in the city are negated by a twenty pound bag and the pressing need to find a private space to plug in (literally) for 15 minutes at a time. This is fine by me…they would have been done when the baby arrives in 5 weeks anyway. The difference between now and then is that there currently is no warm, adorable and hopefully cuddly baby on the other end of my breast. Dragging myself out of bed at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. each night, and sneaking off each day to a machine, hooked up by (BPA free) plastic tubing, is not the breastfeeding idyll I envisioned for myself. However, I’m sure my sister never thought she’d be lugging another person’s baby for 9 months. It’s truly unnerving how our realities feel like light years from how we might have imagined them. Which is ultimately fine because, complaining posts aside, I wouldn’t trade this experience with my husband and my sister for anything. And whatever extreme experience has to be undergone so that I can meet my baby in a month will be done. I sometimes wonder what she will think when she has the chance to read these posts; if she will find the lengths that we have all gone to bizarre, or whether the technology will have become more widely adapted by then. I hope that she feels how much she is loved already and by so many people: by her parents, my sister, our families, the many doctors and consultants and friends, all of whom are united in their cause to see her brought into the world.


Baby Shower

Last Sunday, family and friends from the Bay Area, Boston and every corner of NYC braved the wintry winds to come to Ditmas. Organized by Alaina, Jenny and Nissa, the celebration was held at Cafe Madeline, a neighborhood favorite just down the street from our home. Coffee and tea were served, platters of pastries and cookies were consumed, and beautifully wrapped gifts were opened. JP thought that he would stop by towards the end but ended up getting roped into presents. He said that hearing so many women shrieking over dresses and diapers was something out of his nightmares. He provided the comic relief to us all and was gracious enough to look excited by the various gifts, even when he had no idea what their function was. Later in the afternoon, our group headed to Sycamore to meet up with the male contingent of our group and hoist a beer (or old fashioned) in honor of the baby. It was a beautiful day, made all the more special with the presence of my mother (who swallowed her superstitious misgivings about celebrating babies before they're born). The one thing missing was my sister, who was at home in California, along with the baby we were all celebrating. I can't wait to be reunited with them both in a few short months (or sooner...).

Tunnel Vision: Giving Into The Nesting Impulse

JP and I got our crib last night. This baby thing might actually be happening (cue all parents reading this to roll their eyes and think that I have no idea what I am getting myself into). The baby accoutrements seem to be all I can think about these days. My mom says that I am nesting "big time." I asked JP if this was true and he said, "Of course, you haven't talked about anything other than baby stuff for the last 20 minutes." I oscillate between guilt for boring everyone with the minutae of prepping for a baby, and defiance, because now, for the first time, I am acting just like any other pregnant woman in the third trimester. I never thought that hormones would overtake logic without an actual physical pregnancy under my belt, but my brain has officially become baby crazed and I can talk co-sleepers vs. cribs, swaddlers vs. slings with the best of them. I figure that this is probably my psyche's way of bridging the divide that pregnancy usually covers. Pregnant women are forced to confront the baby through their own physical changes over the course of 9 months, but I don't have that. What I do have however, is an obsession with retail therapy and a voracious appetite for a bargain. These impulses have now overtaken any logical component and I am happily spending my days searching for baby tubs on Craigslist, and sifting through second hand stores in Brooklyn for the perfect onesie.

When I say that hormones don't play a role in this nesting phase, I am not exactly truthful. In reality, I have given my body over to science yet again, in a bid to breastfeed. I originally wanted to try it for the bonding experience, to combat an unrealistic fear that otherwise my baby might not have any more bond with me than with anyone who holds her bottle. After researching the various formula options however, my desire to breastfeed was additionally fueled by the desire to not give my baby powdered cows milk that has been doctored with an unappetizing range of additives. Since my diagnosis, I have overhauled my diet to incorporate more raw foods and green veggies. My body just runs better that way. So why wouldn't I take the same care with my baby's diet if at all possible? After hitting a bunch of dead ends, I finally found a doctor with experience in inducing lactation. She is located outside of the city (I was shocked at my inability to find anyone with similar experience in New York) and once my oncologists agreed to the protocol, I was on board to do whatever it took. I am now on a regimen of birth control pills and a drug called domperidone (sounds more festive than it is) which is taken 4 times a day. My life literally revolves around this pill schedule but that's fine since it is the first time since we found out that we're expecting that I am able to physically participate in an activity related to the baby. And now that the baby is the size of 4 navel oranges (thanks for the analogy MyPregnancy.com!) and due in less than 2 months, I am finally allowing the reality of it all to sink in. In her most recent sonogram photos, her face is really defined and the technician can even see her hair! She's real, and therefore all of my crazed mom and nesting instincts have a purpose. Even if part of that purpose is to drive JP up the wall.


Progesterone, Personality Predictions & Pregnancy Rants

Once again, it's been a few weeks! And a few things have changed since my last post.

Back on the Shots
No, the aches and annoyances I’m suffering are still there. It’s all part of my chronic condition others call pregnancy. What has changed is that I’m back on shots of progesterone, and back to weeping or war mongering—or both—without any provocation. Yes, my poor family.  

To back up a bit, it all started with a bit of a scare at 22 weeks. I was feeling a lot of pressure below the baby belt after working a full day at an event, shopping, and doing 400 other activities like my Type A life usually compels me. So I visited my OB, who measured my cervix and declared that it was thinning due to contractions (same thing happened with Sophie before they put me on full bed rest–but much later in the pregnancy). Obviously, he was deeply concerned that I could lose the baby (worse case scenario) or need to have a surgical procedure on my cervix to prevent pre-term labor (2nd worse case scenario) or need to go on full bed rest (3rd worse case scenario). So off he sent me the next day to a peri-natal specialist in SF to see if anything could be done.

As it turns out, the specialist determined that my OB mis-measured my cervix! Everything is absolutely perfect and normal. Before we got the good news, though, Heidi was an absolute wreck, it threw my mom into a deep depression, and Charles was understandably worried. It was 24 hours of hell. Only my dad and I were reserving judgment until the specialist weighted in.

The end result is that because of my history having Soph four weeks early, the specialist put me on weekly shots of progesterone (250mg) to prevent pre-term labor and has told me to take it EASY. And I’m trying. Really, I am.

Thank goodness for Charles, who has become part-housekeeper, part-butler to me and part-nanny, and my mom who often skips her Saturday routine of attending services at synagogue to tend to me and the kids. I count myself very lucky to have them around. And thank goodness they still care about me despite the fact that I turn into the Hulk at the most unpredictable moments.

Personality Predictions
The baby kicks are more frequent and fervent than before. I'm starting to think that the boxing gene clearly runs deep in the Sanders genetics and this babe is wasting no time getting some practice sessions in.

This baby also love music, though not all kinds. It’s quite still when I have my old 80s and 90s stations blaring in the car or on the stereo at home. But turn on any genre that was popular before 1950—jazz, 50s crooners, Edith Piaf, classical—and this babe starts to bop. If you believe in reincarnation, makes you wonder what era this soul hailed from.

Pregnancy Rants
I have an iPhone app called BabyBump which is my go-to resource for a) checking my countdown clock (92 days left!); b) seeing what size the baby is now in terms of a fruit or vegetable (last week she was a hothouse cucumber, and now she’s a rutabaga!); and c) reading or posting on the community forums.  

I decided to post a “rant” about my biggest pregnancy pet peeve to date. Little did I know how much company I kept. Here’s what I wrote along with a selection of my favorite responses. If anyone is reading this who isn’t pregnant, be forewarned. NEVER ask a pregnant woman the following question!

My post:
Annoyed by, "How are you feeling?"
I know this may sound silly, but I am so tired of everyone asking me how I'm feeling—with a look of great sympathy on their face as if my dog just got ran over. I understand they're just trying to be nice and make conversation but can't they say/ask something else?! Because I know they certainly don't want to hear the truth...that I constantly feel like crap!! When I have told people how I really feel, their eyes just glaze over. So now I just always respond, "Great!" and smile. But I'm so tired of doing this little song and dance every single day!!! Thanks for letting me get this off my chest...

  • OMG -I know!!!! I'm out of work now, but the SAME people would ask me that SAME question everyday. It really started to p*ss me off because you know they don't want the real answer (feel like crap), so why try to make conversation? Just leave me alone!!!!!
  • I feel the same way. I told my DH it would be nice to walk into work without a billion questions and comments...be invisible! It gets old! I am 29 weeks and finally have a belly...I am looking like I smuggled a basketball but I still don't think anyone in their right mind would call me big. I've gained 15lbs, all in the belly, and am very athletic. Well, yesterday at work I was all stressed out and this lady came up and said "wow, you're getting big…how do you feel"? Me: I'm good, thanks (standard response nowadays!). Her (barely gave me time to answer) "oh, just big?" Seriously? I wanted to say no, bia...just annoyed because you're talking to me and being rude! I feel the same way...I really do feel fine and people don't like to hear that. People, I think, want preggos to feel like s*** because they did or their wives did, ugh. Sorry, rant over. I wish maternity leaves were 3 months before your due date and 3 months after, ha! By the way, are you feeling okay? Hahaha!
  • Oh man I hate that! It's like the first thing people say to me now. "How're you feeling?" “About the same as I have been, if anything changes though I'll let you know!”…some people just don't realize it gets annoying and tiresome. I miss the old "it sure is a nice day outside" conversation starters lol.
  • Haha I answer truthfully too. I tell them I'm ready to have this baby and I'm so over being pregnant. But the same people keep asking me and I give them the same response. It gets old. I'm still a person with more going on than just baby.
  • How about another approach? As an experiment. Coworker: how are you feeling? Preggo: fine thank you! But most importantly, how are YOU feeling? (Probably will be stumped at your question.) CW: why do you ask? What do you mean? Etc P: oh I'm asking because you look a little stressed/upset/tired/bored. (follow with a worried look and head tilt to the side!) See what happens!
  • Glad it's not just me!! I wanna say leave me the eff alone already!!!! I don't care about your birth experience! I don't care about your so called medical expertise or lack thereof. I don't care if u think my belly is shape like a girl! I had an amnio. My baby is male! Fudge!
  • Haha my MIL always acts as if pregnancy is a painful terminal illness! Whenever I'm like "oh I'm great!! I just went for a 5mile walk" she freaks out then starts naming symptoms and asking if I have them. I mean yea, I do have really bad heartburn, but I'm in my third trimester so it's expected... I just deal with it & don’t make a big deal out of it. So my answer is always "great I'm doing awesome!!" Haha
  • Omg that is so true!!! I am so tired of people asking me how I'm feeling with this sad look on their faces! I'm married, 30 years old, happy as all hell that I'm pregnant so stop looking at me with this pathetic look on your face!!!!
  • I always reply that I feel with my fingers how do you feel?!? Or I tell them that I feel round today. Usually shuts them up pretty fast lol
  • Hahaha!!!! I get asked how I'm feeling so many times a week I can't even count!! I'm so annoyed with it! Sometimes I pretend I didn't hear them!

To sum up: If you have to ask the dreaded question, please don’t tilt your head to the side and sound sympathetic. Ask it with full gusto and the implication that you’re ready to really listen to the pregnant gal dish for 30 minutes about how miserable, bloated, fat, gassy, weepy and/or bowling-ball-esque she feels. Or don’t bother!


The Guilt Factor

I have been noticeably absent from this blog these past few weeks for a reason, one that my husband has chastised me for considering the blog is supposed to be about honestly charting my experience of this pregnancy for the sake of the future banana (that’s what size the baby has grown to according to my iPhone app, BabyBump).

Although my immediate close family may think otherwise, I don’t like to complain and I really don’t have much patience for complainers. Sure, I like to vent and bitch about things from time to time—especially about my husband’s inability to find anything in the vast black hole that is our fridge, among other things. But on the whole, I find listening to personal complaints tedious, so why publicly convey them here?

Plus, there’s the guilt factor. Simply put, I didn’t want to make Heidi feel any guiltier about having me as her surrogate than I suspect she already does.

The problem is that pregnancy really tests your ability to resist one temptation – to tell everyone to go to hell. And I’m not even in the dreaded third trimester yet. And still, I want to literally strangle people for the most minor of infractions.

Cases in point. Someone congratulated me yesterday for being “almost done” to which I responded, “Uh, no [you stupid idiot], I’m only half way through [do the f—ing math].”  Everyone asks me, “How do you feel?” with looks of deep empathy as if I just lost a beloved pet. “Great!” I respond while thinking “How the hell do you think I feel? Can’t sleep through the night without trekking to the bathroom three times, and the baby is now painfully stomping on my cervix as though she somehow manufactured special torture devices in there.” “I don’t know how you do it!” mentioned a few after two back-to-back parties I helped plan. I just smile, though I want to reply, “I’m not. I’m overwhelmed, over-committed and depleted. Feel free to bring me dinner or take my kids so I can just take a nap for once!” And my personal favorite, the people who only think to ask after they start fondling my stomach, “Do you mind?” “Yes, in fact. Do you mind if I grab your boob? Hands off!”

Most of these well-meaning people have been pregnant at one time in their life. Don’t they remember how it felt? You have little patience. You’re tired. You’re cranky. You snap more often at your kids, your husband. By nightfall, you run out of energy to do simple tasks like fix dinner. You start to have trouble bending over, walking up hills, and standing for any length of time. Your diet is horrendous. Good wholesome foods are replaced by anything you can get your hands on quickly that won’t make you hurl. Meals that seem relatively harmless while consuming later leave you up all night with gas pains and heartburn. And your stress-relieving standbys, coffee and alcohol, are forbidden.

There are good moments. Feeling this little living creature kick and move inside you is impossible to describe. It’s just a delicious feeling. And knowing that at the end of the day, this banana is going to bring so much joy to all the people I love so dearly, is what carries me through. And the compliments, which admittedly I find uncomfortable to hear, do remind me that perhaps I now have a few more karma / mitzvah points in my favor. Perhaps it will wipe away all that fast-living I did back in my 20s. And all the naughty things I still have yet to do.


The Prize

This year's Nobel Prize for Medicine couldn't be timelier. Thank you Dr. Robert Edwards for making my family possible, and for the babies born to same-sex couples, single parents, cancer survivors, women who worked full time in their 30s, and all others who, for one reason or another, would not have been able to have their children otherwise. You changed the lives of so many and have given hope to those of us for whom there would have been no other option 50 years ago. I can't wait to share with my child the incredible way in which he or she came into being.