Tuesday, March 27, 2012

36 weeks

I have never been so awestricken or consumed by something as I have pregnancy. Instead of getting used to the idea and/or experience, I have found that the closer I get to the end, the more my mind is blown. At this point there is a fully formed human being living under my skin and there is nothing more bizarre than that to me. As much as I prepare for this life change, I really cannot grasp the reality of it. It's very much like waking up in one of my childhood daydreams—how did I suddenly find myself married, living in a house I own, with a baby?! 

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was the single "girl" living in a city apartment by myself with the idea that I might not ever get married or have babies? It's as if I waited…..and waited…..and waited some more for my life to begin—28 years to be exact. And then, I woke up one early winter day in San Francisco completely unaware that my life was going to drastically change with an email from a boy I went to school with as a child. 9 days later we had our first date. A week after that we were sure it was love. 4 months later I moved cross-country to move in with him. On our one-year anniversary, he proposed. 9 months later we were married. 10 months into our wedded bliss, we were pregnant…the same month we bought a house. And here we are, 37 weeks after our last monumental life change, knowing that even though the last 3.5 years have been quite eventful, it still feels like life is just about to begin. After years of playing house, trying to fit different men into the story, practicing, wondering, doubting, dreaming, this is IT—the characters have been chosen, the scene is set. This is real life….full-blown, all-cylinders-firing, irreversible life. It's no longer a daydream….so when will it stop feeling like one?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

lucky elephant

After a long hiatus, I finally broke open my paints and art supplies last week to start creating some art for baby girl's room. So far, I've been making reproductions of work I adore. I fell in love with Mati Rose's artwork last year after taking a painting class with her, so naturally I thought of her when it came time to decorate the nursery, but that was when I (sadly) discovered her Etsy shop was temporarily closed. I decided I'd try to recreate some of her pieces instead and I'm glad I did because it was a lot of fun and I enjoy putting my own spin on things. The "Lucky Elephant" is the first piece I created and I'm now working on another elephant and an owl. 

I love that the elephant is a symbol of luck, strength, wisdom, solitude, strong sense of loyalty to the family, and intelligence.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

35 weeks

"Is it over yet? Was that the baby that just fell out of me? No, it's not lady-like, but I can't close my legs. I think it would be genius to install an Ameriglide on our staircase." Yes, I've entered the long, uncomfortable phase of pregnancy: the end. The end is everything other women warn you it is—exhausting, achy, swollen, full of impatience, hormonal. But, at the same time, it's pretty exciting. And that excitement is contagious. Suddenly everyone that walks past you seems to be staring and smiling at your enormous belly, strangers ask you how much longer you have to wait, the people around you seem to bubble with joy at the thought of meeting your child. Everyone wants to talk baby. It's a magical time (if you can get past the bowling ball pushing on your vagina). 

I had my first false alarm last week. It was after a long, stressful day (at a funeral) and I had been worried the whole time that the intensity of the day would kickstart labor. Everyone kept mentioning the possibility too, which didn't help my anxiety. Then there was the moment when one of my zany relatives threw a glass of water on the floor in between my legs and shouted "Oh my god, did your water just break?" Hilarious. But, by the time my 14-hour day was coming to an end, and I was literally discussing labor with some female relatives, it happened: my first moment of "Oh sh*t! Is this happening?" I've been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for the entire second half of my pregnancy. That whole "first time mothers might not feel them" thing did not apply to me. I have them constantly, all day, non-stop. I'm told this is a good thing, my uterus is mighty prepared and toned now. But, on this night it was a painful contraction. My legs went weak, my body temperature soared so high I was pulling off layers, I was panicked. 

It turned out to be a great time to experience my first false alarm, though. I had wonderful women around me, women who had read and followed the advice of the amazing Ina May book I'm always recommending. They coached me through it, made me breathe. False alarms are a good thing. They prepare you. That's what I realized. I'd hate to have that moment of panic be the real thing. Now, I feel better prepared to ease into it when the time comes.

Aside from my obsession with labor, the fascinating part of pregnancy right now is that the jabs and movements in my belly are more recognizable as body parts. I've got a tactile little creature inside me whose tiny fingers are always poking, petting, and grabbing at the world around them. Alex loves that he can "hold her hand" and spends at least an hour a day poking her hand and feeling her poke his back. It's amazing how responsive baby girl is to voices and touch. You can honestly play with her already. And as is the case with most babies/children, she's easily riled up by her daddy and more playful when she hears his voice.

On the nursery front, I've finally begun making some art for baby girl's room, so I'll be sure to share that later this week. It feels good to be painting again! It's a great way to make the time pass a little faster.

Monday, March 19, 2012

birth and death

Birth and death—the bookends of life. Each experience has such opposite connotations and emotions attached to it, yet somehow they seem intertwined. The utter beginning and utter end, the circle of life, both so surreal in nature. 

I buried my Uncle last week (which is why I haven't been posting), and have found my mind riddled with complicated thoughts ever since. Somehow experiencing this loss while 8 1/2 months pregnant made everything feel so much more intense, profound and symbolic. During such a great period of joy for me, at the very brink of bringing a brand new life into the world, my Uncle was lying in a bed at the very end of his life. He took his last breath and my child is about to take her first. I couldn't make sense of it…not that anyone can when it comes to death. It was simply bizarre to be standing at a funeral, worried I was about to go into labor.

My due date also happens to be two days before my deceased mother's birthday—another contradiction of emotions. In a way, I feel like all this commingling of birth and death is a testament to life in general. With the brightness comes darkness, one cannot exist without the other, just as death cannot exist without birth. As much as we may resist or dislike one end of the spectrum, the existence of these opposites enriches life and cultivates gratitude. I know that the beautiful life inside of me feels all the more sacred and blessed having just experienced the loss of another beautiful life. And I completely believe that my mother had a hand in bringing this baby to me on (or near) a day that in the past brought me sorrow—she was always one to remind me of life's joy in the face of pain, she would want to transform mourning into celebration.

"Man's feelings are always purest and most glowing in the hour of meeting and of farewell." ~Jean Paul Richter

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

34 weeks

Life right now can be summed up into one word: a scramble. I realized the other night that I really could give birth at any time—it's not as likely to happen, but it could. It's happened to friends of mine this early and that's enough to enter it into my brain as a possibility. Chances are I will carry to full-term and probably be complaining, right here, in about 6-7 weeks about how it still hasn't happened. The unpredictability of birth is what keeps me up at nights, though. "Most likely" and "typical for first time mothers" aren't enough to make me chill out. And so, Alex and I have jam-packed the next two weeks (he's off of work) with appointments, errands, projects….what my husband likes to call "settling scores." "We're settling old scores, settling scores" is what he keeps muttering under his breath around the house. Given how furiously we're trying to have everything handled by week 36, I bet baby girl will decide to come around week 42 instead….because that's the way life happens.

I've been making room for baby girl all over the house. It's a strange feeling…almost like moving in with a boyfriend—emptying a drawer here, clearing off a shelf there, filling each room with items that he might enjoy…wondering how we're going to share this space that used to be all mine. Suddenly, there are baby bottles where the coffee mugs used to be, a blue, rubber whale covering the water faucet in the shower staring at me as I soap up, swinging and bouncing chairs mixed in with our living room furniture, nipple cream on my nightstand, teeny tiny socks lying at the bottom of my dryer. Meanwhile, I feel like I'm preparing for a super important celebrity to move in—as if this baby is going to notice that I've dusted all the window sills and organized all the closets. 

In my heart, I do feel like this tiny new roommate is a celebrity. I can't imagine anyone else whose presence I'd be more in awe of, anyone I'd rather meet, anyone I'd fawn over as much as I know I will this little girl. I would honestly be calm in the face of preparing to meet Ryan Gosling or Natalie Portman, I'd feel totally normal about walking into the Oval Office to meet the President, I wouldn't scream or pass out if Phish invited me backstage after a concert. But, baby girl….I've already started the fan club and planned the parade. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

photo friday

My camera is still broken….woah is me….so I will continue to use shots from my archives for my photo challenge.

 16. something new

Newborn baby Cash

Newborn baby Helene
17. time
Boston Public Library
Time does not exist here.
18. drink 
Tea cup wisdom.

The last cup of coffee I had as a daily drinker…2 years ago!
 19. something you hate to do

Wash dishes while camping. Damn collapsable
sink is not my friend.

I seem to change homes/apartments/states
every few years, but I absolutely hate moving.
 20. handwriting

My girl Nat writing with sparklers.

A little piece of wisdom I found written on an
alley wall in Burlington, VT.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

pregnancy survival kit

I think each and every woman deserves a medal for surviving pregnancy….and a handbook on how to do so at the start of it. This is far from a handbook on how to survive all the changes to your body, emotions, and life, but I thought it'd be fun to put together, because I am insane about my products….and even more insane about the thorough research and seriousness which I bring to all my decisions no matter how large or small the purchase. I read hundreds of reviews, I compare prices, I try things out and return them—I have a knack for finding products that have the highest customer reviews at the most reasonable price, all while being a quality purchase. A great majority of my choices are also eco-friendly and/or non-toxic. This list is a little different in that I did include some more expensive items, but sometimes, when you are pregnant, you splurge (or find someone to buy you a gift;). So, here is a list of my favorite pregnancy survival products...

1. You may not be able to "cure" morning sickness, but you can alleviate it to some degree. Enter, preggie pop drops. They contain all natural ingredients and a cocktail of essential oils and aromatherapy to help combat nausea. I prefer the drops as opposed to the lollipops—they come in more palatable flavors (IMHO) and are easier to eat. They are also supposed to be great during labor for a quick burst of energy or to help with nausea. 

2. Ginger is another morning sickness helper. I eventually developed an aversion to the taste of ginger, but in the beginning I relied on ginger chews and ginger tea, both of which I found helpful.

3. This is probably one of those strange items you see hanging out on the end of an aisle at Whole Foods and wonder who uses them and why. Well, it saved my life during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Luckily I already owned one (yes, I'm the person who buys those random, curious items). The purpose of this contraption is to rid your mouth of bacteria by scraping it off your tongue, but the bonus is that it also "erases" all tastes from your mouth which is a wonderful thing when your mouth tastes like puke even after you brush your teeth, or as a preemptive strike against vomiting when you have a taste in your mouth that your body is in the middle of violently rejecting (happens all day long when you have morning sickness).  

 4. Yet another morning sickness helper: sea-bands. I found these relatively helpful—sometimes I felt a bit of relief when wearing them, sometimes it didn't change a damn thing. But, you'll take all the help you can get during your first trimester. I wore these nearly 24 hours a day for months.

 5. Ahhh, the Snoogle. I cannot live without it! I started using this very early on (from about 7 weeks) since I had one lying around that my sister-in-law had given me. Even before I had a sizable belly, I was so uncomfortable in bed. This pillow helps alleviate the back pain, hip pain, aching knees and aching belly that are so common during pregnancy. I also put a regular pillow in the center of it to support my belly, which I find incredibly important. 

6. One of the unexpected pregnancy ailments I've struggle with big time is the overabundance of mucous one's body tends to manufacture while pregnant. I go through a minimum of two boxes of tissues per week, and on occasion have gone through an entire box in 24 hours. It's crazy. But, this problem is compounded by incredibly dry nasal passages, which (can) lead to pain and blood. My midwife suggested this natural nasal spray which seems to help (in combination with the rest of my nasal ailment arsenal).  

7. Another big help in the nasal department is a neti pot. I've been using a neti pot for years and love it, but I love it even more now. It flushes out your sinuses, helps break up and release all that mucous, and is incredibly soothing. (I have also inlisted the help of a humidifier recently as the problem only gets worse as your pregnancy progresses, ugh, but I haven't found a humidifier I love yet) 

8. I've tried a few different maternity tanks/camis and none of them compare to the Gap Pure Body collection. These are silky soft, flattering and really grow with you. All the other tanks I own have already long passed their expiration dates so wearing them now means showing off the bottom half of my baby bump, exposing my breasts or just plain not flattering my body. The ruching on the sides of the Gap tanks really lets you wear them for the majority of your pregnancy. I've been wearing mine since about 16 weeks and still have plenty of room left.

9. Oh, these yoga pants! I wear them for everything because they are like heaven against a pregnant woman's body. The material is so super soft with just the right amount of hip-hugging, falling into a wider leg. Super flattering. Much cuter than they appear in this photo. I think these will be great during the postpartum months as well.

10. I cannot live without leggings as a pregnant woman. They are great in the beginning when maternity pants look ridiculous on you, but your uterus is bloated enough to be uncomfortable and you don't fit into your old pants. I could not handle anything with buttons or zippers during that time, ouch…so tender. But, these leggings will last your whole pregnancy too, which is great. I prefer these under-the-belly leggings by Hedi Klum—better quality than the others I've bought and I find it a relief to not always wear pants with a tight panel covering my entire abdomen. These are another item I think will be useful postpartum.  

11. Why in the world would I ever need a sleep bra? I did not know until the woman at the maternity store insisted I buy one, which I did, and I've worn it every single night since. Somehow it helps. In the first half of pregnancy your chest is so sore and uncomfortable….and then those girls just start to grow….and grow. This bra makes sleeping so much more comfortable, plus it doubles as a nursing bra later on down the line.

12. What pregnant woman is without a tub of belly lotion? When it came to choosing a belly butter I was adamant that it be natural (free of parabens, etc)— your skin is your largest organ and whatever you put on it is absorbed into your body. I don't like the idea of the carcinogens present in standard lotion being passed to my baby. It can be difficult to find natural lotions that are effective, but this one really is—it's kept my belly in great shape. Plus, it's super affordable.

13. I use the belly butter in the morning, and the stretch mark firming version of it at night. It's not nearly as moisturizing, but I like to think it's keeping things nice and firm. I do notice my belly looks nice and healthy after applying this.

14. I am a HUGE Dr. Hauschka fan in general, but I am even more in love with their products as a pregnant woman. This cleanser is perfect for the combination of skin ailments I've suffered over the course of pregnancy. It keeps your skin clear during those hormonal first few months and soothed and moisturized when dryness and irritation hit.

Cleansing Milk

15. As much as I LOVE the Dr. Hauschka cleanser, the one drawback is how expensive it is. To make the bottle last longer, I only use it at night and supplement with Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser in the morning. It's dirt cheap at $4 and extremely mild—it does not irritate and is great at keeping your skin clear. It's not natural, which bothers me, but the list of ingredients is pretty short so I've made my peace with it.

16. Another favorite from Hauschka: Quince day cream. It's very soothing, light, doesn't cause breakouts and makes your skin absolutely glow. I normally don't suffer from dry skin, but during pregnancy it's been pretty dry and itchy.

17. This product is great as a mask—it's soothes, clears things up and evens skin tone—but during pregnancy I've used it as an overnight spot treatment for acne (as the instructions suggested). The first trimester absolutely ruined my complexion and it's a major bummer when you can't use anything to clear it up. This, however, is all natural and really heals zits. I bought the small, travel size to save money and it's plenty big—I've barely put a dent in it 33 weeks later.

18. Another common skin problem during pregnancy is blotchy, red skin. It's very sensitive and made worse by sunlight. A SPF is necessary for any time spent outdoors or you can end up with what they call "the mask of pregnancy." Not attractive. This product is natural and does not cause breakouts. Love. it.

19. To help hide those hormonal breakouts or blotchy patches in the first trimester, enter the Haushchka cover stick. It also works really well at healing skin issues and zapping zits. My skin actually looks better after a day of wearing makeup thanks to this product.

20. I've never been a foundation wearer, but given all the skin issues I've mentioned so far, it's been a must. Like the Hauschka cover stick, this foundation actually improves the condition of my irritated skin. It's super gentle and light. I use it to even out the redness in my skin and it's perfect for just that.

21. Most of my skin issues cleared up when I hit the second trimester, the time when your skin is supposed to "glow." However, the one issue that persists is the darkness under my eyes. I always look super tired, and have had noticeable veins appear under my eyes that have not gone away. This natural concealer provides heavy coverage without looking it. It also contains natural antiaging/antiwrinkle ingredients (safe during pregnancy), which is great for fine lines around the eyes.

22. The weight of my uterus and stretching ligaments have plagued me since about 20 weeks. I find it incredibly difficult to be on my feet, do housework, or go for walks. I just bought this maternity belt, which helps support some of the weight and alleviates back and hip pain. Should've purchased it long ago! Ahh, relief.

23. I definitely recommend investing in maternity underwear at the very beginning of pregnancy. I found that almost immediately after conceiving, the area beneath my underwear elastic band became incredibly tender and bloated (and sometimes even painful to the touch). I thought buying a larger size underwear would be enough, but it really doesn't help. Maternity underwear are cut really low in the front so they sit underneath your belly, but have more room in the rear for that extra junk in the truck your are sure to sprout.

24. My husband bought me a chair massager for Christmas. At first I was skeptical and preferred my husband's nightly "real" massages, but this Brookstone find (I have a different one than pictured below, but they no longer sell mine) has been a god send. I still get the real deal from the hubs, but I use this at least once or twice daily as well. Such a great thing to have around when your back is constantly aching.

25. In the beginning, I read a ton of books. Too many. I found myself confused by too many opinions, frightening stories, and descriptions of horrible complications I was likely to never experience. This book is absolutely delightful. Half of the pages contain beautiful, inspiring, encouraging stories of childbirth and the rest provides useful/helpful information for pregnancy and birth that doesn't scare or confuse. It left me feeling empowered and totally capable of giving birth.

26. All the Dr. Sears books are great. I say if you want to know what's going on inside your body (and your baby's) during pregnancy, keep it simple. This book is simple and, like the Ina May book, doesn't scare.

27. There are so many choices to make during pregnancy and childbirth. Why not take responsibility for them and decide for yourself instead of having some doctor decide for you? This book presents all your choices and the pros and cons so you can make truly informed decisions.

Your favorite yummy treat, a doting husband/partner, a support system of women who share your beliefs about pregnancy/childbirth and a few girlfriends to vent to about all your pregnancy woes also don't hurt!