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.