Making Your Way

“I didn’t realize babies come with hats. You guys crack me up. You don’t have jobs. You can’t walk or speak the language. You don’t have a dollar in your pockets but you got yourselves a hat, so everything’s fine.”
–Toby Zeigler, The West Wing, “Twenty Five”

So Maggie, my girl, here is the story of your birth:

I had my first contraction at 12:05 a.m. on Sunday, November 17th.  I had another one an hour later and told your daddy that although they were far apart, we might want to start keeping an eye on them.  I had another contraction just before 2, and then I didn’t wake up again for another hour and 45 minutes.  From then on, the contractions came randomly, some 20 minutes apart, some an hour apart.  I didn’t sleep well at all.

By around 11 on Sunday morning, I knew you were on your way.  The contractions were still irregular, sometimes 4 minutes apart, and sometimes 10.  They were so, so painful.  I told Daddy, “If this is just ‘early’ labor, I am in deep trouble.”  I had said all along I wanted to give birth med-free, but I was beginning to doubt my ability to handle the pain.  I think I was trying to come to terms with what I had a feeling was inevitable, that I would need an epidural.

Around 2, Daddy made me go for a walk.  He wanted to see if that stopped the contractions or made them more regular.  We walked for a long time, all around our neighborhood, and we quickly learned that it made the contractions more regular.  I was down to 3-4 minutes apart.  If I could walk through them, they were easier to take than if I stood still, so we tried to keep moving.  We walked through the woods behind our house and found the biggest maple leaf I’ve ever seen.  Daddy picked it up and brought it home with us.

We called the doctor when we got back, but they said it was still too soon to go to the hospital.  I was both glad, because I still harbored hopes (if small ones) of going med-free (and the longer you labor at home, the less likely you are to get pain meds), and mad, because I was in so much pain and just the thought of being in the place where they could take care of me was a relief.

I continued to labor at home; when I sat or rested, the contractions got further apart but they hurt more.  I begged Daddy to just take me to the hospital, but he knew that wasn’t the right thing.  I was freaking out, to be honest. I had convinced myself that this amount of pain was out of the ordinary and that something must be wrong.  We fought, your daddy and me, which I hate, and I cried big, scared tears, but in the end, he calmed me down and convinced me to go for another walk.

By then, the moon was out.  I told you I knew you’d come during the full moon, right?  I only lasted 30 minutes on the walk.  By the time we got back, the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, and the doctor finally said we could come in.  Daddy loaded up the car with the bags we’d waited to pack until we were fighting, we called your grandparents to tell them you were on your way, and off we went.  I had several contractions in the car that were almost unbearably painful.  I did my best to do the breathing we learned in Lamaze class, and it helped a little, but they were really overwhelming.

Daddy dropped me off at the front of the hospital around 8:15 p.m. and went to park the car.  A nurse came down to take me upstairs, but not before I had three contractions in the lobby while strangers walked by.  Once I got to a triage room, I had to stay on the bed.  The nurses put two monitors on me and asked me a million questions I couldn’t possibly be expected to answer.  Thank goodness Daddy had made it upstairs by then.

Then the nurse wanted to do a cervical check.  She waited until I was between contractions, but it was still the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever felt (but it would soon be topped – stay tuned).  She said she couldn’t get a good “read” on how dilated I was, so she was going to have another nurse try.  That one also sucked, but when she said she thought I was already 5-6 centimeters, I figured it was worth it – that was more than halfway.  They moved me (on the bed – they brought in a wheelchair first, but realized there was no way) to our labor and delivery room at 9:30, where we would spend the next 15 hours.

It was chaos in there.  I was having a hard time focusing on my contractions to breathe through them because of all of the commotion.  They said I needed an IV – we asked for a hep lock or saline lock, still hoping I’d be able to get up and walk through labor.  They said I was dehydrated and needed fluid, I had to have the IV.  The nurse whose job it was to stick me was the worst, like she’d never tried to do this on someone in labor before.  At one point, she was trying to stick me, the OB on call was about to do a cervical check, my nurse was pressing the monitor into my belly trying to locate your heartbeat, and I was having a contraction.  I shouted for everyone to stop touching me, at least until the contraction was over.  Poor Daddy was trying his best to advocate for me, but there were just so many people in there and they were all talking to me and I couldn’t hear them all at once and they didn’t seem to care.

The OB finally did her cervical check and I thought I was going to die.  I have never felt pain like that before.  I was screaming and trying to scoot up the bed away from her hand and sobbing, begging her to stop.  She couldn’t feel what she needed to because I couldn’t be still.  She came to my side and said, very kindly, “If you are having this much trouble tolerating the cervical check, I really, really recommend that you get an epidural.”  I protested that cervical checks aren’t necessary and couldn’t we just go without and she said no.

I knew I was sunk.  The anesthesiologist came in to talk to us.  He asked us about our concerns and reassured me about each of them.  I really can’t adequately convey the amount of pain I was in.  I knew there was no way I could labor like that for much longer, but I was so conflicted about accepting the epidural.  I asked Daddy if he’d be disappointed in me if I got it and he, of course, said no.  I relented.  The process of the epidural itself was something else altogether – imagine having to try to stay relaxed and still while contractions wrack your body.  Our nurse, Emma, was my lifesaver here.  I leaned my forehead on her chest, she put her hands on my shoulders, and spoke right into my ear, telling me what to do and how to stay calm.  It was painful, but I tried to focus on the fact that at the end of it, I’d have relief and maybe even be able to sleep.

The epidural took about 20 minutes to fully take effect, but when it did – wheeeeeeeee! My whole lower body was numb and tingly.  I could still tell when a contraction was happening, but it was basically painless.  The nurse put my catheter in and my water broke shortly after that, around 10:45.  When the doctor came back to check me again around midnight, it was like a walk in the park compared to the first time.  Turns out I was only 4 centimeters, so they basically turned out the lights and left us to labor in peace, since they expected it to take about 6 hours to get to 10 centimeters.  I was so relieved to be out of pain; I was already exhausted and looking forward to resting.

My parents showed up around 1 a.m.  I offered them the keys to our house so they could get some sleep, but they opted to stick around.  Papa went to sleep in the car and Grandma stayed in the room with us.  Daddy pulled out the chair that turned into a bed and we both tried to sleep.  I was able to rest fairly well, but I’m not sure I ever really fell asleep.  Around two, the OB checked me and I was only 5 centimeters, but two hours later, I was up to 8.  I figured we’d be ready to go around 6, but I was still not complete by then, so they had me “labor down,” which means to use gravity (by sitting more upright in bed) to help move you into position.

At some point, I started to get severe right lower back pain.  It was excruciating, particularly during contractions, and changing positions did nothing to help.  They called the anesthesiologist to give me what they called a “bolus” of epidural medicine, something a little different than what was in my drip, that would take the edge off the pain.  When the anesthesiologist arrived, he asked me some questions to determine what kind of pain I was having.  Apparently whatever I answered made him think I might be ready to push, so he held off on the bolus and instead told me to push the button on my epidural to release more medication.  Shortly after that, the OB determined that I wasn’t far enough along to push, and I was still having the back pain, so a different anesthesiologist came and gave me the bolus.  I remember wondering if it was too close in time to the button pushing, but when I asked about it, they said it was fine.  I was immediately nauseous, though, from the combination of medicines, and spent a good five minutes vomiting.  Since I’d had nothing to eat for the last 13 or 14 hours, couldn’t sit up completely, and was utterly exhausted, it was a really terrible 5 minutes.

Finally, around 8:45 or so, the doctor determined I was complete and ready to push.  Grandma and Papa headed to the waiting room, Daddy came back from getting breakfast (he hadn’t eaten anything except the graham crackers he managed to pilfer from the clear liquids room since lunchtime the day before), and the nurses explained to me just what to do.  This is where the epidural both came in handy and was a bit of a problem.  One the one hand, because of the medicine, pushing did not hurt.  Don’t get me wrong: It was HARD work, but it was not painful.  On the other hand, because of the medicine (and likely exacerbated by the bolus and the last button push being so close to the time I started to push), I couldn’t feel if I was pushing in my bottom, the way the nurses said, so my first several rounds of pushes were not that effective.  I knew when I needed to push, because I could feel the contractions start in the bottom of my left ribs and in my right hip bone, and I could hold my breath and bear down, but I couldn’t be sure I was focusing my pushing quite where it needed to be.

This is also where I needed pitocin.  I’d hoped to avoid it, but for whatever reason, when it was time to push, my contractions went from 1-2 minutes apart to about 6 minutes apart.  I asked if we could forgo the pitocin.  The nurses said yes, but said it would make labor that much longer – probably 4 hours of pushing.  Given that I’d basically been up for nearly 36 hours at this point, was starving, and really just anxious to meet you, Daddy and I agreed on the condition that they start me on the lowest dose possible.  That worked out pretty well, though they did need to turn up the drip a little throughout the pushing.

As I said, pushing was hard work; I was getting four and sometimes five pushes per contraction, but because of the epidural, the early ones weren’t that effective.  As it started to wear off a bit, I became more aware of where I was focusing my energy and I got better at it.  Daddy was right there by my side the whole time, holding my head and encouraging me.  Towards the end, he could see you coming out and he just broke down crying.  I was watching his face, and during my last three or so pushes, we locked eyes and were crying together, me while trying to hold my breath.

I remember feeling like you must be super close to coming out, but I couldn’t be sure.  All of a sudden, the doctor yelled, “Melanie, open your eyes!” and I looked down, and she pulled you out and then you were crying and Daddy and I were crying and I was laughing.  I reached out for you and they put you on my chest and Daddy and I just cried and laughed.  Then, I was holding your bottom and I felt something warm and wet, and I sort of shouted through laughter, “I think she peed on me!”  And the nurse said, “And pooped!”  And I did not care.  The nurses rubbed you down and put a hat on you.  They asked Daddy if he wanted to cut your cord and God bless him, he remembered to ask if it had stopped pulsing first, so at least that one thing went the way we hoped.  He cried while he did it, and then he cried some more when he held you for the first time.  There was lots and lots of crying, by all three of us.  You were here, you were safe, and you were ours.

There’s more after all of this — meeting Grandma and Papa, what happened when the pediatrician said you had to go to the NICU, 12 days home already — but that’s the story of your birth.  You took a long time to get here, both literally and figuratively, but Daddy and I knew you’d be worth the wait.  We love you times infinity, little girl.

Maggie at 6 days old

Maggie at 6 days old


Dear Baby

What I really want to tell him is to pick up that baby of his and hold her tight, to set the moon on the edge of her crib and to hang her name up in the stars.
— from My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult

Dear Baby,

I want to tell you about your daddy.  I don’t even know where to start.  Maybe with this:  He loves you so, so much.  I mean, of course he does, right?  He’s your dad.  But really, it’s immense and it’s more overt than I imagined.  I thought he’d love you shyly – secretly, even – but it’s big and right out there in the open, and it is something to see.

When we got engaged, he didn’t tell anyone at work (because he didn’t want to answer questions about where and when and details), but he’s had your sonogram picture on his desk at work for months and months – he’s already so proud to be your daddy.  He talks to you in my belly every day, and touches you and gives you kisses.  I assumed that was something he’d only do when it was just us, but he doesn’t care who’s around.  He asks everyone he knows who’s already a parent for advice because he wants to be sure he does right by you.

About six weeks ago, he had a bad day at work.  On his way out, a co-worker asked him how his day was.  He said, “It was terrible, but I don’t care, because tonight I get to go home and put my daughter’s dresser together.”  When he got home and told me this story, he said, “I’m beginning to realize what’s really important.  Work only matters as a means to an end.  She, and you, are what really matter.”

He has excitedly put together every piece of equipment and furniture you have amassed, and even when the process is frustrating, he delights in the end result, imagining how happy you’ll be swaying in your swing or kicking your feet while lying in your crib.  He has installed and removed and reinstalled your carseat at least twice in each car, wanting to be extra sure that it’s as safe as it can possibly be.

I knew when we got together, of course, that he’d be a good dad,  but I assumed he’d be a more hands-off dad, or at least the kind of dad who’s more comfortable with older kids (he’s great with your cousins).  But we took a breastfeeding class, and there were fake babies, and your daddy held our baby the entire time except when I was practicing with her.  He cradled her, and rubbed her back, and made sure her diaper was on right, and patted her belly.  When he’d hand her to me, I’d grab her by the arm – she was fake, after all – and he’d give me a look and say, “You have to support her neck.”  It’s cliche, but true: I fell in love with him even more that day.

I don’t want you to think his giant love for you means you’re going to get away with anything, though.  He’s already steeling himself for the onslaught of puppy dog eyes and “Daddy, please” in a sweet little voice.  He’s not going to be a pushover.  And when you’re bigger and you think that he’s the meanest father in the universe and he just doesn’t understand you,  I’m going to show you this.  You might still be right that he doesn’t understand you, but at least you’ll know that he has loved you since before we even knew you were you and that all he wants is to be the best dad he can be.

See you soon, baby girl.



“Sure, everything is ending,” Jules said, “but not yet.”
  — from A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

Today I am 35 weeks pregnant and have 35 days to go.  I either will or will not last 35 more days – it’s not an exact science, this pregnancy thing.

Baby girl hasn’t dropped, but I’ve had lots and lots of Braxton-Hicks contractions.  At Tuesday’s appointment, my doctor confirmed that the baby is head down, which is a relief because that’s step one in my master plan of not having a c-section.  This week, we attended three classes – one on what to expect during labor and delivery, particular to my insurance company and the hospital where I will deliver; one on how to care for a newborn, where the fake baby for diaper changes was a hermaphrodite, shockingly; and an all-day Lamaze class yesterday.  We have one last class – the basics of breastfeeding – this week, and then, apparently, we’ll know everything.

As we speak, David, who long ago volunteered to be responsible for the laundry in our relationship, is sitting in the next room sorting all the clothes, blankets, sheets, towels, washcloths, burp cloths, and bibs we’ve so generously received from friends and family – seriously, we’ve bought her almost nothing in those categories, except for Tigers and Braves gear.  He’s alternately marveling at how tiny the things are, wearing her hooded towels, and lamenting how many of the things say “machine wash separately” but don’t also say “with like colors.”  Spoiler alert: He’s not going to wash them separately.

We also just had a 10-minute conversation on whether to use the bottle of Dreft we were given as part of a shower gift – we think baby-specific things (dish detergent, blenders, laundry detergent, plastic containers) are generally a racket and not worth the mark-up.  It seems the makers of Dreft somehow convinced the world it was best for babies, but I don’t get it, because it’s not as if it’s fragrance-free – it actually kind of stinks, in my opinion.  In the end, we decided to go ahead and use it – no sense wasting it – but we won’t buy it ourselves.  We’ll stick to our usual All Free and Clear.

People keep asking me if we’re ready.  I always say, “Yep, just about.”  But really, I’m thinking, “Does it matter?  She’s coming whether we’re ready or not.”  I keep trying to control the things I can – the nursery is all but done (we’re waiting for Sears to finally ship us the last two drawer fronts for her dresser that were damaged in the initial shipment and we need to hang the pictures); we’ve got a Pack-n-Play and a swing and the carseat (still need the stroller, though, I just remembered); I’ve got a list of stuff to pack for the hospital and the baby’s bag is started; I’ve got my birth plan all, well, planned, I just need to actually write it down.  I think I’m more or less trying to ignore the things I can’t control – when is she coming, will there be some kind of emergency, what if David can’t get to me when I go into labor – because why borrow trouble, right?  Of course, that’s easier said than done.

David is amazing.  I feel really lucky that he’s the one by my side through all of this.  He’s so sensible and not easily flustered, so I know I can count on him to be calm when I’m not and to be my advocate in the hospital.  He was so good at Lamaze class yesterday when we were practicing all the breathing and relaxation techniques, and I know he’s going to be such a big help to me when I’m in labor.  On top of it all, he’s a total softy when it comes to the baby; he took her sonogram picture to work to put on his desk.  I just love that – he’s already so proud to be her daddy.

Pregnancy is, give or take, 40 weeks, but “term” is considered 37 weeks.  So, we’d like this little one to stay put for at least two more weeks, but we’ll be happy – if not ready – to greet her whenever she arrives.

On Motherhood

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
–from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood now that I’m pregnant. Well, really, I’ve been thinking about my mom. To be more specific, I’ve been thinking about my mothers, plural.  See, I have kind of a complicated history.

My biological parents were never married.  They had my brother and then me during the course of their relationship.  I don’t know all the specifics, but the way I understand it is that they broke up before I was a year old.  One day, when I was one, my dad asked Debbie (my biological mom) if he could take me and Nate to visit his friend’s daughter in the hospital in California (we lived in Las Vegas at the time).  He promised to have us back by 10 the next morning.  He disappeared with us instead.

It took me until I was in college to understand that my father kidnapped us.  That’s because (a) I didn’t understand that a parent could kidnap his own children, and (b) I had a really good life, so it never occurred to me that what he’d done was wrong, because it turned out so well.

The next several years don’t matter for the purposes of this story, but suffice it to say, they were not good, particularly for my brother, and my dad was in school, so we were separated from him, living with different family members.  When I was 5 and Nate was 7, we – my dad, the woman who would become my (step)mother (Renee), Nate, and me – were all finally able to be together again in a little town outside Philadelphia.  When I was 6 and Nate was 8, my dad and mom got married, and in a few weeks, they’ll celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

I want to be clear that Nate and I always understood that Renee was not our biological mother.  I also want to be very clear that we did not care.  We did not feel Debbie’s absence in our life in any way.  For my part, that was probably because I was so little when my dad took us that I had no memory of her.  That’s probably true for Nate as well, but I can’t be sure.  In any event, when I was about 10, shortly after we moved to Virginia, Debbie reappeared in our lives by mail.  I honestly cannot remember the first letter or my parents talking about her wanting to write to us or anything – it just happened (the how came later, and I’ll get to that).

I was 10 or 11; I thought it was cool.  She lived in Las Vegas, which I thought was so glamorous, and she sent pictures of the desert and wildlife.  She also sent pictures of our half-brother and the rest of her family.  We graduated to talking on the phone, and the next summer, she came to visit.  Looking back, I can see just how awkward it must have been for everyone, but for us it meant a motel pool and baby mementos and presents and showing her off at little league games.  For Nate, it meant an illicit ride in the driver’s seat of her rental car on a back country road – he was 14.

It also meant the first time I came face-to-face with a functioning alcoholic.  I didn’t know it then, of course, but she literally drank beer as if it were water, including when she was driving us around.  I clearly remember her worrying that she might get pulled over for something and the cop would see an open container.

I remember feeling, even then, like I had some obligation to her, to protect her feelings.  I would apologize when I referred to Renee as “mom,” which we’d called her since she married my dad.  She would lament how much she missed while begrudgingly admitting that our lives in Virginia were better than she could have possibly provided for us.  I felt guilty because I had an easier life than she did.

We went to visit her in Las Vegas when we were in high school.  That’s where we met our half-brother for the first time and where the rest of her family wept with joy when they saw us, because the last time they’d seen us we were 1 and 3.  It’s also where I learned that she essentially blackmailed our father into letting her have contact with us again.  I clearly remember the smile on her face as she told us how it happened and what she’d threatened him with – my dad was just a kid when they were together, remember, and it was the 70’s.  She obviously thought she’d been so clever.  I didn’t understand it then; in fact, I think I chuckled right along with her.  Less than 10 years later, though, I’d see things much differently.

We went again to Las Vegas when we were in college.  I honestly don’t remember that much about that visit except that, like the two prior times we’d seen her, alcohol was her number one priority.  It seemed normal there, because all of the adults (and several of my underage cousins) also drank, but in truth, it was so far from my reality at home that it shocked me.

The next and last time I saw Debbie was the weekend of my brother’s wedding, almost 11 years ago now.  Nate and Molly paid for her to come to Virginia – she never could have afforded it otherwise – and she got off the plane with $100 cash that her sister had given her when she dropped her off at the airport.  We all met for lunch and then she came back to my apartment with me to get ready to go the rehearsal and then the hotel.  On the way to my apartment, she said, “Do you have beer at your apartment?”  When I said no, she said, “Then we need to stop and get some.”  So I did.  She bought a case of beer and cracked one – warm – in the car on the 5-minute ride to my apartment.  And she carried the case with her to the hotel and I never saw her without a drink the rest of the weekend.

After the rehearsal, my whole family went out to dinner.  I asked her if she wanted to come and she asked if my grandmother (my dad’s mother) would be there.  When I said yes, she said, “I’ll pass.”

The next night, after the wedding reception, I came back to the room to find her on the phone to her sister, in tears.  When she hung up, I asked what was wrong.  She said, “That bitch . . . ” and said that when Molly’s brother was doing the toast at the reception, he made sure to thank Debbie when he thanked my parents.  She said that my grandmother, who I guess happened to be standing right next to her, said, “How nice for you.”  In case you can’t keep track, my grandmother is “that bitch” in this story.

Now, look: I know my grandmother, and I know exactly how she said “How nice for you” – I can hear it in my head as plain as day, and I know it wasn’t genuine.  I also know that Debbie blames my grandmother for not helping her find us when my dad took us.  But at that point, 25 years had passed, she had a relationship with us, and she was at my brother’s wedding, for crying out loud.  I thought it was time to let bygones be bygones.  I asked her not to talk like that about my grandmother, and she said she was sorry.

Later that night, the bridesmaids and groomsmen went out to a local bar.  When we walked in, the first thing I saw was Debbie, drunk, hanging out by the pool table flirting with some young guys who looked increasingly uncomfortable.  I pretended I didn’t know her.

She came back to the hotel room around 1 a.m. when Aimee and I were already in bed, stumbling around, reeking of cigarette smoke.  She asked if she could leave the TV on while she fell asleep.  I was sick already and needed my rest, and I can’t sleep with the TV on, so I probably said “Ok” in a less-than-agreeable manner.  She immediately turned off the tv, threw the remote on the table, and started basically acting like a child who didn’t get her way, throwing her suitcase off the bed and generally stomping around.  I turned on the light.  “What is the problem?”

All of a sudden, it was on.  She called me a selfish brat and said I always had to have everything my way.  It escalated from there.  At one point, I wheeled on her and said, “Fuck you.”  I immediately regretted it and said I was sorry and didn’t mean it.  She narrowed her eyes and said, “You meant it.”  I started packing my bags to go sleep in my parents’ room.  She begged me not to – “Don’t drag your father into this.”  She begged Aimee to stop me – Aimee was like, “Sorry, lady – I’m not getting in the middle of this.”  I told her she’d taken advantage of Nate and Molly’s generosity to bring her to the wedding and then she shat all over my family while she was at it.  I told her I was tired of seeing her drunk all the time – to which she had the audacity to reply that she hadn’t had that much to drink.  We left and went to my parents’ room, waking them up.  I could hardly tell them what happened I was crying so hard.  We slept on the pull-out couch in their room.

The next morning we were supposed to go to brunch at Molly’s mom’s house.  My face was swollen from crying and my head was pounding, so I was going to pass.  I was also supposed to take Debbie to the airport.  My dad said, “You need to deal with this.  You can’t let her go under these circumstances.”  Then he gave me $40 to give her for a cab.

I knocked on her door and she opened it and let me in.  She handed me a bag filled with stuff I’d missed in my frantic packing the night before.  She was going to leave it at the front desk with note for them to call me to get it.  When I opened it later, I saw she’d included the three beers left over from the case she’d bought Friday afternoon.

I apologized and offered her a ride to the airport.  She refused and said she’d already called a cab.  I offered her the money my dad gave me, but she refused that, too.

In the aftermath of that weekend, she wrote me a dozen or more times, until I left for law school and told her to stop contacting me.  For me, it was a necessary break.  I finally admitted to myself what I’d been denying for a very long time: I don’t like her very much.  I don’t think she’s a good person and I don’t want her in my life.  When I was in contact with her, I constantly felt guilty for one thing or another, but mostly just for generally turning out ok, because I wouldn’t have if we’d stayed with her.  I always felt that a lot of what I did for her, the contact I had with her, I did out of a sense of obligation, not because I loved her or even liked her.  I realized that I 100% resented the way she’d wormed herself into our lives, the way she threatened my dad, the way I hadn’t even known who she was and she insisted on being a part of my life when I wasn’t in a position to say no.

She kept writing me, sending the letters to my brother’s house, even though he’d cut off contact with her, too, after learning about what happened after the wedding.  I never opened them.  I don’t know if she still sends them.  I’m friends with my half-brother and cousins on Facebook, but I blocked her when she started messaging me there.  I assume they tell her things about me, and I don’t particularly care.  I just don’t personally want a relationship with her.

Three years ago, for my mom’s 60th birthday, Nate and I asked her to adopt us.   She was our mom when we didn’t even know what the word meant – she accepted the three of us as a package deal and put her own plans on hold to be sure she and my dad could take care of us.  By the time they were sure they could, her time to have biological kids of her own had expired.  As much as she loves us, I know that’s one of the great sadnesses of her life.  She never lets on, though, and she never, ever treated us like we robbed her of something she wanted so badly.  And she would have adopted us years ago, but they knew Debbie wouldn’t give permission.  So we want it to be official now, finally, because she’s our mother in every way that matters.

We started the process, but it got delayed for one reason or another and still hasn’t happened yet.  Recently, my mom brought it up and said she hadn’t forgotten about it, but that before we do it, she wants me and Nate to tell Debbie.  I was hoping to skate by with the legally required notice from the lawyer, but I know that’s the coward’s way out.  I don’t know what to say to her.  I mean, I guess it doesn’t matter, because it’s not her choice and we don’t need her permission anymore, but I want to be kind about it.  I need to talk to Nate, obviously, so we can work on a letter together.

The sooner, the better.  It’s already been too long coming, as far as I’m concerned.

The Bend

Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.
–from Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

I suspect this is relatively normal, but in the past few days, I’ve started to feel overwhelmed by anxiety. Assuming I go full term, which is never a guarantee, I have less than 14 weeks left in my pregnancy. Some of my anxiety is about what’s left to be done – finding daycare is the big one – some of it’s about thinking I should be doing things more/differently/better, some of it’s about labor and delivery, and some of it’s about what comes after. All of it is fucking with my head.

I’ve been having trouble concentrating at work for the past several days. Pre-pregnancy, when my anxiety started affecting me that severely, I’d pop an Ativan to get me through – maybe once a month, if that. Ativan is contraindicated for pregnancy, though, and while a single 10mg pill probably wouldn’t make a difference or cause a problem, I just can’t do it. So I’m stuck trying to use relaxation techniques and whatever the fuck people did before drugs. And I hate it. So now I’m writing about it in the hopes that it will help.

Daycare here is a nightmare. I started looking at 12 weeks – so, in May for care to start late next February – and it was already too late. We want the baby in the city with us during the day for a lot of reasons, but everywhere has waiting lists that are at least 12 or 18 months long. It’s ridiculous and I know we’re going to have to come up with an alternate plan, but that plan doesn’t exist right now. I seem to be sort of counting on the fact that my life has largely been charmed and things just seem to work themselves out. That is a terrible plan.

One of the ways I’ve been dealing with lower levels of anxiety throughout my pregnancy is by buying books. I have What To Expect, The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy, two books on natural birth, two books on breastfeeding, and The Birth Partner, which David is reading. I feel like learning all I can is the only way to feel in control. We’re also going to take a birthing class, like Lamaze, and three prenatal classes my insurance company offers – one each on labor/delivery, breastfeeding, and infant care. I’m way more informed about things than a lot of moms-to-be that I encounter online, and yet I often feel like there’s still so much I don’t know. Maybe I just need to accept that I can’t learn it all, I don’t know, but for a booksmart nerd like me, that’s really hard.

One of the biggest things is worrying about all the things that can go wrong. This is everything from the ridiculous – How do I know this parking garage isn’t going to collapse and bury me in the rubble? What if my house is built on a sinkhole? – to the actually possible – What if I fall on my belly? What if I end up with severe postpartum depression, and worse, what if no one notices and I hurt the baby? I double and triple check before crossing the street, I won’t eat cold lunchmeat or soft cheeses, I don’t walk under scaffolding if I can help it. Some of that’s reasonable, sure, but my brain is starting to have trouble distinguishing the things that aren’t. Maybe it’s time to check back in with my counselor.

I don’t have a good ending for this post, no tidy way to sum everything up.  I guess I’m just putting it all out there so that it’s out there, out of my head.  Maybe even just doing that will help.  Thanks for listening.