Pregnancy whiplash

Toddler baby bump snugglesPregnancy is weird: It swings you from one extreme to the other fast enough to give you whiplash.

Take yesterday. I had just put Peeper down for a nap when I was overcome with energy and inspiration—a rare combo for this nearly 40-week-pregnant lady. I took the surge out on our Forester and cleaned the bejesus out of it. All of Peeper’s 87 books went into a bag; the car toys went into another bag; random things that accumulated but didn’t belong there (several sippy cups, silverware and—um—a ukulele) journeyed inside. And—get this—I vacuumed the eff out of that sucker. I had no idea how much dog hair, bunny crackers and sand (oh the sand!) had coated every surface.

Then I lay down in bed and ate cherries and read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please for a very long time while Peeper graciously continued to nap.

Another example: I’ll be so hungry that I can literally feel my body breaking down muscles and tissues and important organs to feed itself. Then I’ll look at a sandwich and want to cry because I’m suddenly so full that my stomach is crowding my lungs and I can’t breathe.

The swings can be a little overwhelming, even for onlookers. But somehow I’ve learned to ride the ins and outs like waves. Read more

How I’m preparing for childbirth

preparing for childbirth second pregnancy

“Mama has a big big big big belly!” Peeper shouted the other morning as I went to lift her out of the crib. In fact, that was the very first thing out of her mouth. And it’s the first thing that crosses my mind when I wake up in the morning.

If anything reminds me that I’ll soon be giving birth to our second daughter, it’s this giant belly—the bump that takes up so much room, there’s no place for Peeper to sit on my lap anymore. (Never fear, though; we still read and read and read—she just sits next to me most of the time.)

When I was pregnant with Peeper, Eric and I attended a childbirth preparation class at the hospital where we’d deliver. Most first-time parents do, and I learned a lot. Although some of the exercises were a little ridiculous (FYI, holding an ice cube in your hand does NOT mimic the discomfort of labor!), it was helpful overall and I’d recommend it to other parenting newbies.

This go around, though, I didn’t need a primer on the different stages of labor or what our pain relief options would be. I’m prepping for childbirth, then, in a little different way. Here’s how.

Reading. I already know what to expect, so my reading list has changed since my first pregnancy. Currently on my bedside table:

  • Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by Gurmukh. I appreciate the Kundalini yoga instructor’s take on pregnancy, which was less medically oriented and more about gently transitioning into motherhood. Yes, I’m already a mama, but I welcomed the reminders (and the short-short chapters!).
  • HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan. This childbirth technique/philosophy is founded on the idea that much of the pain of labor and delivery stems from fear and resistance: that the body’s physiological reaction to fear fights the opening and relaxation needed for a smooth birth. That idea resonated with me, as I was definitely scared—really scared—during Peeper’s birth. The book is full of techniques, which are pretty much mindfulness meditations, meant to make labor easier on mama and baby.
  • Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Farber and Elaine Mazlish. It’ll be a while before Peeper and Kiwi are arguing over who borrowed whose skirt, but I wanted to adopt techniques to keep the peace early. I found the book’s format a little odd (it basically recounts the author’s experiences teaching a class), but it makes for a quick read, and the illustrations and chapter recaps are helpful for remembering the various tips.

Breathing. Of course I breathe, but I’ve been practicing HypnoBirthing breathing techniques during contractions (or, as the program calls them, uterine surges) and whenever I remember—like when I’m trying to fall asleep. I’m hoping that all the practice will make the breathing techniques second nature by the time I go into labor.

Meditating. I’ve never been big into meditation—I always found my monkey mind jumped around to a million to-do tasks, leaving me more flustered than when I began—but a calm, inward focus is helping me connect to this baby.

Most of the day, my attention is on my toddler or my work or the bajillion things I can never catch up to. But a few times a day—especially right before bed—I tune into Kiwi. I send her love or talk to her in my head. I dab lavender essential oil on my chest and deepen my breathing. I imagine my breaths are waves rolling in and out like the tide. Or I envision myself as a tree, drawing in strength from the ground with each inhale and exhaling stress.

Perhaps it sounds woo-woo, but it really helps. I also plan to draw on these techniques during labor.

Letting go. Well, this one is aspirational. I alternate between wanting to DO ALL THE THINGS and just throwing up my hands and saying eff it. We still have a long list of nest-y things to do, like paint and put up those shelves that have been sitting in the garage for, oh, four months, but I’ve (sort of) made peace with the fact most of them won’t happen.

So I’m prioritizing. We recently set up a new desk in the office, which is necessary for my work, and I started packing my hospital bag (which is much lighter the second time around!). Today I brought in the infant car seat to clean and install. These things are important; sewing a baby quilt can wait.

I figure letting go is great practice for when I have two kids: I simply won’t have time or energy to do it all—or even half the stuff I want to do—so I’ll be a pro at letting things slide in no time.

I’m curious—if you have kids, how did you prepare for childbirth? Was prepping for later kids different from your first?

Spook Club Vice President, at your service

Old photo preschooler Catherine Ryan Gregory
Even as a kid, I delighted in an innocent scare.

When I was little, I was fascinated by feeling afraid.

One night, for example, my dad, sister and I walked from his office to his car past the graveyard on the University of Oregon campus. We made up an entire song (“The werewolf is howling, the vampire is prowling, it’s a fu-u-u-ll moon”) that I still hum to myself when I catch a glimpse of a moon anywhere near full.

And we formed the Spook Club, complete with a “secret” set of hand motions that we’d sign to each other with knowing looks and raised eyebrows. We mostly scared ourselves silly by watching black and white horror flicks, along with some movies of questionable suitability for an 8-year-old. I still get chills thinking of the bleak desperation of The Last Man on Earth, in which Vincent Price spends every day hunting vampires. I remember lying awake on my parents’ bedroom floor after the credits finished rolling, thinking that I’d never be able to carry on if I were that utterly alone.

This is a bit strange to be writing after my last post about children’s books to quell childhood fears, but I found myself thinking about Spook Club last night as I was reading before bed. I’m about halfway through The Boy Who Drew Monsters, by Keith Donohue (thanks for the rec, West Metro Mommy!), and I realized I haven’t changed that much since peeking from behind a blanket to watch The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock flicks. Read more

End of second trimester blues

Woodburn Tulip Festival - Ten Thousand Hour MamaTaking Peeper to the Tulip Fest outside Woodburn earlier this week was wonderful (more on that later!), but it carried a very unwelcome realization: I’m getting too pregnant to continue doing everything I want to.

When lifting my 20-some-pound toddler off a swing at the festival, I pulled some of the round ligaments in my belly, the muscles that stretch to accommodate my soccer ball-sized uterus. On top of that discomfort, I felt crummy and overextended the rest of the day—a condition not helped by Peeper’s skipped nap. (Ugh, why won’t this child sleep in the car like a normal kid?)

I was utterly spent. The exhaustion I felt by the end of the day plus recalling that I’m mere weeks away from my third trimester overwhelmed me. What’s more, a good friend was recently put on bed rest when her baby tried to make a very early appearance, which pushed me to consider the possibility we could have an early bird, too.

So though I’m still rocking the ease of the second trimester, I need to scale back a bit. That is not easy. Read more