Monthly Archives: March 2009

Your Personal Guide to Pregnancy

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That’s the name of  a brochure I was handed somewhat absentmindedly as I was headed out of the midwife’s office on Friday.

Here, without delay, is quite possibly the most useless piece of pregnancy advice that has ever been written:

“Sex:

It is normal to have:

More interest in sex….

Less interest in sex….

Mixed feelings and thoughts about sex….”

Like a lot of other advice in my personal guide, I think it might have been more helpful if it simply said: “Pregnancy, like life, leaves you with contradictory thoughts and feelings about almost everything almost all the time. The sooner you accept this and move on, the more sense it will all make.”

Doctor Visit 1

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I woke up with a headache again and fought the urge to sleep through the alarm. I’d waited too long for this appointment and wasn’t likely to get another anytime soon.

This is the thing about being pregnant in New York City. It’s not like being pregnant in, say, Wichita or Butte (but what do I know about either of these places?). How was I supposed to know that you basically need to have your initial appointment set up before you even get pregnant?

I should start a list: Things I don’t know about pregnancy and motherhood. But it’s getting so long, it’s scary.

I trudged to the subway, having forgotten what it’s like to be on the train during rush hour; even the first car is full. I held onto a pole, closed my eyes, held my bag close, and just moved along with the train, grateful to finally surface at 57th and 7th into the morning air.

At the office: forms. Lab forms. Insurance forms. Diet forms: what did you eat yesterday? Is this what you normally eat? I fill them out and then toss them in the chair next to me as I run to the bathroom to hurl. A very pregnant woman whose water has burst is sitting serenly, her face truly glowing, across from me, and she’s so beautiful but I feel so bad and I keep thinking, “Someone, please, please tell me this is all worth it.”

With the midwife: Medical history. So much I don’t know; I’m adopted. This  is problematic. This means we should do more tests. Genetics. She names diseases, conditions. More tests, of course, mean more money, more appointments. I’ve already waited too long for this one, she doesn’t say but implies. I’ve got to get to the hospital as soon as possible for a sonogram… I call afterward; the first appointment is April 8. And I’m healthy, so healthy, but the back surgery in 1994, or was it 1995? I don’t really know…also problematic. We need old x-rays, old records, we need to know, above all, if anesthesia is even possible if, in fact, it becomes necessary.

I weigh. I pee. I put on one of those ridiculous gowns I’ve never really understood. I hurl again. And again. I put my head on the cool vinyl of the examination table while I wait for her to check on the broken water woman. I spin the pregnancy wheel as we try to figure out the due date– I’ve never been good at keeping track of my period. This is also problematic. I feel ashamed, almost.

Everything is unexpected and I feel–unlike almost any other time in my life, except math classes–dumb, utterly dumb. I don’t know how to say this to anyone, or who I’d even say it to.  My head is still pounding when I leave the office and walk into the sun, noticing the first signs of spring- the crocus and daffodils on the doctor’s little lawn, the fat chested robins singing as if all our lives depended on it. It’s what I’ve been waiting for, like hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time today–the hummingbird-fast flutter–but whether it’s this headache or for some reason I don’t entirely understand, I’m not quite sure how to enjoy it.

Pesadillas (Nightmares)

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“I’m not an anxious person,”  I told my new social work supervisor a couple weeks into our sessions. We met weekly to review my caseload of clients and to discuss transference (the client’s projections onto the therapist) and countertransference (the therapist’s projections onto the client). Joe felt that my lack of progress with a particular patient was the result of some anxiety, “completely natural for the unseasoned clinician,” he said, glossing over the fact I’d already been in the field for several years.

“But I’m not an anxious person, Joe,” I insisted.

He wasn’t the kind of person to say “Yeah, right,” but his eyes gave him away.

*

I’m not an anxious person. I let in worries, acknowledge them, and let them pass. As long as the stresses won’t kill me or someone else, I figure they’ll be resolved somehow.

But being pregnant and facing motherhood, I think I’m getting in touch with some anxieties, though they’re still not articulated.

Since I learned I was pregnant, I’ve had three vivid nightmares, the most recent being last night. They’ve all involved children. Two have involved miscarriage. And the one last night clearly channeled my anxieties about today’s doctor appointment- my first.

I wake from these pesadillas unsettled, unsure, for just a moment, whether something fearsome and irreversible really has happened, or if I’m in the liminal state between sleep and wake.

I suppose it’s time to go back and read Jung.

Intended Consequences

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That’s the name of a photography exhibit at Aperture in NYC until May 7.

It’s heavy stuff: 31 large format photos of Rwandan women who were raped during the 1994 genocide and who later gave birth as a result. The photos are, as you’d expect, intense, showing the pain, hopelessness, acceptance, and alienation of the women and their children, as well as the humanity and skill of the photographer, Jonathan Torgovnik.

I’d wanted to go to the opening on March 5, but it was cold that night, so I stayed home.  Francisco and I finally made it to 27th between 10th and 11th this afternoon and we moved through the exhibit independently. In fact, I’m not sure he made it through all the photos. But I looked at them all and read the women’s stories.

About the experience of rape, the women were unequivocal: horrible, damaging, traumatic.  But about the experiences of birth and motherhood, they differed widely in their feelings and their words.  Some women said they loved their children, that the children gave them a reason to live and to hope and to go on even after their bodies were violated and scarred and their relatives had all been killed. But some women admitted they didn’t love their children at all, or that they found it hard to love them.

We didn’t talk about the photos afterward.

But all the way home, and now, as the light slips low towards the horizon, I know I’ll keep thinking about the women and their children. About them and about the luck of being born in one place. About the difference between choosing to have a child and not really having a choice at all. And about not having to think about whether I’ll be able to love my child.

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After his work in Rwanda, Torgovnik started an organzization, Foundation Rwanda, to help the women and children he photographed–and those like them–through the provision of education and psychological services. To learn more about Foundation Rwanda, visit: http://www.foundationrwanda.org/

Gift to be simple… but simple, it’s not

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Just thinking about registries and showers gives me the willies… I’m always hesitant to make gift lists. I never think of the things I actually need or want until after the fact, and I waste gift-receiving opportunities, either declining them altogether or asking for stuff I don’t really need.

So I’ve been trying to put a lot of thought into a baby registry. I’d like to receive gifts that are practical, meaningful, and, especially, good for the baby and the Earth.

It’s not an easy thing, this eco-baby initiative.

You’d think with green being all the rage that a whole eco-baby industry would have sprung up. And while there are a few businesses making a tidy wad of cash by peddling eco-baby goods and gear, there are fewer than you might expect.

These are the ones I’ve found so far:

http://www.inhabitatshop.com

http://www.earthmamaangelbaby.com (though the name is so cheesy I’m inclined to overlook this one on that basis alone)

http://www.greenforbaby.com

http://www.ourgreenhouse.com

and the one that’s my current (if pricey) favorite: http://www.sonsanddaughtersinc.com

This last one is particularly attractive to me because its bricks and mortar store is in Manhattan–so, theoretically speaking, the transfer of any goods wouldn’t add considerably to our carbon footprint.

I’d love to know what you think and whether you’ve found other green baby registries you’d add to this list.

What I’m really craving…

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…isn’t chocolate, or chips, or pickles: It’s the tall prescription bottle full of  800 mg. Ibuprofen.

Lots of concerned friends and family keep asking how I’m feeling. The answer depends on the day. Mostly, I’m fine–fantastic, even. But these days of feeling super healthy are alternated with occasional bouts of covers-to-the-ears kinds of days, flattened, not by nausea, but by skull-rattling headaches that settle behind one of my eyes and insist, “There’s nothing you can do but sleep.”

That and roll towards a view of the bureau, where I fix my gaze upon that bottle of pills.

I used to have migraines pretty frequently. But AF (After Francisco) and ADSUSJ (After Ditching Screwed Up, Stressful Jobs), the recurring headaches almost disappeared. When they made their infrequent appearances, I’d pop a prescription Ibuprofen and generally be fine within an hour.

But not now.

Pregnant women aren’t supposed to ingest lots of things, and most medicines, prescription or otherwise, are on that list. There’s nothing I’d love more than an Ibuprofen to dissolve in my stomach and push through my veins to work its magic on this ache that’s been pounding in my head for 24 hours now. But since I can’t, I’ll just sit with it until it passes.