Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Class is in session

Approximately 35 weeks along . . .

Two weekends ago was all baby, all the time.  We started out on Friday taking a tour of the Labor & Delivery (L&D) unit at Navy Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD).  It was an opportunity to see the facilities and meet some of the staff that may be around when it comes time to deliver.  NMCSD seems like a nice enough place and the staff seems to genuinely enjoy their jobs.  As someone who has never been admitted to a hospital, or really even spent much time in a hospital visiting others, I was surprised at how impersonal it seemed.  Yes, they tried to decorate L&D to make it more relaxing and "homey" but it still felt . . . sterile.  In more ways than one.  I understand that it's the nature of hospitals, but the antiseptic smell that permeates everything doesn't make me feel "healthy" or "natural".  There's really nothing soothing, relaxing or healing about chemical smells, fluorescent lighting and the constant sound of electronic monitors going off.  At least the actual birthing rooms have lighting that's less harsh.  I can certainly see the appeal of a home birth or those high-end birthing centers after visiting NMCSD.  Yes, having all of that technology and specialists around in case something goes wrong is great but it certainly seems to come at a cost.  Cost of what, I can't quite articulate.  I'm sure I'll have other things on my mind when the time comes to deliver and the subsequent 24 hours, but I can understand why moms would want to leave the hospital as soon as possible after having a baby.

On Saturday and Sunday Zac and I attended a birthing class at a different San Diego hospital.  I discovered much too late into this pregnancy that many birthing classes are anywhere from six to twelve weeks long.  Truthfully, I'm glad we went with the two-day class.  I've talked to other friends who have taken the longer classes and frankly the additional hours of class work are mainly devoted to practicing breathing and relaxation.  While that's what some people want, neither Zac nor I would have enjoyed that many sessions of the same thing over and over.  Our two-day class hit the major topics: stages of labor, breathing, pain relief and epidurals, Cesarean sections, breastfeeding, postpartum care, plus a few others. 

There were 10 other couples in the class, all of us first-time parents.  It was a friendly group where everyone seemed to have a pretty good sense of humor about the absurdity of what we were all about to go through.  Unfortunately there was one woman in the class who was the quintessential Negative Nancy.  Apparently every single one of her girlfriends had nightmarish delivery experiences.  Everything that could go wrong with late-term pregnancy and delivery had happened to the women in her life.  She seemed to relish sharing each and every horror story about evil doctors, bitchy nurses, rare complications and gruesome happenings to moms and babies.  Luckily most of the people in the class didn't pay her fear-mongering much heed.  By the end of the two days, most of us simply rolled our eyes each time she started in on one of her stories.  I felt bad for the nurse who taught the class - she did the best that she could to contain Nancy's negativity.  On the one hand the nurse had to acknowledge that yes, sometimes there are complications and, yes, sometimes you don't always get along with the staff on hand, but she adeptly countered that most of the time things go smoothly and that you can always request to have another doctor or nurse.

It was certainly a worthwhile two days.  I was moved to tears on at least three separate occasions, all of which were caused by video clips we watched in the class.  At the beginning of the first day we watched a clip from Bill Cosby's epic 1983 comedy routine "Bill Cosby, Himself."  He spent a good 10 minutes or so describing the experience that he and his wife had for the delivery of their first-born.  I was almost afraid I was going to go in to labor simply from laughing too hard.  Everyone in the class was roaring.  Bill Cosby really is a comedy genius, and I would seriously consider watching his routines while I work through labor.  (Although I'm not sure how my laughing would interfere or aid my breathing.)  The other two times I got a little misty was at the end of two hospital-produced video clips relating to child birth.  In one of them the father spoke of his feelings about being there for the process and meeting his child for the first time.  He talked about how proud he was of his wife and how quickly he fell in love with his child.  In the other video, the new moms talked about the experience of childbirth and how, regardless of how they had their child (c-section, natural, epidural) they felt an amazing sense of accomplishment and joy.  It was hard not to have my hormonally super-charged emotions get the best of me and so a few happy tears rolled down my cheeks.

At this point I'm awaiting my 36-week appointment to see where I'm at.  I believe at this point I start going in every week to check on things.  I suppose Zac and I are as ready as we can be.  There's a place for the baby to sleep, I've got a pair of breasts and there's some formula in the cabinet if breastfeeding doesn't work out.  There are diapers and drawers full of clothing awaiting the wee one.  We also have running water and soap.  That seems to cover the main requirements of feeding, clothing, diapering and cleaning the child, so whether Baby arrives in one week, three weeks or five, we're set up to welcome a baby into our home.  There is only so much classes can do for new parents - most of what we will learn will be on our own, through trial and error.  But I am optimistic that we will try our best, and that's a good place to start from.

So for now we spend most of our evenings enjoying the quiet and relishing sleeping in on the weekends, luxuries that will soon be a thing of the past.  A sense of calm has descended on the house.  Most of it is probably attributable to the Christmas tree which twinkles happily in the living room.  It's hard not be relaxed and happy when bathed in the glow of Christmas lights.  Zac's work schedule is slowing down for the holiday season and we're now able to spend more time together, which is the best gift of all - especially this year.  Baby will be here before we know it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fa la la la la, la la la la

'Tis the season to be busy.  At least the volunteering piece of the pie is light these last 10 weeks of the year, meaning that there is some available time/energy for holiday and baby-related stuff.  We hosted Thanksgiving at our house a couple of weeks ago.  Two families came over and the house was filled with friends, laughter and delicious food.  It was a surprisingly relaxing evening, despite having hosting duties.  I have converted to the idea of cooking and carving the turkey well before the company arrives.  Instead of frantically trying to find counter space to carve the bird while greeting people and making small talk, Zac and I were able to sit back and have apple cider for the couple of hours before people arrived and go straight to eating when the guests came through the door with their side dishes.  It alleviated a lot of stress.

Last week we had Zac's command's Holiday Party.  I was about two deep breaths away from a complete, tear-soaked pregnancy meltdown before we left.  Up until the last two weeks or so, I haven't felt that foretold hormonal chaos that some women experience.  But starting sometime early last week I found myself more easily moved to sad, sentimental or angry tears.  This, despite my rational brain telling me to chill out and that I'm overreacting.  It's a bizarre feeling, not being quite in control of my emotions.  I have found that in order to cope, and save Zac some grief, I really have to focus on what is truly making me upset and breathe deeply.  For example, the other day I had Christmas music on.  I love, love, LOVE Christmas music.  As I was listening to the songs I haven't heard since this time last year, I realized that next Christmas (2014) Zac will be deployed and Baby and I will be celebrating Christmas without him.  That started me thinking about setting up the tree alone and buying a "Baby's First Xmas" ornament without Zac.  And then I started thinking about taking pictures of Baby in some sort of cute holiday outfit and sending them to Zac while he's half-way around the world and quickly I deteriorated into the throws of Karen-Carpenter-Merry-Christmas-Darling fueled tears.

After going through two tissues, and some deep breaths, I got a hold of myself.  I'm crying about next year's Christmas?  Seriously?  I have this Christmas with Zac, and he'll be here for the first nine months or so of Baby's life, a luxury in military families.  He will be here for the initial heavy lifting, learning to be a parent alongside of me and bonding with his child.  Yes, he'll miss Baby's first Christmas.  But Baby won't remember Baby's first Christmas.  Hell, the three of us could celebrate Christmas in the late spring when Zac gets back and kiddo would be none-the-wiser. If I spend the next few weeks feeling sad about Xmas 2014, I'm going to lose out on the joy and the fun of Xmas 2013.  I settled myself down and by the time Eartha Kitt purred "Santa Baby" on the radio, I had regained my emotional footing.

Getting back to the Holiday Party's (almost) melt-down, I had been looking forward to the Party for the last month.  Usually people get fairly dressed up - think semi-formal or cocktail attire.  Girls in sequined, shimmery party dresses and guys in slacks and vests.  Everyone all dolled up, enjoying a glass of wine and dinner and the camaraderie of their fellow sailors and spouses.  I bought a cute, semi-formal maternity dress back in September for the Khaki Ball and had intentions of wearing it again to the Holiday party.  As it was a knee-length dress and strapless, I knew that I'd be chilly wearing it as it was going to be in the high 40s at the time of the party.  (And I never know what temperature the room at an event will be.)   The day before the Party I went out to the mall to purchase a black shrug or bolero to wear over my dress.  (Bolero - a short, little jacket - designed to cover the shoulders and upper back.)  I have seen these many, many times in different stores and figured I'd find one easily.

I spent three hours at the mall and found nothing.  Not a one.  I was incredibly frustrated.  75% of the non-pregnant time I hate shopping and lately I hate shopping even more knowing that if I find a cute deal on a sweater I can't even try it on to see if it "fits".  So not finding the item I wanted to purchase pissed me off.  I walked out of the mall, thinking that I would be able to find something at home to make the dress work, somehow.

I got dressed that night and as I put on the dress I realized that despite it being a maternity dress I am larger than I was in September.  In particular I noticed that it was tighter across the chest.  On the one hand, woo hoo!  Boobs!  On the other hand, I felt bloated and chubby and my puffiness was flowing over the dress especially near my armpits.  I couldn't wear the dress without something covering up my shoulders, I was simply too self conscious.  I had to find something else to wear.  My sister had lent me a black maternity dress that I could have worn, but it didn't fit quite right.  And with that dress I still faced the issue of trying to find something to cover up my shoulders.  

This meant that I wasn't going to be wearing a dress to the Party.  I had been feeling so awkward in my body lately that I was looking forward to dressing up and feeling cute, maybe even attractive.  The disappointment of having to wear pants weighed on me.  I had a pair of black, dressy maternity corduroys I could wear with my heels, but I didn't have any sort of fun, sparkly, shiny holiday top to go with them.  I ended up wearing a plain red top, clinging to the idea that maybe because it was red it was festive, but all I wanted to do was cry.  I didn't look like I was going to a Holiday Party.  I looked like I was going to work, to a staff meeting.  For me, the Holiday Party had gone from semi-formal to work-casual, and I was miserable.  Zac assured me that I looked lovely and that I would fit in at the Party.  I appreciated his support, but I knew what was coming.

Sure enough, we walked in to the event and every last woman was wearing a dress.  Sparkles, sequins, shimmer, bright colors, gold, silver, LBDs (little black dresses) everywhere.  My eyes welled up with tears.  All I had wanted that night was to look attractive again - to not look like a pregnant female mammal, but a woman.  I had been forlorn in the car on the drive to the event, and now my disappointment had flipped over to a seriously negative, acrid attitude and unfortunately Zac was caught in the crossfire.  After wallowing in self pity for the first 15 minutes of the Party, Zac wisely(?) turned to me and said with exasperation, "If you're going to be in this foul of a mood, we should just go home."  It was what I needed to realize that I was really acting like a pill.  Fortuitously at that moment I ran into one of my good friends, who is about four months pregnant.  She and I paired off while Zac went off to find some friends that weren't pouty.  After she gushed about how cute I was, I admitted to being on the verge of tears and was sad that I couldn't wear a dress that night.  She laughed a knowing laugh (she has a two-year old) and told me she understood.  She, too, had narrowly avoided totally losing it while getting ready for the party as well.  Over something silly and relatively insignificant.  I sighed, took a couple of deep breaths and decided that not being able to wear a dress wasn't the end of the world.  Yes, I still felt like an asexual being in the large scheme of things - but as far as my attire for the evening, it wasn't that bad.  It might have been work-casual, but at least it was nice work-casual.

And truthfully, when I took a hard look at it and why I was truly angry, most of my frustration could be traced to the fact that I waited until the day before (and day of) the Holiday Party to figure out what I was going to wear.  If had tried on the dress a week earlier I would have known it wasn't going to work.  Had I hit the mall earlier I would have had a better chance of finding something to modify the dress or to buy something else to wear.  It was my lack of foresight and planning that caused me to have limited choices of apparel that night.  I took a second to myself to compose myself and found Zac.  I apologize for my snarky, negative attitude of the last few hours and admitted that I was angry at myself for not planning ahead and I was uncomfortable because I didn't feel like his attractive, sexy wife anymore.  He kissed me, told me he loved me and that I was beautiful.  I believed him, and we proceeded to have a great evening.

So I guess in pursuit of "Tis the season to be jolly," "Don we now our gay apparel" can include pants and a plain red shirt.  But if I've ever pregnant again during the Yuletide, I am getting something with sequins.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bidden or not bidden, parenting judgment is present

31-ish weeks . . .

*sigh*  Why is it when we don't follow our gut instincts, so often things turn out poorly?  I'm not talking about large-scale, life-altering decisions.  I'm talking about following the instructions of a magazine recipe that say that greasing a Bundt pan with non-stick spray will work.  I knew it wouldn't work.  I knew the cake would stick.  I always grease (and flour) my Bundt pans by hand but this morning I was lazy.  I didn't want to take the couple of extra minutes to make sure every nook and cranny of the baking pan was appropriately coated.  The instructions assured me that non-stick spray would work, so against my better judgment, and my internal baker's voice screaming, "NO!  IT'S A TRAP", I tried using their suggested shortcut.  And guess what?  The cake stuck.  Not a lot of it, but unfortunately the elegantly angular top of the cake.  I'll probably just slice off the top part to make it level and then either frost it or coat it with some powdered sugar -it's not a total loss.  I'm just kicking myself for letting myself be wooed by promises that I knew were lies.

Yes, that's that the extent of the drama and excitement around here.  I'm starting to resemble a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but all is well.  Another normal OB appointment is in the books and I officially have a "Stork Parking Pass" for the hospital.  I feel sort of silly having it.  I'm perfectly capable of walking comfortably from the hospital's usual parking structure to the OB office, but I'm sure in a month or so I'll be happy to be able to park mere yards from it.  I also started filling out my patient admission packet of paperwork for when delivery comes along.  It also includes some paperwork that is to be filled out after the baby arrives: Date of birth, Name, etc.  I looked at those empty boxes on the form for a long while.  Holy crap, we're going to have a baby.  And we're going to have to name it.  Oy.

As much as I'm looking forward to meeting our baby in mid January, I'm staring to freak out a little bit about how radically life is going to change in about eight weeks.  Things have been so normal around here - I work, Zac works, I volunteer, we eat three meals a day at their scheduled times.  We clean the house on Sundays, socialize with friends on the weekends.  I work out twice a week in the evenings.  We're in bed by 10:30 and up each morning after at least seven hours of (basically) uninterrupted sleep.  Errands take little to no effort, grocery shopping is a piece of cake.  All of this will get turned on its head in less than two months.  I like our normal and I find myself trying desperately to cling to, and appreciate, the routine we have right now.  We went out to dinner the other night and at one point in the meal I paused and said to Zac, "This eating out?  This is going to be damn near impossible soon."  Zac nodded in acknowledgement.  I like eating my food when it's hot.  I enjoy eating my food at the same time as my husband.

Of course this is the part of the tirade where current parents cut me off to say things like, "Oh, but when that baby smiles at you, all the sacrifices are worth it," or, "But, the love and amazement you feel as a parent is the most awesome feeling you will ever experience."  Ok.  That may be true.  But apparently you forgot about how last week you were complaining that you hadn't eaten a hot meal in two months because family "meal" time is really "two parents focused on a loosing battle of trying to get more food into the child than on the floor" time.

I think I'm also a little cranky at the amount of judgment that Zac and I have been experiencing lately as impending parents.  Everybody has an opinion and everyone wants to share it, whether bidden or not.  The same way many people seem to think my pregnancy is open for public commentary and inquiry, parenting questions and advice have been flowing from strangers, acquaintances, friends and family.  Luckily family and friends have, for the most part, been respectful and tactful with their input.  But the same way I got irritated with, "It [pregnancy] will happen when you just relax and don't think about it!", I'm getting really tired of some of the following:

-What do you mean you're not decorating the nursery for the baby?
Well, the baby has a cradle for now and will have a larger crib in a few months when it is warranted.  It seems that a quiet, clean room at the appropriate temperature with a place to sleep is really all the baby needs.  No, we don't have cute decorations or a theme for the room.  Well, actually the theme is "Things that were hanging on the wall before we found out we got pregnant and are staying up because I don't think my child will feel unloved if there aren't hand-painted murals on the walls with matching curtains and bedding."  If decorating your baby's room is an expression of love towards your child, that's awesome.  Then decorate the room and express your love!  You will probably find peace and happiness when you go in to that room which your child will undoubtedly pick up on.  Us?  We love our little house and we don't need that particular room to be the place of calm and serenity - we've got that in every room.  And yes, the baby's room is our office.  Our infant will share a room with the printer, a desk and crafting supplies.  The horror!  Put Child Protective Services on speed dial, folks.  When our child is able to focus his/her eyes for the first time skeins of yarn might be the first thing he/she sees!

-You're going to try cloth diapers?  Ugh, I can't imagine carrying around a dirty diaper with me when I'm out and about.
Yes, we're going to give it a try.  1.)  Because it worked for babies for thousands of years, 2.)  In the long run it's cheaper, and, 3.) Because I can imagine a world where landfills are chock full of disposable diapers.  I know that cloth diapering takes a certain amount of additional time and logistical planning, but it's a challenge that I'm looking forward to (hopefully) mastering.  If disposables are the choice you made for your family, that's great.  I understand the convenience and practicality of them, and I'm not saying that I'll never use one.  As a matter of fact, I can pretty much guarantee that we will use a disposable here and there.  But when you tell me you use disposables I don't lecture you on your choice or purr, "Well that's an . . . interesting choice."  

-How are you going to know what kind of clothes to buy the baby if you don't know if it's a boy or a girl?
This one always wants me to beat my head against a brick wall.  I honestly don't think that we will disrupt our child's sense of gender or self if we put the baby in white or gray or yellow onesies for the first few weeks of life.  Yes, there are lots of adorable little "boy" and little "girl" outfits out there in the world.  They don't need to be purchased before the baby arrives in order for them to work their gender-assigning magic.  Boys can wear pink, girls can wear blue.  The planet doesn't stop spinning if that happens.   God forbid if a little boy has an outfit with a flower on it or a little girl has a football on hers.  While I'm in a tizzy about gender roles, Zac and I went to go see Alton Brown's (of Food Network fame) traveling "Edible Inevitable" tour a couple of weeks ago.  It was a stage show consisting of food science, cooking, music, humor and belching sock puppets.  One of the things that Alton Brown drew attention to is how much he loved playing with an Easy Bake Oven when he was a kid, even though they were "supposed" to be for girls.  This young boy who liked to play with a "girl's" toy grew up to be a successful video/tv producer, food science geek, husband, father and (shock!) straight. And yet in 2013, THIS is what you see when you go to Hasbro's website for the product.  God help me if I have a daughter and she sees stuff like this.  And God help me equally if I have a boy who sees it.  It's not a message I want either one internalize and adopt as a worldview.  
There are plenty of other regularly dispensed comments out there, including ones about how I'm "crazy" if I don't go straight for the epidural, I'm a weird hippie because I'm trying to learn how to use a Moby wrap, and I'll be regretting every day of my mothering life for picking a convertible car seat instead of an infant car seat with the detachable base.

Back in Hawaii, I heard one of the military chaplains say, "Different isn't necessarily wrong; sometimes it's just different."  That has always stuck with me.  Sometimes different is, indeed, wrong.  Causing injury or harm to self or others is wrong.  But most often, "different" achieves the same goal, just not in a way that you prefer or makes you comfortable.  Maybe it's not the car seat you picked for your kids, but will our child be safe in it?  If yes, then what's the issue?  Does the diaper keep bodily waste from going everywhere?  If yes, then why does it matter if we choose cloth diapers over disposables?  Zac and I will figure this parenting thing out, I promise you.  There will be missteps and changes of course, but we will figure out what works for us and our child as we go along.  You got find your path at some point, please give us the same courtesy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Moving right along

27 weeks or so . . .

My latest OB appointment happened earlier this week.  My doctor was pleased with how things were going.  I should have gained 60% of my pregnancy weight by now – Lo, I had gained 60% of my pregnancy weight.  I should have a fundal height of X centimeters – By golly, I had a fundal height of X centimeters.  Baby’s heart rate should be in a certain range – Woo hoo!  Baby’s heart rate was squarely within that range.  At this point in my pregnancy I get an “A” for average, which is comforting.  At this appointment I also got a couple of shots and had to take a glucose test to check for gestational diabetes.  I really wasn't looking forward to the glucose test, as simply the thought of sugar water makes me gag.  Much to my happy surprise the sugar water was orange flavored and resembled something more like Gatorade than straight sugar-water.  I’m not a fan of sports drinks, but at least it was palatable.  I had to chug 10oz or so quickly and then wait for an hour to have my blood drawn.

I spent the hour pouring my new copy of the DoD’s publication “Pregnancy and Childbirth”, more commonly known as “The Purple Book.”  (If you’re interested in looking at the 230+ page publication in PDF, you can find it here.)  I have to admit – for a government publication it wasn't nearly as dry as I had expected.  It was a little myopic in that the authors wrote from the premise that babies are only born to heterosexual married couples, but at least it did a decent job of covering the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy and childbirth.  Now that the DoD has repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” maybe the book will be revised to include families that aren't married and/or (sarcastic gasp!) homosexual.

As I've been moving through this pregnancy, I've continued to take a boot camp-style exercise class two times a week.  I try to get a couple of yoga classes in there too, but lately it seems like I always have scheduling conflicts with the yoga classes that I like to attend.  I like the boot camp classes because I enjoy the variety of exercises and I work out best when I have someone else design the workout and tell me what to do.  Despite years of going to a gym, paying for a trainer and even having friends that are certified personal trainers, I am that person who goes to a gym and stands there staring at the Bosu balls and free weights, jump ropes and medicine balls, clueless and directionless.  (I don't do machines.)  These boot camp classes are a lot of fun - the people that show up are friendly, the instructors are motivating without being too tough, and it's never the same workout twice.

Working out with extra weight on my frame, coupled with a change in my center of balance, has made working out increasingly tough, but I continue to do it because it makes me feel good.  If I go even three or four days without working out I feel sluggish and out-of-sorts.  At this point in my pregnancy the instructor has me modify more than half of the exercises we do, but I'm still huffing and puffing and sweating by the end of the hour.  Of course, I'm the only person who attends the class that is currently gaining weight instead of losing it.  That's an odd feeling.

The other people in the class (mostly women) are really supportive of my pregnancy, which is appreciated.  Often times I feel like I'm "getting off easy" with my modifications while they're busting their butts doing the real deal.  I've gotten lots of compliments on being so committed to be being a healthy mom.  I've had some women tell me how impressed they are by my hard work.  One lady even called me a "badass", which I wear in my head as a badge of honor.  Last week in class the instructor praised one of the ladies in the class for doing one last squat at the end of the circuit.  The lady laughed and said, "Well, I have to keep up with preggo over here."  Many of the ladies in the class are moms as well, and all of them have agreed that exercising now will put me in a better place for labor and deliver in January.  They urge me to keep moving and working on my strength, whatever form that may take as the weeks go on, in order to help myself and the baby down the road.

I plan on continuing to work out as long as I'm able.  I have noticed in the last couple of weeks that I really do need to dial some of my range of motion on exercises.  My body is producing a lot of hormones, including one aptly named Relaxin, that causes my ligaments to stretch.  I find that my hips, in particular, are subject to a sensation of slight pulling and stretching lately.  According to my trainer, if I modify my squat and lunge depth I will still benefit from exercising without potentially injuring myself.  I've pulled muscles from working out before - the idea of pulling a muscle (or ligament) while pregnant and 20lbs+ heavier doesn't sound appealing at all.  

So here's to staying healthy and active as I move into the last 12 weeks of this part of the journey . . .

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Showered with love

Zac and I spent about a week in Minnesota at the beginning of October.  It was a great time of year to visit.  Yes, there was some rain and some cool temperatures, but it's to be expected as the state moves fully into autumn.  The leaves were changing color at such a rate that even in the space of six days I could see a noticeable difference.  We've spent the last six autumns in either Hawaii or San Diego, and both Zac and I miss fall.  I miss the changing weather and the changing menus and ingredients.  It's hard to want to put on a crock pot of beef stew while baking home-made dinner rolls when it's 85 and sunny.  (Apparently while we were in MN the weather in San Diego shifted and it feels like SoCal may have turned the corner into fall as well.)  I'm looking forward to the next six months of mostly lovely San Diego weather.  At least living in San Diego I won't have to worry about trying to get to the hospital in a possible blizzard come January.

My sister and mom threw me a baby shower while I was home.  It was an amazing afternoon.  One of my biggest regrets I have each time I go home is not being able to see as many people as I want to.  The shower was a perfect opportunity/excuse to get 20+ women whom I love and admire into the same place at the same time.  Did I get as much time talking to individual people as I wanted?  No.  But at least I got to give everyone an enthusiastic, prolonged hug .

We went around the room at the beginning of the shower so people could introduce themselves and how they know me.  It blew my mind the wide cross-section of women that were in attendance.  They included:

*My mom
*My sister
*My grandmother
*My aunt
*My mother-in-law
*High school friends of my parents, who have known me since birth
*Members of my church who, again, have known me since I came into the world
*One of my parent's neighbors whose children I used to babysit
*One the aforementioned children (who is now in her early 20s - yeesh)
*Children of my parent's high school friends that I've grown up with
*One of my mom's co-workers (of 25+ years)
*My brother-in-law's mother
*Law school friends
*Former co-workers
*Friends from high school

Some people knew me as an infant.  Some have only known me as an adult.  But all of them were there to share in the joy and excitement of me becoming a mother, and that meant everything to me.  It sounds cliche, but while the gifts were lovely and generous, I simply wanted to spend the afternoon with them.  There were stories, jokes, a couple of emotional tears (mostly mine) and lots of laughter  When it was done I was equally energized and exhausted.  The shower was my reminder that when the time comes, and I'm finding my way as a mother to our new baby, that I have a strong support network behind me who I can draw on for advice and understanding.  I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend an afternoon.

And did I mention that there were four different kinds of bars laid out for dessert?  It's not a Minnesota party without a pan, or four, of bars.


Sunday, October 13, 2013


Week 20-ish, a few weeks ago

It's hot in San Diego.  Too hot.  We're in the middle of a late-summer heat wave that is taking its toll on my desire to do anything but watch the US Open tennis tournament from the air conditioned confines of my living room.  (I do work while watching tennis, so it's not totally wasted time.)  The weather gods must have a copy of our calendar, and a sense of humor, since they waited until the day my parents arrived to unleash their blast furnace of horror.  I suppose I shouldn't gripe about the weather when it's gorgeous here 87.5% of the time, but I'm still not happy that the meteorologist on the local tv station said we've got another six or seven days of this on top the week that we've already had.

We've cleared the last couple of hurdles that I was concerned about for the pregnancy.  We had our genetic counseling appointment, which revealed that I am at no greater risk of having a child with certain conditions that the general population.  Yay, average-ness!  The accompanying ultrasound was equally uneventful, as the doctor saw the things that he wanted to see.  Spine looked good, the baby was measuring correctly for that point in the pregnancy, etc.  It was strange watching Baby move around so much inside my tummy and not feeling a thing.  How could Baby be in there doing somersaults and I not sense any sort of movement?  Zac was delighted throughout the ultrasound.  I think it was the first time that the image actually looked like a "baby" to him and the flurry of fetal activity was reassuring that things are going well.

I had another ultrasound a couple of weeks later.  This would be the ultrasound that a normal woman who conceived her baby in a normal way would have normally at this time in her pregnancy.  I am abnormal (I'm spectacular!) in terms of my age and I certainly didn't conceive this kiddo in the normal way, so I've had more than my share of ultrasounds.  But each ultrasound was for a different purpose so once again I found myself at the hospital.  Only this time I had consumed 32oz. of liquid one hour before the procedure to aid in . . . something.  A bit uncomfortable, but not as bad as I had thought it was going to be.  My parents were in town for this appointment, so they came along to get a look at the new grandchild I am incubating.  Once again Baby was measuring as Baby should.  The organs looked like they were coming along well.  Kid was still moving all around, but with a little less real estate than a couple weeks prior.  It was fun being able to share that appointment with my parents.  They were able to be with my sister throughout her pregnancies and spend lots of time with her two boys.  I want them to have as much time with this grandchild as possible, even if that's while the kiddo is in utero.

I've officially started wearing maternity pants.  That makes me feel mildly ridiculous.  I keep catching glimpses of my changing body in the mirror and thinking, "Isn't it nice that my reflection is pregnant?"  I still feel disconnected from the goings on.  Maybe when I start feeling something from within that I can clearly identify as baby-generated.  Right now it still feels like I'm watching tv at the ultrasound appointments and the belly is just a Hollywood prosthetic designed to make my character look pregnant.  I wasn't sure how Zac would feel or react to my changing shape, but happily he seems more than charmed.  He rubs my belly and smiles while we watch tv.  He giggles when I'm drying off after a shower and studying myself in the mirror.  He randomly reaches out and pats the bump while we're running errands.  You think you love someone, then they do things that make you love them more.  It's a delight to go through this with him, and I can't wait to be parents together.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Forecast called for showers

We just recently returned from Minnesota for some family visitation and a baby shower.  I remember putting together my sister's baby shower for her first-born.  The late fall/early winter of 2007/2008 was a chaotic time in our extended family.  There were birthdays, births, serious illnesses, baptisms, weddings and deaths.  It was a whirlwind of emotions but I distinctly remember the excitement of planning Megan's shower.  I had decided to construct a tiered cake out of out disposable diapers, adorned with flowers and ribbons.  I was living with my Grandpa at the time, and I set up shop at the dining room table to put it together.  It took a certain amount of engineering and creativity, plus trial and error, to get it the way I wanted it.  My Grandpa looked on with bemusement as I made various attempts at constructing it, de-constructing it, re-constructing it and finally decorating it.  Even he had a to crack a smile when it was completed.  Yes, it was mildly ridiculous, but it was also an expression of joy held together with tape, pins and a lot of love.

I've gotten over a lot of the guilt and sadness of leaving home, but not when it comes to my sister.  It still pains me that I am not within driving distance to be more present in her life.  There is something about physical proximity that makes it easier to spend time together.  The telephone and Skype are great, but that requires scheduling.  Living in the same city means dinners at our parent's house, running to the mall together, helping out with the kids.  It's much more spontaneous and if you don't see each other today, odds are you are going to see each other the next day or the day after that.  All of those little things, those day-to-day things, you know about.  It too easy to let time slip away when you're separated by thousands of miles.  Suddenly it's been two weeks since you've touched base and the phone calls reveal all sorts of things that you have missed in each other lives.  

I've always felt that it's harder to stay than it is to go.  When you stay somewhere and someone leaves, there's a vacancy in all those places that they used to be.  When Zac leaves on his trainings and deployments, I believe that I miss him more than he misses me.  Why?  Because I'm used to running in to him in the kitchen, I'm used to jockeying for position while brushing our teeth at the sink, I'm used to curling up together as we fall asleep.  When he's gone, I am fully aware of his absence and all the parts of my day-to-day life that he isn't there for.   But out there - at his trainings and on his deployments - I was never part of that reality.  I am not "missing" from that experience.  He's training, he's working, he's focused on a mission that doesn't include me.  So while he certainly misses me, it's a different type of loss for him than it is for me.

That's similar to how I feel about my relationship with my sister.  She is used to Minneapolis with me there, being no more than 10-15 minutes away, crossing paths at our parent's house, going to events together, hanging out at her house, spending time together in all of the places that we shared for the first 27 years of her life.  And then I left.  It's the same world she has always lived in, except I'm not in it.  On the flip side, Megan never lived in Oklahoma or Hawaii or California with me.  She hasn't been a first-hand part of the journey I've had as a military spouse. Up until now I know that's been tough for her, and for me, but not being together for my first pregnancy has hit her harder than any other aspect of our separation.  I can feel how excited she is for me, and how desperately she wishes she could share this particular journey with me.  

I wouldn't trade my life with Zac for anything, but it's hard feeling like you've left your sister - your best friend since her birth. I know growing up that we thought we'd always live near each other and have kids that were the same age.  We would raise our kids to have the same amazing relationship that we enjoyed with our cousins.  I didn't stay in Minneapolis.  I didn't have kids at the same time as her.  And in all likelihood her kids will be more comfortable with my cousins' children (whom they see regularly and who are the same age) than mine.  That wounds me. 

Sometimes Megan thinks she needs me more than she really does.  She's stronger than she thinks she is, and while I know that her current road is challenging (PA school, two kids, working, trying to find time to spend with her husband) it is one that she will not only handle, but excel at navigating.  One of the silver linings of separation is that has forced us, both of us, to grow.  We know how to be sisters in the same city, we're learning how to be sisters with many states in between us, and hopefully someday we'll be living closer to each other once again.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Feeling normal-ish

17-ish weeks . . .

I'm about 17 weeks along now, and I haven't had any morning sickness yet.  My OB says that I'm probably in the clear as far as that goes, but he cautioned me that sometimes his patients that don't experience negative side effects during the first trimester get "pregnant" in the third trimester.  [His emphasis.]  I'll cross that bridge when/if I get to it.  Right now I feel . . . normal.  Well, normal-ish.  I'm tired more than usual, but I'm a girl who has always loved her naps and sleeping 8 hours a night, so I'm not really sleeping any more than I did before.  I still have a relatively normal appetite.  There are occasionally days where I'm feel like I'm not that hungry and have to remind myself to eat lunch or supper, only to discover after one bite that I'm famished and devour the whole meal.  The other day I ate an entire half-pound hamburger, plus some of the fries.  Zac looked on with bemused horror.

My body is starting to change, some.  I'm starting to show, if you know what I looked like before.  If you were just meeting me for the first time you'd probably think I just like Dairy Queen too much.  (For the record, yes, I do like Dairy Queen too much.)  I've had to start wearing jeans that are one size larger and I've basically sworn off close-fitting tops for a while.  Once I look "pregnant" I think I'll be more comfortable wearing things that accentuate my belly.  Right now I just feel obnoxiously bloated and chubby.

I took the first couple of months of the pregnancy off from strenuous exercise.  I went on walks and attended some yoga classes, but I kept it pretty low-key until we got to 12 weeks and my OB said that things looked good.  I've started back up with the strength training and a little more intense yoga classes in the last few weeks and I do feel better, more like me, since I'm exercising again. My yoga instructors and trainer know that I'm pregnant and modify my workouts accordingly. It is a strange feeling, though - I exercise, eat right, get plenty of sleep and instead of losing weight I'm gaining it.  As I exercise I am finding that my balance (which wasn't stellar to begin with) isn't as good as it used to be.  I'm assuming this will get increasingly worse as I start to look like a small planetoid.

Our next appointment is in a week, when we meet with a genetic counselor.  My OB offered to refer me strictly based on my age.  He said that he had no other concerns about my family history to warrant a referral, but that if I wanted it he would sign off on it. Zac and I want to know.  We understand that there is no 100% certainty with any of these tests, and we also know that many conditions are not screened for, but if there is something wrong, serious or relatively benign, we want to know.  Certainly the future of this pregnancy is dependent on what we learn.  (Since it has been in the news lately, I've been thinking how maddening it would be if Zac and I were stationed in Texas and learned that the baby wouldn't make it to term, or die within a few hours of birth at that genetic counseling appointment.  If we wanted to choose to end the pregnancy we would be very close to not being able to due to Texas' 20 week rule.  The thought of the state telling me what my husband and I can and can't do for our family is absurd and insulting.)

Once we get past the genetic counseling appointment I feel like I will be able celebrate this pregnancy a little bit more.  I haven't mentioned the pregnancy on social media yet, and I'm pleased that the people that I have shared the news with have shown great restraint in not mentioning it on those platforms either.  There are people I simply haven't told, just to limit the number of people I have to un-tell in case things don't turn out well.  I've even postponed posting these first few blog entries that address being pregnant, waiting for that time that I feel comfortable that most of the hurdles have been cleared.  I am cautiously optimistic that that time will be soon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Getting my Qi right

The second un-published post (8 weeks along) . . .

- - - - - - - - - 

I find that when people find out you're newly pregnant they always ask two questions: 1.) When are you due/How far along are you?, and 2.) How is the morning sickness?  The neat thing about question number two is that people get to ask that question each and every time they see you, even if it was only a day or two ago.  Over and over and over again.  The upside is that it gives me plenty of opportunities to find something wooden and knock on it, "No, nothing yet."

No, no morning sickness yet.  And for that, I am thankful.  One of my girlfriends had experienced debilitating morning sickness.  She had to take time off of work, take medication to keep anything down and actually turned a pale green color for a few weeks.  It wasn't a pleasant experience.  Most of the pregnancies I've heard of have included some morning sickness, but one of my girlfriends told me that she hadn't experienced and morning sickness with her daughter.  I am not presumptuous enough to think I'm going to get through the first trimester without tossing my cookies or being overwhelmingly nauseous at least once, but I am grateful that I have made it to eight weeks with nothing but an acute sense of smell.

Maybe the settled stomach is the result of acupuncture, which I started immediately after our last failed IUI and have continued through my pregnancy.  Maybe the entire pregnancy is the result of it.  After all, it is the only thing I did differently for this cycle.  My acupuncturist told me that my belly was too cool to carry a baby and I had some Qi (pronounced chee) blockages in my abdomen that needed to be addressed.  So we worked on getting my Qi and my blood flowing.  Occasionally I'd put a heating pad on my belly for a hour or so - a few times a week.  I found it interesting that one of my girlfriends, who is Japanese, had given me the same advice, without telling her what my acupuncturist had said.  When I told her I had trouble conceiving she immediately guessed it was because my belly was too cool.  She told me to put a heating pad on my belly as well.  I figured if I was hearing it from two different sources, it could hurt.

I was hopeful that the acupuncture would help with fertility, but I was surprised to find how good I felt overall.  Most notably, I began to sleep really well at night.  I have always been a light sleeper.  I was too hot, I was too cold, I wasn't tired when I turned out the light, little things woke me up and then I couldn't fall back asleep.  When I started acupuncture, those things either went away entirely or were seriously curbed.  Since I was sleeping better, I felt more energetic during the day.  I used to crash around the 2-4pm time frame each day, sometimes falling asleep while I worked on my laptop.  No more.  I felt great in the afternoons and used that time of day to work out which, in turn, made me feel even better.  I also found that after a few acupuncture treatments that my abdomen was free of the tightness and discomfort that I noticed while I was doing yoga.

It was one of my fertility doctors, Dr. W, that recommend acupuncture to me in the first place.  A middle-aged, white, male, American military doctor - not someone that I would usually think would be supporting of alternative or Eastern treatments.  There are two fertility doctors at the clinic, and usually I worked with Dr. L.  I would occasionally have appointments with Dr. W, but not very often.  The lead-up to an IUI is a delicately timed process, requiring regular blood tests and ultrasounds to figure out when the right time to perform the IUI occurs.  By virtue of timing I had my last appointment going over blood results before the IUI with Dr. W.  It was a Friday morning in the clinic and it was really quiet.  It was the day that residents go to some sort of weekly training, and because Dr. L had the day off they had scheduled very few patients.  This gave me lots of time to chat with Dr. W.

As he went over my blood work at looked at the ultrasound of my follicles, he asked me all sorts of questions about our journey through infertility.  He asked if I had tried any alternative treatments, including acupuncture.  I told him no, but that a friend of mine had sought it out when she was struggling with infertility and now they had a healthy baby girl.  To my surprise he told me that he was a licensed acupuncturist.  He had come to acupuncture in a strange way.  Within the last decade more and more of his infertility patients were coming to him saying that they wanted to try acupuncture.  Some of them were already using it.  He was worried that his patients were exposing themselves to risks, plus he was concerned about how much money it can costs for regular, consistent treatments.  (Which are not covered in most cases for military family members.)

It turns out that the U.S. Military has an acupuncture licensing program available for its doctors.  The military has found that acupuncture helps wounded warriors with everything from phantom limb pain to PTSD.  Dr. W signed up for the training as a skeptic.  His goal was to obtain the information he needed to discredit the practice and bring this back to his patients.  He said he sat smugly in the room, secure in his knowledge of Western science and medicine and how it was superior to the myths and mysticism of alternative remedies.  As he told me about this, he laughed at himself.  "After a week," he said, "I was a convert."  He said the class opened his eyes to his ignorance and narrow-mindedness.  He began offering acupuncture treatments to his infertility patients to supplement some of their regular appointments.  If he had performed an IUI on a patient, he would offer them a relaxation treatment to help their anxiety and help with implantation.  (You have to lay there for 30 minutes after the procedure, so why not?)  He also found that the acupuncture helped his patients that were in their first trimester that were suffering from severe morning sickness.  A acupuncture treatment often meant they had 2-4 days of relief without drugs.

"I know you aren't having your IUI until tomorrow," he said, "but if you want to see what acupuncture is like, I can give you a relaxation treatment right now.  Then you can decide if it's something that you want to pursue."  Dr. W explained the process, how it works, and showed me the needles that he uses.  I was interested.  Why not?  What could it hurt?  I felt like I was coming to the end of my fertility journey, so I figured I had might as well try something else.   Dr. W placed a few needles in my body and I could feel the strange, dull, ache in the insertion points that he had described.  It was so . . . weird.  Not painful or uncomfortable but odd.  It's rather hard to explain.

I had the IUI the next day.  It didn't work.  I sent an email to my friend who had used acupuncture for infertility and asked for suggestions on how to find someone reliable.  I spent some time online, made some phone calls, and finally settled on a clinic not too far from our home.  Before my initial appointment, I filled out a six page questionnaire with all sorts of unusual questions.  Questions about my tongue's appearance, my stool, my sleeping patterns.  Do my fingers and toes get cold easily?  How often do I get heartburn?  All sorts of questions that I've never had a doctor ask me.  I brought the answers to my first appointment and went over them with the acupuncturist.  

She studied my answers solemnly and had me lie down on the exam table.  She took my pulse at in three different locations on both my left and right wrists.  She pressed around in my abdomen, silently making notes in her head.  For the first time I became acutely aware of a tightness in the lower left quadrant of my abdomen.  It's always been there, but not anything I ever thought about except when I'm doing yoga and it sometimes pulls.  But after taking the questionnaire I found myself being very aware of my body, and paying attention to things I hadn't thought about in the past.

After examining me, the acupuncturist told me (in her delightful French accent) that my belly was too cool to carry a baby.  She described it as having three burners (like on a stove) in your tummy.   You want all three of them to be on a simmer-like low-heat setting for babies - not too hot, not too cold.  She also wasn't happy with the tightness in my abdomen.  She said we could work on getting my blood and my Qi flowing and that it could help with the fertility.  I figured what could it hurt?  All of our Western medicine attempts hadn't worked yet.  We were getting to the end of wanting to keep trying.  Maybe this would be the thing that would work.  Or not.  But at least it would be trying something different.  (In addition to our usual Western medical assistance.)

I went every week for three weeks.  Then every other week, then down to every third or fourth week.  I felt great.  My energy levels were up, the tightness in my abdomen went away.  I no longer had nights where I woke up from sleep because I was too hot or too cold.  I could sleep a solid 7-8 hours, feeling rested in the morning.  Even if the acupuncture didn't help with fertility, it certainly helped with everything else.  I crossed my fingers as we went in for our next IUI cycle.  Maybe this East-meets-West thing will work.  I continued with the acupuncture after the IUI treatment, figuring that I should keep those burners on low to keep my belly baby-incubating-friendly.  After a few weeks and the positive pregnancy I test, I told my acupuncturist that it appears our team effort had paid of.  She was delighted when I told her and we both laughed with excitement.  I've continued with acupuncture every three weeks or so, and I wonder if it's one of the reasons I've had a relatively easy first part of my pregnancy with no morning sickness.

Regardless of it whether it worked or it's all in my head, the fact is that I'm pregnant and feeling good.  And that's all that really matters.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cautiously optimistic

Now that we are where we are, I feel like I can go back and post some of the entries I typed up while we were in the wait-and-see period.  Here's the first one (6 weeks along):

We had been here before.  Almost a year ago.  In the exam room, waiting for our first ultra sound.  The stick I peed on said the IUI was successful.  The bloodwork had said the IUI was successful.  Our first successful fertility treatment in almost three years.  We walked into that six-week ultrasound not knowing what to expect.  What to see.  What to feel.  I laid there on the table with Zac sitting next to me, idling chit-chatting, waiting for the doctor.

A resident, whom we had never met, breezed in the room, cheery, smiling.  She introduced herself as she pulled on a pair of gloves and told us excitedly, "We should be able to hear a heartbeat today!"  Zac and I exchanged looks.  We hadn't expected that.  We hadn't known what to expect, honestly, but certainly not that.  I had purposefully stayed away from reading pregnancy guides or researching things on the internet.  I had let the first few weeks after the IUI to move along in a normal manner, not wanting to over-think the idea of being pregnant. I figured I would wait until the first ultrasound to get some sort of confirmation that I should perhaps learn a little more about being with child.

The doctor prepped the machine and started the exam.  Within seconds her face fell.  The smile vanished and was replaced by a look of concern and disappointment.  Zac instinctively reached out for my hand, which made me catch my breath.  We knew.  Even though we had no idea what that first ultrasound was supposed to show, we knew she wasn't seeing it.  The doctor moved the probe around some, trying different angles.  She said nothing and after a moment gave us a resigned look of sadness.  "There's no heartbeat," she said.  "I am going to go get your doctor."

The resident and the medical assistant left the room.  Zac and I didn't say anything at first.  Finally I mumbled something about not realizing that we would have been able to hear a heartbeat at this appointment.  Zac said that he, too, was surprised that we should have been able to hear that.  "Well, I guess it didn't work," I said with a sigh.  I didn't know how to feel.  We had zero expectations walking through the door, we had our expectations raised by the announcement that should hear a heartbeat, and now in a manner of seconds they had come crashing down around us.  It was the shortest, most devastating roller-coaster of emotions I have ever had.

There was a knock at the door and my doctor, the resident and the medical assistant returned to the room.  He gave me a sad smile and patted my knee.  He also examined me, to confirm what the resident had learned.  "I'm sorry," he said, "but it looks like the pregnancy wasn't viable. You made it about five and a half weeks."  "Ok," I said automatically, "So now what?"  The doctor said we could discuss the next steps in his office.  As they somberly excused themselves from the room so I could get dressed, I sat up and Zac stood next to me.  We were silent for a moment.  Finally I looked at him.  "Are you okay" I asked him.  For the first time I noticed the redness of his face, the welling in is eyes.  "I'm fine," he answered.  "What about you?"  I paused, and the tears came and fell down my face as I smiled at him.  "I'm about as fine as you are."  He squeezed my hand.  We would be fine, but for now we were sad.  So very sad.

- - - - -

So we had been here before.  The six week appointment.  The appointment that we now knew held the potential of a heartbeat.  I was anxious.  Zac was anxious.  We forced ourselves to talk about anything other than pregnancy as we sat in the waiting room for our appointment.  Finally our name was called.  Our medical assistant was excited for us, peppering me with questions.  "How have you been feeling?  Any morning sickness yet?"  I gave her a half-hearted smile and short answers.  "I feel almost normal and no, I haven't had any morning sickness."  I must have made it clear that I wasn't interested in talking more about my condition because she replied with an surprised, "Oh," and left it as that the remainder of the walk to the exam room.  Yes, I'm pregnant, I thought to myself, but I've been here before.  It doesn't always work out.

Another resident we had never seen came in to the room.  Same routine - introduction while putting on gloves and prepping the ultrasound machine.  Medical assistant at the ready.  Zac by my side.

I knew what I was seeing before anyone needed to explain it to me.  A flickering.  A rapid flickering on a tiny jelly bean in my abdomen.  A heartbeat.  I said nothing, but I knew that at least we had cleared one more hurdle.  The resident smiled, "There's a heartbeat!"  He turned on the audio and let us hear the pulsating heart of the embryo.  He continued the exam, printing out photos and explaining some of the things we saw on the screen.  Zac and I murmured appropriate, "Cool" or "Oh" as he explained what we were looking at, but our excitement was subdued, which I think confused the resident a bit.

My doctor joined the exam and happily confirmed that everything looked good.  "So now what?" I asked.  "So it looks like you're having a baby!" the resident proclaimed, trying to pry some positive energy out of Zac and me.  "I'll be excited in nine months when we have a healthy, live birth," I told him wryly.  My doctor shook his head and smiled.  Knowing my personality from our history of treatments, and the miscarriage, he knew that I wasn't going to be jumping for joy at the pronouncement that I was pregnant.  He knew I was cautious, maybe overly so, and at the very least pragmatic.  The risk of spontaneous abortion continues through the first trimester.  My age meant that we still needed to do genetic testing.  There were possibilities that we still weren't going to have a baby.  But my doctor smiled at me broadly and patted my knee.  "I'm giving you medical permission to be cautiously optimistic."  That did it.  I had to smile and chuckle.  "Alright," I told him, "since it's doctor's orders."

- - - -

So there we were, walking out of the hospital almost a year after the miscarriage, but this time with a printout of a picture of a tiny jelly bean.  We had more hurdles to clear, but the first one was over.  In two weeks we would have another one.  The eight-week ultrasound.  If everything looked good I "graduated" from the infertility clinic to the regular obstetrics clinic. Then there would be a ten-week ultrasound.  And genetic testing.  And then, based on those results, decisions.  So many hurdles yet to clear.  But, on doctor's orders, I was trying to be cautiously optimistic.  After all, doctor's orders, right?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Then there's this . . .

I have been blogging, but haven't posted some of my entries because I was waiting for the right time. I guess today can be the right time.  After 3.5 years of infertility treatments, we're 17.5 along and looking good.  Yay!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Recuperating from volunteering

I was going to jump right in to talking about this month's COMPASS session when I thought, "Maybe I should link to some prior entries about COMPASS."  I did a search of my blog and I was surprised to find that I only had a couple of entries that mentioned it in any sort of detail.  In a nutshell, COMPASS is a three-day Navy 101 course for spouses.  It is taught by mentor spouses who have been married to their sailor for at least three years, have gone through the course, and been trained to be a mentor.  Spouses can attend the course at most major Navy installations across the globe.  We have COMPASS teams in places including Norfolk, San Diego, Seattle, Kings Bay (GA), Rota, Italy and Yokosuka, Japan.  I started volunteering with COMPASS in Hawaii, which is where I went through the course.  I had not been married to my sailor long enough to be a mentor at first, so I simply attended the sessions until I reached the three year mark.  I would bring food to feed the participants and sit in the back with the mentors that weren't presenting at that given time.  I became part of the team before I officially became a mentor and some of my best times in Hawaii were COMPASS-related.

Once I got settled into our life here in San Diego, I sought out the San Diego COMPASS team.  It was a tough adjustment at first.  I felt out of place.  I had dropped into a well-oiled machine that had it's own established systems, patterns, personalities and traditions.  Perhaps I came off as stand-offish, but I didn't feel warmly welcomed by the team.  After sitting through my first San Diego COMPASS session I told Zac that I wasn't sure that I wanted to go back.  It was so different than Hawaii.  I didn't see how my personality was going to fit in with the San Diego team.  I decided to give it another shot, but it really wasn't until the third session that I felt a thaw between myself and some of the team members.  Knowing what I know now, a number of the mentors held a "wait and see" attitude with me.  They had mentors come to the San Diego team from other locations before, or had trained team mentors of their own, only to have many of them discontinue volunteering after only a session or two.  They were waiting to see if I was serious about being there.  I also was finally growing comfortable with the strong personalities on the team, and felt like my voice was being heard.  Starting with that third session, COMPASS began to be fun again.

It wasn't too long after I felt like part of the San Diego team that our Team Leader asked me if I would like to take over for her.  I was shocked and flattered.  I had thought that it would be an exciting challenge to be a Team Leader at some point, but I hadn't thought that the opportunity would pop up so soon.  She said that she liked my attention to detail and my commitment to the program.  She also knew that I had more time on my hands than some of the other mentors.  I agreed and over the next few months she showed me how to do the administrative portion of being a Team Leader.  It really is more of a administrative role than anything.  The Leader's main job are to be the contact person between "Big COMPASS" (i.e. the over-arching program) and the local team while keeping the local team organized and humming along.

I was interested in becoming Team Leader for a couple of reasons.  First, I believe in the program and want to see it reach as many spouses as possible.  It was incredibly beneficial for me and I like being to able to advocate its importance.  Second, it is opportunity to get out of the house and make friends and connections with other spouses.  Third, it helps out my resume.  COMPASS really does help make up for some of the workplace skills that my current work-from-home job lacks.  I telecommute with minimal contact to the mothership back in MN - a few emails back and forth and an occasional  phone call.  But it is disingenuous to say I work as part of a "team".  My supervisor can attest to my attention to detail, my ability to abide by deadlines, and the high quality of my work product.  But I can't advance up the ladder, showing growth and ambition.  I can't take on additional responsibilities.  I can't be in charge of other people.  I can't show off my public speaking or my organizational skills.  Volunteering as an ombudsman and with COMPASS has allowed me to put concrete examples of some of those skills on my resume, and being a Team Leader will give me the opportunity to demonstrate some of the leadership and interpersonal skills.  

So this month was the first month that I was the Team Leader.  This was also the first month since I've been involved with the San Diego where the session almost fell completely apart.  I like to think it was just a coincidence.  

I knew it was going to be an interesting session early on.  At our planning meeting (held three weeks before the session) I learned that almost half of the mentors were going to be unavailable because of summer vacations.  No big deal, as we had enough mentors to teach the topics that we cover over the three days.  We usually have our mentors only teach one topic each session in order to spread out the time and energy needed to prepare that segment.  We had barely enough mentors, but enough.  A little more than a week before the session one of the mentors who was signed up to present a topic had a death in the family.  She was going to be gone for the funeral.  Totally understandable.  Safe travels and my best to you and your family.  The next day I got an email that another mentor scheduled to present was offered a job (after months of job hunting) and started on Monday, the same day she was supposed to present.  Congratulations on the new job!  Oh dear.  That left two gaping holes in our presentation schedule.

I wasn't currently assigned to teach any of the topics.  The Team Leader is usually in charge of conducting the introductory part of the class and the wrap-up/graduation at the end.  In past sessions the Team Leader didn't present any other topics.  Since one of the now presenter-less topics was one that I've taught a number of times I decided to teach it (since it wouldn't require too much prep work on top of the other session prep work I had going).  One of the other mentors decided that she'd help out and pick up a second topic to teacher, which was fantastic because she is an excellent presenter.  Who hoo!  We had found mentors for each of the topics.  Phew!  Once we got past that minor crises, I thought that we were in the clear.  But no, not quite.  

Since the beginning of time we have held our sessions at the same location.  The advantage of this location is that it has multiple rooms to conduct the session, meaning we can have a classroom and a childcare room.  (Plus a room for the kids to eat in so they don't get the childcare room messy.)  Plus there is a kitchen that we can use to store our food.  We can only reserve the space a couple of months in advance and we have never had an issue reserving it in the past.  The out-going Team Leader had put in the appropriate request to reserve the spaces in plenty of time and we were told that our reservation had been approved and the space was ours, as usual.  (Again, we have reserved the same rooms for the third Monday-Wednesday of every other month for a number of years.)  This location also is where we store all of our supplies.

About four days before the session was due to begin, I got a phone call from the out-going Leader.  The panic in her voice was only thinly veiled.  The location had called to let her know that there had been a mix-up with the reservations and while we could have our usual spot on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday had been promised to another group.  Ooooooooh-kay.  She said she was going to call some mentors to see if their churches might let us use their buildings, and I said I'd call some of the Navy resources in the neighborhood like the housing community centers.  I wasn't successful, but luckily one of the mentor's church offered it's building for our use.  (We have used this church in the past for our rare evening sessions because our usual location is only available during the day.)

Monday's class at our regular location went pretty well.  After class on Monday, with a skeleton mentor crew, we packed up all of our supplies, drove a couple of miles down the street, unloaded the cars and set up shop.  And by "supplies" I hope you don't think I mean a few notepads and some pens.  By supplies I mean four of those large, purple Rubbermaid bins plus an assortment of other boxes and bags.  And they're heavy.  We provide three-ring binders to our class participants that have our class materials in them.  They are the study, hard-cover type and contain about two inches worth of paper in them.  We had 20 of those binders to bring.  Plus each participant gets a graduation bag full of publications and other goodies which also weigh a couple pounds each.  It just all adds up.  We also had lugged along all the food from the original location.  By the time Monday's class was done I was beat.  

Tuesday morning, I was a little nervous.  We had reminded the class participants multiple times that Tuesday's session was going to be in a different location.  I was anxious that one or two might forget.  To my delight all of the participants arrived, with their children in tow.  21 children in total.  Many, many children between the ages of 6 months and six years.  So many children.  With so much mid-morning energy.  New problem: none of our babysitters had arrived and class was supposed to start.  21 children running around with no one dedicated to watch them.  The mentors and I frantically tried texting and calling our babysitters and got no answer.  One of the mentors drove to the the usual location to see if they forgot, one of the mentors started the class, one mentor stayed in the classroom to help her with the class and the other two remaining mentors (one of which was me) headed to the nursery to watch the kids.  We had just finished making name tags for the kids when the babysitters arrived, about 20 minutes after class had started.  One of them had gotten lost, the other had attempted to help her with directions, whatever.  I didn't care.  They were there and that's all that mattered.  So the other mentor and I scooted back into the classroom and helped out as we were needed.

[Fun side note: the mentor that had gone to the regular location came back and reported that there was no one using the facility.  No one.  Not a soul.  The rooms we were denied because they had been reserved by another group?  Empty.]

Once we got through Tuesday I was feeling cautiously optimistic.  Only one more day.  We could make it through one more day.  The only thing that made me a little nervous was that I had a doctor's appointment Wednesday morning at 8:30.  I had told the team that I was going to be a few minutes late and one of the mentors had volunteered to kick off the class for me.  That night I tossed and turned, plagued by a dream that my doctors announced at my appointment that I was going to be there for at least three hours.  I told my doctors that I couldn't stay that long.  "I have to get to COMPASS," I kept insisting.  In my dream the doctors ended up locking me in the exam room until the appointment was done.  I had no reception on my cell phone and couldn't text or call the other mentors to let them know I was being held captive, and that someone was going to have to teach my section because I wasn't going to make it.  I finally arrived to the COMPASS session in my dream, where I was given the cold shoulder from my fellow mentors because I hadn't been courteous enough to call them to let them know I was going to be late.  The COMPASS session had fallen apart and everyone was upset. 

I've been having really vivid dreams lately.  It's mildly aggravating.

Anyhow, I woke up Wednesday morning, got to my appointment 20 minutes early, asked the receptionist how long the appointment would take, asked the nurse how long the appointment would take, and then asked the doctor again when he arrived.  They all assured me I'd be there for about 45 minutes.  They were true to their word and I made to COMPASS in plenty of time to teach my last section.  We wrapped up the last day of the session and thanked everyone for attending. 

[Another funny side note: the chaplain came to give his presentation and he asked us why we weren't in our usual location - one of the Navy's chapels.  We explained that someone else had reserved the spaces for Tuesday and Wednesday.  He scowled and said that there was no one at the chapel.  Yup.  Just another day of empty classrooms.  Let's just say he wasn't pleased with the schedulers.  He said if we had an issue with this again we needed to call him directly.]

After all of the participants had left, the mentors sat down and had a wrap-up meeting.  We talked about what went right, what went wrong, and ideas for the future.  There were only six of us (instead of the usual 10+), but we had pulled it off, and quite successfully based on the overwhelming positive feedback that we got from the class evaluations we received.  We packed up the supplies, but away the folding tables and chairs, cleaned the church's kitchen, drove back to our usual location, unloaded the supplies and headed our separate ways.

I was exhausted, but I was thrilled.  If we can overcome a mid-stream change of location, mentors dropping out of the schedule at the last minute (due to completely legitimate reasons) and lost babysitters, I think we'll be able to take on just about any challenge that comes up.  I'm excited to see how being the Team Leader feels with a full mentor roster for our September session.  And you had better believe that I will be triple-checking that our reservations for our regular location will be honored. Oh, and did I mention that Zac and I went to the Food Bank to bag 8,000+lbs of pears later that night?  I was in bed by 9:35 that night.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A first in mispellings

My married last name is hard for people to pronounce and spell.  Apparently there are too many consonants clustered together in the middle and it confuses people.  This is similar to, but different from, my maiden name which consisted of too many vowels (or sometimes vowels).  I have spent my entire life using an automatic "first name, spelled, last name, spelled" convention when asked my name for registrations or appointments.  With my married name I have even developed two ways of spelling it - one for civilians and one using the military's phonetic alphabet depending on who my audience is.  Civilians seem to be more comfortable with "T as in Tom" whereas military folks prefer "T as in Tango".  My aim is to get my name spelled right, so I'll accommodate whomever is on the other side of the desk or telephone. Despite my attempts at getting my name spelled correctly, it still sometimes happens that the email or snail mail is addressed with an incorrectly spelled surname.  There are usually three or four different ways people misspell my last name, but yesterday I encountered a first.

I called a dentist's office to make an appointment and as I was a new patient, I needed to give my information to the receptionist.  First name, spelled, last name, spelled.  She read them both back to me and I agreed that she had them spelled correctly.  At the end of the phone call she said I would be receiving a confirmation email shortly.  About 10 minutes later an email from that office appeared in my inbox.  I opened it and began to laugh.

[Since I don't want to use my real last name here, I'm going to use a fake one to ease the telling of the story.]

My last name is Schwartz.  S-C-H-W-A-R-T-Z.

The name on the email was S-C-H-U-U-A-R-T-Z.  

Read the spellings out loud.  How could she have made that mistake?  I was baffled for a second until I realized what had happened. On the second spelling, consider referring to the middle of the word as a "double u".  Of all of the letters in my name that I usually clarify when spelling it out (S, C, T, Z), W isn't one of them.  And, of course, when the receptionist read my last name back to me she used the same language I had, "S as in Sam, C as in Charlie, H, double-u, etc."  I didn't (and couldn't) hear that she had typed out two separate Us instead of one single W.  
I laughed for a good five minutes.  Later in the evening I showed Zac the email and asked him if he had ever had his last name misspelled in this way.  He had not.  He laughed as well.  But looking at it now, I can't understand how she would have that I thought I meant two Us in a row.  If someone's last name is Little, I can't imagine they spell it out, L-I-double T-L-E.  That seems clunky and odd.  I'll just chalk this one up as a bizarre misspelling.  But it's a funny one.