For some reason, I feel even more sleep deprived now than I did a week after Charlie was born! Yesterday I was writing thank you notes and I kept signing my name without an r! Disturbing. Lucky for me I still seem to be coherent enough to get some work done and write a blog post that can hopefully be understood by other humans. Charlie is hanging out quietly in her swing, so I’ll share my birth story with you guys. :)
I can’t tell you how glad I am that I took notes on my birth experience a week after Charlie was born, because now I can’t remember last week, let alone six weeks ago! A lot of people seemed to express interest in my birth story, and I’m more than happy to share. If you have any questions about the details, let me know (either email me, ask on formspring, or ask in the comments!), because I’d be happy to answer any of your questions. Before I get into the details of what actually happened, I figure I’ll give you a bit of background on our preparation and expectations for the birth, just so you have an idea of what we were hoping it would be like.
I’m kind of a Type A personality, so I figured I’d prepare for our baby like I prepare for pretty much everything else: with lots of lists, self-education, and maybe a couple of classes. But I surprised myself: the only thing I really wanted to prepare was Charlie’s room. The rest of it? I could do without.
We have our health insurance through Kaiser Permanente, which I have nothing but good things to say about. Throughout my pregnancy, they offered a lot of free classes to help us prepare. A LOT. And I signed up for every single one of them. Oddly, I was surprised by how the classes made me feel: totally freaked out. I found myself squirming through each class, wanting to claw my eyeballs out. My mid-pregnancy class filled me with a ton of anxiety. I was fidgeting so much through my late-pregnancy class that I left during the break (thanks so much to Kasia, who told me to leave during the mid-pregnancy class - I didn’t, but I took your advice later!). The books I bought on pregnancy and childbirth made me feel equally uncomfortable; reading about every possible thing that could go wrong really bothered me. Furthermore, I had no desire to read about my experience: puking for four months is bad enough - I don’t need to read about it, too! For someone who doesn’t generally stick her head in the sand, I was pretty surprised by how tightly I wanted to cling to denial.
At first, I wondered what was wrong with me. Why didn’t I want to “prepare for childbirth” by taking a 12-hour course called, aptly, “Preparation for Childbirth”? Was I in denial? At some point, I started to realize that I was protecting myself from, well...me. I have a tendency to be high anxiety, and I’d been dreading childbirth since I was 8. No, I’m not kidding - since I was 8. I recall telling my parents I would NEVER have a baby because I didn’t want to give birth. This was something I’ve been afraid of my entire life, and learning about all the ways it could make me miserable did NOT help the situation.
On top of my general anxiety about childbirth, I worried about what my own labor would be like. In the past, my body has failed me a lot of the time. Not in any major ways, but in a lot of little ones. I have had chronic migraine headaches for years, stomachaches my entire life, and I’m super sensitive to medications. Also, anytime my body has to perform, be it my monthly cycle or climbing a mountain with a high elevation, it tends to react by throwing up (just ask anyone I went to Israel with). I really didn’t have much confidence that my body would get me through childbirth unscathed. Furthermore, my mother didn’t have a great birth experience; I was three weeks late, had the cord wrapped around my neck, and was born via c-section after she labored for two days but never progressed past 2cm.
But the other part of my avoiding “education” is that, on the whole, it was unnecessary and felt like a waste of my time. I mean, for crying out loud, our bodies are made to do this! What happens if I don’t go to the 12-hour Preparation for Childbirth class? Will my child not be birthed? Uh, no. It’s going to happen whether I take the class or not. On top of that, my dad is an OB/GYN and I’m pretty well educated about the birth process, so I knew what I wanted out of the experience, and, generally speaking, how things tend to go.
Y and I talked a lot about the birth experience that we both wanted. It was very important to me to have a vaginal delivery, and in an ideal world, I’d do it with no pain medication (after all, this is what women are meant to do, right? I should be able to do it as millions of other women have been able to - at least, that’s what I thought then). I felt very, very strongly that I didn’t want to be induced: pitocin is not something I wanted to experience. Furthermore, I am super sensitive to medications, especially narcotics. Morphine (which I’ve had for my migraines) makes me feel like I’m drowning. I knew that, if I wanted pain meds, I’d really only want an epidural.
As for the actual birth experience, I pictured myself squatting and doing all sorts of “natural” things. I wanted to labor in water. We chose the hospital we did because it’s sort of a Hippy Hospital - it’s staffed by midwives, and they’re totally open to women who want a natural childbirth experience. They have beautiful private labor rooms with showers; one of them has a jacuzzi to labor in.
Because my dad delivered babies for a living, I grew up knowing all about the birds and the bees, and I have a great relationship with my dad - I could ask him any question I might have. Although I liked the idea of a doula (a labor coach), I didn’t really think having one was necessary for us. I always figured people need a doula if they don’t understand why a certain intervention was suggested and they have no one to ask. But I had my dad to ask, right?
Y, on the other hand, seemed to really want a doula. I think he felt worried that things would go wrong, and if they went wrong or took days, he’d want some support. We talked about it, and we decided that a doula would be a nice person to have around. If I had an easy labor, we probably wouldn’t need her. But if I had a hard or long labor, we would probably be happy to have someone in the room who had done this before, and Y would be much more comfortable knowing I had someone to support me if he needed a break. We spent a lot of time researching and meeting with doulas, and ended up hiring a wonderful doula named Caitlin. The idea was that I would labor as long as possible at home with Y and Caitlin, and would go to the hospital as I transitioned into active labor.
Oddly, the only preparation I really did for my birth was talking to the doula and reading the weekly updates from Baby Center (hahaha). Granted, I WAS already pretty well educated about birth, what with my dad’s profession and the fact that I watched “the Business of Being Born” four times before I got pregnant, once with my dad (yes, I forced him to sit and watch it, and paused every time he had a comment). But still, I really didn’t do anything. I didn’t read any books and I barely paid attention in the classes (and even skipped the big 12-hour “Preparation for Childbirth” one). In fact, Y did more preparation than I did, reading the Expectant Father from cover to cover and sharing interesting factoids as he went along. And despite the fact that I’m generally a pretty anxious person, I was feeling pretty zen about it all.
The single greatest thing I did for myself during pregnancy was to avoid thinking about the things that scared me about childbirth (like, uh, excruciating pain?!). I didn’t listen to or read anyone else’s birth stories, and I tried my absolute hardest not to worry about anything. What I did try to do was focus on positive visualization. I said things to myself like, “I have my dad’s family genes” (ie, 12 hour labors and vaginal deliveries, as opposed to my mom's 72 hour labor and c-section), “this is the most natural thing in the word,” and “she’s going to swim out like a little fishy.” Yes, I know that last one is totally weird, but one of the doulas we talked to suggested it, and it worked pretty well for me.
I actually think I learned a lot about myself and what it takes to keep my anxiety in check from this experience. I knew that no matter what, I was going to birth a baby, and allowed me to let go of some of the control. Overall, that made my pregnancy easier to cope with (despite the constant exhaustion and puking, haha) and, I think, the birth easier too.
All right, folks, I’d say that pretty much sums that up, so I’ll leave you with that. Next time, what the actual labor and birth was like. :)
When I thought about getting pregnant, I (of course) had to think about my plans for Stinkerpants. I figured, “okay, once we get pregnant, I’ll have about 7-8 months to get a bunch of goals accomplished, and then once the baby is born I can take a step back and just maintain the business for awhile.”
Uh, yeah. That’s not what happened.
I didn’t anticipate that my life would change dramatically right away. I am sure this doesn’t happen for everyone, but heck–it sure happened for me. I found out I was pregnant, and literally two days later I started throwing up. By the next week, I was so exhausted that I could barely get off the couch. Even doing the laundry was both mentally and physically draining. Accomplishing my long list of goals for early 2010? Not going to happen! I’ve been in maintenance mode.
Now that I’m four five months (what is up with the way they calculate pregnancy months?!) into this pregnancy, my mind has cleared a little bit (although I did recently mail a letter to my mom and address it to myself–oops!) and the daily sickness seems to have gone the way of the exhaustion, thank heavens.
So now, with about 5 months until my due date, I’m finally thinking about my business and re-thinking my goals.
Part of this process involves thinking about maternity leave realistically. I’ve asked various people for advice on this and have been very unhappy with their responses, which have ranged from “plan?! You can’t HAVE a plan!” to “working at home with a baby is an impossibility until at least 7 months.” After hearing those responses, I was left feeling kind of powerless. After all, even though this seems like overkill to me, who am I to argue? What do I know? I’ve never had a kid.
Well, I’ll tell you what I do know, actually. I know that, at the end of the day, this is a baby. As Y said, it’s not like we’re battling wildfires every day. It’s definitely going to be hard, but seriously?! I can pick up my work for a few minutes and then drop it again when I have to take care of the baby–I don’t need 8 continuous hours of work, and I’m not doing brain surgery here. Furthermore, I know that I will have the help of my husband, in addition to both my parents and my in-laws.
I also know that this business isn’t a hobby for me, and I feel a great responsibility to my clients. And having my business sit idle for months on end isn’t good for the business, it isn’t good for me, and ultimately (because I’ll get cranky), it won’t be good for Little Stinker. The other thing? I can’t afford not to work for that long. But the real big kicker, the one that squashes all the negative advice, is this: I know that there are women who have done it, and I can be one of them.
This afternoon I was able to talk to a good friend of mine, who also happens to have a 7 month old baby. She made me feel a LOT better about what having a baby is all about, and actually reinforced some ideas I’d already had (mostly because my mom told me). For the first few months, the baby doesn’t need to be entertained that much. It’s mostly about figuring out how to get them to sleep, how to cope yourself, and letting your body heal. Once they get to be 5-7 months old, though, they start to need more attention. They want to be entertained. And that, my friends, is when I think working from home will be rough. But I’ll cross that bridge later. ;)
I also was very lucky to call on some inspirational and intelligent women from the wedding industry last week (thank you Michelle and Caroline!), who were very reassuring about my ability to keep running my business and take care of the baby. Because I’m not the only one who has gone through this or will go through this in the future, I figure I’ll post about my experience here on the blog every now and again. Maybe someone through Google will find my learning experiences helpful. :) And hey, I bet I’ll have a few funny experiences to share, too. ;)
In other news, I hope you are all well! Thank you again for your supportive comments on my last post. You guys are awesome!Comment
In my last post, I mentioned that I’d been working on something really big since mid-November, and it was taking a lot of my time and energy. That was a little bit of a lie. The truth is, I’ve been working on SEVERAL things, and I actually have a lot of cool surprises for you guys for 2010.
The project I was referencing in that post is definitely the biggest, and I’m going to tell you about it today.
How about I give you some clues, first? Okay, here’s the first one:
I didn’t want to tell you about this project until I was pretty darn sure it was going to happen.
Yeah, that was a lame hint. How about another one?
This project affects two cats, a dog, five chickens, and a lot of people.
Maybe you might be feeling a little bit closer to knowing what’s going on, but just in case…
This project has involved me sitting around on the couch, watching a lot of Law & Order: SVU on Netflix streaming while trying not to puke. In case you were wondering, yes, I do sometimes watch TV while drawing. However, I don’t usually do it from the couch, and my job definitely doesn’t make me want to puke.
Got it yet?
Okay, how about THIS one?
hahahahahaha. That one was pretty clear.
Yep, that’s my news: Y and I are having a baby!!! We found out in mid-December when I was five and a half weeks along, and we were both surprised and very happy. This was definitely in the plans for 2010, but we were very lucky to have it happen in 2009 instead.
So here are the details:
- I am now 11 weeks pregnant, and Little Stinker is due August 16th.
- We have had two ultrasounds, and the last one was really cool: the baby was actually moving around in there quite a bit, and we got to hear the heartbeat!
- This baby has knocked me on my keister. I didn’t have enough energy to tweet (thanks to everyone who asked where the heck I was, by the way!), let alone blog, which is why I seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. Thank goodness the holidays are a slow season for business-related projects! I’m starting to get my energy back, though the 24/7 nausea is still around. And that, combined with the fact that I don’t have to hide this news anymore, means I’ll be around again. :)
- We don’t know the sex, but we definitely want to find out. The appointment for this is in late March. We don’t particularly care whether it’s a boy or a girl, but we can’t wait to find out.
- The baby will be a Leo born in the year of the Tiger. Apparently this is very good news because the baby will get along with both Y and I. As my friend Lisa said, it will be a Liger. And really, that’s just awesome.
- Our parents are very, very excited.
- I will be taking a maternity leave, but I haven’t quite got the details of that worked out yet. If you have a project you’re thinking of starting after August, though, you might want to contact me sooner rather than later!
I think that’s it! I’m really, really excited to make a lot of cool things for this kid! Whoohoo!!Comment
After a long hiatus, I’m back with my concluding post. Sorry it took so long!
About three years ago, I was in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. A year earlier, I’d had to leave graduate school because of migraine headaches, and I had no idea what to do with my life. For my birthday, Y took me to see Avenue Q. And, as strange as it sounds, I had an A-ha moment in the middle of a puppet musical.
The story is about a kid who graduates from college and can’t figure out what to do with his life. He becomes overwhelmed and falls into a depression. The moral (at least to me) was that you don’t have to have everything all figured out right away. Do what’s right for right now, and it will probably lead you down the right path.
Incidentally, that’s how I ended up being an illustrator, and overall quite happy.
Anyway, the point of that story is this: one of my not-so-great qualities is that I tend to overwhelm myself by thinking too far ahead. I end up panicking and then becoming emotionally paralyzed when I realize that I’m not where I want to be. I don’t own a house, I don’t have a retirement account, my business can’t support me in the lifestyle I’d like, etc.
Considering I am 26, this is ridiculous and I know it.
This is, however, how I ended up having majorly deep thoughts about bearing children when I haven’t even been married a year. This is also why I’ve titled this series “Why I Will *Probably* Have Kids.” I say *probably* because I’m 26 and I don’t need to make major decisions right now. In fact, I shouldn’t make major life decisions right now, because (other than marriage) I’m not ready to make them. And that’s okay.
For awhile, Y and I weren’t sure if we wanted to have kids at all. Y is 32 and never had any urges to be a parent. I never really thought about it–I just knew that I wasn’t ready.
And then my friend Karen had a child. Look at this child:
That is Emmett. No offense to all the babies I’ve seen, but he is by FAR the cutest baby I have ever seen in my entire life. He also happens to be half Asian, half white. Hmm.
Before I met little E, I’d never really held a baby before. I’m an only child, and I was never really exposed to kids. To be honest, I have no idea what to do with them, and up until E I had no desire to be anywhere near them.
When I saw E, though, I wanted to pick him up. When I held E, I didn’t want to let anyone else hold him. I’ve never had those feelings before. It was as if something switched in my brain and I suddenly wanted a baby. I totally wanted to see what it was like to be pregnant, and I wanted to see what kind of adorable-ness a Chewish (Chinese-Jewish) baby would contain.
This went on for about three months.
And then I calmed down. I realized that I am not ready to have a baby. No way. I’m not ready for my life to change. At this point, I feel like feeding a dog, four cats and seven chickens is responsibility enough! Add a baby to the mix, and I’d have absolutely no time to work. Stinkerpants would die. And with it, I (and by this, I mean the ME I was talking about in my previous post) would die–because I haven’t completely matured yet. And at 26, how many people have?! So no, I’m not ready yet.
But I am open to the possibility that at some point, I will be ready for my life to change. At some point, my business will be stable, and I will have enough money to hire someone to help me with the kids part-time so I can get some work done. At some point, I really do think I will want to have kids and I will be ready for them. And I won’t lose myself in them, because *me* will be fully matured and stable. I think people who have kids too soon or without thinking are the ones who end up living my Dominating Fear.
That being said, I know myself well enough to know the following things:
- I have the potential to will freak out and get postpartum depression, so I need to watch that.
- I will need a lot of support from my partner and my family.
- I will want my Mommy (haha).
I will need a lot of support. But you know what? That’s okay. And I think knowing that will *probably* make me a very good parent one day.Comment
When I left off, I was talking about my Dominating Fear of ending up in the suburbs. This Dominating Fear is the main reason why I am afraid of having kids.
I don’t even remember when I first developed the Dominating Fear. Maybe it’s always been a part of me. I don’t think about it all the time; it’s not like I drive into suburbia and get a panic attack. I think that’s part of why it’s such a Dominating Fear. It’s an uneasiness, really: a deep-rooted sensation that one day I will wake up and realize that my greatest fear was substantiated long ago.
I am absolutely terrified of ending up in the suburbs with a minivan, being “just like everyone else.” Not knowing who I am. Not REMEMBERING who I am. For a long time, I’ve thought that these fears were just about Suburbia. I really thought that I just didn’t want to end up in Suburbia. Well, that’s easy enough to avoid, right?! Just don’t move to Lincoln*.
So why do I still have that panic every once in awhile?
I still have the panic because I was wrong. The fear has very little to do with Suburbia, and everything to do with children.
This is not like a fear of heights, where you know you’re climbing higher and higher with every new rung on a ladder. This kind of thing happens a little bit at time, over the course of many years, and then ONE DAY you just realize it: Oh crap, I let it happen.
A few years ago, I was watching a sitcom where one guy said to another guy, “Marriage is the death of all things fun.” He was pushing a grocery cart filled with two difficult children and a lot of groceries. I remember thinking, “I’m pretty sure that the marriage isn’t what made this guy so miserable: it’s the kids.”
Kids are the death of freedom.
They mean that you can’t live in a tiny apartment in the city. You can’t decide that you’re bored of your current apartment and move. You can’t realize that you’ve always wanted to live in New York for a year and do it. You can’t go out to dinner at a nice restaurant on a whim’s notice. You have to plan everything in advance, because you’ve got to figure out what to do with the kids.
You also can’t decide to take a sick day from work and hang out with your partner. You can’t lay in bed all day and order a pizza for dinner because you just didn’t feel like doing anything. For the next eighteen+ years, you will always have something to do.
Kids mean sacrifice. You don’t get to do what you want to do. You have to do what needs to be done. This is why people give up their sports cars for minivans: because the kids can’t fit in your mini cooper, and you’ve gotta take one for the team.
But I think the scariest thing to me is that kids change the way you think. Suddenly, all you think about is your kids. In the beginning, you’re fascinated by little socks and tiny hats. The decision between cloth diapers versus disposables is very important. Then, before you know it, you’re enjoying things that you once considered a form of torture, like kid’s soccer games. The kids are the most interesting thing in your life, and they’re all you have to talk about. Before you know it, even your answering machine message has been dominated by little kids.
And that’s when it happens. That’s when you wake up and realize that your whole entire life revolves around your kids. You know what they like. You know what they need at any given time of day. You know where they need to be, because that’s where you need to be. You don’t ever think about what you want and need anymore. And then you suddenly realize that you don’t even know what you want and need. Because you stopped thinking about you years ago.
This is what I’m afraid of: I’m afraid of looking in the mirror and realizing that I was so busy taking care of my kids that I let my life get away from me. It’s not even about being one of the moms who “let go” and are in desperate need of an Oprah makeover (although that doesn’t help). It’s about having no more me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do think that children are a great thing to contribute to the world (so long as you don’t raise Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly), and I totally agree with Oprah: stay-at-home-moms have the hardest jobs in the world. I’ve realized that I’m just not cut out for it–I don’t think I can make that kind of sacrifice, and I am terrified that I’d feel a major sense of isolation. I get depressed somewhat easily, and I really don’t think I could cope. It’s just not my path. I need other things. Maybe not only other things, but at least other things too.
It’s not like I’m contributing anything major to the world right now. But I have a feeling that I will, one day. I have a feeling that I’ll start some major company that will recycle hazardous waste, or I’ll institute some sort of plan to make a big difference somewhere. The Dominating Fear is that I will forget about all of that.
As kids, we have Big Dreams about what we want to do with our lives. When you start having childen, you put those dreams on the backburner, saying you’ll come back to them when you have time. And then, 20 years later, you realize that you never had time, because everyday life is a bit of a struggle and the years pass quickly. It’s hard enough to accomplish Big Dreams. I’m scared that, if I have kids, I’ll look back on my life and think, “Crap. I really love my kids, but I didn’t accomplish my Big Dreams.”
I’ve come to realize that the Dominating Fear has a lot of truth to it, but that it’s not a given. Just because you have kids does not mean that you’re definitely going to end up a “shell of a person.” It’s not guaranteed that your whole entire life will revolve around diapers and soccer games. Not every mom goes to soccer games, after all.
But more on that tomorrow.
*I grew up near Lincoln. It used to be a tiny, tiny town, but it’s grown exponentially in recent years due to HUGE subdivisions full of houses that all look the same. This is where people from the Bay Area seem to go when they want a big house with a big garage and don’t care about being close to the city anymore.Comment
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