Monday, July 30, 2012

On Pregnancy and Expectation

This morning I was thinking about yoga. I was thinking about prenatal yoga, and how I had planned to do it while pregnant. I was thinking about this because my body hurt, and for an instant I thought, "Maybe I could do yoga," and then I remembered that I couldn't. Which led me to thinking, again, about the plans I had for this pregnancy, about how I thought it was going to go, and how few of those plans are actually playing out.

Here's what I had in mind originally: I had a midwife at a birth center, and I really liked her, and I was excited about a semi-granola birth, a valiant attempt at doing it "naturally." I envisioned laboring in the bathtub and in the birth center's garden. I wanted to learn hypnobirthing and find a really good birth class. Before then I would do yoga, and I would take long walks, and I would eat a lot of green healthy things and plenty of good protein and I would be lean and lovely as a pregnant lady--you know, like a q-tip with a watermelon attached, that holy social ideal of how pregnant women are "supposed" to look. And on the weekends I would drive all around town--looking q-tip-watermelony--to thrift stores and estate sales, buying unique and inexpensive and gorgeous clothes and items for the nursery. And in October--not before--she would arrive, healthy and chubby and screaming her sweet head off. And we would commence loving her forever. 

Instead, a good number of my days are like this one, which happened over the weekend: I wake up; I eat breakfast; I throw up. (Morning sickness sometimes kicks back in around 27 weeks, apparently? I'm right on schedule. Bummer.) I feel shaky; my cervix hurts; my abdomen feels pressure-y. I know enough to know this isn't labor. I know it's just going to feel like this, that it's normal for women with a cerclage, that it's going to hurt worse and worse until she arrives. (But I'm still scared. All day Sam and I talk on and off about whether to go in to labor and delivery.) I go lie down in bed and end up spending the day there. I ask Sam to bring me a bowl, since I still feel nauseous. I read 300 pages of a novel. In the afternoon, I fall asleep, and in the evening  I feel well enough to come sit on the couch. We watch Netflix episodes of Frasier. I can't imagine eating anything, but I'm starving, so Sam picks a menu from a takeout place; I find one thing that for no explainable reason looks like I might be able to eat it. It arrives, I eat a bit of it. I go to bed. Lying there, waiting for sleep, I pray that when she is ready to come, I'll know it; that I won't miss the signs. 

Not all of my days are like that, but several a week are. If it's a week day, I bring my computer and books back to my bed and work, horizontally. On a good day, I work from the chaise section of the couch, and when it's quitting time I trade my computer and books for a craft project and mindless sitcoms. People bring us dinner twice a week or so, bless their souls. Sam takes care of everything--bringing me water and meals, doing the laundry, the dishes, the cat litter cleaning. He even goes to the fabric store and buys me more supplies. He goes to the art museum a few times a week to get out of the house and I do my best not to pout. On Tuesdays friends come over for crafting; on Sundays someone brings me the sacrament. On Thursdays we have a weekly doctor's appointment and they tell me that, while every exam is alarming and indicates the baby will likely come early--30 weeks would be lucky--I'm stable in my alarmingness, and so they send me home for another week. 

And here's the surprising part: mostly, this life is okay. This pregnancy is okay. While sometimes I still get sad that I'm not having the pregnancy I planned, it mostly doesn't matter anymore. I had this shift in my thinking that happened a few weeks ago. They gave me steroids to develop the baby's lungs in case she did come early, and my body reacted by refusing to sleep on Friday or Saturday night. Those were rough days with more side effects I won't mention, but somewhere in there, I realized it just didn't matter. I would do it again. I will do it again in a few weeks if she hasn't come. And that was okay. I realized I didn't care anymore how she arrived or when she arrived or whether I spent the time before then in thrift stores hunting cool eclectic items or on my couch ordering from a take out menu and trying not to throw up. The only thing I cared about was that she'd be born safe. Working towards that was my full-time job, the center of my existence. And when I'm in labor, I'll go to the hospital, and whatever happens there will be okay with me. I'll surrender to it, because I don't have a choice. I'll trust my doctors (if you know me, you know that doesn't come easily), and if I end up with a C-section (which is common for preemies--they're often breech), or an epidural, then that's how it will be, and I'll survive it. It will be over soon enough, and, hopefully, this baby will make it and they'll help her grow in the NICU and eventually we'll take her home and she'll be small but strong, and we will commence loving her forever.

This shift in thinking was a gift. It was a gift I wasn't asking for and that I didn't know I needed, but I'm grateful for it all the same.

But this is what I want to clarify, which is something else I was thinking about this morning: I have friends who say I'm handling this well, that they're impressed; that they don't think they'd handle it this well. A few weeks back my father told me how much he marvels at the sacrifice women make to bring souls into the world. And in a way I'm grateful for this encouragement. I'm glad that from the outside this all looks noble or brave or heroic, and I'm glad to accept the positive reinforcement. But the truth is, none of this feels heroic or noble. It doesn't really feel like I'm "handling it well." I'm just handling it. It reminds me of what my grandmother used to wisely say, which is that everyone does the best they can. And that feels particularly true right now. It is the best I can do, but sometimes it looks a whole lot like nothing at all. And while I'm glad that from the outside that looks shiny and impressive, it doesn't matter all that much whether it does or not. Even if I weren't "handling it well"--and with less support I'm sure that would be true--even if I were weathering this pregnancy from a psych ward (which has felt possible sometimes), I'd still be doing fine. Because my only job is to keep this kid in me for as long as I can, and there's not much to that job, in the end. I get up and do that the same way you get up and go to work, or get your kid breakfast, or wash your hair. It's reality. I'm not making a heroic choice. I'm just doing the only thing that makes sense, and I'm grateful for the physical and spiritual help that is making it possible. She's a baby, a tiny kicking moving life inside me, and I'm trying to make sure she doesn't die. You'd do the same, whether it seems you would or not. There's not as much choice as it may seem. I'm heroic insofar as everyone who does daily difficult things (and doesn't everyone?) is heroic.

I hope I can remember this when I'm no longer pregnant. This won't always be my central task, the simplicity of working to preserve her life. But I hope what I can remember is this thing that seems central to the experience of pregnancy, this experience of being a body hosting another body, doing nothing and everything at the same time to help it arrive safely: this acceptance of my circumstances, whatever they happen to be. This conviction that I'm not in charge and don't need to be. That while I can work on changing whatever it's possible to change, worrying over what I can't change or what might of been is fruitless business; it's the least productive use of my time and my self. I want to remember that external validation, while lovely, doesn't actually reflect what matters, which is humble and simple and clear: it's doing what it makes sense to do, what I can do, and letting go of the rest.    

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Golden Snails for Baby

Sometime back I realized that those weird shelves of trashy knick-knacks in thrift stores are actually a gold mine if you have the right eyes. Almost any of the tacky little ceramic figurines you find there can be beautiful, given a little love and a coat of spray paint.

I found these three little snails awhile ago, and fell for them. They were a dollar a piece. And I knew they were meant for baby. I took them home, and eventually got around to getting a can of gold spray paint, and one evening, after a long day of bed resting, I took a very brief excursion out back to the parking lot behind our place so I could oversee the painting of the snails. I remain deeply in love with them. Someday, when this kid's nursery actually comes together, they will be a sweet addition to that space.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Monster for Baby

The only way I'm staying sane lately is to make objects for baby. At night when I can't sleep, I imagine her nursery in great detail, and then I send Sam to the fabric store (what a hero, no?) and in the evenings, after I've worked from home, I turn on Netflixed sitcoms and make whatever has struck my fancy.

One morning I woke up with the idea to make the baby a stuffed monster. Sam and I dig those Ugly Dolls. You know the ones? (I think you either get them and love them or you don't ... we love them.) And we've talked about getting her one. But it occurred to me I'd like to make her one, and this was the result. Sam loves the monster, and was soon very excited about her photo shoot. He wanted a picture of her everywhere, as you'll see. (She was loosely inspired by these monsters, which I found whilst Pinteresting, of course.)

Her mouth, eye, and hair are all felt. Her legs are orange on the back and yellow on the front. I hand-sewed the whole thing, since I couldn't sit up at the sewing machine. 

Her she is posing with baby's Emily Dickinson doll. They make a good pair, no?

And here she is perched on the door to our living room. Menacing beast.

And here she is on the top of the doors to our living room, featured with the cat we got in Mexico and the crucifix that (I think) belonged to Sam's grandfather. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A (Sort of) Maxi Dress Tutorial--EASY!

Some time back I began to experience angst about how hard it is to find modest dresses. When I got pregnant, I developed an instant aversion (okay, inability) to wear anything aside from flowy and loose dresses with leggings, and it began to just irritate me that everything I bought had to be paired with a tank-top (because it was too low-cut), a sweater (because it was sleeveless), and/or leggings (because it was too short). Quite often, I had to add all three, and I began to just be annoyed as I put on all of those layers of clothes. The point of dresses was to be easy; the point of dresses was to have nothing touching me. Wearing a dress andandand missed the point. And really, while I don't generally get indignant about this stuff, I began to wonder what is wrong with this world that I can't find a dress that doesn't expose my goodies. I mean, I confess my aim for modesty is related to my religious tradition, but it also it just seems like I'm a grown woman, you know? And I'd prefer to be able to dress like one, to have the option, for goodness sake. I don't want a dress with a teeny tiny skirt. I just don't. And there are so many many beautiful dresses out there that are just worthless to me for this very reason.

All of this to say that one evening, while walking with Sam back to our car after a lovely meal of Ethiopian food, I began to notice how simple the maxi dress I was wearing actually was. I had bought it from Target, and it was in heavy rotation in my closet, even though I needed to wear a tank-top with it. And I started to think it really couldn't be that hard to make one of my own, though the task still seemed daunting. I was determined I would figure it out.

Soon thereafter, miraculously I'd say, this tutorial popped up on Pinterest. And, also miraculously, it actually looked as easy as it professed to be. Foregoing the fabric-dying step, it would be even easier. I pulled out some knit I'd had for some time, and went to town. And boy howdy was I pleased. A dress! With sleeves! As long as I choose! A neckline I wanted! And it came together faster than I could have dreamed.

So I bought more knit! More! And I made more dresses! More! (This post is exclamation point heavy. Sorry.) And this is one of them. It's made from a lovely denim knit that was on clearance, so I got the whole lot of it for ten bucks, and it took me maybe a half an hour to make. When I wore it to church and it garnered compliments, I couldn't help but responding, "I made it! Ten bucks! Half an hour!" (Is that annoying? Oh well.) I added one detail that wasn't in the original tutorial, and that's the elastic thread waistband, since enormous wide belts are lovely, but not really an option for my increasingly pregnant self.  

I find these outfit pictures so embarrassing. That's the truth. This was the best of the lot.

Here's the elastic waistband, which is easier than it looks.

And here's a pregnant belly shot at (I think) 24 weeks, though it pains me to post it. I got this dressed up for a doctor's appointment, which is what happens when they put you on bed rest and a doctor's appointment is the only time you leave the house all week.
That tutorial is just really good, and will walk you through it just fine, but here's my mini-version, so you can see how easy it really is.

1. Get yourself 2 yards of knit. Or less. If you want it knee-length, 1.5 yards will do. I think this was 1.75 yards, but I'm short. When in doubt, hold up the fabric in the store and see how much you need.

2. Fold the entire piece of fabric, right sides together. You're going to basically make a giant pillowcase out of it, with the opening for your feet.

3. Sew two seams (just two!): think of the pillowcase--sew down one long side, and down one short side. Don't worry about arm or neck holes just yet. Since knit can be slippy and slidey, this part can be frustrating, and you'll worry you're ruining the whole thing. You're not. Don't worry. Just keep going. The dress is forgiving.

4. Now do the neck hole by folding the whole thing in half long ways, and cutting a straight line down the very center. Start with five inches or so. You can deepen it if you want to. This makes the neck, once you have it on, and the back, which is pretty. You don't need to finish any of the seams since it's knit and won't unravel.

5. On either side of the top, cut the arm holes. Nothing fancy here. You're just opening up the seam and the fold. Starting from the top, trim as close as you can to the edge for maybe 7 inches? Again, you can make the hole longer later if you decide you want to.

6. Now try it on! It will seem like a big fat sack, but you should be able to begin to envision how it's sort of dress-like. Decide whether the sleeves and neck are working for you, or whether you want to deepen them. And either put on a big wide belt, or stick a little pin where you'd like the waistband to be.

7. Here's a brief description of the waistband: I made it with elastic thread, which is super easy to work with once you figure out it only goes in the bobbin. (Trying to use it for both thread sources is disaster, which I learned the hard way.) Using a ruler and where you pinned as a marker, use more pins to mark a straight line across the dress. Then sew that line, using the elastic thread in the bobbin and a thread to match your dress as the top thread. Use the line you just sewed as a guide to do another line, and another, and another (as many as you want), and it will just naturally start to look as it looks in the picture. It's pretty sweet to see it start to cinch up.

8. And that's really it, my friends. Cut the bottom, if you need to. And you're done. And you have a new dress. And you're happy. And so am I.