“The last time I felt that was on a DOLL!”

The process of bringing babies into the world has carried me many places over the past four years, but perhaps none so many as last week.

Tuesday

It all began on Tuesday, with a visit to our midwives clinic.  Though the appointment was with Herbal Tea, her placement student was the one to begin. I lay down on the exam table and the student, a friendly young queer woman with asymmetrical hair, began to feel for Powerball’s position.  “Hmm,” she said, grasping at my right side just above my bellybutton, “this feels like a head.”  Then, moving to my left side, still just above my bellybutton, “and this feels like a bum.”  She took out a stethoscope to listen to Powerball’s heart:  “I think… I think the baby might be sideways.”  Herbal Tea took over and confirmed: Powerball was sideways, stretched across my abdomen, transverse breech.

“WOW,” the placement student exclaimed, “the last time I felt that was on a DOLL!”

It seemed that Powerball’s placement was neither conventional (odds are 1 in 2500!) or conducive to being born.  At 37 weeks it was also not especially likely to change.  Herbal Tea looked at me with concern and explained that it isn’t great news that Powerball keeps switching positions, seems to have no clue where the exit sign is, and was sideways.  Then the woman who once told me about birthing her own children at home under a full moon, gently explained that a scheduled c-section was becoming increasingly likely and that it was time for another visit to the OB.  She also suggested things that I could try to get Powerball to flip: chiropractic, moxibustion, acupuncture.

Wednesday

Armed with my work health insurance and an unexpectedly strong desire to get Powerball to listen, I booked the first chiropractic appointment of my life.  The appointment took place in a small ground floor office downtown, full of natural light, exposed brick, unvarnished wood, and the smell of essential oils.  The only seating in the waiting area was what seemed to be an uncomfortable wooden church pew, so I stood instead, reading the posters tacked to a bulletin board in a corner.  “Learn about orgasmic birth!” one extolled, while another urged children to consider the chiropractic alignment of their backpacks.  The chiropractor, a stylish woman who looked like she would be quite comfortable in the financial district or the pages of a fashion magazine, welcomed me into the treatment room: an open space with no door, and four or five exam tables.  We were the only ones there.  She felt my spine, checked my balance, and explained that she would be using the Webster Technique to try to get Powerball to flip.    I climbed onto a table, cushioned with hollowed out pillows for my belly, and the chiropractor marveled at my mobility: “You may be the most agile 37 week pregnant person I’ve ever met!”  Given my face down position on the table, I can only speculate about the treatment from that point– she felt my spine a bunch, pulled at my neck, head, and back a bit, and used a metal clicker that reminded me of a hole punch to apply pressure to various points on my back and hips.  In less than 20 minutes we were done.  It was… fine.  The earth didn’t move.  Neither, as far as I could tell, did Powerball.  But it was easy and painless, and who couldn’t benefit from being slightly better adjusted?

Thursday

I considered booking some community acupuncture on Thursday, but decided to focus on the out-of-utero child instead, and took Bingo to a nearby farmers market.  While I was there, I stopped by a booth being run by a natural health centre.  I explained my transverse baby predicament and the naturopath on duty immediately took out her appointment book, insisting that we needed to treat this “aggressively”.  So, while the people around me bought apples and local cheese, I booked an appointment for the next morning.

Friday

The appointment with the naturopath was in a slightly worn high-rise downtown: its long hallways carpeted in brown.  It seemed like an unlikely place for a naturopath to work– hidden behind a maroon door wedged between a men’s dermatology clinic and a law firm.  The clinic was dimly lit and smelled strongly of incense. The receptionist blinked up as I opened the door, seemingly surprised that anybody had come in. She was still staring up at at me when the naturopath came over with a stack of intake forms, asking everything from my digestive health history to the three most traumatic events from my life, and welcomed into a small treatment room.  After reviewing my digestive health and life traumas, the naturopath asked me to lie down on the treatment table.  She explained that she would be using several techniques to get Powerball to turn: moxibustion, acupuncture, guided visualization, and craniosacral therapy.

She began with the craniosacral therapy, which I would later learn has been described as both a “pseudoscience” and “quackery”.  Though I imagined a practice referencing my cranium would focus on my head, this particular version involved the naturopath/craniosacral therapist feeling/holding several parts of my body, including my ankles, hips, and butt.  Honestly, it mostly felt like a gentle version of an airport patdown, with some additional tugging on my ears.  As she felt/held, she asked me about everything from my plans for placental encapsulation (none), to my use of visualization (also none), and experience with acupuncture (still none).  Then, holding my butt/hip, she turned her attention to Powerball.  While I stared at the ugly drop ceiling and tried not to twitch, the naturopath/craniosacral therapist/motivational speaker spoke to the fetus in soothing tones and told Powerball that s/he should move comfortably into a head down position and work with me as a team.  It occurred to me then that, while her low tone was probably too quiet for a fetus to hear, the naturopath/craniosacral therapist/motivational speaker was still establishing more of a rapport with Powerball than I was with her.

A full 45 minutes of airport patdown and motivational talk later, the naturopath/craniosacral therapist/motivational speaker was ready to move on to acupuncture and moxibustion.  I was keener on this part of the treatment, having come across plenty of anecdotal- and some empirical- evidence on the benefits of acupuncture in particular.  As a lifelong needle-phobe, I wasn’t particularly excited to be stabbed with dozens of them, but you do what you have to do when your fetus is lying transverse across your abdomen. The needles were impossibly thin, almost too thin to feel.  I could only really guess at where the naturopath/craniosacral therapist/motivational speaker/acupuncturist was placing them, based on where she was hovering around my body: some in my scalp, some near my elbows, some in my toes.  Leaving the needles, she went to light a thick stick of incense.  As a sweetish smoke filled the room, she added some bonus psychotherapy into the mix.  “How do you feel about the pregnancy?” she asked.  Fine, I responded.  Ambivalent.  She seemed thrown by this answer, but continued: “And how do you feel about the baby being born?” Though I think I was supposed to have been soothed by both the treatment and the naturopath/craniosacral therapist/motivational speaker/acupuncturist/moxibuster/psychotherapist’s dulcet tones, I hadn’t been.  So I brushed the question off, answering that I felt fine but had a lot to do before Powerball arrives.  “Tell me more about that,” she insisted gently.  I explained that the room wasn’t ready and that there was still a lot to get organized: “We still need to make space.”  As the words came out of my mouth, I realized that I had just given her the perfect psychotherapy bait– and she caught it.  As she held the incense dangerously close to my little toes, burning one slightly, she mused, “I see a parallel here.  Space in your home, space in your uterus.  You need to find the fit.”

Maybe so, but as my eyes began to water from the smoke, I realized that I wasn’t going to find that space in the strange offices of strangers.  That the hour and a half I had now spent lying in the naturopath/craniosacral therapist/motivational speaker/acupuncturist/moxibuster/psychotherapist’s* office was an hour and a half that I could have spent doing pretty much anything else.  That I was wasting both my time and my (rapidly diminishing) insurance money.  That Powerball wasn’t the only one in the wrong place.

True believers in any/all of these things, please don’t take offense.  It isn’t so much that I don’t believe in chiropractic treatment, naturopathy, visualization, acupuncture, moxibustion, psychotherapy, or any of the other treatments that you might hold dear.  It’s just that I think that any treatment (including western medicine) requires a belief in it to be effective.  And with somewhere around two weeks of pregnancy left to go, I just don’t have time to cultivate that belief.  I would rather spend those two weeks making out-of-utero space for Powerball, wrapping up loose ends, playing with Bingo, enjoying life as a family of three.  My visit to the naturopath/craniosacral therapist/motivational speaker/acupuncturist/moxibuster/psychotherapist had actually done me quite a lot of good, in helping me to come to that realization and in preparing me for…

Monday

Our return visit to the OB’s office, as recommended by Herbal Tea.  The visit was designed to both check Powerball’s “uncertain lie” and schedule a c-section based on the results.  We had met the OB a few weeks prior, at the visit required for all midwifery patients considering a VBAC.  She was friendly and funny, features I’ve rarely encountered in OBs, or in doctors more generally.  If anybody was going to cut Powerball out, I thought, it might as well be her.  As I lay down on the exam table, I prepared to pick a birthday.  It wasn’t resignation, just acceptance: an understanding that however Powerball comes out will be okay.

The OB felt my stomach: “It feels to me,” she said, “like this baby is head down.”

Yes, somewhere between seeing the midwife, the chiropractor, the naturopath/craniosacral therapist/motivational speaker/acupuncturist/moxibuster/psychotherapist, and the OB, Powerball turned head down.  I can’t tell you when it happened or why.  I also can’t honestly tell you that Powerball’s change in position has changed my mind about any of the treatments I tried.  Sure, maybe it was one of the treatments.  Or maybe it was luck.  Or maybe it’s just a temporary turn.  If Powerball’s change in position has made me a believer in anything, it’s that Powerball is the only one who knows what s/he’s doing in there and the best thing I can do is trust that s/he’s got it figured out.

 *I forgot, she was also a dietician!  Not really, but she told me not to “overnourish” the fetus because s/he would turn more easily if s/he was small.

 

Clothes are hard.

Clothes are hard.  They’re hard when you’re gender non-conforming.  They’re hard when you’re fat.  They’re hard when you’re eight months pregnant.  They’re hard when you’re required to be a little bit fancy.  They’re especially hard when you’re gender non-conforming, fat, eight months pregnant, and invited to a wedding where you have to be a little bit fancy.

But, thanks to a trip to the thrift store, some creative belt coverage, and a long tie to hide the gaps between buttons, I managed to dress myself with only a few small wardrobe crises.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my pants off and not put them back on for at least another month.

 

 

Birth intentions.

Recently, in a Facebook group that I’ll call Sheer Llamas for the sake of anonymity, a member asked what she should tell a friend who had just had an unexpected and traumatic c-section.

“I would tell her,” another member responded, “that all births are beautiful”.

This answer hit a nerve in me, and I responded vehemently.  No, no.  Not all births are beautiful.  All babies?  Maybe, arguably.  But not all births.

Continue reading

As promised, a pregnancy update!

This time, a pregnancy update, lest Powerball one day find this blog and feel totally neglected.

I’m now thirty-four weeks pregnant.

Despite my round belly, this shocks me.  In my mind, I’m eight weeks pregnant, or maybe twelve.  Just wrapping my head around the idea of having a second child… not wondering whether the regular Braxton-Hicks contractions mean that Powerball is preparing for an early exit.  But here we are, thirty-four weeks since my last period began on January 1st, 2016 in an auspicious start to the new year.

Some thoughts on pregnancy, v 2.0:

  • Depending on which app you ask, Powerball is now the size of a butternut squash, a bag of sugar, or a basketball hoop. S/he is, apparently, peeing a pint a day.
  • The “fun/cute” facts shared by these apps often disturb me.  My fetus has its eyes open?  Has fingernails?  Is covered in slime?  Thanks, internet, for emphasizing how gross the miracle of life actually is.
  • I still haven’t announced this pregnancy on social media, which has been an unintentional experiment with hilarious outcomes.  People who haven’t seen me in awhile stare openly.  Some ask, others awkwardly skirt the topic.
  • I’m not sure how anybody could miss the fact that I’m pregnant.  There are few beer bellies out there bigger than mine.  I’ve gained weight– 15 pounds or so– and nothing fits.  I’m regularly shocked by my own reflection.
  • My body is good at gestating.  Though I have nothing to compare to except other people’s stories, my pregnancies seem to be uncommonly easy. I can eat most foods, I can bike to work, I can stand up without taking a proffered hand.  Thanks, body.
  • There are a couple of things I can’t do: eat ice cream after 7pm, see my belly button, breathe after walking up my office’s winding staircase.
  • While I’m complaining, let’s talk about summer.  This summer has been hot.  Unusually hot.  Steamy, sticky, feels-like-a-moist-bathroom hot.  Though I’m only a month more pregnant than I was at this point in 2013, it seems to have totally killed my ability to cope. I get dizzy and nauseous. I am sweaty and red-faced and ungraceful.
  • While I lie in bed wondering if I’ll ever be cool again, Powerball flips and turns, raking elbows and/or knees across my belly.  S/he is most active between 3am-5am, and I worry about how this will be manifest in sleep habits out of utero.
  • Speaking of flipping and turning, Powerball appears to also be a Cirque Du Soleil baby.  Breech, then maybe breech, then not breech, now breech again.
  • If Powerball stays head up, s/he’ll be delivered via c-section in late September.  Otherwise, we’re not sure what will happen.  The plans for Powerball’s exit are shaped by uncertainty and a series of what-ifs that deserve their own post.
  • However and whenever Powerball comes out, we’re woefully unprepared for their  arrival.  When one of the e-mail lists that I use to remind myself that I’m pregnant cheerfully announced, “50 days left!” I felt genuine panic.  The baby clothes are still in the boxes they’ve been in for the past 2.5 years, the crib is filled with unfolded blankets, suggestions of a packed hospital bag are laughable.
  • Today marks six weeks until October 5th.
  • I am excited, then impatient, then distracted, then overwhelmed.  Then a small limb kicks and I’m excited again.

 

 

First time, second time.

Bingo’s conception and gestation were so well-documented here that I sometimes go back to the archives to remember what it was like.

Pregnancy with Powerball feels different, both than what I remember and what I wrote.

It feels less full of naivety.  With Bingo I wasn’t afraid of birth, I was enamored by newborns, and I was confident in my (then non-existent) parenting abilities.

Now, I’m nervous.  Less of pregnancy, but more of what comes after.  I think back to crashing hormones, my leaking body, sleep deprivation, the giant reality check of being responsible for a very small and wobbly-necked person.  I’m more aware of what a literal and figurative shit show parenting can be, and of my own many, many shortcomings.  I’m not totally convinced that having another child is a good idea.

It also feels less consuming.  I have photos of my first weeks of pregnancy, vivid memories of Bingo’s early kicks, recollections of a carefully organized registry.  I always knew how many weeks pregnant I was, and how Bingo’s size compared to that of local produce.

Now, Powerball’s kicks feel more like background noise.  I feel them with my belly pressed into the kitchen counter, as I try to catch up on dishes and against Bingo’s raging body as she copes with the indignity of bedtime, bread cut at the wrong angle, or a second dessert denied.  In a life much more stress-filled than it was in 2013, weeks fly by at a terrifying pace.  I don’t know how eight turned to twelve turned to twenty turned to thirty-two.  I rely on apps downloaded on to my phone and weekly e-mails to tell me how pregnant I am and how large Powerball has become.  I don’t read the articles.

It feels more complicated.  We were (logistically) prepared for Bingo’s arrival: we had a spare room to convert into a beautiful nursery, organized finances, neatly folded tiny clothes.

Now, it feels like we don’t have quite enough of anything: space, money, time, energy.  Powerball doesn’t get their own nursery, just a converted corner of our bedroom.  We shuffle furniture around our room to try to make space but, realistically, there isn’t a lot.  We decide not to paint because we don’t have the time or energy to do it ourselves, or the spare cash to pay somebody else.  We tell ourselves that beige is a fine colour for a baby’s room (corner).  We assemble the crib while allowing cartoons to parent our already here child for a few hours, then fill it with the clothes that we don’t have time to sort and fold.  I quietly panic about where we will find time when Powerball actually arrives.

It feels unfair to Powerball, really, being shortchanged from the point of conception onward because of a parent (or parents– I think Sea’s experience echos mine in many ways) who is more cynical and more distracted the second time around.  This, for instance, was meant to be the prologue to a cheerful third trimester pregnancy update* and not a post on Powerball’s parent’s (parents’) shortcomings.  So I’m sorry, Powerball.  Here’s the little I can offer you in return:

You will have parents who know something this time.  We know how to hold you and have it feel natural.  We know that babies need to sleep, and that we shouldn’t try to keep you awake for as long as possible just because of your (presumably) cute face.  I know that the hormone crash will recede and that parenting you won’t seem like the terrible mistake that it probably will in the week after your birth.

You will have parents who know what’s coming.  I know, I’ve complained more than once about that future: diapers, sleep regressions, cries that resonate in my chest.  But I can also see all of the amazing things that will come.  When I looked at your big sister for the first time, I mostly saw a stranger.  I panicked that I wouldn’t be able to pick her from a lineup of babies if asked.  Now I look back at photos of her first days and it actually takes my breath away.  I see her in that red faced, pointy headed newborn: her facial expressions, the shape of her fingers and toes, her eyes.  I feel like I’ll be able to look at you and really see you: not as a stranger, not as a generic newborn, but as the first incarnation of yourself.

You will have an amazing big sister.  We finally told Bingo about you, when she announced that she was going to be a big sister because she was growing a baby in her tummy.  We were worried– whenever we asked if she wanted a baby brother or sister she would huff, cross her arms and respond with an unequivocal “NO”– but she’s thrilled.  She hugs you, promises to share her blueberries, and regularly asks when you will come out of my “you-tur-us”.  She tells me to be careful and gentle with you, and only kicks you occasionally.

So it’s true, this pregnancy won’t be carefully documented.  That the excitement will be tinged with both experience and uncertainty.  And, when you are born, you’ll have a different family than the one your sister was born into almost three years ago.  You’ll never experience life as an only child.  You won’t get to be the first, longed for, grandchild.  You won’t meet the fresh-faced people that your parents once were (seriously, we looked so young).  Your room corner will be painted beige.  You probably won’t have a baby book.  But for all of the things that you won’t have, or will have less of, there’s some advantage to being the second act.  You’ll be coming into a family that has more experience, more toys, more people, more perspective: a family that’s ready to meet you, even if we aren’t totally prepared.

*next post, I swear.

 

Diblings.

As you all know from avidly reading my blog, Bingo was conceived with the aid of an anonymous donor: the same one we used to conceive the still-cooking Powerball.  The donor is identity release– when Bingo is eighteen she can choose (or not) to find out his name and last known contact information– but for now he’s a man of mystery.

What I haven’t mentioned before is that we do know a small something about the other side of Bingo’s genetics. Continue reading

#bumpday

I usually bike to work, even/especially when I’m pregnant.  Recently though, a stolen bike and a heatwave have landed me on the subway more often than not.  And as I stand, crammed in a too-hot subway car, belly jolting and jiggling between stations, I’m reminded that I’ll never be the right kind of pregnant.

Nobody looks in my direction, let alone offers me a seat. People accidentally elbow my belly as they get off the subway, but never ask when I’m due. I don’t have a round belly, fashionably covered by a cute maternity shirt. People who know me offer an occasional congratulations, cautious in case they’re wrong, but that’s it.  The only comment from a stranger came a couple of weeks ago, when a homeless man gestured at my stomach and announced, “It’s a boy!”  I still frequently get mistaken for being a boy.  Nobody reaches out to touch the bump.

I get it.  I’ll never be cute pregnant.  I’m too fat, too masculine, too awkward in this changing body.  My belly is long, stretched from chest to pelvis.  I wear the same rotation of five oversized polo shirts, and spend most of my day hitching up the maternity pants that are somehow always falling down.

I’m a different kind of pregnant, and that’s okay.

The type of pregnant I am is strong.  I bike, hoist my daughter on to my shoulders, carry my own groceries.

The type of pregnant I am is calm.  Mostly.  I still worry about kick counts, iron levels, the impending reality of having to get a baby from inside to out.  Of course I do.  But I also don’t question everything I eat, worry about every twinge, or Google worst case scenarios.  I trust that my body is doing what it’s supposed to.

The type of pregnant I am is healthy. I’ve grown one strong person and am, as far as anybody can tell, growing another. I read about first trimester sickness, second trimester exhaustion, third trimester aches with interest but not much understanding.  I’ve made it through sixteen months of pregnancies almost vomit-free. I feel mostly the same as I did seven months ago.  I’m grateful beyond measure for my body’s ability to conceive and gestate with relative ease.

Even if the type of pregnant I am was none of these things, it would still be okay.  Good, even.

Today I’m done comparing my bump to an imagined one that (I’m fairly sure) doesn’t  exist.  I’m recognizing that I’m not the only self-conscious pregnant person out there, or the only one to feel far from the ideal.  I’m probably not even the only one on the subway car.  I’m accepting that every body, every bump, every pregnancy is its own. I’m taking the first intentional picture of this pregnancy, and celebrating my body exactly as it is.

Happy #bumpday, everybody.