Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hormone Hurricane

I have eight and half weeks to go and my hormones have decided to increase their assault upon my wearied senses. One second I'm elated, the next I'm a wilted willow of welling weltshmertz. I find it more difficult to get back to sleep after the incessant toilet interruptions and am generally more tired. During a potty training exercise earlier this weekend (more on that later) for my first boy, which went a little awry to say the least, I convulsed in tears as I was defeated by the trail of poop throughout his room.

The SF hills, particularly pushing the stroller, are wearing me down. Public panting as I take my son out and traverse our sloping terrain has become routine. I suppose the romance of the second trimester has to give into the reality of the third, for at a certain point the baby has to come out and it helps if the mum is ready to push it out rather than in love with the kicks. One of my friends recently gave birth to her third and we were discussing the increased difficulty of each one... we may have a third, I haven't ruled it out per se, but I certainly know this uterus will close shop after that (for a number of reasons). I can't imagine how women dealt with 7 pregnancies in earlier times - if your uterus is lower in each, you would expect that their's reached the floor. My friend mentioned that she was sick of her daughter kicking her. I was on the other hand infatuated with my kids' kicks throughout both pregnancies at that time and wondered at her reaction. Now that I've reached the early 30s and my kid is intensively training for a trampolining championship, I can well understand. It's still an awesome feeling to feel him, knowing viscerally, physically, that there is a little body there, but the more active and forceful he is, the more I wish his manner were more sedentary or at the very least more gentle. I'm often on the phone with a client providing advice on a matter when in the middle of my counsel, my boy decides to jump on his trampoline and jolts me mid sentence into a stutter confounding my clients and forcing me to back-track. He well knows I'm writing about him now because his gymnastics routine just took it up a notch. Ouch.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Big Scare (pre-term labour)

Yesterday was the day I realized that I cannot continue with my normal life for the next 9 1/2 weeks. No carrying my toddler, who weighs 27lbs/ 12.25 ks up and down 4 flights of stairs, no bending abruptly and chasing him, no strolling him up Pacific and Presidio Heights' agitating ascensions. I would also usually walk up to Cole Valley, pick him up and stroll back, shopping for dinner along the way. The stairs were getting increasingly difficult and I had resorted to coaxing him up with keys then bribing him with Elmo but due to an acute period of pain caused by his appearing molars, nothing would cajole him up the stairs. And yet I still wanted to take him to the park, to the library, to walk with him, to get shopping. It would hurt, but then it would go away.

Yesterday, I nearly collapsed on leaving the store after having carried him down, strolled him and did my shopping. I ended up sitting on a corner, unable to move, breathing through contractions, calling my husband at work and explaining I could not move. My son was concerned about me- toddlers, babies even, know very well when something is amiss, they are acutely aware of our emotions-and also none to happy to be stuck in his unmoving stroller. So I had to do my best to calm him down, which also benefited me, because I was in a whirlwind of panic and concentrating on calming him down, calmed me.

When I was strolling him back, at first I simply fell faint, then nauseated, then felt stabbing pain in my abdomen, my baby boy trampolining and summersaulting inside. I could hardly breathe. I sat down on a corner and waited for my husband. Most people passed me by with a slight irritation that my outstretched legs were in their way. One woman looked like she was going to rob me, looking very suspiciously into my open bag. As long as she wasn't going to leave with my son, I was not getting up. However, three people stopped by, looking very concerned asked to help. When I told them my husband would arrive any minute, they nevertheless offered to stay until he arrived (I must have presented quite a scene with my son's in utero antics very visible under my shirt, my pained breathing and my worried son all on a street corner behind an etiolated tree). One woman even stopped driving on busy Pine Street and offered to park and stay. There are good people in this world. I very much appreciated that they offered to help. What would you think and/or do seeing a toddler in a stroller, shopping bags and a heavily pregnant lady sitting with her legs outstretched rhythmically breathing on the ground?

When my frazzled husband arrived, I took the car home while he strolled our son back and walked carefully up the stairs and into bed. We decided to wait it out and see if I got better with rest or if we should go to hospital and since the contractions went away after a while, we didn't end up going, albeit I still emailed my OB and am keeping watch. My son did however continue his gymnastics throughout the night, albeit slowly wearing off. I suppose he is getting in the right state of mind for the Olympics since he may well be born during that time.

When I felt better lying down, I thought maybe I should finish up a bunch of agreements I have to finalize, but realized that wouldn't be "resting" (I admit I have trouble with this concept). I played with my son in bed, joining his favourite puzzle together (planes and trucks of course!) and then became concerned that I wasn't going to the doctor, even though I was feeling better. So I made the mistake of reaching out to google for my symptoms and started worrying whether I was going into pre-term labour, whether my boy's frantic movements were signs of distress, particularly whether he was being caught in the umbilical cord, but as I fretted more and thought fit to go to hospital, I noticed I was feeling worse. So I shut off the computer, shut my eyes and tried to meditate, concentrating on my breathing. Sure enough (and I am a terrible meditator, my mind is a drunken monkey of flurried thoughts) as I let go, both my son and I became still and I had less pain. I resolved to do nothing for the rest of the night and my wonderful husband (who admonished me for doing too much, a usual scuffle between us) took care of our ex utero son and dinner for us all, while I relaxed with in utero and .....watched Frazier.

Pregnancy is more difficult for second time mums because as easy as it is in your first pregnancy to strike on carrying anything heavy or running around and generally resting up, knowing you are taking care of a growing life inside you, the paramount role you perceive yourself in in your second pregnancy, which is hard to discount, is being a mother to your child or children that are running amok and crave your attention. You are caught in a catch 22 - not doing all the things you want to do to take care of your children to protect your baby, or imperiling your baby to take care of your children. I've realized that I've been too focused on being a great mum to number 1, the one who carries him everywhere and plays with him and scurries around despite my belly and despite the needs of number 2. I'm afraid that he will just see dad as the cool one and me as the lady that can't do anything fun anymore. Well, pride aside (and I do need lessons on understanding that I am not invincible and cannot do it all), I have to choose and it's better at this moment to take care of number 2 than to appease number 1. One of them needs me more right now. My son will have to learn this, because when number 2 comes, my son will notice very prominently that attention is being diverted to another, so maybe this is a good start. I'll make it up to him later.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Tooth Terrible (teething tribulations)

My son got his first tooth at 3 months (I got all the luck nursing my first) and at 15 months he could chew his way through most meals. His molars missed the memo and are just arriving (at 18 months). He is not his usual gregarious self to say the least. His appetite has severely decreased, he will only eat meshed up food and he is lethargic (comparatively and no surprise due to his lowered caloric intake). We, as usual, first wondered (or rather freaked out) whether he had an infection or a virus, but we noticed the suspects at the scene peering out as if waiting for a larger audience as well as the telling incessant holding of his hand in his mouth as he wailed. He was also crying out when we brushed his teeth. After an assessment of the crime scene, in which the protruding molars were prominent, we knew he was indubitably teething. Our only concern was that he was also spiking fevers which our pediatrician advised us could not be attributed to teething. If the fever were above 100 (37.78 celsius), there was something else causing it, he maintained. Of course just because your toddler is teething doesn't mean they can't also be miserable due to a virus or infection but following Occam's razor and knowing our son runs hot, it seemed to us that there were not multiple culprits and the simplest solution was that he was getting his molars. It makes sense to us that his temperature would spike, as the gums during teething would be more vulnerable to infection and the body would spike up the temperature to avoid it. Several of my friends have said this happened to their children also. It would also make sense that different children react differently. My son may be like me - I spike high fevers when I am sick, more than most people.  I sleep a lot when I am sick (usually I can never sleep more than 7 hours unlike some people that normally want or need 8, 9 or 10 hours, like my hubby, who got a rude shock when he became a father). My son does the same. Fevers and sleep appear to be the way that my body and my son's fight infections and viruses.

From a legal perspective, it is the safer option for the medical profession to say that fevers should not be attributed to teething and to have parents take their kids in to be assessed. If doctors were more lax and said that fevers could be attributed to teething, non-medical professional parents may miss other symptoms and/or fail to keep as frantic a watch over their child's fever, possibly letting it spike too high. Excluding all variables is the best way to avoid a claim if in fact there were something wrong as otherwise the doctor may be found to be negligent. Many medical decisions appear to be premised on limiting liability to the point of absurdity. We were told that the fevers could be due to a surge of hormones (may be this is why pregnant women can double up as kitchen appliances) which could be determined from a blood test. I asked what action we would take if we found a positive result (being paradoxically, a negative result). The answer? Nothing. Sorry  - I'm not interested in putting my son - who has already had to undertake numerous invasive exams - for mere esoteric interest.

Of course, I may well be wrong. After all I am not a doctor. I'm not even close. The last time I sat in any biology, let alone science class, I wore a school uniform (with a hemmed skirt of course), listened incessantly to grunge, had to deal with regular pimple crisis and thought I knew more about the world than I do now (oh, how it all comes back at you with the next generation).  None of this is meant to be taken as medical advice. I better use a disclaimer to limit my liability.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Third Trimester Grunt

I’ve reached the grunt stage in my pregnancy when bending down, putting on shoes and other previously facile tasks are becoming extremely arduous and have a guaranteed (if involuntary) sonic accompaniment, which I imagine is akin to a hippo getting up from lying down on its back. Since I am always chasing around my son, sometimes because hearing him laugh when I do is the best feeling in the whole world but mostly because I am saving him from impending grievous harm or a possible fatality as well as simply accomplishing what must be done without easy access to a teleporter (oh, how I wish I could order one and on Amazon Prime!) such as carrying him when he refuses to me (yes, even up the four flights of stairs when no amount of Elmo bargaining will work), the grunts are pretty frequent so that if I were in an Homeric poem, “she of the grunting bursts” would be my epithet. 

I’m also waking up to a buzzing mental alarm at 5.45 each day, just when my son is sleeping a little longer. By the end of the evening - particularly when I have to put him to bed alone - my mental capacity is skeletal at best. I’ve read that the inability to sleep is meant to be ease us into nursing and caring for our soon to come baby and change our brain patterns to slow us down into our more natural rhythm. Does everyone have the same natural rhythm?  My natural rhythm is a peripatetic frenzy, so this is quite unnatural for me. However, while I am still trying to get as much done as I can before baby is born (taking appropriate time for baby and me time - swimming, yoga and baths! otherwise, I would probably go insane), this time I am determined to attempt to take a break for 40 days. This is not only meant to be a spiritual time, but I’ve accepted it is required for the body to rest. For first time mums, if no one has shared this piece of info with you - be aware - the first 2 weeks you may find it difficult to walk. In the first week you may find yourself needing to just be in bed and going to the bathroom is a process to say the least (witch hazel was my best friend at that time). As sexy as granny pants may be (yes, I’ve also reached the stage in my pregnancy when my undies are bigger than some of my pre-pregnancy shirts), you can look forward to adult diapers as your uterus flushes it all out (or compensates for the 9 month break you thought you were lucky to have without a period). That was the best piece of advice my good friend gave me right before I gave birth and I would believe that it would universally apply - after all, pads are insufficient and who in their right mind- even aside from the patent health dangers- would want to use a tampon after giving birth? 

While I know I must rest more than I did - albeit in truth part of getting back into the grind was due to circumstances above my control- I don’t trust myself. So I have asked my husband to ensure that I do not sneak work in during the 40 days and to try and sleep during the day and will appropriately scribble the rule in big block letters on offensively colored paper which I will stick to multiple places on the fridge to attract my attention and keep me in line. At least this time I’m not leading a multi-plaintiff litigation against opposing counsel that had a religious fervor respecting holidays but pressured me against taking maternity leave. Oh, and we’re not moving out of state - last time we had the brilliant timing of moving from NY to SF within 3 months of Luca’s birth. If you’re thinking of a big move, I suggest not doing it with a newborn, particularly your first. One grenade going off in your life will be plenty to challenge your faculties. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

First and Second Time Mums

You can always tell a first time pregnancy when they're ordering from a menu ("Is this panna cotta pasteurized?") or anxiously scouring a suspect label ("I think this one is just a mg too high for me just now"). One other telltale is their concerns over labour. I have heard innumerable times that women don't fear the pain of labour, or even the labour itself, but the possibility of defecating in front of their husbands, doula, the doctors, nurses and whomever else they invite to the room (a long list of spectators is also suspect and usually evidences a first time mums, with second time mums, having experienced hours of pain, sweat and blood around them, thinking it more pertinent to have the limelight at that time shine on somebody else). Hahahahahaha yes I have to laugh (and in a fairly maniacal manner so that you may be wondering whether you should call child services and save my son from me). I know this, because that was my first time experience (bar the spectators - I had one of my best friends come as a doula and then sent her off very quickly when I realized my uterus had decided to take me down with it). Let me tell this to you very plainly, if indelicately (but then labour is not a delicate matter) - you won't give a shit if you shit during labour. In fact, I wager that you would make a Faustian pact, that may include some public defecation just to have the baby out (albeit, some women have experienced a wonderful birth experience as evinced by the literature on the topic - I have not set eyes on one myself yet - but I suppose they are too absorbed in their orgasmic experience to care nor notice any defecation either).

Yesterday, I was asked a question by a first time mom during my aquatic exercise class (I love this class!) how much it would hurt. Granted I missed the first part of the sentence as we splashed about through our exercises, but confident in assuming she could only mean labour or breastfeeding I assured her that yes, it hurt, but it's for the best reason. She asked how long the whole process took, her voice increasingly agitated and I now assumed that she must be talking about labour (as the only second time mum in the class, I have become a somewhat de facto expert, which may not be the best situation and as a good attorney I must interpose a good medical disclaimer in future intercourse on the subject). I explained that the first time takes the longest, according to my friends who have had another child but that it differs from person to person. Mine took about 13 hours I explained. Her face became increasingly contorted but I had to assume that a no small portion was due to the intensity of the exercise. How much? How much did it hurt? she asked. I should have been more diplomatic, but I decided to answer truthfully. It was worse than any other pain I ever had at which point her eyes appeared to bulge out and she croaked out "worse than labour?" Wherein I quickly found out that this first time mom had been worried about her bellybutton popping out and whether the popping would take a long time and how much it would hurt. I quickly assured her that she wouldn't feel a thing, stopping myself just in time before I stated that she had other pain to worry about and then feeling somewhat pleased with myself that at least I had stopped myself being an even greater fool. This somewhat allayed her fears until she asked me, "wait, how much did you say labour hurt?"

It's not called labour for nothing....

Later on when a group of 39 weekers were talking about their babies dropping and a girl told me her daughter had been dropping steadily each day, I exclaimed with a huge smile that her baby was coming any minute, only to find out that she was only 20 weeks (albeit I knew something was very wrong from the intense horror that erupted on her face as the instructor happily cheered "ten more, OK, 10, 9, 8, 7"- and I wanted to escape).

I have got to stop talking to people when my ears are full of water or I may just bring some poor soul into such shock that our exercise class will turn into a group birthing session - oh well, at least we'd be in a pool.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tantrums Within and Outside of the Uterus (Brothers in Arms)

Third time's a charm except for pregnancy. I'm now in the third trimester and "charming" is not an adjective that comes to mind. My tenant is likewise having some concerns. Previously, he had ample room. Now he's realizing that his apartment is getting a little cramped, which is not surprising since he lives in San Francisco (get used to it, kid - everyone here needs more space!). While small, his apartment is even better than rent controlled - it comes furnished and free with utilities paid for and all food provided. A real sweet deal. So like any San Franciscan in the predicament of not being able to leave their apartment but not being able to live in it either, he's taken to renovation and ingenuity in decor. Displeased with his space and his brother's decor, all Saturday he had a construction crew come in and installed a brand new open kitchen (taking down a few non-structural walls), bathroom and built an outside deck. While I was being jabbed continuously by my earnest renovator, my toddler decided to jab me in a completely different fashion. I suppose there was something in the air.

I had heard of toddler tantrums. In fact, I had seen quite a few. I may, in my extremely naive pre-parent phase, been judgmental when a couple couldn't control their kid in public. I had never before experienced the absolute helplessness of staring at your own kid as they work themselves up into such a frenzy that you are worried about the capacity of their internal organs to withstand the pressure. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! my son shouted, his hands in clenched fists, thumping the table, his face increasingly incarnadine and his eyes bulging resistance. What terrible thing did I do to my son to receive this response from him? Not allow him to eat his soup by himself after the results of his adventure were readily apparent on the kitchen floor. I always encourage my son when he wants to do things by himself and try to foster his independence. However, there are certain things that an 18 month old cannot do and he refuses to accept this. The outcome of our battle was not pretty. My husband walked into the kitchen at the crescendo of my son's sonata, when his shaking appeared to be the cause of the internal revolt of more than a few vital organs and stopped to stare, aghast. Looking at me for an answer, I just shook my head and explained the cause of our son's distress. There we stood, adults flummoxed by a toddler, no party in control. My husband decided that his behaviour called for a "time out" but this only heightened the thumping and the screaming. In the end, he calmed out down by himself and then decided to entreat us with a kiss. Possibly the "time out" did actually work or he simply tired himself out. Either way we've realized we've reached a whole new level of parenting and need to arm ourselves against another insurrection - with reason? with diversion? with authority? - we  will probably try all three and more as we address these tantrums through trial and error.