Sunday, March 27, 2011

Clothes make the woman

As I've gotten older, I've become somewhat of a clothes horse compared to my school years, packing my closet with my favorite styles from places like Anthropologie and Rusty Zipper (in addition to my always-growing collection of band t-shirts). But I never really considered myself super high maintenance about fashion. I've learned recently that I was wrong.

This realization came to me thanks to my growing belly requiring a transition into maternity clothes. As I researched maternity wear, I quickly discovered that super cute and flattering clothes are available, but for a price. I'm willing to spend more on an awesome shirt from Anthropologie that I will wear for several years. I'm not willing to spend a lot on a maternity shirt that will only be in my closet rotation for several months.

Several of my very kind friends loaned me some of their maternity clothing, and some of it actually fit (let's just say finding clothes that fit my short body, particularly my midget legs, is always a challenge). I also got some good tips from friends about places to buy relatively expensive maternity wear (Ross, thrift stores). I'm very thankful for all their help.

But as I started to wear these things, I immediately felt ... boring. Or even worse, I looked like a "mom."

I went back and analyzed my regular style and saw that it is very particular toward several things: bright colors, interesting and bold prints, and vintage style, particularly from the '70s. These are things I love, but they don't tend to be what the general populace typically wears. When you start shopping for maternity clothes, you find that they try to mimic styles that would be liked by most people, and they also reflect current trends, which makes complete sense. But unfortunately, this does not line up with the type of clothes I normally like to wear. The clothes that make me, me. Also, when I put on many of the shirts, I look like I'm suddenly an older Mom instead of the relatively young, hip me. Yes, I realize I'm going to be a mom. But I'm 31 years old. Becoming a mom doesn't mean I need to suddenly dress a decade older.

I was resigning myself to wearing these clothes because they fit, and they didn't look bad, exactly. In fact, they all look fine on me. Many of them just don't make me feel like myself. I didn't realize how much that was affecting me until one day when I finally donned a cute polka dot skirt and turquoise top that actually were closer to my normal style. I felt really cute that day. I felt great, actually. It made me realize how much my clothes were changing my mood.

So lately I've tried to restrict what I wear more to things that are closer to my normal style (when I can find them) rather than just wearing what fits. I know this will continue to be a struggle. I look forward to the warmer weather of late spring and summer so I can throw aside these bulky, boring long-sleeved shirts and put on some of the much cuter summer tops my friends have loaned to me.

P.S. - Unrelated, but I went for about a week with almost no sleep before finally getting a ridiculous-looking (and ridiculously named) Snoogle maternity body pillow. The last two nights with the pillow, I finally got good sleep. I'm hopeful...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh sleep, where art thou?

I want this!
I'm a bit grouchy as I write this, as I just had another night of non-sleep. For the past week or so, sleep has become an impossibility that used to seem so easy and now is a struggle. This is not because the baby is keeping me awake at night (I hear from my mama friends that I have that to look forward to soon), but it's because I'm so uncomfortable.

I'm normally a back sleeper, but I'm told that by this point in the pregnancy, I should no longer be sleeping on my back. I have yet to ask my midwife about why this is, although "What to Expect When You're Expecting" tells me it's because the weight of your pregnant uterus on your back, intestines and major blood vessels can cause problems.

Instead, I've had to resort to side sleeping. This was fine at first, but now it's the bane of my existence. I get tired of being on one side, and it makes my hip hurt, so I have to turn over to the other hip (which is not the easiest turn with my heavier pregnant belly). Then that hip starts to hurt, so I turn again. By the middle of the night, both hips hurt, and it spreads -- my entire leg starts to cramp, mainly in the upper leg, and eventually down to the calf. So I keep snuggling closer to Stuart, seeking the warmth of his legs on top of my cramping legs. At some point very early in the morning, I often can't sleep at all because of all the turning and cramping and soreness, and then my brain also wakes up, and then it's 4 a.m. and I'm ready to do anything for the privilege of sleeping on my back.

Any advice out there from other moms? Someone recently told me it helped her to place a big pillow behind her back while she slept, so she could lean back on it a bit and sort of half-sleep on her back. Multiple people have also suggested I look into a body pillow, so maybe I'll try that. Frankly, I'm willing to try anything at this point.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From "it" to "he"

Here's our son. Those things floating in front of his face are his hands.
On Monday we had our first (and hopefully only) ultrasound, where we learned we're having a boy! I still haven't gotten used to referring to the baby as "he" instead of "it." It's nice to know the gender and to mentally prepare for a boy, but it's still weird thinking of the thing inside my stomach as my son.

The experience of seeing the baby during the ultrasound was surreal. Like I imagined in my last post, this has made the baby even more real than before. We got to see his tiny nose and his mouth (which opened for a yawn). He hid his face for awhile with his hand, and he kicked his little legs while we watched. We counted his fingers and toes, watched his heart beat, saw his developing brain. Some of these are things we'll likely never see again. It's hard to believe that all of that is growing inside me.

Seeing all those details on the big TV screen made it hard to remember just how tiny the baby still is. His femurs -- the long upper leg bones -- are a mere 3.15 centimeters long. The circumference of his head is just 17.6 centimeters. And he only weighs 12 ounces -- the same as a can of soda.

After the ultrasound, the attendant revised our due date to July 30. We had been guessing Aug. 1, and the midwife had written down July 31. It was bizarre to me how much importance the ultrasound attendant placed on getting an exact due date. I know full well that the likelihood of the baby being born on that exact day is small (although there are exceptions, as our friend Melissa knows). I like to view the due date as more of an estimate, and when people ask about it, I say, "He'll be born around the beginning of August." I think this is part of my accepting and being fine with the idea that my baby will come when it's ready, whenever that may be. He will pick his time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's really in there

19 weeks
I finally felt the baby move this week. I was sitting at my desk at work Monday morning, and I felt a weird sensation in my lower abdomen. Didn't think anything of it at first, because I've been feeling all sorts of strange aches and gurgles and strains over the past few months. Eventually I noticed that the new feeling kept coming back, sort of like a tiny pressure inside my abdomen. It was so subtle that I wasn't sure if it was really the baby, but Stuart reminded me that the baby is still pretty small, so it may not be big enough for strong punches or kicks yet. I feel the minuscule movements right now as I'm typing this.

These milestones keep accumulating, things that remind me I'm actually pregnant, and there really is a tiny being growing inside me. For the first three months, I was doubtful. I didn't really experience morning sickness, only a slightly nauseated feeling for about a month along with new, weird aversions to certain smells and tastes. The changes were so subtle that I kept sprinkling my speech with "if" and "maybe" -- "If I'm actually pregnant..." "Maybe we're having a baby..." Deep inside I didn't want to admit that I was going to have a baby, because I didn't want to get too excited. It was still early in the pregnancy, when miscarriages are common. I didn't want to be too disappointed or depressed if that happened to me. Have I ever mentioned I'm a perpetual worrier?

Even after a pregnancy test confirmed it, I still don't think I truly believed I was pregnant until about three months in, when I met with a midwife at Bella Vie and she asked if I wanted to hear the baby's heartbeat. She pulled out a device called a doppler, held it against my abdomen, searched around a bit, and finally there it was: a quick tick-tick-tick-tick. The baby. It really existed. I almost cried. So did Stuart.

Now that I'm in the second trimester, things are getting more real. And more fun. About two weeks ago, my belly finally started to grow enough that I was sure I had a baby bump. (Before that, it was tough to tell if it was just my beer belly -- thanks to Deschutes and Rogue for that.) And now, feeling the baby moving around -- it's like a mega dose of reality. Now all I think about when I do anything is whether the baby feels it and what it thinks. If I sit in a way that constricts my stomach and the baby moves, I wonder if it's reacting to having less space. Tonight I ran 1 1/2 miles on the treadmill at the gym, and I wondered what the baby thought of all that jiggling. Was it irritated? Confused? Did it like it?

All these sudden changes, the baby making its presence known, make me finally start to see it as a person in there. It's no longer some abstract idea. Instead it's a little life that I feel infinitely closer to.

Monday is my first ultrasound. That will bring all these feelings to a whole other level. I can't wait!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Where will the baby be born?

Many people who find out I'm pregnant ask me questions relating to when the baby is around, like "Have you thought about a name yet?" or "Have you gotten your nursery ready?" But truthfully, almost all we thought about for the first few months was the labor itself -- how did I want to labor, and more importantly, where?

When I think back to late fall, when Stuart and I first started having that conversation, I'm amazed at how much I have changed my viewpoint in just a few short months. One thing I knew from the beginning was that I wanted to have a midwife rather than a doctor, although even my reasons for that have changed over time. Many of my friends worked with a midwife, and the initial appeal for me was that I could see the same friendly person throughout my pregnancy, get to know her well, and be assured she would be there throughout my labor and birth process -- as opposed to a doctor who may or may not be on call at the time I give birth and who would likely only show up at the end when the baby was on its way out.

For a long while, I believed we would have a midwife, but still deliver in a hospital. Several local midwife groups do this, and this is how my close friends delivered their babies. It seemed very safe. I would have someone I knew to support me throughout labor, but I could still be in a hospital to receive care if I had complications. But as I researched more about the positives of midwives, I also learned some things that did not comfort me about hospital births. I wanted to have a natural birth -- no c-section, no medications, no inducing labor or other interventions. But I read many statistics about the high number of c-sections among hospital births, and learned that sometimes these are partially caused by hospital interventions. I'm not saying all medications or c-sections are bad (they're very necessary in medical emergencies and many women understandably choose to have an epidural to get through the pain of labor) but they weren't what I wanted from my experience. Also, I've never felt comfortable in hospitals -- several bad experiences with doctors over the years have made me dread the hospital environment. I didn't want to give birth in a place where I was nervous, uncomfortable and may not be able to let my baby come naturally the way I wanted.

We interviewed several midwives, including a group that delivers at a local hospital, a group at a birth center not connected with a hospital and a woman who only does home births. I admit, I only interviewed the home birth midwife to appease Stuart -- he was excited at the idea, but I was way too terrified of what might happen if something went wrong and I wasn't in an environment where I could receive medical help. Home birth sounded cool from the natural birth perspective, but too scary for me. I wasn't completely closed to the idea, however. Recently I read Michael Perry's wonderful memoir "Coop," where he details his wife's home birth. Several details appealed to me, including the fact that they never had to leave the house -- from the start, the baby was at home in bed with mom, in the safe environment where it would grow up. We also watched an enlightening (albeit extremely biased) documentary called "The Business of Being Born" which showed me another wonderful aspect of home births: mom or dad can catch the baby themselves and immediately hold the baby close, rather than watching it be whisked away first to be cared for by doctors. Research shows this immediate contact with the baby helps with bonding over the long-term.

We ended up choosing the birth center, Bella Vie, because the midwife we met was wonderful and she understood and agreed with our needs. Also, they have a really beautiful birth center, a turn-of-the-century farm house that they renovated and converted into multiple rooms for birthing. Outside of my own home, it was about as comfortable as I could imagine. Finally, these midwives give you the option of delivering at their birth center or at home, so I still had a choice, and I didn't have to make up my mind yet.

It was only about a week or two ago that we made our choice: home birth. We just finished building a beautiful, safe and eco-friendly home that we plan to raise our family in, and it seemed like the perfect environment to also give birth in. Our house is only a 10-minute drive from the hospital, so medical help is close if we need it. I fell in love with the idea of having my baby be at home from the beginning, and not having to spend several days recovering in a hospital. But most importantly, I felt the support for home birth from many of my friends and from my midwife. I was worried that home birth sounded like such a foreign and scary option that people would doubt my decision. (A friend who recently gave birth told me she stopped telling people she planned to do it naturally because they kept giving her condescending looks that said, "Yeah right, you have no idea what you're in for.") But the more friends I told about it, the more I heard positive comments and excitement about home birth. When we told our midwife our decision yesterday, she cheered and was quite excited to help us through this experience.

I never could have imagined this was the decision we would make. But for now, it feels more right than anything else I've considered during this pregnancy. I can't wait for my baby to open its eyes outside the womb and see its loving parents -- and its new home.

This is where we want our baby to be born.