This morning, on the first day of the Jewish new year, we welcomed Powerball into the world after a fast and intense VBAC.
More soon, but for now- look at all of that hair!
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.
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
Right now, Sea is sitting on the other side of the couch. A moment ago, she turned to me and said, “Time is just whipping by… have you noticed?” And I have. In my mind, it’s the beginning of August and I’m just coming back from visiting my family. In reality, almost two months have passed since then.
The end of the summer was filled with all of those things that do make time whip by: more family visits, stressful weeks at work, time with friends. Then there were the things unique to this summer: ultrasounds, putting together a nursery, having our baby shower, taking a prenatal course. And in between all of these things, there somehow weren’t enough quiet evenings to blog about any of them.
Let’s start with the baby shower.
The baby shower happened a couple of weeks ago, though we had spent months preparing for it. Early preparations had looked a lot like Googling, “how many people to invite to a baby shower” or “should you invite neighbours to your shower”. In truth, a group of our closest friends were doing most of the work– surreptitiously asking us how we felt about particular games or color schemes while remaining otherwise suspiciously quiet. As the date approached, preparations became slightly (significantly) more frantic. Though we weren’t organizing the shower, it was taking place in our home, and there’s nothing like inviting 30 or so people over to make you realize how much cat hair has accumulated under and on every piece of furniture you own. As we worked to conquer the dust bunnies, we also had to face another reality: both of our mothers would be coming into town for the shower. 10+ years into my relationship with Sea, this would be the first meeting of the parents.
Our parents arrived a couple of days before the shower. The introduction was difficult, quickly going from cordial to rocky. Though the details are best saved for their own post, they resulted in my mother walking out in tears three hours before the shower. Which consequently led to me sitting in our bedroom in tears three hours before the shower. Luckily our friends arrived soon after, with enough food to feed three times the number of people invited, carefully crafted tissue paper pom poms, and the most beautiful handmade felt Bingo bunting.
More importantly, our friends brought energy, good humour and much needed distraction. Hearing them laughing and moving furniture downstairs, I wiped up my hormone/family fueled tears and went to help with the final preparations. By the time our guests arrived, my mother had reappeared (pretending that nothing had happened) and our house had been totally transformed. Streamers and brightly colored balloons hung everywhere, music was playing, and the table was covered in carefully prepared food. The party was on.
Sea and I both kind of hate traditonal baby shower games (poking at chocolate melted into diapers, guessing at the pregnant person’s circumference…), and our friends had thankfully respected our veto. So most of the shower felt a lot like a fantastic but non-baby related party: good friends crowded into a too small space, constant conversation, excitement every time somebody else walked through the door. I tried to talk to talk to as many people as I could, while attempting not to trip over the surprising number of toddlers and children who had somehow appeared in our usually child-free home. Only two games had been allowed: a “guess the baby photo” game, where guests had to match the posted baby photos to the adults in attendance (suprisingly challenging) and baby shower bingo. As I’m sure you can guess, the latter was permitted only because the name fit.
Sea and I unwrapped a shocking number of gifts: some from our registry, some not, all carefully chosen and much appreciated. My mother sat next to us during the unwrapping, commenting on which gifts she considered either particularly good or entirely unneccessary, while Sea and I tried to “ooh” and “ahh” at a loud enough volume to keep her comments muffled.
The strangest gifts? Probably the stuffed seagull or the surprising number of New Jersey themed things (onesies, books) from multiple people. Please note: we do not live in or near New Jersey. The most treasured gift? A gorgeous quilt, hand embroidered by Sea’s grandmother.
Much like the end of the summer, the baby shower whipped by. Almost as soon as it had started, it seemed, people were waving goodbye and wishing us luck. As the last few guests left, Sea and I escaped up to Bingo’s room with the friends who had organized the shower. I don’t remember how long we stayed in the room or what we talked about, but I do remember a lot of high fives. Before we left, our tallest friend took the beautiful handmade felt Bingo bunting and hung it above the crib.
Since the visit to my family began, I’ve been inundated with a steady stream of advice. Most of this has come from my mother, with the occasional contribution from my father (who has much less to say, despite having raised more than twice the number of children). This advice has included:
-When on a plane, a pillow should be held in front of your belly at all times. It’s like an airbag.
-Don’t lift things. Anything. That pillow is too heavy.
-Don’t eat chips. They’ll cause birth defects.
-Home births are unsafe. You need to go to the hospital the second your water breaks, or else you will become infected.
-Are you sure I can’t be present at the birth? Are you sure? Lots of people have their parents present.
-Your child is always a child.
Perhaps most persistently, however, she has been questioning me about whether we plan to breastfeed or formula feed Bingo. I’ve refused to answer. Continue reading
Today a near stranger patted my belly and said, “Well, you’re looking healthy, aren’t you?”
In other news, my mother thinks our cats are going to smother the baby.
Expect an increase in posts as I spend the next two weeks visiting with my family.
Within minutes of stepping off the plane, I had been barraged with advice and concern (“Don’t lift that bag!”, “Did the flight attendants give you a pillow to hold over your stomach?”). Soon after, my mother handed me a list of suggested/approved names.
Yes, an actual list. The names are written in single file on one side of the lined paper. On the other side she’s begun a list– titled RIP– of songs to be played at her funeral.
A couple of weeks ago, Sea and I were at a friend’s birthday party when a friend asked, “Are you two doing anything for Mother’s Day?”
I didn’t reply, I didn’t even turn to look at the friend. Actually, I assumed she was talking to somebody else. Why would we be doing something for Mother’s Day? After an uncomfortable pause, I realized that nobody else was answering and that the question had been directed at us. “Uh, no.”
The truth is, I don’t feel like a mother. Not yet, anyways. I hadn’t even thought about Mother’s Day, beyond the card I had bought– still sitting at the bottom of my bag– to send to my own mother.
After Sea and I left the party, we briefly worried aloud about whether we were supposed to do something for each other. And in a family of two not-yet mothers, who was the one responsible for making the other breakfast? We quickly agreed that neither of us would do anything for the other on Mother’s Day. Not this year, not next year, not until Bingo comes home with fingerpainted cards and takes on responsibility for the holiday.
Then, the day before Mother’s Day, the flowers arrived: an elaborate bouquet in a wide glass vase. The card read, “To the mothers to be. Lots of love.”* It was from my mother.
I still didn’t feel like a mother. I felt appreciation for my mother’s thoughtfulness, guilt for the card still sitting at the bottom of my bag, and something else. Anticipation, maybe? Excitement? Not like a mother, but maybe like one of two mothers-to-be.
*I would later find out that the original message had been much longer, containing metaphors about passing on the torch and other similar sentiments. It had been edited (whether for length or content, I don’t know) by the florist.
The idea originated in the narrow aisle between the racks of men’s long sleeve knits and children’s clothing. I’d been Pinteresting creative pregnancy announcement ideas for months and the ones toward which I always gravitated were the various incarnations of the shoe lineup. If you’re half as obsessive as I am about all things baby, you’ve seen the straight version: dad’s loafers, mom’s heels, and a gender-appropriate pair of pastel baby booties. I couldn’t exactly justify spending $22 on genuine baby Chucks for a fetus, but nonetheless I eagerly imagined staging a queer take on the aforementioned announcement with a lineup of Converse.
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