Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Getting My Hypno On

There are lots of different kinds of childbirth prep classes. There's Lamaze, Bradley Method, and other classes that you can take at hospitals. However, when we were expecting Zosia, our midwife strongly recommended that we take hypnobirthing, assuring us that the births she's attended that were prepared for using hypnobirthing were much more peaceful, successful, and easy than others-- there seemed to be a strong consensus on this point with the whole practice of midwives, and they were a pretty sciency bunch. So we signed up for hypnobirthing not really knowing what to expect (but having visions of a therpist with a pocket watch).

As it turns out, the fundamental premise of hypnobirthing is that fear leads to tension which leads to pain, and therefore if you get rid of your fears about childbirth, you ultimately get rid of tension and pain. The way that you work towards this end is regularly participating in relaxation exercises (which either consist of listening to a cd, or having your partner read you a script that puts you into a deep state of relaxation). That, paired with the heavenly phenomenon called "light touch massage" (think light tickles on your back), when practiced during the labor make your body relax and do what it's made to do. And through taking hypnobirthing you learn about the process of labor and delivery and realize that there's absolutely nothing scary about it-- every stage is simply your body doing something very effective to bring this baby into the world. Surges (or "contractions," as they're called more commonly) are your uterine muscles opening up your cervix so that the baby can easily descend. Breathing the baby down (or "pushing") is simply the baby gently descending down the birth canal. And then voila, you have a baby! During the class, you get to watch lots of videos of hypnobirths taking place, and they are so beautiful and peaceful that they alone are huge in reversing the images of childbirth that we've been given as contemporary women (I still can't watch A Baby Story without laughing).

Hypnobirthing worked like a champ with Zosia, so we've always known that we want to prepare in a similar way with number two. But in the tumult of the move, we lost our cd and book, and then with all this craziness around the house, we haven't gotten around to getting everything together to prepare for another hypnobirth. A couple days ago, however, our materials finally arrived, and yesterday I finally listened to the CD for the first time. I didn't know how I would feel about hypnobirthing this time around-- whether it would be effective this time, etc. But, I must say, the effect was quick and dramatic. Maybe it's because I already used the method with Zosia, but I felt like within seconds of beginning the relaxation exercise, I was limp as a noodle and totally suggestible and at ease. By the end of it, I felt like I had just returned from a week long vacation. There were a few new unsubstantiated "fears" that I've developed through this pregnancy-- minor things, like remembering that I wasn't crazy about the sensation of my water breaking. But just allowing myself to be guided through an ideal version of this baby's delivery truly helped melt those fears away, and made me even more excited for that day in the near future that I get to watch my body do something that is among nature's most spectacular shows.

The only bad news is that I'm totally hooked on the hypno-CD. I feel like I'm tempted just to pull it out and use it as a quick fix to any minor stress in my life. There's a warning on the cover that says not to listen to while operating machinery/ driving, and I'm realizing that I'm the person it's geared towards.

Monday, March 30, 2009

You need what?

Today we had our 36-week visit with our doula, a wonderful woman named Wendy (who happens to be the mother of 5!! children). She came by to scope out our place, get to know us, and make sure that we have all the stuff that we need for the homebirth. The last couple of weeks have largely been a scramble to get to the point that we are actually moderately prepared for this baby, and I'm happy to report that she gave us the thumbs up!

So, what, you might as, does one need for a home birth? The list is actually really extensive, and here are a few of the things that I found surprising:
  • an oxygen tank
  • box of sandwich-sized zip lock bags (are we going on a picnic?)
  • 2 thin or 1 large phone book in a plastic bag
  • a shower curtain
In assembling all the stuff, I almost felt like the midwives just threw some "extras" in there to make sure that we were paying attention. But like the good patients that we are, we duitifully got everything together and now I'm just looking forward to the birth, when we get to figure out what all this stuff is actually for.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Quiet Day

This weekend we've been indoors with the occasional jaunt outdoors, as it's been damp and misty outside-- which is actually surprisingly nice weather for a walk. I've been admitting the extent of my pregnancy and finally taking it a little easy-- which unfortunately, around here, means that Ben has been picking up a lot of extra slack. But as I've been lying around and doing not a lot of anything, it's been amazing to me how totally quiet it is outside on a day like today. No one is out for a walk or in their cars... it's silent.

The other day I was talking to my friend Kari, and she was lamenting the fact that it seems like whenever there's a really beautiful day, everyone in the neighborhood rushes to their lawn mowers, chain saws, power tools, and starts doing these major outdoor projects. Just as you're ready to sit back and listen to the birds and breathe in some fresh air, the machinery turns on and you're overwhelmed by the noise and the smell. Ben and I have so far avoided the inclination towards motorized objects (thankfully!), but I'll admit that whenever there's a nice day we tend to get busy around the house-- and while I wish that we could just sit back, breathe, and relax, it's almost as if something in the air is pushing us into action.

So today I'm giving thanks for this foggy, damp day, which seems to be created for taking it easy and enjoying some silence.

Update: Oh, the irony. Just as I finished writing this post, Ben pulled out the circular saw to cut down some shelves for the built in bookshelves in the basement... At least it's a quiet power tool?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Under Pressure

So I learned something very important about myself this weekend: I don't seem to perform very well under stress, which is funny, because I think I've always thought of myself as someone who does okay when things get crazy. But no, apparently this isn't true. To give some background, this weekend was a bit on the crazy end of things. Saturday we were trying to get things done around the house before this baby comes, and it was a dizzyingly full day. Sunday we popped out for groceries first thing in the morning, went straight to church, I dropped Ben and Z at home, and then left for my Female Spirituality Group (totally amazing, and more on this later). The plan was that when I got home, Ben and I would quickly tidy up the house, get dinner ready, and be ready for our dinner guests who were coming at 5:30.

I got home at 5:00, and let's just say that half an hour is not really enough to do all of that. And we had a fussy toddler on top of everything that pretty much required one of our full attention. I was flipping out, as my patient and long-suffering husband will attest to. The funny thing is that in the moment of panic, I lost all perspective on what was going on. Because to tell you the truth, in retrospect, it would have been totally fine if our neighbors showed up to a messy house with no fancy snacks out for them. We could have just hung out for a bit, thrown some burgers on the grill, and I bet they wouldn't have even noticed the difference. But as I was running around throwing clothing into closets, throwing pita wedges into the oven, and trying to appease Zosia, I was fully convinced that all of these things were somehow vital to my survival.

By some act of God, everything did get taken care of, but not without a cost to me and those around me. I feel like when the neighbors did arrive, it took a full hour for me to settle down enough to actually enjoy their company (which I did very fully enjoy in the end). As I reflect back on the experience, I think there are several lessons I hope to take from it: in general, planning and preparing for stuff is actually my way of making it easier when it comes around (and is a good thing that I should do more of); I should stop caring what other people think of me, my house, etc. because simplicity is something that ultimately does require one to modify expectations and relationships; I should aim low and put stuff that doesn't really matter on the back burner. As we're hunkering down and preparing for baby #2, I'm feeling that some of these lessons couldn't have come at a better time.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ta-da!

So, it's certainly nothing to send into Apartment Therapy, but it has practically doubled our space for hanging out/playing, which is wonderful. One of the things that has amazed me is that now that we have an official informal space that can get messy (and has the majority of the toys), our upstairs feels totally neat all the time. I still haven't uploaded pictures of the office space, so one of these days I'll get around to that.

Before:

After:
Before:


After:



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One Step Forward...

Zosia has been quite the independent toddler lately. She has been happy to go on outings with family members other than Ben and myself. She has been going for "playdates" in the neighborhood all by herself. This morning while at the store assembling supplies for our homebirth/new baby, she announced "bye bye" before wandering into a totally different section. A minute later, she was led back to me by a woman who announced that Zosia had been looking for a "strappy sandal." This afternoon at the playground there was a neighborhood kid gathering, and she, for the first time ever, was totally happy to just climb around on the playground by herself, no mommy or daddy at hand to help her out. She even climbed up this pretty steep "climbing wall" before Ben and I realized it, and went down the tallest slide at the playground while squealing "wee!" All this just goes to show that kids are constantly going through developmental stages, are constantly changing, and are full of surprises. I never would have imagined any of this behavior from Zosia a couple weeks ago, let alone a couple months ago. She truly has started to experiment with independence, and it is beautiful and exciting to watch.

But just as I was applauding having one baby bird out of the nest, we came home from the park, and I realized that Zosia is not quite done with her "attached" phase. All evening, she clung to me like she was clinging for her life. I couldn't even put her in her high chair for dinner-- she would dissolve into hysterics if I tried to put her down. So I spent the next two hours with a toddler on my hip, my lap, any position that maintained maximal body-to-body contact. I guess after a really really independent day, Zosia just needed to be assured that she is still cared for, that she still has a mama that can hold her, and that she is still a little person and not an independent adult. And that's totally okay.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Chair that Brought Me Down


Okay, it has happened. I am officially a ruthless capitalist. That's all there is to it.

So, several years ago... I guess five years ago now, Ben and I were out on a walk in the neighborhood in Atlanta that we lived in (these were the newlywed days... so we didn't have much of anything in terms of possessions), and noticed a little yard sale had sprung up. I'm never one to pass up a bargain, so I looked around, and spotted one of those kneeling office chairs. I remember there was some story about where all this stuff had come from-- I think someone had died, and a family member finally had rooted through their apartment and decided to sell all of their stuff on the cheap out on the street. So anyway, we got this chair super cheap. It was maybe $20 max, but probably more like $10. And it worked fine. We liked it and used it for several years, but ultimately Ben decided that since he's doing a lot of work from home these days, he wanted a sturdier chair for this back, found some great deal on slickdeals.com, and so we had no use for this chair anymore.

Due to some combination of my nesting instinct and the reality of having just finished our basement (don't worry... before/after pictures coming tomorrow), I have been going through all of the stuff that we have accumulated in the unfinished portion of our basement-- and there is, amazingly, a lot of it. I've been finding boxes of baby clothes, washing them, finding little bouncy seats, pulling out boxes and boxes of books now that we actually have a space to store them. It's been a big project, and in the process, I have found lots and lots of stuff that I didn't even know existed. Part of this, I'm sure, is due to the fact that my mom was responsible for bringing over the last bit of stuff we had stored at her house, and I'm realizing that she threw lots of extra things in. Like the "ParaSpa Select Heat Therapy Paraffin Bath"? Yeah, totally not mine.

So, contrary to my typical MO of making little to no money, I decided to be industrious and actually sell some of our junk on craigslist. First I posted the old junky fridge that was here when we moved in, full of rotten food, but currently airing out on our back patio. I posted it under "free stuff," and actually got like 6 takers or something (and I had even already scheduled a special trash pickup for it!). This was easy! So I posted a bunch of other stuff, ranging from a base kitchen cabinet to a chili serving set to a rice steamer to this office kneeling chair-- all of these items for money. I did a bit of research on how much other people were selling similar items for (unfortunately, no other paraffin baths on craigslist...), and how much they cost new and just picked a price. So here's the thing. I posted the kneeling chair for $50, and actually just sold it to some sweet librarian that seemed thrilled to be taking it off my hands. I made more than 100% profit from something that I didn't even want anymore.

Am I a horrible person? Once you're a filthy capitalist is there any going back? I am wracked by guilt, but also enjoying the feeling of having some cash padding my wallet. Oh my. I guess this is how it starts.

Multiplying the Loaves


Tonight, a miracle occurred at our house. I looked in the fridge and realized that to make it through to the weekend grocery run, I had to make an entire meal from an eggplant. Now, for some people that eat like little birds, this might be no big deal, but Ben and I are big eaters to begin with, and when I'm pregnant all bets are off. So, an eggplant would not usually qualify as a side, let alone a full meal. Mere seconds before giving up and deciding to go to the store, I decided on a whim to look into More With Less under Eggplant, and there was "Eggplant Parmesan."

We love Eggplant Parmesan in the summer, but at first glance it looked like we didn't have any of the ingredients. No bread crumbs, no tomatoes, no shredded mozzarella. But as I looked around the kitchen, I realized that maybe, just maybe I could make this work. First I took some sandwich bread and put it in the food processor for the bread crumbs... I had a little leftover pasta sauce in the fridge that would sub for the homemade sauce in the recipe... and finally we had some cheese sticks that I could shred up to put on top. We just finished dinner, and it was filling and tasty, and we actually couldn't even quite finish the whole dish.

So for the hundreth time or something like that, a situation in which it seemed like we had scarcity turned into bounty. Who says miracles don't happen anymore?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Breastfeeding: Is it Worth the Hassel?


I just came across this interesting article that questions the current cultural pressure towards exclusively breastfeeding your baby. The article is interesting, and the woman who writes it is a smart cookie. The other day I was talking to a couple who recently adopted a beautiful little baby girl-- and therefore had no real choice about the whole breastfeeding thing-- and we agreed that formula feeding has its advantages. I know that in particular, I wish that Ben could have had more bonding with Zosia when she was a newborn, and he didn't have many opportunities, mainly because I was the one doing virtually all of the nurturing through feeding (now, Zosia wasn't much of a snuggler, so most of our intimate moments happened while nursing). And there's the fact that breastfeeding is an around-the-clock pressure that keeps you tied to the little squirt.

But at the end of the day, I am totally happy that I breastfed Zosia. Let me preface this conversation by saying that I have emerged from the first year of parenthood believing that biologically, psychologically, etc. there are inherent differences between men and women that are exaggerated by the process of procreation. I'm not saying that men can't be nurturing, that women can't be providers, etc. But I am saying that the process of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding encourage a very primal and female-centered process of self-giving, nurturing and creation that are beautiful and unique and could never be replicated by a tribe of men. It just wouldn't happen. That being said, I am very thankful that the process of breastfeeding was there to cultivate these virtues in me. There were many many moments in the first weeks in particular of parenthood that, given the choice, I would have handed my baby over to someone else and checked out, no questions asked. Had it not been for the fact that this helpless lifeform was counting on my fully for sustenance, I know that I would have done that, and in most ways, I'm sure that my life would have been more "normal" as compared to my pre-pregnancy life because of it. But instead, breastfeeding (a baby that refused even bottles of expressed milk, mind you), was a transformative experience that really changed the way I relate to other people, the way I think of myself, and the way I behave in the world. It was like a year of boot camp for detachment from the world or something.

So, I really do think that there's something amazing in breastfeeding. Do I think that all women must do it, or that those who choose otherwise should be shunned? No, absolutely not. But I also don't think that women should shy away from it because of the fact that it challenges our societal norms of independence, accomplishment, professionalism. And even in my own family, there are certain modifications I'm hoping to make with baby number two... I'm really praying hard that she is going to take bottles of expressed milk on occasion, which would be a beautiful experience for Ben, and give me the chance to take a class, go out for a couple hours, whatever.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Recession in our Midst

So, yesterday Ben and I drove over to Arlington to pick up a crib-- I found one that is essentially identical to Zosia's on craigslist for $70, crib and mattress, which is less than half of what I would pay in a store (yes, we will be a two crib household for a while! Along with a two-babies-in-diapers household, neither of which I mind). I had driven over to check it out once before, and had met Joan and Evelyn, mother and daughter, who live in a teensy-weensy one bedroom apartment. Evelyn had never used the crib, Joan told me, because she has always slept with her. (So cute!) And as I approached the apartment via the stairs, I could se Evelyn's excited little four year old head peaking out of the door.

Yesterday we went back with Zosia in tow to disassemble the crib (not as easy as it should have been!) and load it into the car. These days I'm playing the "I can't lift things because I'm pregnant" card more and more, so Z and I hung out at the apartment while Ben took a couple trips down to the car to load up the crib parts. Joan and I started talking, and after the usual niceties and formalities, she told me she had just been laid off last month. Whew... I didn't know what to say. So apparently, Joan's husband still lives in Hong Kong, and she has lived here since Evelyn was born-- moving something like 5 times in 3 years to pursue jobs, living life as a single mother. So now here she is with this beautiful little girl, no job, and essentially no community. She's a computer programmer, so we're trying to see if we can set her up with someone who has a job, but the unfortunate truth is that no one is really hiring.

I've been reading all about the statistics of unemployment rising, a recession looming, etc, and there are definitely members of our family that have been effected. But today as I went about my day, I couldn't get the image of Joan and Evelyn out of my head, hoping and praying that better times are in our future.

Monday, March 9, 2009

On Tough Times

So I'm here, but just a tired, busy version of myself. We're at the very end of our basement renovation, which has been a flurry of activity, people coming in and out of the house, and decision-making. It's been wonderful and exciting to see this totally useless space transformed into something beautiful (don't worry... Ben and I have mad before and after photos that I'll post this week as soon as we're actually 'done'), but it leaves me feeling worn. I'm definitely nesting like crazy, something that I don't think I ever fully experienced with Zosia-- but apparently building a nest is hard work and very tiring. I'm really looking forward to the end of this week, which I am hoping will herald in a couple weeks of peace and normalcy before this little munchkin arrives.

A week ago I discovered a wonderful new blog Via Media (on the side-bar here). The author is a Catholic writer, mother of five, who tragically lost her husband a few weeks ago. Her blog is interesting, but also a very thoughtful examination of what it feels like to lose someone so beloved to you. The other day she wrote
Well, that is the point of experience. Part of the point. We understand, we grow in empathy, we see pieces of our own lives in the lives of others, of our hurt in their own eyes, and through that suffering, we learn how to love.
I have never experienced something as heartwrenching as Amy, but her comment above somehow rung so true with me. These days at times I feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and pooped, but in my heart I know that all of these experiences are only opening me up to the experiences of others, and making me more able to love them in their own place of suffering.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Internet fast?

I thought you all would appreciate this article:

Catholics are urged to give up texting for Lent



By ARIEL DAVID
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 4, 2009; 1:37 PM

ROME -- Roman Catholic bishops in Italy are urging the faithful to go on a high-tech fast for Lent, switching off modern appliances from cars to iPods and abstaining from surfing the Web or text messaging until Easter.

I know that I have periodically limited Internet usage and have generally been happy with the result. But to be totally honest, these days I feel like I'm able to use technology in meaningful ways without having it take over my life. I think it's a good idea if technology usage is something you struggle with... but not really necessary for everyone.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bathing Rituals

I am a huge bather. Before Zosia was born, I would regularly take a daily bath in Boston-- my excuse being that it was so cold out I had to do something to keep warm. These days I often take a bath with Zosia, and it is usually the most joyful and relaxed time of the day-- we're both happy and at ease, and I've found that if I give Zosia a bath right after her nap, it usually curbs her after-nap grumpiness (inherited directly from a certain parent, and it's not me).

Given my propensity towards bathing, I surprised myself a little while ago when I decided on a whim to quit the daily shower. I love taking a shower, and love feeling clean afterwards. I think it started a winter or two ago when I felt like my skin was getting dry, and decided that instead of slathering lotion on, I would just let nature take care of the problem. It felt weird at first, and took some getting used to-- I just didn't feel ready for my day without the shower. But these days it's second nature, and I actually look forward to the days that I'm not showering, because my morning routine is a snap, and that means I have time for other stuff/ am ready to get going faster.

In college, my closest friends and I all were a little hippy-dippy in our ways and most of us showered sporadically. I even remember Emily once commenting that she liked another friend's "earthy smell"-- now in retrospect, I realize that he just smelled bad, plain and simple. But it was so wonderful to be in a community where there was a shared value of being relaxed about our image-- and there were ways that that relaxation spread into other areas of life. These days if I feel a little pungent, notice my hair isn't immaculate, or whatever, I just try to channel a laid back attitude, realize that no one notices but me (not even Ben... at least he hasn't said anything yet...) and carry on with my day. And the mornings that I do take a shower-- especially the weekend mornings when I can take my time, are that much more wonderful because of it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Forced Sabbath


It has been a bit of a mad house around here lately. We've been finishing our basement this week, which has meant that there is a constant stream of people in and out of the house, Ben is "working from home" but actually spending lots of time supervising workers and doing work himself (and therefore having to work in the evenings to make up for it), and we have not had an actual weekend in too long-- the last two have been "working weekends." I've been trying to stay on top of house-related things, but the floors don't seem to make it 5 minutes without obtaining a few new dusty footprints, and so I've ultimately just given up.

Now, those of you who know us know that we are definitely sabbath people. Actually, we don't usually just take a sabbath on Sunday, but are good at incorporating that concept of rest and relaxation together into our daily routine. So this has all been a huge deviation from the norm, but we have kept telling ourselves that the end is in sight, and we will soon have a wonderful new space to spread our family into. But to be totally honest, working 24/7 has been stressful-- for each of us individually, for our relationship, even at times for Zosia, who largely has seemed immune from the craziness.

So yesterday when the sky opened and dumped half a foot of snow on us (a true "snowstorm" by Virginia standards), it was one of the only things that could have happened to force us to stop the craziness for a bit. Ben still worked from home, but there was no construction, we actually spent time together, and had a nice long evening with a fire going and family time. It was amazing! And I think that both of us feel like it gave us the energy to keep going for what will hopefully only be another week and a half.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Car Theft-- Or Lack Thereof

Last night as we were driving to meet some friends for dinner, Ben made a discovery. "Adele," he asked, "Did you pull out all of the stuff from the glove compartment and leave it on the seat?" I thought for a second, and no, I had not. "Did you leave the glove compartment open?" Again, nope. "How about the armrest storage?" Nope. "Well, I think someone went through our car last night."

Now, I'll be totally honest: I rarely lock our car. First off, it's not much to look at, so I figure that no one would want to steal it. Also, I think I just have too much trust for other people-- in college, I never locked my bike up, and it got stolen... and then my next bike got stolen too (you must be thinking, "does this girl never learn?? I guess I do but just slowly ;-). And there's the fact that without that automatic locking thing that newfangled cars have, arriving at an unlocked car with a toddler on my hip tends to make life way easier. So, anyway, the car was open, and someone had gone through it.

We started taking inventory of all of our things: our small, low-tech gps, still in the glove compartment; my cheapo cell phone, still in the console; my knock-off sunglasses, still in the side-compartment. It took moments to realize that whoever went through our car found nothing worthy of stealing. Everything was still there.

While you all might imagine that my main emotion was relief or thankfulness, I'll tell you the truth. I was sort of wounded. Was none of our stuff theft-worthy? Come on, there were plenty of valuable things in our car! How could you not want the baby seat? Or my phone? Come to think of it, we haven't checked the trunk yet-- maybe the thief made off with a rayon scarf, some dog toys, and a snow scraper. I'll go out and check-- and try to remember my keys, because the car is locked today, thank you very much.