Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent 1

I, like many people, am not very good at waiting, and so the season of Advent has always troubled me somewhat.  Advent is waiting: waiting in expectation for the birth of the Messiah, for the birth of hope, for our means of redemption and renewal.

I came relatively recently to the celebration of Advent, having grown up in a faith tradition that doesn't follow the liturgical calendar.  This year marks my 3rd Advent celebration, and while I love the tradition of Advent, and the symbolism, and the slowness, I have never been very good at staying grounded in the moment of expectation rather than looking forward to the fulfillment.

This year, though, I find myself in the very unique position of expecting a baby very close to Christmas day.  We now know that he will arrive on the 15th, but being in the last weeks of pregnancy during Advent is definitely fitting.  By this stage, I am, of course, impatient to meet this baby I've been nurturing for 8 months, but I am equally ready to have my body back.  The pains and discomforts of late pregnancy cannot be overstated.  Back aches, leg cramps, fitful sleep, bladder leaks, inability to move, exhaustion.... the last few weeks are just miserable, and by this time, I just want it to be over.  But the baby isn't ready, and until he is, I have to wait.  There aren't any other choices. 

Every year, I hear people bemoan the busy-ness of the holiday season.  Decorating and parties and shopping and church events... it can be overwhelming.  I try hard to fight the culture of busy-ness in our family, at Christmas and throughout the year.  So this year, with Joel's impending arrival, we decided to really slow down and focus on our family.  We are doing a little homemade gift package for our parents and for Greg's sister, and that is the extent of our gift-giving this year.  I don't want to worry about buying the right thing for each of a list of people, and I don't want to worry about how to pay for it all and prepare for a baby at the same time.  So I'm not.  As to events, I am participating in the things I choose, as much as I am physically able, and I am not worrying about the rest.

All of these circumstances together have led me to begin Advent with a strange sense of calm.  Freedom from these worries has given me space to breathe, and I hope it will be a richer season of reflection as a result.

The News

We visited the OB last week, and after taking some measurements, he estimated Baby Joel's weight at 7lbs, 14oz.  Considering the 4 weeks left until my due date, Joel would potentially have weighed 10lbs at birth.  In addition, he has very long legs and very wide shoulders, making a natural delivery dangerous, potentially deadly for him.

So I am having a c-section.  December 15th, 8:00 a.m.

The doctor had informed us pretty well in advance, and I was prepared for him to advise a cesarean delivery, and Greg and I had had many conversations about just what our decision would be.  But as we sat there in the exam room, it was very hard to actually say, "Yes, okay.  Let's have surgery."

I think the overarching feeling I am experiencing is disappointment.  Delivering Sophie was hard, but it was also beautiful.  Messy, wet, chaotic, painful... and so, so joyful.  I will miss that experience.  I'm glad I had it at least once.

I'm also pretty worried about the recovery.  I had my gall bladder removed this summer, but it was done laproscopically and the recovery was not difficult (the resulting gall stones, pain and hospital stay were not fun, but the actual surgery and recovery were fine).  This surgery is much more invasive, much more violent, much more incapacitating.  Adding to that the sleeplessness that comes along with a newborn and a toddler who will be wanting to snuggle her mommy, and I am one nervous chick.

I know it will be fine, though, and that women do this every day.  Plus I will have some great help in Greg and my mom will be here for a few days afterward, so it isn't like I'm alone.  I'm just nervous about the unknown, I guess.

Friday, November 19, 2010


No one knows about waiting like an expectant mother.  Many times, the waiting begins before the pregnancy does, and it continues as she waits for the morning sickness to start and end, for the baby bump to appear, for the first little flutters of movement...

And then there are the last weeks, waiting for the end.  Waiting for the heartburn to subside, for the discomfort to stop, for any sign of impending labor.  Waiting to meet the little life she's been nurturing for so long.

I am very much there.  I am exhausted and uncomfortable, my back hurts, I have heartburn, I can't sleep... I just want it to be over so I can bring my baby son home.

But Joel is a big baby, according to my measurements and an ultrasound weight estimate from a month ago.  Today I went to see my doctor today about a cold, and when he measured my tummy, he told me to schedule an ultrasound for next week to check the baby's growth.  On that day, he will measure Baby Joel and estimate his due date weight, and if it is determined that he may be in danger in the case of a vaginal delivery, we will have "the c-section conversation." 

I have some pretty mixed emotions about the whole situation, as I suppose most women would.  I didn't have a hard time delivering Sophie; in fact, as hard as it was, it was one of the most remarkable moments of my life, and my recovery was fast and problem-free.  Another vaginal delivery is certainly what I would prefer, and I told my doctor I wasn't afraid of some hard work to achieve one.

But with this baby being bigger than average, and me being a small woman, there are some real concerns about such a delivery.  If Joel is too large to pass without abnormal difficulty, he could suffer nerve damage. If he became stuck in the birth canal, he could sustain brain damage (or worse) from lack of oxygen.  I don't want to have surgery, to miss "the moment," to have an invasive incision and face a painful recovery. 

Of course, I will do whatever is the safest thing for my son.  But right now, I wait.  Next Wednesday seems a lot further away from this perspective!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Consequences of Fear

As a mother, it has been my great privilege to witness many of Sophie's "firsts": first steps, first words, the first time she saw the moon, her first time to recognize her own shadow.  But as she becomes more aware of the world around her, she has also begun to show some new fears, like fearing water on her face, or fear of the THX test sound before a movie, or fear of the noise made by our bathroom space heater.

Realistically, I know that the development of these fears are normal and necessary and healthy.  But it also makes me sad to see the little losses of her innocence, to see her realizing, in whatever small ways, that the world can be a scary place.  And watching this has made me examine the presence and effects of fear in my own life, and in the world around me.

How does fear affect your life?  Your community?  Our national consciousness?

The question that has occupied my mind the most, however, is this one: How does fear affect my faith?
And perhaps another: Is it possible to fully love someone of whom you are afraid?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thriving within Limits

In the past few weeks (as the result of a challenging sermon from my pastor, several Weavings journal articles, and a ridiculously stupid line from a Madonna song), I have been thinking a lot about the limits within which we live our lives. 

I think that my generation sees limits in a mostly negative light.  We are Americans, after all, free and tough and independent.  We can do whatever the hell we want to do, right?
(Madonna reference from the kickin' pop song "4 Minutes": "But if I died tonight at least I can say I did what I wanted to do.  Tell me, how 'bout you?")

Really?  That's the thought you want to leave the world with?  Well that just sounds asinine to me. 

So I have been considering the limits under which I currently live (most of which I have chosen freely), and I have found that, though there are many, my life is far richer and more colorful because of them.

Marriage is a limit.  In 2003, I vowed to spend my life with Greg, giving him my love and care, investing my time into building our home together, and even putting his needs before my own at times.  That means that I am not free to date, or to disappear over a 4-day weekend without notice, or spend my paycheck on whatever I want.  I can't imagine living life any other way, though.  I am limited, but not burdened.

Parenthood is a limit.  Before Sophie was born, we did what we wanted, when we wanted.  Running to the grocery store for a gallon of milk at 10 pm?  No problem.  Driving by a theater and spontaneously stopping in to see a movie?  Sure!  Having friends over to play cards until the wee hours?  Of course.

Obviously, since her arrival, my life has changed dramatically.  Spur-of-the-moment road trips are a thing of the past, as are "quick" trips into Wal-Mart, quiet restaurant meals, having friends over past 9, and the luxury of getting an uninterrupted night of sleep.  Do I miss those things?  Sometimes I do.  But I chose to become a parent, to place these limits upon myself, and I have never regretted it.  Motherhood has brought unsurpassed joy (and frustration) and depth and wonder to my life.  I would choose these limits a thousand times over.

Geography is a limit for me in a few different ways. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pregnancy Post: The Same But Different

This pregnancy has been similar to my pregnancy with Sophie in some ways, but also very different.  This post probably won't be too interesting to anyone but me, but I want to jot these things down while they are on my mind (i.e. before little Joely robs me of rationality for the first several weeks of his life).

1. Morning sickness
With Sophie, when morning sickness hit me at around 7 weeks, it was relentless, 24/7 nausea that kept me pretty much horizontal.  Eating was a torturous ordeal.  I got next to nothing done.  And then, on the very day I reached 14 weeks, it suddenly stopped, as if someone had it a switch.

This time, the biggest difference is that I had a two-year-old to care for, and so I couldn't spend absolutely all the time in a moaning heap on the couch.  I had to fix her food and take her potty and give her baths, just like always, no matter how bad I felt. 

Another big difference is that the nausea wasn't as constant with Joel.  At first, I would be sick for a few days and then feel fine for a day or two.  It was wonderful.  As he grew, I was eventually sick every day, but I would often have an hour or two in the afternoon when I felt pretty good. 

I expected the sickness to end around 14 weeks again, which was the same week I had my gall bladder removed.  That didn't happen for me, though.  I didn't see the end of the morning sickness until 18 weeks, but just like with Sophie, when it ended, it was just suddenly, gloriously gone.

2. High/Low
I carried Sophie very high. By 22 weeks, my insides were so crowded that one of my ribs was pushed out of place, causing lots of pain and pinched nerves and trouble sleeping/eating/sitting/standing. Also around that time, I had to buy extenders to make my bras wider to accomodate my wider ribcage.

Not so this time. I am 33.5 weeks and still in my everyday 36C, no extension necessary. And I can still breathe deeply, a luxury that was long gone at this point with Sophie.  Baby Joel is just situated low in my abdomen, for whatever reasons.  Bizarrely, I can feel him pushing against my hip bones, which is truly the strangest sensation I have ever felt. 

3. Braxton-Hicks contractions
I don't remember ever having any kind of contractions with Sophie before I was in a hospital bed with an IV of Pitocin dripping into my bloodstream.  The doctor induced my labor 5 days after my due date, and at that point, she still hadn't even dropped down into my pelvis. 
During this pregnancy, I have had Braxton-Hicks contractions regularly since about the 20-week point.  A lot of times they are accompanied by a strange tightness in my chest, which is unsettling to me, but not a point of worry with my doctors. 
4. Size matters
At my 36-week appointment with Sophie, my belly measured 34 weeks.  The doctor decided to give me weekly ultrasounds and non-stress tests to make sure she was growing properly and not in any distress.  They predicted a 5.5 pound birthweight.  I had no stretch marks until after my due date had passed (and then there were only 2 small ones).  But at birth, she weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces, a slightly above-average birthweight.  She was just a late bloomer, I suppose.
Her brother, on the other hand, has apparently decided to blossom early.  At my 30-week appointment last month, my belly measured 33 weeks, and I was invited back the following week for an ultrasound and a second gestational diabetes test.  They found no sign of diabetes, but they did find a large baby boy.  According to their best estimates, Baby Joel weighed in around the 97th percentile for a baby of his age, and I was told to prepare myself for the possibility of a c-section.  Time will tell for sure, but he certainly feels big, and the network of stretch marks appearing near my flattening belly button didn't get there on their own. 
5. Sense of time
We tried for several years before finally getting pregnant with Sophie.  It was wonderful and terrifying and completely overwhelming, partly because it happened in conjunction with Greg's seminary graduation and a cross-country move.  I worked part-time and had lots and lots of hours to think about the baby that was coming, about what she would be like, about how our life would change after she arrived. 

Post-Sophie, my sitting-and-thinking time has been severely diminished.  She is a whirlwind of activity and energy and it takes a lot of effort to keep up with her.  Consequently, for the first 6 months or so after finding out about him, I didn't think about this baby very much.  I took care of myself, and I certainly knew I was pregnant (especially through the long bout of morning sickness), but I didn't have a lot of time to sit and think about him the way I did with Sophie.  I actually felt a little guilty about it (which seems a little ridiculous, since he has been my body's #1 physical priority since he appeared there, whether I was thinking about him or not), and I have recently spent a lot of time arranging his room, making his bed, and folding his tiny little clothes, just to feel like he's getting a little of my time.

Consequently, about a month ago, I looked down at my sizable baby bump and thought, "Oh my goodness.  He's getting big!"  Now he is so physically present that he's never far from my mind, even if it's just because I can't reach the second shelf in the kitchen cupboards or get up off the floor after playing with Sophie (or get more than 20 feet from a restroom in case of an emergency bladder situation), which I suppose is as it should be, since he'll be here in just a few short weeks. 

7 months? That's not so bad!

So, it has been 7 months since I have updated my blog.  Not great, I guess, as far as consistency goes, but I can say that I've been busy!  Since that last post on April 8, I have found out I was pregnant, had a severe gall bladder attack, suffered 4 months of morning sickness, had said gall bladder removed, had blood drawn from between my knuckles by a lab tech who clearly wanted to see me pass out, quit my old job as a teachers' aide and started a new job as a substitute teacher.  I've watched two of my good friends say their vows and work through the joys and frustrations of a couple's first year of marriage, I spent 6 weeks teaching some really wonderful 7th graders, I've spent a lot of time and effort pondering the life of faith, and I have rearranged most of the rooms in my house (with Greg's help, of course) in preparation for the birth of our son, who is due to join us sometime around December 23rd.

And, most fulfillingly, I can say that I have spent a great deal of time at home, taking care of my husband, my daughter, and our baby-to-be, and I have never, ever been more content in my life. 

I have also watched my Sophie grow from a baby into a little girl, which has been and continues to be thrilling and disturbing.

And now the holiday season is upon us, and I have so many thoughts circling around in my head that it's hard to grab just one and follow it for any distance, so I am going to challenge myself to do just that, right here on my blog, mostly because The Crazy Has To Go Somewhere. 

Stay tuned.  Or not.  :)