anxiety, gratitude, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

it’s a baby!

Yesterday was an amazing day because I heard the baby’s heartbeat at 156 beats per minute, like a determined underwater creature saying, “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here!”

Today was an amazing day because I saw the baby for the first time in its identifiable baby shape, with a cute little profile and spindly limbs, reclining in the lap of luxury. I swear those legs are crossed.

All my chattering anxieties are calm tonight.

xo

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Buddhism, family, gratitude, homebirth, meditation, outdoors, parenthood, pregnancy, privacy, single mom by choice, SMC, writing

13 weeks

Hi guys,

I had the best weekend. Now I’m sitting on the couch listening to the wind in the leaves outside on this stormy evening, woke up a couple of hours ago from a 3.5 hour nap and ate a big bowl of pasta. Watched a West Wing episode in which (spoiler alert) Matt Santos won the California primary, now I’m listening to Lou Reed’s Take a Walk on the Wild Side.

Started off with my beloved restorative yoga class which is geniusly timed at 6:30pm on Fridays and helps me let go of the work week and melt into a puddle (according to my teacher V, one class can make up for four hours of sleep). Dear friend C stopped by with amazing treats from Clement Street and we drank tea and caught up on the craziness of life–love it when friends stop by (please do).

On Saturday, I got up early and baked, picked up my laundry, and headed to prenatal yoga. It was only my second time attending and the teacher Jane knows my name and calls out adjustments to protect my lower back (which has not been doing great–I’m going to try swimming). I learn so much from the intros and what women at 26 weeks and 34 weeks and 19 weeks report is going on with their bodies, and the energy in the room is intense, pregnant mamas and dozens of gestating babies. We picture the babies, we connect with them. Namaste, the lights within me bow to the lights within you.

My new friend J is so sweet, it’s so instantly bonding to share the timing of our pregnancies, and I’m not just saying it because she started reading my blog! She brought her friend N, also on a similar schedule, also working with Em as her midwife, and we trekked together afterward to a potluck lunch of the SF Homebirth Collective.

We walked in, and there’s our yoga teacher Jane, midwife Bee, midwife Em, and it’s like I know everyone and am already showing up with two friends. All this has happened just over the last 2-3 weeks–I’m in a new club. After catching up with those three, we predictably camped out by the buffet and grazed. N tells me that Em will start having me keep a food journal so I am consciously enjoying all the bad stuff I’m craving (mostly lots of sugar, carbs, and dairy) while no one is monitoring me. (By the way, when I said Em strives for smaller babies I meant just not overly big babies, of which there seems to be a growing number.)

After being so strongly identified as a Single Mom by Choice and attending SMC meetings in SF, it felt really strange to have men around. These were doting dads, sensitive guys, the kind my sister would call “lesbros.” A whole different dynamic and sweet how the dads factored into the birth stories–the spiritual connection, the way the dad never really knows what’s going on until afterward but is in the birth tub doing his best to help. A different vibe, not alienating, just different, like oh yeah–men. I am part of these two niche groups–SMCs and homebirthers–maybe at some point I’ll meet someone who is part of both and meanwhile am just grateful for what I have in common with both communities.

We heard four different birth stories, each around 10-15 minutes each, each totally unique and beautiful and dramatic, each moving. MAN you just don’t know how it will go until it’s happening.  All the babies were there and doing great and the moms were teary and grateful. Their midwives smiled listening and filled in details when asked. One woman was in labor for three days, one had her water break at 34 weeks and had to be induced in the hospital, one knew she’d have a big baby and had choreographed and memorized the maneuvers for shoulder distocia–and then it actually happened and they did the dance as planned and got the 9.5-lb baby out in 1.5 minutes.

By the end of the lunch, I think J and N and I were saucer-eyed after hearing so much about pregnancy and then so much about birth and also seeing the babies and the kids and even an 11-year-old boy running around.  We needed naps. But I was off to the next thing.

First, though, J took my belly photo because my sister is out of town. I couldn’t crop my head without cutting out Sutro Tower, so fortunately a little cloud blew by and obscured my face as I strive to maintain online anonymity!

10/26/13, Twin Peaks:

10-27-2013 8-11-29 PM

If I had any photoshop skills I was going to make that a Halloween mask, but I do not. I did want to keep my happy smile.

Next, feeling very sleepy, I drove across the Bay Bridge to Oakland to see Thich Nhat Hanh. He is an 87-year-old Buddhist teacher from Vietnam who looks maybe 63 and has had an extremely long and influential career (e.g. he convinced MLK Jr. to come out against the Vietnam War)–he has over 800 monastics in Southern California and France, many of whom were on stage behind him. TNH (or Thay (pronounced Tie) which means Teacher in Vietnamese) is a diminutive, handsome man with a twinkle in his eye. He has a very soft voice which matches his humble demeanor and a Vietnamese accent that reminded me affectionately of Dr. Tran. Despite his quiet voice, his words were so powerful and poignant. At one point, I started crying and had to hold my breath to keep from inappropriately sobbing in the theater. It’s all OK. It’s all going to be OK. Some highlights:

  • Our mother, our father, and all our ancestors all live within every cell of our bodies. Even after your grandmother is gone, you can apologize to her for something you said that was unkind. You can let her know you’re sorry and you won’t say something unkind like that to anyone else. And you can see your grandmother smiling to you, forgiving you. In this way, you can transform the past.
  • TNH gestured to the sunflowers beside him on the stage and said that they were evidence of the kingdom of God, that the kingdom of God is available to us every moment of every day if we are mindful. What is the sunflower made of? Non-sunflower elements: the sunshine, the rain, the minerals in the soil. What are you made of? Non-you elements: your ancestors, your experiences, your community. And what is happiness made of? Non-happiness elements: and this includes suffering. You cannot know happiness until you know suffering.
  • And this is where I lost it, because it feels like all the imperfections and frustrations and challenges are part of the road to happiness–we’re all right on track. He said that experiencing suffering makes us more understanding and compassionate to others, and when we share our suffering it can ease the suffering of others. This is when I thought of my blog. It seemed to bring so much meaning to what I’m trying to do here.
  • TNH said that when we send our children to places where they are too sheltered from suffering, they won’t learn the elements of happiness. They won’t learn how to be understanding and compassionate. And this is the cause of so many conflicts and crimes…
  • He told a story of a German woman who came to one of his retreats. She was married to a business man, very happy at first but then he was away and working all the time. She needed surgery in the hospital and he couldn’t even be there. He said that he was planning, in two years, to transition out of his job and spend more time with their family. Then their son was in the hospital and he couldn’t be there again. Soon after that, the husband was killed in a car accident. A reminder to not lose sight of what’s really important–money and fame and prestige are not what bring happiness. Love and understanding bring happiness. Time with family.
  • He talked about how couples communicate and that you can’t love someone you don’t understand, “Darling, do I understand you well enough? If not, help me to understand you better.”
  • Another theme was consumption–think about what you eat. Think about what you read, watch, listen to. If you watch scary shows, it might exacerbate your fears. He said there are different seeds–and we should practice “selective watering.” On the way home, I listened to jazz instead of junky pop.

I ended this epic day at the beautiful new house of M and P and their two kids under two–they made an amazing dinner of which I certainly ate more than my share.  M can’t wait to give me all her mom and baby gear as soon as she’s done with it (last night it was post-pregnancy clothes and a boppy pillow), and I’m so grateful for her generosity and also those who heard my plea and offered me maternity clothes, thank you A and L and D!

Today I had no plans, a luxurious gift. Big week to come: my first midwife checkup is on Tuesday.

Grow, baby, grow!

Lots of love and Happy Halloween to you xo

family, gratitude, homebirth, outdoors, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

12 weeks

Today my sister and I went on a hike through the Presidio, with a cold wind blowing in from the ocean adding a chill to the sunny and previously warm afternoon. I was glad I brought my fleece. She remembered that Off the Grid takes place on Sundays in the Presidio–dozens of food trucks pull up all around a green space overlooking the water and it’s a huge picnic with a DJ, tiny kids playing everywhere, and guys in ties pulling little wagons full of bloody marys, champagne, and buckets of beer. What’s not to love?

I started with lemon ricotta doughnuts and then moved on to fancy pork nachos that made my belly happy. Then we took this week’s belly shot (yes, I seem to time this after eating) with the festivities in the background. I know, it looks big–I swear all I do is relax for the photo. It also kind of inflates throughout the day. Goal is to cover this with cardigans and jackets at the office for two more weeks at least.

12 weeks: Presidio Off the Grid (10/20/13)

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I ran into a guy friend on the street whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, and when I told him I was pg he said, “I was going to ask! I mean, I wasn’t going to ask, but I was wondering.” My first indicator that other people can see it and internally speculate.

So, in totally surprising news, I met the second midwife and loved her even more than the first one. The fact is that you don’t know what you don’t know–by meeting the second one, we’ll call her Em, I learned about many aspects of her practice that I didn’t know were possible. I also felt overall that she was authoritative, professional, and very confident. Not necessarily the bear hug Earth Mama, but warm and practical and…almost fierce. Fiercely in love with what she does, and her opportunity to help empower women to trust themselves and their bodies and open themselves up to this life-changing experience. Here are some things I learned about her practice:

  • She has “caught” over 1100 babies in 28 years.
  • She’s a certified EMT in addition to licensed midwife (midwives here are certified by the Medical Board of CA)
  • Based on her experience, she believes that good fitness and nutrition during pregnancy lead to smaller babies and faster labor.
  • Due to this theory, she offers monthly cooking/nutrition classes, monthly hikes, weekly Zumba classes, and twice-monthly new parent groups–all included in her fee. (And you get a fitbit!)
  • She has an office. I thought I was into the home visit but ultimately liked being in her office which had sunlight streaming in the window and a little exam room in the back. Legit.
  • She has a website full of helpful links, testimonials, and a personal blog (I learned that she just married her female partner of 19 years in July) and she handed me a folder with articles on home birth, stats from research studies, how to make pregnancy tea from scratch, and post cards with a montage of all the babies she helped be born in each calendar year.
  • She will set me up with an intake appointment at UCSF (less than 10 minutes away from my apt.), which is where I would transfer, so I’m in their systems and they will be prepared for me if I show up. (The vast majority of hospital transfers are first-timers who are failing to progress, exhausted, and/or wanting pain relief.)
  • She was delighted to hear that I’m across the street from a hospital, where we would go in case of emergency.
  • She supplies a list of volunteer doulas looking to boost their hours and experience. (The doula is important because she will arrive in the early hours of labor and stay focused on the mama the whole time.)

I walked out of there completely blown away. I learned so much. I had no intention of changing my mind when I walked in, but by the time I walked out I felt more secure with Em, like I will be in the most experienced and capable and confident hands. My decision was made. I slept on it for two nights, then I let them both know my decision.

Bee of course was gracious–after all, she had nudged me to talk to more than just her. Fortunately, she happens to be Em’s backup so chances are very good they will both attend the birth, and I’ll probably see them both at a homebirth collective potluck next Saturday. My initial appointment is a week from Tuesday and I can’t wait to get into the fitness and nutrition program after weeks of sitting on the couch and eating ice cream and crackers for dinner.

Yesterday, I went to my first prenatal yoga class with the famous Jane Austin. Wow, she deserves her glowing reputation. I went with my sweet new friend J whom I met last week at the homebirth workshop. She is 16 weeks and we both felt relatively self-conscious about being more flat-bellied than the others so it was easier going together. There must have been 50 women in the room with every size and shape belly possible. We went around the room saying our names, # of weeks, and how we’re feeling. I learned a lot just from that. Somehow Jane remembers everyone’s name. Also, the actual yoga kicked my ass whereas I thought it would seem too easy (I guess limiting my “exercise” to restorative yoga, which is basically shivasana 3 ways over 75 minutes, means that even gentle yoga is going to feel like an intense workout.) I went to a lovely Indian brunch with my SMC friends B and R and baby S, and came home to a heavy nap.

Today I canceled some plans to take it easy… feel like I’m overscheduling myself somewhat and I want to be sure I’m getting enough rest and have the energy to put my clothes away and run the dishwasher and feel at least semi-prepared for the week.

One more plea for maternity clothes. I got a huge bag from M (thank you!) and some jeans from E (thank you!) and my sister is shipping a box (thank you!). Who else is sitting on a goldmine? I went shopping and everything was just so stinking overpriced I didn’t buy a thing. I won’t ask again, just want to help make more room in your closet if possible 🙂

This definitely feels more real all the time. Baby is only the size of a lime but is supposedly dancing around in there gleefully in his or her sensory deprivation tank. I was telling my sister it must be one of the best times of life!

For me, too. xo

anxiety, family, gratitude, outdoors, pregnancy, running, single mom by choice, SMC

11 weeks (w/ belly shots!)

I decided that since I see my sister B every Sunday, I could have her document the belly once a week. Coincidentally, Sundays are my pregnancy “weekiversary.” I sort of thought last week would still be baseline, but when I saw the photo I couldn’t believe how much rounder it looked than it actually felt. (note; I had also just eaten a burrito.) So, I have no photos establishing a baseline. Believe me when I tell you that I had a flat belly up until somewhere around a week ago.

Week 10, Dolores Park (10/6/13):

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Since we happened to choose such a beautiful and iconic San Francisco location for the first photo, we decided to keep it up. My belly will be like Flat Stanley only more like Rounder and Rounder Me. Today, we were in North Beach to have lunch and play Scrabble with our dear 80-something friend H and B took this photo of my belly with Coit Tower in the background when we were walking back to the car.

Week 11, North Beach (10/13/13):

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I honestly didn’t think we’d be here already! I thought it would be weeks longer before there would be anything to see. It’s obviously very exciting and relieving to have emerging evidence that this is real and progressing. (And if anyone is holding on to maternity clothes waiting for the right time to send them my way, the right time is now! Thanks!)

A few big developments this week besides working my patootie off:

  • If all goes well, I am planning to have a homebirth. Inspired by my sister D, who gave birth to both her daughters at home (ask 2yo S where she was born, and she says, “the dining room!”), and my mom who had three natural childbirths in the hospital with no drugs, I’ve read a ton over the past year and feel well-informed and excited about this choice. I know it’s not for everyone–homebirth is still, as my midwife-to-be called it, “the fringe of the fringe.” But it is where I personally will feel safest, and I feel strongly that that’s exactly where every woman should be.
  • I met my midwife-to-be, I’m going to call her Bee. She came to my house for our initial consultation and I totally fell in love with her as I knew I would. She came highly recommended from every source I checked, including trusted friends, and her Yelp reviews had me sobbing, (“we consider her part of our family,” “we can’t wait to get pregnant again so we can work with her again!”) She is warm and has one of those smiles like a ray of sunshine. She sat cross-legged on my sofa and answered my carefully-researched list of questions one by one. She gave me a bear hug on the way out.
  • One of the coolest things about working with a midwife is that prenatal appointments are at home. She’ll come and check the same things an OB would, which takes maybe 5-15 mins, and then she stays for an hour and a half to chat about changes, nutrition, anxieties, and just to get to know each other and develop our relationship. I love that. For the birth, there will be two midwives, an apprentice, and probably also a doula, plus tbd family/friends/birth partners.
  • The amount of prenatal testing and ultrasounds I want to do is up to me, as is pretty much everything else. A big shift for me–the midwife presents the options and lets you decide.
  • I wanted to hire her on the spot but she more or less insisted I talk to others as well so I am an informed customer. So, I have another appointment on Tuesday but I can’t imagine liking anyone as much as her. I have calls in to five others but no one is calling me back, which I take as a sign.
  • On Saturday, I went to the free monthly Homebirth 411 workshop at Natural Resources, led by Bee. There were five other women there with varying size bellies. We watched a video of a home water birth in Sausalito which totally blew my mind–it was very calm and after the baby was born she was very playful, splashing her arms and legs in the water and looking around. Incredible.
  • As I was putting my shoes on to leave, this other pregnant woman J started chatting with me. I felt Bee kind of hovering behind us and when I said, “OK nice to meet you, maybe see you around at prenatal yoga or something,” Bee interjected, “See, now this is where you exchange contact info.” We laughed and exchanged info, and I ended up giving J a ride home, and we talked a lot and made plans to go to prenatal yoga together. She’s 4 weeks ahead of me. I haven’t even hired Bee yet and she’s already helping me create community = awesome.

And, to end this post with a bang: I WENT RUNNING yesterday. For the first time since before the embryo transfer in mid-August. I had just received my latest Runner’s Magazine and thought–it’s time. I had no idea what it would feel like.

It felt SO good. At first, a little rusty and sore. Even though I haven’t given myself an injection in over two weeks, the injection sites behind my hips were painful with each step. But not so much that I couldn’t enjoy it a lot, I got in the groove, and by the time I stepped into a eucalyptus grove in the Presidio, I just kept saying, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” I’m surprised, actually, how fit I actually felt after being a slug for two months straight. I drank a lot of water and walked up most of the hills. But I was running again, in my same old running clothes, with a little teeny belly that no one would ever notice but me. I was completely wiped out the rest of the day. A little running will go a long way.

And that sums it up. Feeling tired, hungry, and so grateful.

Have a wonderful week, my dears xo

anxiety, Buddhism, dating, family, gratitude, meditation, outdoors, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC, writing

fearless

I came really close to writing this at 3:45am as I was in the living room having a middle-of-the-night snack for the third night in a row, but wisely decided to go back to bed. Now it’s 8:25am and my living room is blazing with sunlight. I’m sitting in my purple loveseat in the corner bay window with my back to the sun–it’s not high enough yet to shine onto the screen. I can see the shadow of myself on the sofa across from me, twirling its hair, thinking.

Yesterday, I went on a glorious hike at Lands End with my friend K. She told me about attending a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh recently and how she had multiple epiphanies while there, realizing that she never has to be scared again. Then, as soon as the wheels of her plane touched down at SFO, real life came rushing back with all the fears and stresses of real life, and rather than staying mindful she found herself spending hours and hours catching up on the final season of Breaking Bad.

This sparked so many important thoughts for me. In a flash, I sort of had the same epiphany–we’re stuck in the mire of fear-thinking so much of the time, and for what? Does worrying make anything turn out differently? Does anxiety give us more control? I awakened into that moment–to my own fears, to the warm, sunny air, to the vibrant colors of the ocean, the cypress trees, the families out walking, the parking lot closed due to the federal shutdown. As long as we are mindful, we can choose; and we can choose not to be afraid.

In the next moment, I started cataloging my fears and realized just how scared I am, all the time, about so many things. Absolute baseline is: is the baby OK? I just read in What to Expect that a common feeling in the third month of pregnancy is, “Still, a sense of unreality about the pregnancy (‘Is there really a baby in there?’).” Symptoms are real, and also maddeningly variable, but the interpretation of what’s actually going on inside is extremely virtual. After seeing the heartbeat, it’s much more real, confirmed by medical technology. Then, as time goes by between appointments, more and more uncertain. I find myself making bargains with whoever’s in charge, “If the baby is OK, I can deal with anything else.”

But let’s discuss the everything else, because it’s not insignificant. While it would be imprudent of me to write in detail here about work, let’s just say that in the past week it has become clear that my job will be exponentially more stressful and difficult between now and the end of the year. I really wish this wasn’t happening now, but it is, in my first trimester, and I have to power through. There is no partner to lean on or less stressful job to apply for, this is the deal, this was part of the bargain. I can do it, and I will, but it makes me tremble like a little girl with monsters in her closet.

And what about once the baby is here–what if I can’t do this job? What job will I do? Recently, new SMC mom C who runs her own business looked at me across a café table and told me how well set up I am with a corporate job and benefits. Yet what about the travel, stress, long hours? So many trade-offs. I dream of a more flexible work schedule but remind myself that I choose to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Of course I think I deserve a year off to figure it out… (Kickstarter campaign? Move to Canada?)

Then there’s the wildcard of–what if I never meet a dude? K just told me about a woman she met who was 4 months pregnant as an SMC when she met her husband on match.com. Now their kid is 14. I am taking exactly zero steps to solve this given its relative low priority at the moment, but it’s still big fear that somehow I will continuously make wrong turns and not bump into him for decades longer.

As I sat in the dark at 3:45am wrapped in a blanket, eating cereal, and looking at my laptop blinking on the coffee table, this post started to form in my mind, in the voice of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. A small, vulnerable, scared voice. I am scared of all this! And I didn’t even add in all the random terrible things that can happen, to me or those I love, that are the inevitable last stop of the fear spiral.

K and Thich Nhat Hanh remind me that everyone, EVERYONE, lives with these fears, about money, work, health matters, relationships, family issues, etc etc and if you don’t then it’s because the bottom has never dropped out, and it always drops out eventually. We all have a choice when we’re mindful and present. Am I OK, right now? OK. Call off the fight or flight. There is a lot to be grateful for.

With this post, I am manually shifting into feeling more like a strong woman who acknowledges her fears, her almost complete lack of control of outcomes, her commitment to doing her best with whatever arises, and her faith that things find a way to work out. And things are great today. I woke up 10 weeks pregnant. I put my hands in prayer to say THANK YOU for another beautiful day in my amazing apartment with a baby on the way and everything I need, including you, my dear readers and community of lovebugs.

May your Sunday be fearless. xo

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