Sexy, Savvy, Natural Mama

a blog space for pregnant ladies, new moms, feminists, and interested souls

Pregnancy and the Loss of Self: 27 Weeks June 24, 2010

When you’re pregnant, you think a lot about the things that you can’t do. I try not to get too bogged down in most of the things you always hear you can’t do — I limit my caffeine but I drink some here and there, I’ve eaten a piece or two of brie and I would never toss goat cheese off of my plate, and I’m probably planning to break the sushi vow pretty soon. Mmm sushi.

What people don’t tell you is that you can lose parts of yourself that you never expect to lose. Along with the unwieldy body that changes the shape of who you are comes the things you can’t do, the trips you can’t take, and the people you can’t see. Anyone who knows me well probably has figured that I love to be social, travel, and generally enjoy myself. For me, this has recently taken the form of taking trips with my girlfriends, or planning a romantic getaway with my husband. In the more removed past, it took the form of jaunting off to the Philippines to get a diving license and swim with whale sharks. When in California, my van rolled from Santa Barbara through Orange County, LA and San Diego and up the 1 to Monterey, Big Sur, Salinas, San Francisco, and Berkeley. It saw rest stops on the highway, empty fields and vineyards, and the wild and beautiful California coast for hundreds of miles.

This summer has been, and mostly will be, at home. I’ve been invited out to see my California friends in LA and again for a girls’ weekend unlike any other in Tennessee. These are trips I would have bent over backwards to make before — and I have for the past two summers. It has been so important for me to stay connected to that adventure life where I could plan a trip and leave my normal life for a moment, to return refreshed and relaxed.

It has hurt me to lose this from my life this summer — it has hurt me to have to say no. I had tried to plan for a trip to California, but after my work retreat to New York, I knew I wouldn’t handle it well with my fatigue and the swelling in my feet. What has hurt me most is missing my Tennessee adventure. But with an eight hour car ride at thirty-one weeks pregnant, or a flight I would likely not be allowed to take, combined with my husband’s worry, I couldn’t make it. With these simple trips, I feel that I’ve lost a part of myself, and I wonder what else I might lose.

I am well aware that there may be no more trips to Cebu or Kyoto, and that I may not even be able to show my son the coast at Big Sur for many years to come. I’ve been mourning those losses since we decided to get pregnant, and I tried to cram as much into last summer as I could — San Diego, San Francisco, Lake Michigan, the Outer Banks. I’ve been trying to enjoy being at home this summer, and I’ve been working to look forward to the time I will have with my little boy and my husband. But I didn’t know that not seeing my friends, not releasing myself to a long, solitary road trip, or a flight to a new place would hit me so hard, and I never knew I would feel as disconnected from the person that I have been.

I know now that I must look forward, but it hurts me to do this. I must now change my perspective, and in that, give away part of myself that I have so long struggled to hold on to. But in giving that away, I know that I will gain something tremendously valuable in return. My husband and I will be creating a family, building a home, and raising a child to create adventures of his own. I know that I will miss the person that I was before we moved to the East Coast, and my passport may well expire, but the adventures that I have will not disappear. Instead, they will be closer to home: catching fireflies in the summer, baking cupcakes, decorating a real Christmas tree, setting up a pool in the backyard, or watching our son realize that he is seeing his first snow.

I won’t ever say that my traveling life won’t remain valuable to me, or that I will opt out of any and all trips during the long, hazy days of summer. I may well keep many of the parts of who I have been, but they will be combined with the new task of raising a conscious, respectful, and curious human being who may someday take part in all of the adventures I dreamed of and many I cannot yet fathom.

 

The Elusive Waterproof Boppy Cover! June 14, 2010

Filed under: motherhood,nursing,Products — hokoonchi @ 2:26 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I definitely intend on getting a Boppy Pillow for nursing (it supports the baby while he hangs out and nurses). It gets great reviews — both anecdotal from friends and family members, and just through sheer numbers on Amazon. However, I have heard a common complaint — there is a surprising dearth of waterproof covers! One reviewer on Amazon even said she had to cover the whole thing in Saran Wrap.

Non-moms may ask: why does the cover need to be waterproof?

Future mom answers: From what I understand, breast-feeding is a somewhat … juicy process. There are lots of fluids flying about — colostrum, milk, baby spit, baby spit-up, burbles and gurgles. And what does milk do? Even human milk? It spoils and goes sour and smells narsty.

Having recently considered this problem, I started a search for the waterproof Boppy Cover that must surely exist.

Etsy to the rescue! Ladies (and gents), check out this seller:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/mommajs

I think I may have purchased the last waterproof cover she has available in her shop, but I imagine if you email her, she can update you on when she’ll have more available.

You can also find one here. Actually isismaternity.com looks pretty cool — might want to check out the other stuff on there too!

For a Boppy alternative, check out My Brest Friend. Some people like one; some like the other. Make sure you find some waterproof covers!

 

Anxiety: 23(ish) Weeks May 26, 2010

Filed under: motherhood,pregnancy — hokoonchi @ 2:19 am
Tags: , , ,

I haven’t written a post about my emotions in a little while. It’s probably because I have so many. My iphone app tells me this is normal, so I am reassured. Apparently, pregnancy causes mood swings (total shocker), and my partner needs to be supportive. I told my partner this information from the iPregnancy app, and he was unsure of how to support my mood swings. I told him I was unsure as well. They don’t give you information on that part. You have to make it up as you go along.

I think this is something pregnant ladies don’t talk about that much. I think there’s a lot of shame surrounding the inevitable anxiety that comes with creating a human life, and as such there’s not a community of support when you’re feeling down. It’s a very lonely thing, sometimes, being pregnant. There aren’t always a lot of other pregnant ladies to commune with. When you find a community of ladies with bellies, in your prenatal yoga or Bradley Method class, they may not know you all that well, and they’re not going to say, “Hey, I’ve been feeling down, how about you?” It’s just not something you bring up in polite company.

All that you hear about pregnancy is that it’s this totally miraculous time, and you only see women being happy about it. All of my friends who have experienced it have seemed overwhelmed with joy, eager to meet their babies and transition into a peaceful motherhood. It seems abnormal when people don’t act this way, and such women are automatically stigmatized.

I myself had been expecting stable happiness, particularly after the nausea and fatigue of my first trimester. This is what the books and the websites tell you to expect. Happiness, peace, calmness, less pain and fatigue, breasts not as sore, glowing skin and lustrous hair. So they say of the second trimester.

In my experience, I’ve had a somewhat different second trimester. In the scheme of things, I know my pregnancy has been low-risk and uncomplicated, but seriously, I’ve still got some crazy shit going on. I don’t glow. If I glow, it’s because of the copious amounts of oil I’m producing. If I glow, it’s because I’m sweating. If I glow, it’s because of the pain of my flat feet mushing down into my shoes. I also have back pain, heart burn, leg cramps … and my brain doesn’t wake up until about 11AM. This crap is normal, to be expected. It isn’t what you hear about in the common folklore, but upon digging in the books, you find that it can happen, and it does. And it doesn’t help with the emotional side of things …

To top off these physical changes, I am stressed. I am joyous, certainly, and I love to feel my baby move and contemplate his arrival. But I am stressed. I am tired. Most of the time, I walk about in a state of thinly veiled anxiety that can transition into tearful states. I get worried about finances, about if I’ll be a good mom, about if I’ll be able to care for my baby in the ways he needs, and about whether he’ll love me. I’ve even gone off about whether he’ll call me when he’s in college (I didn’t start calling my mom regularly until after I graduated. Whoops.). Recently, I can’t seem to calm down. It’s gotten hard for me to sleep during the week — when you combine the stress of teaching with the stress of growing a human, it gets hard to have calming, restful sleep. It’s hard for me to focus. It’s hard for me to sometimes complete a sentence. Sometimes, I am plagued by the strange sensation that I want something desperately, but have no clue what it is. It’s a feeling akin to thirst, but it’s an emotional thirst that I can’t readily identify. This feeling? They don’t tell you about that.

How does one cope? How do I cope when I fear so badly that this may transition into postpartum depression? How do I cope when I know I’ve struggled with depression for ten years, and dammit, I don’t want to go to that place during this amazing time.

I have to say, my writing helps me. It unwinds me. It centers me, and it makes me feel whole. I’m also blessed to have a kind and hilarious husband who knows me and guides me, friends who listen to me vent, and coworkers who are my second family. It helps me to stay organized, do my research and make decisions. It helps me to talk to my mother who said, “Oh Cami, I felt all of the same ways, and you’re the best thing that I ever did. Once you got here, all of those feelings went away.” Practically, yoga helps. (My teacher is way awesome.) And prenatal massage doesn’t hurt either. (Get one.)

In writing about this worry and anxiety, and I’m giving it a name. I’m facing it head on, educating myself, and allowing myself to feel all of the things I need to feel. I’m owning up to it, and I’m admitting that I’m not going to be perfect. I’m preparing myself for motherhood in the best ways that I know how, and on the days when I feel like I’ll never be able to do it, I try to take a deep breath and tell myself that I’m not alone. I have great resources of strength upon which to draw, and great love to give and receive. I might never get rid of the anxiety and strange feelings, but I can vow to not let them control me, even on the worst of days.

Perhaps this is my body and brain’s own way of preparing me for the anxieties of motherhood. If I learn how to master it now, nip it in its ugly bud, then I may be able to better manage a screaming child and a dinner that never gets made. I may be able to handle an unexpected illness, or a sudden dip in financial resources, or a son who refuses to eat his vegetables. Maybe my anxiety now is a key to my calmness later. Or simply — what if I choose to view it this way? Could I then turn my mastery of it into a tool in my arsenal of motherhood?

I choose this path. I will overcome my worries and my physical pains. I am a strong, beautiful woman. I will own this and integrate this, and conquer it. This is my San Culpa: I can do anything. I will not be defeated.

 

My Practice Baby May 3, 2010

Filed under: motherhood — hokoonchi @ 12:53 am
Tags:
Leela Wells-Pfahl

A toothy grin

Eric and I have been Mama and Daddy for almost two years now. Just because our first baby doesn’t share human DNA doesn’t mean she’s not a part of our family. Nor does her species mean that she’s that much less trouble than a human baby. Certainly there are some major differences, but I don’t think I’d feel nearly as ready to have an infant if I hadn’t had a puppy.

We decided to get a dog when we moved to the DC area. In fact, I made my husband promise that we would get a dog. He did, caving to the inevitable. So, we looked for a townhouse rental with a small backyard and an allowance to have dogs up to thirty-five pounds. All ready. Or so we thought.

I started my research before we even moved across the country from Santa Barbara. I looked at rescue dogs, craigslist dogs, litters of puppies of all different varieties. I found myself falling in love with all of them, but it wasn’t until we got Leela that I was completely swept off my feet. It took Eric until July to feel truly ready to get a dog. He’d always been something of a cat person, though he is an animal lover through and through and knew my allergies would prevent us from having a cat.

Some things just happen at the right time. We had looked at several rescue dogs and puppies, with little success in finding the right fit for us. In such want of an animal, we would visit Pet Smart to look at the animals and contemplate the new addition that would come to our family. On one of these visits, we saw a young man with a tiny puppy, probably about six or seven pounds. I’ve never had a problem with just walking up to people and loving on their dogs, and this was no exception. I learned that this baby was a puggle, a pug-beagle mix. As soon as I went home, I started researching puggles and found a litter with one girl left just twenty minutes away.

That little girl was Leela.

Leela and Eric

Leela and Eric

Oh those first months with Leela. She was our infant. We got her at nine weeks old, and started training her immediately. She slept in a crate next to our bed, and cried terribly when we put her to bed. She would wake up twice a night needing to go outside to go to the bathroom. She got three ear infections, giardia (an intestinal parasite), and needed multiple expensive vaccinations. Her spaying stitches got infected, and the vet reprimanded us.

At the time, I was unemployed, and I would take Leela to walk every twenty to thirty minutes so that she knew for sure to go pee pee outside. Still, she insisted on vomiting and having diarrhea indoors — always on the carpet. Leela also had allergies to the corn in her food, and she required skin medication and multiple food changes before we found something that wouldn’t make her mouth and skin itch. Not only that, we discovered we had a picky eater. We couldn’t find any dry food she would eat by itself. Everyone in my family insisted she would eat if she got hungry enough; however, this proved to be untrue. After two days of not eating, the poor thing vomited bile. Our solution? We supplemented with peanut butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, plain cheese, wet dog food of all different varieties, and bacon flavored dog food dressing. We finally found the right mix: Blue Buffalo Salmon and Sweet Potato and shredded chicken breast. In July of 2009, Leela did decide to eat a whole pack of Mint Mojito Orbit gum, and since this is toxic to dogs, we had to pay over a thousand dollars to the emergency vet to induce vomiting and make sure her liver and kidneys were okay. She also ate part of our living room sofa, two mouth guards, my iphone, my iphone case, lots of mail, and a large piece of chocolate cake. (Anything but her dog food, really.) Most recently, she has learned to jump the three-foot fence surrounding the backyard of our new house. Who knew a twenty pound domesticated canine could cause so much damn trouble?

Sleepy Baby

Sleepy Baby

I’m sure you already know the answer to the question, “Was it (is it still) worth it?” Yes, it absolutely is. When Eric or I get home in the afternoon, we have a one-puggle welcoming committee. She runs in circles, makes gremlin noises, sometimes howls, and licks ears and faces. She sleeps in bed with us, curls up to watch TV or read with us, and can speak on command. She responds to the questions, “Where’s Mama?” by searching for me or going to the window if I’m not here. She’s now fully house trained, no longer eats sofas, and has shown an endearing love for young children and babies.

I had so much unnecessary panic and worry over Leela in the first months we had her. She caused me to lose sleep, worry over her eating habits, agonize when she wasn’t meeting her milestones, and become anxious over whether or not I was a bad dog mom. I also worried that my husband wasn’t ready for the responsibility, or was annoyed at her many difficulties. He wasn’t. I watched him fall in love with our dog, patiently teach her tricks, and lovingly care for her when she was sick. Having Leela didn’t just make me ready to be a mom; it made me into a mom.

She gives so much back to the two of us, snuggling with us at night, and entertaining us with her antics. Leela has also been very tender with me when I have cried or gotten sick during my pregnancy. As I type, she is curled up behind me.

Many people speak about how their pets become less important when their babies arrive. My mother has confirmed for me that

Leela with Mom and Dad

Leela with Mom and Dad

this was not true for her and my father. Daisy, our American bulldog, was an integral part of all of our family activities. My parents let her sniff me all over when I arrived home from the hospital, and Daisy promptly adopted me as her puppy, letting me play with her however roughly I wanted. My first word was “Daisy,” shouted out of our back door.

Leela is not just our pet, she is part of our family, and the biggest personality in our household. Of course, she’ll have to share attention with Sam, but she’ll be part of all of our activities, and I know she will be loving on that baby. I know that she will be a wonderful big sister. I know that I wouldn’t be nearly as prepared without her.