A few of my favorite things, Part I

Our friends and family have been so incredibly generous, sending gifts in a steady stream. I’ll give you a tour of the nursery when it’s finished, but for now, here are a few of my favorite things. Just a few of them!

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The Bullet Point Blog Post

I read an interesting article recently about how the art of prosaic communication is giving way to the trendy juggernaut of list making. The author writes,

In the not too distant future, all human interactions, written or otherwise, might well be conducted in the form of lists—for ease of assimilation, for catchiness, for optimal snap. I imagined myself, some decades from now, nervously perched on the papered leatherette of an examination bed, and my doctor directing her sad, humane eyes at me a moment before clearing her throat and saying, “Top Five Signs You Probably Have Pancreatic Cancer.”

Today, friends, all I have for you is a list. We are scrambling to finish unpacking and nesting, clamoring to make new friends in a new city, and scouring the city for fancy restaurants, crowded shops with precious, breakable things, and other quiet spaces we won’t inhabit for the considerable future. And in so doing, your plucky correspondent has gone silent and needs to fill you in on a few details.

1. Bean is growing like a champ. We had an ultrasound a few weeks ago, and she measured 4 days ahead. She’s a very active baby, especially in the early morning and late evening.  She loves the accordion. She is a fan of Patty Griffin, Beirut, Andrew Bird, and not too keen on My Morning Jacket. She likes ice cream and brownies. She is neutral on brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

2. R is the cutest prego ever. Hands down. Here is a  glimpse of her magnificent form.

Belly shot

3. We were given another lovely baby shower. I will post photos soon. Sadly, I took only two! I was so busy talking with folks that I forgot to take pictures. I’ll try to paint a picture with words. R’s aunts and cousins hosted along with a family friend. The party was at our cousin’s house, a large, brightly painted Victorian with a wrap around porch. We walked up to the house and found white paper lanterns strung over long wooden tables topped with flowers. It was so festive and sweet. There was a ton of wonderful food, enjoyed by dozens of wonderful people. Our friends and family were so generous and thoughtful. We opened gifts for an hour and a half.  We were honored and humbled to have so many loving people there to celebrate our baby girl.

4. We have a new doctor, for the fourth time in this pregnancy. We are fast becoming OB/GYN connoisseurs. We really liked Dr. K, but getting to her office and finding parking was stressful, and we weren’t able to preregister and tour the labor and delivery unit at the hospital where she delivers because it was consistently overbooked and understaffed, which really didn’t bode well. So, we decided to change providers at 35 weeks. It was a small ordeal but on Friday we met our new doctor and she was great. Parking, scheduling, preregistering were a cinch and we all feel a lot better.

5. I am still grappling with grief over our Peanut, and thinking of ways to bring a little resolution to it. I don’t expect it to go away, but I hope to gain some closure after the delivery. We are planning to bring  Peanut’s body and both placentas home from the hospital, and bury them together at my mother in law’s place, where there is a lot of land and plenty of room for a new tree to grow. My cousin sent a list of native trees we could choose, and it’s nice to think about the type of tree that suits Peanut.

6. The nursery is coming together. It’s been so fun to put it all together, and to add in hand-me-downs and homemade gifts. It makes me so happy to look in her room and imagine her playing there.

7. We met with our new Indiana attorney and were pretty bummed to learn we won’t be able to claim the $13,000 adoption tax credit we’d been counting on. Note to gayby makers everywhere: if you live in a state that allows second-parent adoptions and you plan to petition for it, you might want to delay getting legally married until after the adoption is finalized. If you get legally married before the adoption, the IRS will treat it as a step-parent adoption (which are ineligible for the adoption tax credit) because the IRS recognizes same-sex marriages from any state even if it’s not the parents’ current state of residence. I’m thinking about visiting the IRS taxpayer advocate service…will let you know how that shakes out.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print in list form. Next on the docket: pictures of my favorite baby things!

Lamaze Class

It should be noted that we fly by the seat of our pants and are overly optimistic about the amount of time we have to complete a task, whether it’s driving across town to meet friends for dinner, or, say, enrolling in childbirth classes. On Sunday we realized it’s probably time to sign up for classes. The only set of classes that ends before Bean’s due date started Monday. Whoopsies. Luckily there was room in the class, and as a bonus,  I only had one day to dread the awkward stares and the Sisters Question.

We arrived at the posh hospital ON TIME Monday night. We were cheerfully greeted by Erin, the child birth educator, lactation consultant, and certified doula who will teach our class each Monday for six weeks. There were two other couples sitting in the waiting area. I braced myself. But no one had a chance to ask the Sisters Question.  After signing us in, Erin announced we had a small class of three couples and then led us into the classroom. She left the room while the six of us interviewed each other with a set of get-to-know-you questions. The other couples were really friendly, and we shared a palpable nervous energy one would expect from first time expectant parents. Each couple introduced another to Erin, and then we got started.

The first class focused mostly on what to expect during the third trimester, and how childbirth classes would help us prepare for labor and delivery. We watched animated videos about lightening and fetal positions. We watched a few videos of women managing labor with breathing and position changes. Then we practiced some relaxation techniques, and that’s about the point at which I lost my composure. Every time we talk about labor and delivery, my (apparently suppressed) grief over Peanut resurfaces. I guess that the grief is two-fold. One part of it is being faced with the reality that R will deliver one live infant when we expected, for 14 weeks, to deliver two. The other part is knowing that Peanut will be separated from us at the birth. Her body will be delivered after Bean’s, along with the two placentas.

At our last doctor’s visit I realized that Peanut’s body would be unceremoniously thrown in the trash with the placentas, unbeknownst to most of the attendant staff. I can’t tolerate that idea. So we’ve decided to bring the placentas home with us.  We will bury them and plant a tree over the site, so we’ll always have a place to visit Peanut and part of her can grow and thrive alongside Bean.

How did we get here?

If you’d kidnapped me and stuffed me in a burlap sack and tossed me in the trunk of your car (which, btw, I now know is much more difficult than it looks on TV) I might feel only slightly more bewildered about how the last few months transpired. I’m writing from the kitchen of my apartment in Indiana. I repeat: Indiana. I haven’t lived in the Midwest or the Midsouth (as we like to call our natal homeland) in about 15 years. I wasn’t sure I’d ever come back. And yet, here I am.

A few observations. The thunderstorms are at once exhilarating and terrifying. On my first night here the skies roared and the windows rattled and I felt sure the large oak tree in the yard was going to fall and kill me while I slept. The people are friendly. In the first week I lived here, so many people made eye contact and smiled that I actually stopped to check my reflection in a store window, convinced I had something on my face. The face-checking was a subconscious reaction, and I didn’t even understand why I’d done it until several minutes later. See, in Seattle, people work really really hard to avoid eye contact. Pacific northwesterners go about our business unobtrusively, and expect others to do the same. There are no shared moments with strangers–we’re all too busy checking our smartphones or listening to NPR on our iPods. So when perfect strangers made willful eye contact and smiled, I assumed I had food on my face.

The bus “schedule” is aspirational at best. One need not look up the time table and plan accordingly. One simply needs to bring a large cup of coffee and stand at the bus stop and wait happily for the bus to arrive in its own good time. The three-stop People Mover at my new university is the most confusing form of mass transit I’ve ever used. There are two unlabeled trains that an announcer calls “Train 1” or “Train 2” but on the real time map Train 1 and Train 2 are color coded and labeled “North” and “South” which is pretty confusing since they are often headed in the same direction. I’ve yet to master this thing.

Stop lights and stop signs are a mere suggestion,  and signs that instruct drivers to yield to bikers at trail crossings are routinely ignored. On the upside, I can take two different bike trails to work, and I’m not forced to ride between moving traffic and parked cars the entire way. Moreover, the trails and roads are FLAT! And when Indiana makes a “rail to trail” system, it removes the train tracks (take note, Seattle!). No going over the handle bars for this girl. Once was enough, anyway.

Two mom families are exotic. Yesterday we met our new doctor. Her administrative assistant gave R a blank stare when she said she was married and then provided my name and contact information. She couldn’t figure out what titular box to check under my name. She said she’d just check ‘life partner.’ R said, “How about checking ‘wife’? We are legally married.” The other admin assistant had to coax the first one to just try clicking the box. They were both apparently astounded that it worked. Once we got past that (and a few other) awkward moments, we met our new doctor.

Dr. K is a thin, athletic looking woman with fierce pale blue eyes and a calm, laid-back demeanor.  I like her bedside manner a lot. She’s very down to earth and open to questions and ideas. She’s also open to any birth plan, but warned us that the more specific the birth plan, the more likely the birth won’t go according to plan. R and I agree that our only birth plan is healthy mom, healthy baby. Everything else will be decided as we go. We’ll take child birth classes soon, and we’ll read up on ways to manage labor but we aren’t going to cling to one approach to this. We’ve never done it before, and we simply don’t know what to expect from the labor itself or from our reactions to it. So we don’t want to set ourselves up for failure or feelings of disappointment in how we managed the labor and delivery. We explained this to Dr. K and she said that she thinks this is the best approach for first time moms.

We do know we want to breastfeed the baby, and we want to spend the first hour together as a family without medical interventions (unless mom or baby are in distress). I didn’t even have to say that, because Dr. K beat me to the punch. She asked if we plan to breast or bottle feed, and said she prefers her breastfeeding patients are undressed and ready for skin to skin contact with the baby for the first hour of life which is exactly what we wanted. As long as Bean is crying and strong, Dr. K will hand her right to us the second she emerges. No bath, no futzing with her. Just time with moms. That sounds lovely.

R will be 31 weeks on Monday. Our baby girl is thriving in utero. She’s measuring 4 days ahead, and favors her left foot. She wouldn’t let go of it so we couldn’t get a good look at her little face at yesterday’s ultrasound. The sonographer was kind to try to give us a 3-d look at Bean but she wasn’t very cooperative. She just wanted to eat her toes. We did get to see her practicing breathing, grasping her toes, and opening and closing her mouth. It was pretty spectacular.


Marching Forward

I just finished watching The March, a PBS special commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. As I watched,  inspired, I wondered whether I would have been one of the white faces in that crowd. Or, more importantly, would I have been one of the white allies organizing the march? Would I have worked 18 hour days for a cause that put me harm’s way? I’d like to think so. But it’s hard to be sure.  I can only evaluate what I’m doing now. What kind of risks I’m taking, or not taking.

This internal monologue reminded me of another I had just this morning. I was thinking about my career, which demands long hours, international travel, and some risk to my health and safety. The risks are relatively minor, but weigh on my mind nonetheless. Lately I’ve been wondering how I will balance my career against the important work of motherhood and what sacrifices I will need to make. I’ve defaulted to the assumption that my work will be sacrificed for the sake of my daughter. But The March gave me new perspective.  When I saw the faces of mothers and fathers, drenched in sweat, marching forward against oppression at considerable personal cost I understood that my default assumption may be wrong. Perhaps the work of motherhood is to continue working for what I believe is just and right, even when it is tiring and somewhat risky.

I don’t delude myself that my work wouldn’t go on without me. Nor do I believe it’s equivalent to the work of Dr. King and others who sacrificed their lives for the cause of justice. But I do believe I live a life of unearned privilege that I must harness for the greater good, even when the road is long and tiring and difficult and a little bit perilous. And it’s okay if my daughter sees me stumble along the way, or struggle to balance my roles as mother and researcher and humanitarian, because she’ll be better prepared for her own journey. And she’ll know what it takes to keep marching.


It’s a Girl! (And what that means)

Hi! Thanks for bearing with me during my long silence while I labored and birthed the “baby” I’ve been cooking for the last five years. Now that my dissertation is in the digital hands of the Reading Committee, I have a few spare moments. I’m chock full of things to say, but one post has been brewing longer than most, so I’ll start there.

Peanut’s health crisis and death led to a lot of medical intervention that revealed the sex of our babies many weeks ago. I’ll be the first to admit I was elated to learn both our babies were girls. My mind’s eye saw the backs of two toddlers running on the beach in linen dresses with criss crossed straps across their backs and little bloomers cinched atop chubby thighs. I swooned at the mere thought of them. Sisters! Daughters! Swoon!

R’s Nana would be thrilled to hear we were not expecting boys. We she first heard we intended to have children, she clucked her teeth and told us she hoped we wouldn’t have boys because “Boys need a father.” I reminded her that we wouldn’t have much choice in the matter, but she was undeterred. Opinion delivered, we moved on to a new topic. But I suppose I never really moved on. My internalization of that admonishment contributed to my relief upon hearing the news that both babies were female. At least our inevitable parenting fumbles wouldn’t be chalked up to incongruence between sex chromosomes. But I was also just plain excited to have girls.

My relief and excitement were soon replaced by a defensive anxiety. Shortly after learning the babies’ sex, we began entertaining questions about it. Everyone and his mother wanted to know if we were going to find out the sex. I thought they’d all want to know how we did it! But no, all curiosity honed in on our baby’s genitals. It was truly unexpected. I was so busy preparing to rebuff unwanted inquiries into the nuts and bolts of the conception that I failed to prepare for the number one question — Boy or girl?  We made the rookie mistake of saying we knew the sex, but wanted to keep it a secret until the birth.  NB to all expectant families: if you are going to find out the sex but don’t want to reveal it, pretend you will be surprised at the birth. Otherwise, you will be needled to death by people who claim that they cannot possibly buy something/select a shower cake/knit a sweater without knowing the sex of your baby. And I mean people are out for blood.

We caved pretty quickly. It just wasn’t worth the trouble, and at the time we were still reeling from Peanut’s death, which made us a bit more pliable. Less resistant to pressure from the outside. I made a little sign that said “It’s a girl! But she has a serious allergy to pink.” My own small protest against the wider world’s effort to define my child by her chromosomes and (likely) corresponding genitalia.

It was just the beginning. Later I would argue with my mother in the Goodwill over a $2 article of clothing that I deemed too pink.  I would crumble whilst trying to register for baby items at Target, where I spotted “his and hers” toilet seats (photographic evidence below). I would catch myself wondering if a particular stroller was too boyish for a girl child. I was baited, reeled in, and tossed into the bucket with all the other new parents, floundering with less and less vigor as we resigned ourselves to our collective fate. My cousins told me it was inevitable. Fighting pink and princess was a losing battle.

Magical Moments My Ass.

Magical Moments My Ass.

And then I stumbled across this post by a friend and I realized the princess game is limited only by the lack of imagination I bring to it. My daughter’s princess can be strong, fast, and cunning. She can also be kind and thoughtful. She need not wear pink, but she needn’t be afraid to wear it either.

21 weeks

Hello there-

I’ve got less than five minutes to write this post so I’ll be brief. Yesterday we walked into the MICC and the familiar rapid heart rate-sweaty palms-nausea trio returned. We were called back by a chipper sonographer and as she placed the probe on R’s abdomen we could see Bean’s heart pumping away. Sweet relief! One hurdle cleared. I sat on the edge of my seat while the sonographer measured Bean’s head, chest, and abdomen. She was very cheerful and eager to explain all the measurements and point out various little organs and bones and facial features.

Bean measures perfectly for her gestational age, has all her organs and limbs, and a healthy, fully formed heart that was beating strong. We were relieved, and also a bit shocked. We are so used to leaving the doctor’s office (whether the RE or the OB/GYN) with bad news that we immediately defaulted to our usual post-doctor visit routine (gorging on Indian food). Instead of sitting quietly, we raised our mango lassis in a toast. Our baby is healthy and strong. Her mommas, too.

Here are her glamour shots.

blowing kisses

blowing kisses

Shaking her fists

Shaking her fists