Archive for the 'First Trimester' Category

No, I’m not going home!

I was out late last night. Ok, like really late, like six in the morning late. Every Monday and Wednesday I’m in class till 10:30. Afterward I go out for a drink with my classmates. Last night’s drink became dancing in the Lower East Side, and then hanging out with people at some girl’s apartment in Gramercy.

Throughout the night Gramercy Girl kept saying, “Don’t you have a pregnant wife to be home with?” Not only was it incredibly rude – the host not-so-subtly telling me to leave – but it gets on my nerves when people say this, because it implies that I’m a neglectful partner. Honestly, it’s only been women who have thrown this line at me, usually women in their early twenties who, maybe, have a hard time imagining what it must be like to be pregnant or don’t know anyone who’s ever been pregnant and so hold old fashioned ideas that the husband should be chained at his wife’s side serving her every need. This sentiment reflects badly not only on me, but on my wife. As if she needs to have me around to take care of her, or provide company at eleven o’clock on a weeknight. She’s pregnant but not powerless!

Though she is tired at the end of the day. When I’m heading off to school S’s day is winding down, and she’s asleep long before my class even lets out. What’s it to her whether I’m downstairs watching television or out having a drink with friends? She doesn’t care. Over the past two weekends I’ve managed to have nice dinners and evenings with her and then go out, after she hits the hay around nine or so, to have a Saturday night with friends. There’s no point being around the house when she’s sleeping – at least not until sometime in the third trimester. If anything, I feel I should be going out more in the next few months, since next summer I’ll have an infant to mind. Then I’ll be around every night, because that’s when she’ll need me.

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More on the Blues

The pregnancy blues hit both of us at various times in different ways.

I sometimes feel a little selfish, annoyed at having to do a lot of the cooking, cleaning, and shopping, chores that have always been split between the two of us. Ultimately I get over it – no big deal. Not only do I like keeping house, but for the past couple of weeks my wife’s back to being an almost equal partner in this.

For S, the ever-changing physical symptoms of the pregnancy – last week the gas pains, then over the weekend a persistent headache – have to be a lot harder to handle than any perceived injustice in the housework. I can only relate by thinking of her as sick, which I know isn’t an apt comparison, but it’s the limit of my experience. I hate being sick. Even the slightest cold sinks me into a depression. I imagine that I’m going to die, or worse, be chronically ill like some Victorian character, forever wasting away in the bedroom, pale, shriveled, and coughing up blood. I would be an awful, mopey pregnant person. S is great at coping or at least hiding her discomfort behind a relatively upbeat exterior, but occasionally the pregnancy blues get the best even of her.

Yesterday morning, while walking her to work, I kept slipping crass jokes into our conversation. This isn’t out of the ordinary for me, though I might have been joking more than usual – I had a piece being critiqued last night in workshop and felt nervous. She got mad at me for joking too much about sex, thinking I was teasing her for having a low libido. We argued. She stormed off teary; I walked home fuming. It frustrated me that she got so upset over a few immature comments. Cleaning the kitchen calmed me down. I kicked myself for not noticing S’s mood over breakfast, when she snapped at me for criticized her banana smoothie as being too thick. Then on our walk she told me she felt headachy, and tired, and had a long day ahead of her – no wonder she was less than chipper. I should have toned myself down, though of course she could have told me to take it down a notch before starting an argument. Then she called and apologized for just that.

Into the foreseeable future I’m going to try to remember to tread more lightly, though I know that sometimes the pregnancy blues will flare up no matter what. How could they not? With so many changes to her body, and anxieties about the future, and hormones floating around, she’s going to be feeling taxed. And being a daddy-to-be brings along nerves and anxieties too. Am I providing the right amount of care? What more can I do? Why isn’t she paying more attention to me? We both need to go light, and be nicer to one another, and ourselves, and remember that this is all just temporary. Already our relationship is changing, as we go from being a couple to parents.

Birthing Pains

I came across an interesting article in the New York Times about homebirths. We talked about having one after seeing The Business of Being Born, but decided against it, primarily because we’re not thrilled with our closest hospital, where we would go if complications came up. I also wasn’t down with the mess factor, and joked that we’d have to cover the floor in trash bags. In the article, people talk about using old shower curtains as a bed liner, so I guess my joke wasn’t too far from the truth.

One of the mothers interviewed vomited because her labor pain was so intense. Great. How do you prepare for this? Soldiers have combat drills where they practice adapting to chaos and dealing with pain and discomfort. Will our birthing classes help with this? I want team building exercises. I want labor simulations! I want to have some idea of the best way possible to be there for S. I fear getting on her nerves, or worse, increasing her stress level and adding to her discomfort.

When I told this to S, she used driving as a metaphor of what might happen during labor. We only drive on vacations, and we used to fight whenever we got lost. Now we’re clear on our roles. I stay calm and collected and navigate, and when I need time to look at the map I find a spot where we can pull over. S remains focused on driving and keeping us safe on the road. During our honeymoon in Spain we went astray a few times but never argued about it. She thinks this means that during labor we just need to figure out our parts to play and everything’ll go smoothly. I’m not so sure. Dealing with stress is a lot different than dealing with intense pain. Guess we won’t really know how either of us’ll deal with it till the heat of the moment. I hate high stakes tests!

Naked

Last night I woke up at four in the morning from a nightmare. I was in my childhood bedroom with my younger brother, and someone was hunting us, trying to get in to harm us. We could hear him yelling in the darkness outside the windows, but I couldn’t get them closed – we were vulnerable, only the screens blocked us from the outside. We piled behind the bed and looked out, nervous and afraid, ready to fight.

My brother is in surgery as I write this. A few days ago he flipped off of his bike and fractured his collarbone. The bone’s starting to poke through the skin so he has to have an operation to pin it in place.

After waking up last night I tried to talk myself down from the irrational fear that this is when the other shoe drops. After all the good news of the pregnancy, this is bad on the rise. I kept telling myself that it’s silly to see a relationship between non-related events, that the one thing does not logically lead to the other. This isn’t a novel.

I irrationally wonder if I should even be writing about this, or posting it here. When S told her aunt she was pregnant, her aunt said, “pfft, pfft, pfft – no bad news!” It’s a Jewish superstition. But you can’t keep life from happening.

The pregnancy has raised my awareness that I can’t always protect the people I love. Soon I’ll have a little baby that I’ll want to protect so much, and yet she or he will have to go through the same things we all do in life, the good and the bad. All we can do is enjoy the time we have with people while they’re here and in good spirits, and support and love them when they’re not. We are often helpless, naked, unable to prevent sickness and injury and death in the people we care about. But we have to stay positive.

That’s one of the reasons a person has children, right? Because you hope for the future, because you believe that the world will get better and not worse. No matter how many times shit is thrown in your path you walk around it, and keep going. My brother will heal, the baby will be born, and whatever evil was lurking outside in my dream will stay out, leaving us to appreciate how close we came, with only the thin screens between it and us huddled by the bed. Things are going to be ok in the end. I know it.

Meeting with the Midwives

On Monday morning we met with the midwives for the first time.

After the usual mess of paperwork, we were ushered into a small examination room. S sat on the table next to the monitoring equipment, and I squeezed into a seat in the corner. The room was dark and overheated and sterile. We expected a face-to-face chat with a midwife – was it going to happen here?

Within a few minutes one of the midwives poked her head in and apologized for the wait. “Come with me,” she said, in a calm tone, “we’ll meet in the doctor’s office.”

Sitting comfortably around a desk in a cluttered but airy office, she interviewed us about our medical and family histories and asked S in detail about the pregnancy so far. We had a few concerns. She reassured us that sleeping a lot is normal, frequent headaches are common, and it is usual for a pregnant woman to feel faint if her stomach is empty. She gave S good suggestions about eating moderately every two hours, and how to stay active during the pregnancy, and recommended that S drink more water – up to three liters a day if possible. We had plenty of time to ask questions, and she took our concerns seriously. She didn’t push us to go for the Nuchal screening, but advised us that more information was better than less. And she said that, based on her healthy diet, S didn’t have to stress too much about taking vitamins every day.

The meeting was everything that we don’t associate with a traditional doctor. We felt recognized as individuals, had the space to ask questions and provided with thoughtful answers, and were treated warmly and pleasantly. This was why we chose to go with midwives and have the birth at the Birthing Center. We want a safe environment that respects us as people with emotional, not just physical, needs. It feels great having someone that we trust to turn to for help.

The real thrill came at the end of the visit. We went back to the exam room and the midwife felt around S’s stomach – everything seemed to be where it should be – and then put a fetal monitor on her. A fast and steady rhythm, whawh, whawh, whawh, whawh, came through the speaker. “That’s your baby’s heartbeat,” she said. The three of us were all smiles.

Throughout the day I had little rushes of euphoria remembering the sound. We’re having a baby! It’s feeling like more and more of a reality.

New Worries

Every fetal development test raises our anxiety level.

Two weeks ago we were nervous about cystic fibrosis. The new worry is Down syndrome.

Yesterday morning S had a Nuchal translucency screening. An ultrasound was done to measure the baby’s neck – children with Down syndrome often develop more fluid in their neck during the first trimester, enlarging it. This measurement, along with two blood tests, predicts the likelihood of the fetus having Down syndrome. We won’t know the results for another few weeks, when the second vial is drawn.

As with the CF test, our big, abstract worry – is the fetus developing normally? has been made specific and focused. The tests, designed to make us feel better, actually ends up causing us to feel worse at first. But there’s nothing we can do except care for the baby’s development, assuming – hoping – that everything is developing normally.

Live It Up While You Still Can!

I told a buddy that S couldn’t come to a party he was having because she’s pregnant and has been hitting the sack early. He wrote back, “No worries re: tonight. But do remember to have a few nights out before that possibility is all over…”

That’s not the first time I’ve been told that having a kid means kissing your social life goodbye, and it bothers me.

I know that this assumption is partly based on a reality. Having a newborn means providing care 24/7, and raising a child in general means fewer nights out raging till the break’a dawn, and less spontaneous decision making. Plenty of parents allow having a child to change their entire lifestyle. Our friend B told us about a close friend she feels dropped her after the woman had a baby. At first the woman only wanted to do things where she could take the baby along – like coffee dates, but no nights out and no bars. But then the woman got so busy with the family that she stopped coming out and calling altogether.

Some friends have told us, “You’ll meet a lot of people with babies, and start hanging out with them.” Implying that we will only want to be friends with other parents, as if the world is broken into those with kids and those without, and the two shall never mix. Though maybe that’s partly true too. My friends are mostly white, college educated, and heterosexual – will they start being mostly parents now too? I hope not. I have a lot of friends who don’t want to have children any time soon.

We don’t plan on letting a baby seriously hamper our socializing, but then again, we’re not huge party people. Mostly we just go out for dinners and drinks with friends, something a kid could be a part of. In Brooklyn, couples out with babies are common. This summer we saw plenty of parents and children attending the free concerts in Prospect Park. There are even plenty of kid friendly bars in the area, some within baby monitor distance (so we can just leave the kid at home – jk). In Europe, we saw parents out with kids to dinner, bars, cafes – whatever. They were part of their parents’ lives.

When people predict the end of my social life, I’ve considered responding, “If you believe that then you obviously aren’t mature enough to be a parent.” But instead I’ve backed down and let it go. Before S and I seriously started talking about what it would mean to have a child, I used to think the same thing myself. They obviously don’t know any better.