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.