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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Random Observations

I was driving around here, there, and yonder yesterday with the kids when I glanced down at the gas gauge. I had three quarters of a tank. Then it occurred to me that I rarely think about the gas tank anymore.

When I was working and driving seventy-something miles a day, the gas tank was always on my mind. Every day I'd look at the gas gauge, figure out how long it would last, and try to time my fillup for when I had the time in the cheapest location. There could be a 20 or 30 cent differential in price, depending on where I was.

It was a continual source of low level stress that I could not allow to get away from me because I could get stranded. I thought about it every day. And now, I don't.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Nursing Modesty The Fifth Time Around

I am happy to report that my health seems to be returned to normal. All the weird symptoms have mostly subsided and I am only tired in the sleep deprived way instead of the 'something is going awry' way. I am still trying to find the new normal and am most impatient with myself. I want to post more often and fail so here's a quick amusement.

Yesterday was Ella's one month appointment. I was running late because running late is my special charism. All my best efforts to the contrary, I will be late.

I drove into the parking lot and hurriedly pulled Ella out of her car seat. I put my purse on my shoulder, grabbed a burp cloth, and looked at her blanket. Do I need the blanket? In an instant I decided against it. It wasn't that cool, she had on long sleeves and pants, and it would be one more thing to carry. Off we go.

We are called into our room. The nurse tells me to take all her clothes off. Crud. I do need that blanket. How could I forget?

The nurses finishes and we are left to wait on the doctor. The naked Ella gets cold and fussy, and I have nothing to wrap her in except to awkwardly drape her discarded clothing over her. I set down to nurse her thinking warm milk and my warm body might make this wait a bit less uncomfortable.

Finally the doctor enters. "I have a blanket in the car that I should have brought in, but I just didn't think about it."

The doctor reassures me. "It's no big deal. Don't you worry about it."

"But I forgot she would have her clothes off and she is cold and I don't have anything to wrap her in."

"...Oh. You mean for the baby."

Half a beat passes. I look down. My shirt is hiked all the way up to my collarbone. It's all hanging out. All of it. It never crossed my mind.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Postpartum Wonkiness

I have a birth story post brewing, but that has been put on hold by the demands of a newborn and the fog that still resides in my head.

Birth and its aftermath was fairly routine. In fact from a pain perspective, this delivery has been probably the easiest I have had. I finally found a pain medicine protocol that works for me; it only took five times. I had minor tearing and, I think, two stitches that healed very quickly. I was sore for a few days, but overall the aches and pains associated with post-pregnancy has been mild. If only that was the end of it.

During the pregnancy, I continued with my low blood pressure that I have always had. Normal readings for me stay around 100/70 and 90/60 is not alarming. I had an annoying high pulse, but was told repeatedly it wasn't high enough to be worrisome. It just pounded in the 90s most of the time.

Within a day after delivery, my pulse blessedly returned to normal.

Within five days of delivery, I had a continuous low grade headache. I first attributed the headache to too much screen scrolling while sitting with a baby. I was still basking in my non-pounding pulse. After several days of this dull headache, I decided to take my pulse to see where it was sitting. I was expecting something in the mid-70s. I got something in the mid-50s. Huh. That's weird. I immediately wondered what my blood pressure might be with such a pulse, and being the proud owner of a cuff, I went to find out. I had no idea what to expect. 135/85. What? That was somewhat alarming.

Over the next few days, I kept a steady eye on my blood pressure. While not technically actionable, it was a lot higher than my usual and my head was dull. I even had a migraine aura. Over the course of a few days, it stayed in that same range, and after I stupidly spent two hours in an unair-conditioned barn for a wedding reception, it got as high as 150/90. Officially concerning.

I consulted my doctor and started keeping a regular record. That high reading was as high as it got. Over the last week it has stabilized into a more normal range with my high readings being 120/80 and the others hanging around 110/75. So maybe I am not going to have a stroke.

My pulse has not recovered as nicely. It is still hovers in the 60s or 70s during the day and I am sure falls into the 50s (or 40s) while I sleep. This slow circulation does not help the dull headache. My brain is foggy and slow. I have to reach for words.

And! I am getting heart palpitations. I think I have figured out they are exacerbated by stress, low blood sugar, and the slow pulse. The palpitations are much fewer when I keep my blood sugar level. However, regular eating is not my strong suit. Regular eating with a newborn is really not my strong suit.

The fun thing about heart issues is that thinking about them can cause your body to react. I wonder about my pulse and can watch it slow down noticeably on the monitor. I think about a palpitation and then my heart starts flip-flopping. I have to keep up with what's happening while at the same time not dwell on it and make it worse.

I have an appointment on Monday for vitals and bloodwork to make sure all this is on the side of annoying, but harmless postpartum complications and not something more ominous. In my saner moments, I feel confident all this falls under annoying but harmless, but this hasn't been enjoyable either. Half the time I wonder if I shall have a stroke or if my heart is just going to quit beating.

Hopefully soon the fog will lift and I will be able to tell you about my 7.5 hour labor. 7.5 hours!?! All the others combined were only 10.5 hours. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hey Baby!

Eleanor Clare was born on Tuesday, September 12th at 3:40pm. She weighed 7lb 4oz and was 18.5 inches long. We are going to call her Ella. Labor was not precipitous. Weird.

We are both doing well. This has been one of my easier recoveries even though I have sluggishly done nothing for months *and* I'm officially old and all. Baby is back up to her birth weight. I think? She has an appointment tomorrow so I'll find out for sure.

All is well. We are in that strange, transitional time where it's hard to remember pre-baby life even though it was last week. We are taking it slow, but hopefully since my mind is not quite as dulled as it was during the pregnancy, I'll be able to post more soon. Pictures for now:




Thursday, September 7, 2017

Flabbergasted

I have the most ridiculous things happen to me sometimes and this is too ridiculous not to share.

Earlier in the summer, a couple of people from the women's group at church approached me and said they would like to throw me a baby shower. This was a pleasant surprise, even though I don't need that much, and they decided to theme the party for diapers and wipes. (Although now I have discovered I actually need a new playpen. Ain't that the way of things.) I have some baby shower trauma, which I alluded to back in this old post, but there is more to that story than is in the post. Let's just say that the experience of someone calling me to arrange a baby shower for me is not one I've had before now.

Initially, we set the date for the shower for a Saturday in August and for scheduling conflict reasons that are not entirely clear to me, it had to be cancelled. I wasn't upset. They told me they would reschedule later and it might not be until after the baby was born. Totally fine.

Now several weeks have passed. My family is involved in a homeschool book club that meets a couple of times a month for the children to talk about a book and run around like crazy people. Several of the families in book club also attend my parish. Yesterday was book club day.

One of the mothers at book club asked me about the pregnancy and my upcoming induction on Sept 12th.** I gave her the details and she looked at me, perplexed. She shared with me that she had received an evite to my baby shower just that morning. It is scheduled for Sept 16th. I blinked at her. She quickly realized I had no idea what she was talking about and started apologizing, thinking she had ruined a surprise. I explained it wasn't a surprise but had been cancelled back in August and that cancellation is the last I had heard about anything. I went home, bewildered.

Waiting on me at home was a message on the answering machine. It was the woman from church organizing the baby shower. She explained that they were having a hard time finding a date without conflicts so they scheduled it for Sept 16th. She also realized it was around my due date so maybe I would be bringing the baby to the party. "Call me back..."

My mouth was now hanging open.

They sent out invitations without ever asking me if I was available. They sent out invitations before even calling me to let me know they set a date without asking if I was available.

So.

I am now faced with making a phone call to tell this very nice, but apparently clueless, woman that no, sadly I, with my fashionable adult diapers, will not be bringing my 3-4 day old baby to a party full of germy, old women approximately 24 hours after being released from a hospital stay that was necessitated by the fact I had to push said baby's head out of my nether regions.

ARE THEY OUT OF THEIR EVER-LOVIN' MINDS?!?

I am astounded, astonished, flabbergasted. They have had children. How can they not know? But evidently, they don't. I don't even know what to say to her. They already sent out invitations. I cannot believe it. Now I have to pick up the phone...


**I have an induction scheduled for next Tuesday, Sept 12th, in order to control for my old friend, precipitous labor, and avoid the dreaded interstate delivery. I will be about 39.5 weeks and probably 5-6cm dilated at that point.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rant

What a stupid, stupid day I have had. I knew today would not go my way when I awoke to find rain pouring from the sky.

Today was my first scheduled NST at 35 weeks at 10 am. I had to bring all the kids to my sister's house, which meant we had to leave home at 845. Really, we should have left at 830. I dropped the kids, gave a rundown of the schoolwork I sent along, and headed to the gas station because the van was out of stupid gasoline. I didn't have time to fill-up so I gave it about three gallons to get me there and back again. It was raining a deluge.

I get to the appointment about seven minutes late after having Dave call to tell them I was running a few minutes late. These appointments are not double booked because there is only one fetal monitoring room, but nonetheless it took them 30 minutes to call me back.

The nurse brings me back and asks if I have ever had an NST before. No. Is this my first baby? Why, no. She explains the procedure and then asks the loaded question: Did you have a good breakfast? Um, was I supposed to? "The test works better if baby has some glucose to work with." Nobody told me to eat well before coming. And I knew.

NB: I tend to have a low fasting glucose just like I tend to have low blood pressure. Nobody cares because all that matters is hypertension, diabetes, and a normal thyroid. I have a normal thyroid number so they all just shrug in my general direction. If this test relies on maternal glucose to goose the baby into proper performance, I knew right then this was not going to go well. Half a frozen sausage biscuit pair isn't going to go far. I was planning to eat for real after the appointment. You know, at 1030. IF SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME...

So she straps me all into a chair--mmm belly monitors, my favorite--assures me she will be monitoring our progress from her office over a baby monitor, and walks out of the room. Irony, there. Baby monitor. The pound, pound, pound of baby's heartbeat is being broadcast live over the air. I couldn't actually see the machine, but I guesstimated it to be around 150.

After some amount of time, she comes back into the room, looking vexed. She says baby is not responding appropriately so she takes this flashlight looking thing that vibrates and buzzes my belly with it two or three times before walking out of the room again. Pound. Pound. Pound. Move. Squirm. Pound.

More time passes. And I know. Eventually she comes back into the room, glances at the tape spit out by the machine and unceremoniously announces, "The baby has failed this test." Nice bedside manner, you have here. Don't try to soft pedal it. "You will have to have an ultrasound before you leave today. Go back to the waiting room and I'll see when Ultrasound can work you in" And then she utters the words that pretty much sum up the day. "I don't think anything is wrong, but we have to check." Of course.

Back to the waiting room, I go. It just so happens that the next ultrasound appointment is running late because of the rain. I get called back. Ultrasound nurse is a bit friendlier than NST nurse. She seems concerned. I tell her that if I had known I needed to eat a big breakfast for this test to function, I would have eaten better, but nobody told me. She says I don't need to apologize. I AM NOT APOLOGIZING. I am explaining the failure in communication WHICH IS IN NO WAY MY FAULT. Breathe, breathe. smile.

I climb onto the table. Good news! Baby is head down and has hair. Hurray. She measures all the things: heartrate (150bpm-called it), blood flow to the brain, breathing reflexes, limb movement, amniotic fluid. She announces that baby is passing the ultrasound with flying colors. Then she starts measuring baby for growth. And I know. Sigh. Let us all be shocked when she says baby is on the small side and she needs to discuss this with a doctor before I am allowed to leave. Of course. Except my doctor isn't in office on Mondays so ultrasound nurse, who I have only just met today, will discuss this issue with random OB in the office, who I have likely never met in order to decide whether I can leave.

I then deploy what I call the Grace defense. "My oldest was less than 6.5 pounds at birth and still is only in the single digit percentiles and barely weighs 70 pounds at 12 years old. That the baby might measure a little small is definitely within the realm of possibilities. We are a small people. My giant-sized daughter is only in the mid-30s in percentile." Her response: Sometimes it is just genetics, but we have to check to make sure. Of course.

Back into the waiting room, I go. By this point, I am starving. I had expected to be able to eat at least an hour prior. I think Ultrasound nurse forgets I am out there. Time passes. The door finally opens for her to call the next patient. She sees me sitting there and says, "Oh, the doctor said it was fine. You can go." Thank you very much.

It is now after 1230 and I. Am. Starving. I go to a restaurant, order too much food, eat it all down, and then feel bad for a good chunk of the day from eating too much, too fast. I have to drive home. Still pouring rain. There is a jack-knifed semi leaking diesel on the interstate blocking my way home because OF COURSE THERE IS. I get through that little traffic nightmare and have to stop and fill up the van again because I have burned up my three gallons from the morning and am now filling all the way up. I pull into my sister's driveway after 230. I am totally beat.

What a stupid, stupid day. This is why I am deeply skeptical of all this testing and interventions. At no point did I ever get the impression that any medical person I interacted with had any true concern about me or the baby. They all seemed to think everything was fine, as did I. But we sure as heck had to check a lot of boxes on our way. And I get to do it all again on Thursday when you will be sure I will eat more than one frozen sausage biscuit for redacted breakfast.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Names

Oh, hey! Another pregnancy post! I'll try to move on to other topics soon, but everyone loves a name post, right? You know how everybody knows those people who start dating and immediately start naming all their perspective children. I am not those people.  Most of ours have not been definitively named until transition is closing in.

I find naming children somewhat difficult. I think this difficulty is born of my given name, shared by half the girls born in the 70s. I feel almost completely disconnected from my name. It's more like a label than a name. One of the great mass of Jennifers. It doesn't feel personal or that it says anything particular about me. I did not want my own children to have the same disconnected experience from their own names. In practice this means I have gravitated towards more classic names and tried to avoid trendy names. It turns out all the other Jennifers feel the same way. (I tried, Olivia, I tried.)

I admit I am picky about names. I don't like a lot of them. I promise I love your kids' names whatever they are, but I cannot easily find names I love for my own kids. A name has to feel right to me and it is hard for me to describe what 'feels right' actually means. 

So now we are on our fifth child and our powers of naming are running low. This state of affairs is distressing to Grace. Almost every night at supper, she asks, "What are we going to name the new baby?" We all throw some suggestions around, but nothing seems to stick or feel right. Repeat again tomorrow night.

The current ex-utero children are named:
Grace Elizabeth
Olivia Rose
Samuel David
Marian Josephine.

The new baby is purported to be another girl. I tend to Englishy names, something Jane might name a character. So what do you think? What should we name the new baby? Help us, lest new baby end up being called Clare Annette.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Pregnancy This Time Around

Forgive me for pregnancy is on the brain. Your alternative is to hear about my housekeeping and homeschooling angst and I know you don't want that.

When I first seriously considered pregnancy again, my biggest fear was just being pregnant again. I wasn't worried about having another baby or where another might fit in this house or the implications for the car situation. I just really didn't want to be pregnant again. For months I longed for a surprise, a misreading of the chart, a margin that didn't really exist. That didn't happen. Instead we had to make the deliberate decision. I've never been so nervous in my life. Gah, what was I signing up for?

My fears mainly congregated around three main issues: nausea, heartburn, and pelvic pain.

My nausea has never risen to the level of HG, but it is debilitating to me. It comes on fast and knocks me low. The constant feeling of nausea for weeks and weeks leaves me almost worthless and everyone around me has to pick up the slack. Some people seem to be able to fight through this feeling to attain some level of functionality. I, for whatever reason, cannot.

The heartburn is more annoying than debilitating, but it comes on around the midpoint of pregnancy and is a ready companion until about 12 hours after birth. I have to sleep practically sitting up to keep the acid down through the night and pop Pepcid like candy with middlin' results.

My biggest fear, though, was the pelvic pain. I have struggled with pelvic instability since my second pregnancy. It was only slight that time and disappeared after birth, but set the stage for real pain later. It was especially terrible during my third pregnancy where I had trouble walking and standing and dressing myself. But again, it disappeared after birth. During my fourth pregnancy, the pelvic instability was not as bad as the previous time and I took proactive steps to rein it in by going to a chiropractor who specialized in pregnancy and doing stability exercises. In spite of these things, the pain lasted long after birth. Years after birth. I was truly afraid of permanently maiming myself with another pregnancy.

So how's it been?

The nausea came on fast and furious at 5 weeks along. I lasted about a week and then I decided this was dumb. Give me all the meds. I have never taken nausea meds during pregnancy before because I could not take a chance on the sleep inducing side effects while driving upwards of three hours a day. I might feel sick, but at least I was awake to drive. This time, I didn't have to worry about all that. I latched onto the Unisom/B6 combination. I slept long hours, but it did help. In retrospect, I probably could have and should have taken a higher dose. The meds functioned to take the edge off the nausea. It didn't completely disappear, but it gave me enough margin to eat in the morning and not spend the entire day retching.

The severity of the nausea also only lasted to about 12.5 weeks. I know that's when all the books say the nausea should end, but that has never, never, never been my experience. I usually have severe nausea through 16-18 weeks. It may have been the combination of the medicine and the sleep, but the 'I want to die' nausea portion of pregnancy was much shorter than usual.

Even though the nausea was a bit better, Dave was not prepared for how thoroughly the first half of pregnancy affects me. In the past, I would go off to work and he would carry on his normal duties at home. It's true I didn't help much when I got back home, but he already had meals and laundry covered so the functioning of the household didn't suffer too much from my stasis. This time all those were my jobs. He had to work all day and then come home and work all evening. The older girls had responsibilities they had never had before and didn't particularly care for. All while I held down the couch. It was rough to say the least.

A different experience with the nausea this time is the long tail. Usually I have hard nausea and then it leaves by around 20 weeks. This time mild nausea hangs on even to this day. I don't know if it is the meds or my age, but even now I am on a half pill of Unisom because every time I try to wean off of it, I get sick again. I wish I could stop taking it, but by this point I am just not willing to do withdrawal, if that's what it is, until after birth. No need to compound miseries.

The heartburn started this time earlier than ever. I tried intermittent Pepcid. I tried systematic Pepcid. I was still having breakthrough heartburn almost everyday no matter what I ate. After a bit of stubbornness, I finally asked the doctor about taking Prevacid. She gave the go ahead, and let me tell you, Prevacid is a freaking miracle. The acid is gone. GONE! I can lay down! I can drink water! I can eat food! It is a miracle. Now, you are only supposed to take it for fourteen days and it is supposed to last four months. I, on the other hand, have the heartburn return at about day 14.5 if I miss a pill so I am on constant Prevacid for the duration. I am not entirely comfortable with this, but I am also no longer willing to burn my throat with acid when it is avoidable.

Finally, the hips. I was extremely worried about the hips, but it really hasn't been a problem at all. I haven't been this comfortable hip-wise since my second pregnancy. I am now about 34 weeks and I haven't had to wear a support belt or anything. I feel a twinge in my left hip when I stand on that leg alone, but that's it. It is a really pleasant surprise. It is true it could all go down hill between now and the end and I could end up with a debility, but it looks good so far. I think I must be up and around more at home even though it feels like I sit a lot as opposed to spending all day in an office chair. Or maybe all those stability exercises did more good than I realized. Whatever it is, I'll take it.

A couple of things that I did not expect is anemia and an elevated heart rate. When the nausea died down a bit and the second half of pregnancy rolled around, I expected that burst of energy everyone talks about. It never showed up. Eventually I was diagnosed with mild anemia, but I had weeks and weeks of time when it seemed like I should be doing stuff, but getting off the couch was monumentally difficult. I started taking a Floradix once a day and eating a lot more red meat, and now I feel fairly normal, energy-wise, considering my age and it's the third trimester. I am disappointed I missed that magic window of productivity, but it is what it is.

Also my heart rate has been elevated for months. It's not high enough to trigger any medical concern, but it is really annoying and tiring. It feels like I have been up and around and active all while sitting in my very own chair. The constant pounding is a frustration. Coffee is totally out. I miss coffee. I cannot handle any morning caffeine. It sets me up for a bad day. I have to have enough protein at meals, otherwise carb heavy foods sets the pounding off again. I will be quite pleased when my heart rate goes back down to normal. Hovering in the 90s and lower 100s all the time is a drag. 

So there it is. The fears of the pregnancy were not entirely unfounded, but we survived while other issues I never worried about popped up. I am taking more medicine than I ever thought I would, but my patience for the "normal" aches and pains has been exhausted. Just six more weeks, right?


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Pregnancy, AMA

When I last had a baby, I was 35 for the entire pregnancy. I met ACOG's technical definition of Advanced Maternal Age, but my OB never mentioned it. Later, at a yearly appointment, I asked her about it. She said that for someone with my medical history and pregnancy outcomes, she would not consider a pregnancy AMA until age 37 or 38 at the earliest.

As my husband and I discerned over the years about whether another pregnancy would be prudent, I always asked my doctor her opinion on my fitness for pregnancy at my yearly visit. She always was unfailingly positive. Someone with my history should not need to avoid pregnancy for medical reasons. As I crept up in age, she would caution that it might take longer than usual to get pregnant and my risk for miscarriage would be higher, but she strongly felt the odds were overwhelmingly in my favor.

Then we made the decision. It did not take longer than usual to get pregnant.

At the beginning of my pregnancy, while I was a spring chicken of 39, nothing much was different from a medical perspective than with my other pregnancies. My appointments were carried out in the same old way. I didn't have any extra appointments or screenings related to my age. I did have more ultrasounds, but that was due to ectopic concerns and later baby hiding from the doppler, but not my dotage.

In May at my regular appointment, my doctor made note of my 40th birthday in June. She said I should get a phone call from scheduling setting up my appointments for the rest of the pregnancy. I was not alarmed by either comment. I happened to get the phone call in a few days at a bad time. The nice woman on the phone said it wasn't a problem and she was just letting me know to expect a list of my third trimester appointments in the mail. Nothing prepared me for what was in that fat envelope when it arrived the next day.

Appointments. Oh, so many appointments. They had me scheduled for three appointments a week for the last seven weeks of pregnancy. Every week starting at the beginning of August, I was supposed to drive into Nashville for an ultrasound to check fluid and growth on one day plus a regular appointment and then drive back into town another day for a separate non-stress test. I was astounded. I went from being treated like a normal pregnant woman who had been encouraged to pursue a healthy pregnancy to one who it seemed they feared might have catastrophe strike if they didn't see me every few days.

Taken aback by this pile of appointments, I did some research to figure out why so many. (Let's be real, I asked people on FB and then did some other reading aside.) It turns out there is a higher risk of stillbirth in the last couple weeks of pregnancy for mothers over the age of 40. And I guess that's me now. I am frustrated by the notion that if I had had this baby in June instead of September, I likely would have been scheduled for almost none of this.

But the last couple of weeks of pregnancy is a far cry from the last two months. I have other things to consider besides tests being run out of an abundance of abundant caution. First is child care. Where am I to store the other children while I attend appointments that will carve three to four or more hours out of my day twice a week for seven weeks? The second is cost. Being the proud owner of a $5200 individual deductible before the insurance kicks in at a generous 50%, these tests will cost me upwards of $300-$400 a week. That's a pile of money. (How much does an NST cost? Anyone know? Not me.) I have no desire to spend that kind of money without a real reason to be doing it.

At my next appointment I talked to my doctor about my concerns. She explained the elevated stillbirth risks, but agreed that given my health and history, I could postpone these tests a few weeks without much concern from her. She wrote up the order to cancel two week's worth of appointments and I took that trusty piece of paper down to a scheduling nurse.

The scheduling nurse was beside herself. How did I manage to get the doctor to agree to cancel these appointments? Not your business, schedule nurse. She just wasn't too sure about this. I didn't ask your opinion, schedule nurse. She couldn't possibly reschedule a different appointment I had a conflict with because she was already pressing her luck by cancelling the other appointments. Show me your credentials and your understanding of my medical chart and then I might care what you have to say about this, schedule nurse.

I didn't really expect the scheduling nurse to be the source of friction on this topic, but there it is.

At my appointment earlier this week, I saw a different OB than my usual. My OB was on vacation and that's just the way the schedule worked this week. Whatever. My appointment was entirely normal. Appropriate weight gain. Good, which is to say low, blood pressure. Good fundal measurement. Strong heartbeat. This different OB might have used the word 'perfect' several times during the course of our five minutes together.

Then, apparently? something? I don't know?, she must have noticed that I was officially old on my chart. OLD, I tell you. After telling me how wonderful it all was, she then asked if I had an appointment scheduled with the high risk OB. Um, no? You just told me everything was perfect, repeatedly. Now I need the high risk OB? Then she asked if I had a growth scan ultrasound scheduled. Yes. When? In two weeks. Okay, good. We really need to get a growth scan on this baby. If you say so. My belly has grown since my last appointment and baby is kicking the fire out of me, but I guess we can't be too sure that baby actually grew. It's all a coincidence. I suspect my regular OB would not have been so jumpy.

So that's life with a really official AMA pregnancy. Everyone at the OB office thinks it's great, but they also think you might spontaneously combust. Stay tuned...

(Digression: I will be having this baby at the hospital this time. The midwife who lived five minutes away moved out of state. The other midwife I wanted to use couldn't guarantee her arrival within an hour. This is totally understandable. The number one medical concern in my pregnancies is unassisted delivery. If the midwife couldn't get here quickly enough, I'd run a high chance of delivering by myself. So the hospital it is. I know this means I will likely be induced. Meh. But it is what it is. The goal is no interstate deliveries.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Swimming While Pregnant

I have had this longstanding fantasy where I am a swimmer. Somehow the logistics and the schedule and the swimsuit and the stars align and I am able to go swimming on a regular basis for exercise. Add to this fantasy all the stories you hear about pregnant women finding relief in the pool and I was especially excited to see if I could manage this feat during this pregnancy now that the schedule seems like it could be possible. I have spent more than four years pregnant and never found my way into a swimming pool. Until this past Monday.

My sister's neighborhood has a pool and she mercifully invited the entire crew to go swimming with her kids. I found a swimsuit that I could passably wear with my Big Giant Belly* and packed all the children off to the pool.

After getting everyone sunscreened and into the water, I had to figure out how to safely get myself into the pool. The kids were all playing on this side of the pool, but the stairs were on that side of the pool. I didn't trust myself to just plop myself into the water so I decided to walk over to the stairs and then walk/float back over to where all the children were.

Now this isn't an Olympic style pool or even one you might see at a rec center. This is what you might call a hotel style pool. It is a rounded off rectangle with the deepest part in the center of the long side of the rectangle. The two short sides of the rectangle are 3 feet deep that increase to four feet and then hit five entire feet of depth in the center. Since I am about 5'2'', I knew I could walk most of the way and then just float across the five foot center.

I slowly descend into the water and feel the entirely odd feeling of a baby kicking on the inside while the water presses against the outside. I begin walking through the three foot section of pool. Then I get to the four foot section and begin that little water hop thing to keep my head above the water. Then the water is too deep for me to retain contact with the bottom of the pool so I take one last hop and try to propel myself into a float. And nothing happens. I sink like a rock.

"That's weird," I think to myself and try again. And once again, the muscles do not engage. I push myself backwards and try to tread water. I can't. My muscles seem to have lost all memory of buoyancy. I went swimming last summer. I could float then. Something about my distended belly and the strange sensations of the water made my body revolt against the idea of floating in water.

I quickly reassess and decide to sheepishly do the wall hanging scoot of shame where I cling to the side of the pool and scoot myself past the "deep" end. I realize I am now an old lady in need of a pool noodle floatie. I regain my footing on the other side of the dreaded deep and find myself a pool noodle to hang on since I cannot trust my own muscles to work.

We all spend most of an hour playing in the three to four foot area of the pool. Marian was thrilled with the back float she accomplished by throwing her body backwards over her ring float and thrashing her legs and arms about wildly. I helped the other children with a few other activities, but mostly I tootled around on my old lady noodle trying not to sink.

The time came to get out of the pool. I once again had to traverse the deep section. I didn't even try to float myself over it. I probably should have after spending so much time acclimating to the feeling of being underwater. I just did the wall scoot of shame going the other direction.

I arrived at the steps and slowly pulled myself out of the water. I then had one of the strangest feeling I have ever encountered in my entire life. I can only describe it as what an astronaut might experience coming back to earth. The full force of gravity came to bear on me. I could hardly move. I stood there standing, dripping at the edge of the pool trying to find the ability to walk. All of my limbs felt weighted down like lead. I slowly shuffled back across the pool, passing a table full of teenagers on the way (Hurrah!), my feet barely clearing the ground to propel me forward. It was the very definition of ridiculous to behold. Then, after a few minutes, the feeling passed and I could walk around normally. Well as normal as possible in these days of the Big Giant Belly.

So that's my swimming while pregnant experience. Should I attempt this folly again?



*Big Giant Belly is Marian's official name for my current girth.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Catholic Fail

Last Friday, I hauled myself and all the children downtown to an ordination at the Cathedral. One of the ordinands had been assigned as a temporary deacon at our parish last summer so I thought it would be a good experience for the children. I have zero pictures of this event.

After the (very long) Mass, I gathered my crew into the social hall for the reception with food. Trying to feed four children and myself, all by myself, in a crowded room with long lines for food after they have spent the better part of three hours at Mass was an adventure all unto itself. And lo, we all survived.

After not too long, the newly ordained priests emerged and two stations were set up for them to offer their first blessings. The lines got long very quickly. Seeing as I had never had a first blessing before, even though I have been to several ordinations, I decided to take my place in line, in spite of the fact that Marian was lapping the reception room.

At last I make it to the front of the line.

The new Father then asks me, "Who's your patron saint?"

Me, "Um?"

Father, "Well then who was your confirmation saint?"

Me, "So, when I was confirmed, they discouraged us from taking saint names sooooo."

Father, "So which saint do you have a particular devotion to?"

Me, blankly, "Weeeellll?"

Assistant Guy, gamely holding the blessing book watching this little debacle unfold, "How about St. Gerard, the patron of expectant mothers?"

Me, with my giant belly that regularly wins me inquiries about twins, "That sounds like a good idea because I am definitely there."

Father, "St Gerard, it is."

"May, through the imposition of my priestly hands...."

Then I kissed his hands. I've never done that before either.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Gospel According to Lice

Today's Gospel was particularly apt for this week of dealing with lice.

Even all the hairs on your head are counted.
                                             Matthew 10:30
Yes, children, this is true. And I have seen every one of those hairs this week.




Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Scourge

It has come to pass that once again the lice have come to visit our house while I am pregnant. Is this a rule? Lice while pregnant?

I did not anticipate spending my day, indulging my primate instincts, picking nit after nit out of my offsprings' hairs. The problem with lice during pregnancy is that I am not comfortable dousing myself or others in neurotoxin to kill the noxious bugs. Therefore my husband has to do the heavy lifting of washing all the children's hair in gross chemical while I pick, pick, comb, pick. And did mention the laundry?

We have yet to determine if I also have the scourge. I hope not. Since I am avoiding the neurotoxin, my lice removal protocol borders on ridiculous. Lots of oil and vinegar and plastic and time.

One bright side is that Marian relishes saying the word lice. Lice. LLLLLLice. She sticks her tongue out between her teeth. LLLLLLLLLice with a long L. She also explained we needed to put the lice eggs back in her hair so the babies would survive. Apparently there has been too much Wild Kratts around here. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Whence Competence?

Checking in here again. My writing muscle is quite flabby. Now that summer has arrived, hopefully I will be able to engage in the blog habit a little more regularly.

These last few months have been an exercise in endurance. Even now, we are still trying to wrap up the end of the school year and finish the never-ending math book. School was cut to the very basics and still we struggled to finish. Now summer obligations cut into our days and make the stray ends harder to gather together. Perhaps by the end of this upcoming week I can officially call the school year over.

The pregnancy is proceeding apace with everything looking healthy and normal. We are once again expecting another girl. The symmetry of two girls, a boy, and two more girls is pleasing. Sam is going to be well-prepared for adulthood. Heh.

Even though everything pregnancy-wise seems healthy, my own perseverance has not been very valiant. Although I embraced all the meds this time, the nausea just kept hanging on. I am still taking something every night before bed because my schedule has been such that finding out I am still nauseous in the morning would not be amenable. Not the most terrible, but not great either. Maybe after school is put away, I'll try to wean off the nausea med again. Again, again. Heartburn is a daily part of my life. Constant choking burning heartburn. My ability to ignore these feelings and carry on is not my strong point. I have been sleeping 10-11 hours a night, plus plenty of rest throughout the day. Mild anemia is doing its work, taking my energy and raising my heart rate.The second trimester energy boost never quite arrived and now the third trimester promises to be more (or less) of the same.

As a result, the household is running on fumes and threads. I haven't cooked in months. The housekeeping is sad. The children have been cleaning the kitchen, but it's about as clean as you'd expect when children clean a kitchen. And the whole household project left over from last year's disastrous summer still looms over my head.

I have been home from work for close to two years. I wonder when I will feel competent in any of this. It seems like as soon as I begin to feel like I am gaining control over any particular situation, the stool gets kicked out from under me and I have to begin again. I do not feel quite as unmoored as I did in the beginning, but it definitely feels like a three steps forward, two steps back situation. I feel like if I could just...fill in the blank...and then everything would work itself out. This probably isn't reality. It works itself out, one way or the other, no matter my competence or energy.

I know that other people have moved and cooked and been pregnant and had babies and done all the things I have been doing and probably felt like they muddled through just like I do. It's possible to do these things. I just wonder when it starts feeling doable instead of impossible. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What Was I Saying Again?

I was supposed to be talking about our lunch routines and complaining about the crockpot, but the truth is those posts were probably the last time I made or served lunch. We quickly descended into a feral survival mode when an old, familiar malady came to visit me.

Yes, I am once again growing a person.

When I am newly pregnant, I always make absurd promises to myself like I will continue exercising every day even if I don't feel well or make a goal of more frequent posting. You'd think I'd know better by now. The resolve doesn't last long. Soon I take my post on the couch and wait for the awfulness to end.

MrsDarwin valiantly continued posting through her dark days:
If you told me when I had my first that I would do this six more times (seven, counting the miscarriage, but I was never sick then), I would have turned my face to the wall and died.
And that about says it all. This is only my fifth time (Only five. Ha! I think I need a medal.), but the sentiment holds. It is somewhat unbelievable I am living through this again. Pregnancy, especially the first half, is a time of muttering perseverance for me. Everything grinds to a halt. No shopping, no food prep. I cannot concentrate and can barely speak as the inevitable happens over and over again. Our homeschool is a shadow of its former self. The cleaning and laundry are all on emergency basis only. My step counter shows months of woe. The only items on my agenda are sleeping and carefully eating food that someone else prepared and put in front of me.

One of the great wonderings of my life was did I have such hard experiences with pregnancy because of working and commuting and generally pushing myself too hard when I should be resting. The answer is a resounding NO! This time has been exactly as bad as the others. Hurray. I found myself, in the depths of the worst of it, wondering how I went to work through all this? I know I did it. I did it four times, but I'm not sure how anymore. The only significant difference this time was that I felt myself begin coming out of the ditch at about 12.5 weeks rather than the normal 14. This "early" start to the reprieve only led me to fear miscarriage because, obviously, the books that say you should start to feel better around 12 weeks have lied through four previous pregnancies.

I am now 16 weeks and the worst is over. I am not 100%, but I am also not permanently planted on the couch anymore. My goals now are to slowly regain my endurance because, wow, atrophy is a thing, and to find order in the house again because three months is a long time to ignore it all. (My husband will be thrilled when I feel well enough to cook supper. Almost but not yet.)

NB: I thought about posting this yesterday, but I decided against it because it might be confusing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Crockpot

Everyone says use the crockpot. The crockpot is the key to breaking open the problem of supper and supper prep.

I must be special kind of incompetent.

It is 11 o'clock. No school has been started. The toddler is not dressed. The bed is not made. The laundry has not been started. I did eat breakfast. Hurrah. I don't know if the children have.

But I have prepped the crockpot.

How is it that obliterating my entire morning is going to help the rest of my day? Please tell me it will be worth it later.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lunch: The Daily Battle, Part One?

I've had this tab open for a few days to answer bearing's question about lunch, never quite starting because I know I can't finish. Maybe I'll break it up. A series! Quick and dirty posts, right?

The problem with lunch is breakfast. The problem with breakfast is getting everyone fed at a reasonable hour.

I think it is reasonably well known that I am neither skilled in the kitchen nor a morning person so having to get up and immediately face the kitchen is a double whammy. The solution to this problem is encouraging the children to feed themselves as much as possible. Getting the children to be reasonably independent in the kitchen for easy, grazing meals has been a process.

Back when I was working and my husband was home, he had a system that worked well for him. When he decided it was breakfast time, he would get up, make multiple different version of breakfast, whatever each child preferred, all including servings of fruit, set the table, pour the drinks, and serve breakfast. No one ate until everyone was sitting and the blessing said. Then you may begin eating. No one gets up until permission is asked and the child dismissed.

Lunch time worked the same way. He would get up, make multiple lunches, but this time in courses to make sure the children ate the proper things before the more desired things. Finish your sandwich, which might be pb&j on bread or turkey & cheese on a wrap or whatever else, then you may have some applesauce.  Finish your applesauce and then you may have some pretzels. Again nobody ate until all the food was assembled and everyone sitting down and the blessing said.  Then he was popping up and down, constantly, serving the different courses.

This was the expectation the children had of me when I arrived on the scene a little over a year ago. While this system works well for my husband, and is indeed what he still does when he does breakfast or lunch, it made my head explode. The synchronized nature of all the ingredients and all the plates and all the children in the perfect order and time, well, I could not deal.

Thus began the long and tedious process of moving away from competent service towards a free-for-all approach that walks the fine line between manageable chaos and just plain chaos.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

One Credit Hour

Darwin hosted a lengthy discussion on Facebook about the state of the arts and why conservative leaning Christians are so thin on the ground. His thoughts that grew out of that discussion are here. I chimed in with my own thoughts, but this isn't about that. This is about remembering how it used to be. Y'all know (or maybe you don't) I majored in music. Here is a little taste of what earns one credit hour in music.

If you are a music major, the most important class you take is your private lesson instruction. This is what makes or breaks you as a candidate for a music degree. The requirements for this class are thus: an hour a week in a private lesson, an hour a week in a group lesson, an hour a week in convocation (this is a mini-concert during the day), attendance at an evening concert of varying lengths about once a week, personal practice time of about an hour a day (7 hours a week), and a jury in front of entire faculty at the end of the semester so they can decide if you get to continue to major in music. That is around 10 or 11 hours a week. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

The second most important class you take is your major ensemble. The requirements for this class are thus: attendance at all rehearsals (only death is an excused absence; hospitalization might depend on the reason), attendance at any sectional your section leader desires to call, your personal practice time to work up your part because rehearsal is not for practicing, and attendance at however many dress rehearsals and concerts the ensemble performs. Rehearsals are generally two hours long, three days a week. That's six hours of class time plus whatever it takes outside rehearsal. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

Of course, you do not want to be a slacker. Nobody takes only one ensemble. Most take two. Some take three.

Now comes the piano classes. This is a sneaky one. Piano isn't actually in the degree catalog. What is in the catalog is that you must pass a piano proficiency before taking upper level classes. The piano proficiency is an ungraded exam given by the notoriously fickle piano professor. Until you have passed, you have to take a piano class every semester until you do. Piano class meets for 75 minutes twice a week (2 and a half hours). You, theoretically, should practice 30 minutes a day to gain mastery. You probably don't. Most students have to take four semesters of piano. Some, cough, take five. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

A vital part of a music degree is ear-training and sight-singing. This is as bad as it sounds. You are given music on paper, given the starting tone, and then you are supposed to sing accurately what is on the page without ever having heard it before. Or alternatively, you have a blank staff, are told the starting note, and have to notate whatever melody is played. This class was the weeder. If you could survive this class, with its sarcastic, no nonsense professor who wouldn't hesitate to tell you that you were out to lunch, maybe you could cut it as a music major. You have four semesters of this class, meeting twice a week for 75 minute classes. You definitely practice because it is the single most embarrassing class on the schedule. For all of this, you earn one credit hour. 

Then there are your instrument classes. These classes exist to familiarize you with all the other instruments that are not your own. You will take six of these classes: one for your major instrument family, one for strings, one for percussion, one for voice, and two for your opposite instrument family. (Yes, I had to play a tuba. Yes, we were about the same size.)

Your class meets twice a week for an hour and a half. You definitely will be practicing whatever instrument you are assigned for 30 minutes a day because these classes kick your rear. This is 3 hours of class plus at least three hours of practice time, plus delightful written exams. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

After that is the capstone instrument class, affectionately known as Boobie Band, where you are assigned an instrument that is not yours and the class has to function as an ensemble. This is another two and a half hours a week plus practice time. And you will practice because a master of this new, strange instrument, you are not. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

Then there are the various electives you might decide to take if you decide graduating on time is not for you. Electives include improv, recording, deeper study into other instruments, minor ensembles. All of these are one credit hour.

We did have classes that were more standardized, three hour classes like Music Theory or Music History. I think Conducting was two hours, maybe? But a three hour class was an exception, not the rule, and usually took less bandwidth rather than more. My schedule generally consisted of two or three three hour classes and six or eight one hour classes to make up a full time schedule.

The way they got away with this is that most of our classes were classified as Labs. You remember when you took your three hour chemistry class and it had an attached one hour lab that met for three hours once a week? Like that, except a whole degree's worth of them and no attached lecture classes. Just time consuming lab after lab after lab. Don't you wish you were a music major too?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Blogging Resolutions

Jamie at Light and Momentary has declared we should attempt to blog like it's 2005. Of course I didn't have a blog in 2005. I didn't even comment on blogs in 2005. I did read them though.

I remember all the combox debates and tenuously entering them myself and the thrill of hitting refresh to see if there were new replies. Then I remember the traffic and conversations dwindling to a trickle. I wondered where everyone went. Eventually I figured it out. At the end of 2012, I bravely started hitting 'friend' to virtual Internet strangers who I hoped did not think me a weirdo.

Now it's almost all on Facebook. I miss the old comboxes, but it seems like to be seen, you have to be there. And where do you comment? If on the actual post, it seems to lanquish. If on the link, conversation seems to flow. Comment in both places, maybe?

As it is, I contribute to the sad landscape of the blogosphere. I still leave comments, but not as many as I used to and not as many as I intend. This blog began in the waning hours of my working days. I had (way too much) free time to think and develop posts. I could post on a regular basis.  Now? Well.

One of the biggest adjustments for me in coming home has been the lack of free space in my head. I feel like I have been robbed of my concentration. I waste a lot of time, for sure, but I waste it doing things I can drop instantly. I have greatly struggled completing tasks that require my concentration. I grab it in drips and drops when the children are gone or asleep, but requirements come before wants. The bills get paid. The lessons get planned. The clutter does not get sorted. The post does not get written.

It's why, in many ways, my house is still a mess. I do not seem capable of applying the 20 minute rule to jobs. It takes me 20 minutes to clear my mind to even begin thinking about it and then a child is calling my name. Progress is slow. I wish I could have a stretch of days where someone would take the children and I could work, but that does not seem to be in the cards.

What's that got to do with blogging?

I need to develop habits around how my life actually is instead of how I wish it would be.

I wish the house was already clean, but it's not. It's better, but there are still many multi-day projects to finish. I'm not going to get multi-days anytime soon so I need to maintain the progress I have and then make strides when I have the opportunity to do more. I need to accept those opportunities are going to be rare.

I wish I had time to write 1000 words posts two or three times a week, but I don't. I need to shift how I conceive of posts. They don't need to be long-winded tomes of philosophy or observations with *very* *deep* *meaning.* I just need to post. When I have the opportunity to spew many words, I'll take it, but for now, quick and dirty is really all I can manage.

Am I making a resolution to blog like it's 2005? Not really. But I am going to make the effort to post more. We shall see. What will I talk about?