I'm not sure how this happened. I look at her and I have moments where I still see her wearing two t-shirts and a tiny cap, wrapped in two blankets to keep her wee little four pound body warm. I also have moments where I see her stretched out in front of me, all 24 and a half inches of her, all fourteen pounds, and I am so proud and so enamored with who she's becoming.
She has three different octopus toys, and she is obsessed with each of them. Each of them evoke the biggest grins, the loudest squeals, and the most hysterical facial expressions. She hates to take naps during the day, but she is the most amazing nighttime baby. She makes tiny contented noises as she takes her bottle, and she wraps her hands tightly around our fingers as she drinks it. She loves her changing table, and to be naked is pure bliss. Bathtime is calm time, as she stares up at us with a look of sheer content.
There is nothing greater than the sweet smile she gives as she sees our faces peek over the edge of her crib in the morning, and when she is still half asleep and tucks her face into our shoulders for a quick snuggle, it's enough to make our hearts melt. She will turn towards any television showing a football game, and stare wide-eyed at what she sees.
She is beginning to roll around, and we have a tiny glimpse of what life will be like once she becomes mobile. She will not take a pacifier except in the most dire circumstances, and only occasionally we will catch her finding her thumb to nibble on. Her hair sticks straight up after she has a bath, her eyelashes are long, and her lips are still the same pouty ones she had when she entered our lives and changed them forever.
She is my baby, my heart, my world. She is everything I ever wanted, and all of the things I never knew I could have. She is a surprise every day, something new to behold, and each morning when I wake up to her, I know she is the reason I was put on this earth. I miss her when she's asleep, and I yearn for the moment she wakes up again so I can be with her again. I tell her everything, and she has quickly become my most trusted confidante.
She's it. She's all of it.
- Fell into the tub trying to hang towels on the towel rack. Cursed.
- Packed maternity clothes, pump parts, and baby clothes that no longer fit the chunk. Cried.
- Booked too many plans for the month. Collapsed.
- Played with Merrill. Smiled.
What's been going on around here lately, the long version:
- I love our shower. It was one of the things about our house that I loved most when we bought it, and one of the things we get the most compliments on. It's an enormous shower/tub combo, built into a raised section of our bathroom with tile surrounding it. It has an oversized overhead rain faucet. It's glorious. That being said, as much as I love it for the shower, I hate it for the tub. The huge shower I love so much translates into a tub I can't take a bubble bath in, because I can't touch the foot of it with my toes...so I slide. Since it's built into the raised section, it sits so low that you have to lean down into it...meaning it's a bitch to clean. Now I have one more reason to despise it...it's impossible to bathe a baby in. Not a good thing when you're trying to wrangle a slippery wiggly infant. Also not a good thing when you're leaning over the step, trying to hang towels on the towel rack...balance lost, momentum gained.
- I decided to pack up my maternity clothes and the various items from my pregnancy, such as vitamins, books, stretch mark creams, etc...as well as the clothes that don't fit Merrill any more (a shockingly large amount) and the breast pump & parts since that is no longer a part of our routine. It hit me with enormous force that I am no longer pregnant, that I have a three month old, and that she is a formula fed baby. I'm still trying to write about my feelings concerning breastfeeding and our experience with it, and I haven't been able to find the right words. For now, let's just say it still gets me. Packing up these items and putting them in the attic served as a glaring reminder that time is flying past me in leaps and bounds, and I'm simply standing with my mouth hanging open, watching it rush past me. Every time I look at Merrill's sweet face, and realize that she's not a tiny newborn any more - and beyond that, no longer being carried in my womb - I am amazed at how much the past three months have changed our lives, and I can't even remember life without her.
- We've been going nonstop lately, what with a family vacation, my mother-in-law visiting for a week, my husband's best friend from college surprising him with a weekend visit, a trip to Mississippi to visit my grandparents, my nephew's birthday party, one of my best friends from high school coming to town....the list goes on and on. I've overextended us physically and mentally, and Merrill has been a trooper...but it's time for us to slow down and relax.
- There's not a long version of this one. The short one speaks volumes.
We spent the weekend in Indiana with my husband's family, where Mer Mer got to meet her great-grandpa for the first time and where we enjoyed time spent in the hot tub, glasses of wine for me and beers for him...while family members took turns passing Mer around like a football. Now that we're home, she's very loudly insistent that she be held constantly, in keeping with the past few days - which makes things like laundry, lunch, and a shower near impossible.
With this cuteness as your playmate, who needs food or cleanliness?
You're going to be six weeks old tomorrow - which hardly seems possible - and I want to make sure I'm taking note of every little thing I can right now, because I want to be able to remember each tiny detail and milestone.
I stare at you for hours on end, watching you purse your lips as though you're concentrating intently. I capture the tiny smiles that cross your face, and hope they are in reaction to the songs I make up for you as we spend a lazy day in bed. I laugh at all of the little noises you make, from the squeaks when you're stretching out to the machine-gun sounds that escape your lips after you eat.
You love to lie on your back and stare at the ceiling fan while you get a tummy rub...and you are happiest when you're curled up in a ball on your dad's chest. Last week, when we gave you a pacifier for the first time, you reacted as though it had been dipped in crack. You grab our fingers whenever they pass your hands, and your grip is amazingly strong.
All of these things seem so basic, yet I am filing them all away because they are the things that make you who you are. We are getting the opportunity to watch you grow and become your own person, and that makes us the luckiest people in this world. We are already so proud of you, and we are so amazed and honored that you are a part of our family.
You don't know what you've done for me in the short time you've been here. You've helped me exceed my own expectations of what I'm capable of, while challenging me to be better than I was. You've given me the strength and the patience I was afraid I'd never find in myself...and you've managed to eliminate the selfish nature I was afraid I'd never lose. You let me find rational thought in the midst of fears, acceptance even when I don't have control, and energy on the days that I'm so tapped out I can't think straight.
The past six weeks have been amazing, and we can only imagine where we'll go from here.
She. Will. Not. Poop.
Oh, she's trying to - but because my body decided it was time to stop producing breast milk and so I've had to give her formula, her little stomach is struggling in a way that is painful to watch. She strains, she cries, she gets red faced, she screams - and nothing comes out. I called the pediatrician's office to find out what I can do to help her out (and in turn, help me out because my God, my heart is breaking to watch her in pain and I can't handle it anymore), and so we are now adding dark karo syrup to her bottle twice a day. That did help - once. I'm currently waiting and hoping for it to work again....essentially, praying for poop. Yeah.
I broke down in tears watching her cry, wanting so badly to fix this for her and knowing I couldn't. The feeling that it's my fault overtakes me, because if it weren't for my lack of breast milk she wouldn't be on formula, but that's a whole OTHER set of issues that I can't even go into at this point, lest my head explode. It initially made me feel like I'm not cut out for this motherhood stuff - because if the sight of my baby being constipated makes me break down, how on earth will I ever be able to handle anything big and real that she has to overcome? It took a teary conversation with my friend Jessi, in which she helped me understand that the presence of my caring means I am cut out for this, to put things in perspective.
Oh, and this didn't hurt either.
I went in thinking I wanted to get one or two shots of her - and while I gave it a valiant effort to narrow down the 100-plus shots they took, I was only able to narrow it down to thirteen.
Can you blame me?
Happy Father's Day, sweets - you're so much more than these two girls could ever ask for.
- Managing to take a shower that's long enough to allow for shampoo, conditioner, soap, and shaving underarms and legs
- Doing more to your hair than pulling it into a ponytail/headband/braid - forget the flat iron or curling iron (hell, forget the hair dryer most days)
- Cooking a meal that includes no pre-cooked elements, nothing from a box, and nothing from the frozen food aisle
- Sleeping. Duh.
- Having a conversation with your husband about anything other than said infant
- Waking up from a fog to find it's pouring outside, where the dogs are - and then trying to get two 75 lb. dogs inside, into a bath to wash the layers of mud off of them, drying them, washing the towels used for that bath, cleaning up the pile of vomit from one of those dogs because the rain sent him into a tizzy and upset the delicate balance of his stomach....all while it's time for the baby to eat and all because your husband laughed when you mentioned the thunder and the possibility of rain and the notion that maybe, just maybe, the dogs should be brought in from outside before he left for work.
Then of course there's the things that are impossible to do without the presence of an infant...namely, staring at your beautiful child for hours on end, loving her very presence.
The past two weeks have been a blur, and as much as I've wanted to sit down and write about the entire experience of Mer's birth, and the days that have followed, I can't seem to wrap my head around it enough to dive into the monumental task of covering everything. (Not to mention my inability to set this angel down long enough to reach for the laptop...)
On the Monday before she was born, I spent the day in a great deal of discomfort. A sensation similar to indigestion started early that morning and by the afternoon, the pain was intensifying and wrapping around my back. I called my doctor and he thought it sounded like a gall bladder attack - so he suggested we head to the hospital to get an ultrasound to check for gallstones. Several hours later, I was being admitted to the hospital overnight for observation after my bloodwork came back wonky and my blood pressure was too high. Fast forward twelve hours, as I sat waiting on a doctor to come talk to me about what was going on - as my husband left the hospital to grab lunch - not knowing our lives were about to change. A doctor walked in and announced that they were delivering the baby - and the response to my question of when was "now".
I was on the phone with my husband telling him to hurry and get back to the hospital as a nurse was prepping my IV, an anesthesiologist was explaining the risks of a c-section, and I was signing paperwork with my free hand. My husband walked in the door as they were wheeling me down the hall, just in time to have a gown and mask thrown at him.
Turns out I had HELLP syndrome, a form of hypertension associated with high liver enzymes, low platelet count, and high blood pressure. It doesn't cause problems for the baby, but is very dangerous for the mother if left untreated - and the only way to relieve it is to deliver the baby.
It was all such a blur, and it all happened so fast - but as I was laying on the operating table, holding my husband's hand and talking to him, I didn't feel fear at all - only excitement at meeting our child. It never even dawned on me to worry about the surgery or having our baby come a month early.
When I heard our baby crying as she was born, and heard my husband announce that we had a girl, I was in complete awe - and when I looked over and saw her for the first time, I couldn't believe it was real. Even now, two weeks later, I still look at her and get overwhelmed with the notion that she is the one I carried for the past 8 months.
She's amazing. She's sweet and cuddly, she makes the most adorable squeaking noises, she has the most gorgeous pouty lips, and she's definitely the same active child that used to kick me and roll around. At her two week checkup, she weighed in at 5 lbs. 7 ozs, which is amazing given how tiny she was at birth. She eats heartily - although I can't even go into the saga of attempting to breastfeed her at this point - and her cheeks have begun to fill out in the most adorable way.
Basically, I'm completely enamored with her - head over heels in love with this tiny little person, and fully aware of the concept of unconditional love and the sense that if anyone were ever to try to hurt her, I'd rip them apart with my bare hands. I'm exhausted yet exhilirated, unable to stop staring at her. Everything I've just written is completely disjointed, and does not even begin to scratch the surface of what we're experiencing, but it's all I can do at this point.
When I think about the things my husband (or any man, for that matter) will never understand about being pregnant, I feel it necessary to share them with him:
- The ability to put your pants on like a normal person will completely escape you.
- Peeing constantly gets old, fast.
- Carrying around an extra 30 lbs. is harder than you'd expect.
- When you can't get comfortable, climbing out of your body seems like the only available option.
- Hormones. That is all.
- Feeling pretty when you are bloated, nauseous, exhausted and hot is amazingly difficult.
- There will come a time when you think you can't possibly drink another glass of water. Drink one anyway.
- The fear that you'll do something wrong and hurt the baby is crippling.
- If you love to be the center of attention, you'll love being pregnant. If not, you'll often be overwhelmed and anxious.
- At the end of a long day, when all you want to do is enjoy a few drinks, you can't.
Now, I know that list doesn't make pregnancy sound appealing at all - but it's not all bad. There are also the wonderful moments a man will never experience:
- Being able to talk to your baby and feel it kick in response is better than watching your team play in the Super Bowl.
- Having a free pass to indulge in your cravings without being judged is liberating.
- The knowledge that you are carrying the child you've created with the person of your dreams is incomparable.
- You'll never love someone you've never met the way you'll love this person.
On second thought, I take it back - I don't want to give up these last five weeks.
Ferris is wildly active at this point - and I like to think that the triggers are indicative of what our little squirt's personality will be. I went to a Patsy Cline tribute at the Ryman Auditorium on Friday night, and every time the music ramped up, so did Ferris - leading me to believe that our baby will have great taste in music. Yesterday we went out on the boat for a while, and as Ferris rolled around and kicked, I sighed with relief at the thought that we'll have a little one who loves the water.
Mother's Day in our family is usually celebrated the same way every year - my grandmother comes into town from Mississippi and joins my mom, my sister and I for the weekend. This year we were lucky enough to add my mother-in-law to the mix and it was so inspiring to look around the table at all of these women who have helped shape me and mold me into who I am. I give each of them credit for showing me different things: an insane sense of humor, the ability to multi-task, the tendency to be laid back at all times, fierce determination, stoic patience, and unconditional love - just to name a few. I feel lucky to be a part of this family of strong women, and I know they'll be here for us as we build our family...learning as we go and leaning on them for advice and support.
There are so many thoughts rushing through my brain and trying to get to the front of the line that it almost hurts. It's like a bunch of sweaty, sunburned, badly-dressed tourists at an amusement park in the heat of summer, jostling each other and attempting to squeeze through the crowd. The end result is similar as well - the front of the line means embarking on a 45 second roller coaster ride before it's time to move on, just as I'm only giving my thoughts about a minute to hang out before I send them packing again.
I'm in the midst of trying to figure out who I am and what kind of person I am becoming, along with juggling the notion of what type of parent I'm going to be. I truly thought that after 8 months of not working in an attempt to "discover myself", I'd have more of a clue - but I find myself even more baffled than before I decided a career change was in order. I've always associated myself so strongly with what I was doing for a living, a phenomenon that I think we are all prone to. Our careers become the definitions of who we are...so without a career, I'm unsure as to how I'm defined.
I'm fully aware that once Ferris makes an appearance, life as I know it will change forever and I may never question myself again. I may well find myself in the place I'm meant to be, and the prospect of embarking on a new career may fly out the window...or I could end up needing something beyond being a mother. There's no way to predict it....and it will only drive me nuts to try. The fears and insecurities will likely not disappear - although they may present themselves in new and different ways. The uncertainty will stem from a new set of circumstances, and the learning curve of an unfamiliar place will be challenging. My only hope is that I can rise to the occasion and come out better in the end, tackling it as efficiently as can be done...and accepting that while perfection is not necessity, failure is not a possibility.
At my appt. yesterday, my doctor told me that our last ultrasound showed evidence of low growth - meaning Ferris isn't gaining weight properly and is on the low end of the growth scale. To be precise, Ferris falls in the 37th percentile for growth. This isn't necessarily a cause for concern (as I keep repeating to myself over and over) but to be on the safe side, my doctor wants to do another ultrasound in two weeks to see how things are progressing. There is a possibility that there isn't enough amniotic fluid surrounding the baby, which is of more concern than the growth factor alone.
My initial reaction to this was unease and discomfort at the mere thought that something could be awry - followed by the rational side of me kicking in to bring reminders that until the ultrasound, we don't have definitive answers and therefore no reason to worry. Once my defense mechanism of using humor to handle stressful situations caught up, we were on to comparing Ferris to my mother in her ever-present quest to keep her weight down and her tendency to fast before doctor's visits in an effort to cleanse herself of any wine and food related toxins she may have ingested over the 6 months prior.
A conversation with my sister gave me the reassurance I needed, as always - two of her best friends had this exact scenario during their pregnancies and everything ended up ok - they both delivered perfectly healthy babies, albeit a bit early and a bit on the small side. As long as Ferris is healthy, I'm comfortable with the notion that I'm not facing the prospect of giving birth to a linebacker.
Ferris is still insanely active - yesterday when my doctor was attempting to hear the heartbeat, the squirt delivered a powerful kick that knocked the doppler off of my stomach. At night, we sit and watch my stomach spasm and roll with Ferris' acrobatics. When I place my hand on the right side of my belly, Ferris reacts by curling into a ball and pressing his/her butt up against my hand. I guess it's not the size of the baby in the kick, it's the size of the kick in the baby....or something like that.
- No matter how many times your husband or significant other insists you look adorable, you won't believe them.
- When you wake up in the middle of the night and think there's a chance your water broke because you're sweating so profusely, you're sweating too much.
- The first time a complete stranger reaches out to rub your belly, you will likely be too stunned to react.
- The first thing you will do upon entering an unfamiliar place for the first time is seek out the restroom.
- People seem to have no qualms when it comes to discussing your most private matters - this is not just reserved for medical staff.
- Losing the ability to tie your shoes or paint your toenails isn't too disappointing when you can't see your feet anymore.
- Getting protein from cheeseburgers and calcium from thick chocolate milkshakes counts.
- Rearranging drawers of burp cloths, onesies, and receiving blankets is a perfectly acceptable way to spend an afternoon.
- There is a fine line between wanting your husband to understand the wonders of childbirth and wanting him to ever look at you the same way again.
- Your bladder will wait until the exact moment you are beginning to fall asleep before announcing its need to be relieved. Similarly, your baby will wait until the same moment to deliver a swift and powerful kick to your ribcage.
The nesting instinct.
As a whole, I'm a pretty anal person. I like things a certain way (I have a method for loading the dishwasher, a precise way of folding clothes, and don't even get me started on the way books should sit on a bookshelf) and I tend to get a bit over the top at times. Fortunately, my husband knows the signs and thinks it's amusing and endearing when he catches me staring at our kitchen counters, mentally rearranging everything on them...or worse, when I deem it necessary to remove every item of clothing from our closet and dresser and organize them by color and type.
Therefore, given my propensity to fuss over the mundane little things, it's no surprise to either of us that I've suddenly entered nesting mode. What is surprising is the extent of my need to have things in order, and the sheer panic I feel when I realize something's not. I don't even know the reason, but certain little things are making me shrink up in panic and get a little shaky with nerves and dear God, he is a brave brave man for marrying me and he probably deserves a medal or a trophy or at the very least a freaking THANK YOU for putting up with my shit every day.
The dogs must. go. to. the. vet. immediately. They are both due for their annual checkups and shots, and I simply cannot function knowing that there will be a wee little baby in this house unable to protect itself from animals without their vaccines. And yes, I know it's a simple fix and all that's required is a two second phone call to secure an appointment and then hauling their stupid asses down the street to pay too much money to a nice man in a white coat, but still. It is in essence serving as one more reminder that our lives are about to get much more complicated and these "simple fixes" are soon going to be much less simple. And yes, I know we have time, plenty of time, but for some reason I am having the dreaded fear of going into labor early and what if we aren't ready and haven't gotten everything done and why isn't my bag packed yet??????
Ok. Taking deep breaths and trying to ignore the fact that I am at this very moment a raging lunatic incapable of rational thought. Ferris, you have no idea who you're dealing with...good luck with all this.
Here I've been tracking the progress of this pregnancy, counting days and weeks, and my doctor glanced at my chart and said "Wow - 28 weeks, 3 days!" ....obviously not the same number I've come up with. I stared at the calendar for about 20 minutes this afternoon, flipping back and forth between months, unable to wrap my brain around the notion that I've counted wrong. I mean, days don't just disappear...do they?
I did my glucose screening today - an extreme sugar rush following the chugging of the sickly sweet fruit punch flavored drink led to jittery shakes and then fatigue so extreme I could have fallen asleep standing up. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my results will come back normal.
I've read several different things about weight gain at this point in the pregnancy, both mine and Ferris'. The "norm" at this stage is a weight gain of 16-22 lbs. for me - I've gained 26. Ferris should weigh anywhere between 2 1/2 and 4 lbs. To this I say screw the norm, pass the cookies. I'm overwhelmingly hungry all the time, and despite my best efforts to eat healthy, I just can't overcome the cravings for ice cream and tacos.
(Side note: a few weeks ago, when my husband and I went out to dinner, one of the people who worked at the restaurant popped by our table to ask me when I'm due, and then proceeded to gasp in shock and proclaim that she couldn't believe it, since I look like I'm about to pop. That little gem was immediately followed by her asking me if I was having a boy, because "boys always make you fat". Um...yeah. She narrowly missed being hit by a piece of bread. I have always had a rule that you should never, ever, ever say anything to a woman that even remotely implies you think she's pregnant - unless you see a baby emerging from her at that exact moment - but apparently not all people have adopted this theory.)
Earlier, our younger dog was resting his head on my belly - his favorite new position - and when Ferris kicked him squarely in the face, he cocked his head and stared at my stomach before gazing up at me with a look of confusion on his face. Oh, if he only knew what he's in for.
We've gotten the baby's room pretty much in order - the crib and bedding are in place, along with adorable curtains that my mom made and a new lamp and laundry basket. I take a moment now and then to sit in the glider rocker and stare at the scene before me, trying to imagine time a few months from now....and failing miserably. There's just no way to fathom what life will be like.
So. Third trimester. Seven months. What do we have? A belly that contains a uterus the size of a basketball (remember when it was the size of a fist?) and a baby the size of a 2 1/2 pound, 15 inch long teddy bear (remember when it was the size of a gummy bear?). A brain that contains too many questions, fears, uncertainties, anxieties, etc. A home that contains a very small portion of what it will need in order to nurture said baby.
Yes, there are a lot of things we don't have. The planner in me panics at the mere thought of being unprepared, especially when my mom calls me twice a day to make sure I haven't gone into premature labor. I know there is plenty of time to get everything we need, and when it boils down to it, as long as we have a car seat in order to legally bring the baby home, the rest of it will fall into place.
So instead of thinking about the things we don't have in a negative light, I've decided to address the things we do, such as a support system of friends and family stronger than I could ever imagine, a marriage that is solid and secure, the financial means to support us, a great home. These things, while not counted among the list of "must-haves" for a newborn, are far more crucial to this baby's well being than anything we could possibly register for. Ferris has no concept yet of the boundless amounts of love and excited anticipation we're feeling, no way of knowing how fiercely devoted and dedicated we are - to each other, certainly, but more so to the family we are in the midst of forming. I just hope that once Ferris does arrive, we're able to deliver on the promises we've made and come through with the intentions we've established.
For starters, I can be incredibly bratty at times. I’m not proud of this, but it’s something I’ve come to terms with - and when I catch myself in the act of doing or saying something childish, I want to tear out my own tongue. I am the youngest of four children, and while my parents never outright spoiled me - I always had chores, never had an allowance, and got my first job when I was 15 - they were very good to me, and as a result I think I became accustomed to being treated well. In the instance of being told something I don’t want to hear, I am often inclined to pout. Unappealing at best, this trait certainly won’t get me very far in my attempts to raise a child who will not be a brat.
I’m also concerned with my patience level. This is something I’ve been working on for some time, ever since my husband and I began transforming our casual relationship into something much deeper and more serious several years ago. I can be hotheaded and temperamental, and so I know the propensity I have to snap will require a bit of effort to overcome. Fortunately, my husband is the most patient person I know, so he makes up where I’m lacking.
Another cause for concern is my fear of being judged. I worry too much about what other people think of me, and I’m too reluctant to stand up for myself and speak my mind. One of my biggest goals is to get over this trepidation, and understand that I must do what’s best for my family - critics be damned. When it comes to raising a child, I hope to trust myself enough to be confident in my decisions, despite what others may feel about them.
On a lesser scale, there are things like my love of sleep, my tendency to drink copious amounts of wine, and my desire to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. These things all represent a bit of selfishness on my part, and while I will miss them on a certain level, it’s also something I need to be able to give up - at least to a degree.
At the end of the day, I want to be the best person I can be for this child - the best mother I can be, despite my imperfections and unrealistic expectations. After all, isn’t that the only thing we can aim for?
Let me explain something. I. Hate. Hiccups. I know it sounds bizarre, but I reserve some of my most passionate fiery hatred for the hiccups. They make me irrationally angry, and whenever I get them, I'm typically reduced to tears. In the event of champagne-induced hiccups, my husband will hide from me. So when I woke up at six this morning to the sensation of Ferris jumping, I forced myself to get a grip. I won't deny attempting to startle the baby in hopes it would make them stop, but I also didn't get nearly as angry as I may have suspected.
Lately Ferris has been waking me up at very early hours with jostles and bumps, and for whatever reason I choose those moments to talk to my husband - moments that are absent of rational thought. Therefore, the conversations are usually along the lines of reminding him to take chicken out of the freezer to thaw, asking him if the dog threw up on the floor or if I dreamed it, and attempts to describe the random dream I just had.
Ferris comes in this week at a whopping two pounds, and all I can think about are the number of other two pound things I'd like to enjoy - a two pound box of chocolates, two pounds of buffalo wings, a two pound block of cheese to go with the bread I'd make using Black & Decker's two pound breadmaker, and most certainly a 32-ounce Porterhouse steak. With a two pound twice-baked potato. Mmmm.
Speaking of foods, Ferris' taste buds are fully developed - and in fact, more finely tuned than they will ever be again. This results in swift kicks when I eat spicy foods, gentle rolls after the brownies I made the other day, and rapid rhythmic twists following a glass of lemonade.
I've reached the point of trying to mentally prepare as much as possible for what awaits us. I laid awake for hours the other night - sleep is so elusive these days - and mentally packed a bag for the hospital. Probably a tad premature, since I likely won't need it for months, but my brain takes over when I'm laying in the dark listening to the sounds of my husband breathing and I simply cannot control where it takes me.
There was an instant as the nurse searched for the baby's heartbeat - with no result - that I began to really fear the worst. I couldn't even look at my husband at that moment, knowing that if I saw the same fear mirrored in his eyes, I would completely break down. However, she finally found the heartbeat and so we sat for about 45 minutes, with me hooked up to a fetal monitor to track what was going on. Lo and behold, Ferris began squirming within about 2 minutes of the monitor being activated. Figures, right? We determined that we have a very dramatic smartass for a child, no doubt the sum of its parts.
After I spoke to my doctor and we were given permission to go home, the reality of the situation hit me and I shakily whispered "I am so not ready for this." I've been counting weeks and I've felt pretty comfortable with the fact that we have time...time to get ready, physically and mentally. Time to spend together before we add a member to our family. Time to enjoy sleeping late, coming and going as we please, and counting animals as our sole responsibility. Saturday showed me that while we certainly may get that full window of time, we also may not. Ferris may decide to make an early appearance, and as much as I wish we could predict it, there's no one to make an appointment with - no guarantees and no certainties about exactly when we'll become parents.
I hate to judge this person's inability to be aware of such a monumentous thing, but I truly cannot comprehend it. At this stage in the game, I have endured things that I simply could not attribute to anything else - the lack of balance and coordination, the extreme fatigue at all hours of the day, a baby that kicks energetically, and most certainly a change in my figure. I'm enthralled by the notion that someone could experience a full 6 months of pregancy and not know it. I would feel so robbed, so jilted, as though someone had stolen such a precious thing from me - and yet to spend those months without the fear and anxiety of something going wrong, without the morning sickness, headaches, backaches, and more - I feel a special sort of envy for anyone who could pass through those phases virtually unfazed.
We're only two weeks away from entering the third trimester, and it's hard for me to believe that time has passed so quickly - and yet it feels like I've been pregnant for ages. Ferris is a very busy baby this week - the structure of the spine is forming, taste buds are developing, blood vessels of the lungs are multiplying, and those little tiny nostrils are opening up. Additionally, the hands are fully developed, complete with fingerprints - and Ferris has hair on that tiny head, eyelashes and eyebrows. My uterus is the size of a soccer ball, which seems appropriate as Ferris appears to be treating me like a soccer field- jumping, twisting, and kicking all over the place.
The weather has been getting a bit warmer, and it's making me crave the sunny warm days and cooler nights of spring. For the past few years, spring and early summer has been celebrated by afternoon cocktails on the patios of our neighborhood restaurants, lazy boat rides, rounds of cornhole on our back patio along with music and wine, and tending to a hot grill while sipping a cold beer. The warmer weather recently makes me yearn for those days, and I must admit I cannot wait for Ferris to be born so I can kick back with a glass of wine. My husband and I joked the other day that with my lowered tolerance for alcohol, we'll need to sell tickets to my first post-baby encounter with drinking. This weekend, we'll be moving the clocks for daylight savings, and I'm so excited that I'll get to see my husband come home while the sun is still out.
Ferris is about a pound and a half, coming in at about a foot long. These size increases make me stare at my belly in wonder, trying to understand how I can have something that size inside me - especially knowing how quickly the growth will escalate. I think that I should eat a footlong sub or something, in honor of Ferris.
On another note, I've decided to address some of the frequently asked questions around these parts. If the above paragraph did nothing to indicate the level of snarkiness I'm feeling today, let me preface this by saying I'm not trying to be nasty. Ok. You've been warned...read at your own risk.
Q: What will you do about the dogs? Are you worried about how they'll react to the baby?
A: I must begin by explaining a little bit about our dogs. In essence, they are crazy. They are wild, they are hyper, they have limitless amounts of energy. They don't like cats (especially the one they share a roof with) or strangers. One of them hates to have his paws touched, the other likes to heave his 70 pound body into laps (even pregnant ones) for cuddle time. When we feed them, they behave as though they've gone weeks without a morsel of food. They run up and down our hallway, chasing each other and barking maniacally. They are quirky and stubborn, but lovable and full of a certain charm all their own. That being said, no one in my family thinks they are "good". I always feel compelled to defend them, but deep down I do have concerns about what will happen when a new member of our family threatens to take attention away from them....especially a member that will cry, make strange noises, flail and wiggle unexpectedly, smell funny, etc. So, yes. Yes. I am worried about how they'll react to the baby and how the baby will react to them. That is easily one of the biggest anxiety triggers I have about bringing this baby into our home. And yet...no. No. They will be fine. We will figure it out. I will not get rid of these dogs without first giving them every opportunity to experience this change we're bringing upon them. Sure, in the presence of a threat of physical harm, I'd be changing my tune damn fast, but until then...the dogs stay.
Q: You aren't finding out what you're having? Doesn't that drive you crazy? Don't you want to know? How do I know what to buy you if I don't know what you're having?
A: Our baby, our decision. If we wanted to know, we'd find out. At the risk of sounding bitchy, I'll put it this way: We registered. At two places. If there is nothing you can find there that suits your tastes, either wait until the baby is born or go with the ever-useful gift card and call it a day. I won't budge on my decision to find out our baby's sex based solely on your desire to know if you should get pink or blue socks.
Q: Are you going back to work after the baby is born?
A: To quote my friend Magic 8 Ball, "ask again later".
Q: Have you thought about names? If so, what are they?
A: This question is one I'm always willing to answer, even though I'm rapidly tiring of the looks I receive in response. It amazes me that people are so quick to provide their opinion on something so unrelated to them. However, we have thought about names. They are subject to change, but as of right now we've settled on Merrill Elizabeth for a girl, William (Will) for a boy - and we haven't figured out a middle name for Will yet.
(Note: If you are reading this, and you've asked me any of the above questions, please don't be offended by my answers. It's sheer repetition that has turned me into such a cranky person.)
I stumbled across the online baby boutique Two Blue Peas, and this is the first time I've really wished I knew what we're having so I could order some of the adorable clothes. As it stands, I'll probably be sitting in the hospital with my laptop and credit card as soon as Ferris makes an appearance.
The nursery is slowly but surely coming along - the only thing we lack is the crib, which we'll be getting sometime in March. I haven't yet begun to organize the few items we have, as my obsessive nature means I want to have a better sense of total inventory before I undergo the task of determining which drawer will house blankets vs. onesies vs. burp cloths. My mom and I picked out fabric for the curtains and the cushions on the glider rocker (the rocker belonged to my sister and the cushions were blue, so we're recovering them in a neutral fabric) and while she is holding the cushions hostage for fear the dogs will destroy them, she assures me they look great.
My goal is to get all of the items crossed off our to-do list before it gets warm, so I can enjoy the time before Ferris arrives without worrying about whether the guest room is ready, if the kitchen cabinets have been reorganized enough times (the answer is always a resounding NO), if the railings on the porch need fresh paint, and if this house is as baby-ready as it can possibly be.
As Ferris gets stronger, I can feel the kicks and turns more often and with increasing strength. At times I can even see the twitches in my stomach as tiny feet and fists push against me. Ferris is most active after meals and at night as I lay in bed, and it's become a routine for me to place my hands on either side of my belly to await the rhythm of soft thumps.
- The burps that result from Omega-3 Fish Oil capsules are of the devil.
- Forgetting your dogs' names is acceptable. Forgetting your husband's is not.
- I miss balance. That is all.
- It only takes a matter of months to master the act of getting up 5 times a night to pee without ever opening your eyes.
- Babies R Us is a scary place. Also, they should have a bathroom in each corner of the store.
- Watching other people drink is boring.
- Girlfriends and sisters know more than any book, period.
- A hungry woman in a grocery store can be dangerous. A hungry pregnant woman in a grocery store is a recipe for disaster.
- When a dumbass stranger at the mall comments that you look like you're having twins, and you aren't, you will forever regret not saying anything in response.
- Despite the fear of labor that will strike you consistently throughout these nine months, this baby does have to come out - so you better deal with it.
- Having a husband that endures the mood swings, whims, and cravings is a gift from God.
- Even if you think the constant nausea will never end, it will.
- Unsolicited advice comes from everywhere.
- Laughing until you cry and crying until you laugh is wholly interchangeable.
- Watching birthing shows on TLC and Discovery is a bad, bad idea.
- Naming your unborn child is much harder than you'd think.
- After the first time you feel your baby kick, your life will never be the same.
Most days, I find ways to turn my guilt into motivation to find new ways to make our lives better. I stay on top of the housework, I pay all the bills, I clip coupons and try to find ways to cut corners without sacrificing any of the things we love to do. I attempt to maintain a sense of purpose, all the while knowing that there are millions of women who do these things while holding down a job and raising children - many without the help of a supportive partner to ease the load. I try to make our home a good one, a place he wants to come to at the end of the day - and while most days I succeed, there are the days where I want to fall apart. Those days are the days that I beat myself up for being so selfish as to put the burden on him, for putting him into this situation and for allowing our roles to become so clearly defined. I put myself into a box and allow myself to dwell on the mistakes I've made, even as I acknowledge they cannot be erased. I wonder where I'd be had I not found out I was pregnant shortly after leaving my job to find a new one, and then I push that thought out of my head as I realize the what ifs don't matter.
Most nights, I stare at him while we are eating dinner, watching tv or getting ready to go to sleep - and I am overcome with emotion. I cannot even adequately express the amount of respect and admiration I have for this man, the one who loves me unconditionally and takes me as I am. He's the one who wants to spend his life with me, who would do anything and everything to make me smile, and he's the one that has given me the gift of becoming a mother and finding out who I really am in the process. He's allowing me the opportunity to find myself, to figure out all of the answers to the questions I've always asked myself, and he's doing it without an ounce of remorse or resentment. I'm not easy, and I'm not perfect - but as complicated and flawed as I may be, he makes it all disappear the second he kisses the top of my head and places his hand gently on my stomach to say goodnight to our baby before we drift off to sleep. I'm damn lucky, and I'm blessed to be where I am. I may not know all of the answers, and I may not know where we'll end up. But we are a family, and we will figure it out. Together.
I'm trying so hard to manage what I eat, hoping against hope that at my next doctor's appointment, I won't see an excessive increase in my weight when I step on the scale. My weight gain so far has been high enough that my doctor warned me of the potential for gestational diabetes and - hold on to your maternity jeans - high birth weight. The phrase "larger baby" is enough to stop me in my tracks and make me forget the fact that all I want is chocolate and Mexican food. So not only did my last trip to the grocery store require walking past certain sections with my eyes closed, meal planning is back and even when I'm not in the mood for roasted chicken with broccoli, it still finds its way to my plate.
After all, it's not really about me anymore, is it?
When I reflect on what it was like to grow up in our house, I'm immediately drawn to the earlier memories and my younger years - the years before our family dynamic shifted seismically due to circumstances both closely within and drastically beyond our control. I prefer to focus instead on the time when things seemed simpler, before we were drawn apart and against each other...before I was forced to acknowledge that shit happens and sometimes the only option available is to deal with it in whatever means available at the time.
I recall snow days, rare as they were in the South. I distinctly remember the smell of a fire in our fireplace, the taste of snow sprinkled with crushed Sweet Tarts, the sight of my mom in the kitchen window holding up steaming mugs of hot chocolate in an effort to draw us in from the cold.
I can feel the slippery plastic sensation of the tablecloth we used as our dinner table, spread on the living room floor as we settled in with loaded plates to watch tv. We never really sat at the table for a meal; instead, we sat cross-legged on the floor and became entranced in Disney movies or America's Funniest Home Videos, silent save for the incessant chatter that would erupt once the commercials began. It was these breaks that allowed us to catch up on everyone's day, sharing funny stories, school concerns, and the latest neighborhood gossip.
Summer days were spent outside, where swim team practice came early and the fireflies stayed late. I have fond memories of donuts at dawn before a morning spent driving my dad around on the golf course; lazy afternoons by the pool, where I'd squint through the blinding sun at my mom lounging on a deck chair; nights in bed, struggling to stay awake by focusing on the glow of my nightlight.
I never questioned the way things were, never doubted that this life was the best life anyone had ever had. I always felt safe, happy, and loved - and always knew family to be something secure and solid, full of sacred routines such as being tucked in every night and being pulled from sleep with the promise of a new day ahead.
These memories fill me with knowledge and inspiration- that providing for a child is more than a fiscal responsibility, more than physical presence and material belongings. It goes beyond putting food on the table and clothes on a back, beyond helping a child maneuver throughout days and nights. It's larger than I can even begin to imagine...and while I know I'll never be perfect, I have a bank to draw from and experiences to call upon as I attempt to figure it out.
I'm reminded of the sensation I had when I was a kid in school - the first part of the school year always seemed to drag itself out, excruciatingly slow....only to pick up steam and begin to fly rapidly following the Christmas break. Before I knew it, it was time to clean out lockers and turn in books. It's almost like a freight train, taking time to pick up the speed before it can truly chug along.
I know the next few months will fly by, and while there is a part of me that is so ready for it to be over so we can welcome this little one into the world, there is another part of me that wants to be pregnant forever. The unpleasant aspects aside, this has been the most amazing and special time of my life - the new sensations, the surges of love and affection towards something I've never met, the planning and hopes and dreams and expectations...
I had lunch with my dad yesterday, and we laughed until we cried as he recounted the names of his family members in an effort to strike inspiration for baby names. I'm not sure what book people got their babies' names out of back then, but...wow. So it's pretty safe to say we won't name our child Truby, Renso, or Ida - but I think we finally have settled on a boy and a girl name. Granted, there's plenty of time for me to change my mind, so I wouldn't start embroidering anything quite yet.
I received a cross-stitch quilt set from a friend yesterday as well - an adorable quilt pattern with baby animals on it. I'm excited to make something for Ferris, and while it's been about 20 years since I cross-stitched anything, I'm hoping it's like riding a bike. I'm heading to Mississippi today for a funeral, and since I get insanely carsick if I even try to read in the car, I'm glad to have something else to do on the ride down.
Some friends of mine were looking at the pictures of Ferris, trying to determine if he/she looks more like me or my husband at this point. It's hard to say of course, but most people have said my nose and my husband's mouth. It's just another reminder that I'm creating a life with this person and we're sharing something so amazing and so surreal - and that thought just floors me, every time.
We got bags of blankets and clothes from my sister this weekend, and as I sorted through stacks of navy blue onesies with baseballs on them, socks with "All-Star" written on the cuff, and a hat that says "Daddy's Little Guy", all I could do was smile and fold them back up. I also accompanied a friend to Babies R Us, and quickly became overwhelmed at the variety of items and my lack of knowledge about what's an absolute necessity and what's not. My sister is taking me to register in the next few weeks, and I'm grateful for her guidance and expertise.
As my husband and I walked to one of our favorite brunch places yesterday morning, enjoying the brief respite from the cold weather, I commented that 5 months from now, our walks will include a stroller and a third person. It's little things like that which strike me and make me realize what we're embarking on.
Ferris has begun moving with increased regularity, and we've even become able to feel the shifts from the outside. Every time I feel movement, my husband places his hand on my stomach hoping to get the sensation. I think we have a jokester in the making, as the baby typically chooses that exact moment to be still.
We are still working on names - we're getting closer, but I'm having a hard time landing on something that sounds just right. Certain names, while seemingly perfect at first, tend to fall from the list after we realize that they would likely get our kid's ass kicked on the playground. Plus, there's the whole issue of not knowing what he or she will look like, as that could change everything. How do you name someone you haven't met yet?
This current tendency to delve deep into everyday matters (read: overthink) ranges from the utterly absurd to the amazingly serious....from how it will be if I try to come sit and write in the coffee shop down the street, as I'm doing now, to how it will be if we are faced with a child that experiences any challenges or difficulties. I try to reign in the panic and fear of the unknown and focus instead of the amazing road ahead, treating the unknowns as though they are tiny little surprises waiting to be discovered.
I want so many things for our child and for our family, things that can be influenced by me and things that I will have absolutely no control over, however much I may try. I want our child to grow accustomed to hearing the laughter that constantly rings throughout our house. I want to instill in this tiny little being the notion that we have endless amounts of love and friendship and respect for each other, and that we do anything and everything we can to ensure happiness on every level imaginable. I want this baby tater to feel protected and safe from any of the potentially scary things our world may bring, while maintaining an innocence and absense of irrational fears.
In essence, I want to provide a life that is balanced and even and a semblance of being perfect even when true perfection cannot be found. I want to teach patience in the midst of frustration, adoration in the presence of flaws, strength in the existence of obstacles, and love in the places where an absence of it exists. I want it all....and I believe it can be found, since all of these things are things that have been provided to me in the span of the relationship I've had with my husband.