An unordinary weekday 

Thanks to a Tibetan holiday, our daycare is closed and I have an excuse to take the day off from work and spend with my dear boy. 

He went with me to the doctor and got to hear his little sister’s heartbeat. Next we walk to Lake Merritt (my favorite spot!) to see the geese and to play at the Lakeside playground for the first time ever! It was a big hit.

We stopped and celebrated national pizza day at a local brewery and just so happen to sit down next to MM’s Best little friend at daycare. What are the odds?

All in all, a perfect little day spent together. It’s days like these where my mind wanders and wonders if I could live this way every day. I often say that I could never be a stay at home mother, that I would go insanely bored and lose such a huge part of my identity… Maybe part time would be nice. Someday?

  

One year ago

One of my favorite parts of the day is getting a notification from Google Photos about all the pictures and videos I took on this day during previous years. Beyond what I post on social media, there are often dozens of adorable images to scroll through and today was no exception. A year ago this week was an incredible time for us as a family, and developmentally for MM. 

A year ago this week, we were living out of boxes, between our first family home in Oakland and our first-ever owned home in the El Cerrito hills. I was still on maternity leave and was in charge of most of the move. MM was still so little then (barely four months old) but seemed so grown. And now I know he was actually light years ahead of his peer set. I know all mothers think their babies are the most advanced at everything, but physically I’ve yet to see a four month old as strong as our baby. 

This morning I poured over photos of him rolling through our old and empty house, army crawling into our new one, and occupying himself quite happily in the jumperoo, bouncing and swatting at the doodads hanging down. Boy was I grateful for that thing. 

I’m also shocked to see images of him gumming a Girl Scout cookie, a slice of orange, a pummelo. He was too young, mama! What was I thinking? But he loved it all. 

It’s unbelievable to me how much we’ve all changed in the year that we’ve been in our new home. We’re less anxious, more comfortable, less social, more stable, less hurried, more willing to compromise. It’s a funny, long haul feeling; one that we never knew we were lacking. Without the stress (or the fantasy) of wondering where we’ll end up one day, we have energy to focus back into our family life. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and with this baby on the way, I feel that more than ever. 

This morning MM watched the videos of his year-ago self jumping for joy while I took a break from packing up our old life. He pointed and said, “baby!” not recognizing himself in the video. “Yes, we’re going to have another baby!” I told him. And we both looked at each other and smiled.

    
   
  

20 weeks pregnant – Baby No 2

There are days like today where I feel normal, productive, and relatively at ease. I have a good job, a great husband, and the sweetest little boy in the world. In fact, little MM woke up in his own skin for the first time in over a week this morning. He even slept in until 6am gasp! He ate breakfast, took his medicine, and chased the dog around gleefully. I had almost forgotten that it wasn’t so hard to be his mother. Despite the fact that I’m now sick myself, I feel revitalized. Happy baby = happy mama.

Now what about Baby Numero Dos? She is calm as a cucumber. If it weren’t for a perfectly normal anatomy scan last week, I might worry about her lack of activity, but instead I relish in the hope that she’ll be a calm baby. By 20 weeks with MM, he was so active, Melbs could feel him kicking. The kid was moving constantly, and in broad strokes. This little girl, by comparison, gives me a few morning grazes that barely register as activity at all. I wondered if my placenta was in the front of my uterus, possibly muffling the sensation of movement, but nope. She is just gentle and calm.

Despite the unpleasant excess weight (I’ll never embrace it), nothing about this pregnancy sucks anymore. My energy levels are good, my hormones seem to be back in balance, and I’m not suffering from any other symptoms. I hate to say it, but it feels rather unremarkable to be pregnant right now. Such that I sometimes forget that I am.

I am definitely showing, but I’ve been dressing in long layers since the weather has been cool and most of my co workers are still shocked to learn I’m expecting (or at least they’re being rather nice about it). I’m in that awkward phase where I’ve obviously gained weight but not so obviously pregnant that anyone will ask.

Last week, during a work retreat, I actually volunteered my status to the 100+ colleagues in attendance. In fact, I went up on a stage and graciously accepted an Award for our team fitness challenge, “Most Weight Gained”… don’t worry, this was entirely my idea.

It feels great to be open about this pregnancy but I’m not blind to the fact that I’m still just 4 months new on the team and that people must already be worrying about coverage while I’m out. I hate the feeling of causing a burden or hardship on those that I’ve just so recently won over. But hey, that’s life.

In summary, things are going well. It’s been a challenging season, but things are looking up. I know how lucky I am to have my health, my job, and my growing family. It feels good to blog again, if only because it’s a self indulgent moment. :)

My greatest flaw

  

  
I am far from a perfect mother and I have known all along what my greatest challenge would be. I have zero patience on a good day. Zero patience? What does that even mean? It means I get incredibly short and frustrated at just about everything that doesn’t happen to fall within my own timeframe (which is usually immediately). When I get an idea to go someplace or do something, it must be done now. I don’t have time to wait for anyone else to put their shoes on, take a shower, make preparations. You are either with me when I’m ready or you’re not.

I don’t know why I am this way, only that it’s been the biggest detriment to my personal and professional relationships. I know that I need to practice patience and that overtime I need to find a way to just let go, but it’s hard. And today, it is very hard.

I like to go, go, go. I like to see, I like to do, I like to make things happen. And my son is this way too. That is, unless he is sick which he seems to be quite often. I don’t know if it’s the season, being around other kids at day care, or that I am a terrible mother and somehow inhibiting his immune system from being all it can be. I’m sure it’s all of the above to varying degrees. As someone who prides herself in never being sick, this is a terrible feeling for me personally, and for my way of life. 

I hate when my kid is sick because it means that we are sitting at home all day, I’m not going out and doing things. It means that I will probably end up getting sick. It means that I stress about whether or not I will be able to go to work– I already carry so much of my selfworth in my work and have major anxiety around not meeting expectations or falling into stereotypes about working mothers. I hate when my kid is sick because it makes me feel like a bad mother. It brings out all of these selfish, impatient qualities of mine, and on top of that I feel sub par for “allowing” it to happen in the first place. 

I am fully aware that young kids get sick often. I know that it’s perfectly normal, and that it’s better to get it out-of-the-way in the first couple of years than hide them away in a bubble and send them off to school without having built up a tolerance to this filthy, germ infested world. Logically, this makes perfect sense and I’m glad we are “getting it over with”… but that does not make it easy in the moment.

Every other weekend for the past couple of months, we have endured a new sickness. Flu, cold, fever, you name it… different variations of the same thing… cycling in and cycling back out. On some level, I enjoy being home, taking care of my baby and not having to worry about elaborate weekend plans. But I can only take so much and after coming home early from my work trip to a feverish babe the other day, and then cooped up (again) for the next 24 hours, I was convinced that we could get out of the house today. That we deserved to. 

I chose a trip to IKEA because there is a lot of stimulation for him there, he wouldn’t have to get out of the cart and touch anybody/anything. They have hot meals, changing tables, and heck there’s always some new gadget I should be buying, right? It was clandestine. 

But it wasn’t. Ten minutes into our walk through the marketplace and he did not want to sit in the cart and started screaming bloody murder. The type of bloody murder that you scream when you’re just not feeling well and want to be held. So I held him. And pushed our cart with all of his supplies and trinkets Id tossed in it to the nearest restroom. I changed his diaper, offered him something to eat, let him stretch his legs, all of the things you’re supposed to do and it wasn’t enough. He wasnt feeling good I was a terrible mother for bringing him out. How selfish of me, yet again. So I bailed on our cart, and carried him out of there, kicking and screaming (and obviously pregnant, mind you). 

Poor kid was so tired and miserable he fell asleep in my arms on the way to the car (which has literally never happened in his life). As soon as I put him in the car seat, more screaming ensued. I slammed the door in his wailing little face and said aloud, “Fuck. This.” This was not the first time those words have come out of my mouth in the face of a public temper tantrum. I’m not proud to admit it, but I probably say it twice a week. It’s not worth it. I don’t even know why I try! 
Under normal circumstances (non sick public screaming) I shake it off within a few minutes as soon as the whining has stopped. But today, I can’t. I said “fuck this” in the face of a poor, helpless, sick baby that I had stupidly tried to drag outside the house for my own sanity. I feel awful on multiple levels. 

The worst part, is that right now, I feel like it will never end. The being sick and helpless. The stir crazy. The feeling of being trapped… and ultimately, the feeling that I must be doing something wrong. Or that it’s happening because of my inpatience; that I deserve it.

If I were a perfect Instagram mom, this post would be about how much I love staying at home snuggling with my baby when he is sick. But I’m not, so instead it’s about how hard this is for an impatient woman who would rather be out of the house no matter what and failed miserably upon attempt. 

Current status: snuggling on the couch with a cute yet snotty, grumpy little boy who is refusing to eat. I feel a feverish ache coming on myself, and I have three big presentations at work this week. Fuck.this. 

The day the doctor prepared me for an abortion

I was almost 12 weeks pregnant with this baby, and eager to get my first appointment with the OBGYN over with. I was feel terribly nauseous, was in the middle of my work day, and it was humid as all hell outside. I circled the parking lot at least 5 times trying to score a stall that didn’t leave me out in the elements for too long, and finally threw in the towel, claiming defeat. I parked four blocks away in a 30 minute zone. Great. 

In the lobby of the Berkeley campus, which I hadn’t visited before, stood a lone receptionist who had been clearly anticipating me. “Rachel? We’re all ready for you!” well, this was a relief at least. Id be in and out of here in no time. 

Getting undressed and waiting for the OB (another first time meeting, as my regular Dr Duffy was out of town), I allowed myself to remember my first ultrasound with my first pregnancy and what a different experience it had been. For one, I took the whole day off work. Melbs was with me too. It was an event. We arrived early, nervous, excited. As if someone was going to give us a baby right then and there. I smiled at the thought. 

Within seconds, the door to the room flew open and an unusually tall, spry, blonde woman in a white coat bounced in. She gave me a hearty handshake and introduced herself. She was filling in for Dr Duffy for a few weeks, then was shipping off, along with her family to Montana, “where we can afford to live like decent human beings,” she said. Gosh, I thought; If a doctor can’t make it in this town, who can?

She was funny, quick witted, and fast. Exactly what I needed. I hoisted myself up onto the table so that she could wave her magic wand, confirm that I wasn’t having twins (which I was convinced was the case), and leave me with a photo to bring home to my boys. 

First we saw the heartbeat. “A strong one!” said the doctor. And then she began circling around, pointing out limbs or limb buds… and then she got quiet. 

“Hmmmm,” she said. “I don’t like what in seeing now.”

I craned my neck to look at the small monitor positioned to my left. 

“You see  his dark area on the skull?” she asked. The screen was black and white and grainy, but I could see it: a small spot on the top of the baby’s skull. It was a few pixels, could have been a small tissue floating by, or a shadow? I didn’t know. 

The doctor said, matter of factly and unwavering in tone, “I’ve never seen anything like this. Could be a cranial abnormality. Like the skull hasn’t closed all the way?”

My heart leapt. What?

A defect was honestly something I wasn’t prepared to hear, even after having seen the dark spot. 

“I’m not a technician though, so we’ll need to get you in to the imagine center for a better look right away. Get dressed.”

Unthinking, I obeyed. I then followed her down to the lone receptionist. And just like in a dramatic ER show scene, she plowed passed the other expectant mothers who were waiting to check in for their appointments. “Shannon, dial up East Bay Perinatal.” I just stood there, awkwardly, trying not to make  eye contact with the other patients who looked concerned. I felt like I was in trouble. 

When the imaging center picked up the phone, we all heard this doctor, who I later thanked for “kicking ass on my behalf” say the following:

“Yeah hi. I need an appointment right away for my patient. We’ve detected an abnormality and need it confirmed… No, it needs to be done this week…no, I will not hold…ha! It’s not ma’am, it’s doctor, thanks… yes, I’ll speak to him please… cranial abormality, left side…(then to me)…Rachel, can you go in next Wednesday?”

It was only Thursday and that seemed like an awfully long time to wait. But I nodded. Now it was the other patients in the waiting room who were avoiding eye contact with me. “Yeah, this sucks, huh? Sucks to be me!” I wanted to say, but my eyes welled with tears and I shook my gaze back to the floor. 

The doctor hung up the phone and pulled out a note pad to write down the time of my appointment. She put it in my palm, and said, “I wish I could be congratulating you right now, but sometimes these things just happen. I’m obviously not going to order bloodwork for you. Let’s take this one day at a time. After the appointment on Wednesday, head straight to my office and we’ll decide how to proceed.”

And that was it. She left no room in my mind for hope. 

This did happen sometimes, I thought. Plenty of women I knew miscarried… maybe due to fetal abnormalities. I had to be strong, not act like I was special. This happens to people all the time. In an instant I made peace with it. 

I walked to my car in the sweltering heat and felt proud of myself for not crying. I drove all the way home, where Melbs was waiting with our son. 

As nonchalantly as I had said goodbye when I left for the appointment did he ask, “how’s spud?” — a name he had apparently just made up for the new baby. 

I burst into tears, “not good!” And I sobbed and sobbed while he held me, his eyes wider than they’d been during childbirth a year earlier. Neither of us had experienced anything like this before. 

He convinced me to not think a single negative thought. That if there’s really nothing wrong with the baby then my stress may make things unnecessarily worse for both of us. He was right. And despite the sureness of the problem depicted by my doctor, he convinced me to believe otherwise. 

All I could do was pretend the appointment never took place. I couldn’t give myself false hope, but I could push the entire experience from my mind. And that is what I did for the next week. 
Upon a closer look, by three trained technicians the following Wednesday, there was nothing abnormal about Spud at all. She was perfect in every way and remains healthy and strong ten weeks later. 

    
I may never understand the importance of this experience and what lesson I needed to learn from it. Or why this hot-shot, bitter, on her way out of town doctor felt so sure my baby wasn’t viable based on a small blip on a small, crappy monitor… but I am reminded of what a wonderful life partner I’ve chosen. An incredibly strong, positive man who had the ability to keep me from drowning into a negative spiral, as he has done many times over the years. 

It’s only been within the last couple of weeks that I have begun to allow myself to get excited about this baby. What started as such a for sure, easy, no-brainer experience for me has been turned upside down and into something I’ve never dealt with before. I guess the shock is dwindling and my confidence in this pregnancy growing. I don’t want to treat this pregnancy nor this baby like a routine anymore. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that is the point of it all. She is special, she is my daughter… Not just my “second kid.”

What I’ll be doing differently with baby No. 2

Before I tell you the story of what really sucked during my first trimester, I want to share something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. What will I do differently this time around?

Having a second child is something that everyone seems to think will be easier by comparison to having the first. And that makes a lot of sense on multiple accounts, most notably that your life is already set-up for a baby. Meaning, you’re used to less sleep, fewer meals out, messier house, etc etc. Your standard of living has changed somewhat and it won’t be a shock to the system the way it may have been with baby No.1. 

It’s also assumed that a second time mother will know what to expect and won’t freak out about every minor thing. Great. I’m a pretty relaxed parent, but have a high spirited (high energy/strong-willed) child which can put me on edge sometimes. I’m hoping that by virtue of my needing to split my own energy between two small people, they’ll both benefit from a “it’s not all about you” attitude from mama. 

All of the above are great. Here’s hoping, right? A lot of it won’t be in my control; you never know what type of kid you’re going to get. Something that I can control however, and will make my life with a newborn indefinitely less stressful is this:

No more trying to score points

There are no medals in motherhood yet so many first time moms, including myself try in vain to score imaginary points of success. Let me explain. 

In our digital and overly social sharing world, the pressure to perform is at an all time high and that extends to child rearing. There are perceived points for how quickly you leave the hospital after birth, how quickly you’re back into jeans, how many weeks out you can hit the gym again. Each feat chronicled for others in hopes of accolades of superiority. 

Then, it’s time for the babies to start winning. There are points for everything: tummy time minutes, first subway ride, rolling over, crawling, walking, it never ends. While the excitement from the mama (yours truly included) is real, the pressure for these micro milestones to occur is not. Yet, we’re human. We need to compare ourselves and our children against others to make sure we’re doing it right. To make sure we still have a competitive advantage in this dog-eat-dog society. That we’re more than worthy. That we are the best. 

And this is what I’m going to nip. 

Having now been through all of these milestones with MM I can look back and definitively say no one cared. Did teeth at 5 months make us local celebrities? Did my breastfeeding for 10 months earn me some sort of promotion above my peers? No. But these were BIG DEALS to me. To me. 

I have a theory. Motherhood is joyful sure, but it’s also anxiety inducing. The more anxiety you have, the more you channel that into a secret game of points earning. It allows you to focus on something tangible and feel the same sort of small victory you’re used to in other aspects of your life that have become smaller fractions (career, sports, etc). There’s nothing wrong with it and I’m not regretful for having been this way with my teeny new baby. It was a natural coping mechanism and now I know better. I’ll do better. 

With baby No.2 I will strive to focus on loving them and marveling in them as they develop at their own pace. The crawling will come, the clapping will come. We won’t be rushing around for photo opportunities or putting ourselves into situations we’re not ready for just for the sake of saying, “I did it!!!” 

I’ll never forgot taking MM out on his first “lunch date” with a friend of mine. He was barely 3 weeks (which was a week later than I felt I should be braving the world alone with him for some reason), Melbs was still home on paternity leave and offered to stay home with baby while I met my friend for lunch. “NO,” I’m taking the baby. And we’re walking there.” Lunch near my friends office was a couple miles away. I wore a non nursing sun dress for the first time feeling like I had to go “all-in human” for the occasion. 

During the walk, I realized that I wasn’t quite ready to fit into the dress and felt self-conscious, tugging at the hem the entire walk. Ugh, what was I thinking? When I finally reached my pal the baby had woken up and did NOT want to be in the stroller (i.e. Screamed to be held and for the boob the entire time). It was pure misery. I didn’t eat, I had to ruin my stupid dress to whip a boob out, and the baby still cried the entire walk home. Why had I been so stubborn? 

I don’t know if we’ll have a third baby so I really want to savor this one. Now knowing how quickly that first year will fly by, I want to delete all milestone apps from my phone, leave all the tit-for-tat mothers groups that have become a large part of my daily “jonesing.”

I wonder what it must have been like to be a mother in another era. Where you literally had no idea how you and your child “ranked” among millions of others. Maybe the outcomes were different, maybe not, but I bet it felt more authentic. 

I have a lot more to say about what’s now described as perceived “mommy wars” — it’s been an educational year and a half to say the least. But for now, I’m satisfied sharing the ways in which I can control my own level or unnatural crazy-making tendencies. 

The First Trimester is BS

With my first pregnancy, I wrote in great lengths about my “symptoms” usually lamenting about how exhausted I was after a mountain hike or standing all day at my standing-desk. Reading those entries today makes me want to slap the stupid off my own face. What an asshole.

During my first trimester with MM, I ran 3 half marathons. I sipped ginger tea, gingerly, and craved spiralized zucchini noodles. Oh, so cute! I never understood women who claimed to hate pregnancy or who never left their bed all day. But let me assure you, dear readers: NOW I KNOW. I got mine.

My second pregnancy hit me like a ton of bricks. No “glow”, no huge boobs, and certainly no god damn running. My first symptom was cystic acne ON MY FACE. My second symptom was all-day, every day nausea for three months. Did I mention I had started a new job the week before discovering I was pregnant this time around? No? Well, I had.

Imagine trying to get up to speed, to fit in, to be liked, and to let the quality and quickness of my work speak for itself while battling off dry heaves all day long. Every have a hangover so bad you couldn’t even open your eyes in a dark room because the light was too bright? Yeah, that. All day at my desk, and in meetings. Looking back I have no idea how I pulled it off.

Let alone that I now had a toddler at home running amok. Come home after an agonizing day at work and crash? Ha. How about cook dinner, battle bath time, and change shitty diapers. SO MUCH RESPECT!

I’m sorry to anyone who read my blog during my last pregnancy and wanted to punch me in the gut. Know that I’m with you now.

At the time I type this post, I am 17 weeks along with No.2 and feeling much better, THANK GOD. But the illness I experienced was far from the most traumatic experience I’ve suffered through with this pregnancy so far.

Stay tuned…