Monthly Archives: August 2009

Ice, ice… baby.


“Ok, so each of you take an ice cube and hold it tightly in your hand.” The cold burned, and it was only a few seconds before grimaces and complaints issued forth from the lips of the students in the birthing class. I caught Francisco opening his hand, trying to move his cube to another position and relieve the cup of his palm.

The exercise was excruciating, yet only one one billionth, the teacher assured us, of the “ring of fire” we women would feel when giving birth.

“Rest for a few seconds. Now let’s try again, just the moms this time.”

As the women took up another cube, husbands and partners slid into their respective supporting modes, holding us, stroking our backs or faces or hair, breathing into our ears, and just being present. Sitting between Francisco’s legs, my back leaning into his chest as he stroked my neck, I only thought about the ice when Asha said “Ok, let go of the cube now.”

“There’s no way that was a minute,” I said out loud, the other women agreeing. It honestly felt like 10 seconds.

Point being: Yes, the mind, the environment, and the presence of a supportive person (or people) during labor make a profound difference in our experiences of pain. While I might have known that intellectually, thinking about it consciously felt a little too New Age-y, so I hadn’t given it much thought.

Until the ice cube exercise.

Point taken.





Brayan’s little sister, Carlita, (that’s her in the photo above) asked him this week if Mariel will be her sister too.

He didn’t have to ask us and we didn’t have to say “Por supuesto, si.”

That’s just the way this family is.

My friend Yi Jing says…


My friend Yi Jing, who I met in China 12 years ago, became a mother three years ago.

I don’t think I’ve ever told her this, but I never really expected her to be a mother.

Anyhow, she knows a whole lot more about motherhood than I do. She recently told me that her son is “cute, but sometimes I feel very tired.”

I wrote her back, telling her I’ve been afraid of not getting enough sleep once Mariel is born. I don’t need a lot of sleep, but when I don’t sleep well, I am no fun to live with.

She wrote again:


don’t worry about sleep. i think you had better to worry about your head….
but anyway, baby is the so lovely and he/she will make you forget all the trouble. trust me.”

Ok, Jing, I’m trusting you. 🙂

Holding Pattern


Back when I was a psychotherapist working with severely and chronically mentally ill adults, I started each of my therapy groups by handing out copies of the Emotions Chart and asking the group members to start an “I” sentence with the stem “Today, I feel _________.”

The goal, of course, was to help them begin developing an emotional vocabulary, the basic ability to recognize, define, and articulate a range of feeling states. But it was ridiculous, really. First, we’re talking about adults who have spent the longer part of their lives emotionally illiterate. Second, take a look at that chart. Could YOU define each of these emotions? (Not to mention whether the drawings actually convey the kind of expression you’d assign to each feeling).

Anyway, I was thinking of the emotions chart earlier this week. Monday and Tuesday were weird, weird days. I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel cranky (as I did last week, complaining about the heat, and the fact that we don’t have air conditioning, and how it just zapped all my energy). But I didn’t feel happy, either. I don’t know how I felt, really, and that was the problem. I was lazy, but lazy’s not really a feeling state; it’s a being state. All I wanted to do was watch television–which I *never* do. I didn’t want to read (which I always want to do). I didn’t want to write (ditto). I didn’t want to go to a museum or a lecture or a performance or watch a documentary. I wanted to be and do something mindless. My friend Anne said she felt the same way during the most stressful moments of grad school, when all she could do was look at the New York Post (arguably one of the worst papers ever and definitely not in line with her politics or mine) and think “The more pictures, the better.” When she said that, I totally got it. A New York Post would have suited me just fine.

I wasn’t worried about how I felt, but it bothered me that I didn’t have a word to describe the state I was in. I scrolled through my mental index file of feeling words. Nothing came to mind. I browsed through metaphors, mostly easy ones, and decided the closest I could come to describing how I felt was that I was in a holding pattern, like a pilot who was within landing distance of the airport but was told she needed to keep circling until traffic cleared on the ground. She loops around and around with no fixed goal, dependent on another person to let her know when it’s time to reset the course. Yet she’s not aimless, either. Yes, I decided, though the metaphor had its shortcomings, that was as close as I could get to describing how I felt.

A holding pattern.

Yesterday marked exactly one month until our due date, though we all know babies arrive when they’re good and ready. The past couple weeks have seen subtle changes (seen mostly by me, I suppose): the increasing difficulty of a restful sleep, as I wake up multiple times a night to strangely sore hips. The baby’s angling for space just beneath my rib cage, causing moments where I’m conscious of the need to breathe more deeply. Little things. Nothing to complain about, but I have the distinct sense that I’m in this holding pattern: I can’t get much bigger or much more uncomfortable (I hope– mothers are reading this and laughing, I know). I don’t know exactly how much time I have to get certain projects done. It’s all dependent on someone else.

I felt myself again today-motivated, wanting to read, to write, to talk, to do something other than sit around and simply be (which, you won’t be surprised to learn, I’m not so good at doing). But there’s still this undercurrent, this shift–In what? Emotion? Thought? I don’t know, really–this new awareness that the next few weeks will probably continue to have this holding pattern sensation.

And that when all I want to do is watch TV or read the New York Post, well, then that’s what I should do.

Registry Update


Nine months *should* be enough time to set up a baby registry, I know.

And I’ve had the best intentions, I really have. First, I wanted to find a registry that supported independent businesses, preferably affordable, and that was (hopefully) located in New York so you could shop online but we could pick up gifts here, thus minimizing the carbon footprint of gift-giving. I really spent hours looking for this ideal business. It doesn’t exist.

I got so frustrated (and busy) that I dropped the whole enterprise for a couple months. I realized I didn’t really know what we’d need anyway.

Back in July, when we were in Spartanburg, we went to Target and wrote down about 6 or 7 items we thought we’d need. We’d give in to corporate America and do the Target registry. Anyone who wanted to use it could and it was affordable at least. Hours later, though, I’m here to tell you that Target has the worst online interface for registries ever… one case in point being that not all of the products Target actually sells appear to be eligible for the registry. Huh.

So… here’s the deal: we’re not doing a registry. If you want to send a gift, please send your good wishes or your favorite children’s book. That’s more than enough.