Thursday, May 27, 2010

Now I'm the know-it-all

The other day, I took a prenatal yoga class for the third or fourth time. Amid all the cute bellies on first-time moms, I felt compelled to offer a dash of perspective from the side of motherhood -- the one that's been there already.

Read more in "Reality Check for New Moms" at DC Metro Moms.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I dreamed a dream Part II: Background

I wanted to stay in the moment in my post the other day about my dream that my baby might have Down Syndrome. But there are a couple of other background factors I'd like to acknowledge.

First of all, we didn't do any early fetal testing, so who knows. I didn't even look into all the options that are out there. My feeling about prenatal testing is similar to my feeling about intervention with in labor: they both often serves mostly to lead to more interventions and more worries.

But I also know at least two folks who learned at their 20-week sonograms that their babies were not going to make it to delivery or more than a few hours after. That's pretty important information to have, I think. I wasn't up for skipping this one diagnostic.

The report -- now two months ago -- said that everything with our baby was, "unremarkable" except for bilateral choroid plexus cysts, which, in the presence of other indications, might point toward Trisomy 18. A few articles suggested a link between the cysts and Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21), but it sounds from this one like the likelihood of a problem with no other issues is slim.

We went with the cheapest ultrasound place we could find since everything is out of pocket. I felt like the tech was plenty competent, but you just never know, and it does feel a little weird that the cyst remark was on the written report but that the tech said to our faces that everything was fine.

We could get another sonogram to see if the cysts disappeared in the third trimester as they usually do or if there is anything else that looks possibly suspicious, like closed, clenched hands. I just checked, and two of the sono images from 20 weeks show hands that look pretty open to me. I've read that some folks just have these cysts their whole lives and there's no problem. They don't always disappear. I didn't learn until a few years ago from an MRI that I have a Rathke cleft cyst.

So if I get another sono and the baby's cysts are still there, do I worry more? What is the point of another $170 or the $500 most other places charge? Besides, when the baby is bigger, it's harder to see things. I remember being disappointed in a sonogram around 35 weeks to confirm that my son was breech; it was much less fun and dramatic than at 20 weeks when you could see the whole baby. My husband and I both felt like he was just a mess of parts and walked away not only disappointed about the breech position but significantly less giddy for having "seen" our kid than we'd been months earlier. So I don't think I really want to go there.

And even if I do and the cysts are still there, what is the point? I guess I could start doing some reading. My sister lent me Expecting Adam a while back, and maybe Waiting for Birdy would be a good read as well. But I don't want to scare myself into expecting something that probably won't happen. I've already decided not to finish reading Knocked Up, Knocked Down, because I know from her blog (and writings elsewhere) how that story turns out, and I am just not up for reading about the journey from the happy expectant phase through to the stillbirth right now. My mother-in-law had a stillbirth, and it's been my main worry throughout this pregnancy. (Many Trisomy babies are stillborn, and most don't live past age one).

I think my body, mind, and spirit will be better served by active preparation for birth that looks at the event/experience as something powerful and sacred and that holds the space open for whatever comes after to be whatever it is and not be already layered on with a ton of meaning I've spun for weeks in the prenatal period.

The second piece of background is that I realized much later the day after the dream that it might have been spurred by reading this Carolyn Hax "Tell Me About It" column in the Washington Post that day. A reader whose family was not supportive of her plans to become a single mom via artificial insemination was asking for feedback, and another mom of a special needs child wrote in that despite having a supportive co-parent, she'd had to give up everything to care for her child. If you don't have a ton of money, she suggested, or a "village," -- and if you're writing to an advice columnist! -- maybe it's time to re-think. Kids are not made to order, she reminded.

I really liked Carolyn's response: "'re posing a question every prospective parent should answer: Am I ready to get what I want, or am I ready to get what I get? The former is dreaming, the latter is parenthood."

We will get what we get, and I will do my best to enjoy this pregnancy for the experience that it is, right now, in this moment. And while I'm at it, to just enjoy life with my family as it is now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I dreamed a dream (Part I)

As I slept the other night, a vision came into my head of a child with a crowded mouth of ill-fitting teeth. Then I heard the words, "She has Down's."

My eyes popped open. It was the middle of the night, and my 4-year-old son lay sleeping next to me, with my husband on the other side, oblivious to the pronouncement I'd just heard in my head.

Oh my God. I asked my baby -- using the name we have recently warmed to but reserve the right to change our minds about -- "Does that mean you? Do you have special needs?"

Previously asleep, she started moving right away. And she replied: "We will be fine, Mommy. I am the perfect child for you to have. We will be fine."

At first I remained concerned and wide-eyed, my heart racing. But I kept listening. What should I do? "Trust. Love. Breathe."

Um, okay. Pretty wise for a 28-week-old fetus. But then again, who knows how long that soul has been around. It would appear that it has an edge on mine!

Lately when I've woken up at this time of night -- without any alarming warning, just with alertness -- I have to get up. There's just no use staying in bed. I make a snack or do a little yoga, or read, or all three. But this night I could tell my baby just wanted me to rest.

So I did. And I thought about her words. I fell back asleep.

The next day, I wasn't shaken or upset. I felt peaceful. Accepting. It's not up to me what child is going to come into our lives. There is no script of how things should be unless I make it up in my head and cling to it, which does no one any good.

So, for the moment, I am less anxious or worried (or avoidingly distant) than I've been much of this pregnancy and more of the mind that whatever is the right experience for me to have will be the one I will have.

Whatever life looks like, however hard the challenges we face, we can always choose to believe that things are, in fact, fine.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mama needs a massage

So get one -- for free! Massage Envy is running a contest that closes Sunday, May 16 just before midnight. Tell -- in 140 characters or fewer! -- how you told your partner you were expecting. You could win a free three-month membership to Massage Envy. Sounds good to me!

Participants tweet to @massageenvydc or email to enter. More information and contest rules are available at Massage Envy on Facebook. And more info about this prenatal massage is available at Mummy's Product Reviews (thanks for the reminder, Victoria!)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sigh. Sometimes it's easier to mother when your child is really in a rough state.

My son has been mildly sick for over a week, just sick enough that he's been unable to go to school. And I've been unable to work. It's been a delight to see him fully immersed in play by himself, to have three meals a day with him, and to see him grow developmentally -- like actually being interested in creating representational art instead of scribbles. And, at the same time, it's also been incredibly frustrating to not have any time to focus on anything either in my head (writing, volunteer work for Holistic Moms) or in my body (meditating, doing yoga, focusing on the baby in my belly). I have really been impatient for him to hurry up and get well!

The weekend offered some respite, but it was not as restful as the boy needed. Though I do appreciate his dad taking him out to Home Depot to buy garden supplies and then involving the boy while he worked, clearly the activity (and the insane wind!) tired both of them out such that sick one needed another day home on Monday to recoup. I was not pleased and felt sorry for myself.

He declared himself "still sick" and not well enough to go to school, and I decided not to push it. He's never had Tylenol or any other drug, and I'm not one to just push him through because I don't think that is going to do him any favors in the long run. But this letting the body heal approach sure takes time! It seemed like he needed a transition day to warm to the idea of getting back out in the world. He's a very social kid and is always saying he wants to see friends, but I think he got pretty used to being home all day when he could rub his face on his mama's growing belly at his leisure (well, not really, but it sure was more accessible than when we're apart!)

After a very low-key morning, we had an afternoon visit from a friend who was dropping off some pregnancy and baby items now that she's had her son. All day, E was asking, "When is Liz coming over?" He hasn't even played with her daughters in months, but he really wanted company.

And yet, while we were at the park, he started to melt. He didn't know what to do with himself. He was hungry but wouldn't eat the apple I cut up when we got back. I ended up having to kick out my friends because he was just crying like a baby. Reminder: he's four. I couldn't believe what I had on my hands.

Fortunately, the dinner was mostly made, so we ate just after 5:00. "I want to go to bed," he whined, and I complied as soon as I felt his belly was full enough. "I guess Daddy's going to have to celebrate his birthday by himself," he sighed, then offering with a little glint of possibility, "Or maybe we can celebrate in the morning."

Although he was more stable by the time we got upstairs, I had seen him really hit bottom, and out came my fierce unconditional love tools. I wanted only for him to feel better in his body, mind, and spirit and to know that everything was going to be okay by seeing me not lose it (and nourish myself -- I was not going up there on an empty stomach, either!)

So I held him like a baby while looking through my homeopathy books to see if Pulsatilla was the best choice. I chose four Bach flower remedies I thought might help: Mimulus, Aspen, Larch, and Gentian. At dinner, I made sure he finished his broth from a gelatin-rich batch of stock I made and added apple juice to water with a little electrolyte powder so he'd be sure to hydrate. Once upstairs, I wiped his face and feet with a wet washcloth with lavender oil and then gave him a foot massage before we put on clean socks.

After reading two stories, I felt compelled to sing to him -- to make him some kind of offering--, but he declined the offer of a serenade. So I told him how, when he was in my belly, I sang to him every morning and that after he was born, his dad and I sang to him while he held one of each of our fingers. With the storytelling preamble, he let me sing "You Are My Sunshine," somehow ignoring how my voice broke and noticing (or saying) only after I was done, "You're crying!" I smiled and told him it was because I loved him so much.

He climbed into bed and fell asleep while I closed rocked in the chair. I left at 6 p.m.

But then he woke three more times in the next few hours. I took one of these shifts and just laid next to him and let him feel as close to me as he needed to. His dad handled the other two wakings, and when the boy came into our bed after going potty sometime in the night, he slept soundly and woke at 6:15 a.m. talking about how he remembered one time Caillou got sick and had to stay home. Before I knew it, he was jumping on the bed, and two hours later, I was handing him over to his teacher, who seemed very happy to have him back!

It will take a while to crawl out from under all the backlog I have to get to the place I expected to be mid-week last week: shifting my focus to my baby and my body. But I'm confident that some of these steps along the way -- the bonding with my son, the benefits I got when I found a craniosacral therapist who would work on both of us, the memory of how powerful it is to nourish and nurture another being who is seemingly helpless-- were all important in their own way.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A nice afternoon, but not perfect

Yesterday I finally got to see the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit at the Phillips Collection before its final weekend. However, although it was a lovely afternoon out in the city, it didn't quite hit all the sweet spots I was looking for after a week of staying home with a sick son.

Read my post -- "Mom's afternoon out thwarted" -- at DC Metro Moms Blog to learn more.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Look both ways -- a tale of a city and its suburbs

Having someone in from out of town helps you see where you live with new eyes.

When my brother-in-law visited, I was kind of psyched that after my husband picked him up at Union Station, they got enjoy a lovely drive through the District -- past the monuments -- at dusk on a perfect summer-feeling evening (not very April-feeling, but still about as nice as it gets). I felt some pride in the fact that they found delicious gelato in Georgetown on a Friday night and that our visitor enjoyed the next day's trip to MOMs, the natural food store we frequent most often.

And yet, I appreciate what living in a log cabin in rural Maine affords my BIL and what kind of rhythm that can foster. Sometimes I feel like I should live in the woods instead of just in a house that backs up to the woods, but I know I value urban life and convenience too much. I love being able to walk to a mini downtown, even if its restaurants are not organic. The grocery has some decent produce, and the library is right there. It feels like a community. And when Metro is not delayed or overstuffed with tourists, I think it's pretty cool that I can hop on it and in less than 15 minutes, be at the American Art museum across the street from the library I attend an ICAN meeting.

This weekend, I was wary of track work delays on the Metro, so I decided to drive up to Bethesda to work the Holistic Moms table for a Celebrate Mama event. Now that downtown is one hoppin' place. Lots of cool shops and restaurants. But even if we could afford to buy a home there -- our house would probably sell for an extra $200K if it were plopped down in that zip code -- I don't think I would ever want to dress well enough and be cute enough to fit in.

So there is my living-on-the-border self. Not a homesteader, not a chic city girl or hip suburbanite, either. I liked driving up on Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues and seeing all the urban, cultural stuff going on. But it was busy and a little overwhelming, so on the way home, I took the Beltway to the GW Parkway, and I enjoyed the quiet serenity of the tree-lined and river-lined route, even though it was probably a couple more miles.

Although sometimes having too many options gets overwhelming (can anyone say Internet?), I do find that I like to put myself in the position of having them.