The third stretch

28 weeks

Despite being terrible at math, I tend to find patterns in numbers and place (too much?) stock in their importance . . . almost to a superstitious degree. Even when I know being order No. 18 — my lucky number — in a restaurant is just a coincidence, I can’t shake this feeling that it “means something.” Though the something? As yet to be determined.

As of Monday, I am 28 weeks pregnant. With Oliver, I gave birth at 32. So if I were to follow that same pattern, I would be giving birth to my daughter in less than a month.

I am not ready.

When we initially considered a second child after Ollie’s early birth and my long recovery from preeclampsia, I assumed I’d be too anxious and worried to possibly try again. But then I was pregnant, and there was no debating — I had to surge forward, stay calm and be informed without troubling myself with endless “what ifs.”

I’ve done a good job of not losing my mind during the last six months, but approaching that number — 32 — is making my palms sweat. Flashbacks of the last few weeks I was hospitalized while expecting Oliver keep flying back, and all those old memories — our corner room in Baltimore; the doctor finally telling me we couldn’t go home; getting steroid shots to help his lungs — bring the panic back anew.

But this time is not that time. My blood pressure has been fine . . . low for me, even. I have no symptoms, no other issues that could be attributed to anything other than just feeling big and tired and worn down, partially from the pregnancy but also from chasing Oliver — now 20 months — around the house.

I’ve started nesting. Post-Christmas clean-up combined with this almost physical urge to work on the new baby’s nursery has me whirling around the house like a tornado. According to ye ol’ Fitbit, I logged more than 5,000 steps on Monday and barely left the house. On a regular work day, I’m lucky if I hit half of that.

I am on the move.

Moving helps me stay out of my own head, for one. More than once lately I’ve snapped awake from a nightmare about pre-term birth, about being back in the NICU. I’ve blocked so much about those early days with Ollie out, but it filters back at strange moments. Being in my third trimester with this little one is definitely whipping memories up from the murky waters into which they’d sunk.

But I’m trying to be OK with that, too. I’ve done a lot of emotional work to move forward from April 2015. I’m trying to focus on what is going right this pregnancy — everything, so far — instead of went so wrong the last time.

And anyway, more than anything, we do have a healthy son. And I am here. And we are here. And our family is strong.

This is a ramble. But it’s 2017, a fresh year, and I’m as big as a house (and getting bigger) and my brain is … well, it’s hard to form coherent thoughts these days. Last night I fell asleep at 8 p.m. and I can’t get out of bed without a tuck-and-roll technique I’m still mastering, so everything feels weird right now.

Before I had Oliver, I was terrified of childbirth. We took classes and I read books and countless blogs and thought I was “prepared,” but then I was induced at sunrise on an April Sunday two months early and I was … well, I was not prepared.

But it didn’t matter. In the end, is anyone prepared? Can anything really prepare you for parenthood — how it will build you up and break you down and sneak up on you with its moments of pure joy and pure exhaustion, fear and beauty all centered on one tiny little body?

I’m not ready to give birth again, but I will soon be ready to meet our daughter.

I have some things to tell her. And I can’t wait.


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Soon to be four

ollies-announcement

Where to begin, where to begin?

Remember when I wrote this post about people asking if we were planning to have a second child and how stressed that was making me and how we were just so undecided and nervous and … blah?

Well, I was already pregnant. I took the positive test that night. My first clue came in the form of my emotions being all. over. the place., which isn’t necessarily unusual for me — but I remembered that out-of-control hormonal feeling from a previous experience. Namely: a previous pregnancy.

It was … surprising. Exciting! And scary.

It’s different this time. While I was blindly, happily naive to any sort of possible “complications” during my first pregnancy, I’m approaching this one with open eyes. Putting aside Oliver’s traumatic birth and my preeclampsia, my husband and I know what it’s like to have a newborn in the house. We know what those sleepless nights and early mornings will require of us. We know we’re going to have to invest in a king-size can of coffee, like, every few days. We know we’re going to be tired.

I’m almost 13 weeks along, preparing to bid adieu to the first trimester and generally coming back to life. This pregnancy has been easier on me physically — less nausea, less exhaustion — but tougher mentally. Having a 17-month-old during the early, awful days when I wanted nothing more than to lay in a dark room eating crackers was tough. I can’t just concentrate on me this go ’round; I have sweet Oliver reaching for his Puffs. My husband has been awesome (as always), but it’s always Ollie and me getting ready for work and daycare in the morning. Mornings are hard.

And, you know, work. I’m probably busier at my job than ever before — and working in a completely different environment this pregnancy. Different building, different coworkers, different boss… different company, actually, though we’re still the same newspaper. This is good, really, because I love our staff and get a lot of joy from what I do. But? You know, it’s work. I don’t want to fall behind in any area: as a parent, wife, employee. The balancing act is tough.

It probably sounds selfish, but we are all finally sleeping again and I am … scared about what adding another child to the mix will be like. Maybe all second-time parents feel this way. (I hope?) I feel like we’ve just gained our footing as a family of three, and now we’re expanding to four. While I’m thrilled and feel very fortunate to be having a second child, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, too.

The difference between this pregnancy, so far, and the last one? Well, I’ve come a long way from the woman whose chief concern was how quickly she’d be able to shower after childbirth. (Seriously? Yeah.) Being hospitalized for a week beforehand will do that to a lady.

So many of the concerns I had as a first-time parent have softened with experience. We have already taken care of an infant. Of a premature infant. Of a fresh-from-the-NICU infant. We have driven home with a 4-pound baby. We have been away from our child and close to our child and we have stayed up until 2, 3, 4 a.m. listening to him breathe. We’ve driven to the ER in the dead of night, and dashed to our son’s hospital bed after surgery.

And we have laughed together, cried together, watched endless (endless, endless) episodes of “The Muppets” together. Sometimes I still look at my child and think, I have a child. A child who now reaches out to run his little fingers through my hair, who croons “Mama” in my arms just before he falls asleep.

We have known fear, and we have known grace. So much grace.

So no, I’m not the pregnant woman I was before … but I think I’m someone stronger. And hungrier.

Someone who desperately wants tortilla chips and super-spicy queso all the time.

And cake. Brownies. Cookies.

You know what? Just bring the whole dessert platter. Let’s do this.


Oliver William: A Birth (and Love) Story

I first met my son at three in the morning.

I was sweaty, and tired, and shaky. My hair was matted and, with my old glasses, my vision blurred at the edges. Oliver William had been in the world for 29 hours, and he’d spent all of them in an isolette in a neonatal intensive care unit a floor below the curtained-off room where I was coming off a magnesium sulfate drip.

He was the most beautiful, surreal thing I’d ever seen.


Our story begins weeks before the balmy spring Sunday he entered the world. I had a fairly normal pregnancy until I began to swell in March, my limbs getting puffy and painful around the time I reached the third trimester.

My blood pressure was on my doctors’ radar from my first OB appointment in October, but it wasn’t under constant surveillance . . . at first. When my readings began to trend high, I underwent frequent tests at my appointments to check for protein and other issues. I’d heard the term “preeclampsia” before, but had little concept of what it was — or how it would come to apply to us.

In the week before Oliver’s birth, my husband and I had made in-and-out hospital visits twice — including late on Easter Sunday. We have a blood pressure cuff at home and had taken to checking my readings . . . only to find the numbers were consistently scary. On Easter, my reading at 10 p.m. was 170/120.

On each of those early visits, I was monitored for a few hours with regular blood pressure checks and hooked up to a fetal monitor. The baby was active, strong and happy, so there was little sense of urgency in the beginning. My readings would always drop to a more manageable level — 142/90, say — at the hospital, so we would stay for a few hours and head home under orders to rest and check in with my OB again the next day.

On April 8, I used my lunch break for a blood pressure check at my regular OB. I left in a hurry — not even bothering to turn off my computer or grab my leftovers from the fridge. My coworkers and boss were aware I’d been having some difficulties, but I wasn’t yet aware of the seriousness myself. I said goodbye to my friends without realizing I wouldn’t be back for months.

That appointment didn’t go well, of course. I was sent back to the local hospital. Spencer met me there, thinking it was another routine monitoring, but this time felt different. I’d been taking medication to lower my blood pressure for a few days without any change, and I knew a third hospitalization in less than a week was serious.

I laid in a hospital bed down the hall from a woman in labor, listening to her wail and scream. I remember thinking how scary it sounded, but felt oddly jealous of the relief she must feel to have it over with. I’ve been nervous about childbirth since learning about childbirth, but there was no part of me that thought I’d be having a baby that weekend. I assumed I was heading for bed rest — possibly hospital bed rest — and had a long month ahead of me.

I was right . . . in some ways. Totally wrong in others.


The woman down the hall had her baby at 8:30 p.m. I watched the clock — about the only thing I had to do — while Spencer ran home to pack a bag with phone chargers, snacks, a change of clothes, toiletries. For months my sister had been asking me if I was “prepared” with those sorts of things, and I’d been indignant about the fact that we had months until we’d be hurrying to a hospital. What was the rush?

When Spence returned, we didn’t have any answers — but I was moved down the hall so the baby and I could be monitored overnight. More tests were conducted, and my mom and sister were with us on Thursday. I was swollen, tired and cranky, plus feeling guilty about my poor husband sleeping upright in the world’s most uncomfortable chair. I kept waking up to look at him, wishing desperately we were in our own house. That none of this was happening.

To compound the chaos, my mother-in-law was flying in while I was hospitalized. Our baby shower was Saturday, April 11 (at our house.), and all the final preparations were underway. I was agonizing over potentially missing this event — something my mom, sister and I had been discussing for months. We’d spent hours getting excited about and working on the details, and I knew how stressful this was getting . . . for everyone.

My dad picked up my mother-in-law at the airport that Thursday — the same night I thought I’d be returning home to rest. Though there was talk of my release in the evening, everything changed quickly around 8 p.m. With my blood pressure still high and the results of my tests in hand, my doctor arrived to talk about preeclampsia.

Transfer.
Ambulances.
Getting to a hospital with a NICU.
Taking steroid shots to help the baby’s lungs before delivery.

Delivery.

The word echoed like a gunshot.

I got my first steroid shot, was hooked up to a magnesium drip, felt like my skin and arms and life were on fire and laid mute and desolate in a side room as another woman down the hall had an emergency C-section. Spencer never left my side for more than a few moments.

At 1 a.m., I took my first ambulance ride. The crew arrived to transfer us to a large Baltimore hospital with a NICU, something our local facilities lacked; we were admitted in the middle of the night. I arrived in the same room where, two days later, our baby would enter the world, but all I knew then was that I was scared and thirsty and wanted to be anywhere, anywhere but there.

Spencer and I held hands and talked and pressed our heads together. When I think back on that week, all I see is his face close to mine reminding me to breathe, that everything would be all right — even if we weren’t always sure that would be true. When you marry someone, their qualifications as a partner and parent haven’t necessarily been challenged.

Spence and I had our love and our commitment — and we’re the very best of friends. But we’d never been tested. Not like this.

In every way it’s possible to pass, my Spencer did. I can’t imagine how I would have survived without him. He wore so many hats: taking care of me, contacting our worried families, becoming the chief communicator manning both of our cell phones . . . needless to say, I quickly learned that Oliver was going to have a hell of a dad. And even in the haze, that made me so happy and proud.

Saturday, April 11 — the day of the shower — was hard. We were moved to a corner room on the seventh floor with a beautiful view of Baltimore, but the sunshine and blossoming trees and well-intentioned text messages from family and friends seemed to cause physical pain. Though there was a brief ray of hope that we’d be discharged, that things weren’t that serious, I knew in my heart that we were in it for the long haul.

Our doctor came in around 7 a.m. to tell me, quite sympathetically, that I wasn’t leaving. They were still monitoring my blood pressure (high) and urine protein (also high). Though they believed it could be gestational hypertension, preeclampsia was still the beast lurking around every corner. Each time a nurse came in to check my pressure, my heart began to pound. Everything seemed to be resting on a number — those two numbers — and the stress was making me crazy.

From talking to our doctor on Saturday, I knew I wasn’t going home until after I had our baby. Whether that was after a month of hospital bed rest or much (much) sooner, my body was struggling. Little Oliver was still safe in there, but an ultrasound revealed a few potential issues with my placenta and how the high blood pressure was affecting my uterus.

Nothing sounded good. Everything sounded terrifying, in fact.

We used FaceTime to participate in the baby shower from afar, which helped dull the pain a little, but I was abjectly miserable. A cousin and aunt surprised us at the hospital, bringing balloons and cupcakes and gifts, and it was wonderful to see them . . . but I was so scared and sad, it took all my energy not to cry the entire time.

Somehow, the day passed. Spencer and I laid in our room facing a historic tower, watching the sun sink lower and cast the skyline in golden light. We didn’t talk much, just held hands and got lost in our own thoughts. It felt like the room was holding its breath with us, waiting. After the shower ended, we rarely saw or spoke to anyone.

Around 4 a.m., I woke up with terrible heartburn — especially strange given I’d barely eaten anything the day before. Food and drink are off-limits with a magnesium drip, so I felt sick and low. Ever alert, Spence woke up and got a nurse for me. A dose of heartburn medication did nothing, and I developed a pounding headache.

Our doctor appeared again in the pale light of early morning. I was awake, staring out the window, watching colors appear and lights blink off; Spencer was, too, just stroking my needle-studded hand. Waiting.

I don’t remember what the doctor said. I remember his calm face telling us that I was going into severe preeclampsia — just as they’d feared — and that, with my high blood pressure, I was in danger of having seizures or a stroke. Bed rest and medication would not cure this; I was too far gone. Nothing would cure it but having our baby. The safest thing to do — for both of us — was to deliver.

I was 32 weeks, 2 days pregnant. He was due June 5, a date I’d recited countless times in seven months. A date I’d circled, starred, color-coded on my Google calendar.

But April 12 would be his birthday.


I was induced around 10 a.m., then spent 12 hours in and out of sleep. I took any medication I was offered, floating freely through childhood memories after a powerful dose of Stadol. I apparently told Spencer I was back at my grandparents’ home, the place where my sister and I spent hours after school and every summer; we were playing with dolls and Barbies, lost in our games.

I was high as a kite, honestly — “tasting purple,” as a nurse joked. I barely remember the afternoon, but it’s probably better that way.

Our families arrived in Baltimore. My parents, Spencer’s parents, my sister and brother-in-law all camped out to wait for news. Spencer waited until I was sleeping to disappear and update them.

The day wore on. I was oblivious to most of it. I woke occasionally in pain as the contractions revved up, clutching my husband’s hand and waiting to hear how dilated I’d become. By mid- to late afternoon, I was at 4 centimeters and given an epidural. Spencer had to leave the room while it was administered and, for the first time, I became my own coach.

If you’ve had a baby, you know the rest. If you haven’t, you probably don’t want to.

At 9:57 p.m., we welcomed our Oliver into the world. His cry was mighty and immediate; a nurse lifted him high enough for me to see and called out, “Happy birthday!” I began to cry as Spencer cut the cord.

I saw him bundled for just a moment, kissed his cheek shakily, and he was off.


The days after are a blur. Safely ensconced in the NICU, Oliver was breathing on his own and doing better than we could have hoped from the beginning. It was a day and a half before I was well enough to be wheeled down to see him, and I’ll never forget peeking into the isolette to see my tiny son bundled in the semi-darkness.

Everything felt like a dream. Even after he was placed on my chest — this sweet, sleepy, whimpering little guy — and nuzzled beneath my chin, I kept thinking, This is my son. This is my son? and trying to sort out the ten thousand conflicting thoughts in my head.

It just happened so fast. None of it was in “the plan.” For starters, I couldn’t rationalize that I was no longer pregnant. I could not comprehend that this was my baby. I couldn’t process that I’d actually given birth, something I’d been simultaneously anticipating and dreading, and survived. It was over. He is here.

He is here.

Our darling, darling son.


Ollie smiles


So everything has been . . . surreal.

Oliver is now two and a half weeks old, is eating completely by bottle (no feeding tube!), has had his IV removed and generally gets cuter and stronger every day. He rarely fusses and mostly naps; we go up to visit as much as we can, which is much easier now that he is closer to us at a new hospital outside of Baltimore.

Oh, my emotions. They tumble and fly and toss me about — a ragged sea of feeling all the feelings, usually in rapid succession. I’m filled with such overwhelming love for this little boy, it’s an ache. I’m so excited to see him each day, but paralyzed with anxiety when we have to leave.

Spencer and I have gone from total NICU novices to pros, meeting so many kind families in a similar boat and feeling supported by friends, family and strangers alike. I can’t believe the messages, emails and gifts we’ve received; we are so grateful for all of them.

We met a woman Monday who just delivered her third preterm baby and, standing in the parking lot after leaving the NICU, she told us that — before we know it — Oliver will be home, healthy and happy . . . and this will all be nothing but a memory. She was calm and collected as I stood before her, fragile and half-broken and teary.

Sometimes I think, I hope I don’t remember any of this. Other times, well — I hope I remember all of it. As Oliver continues to grow (and give us his happy little milk smiles!), we’ve been taking the advice of a new friend and trying to document everything we’re seeing, doing and feeling. I’ve taken hundreds of photos and sometimes pull them up side by side, already marveling at the difference between April 12 and today.

Each day is a new day.


IMG_6688_cropped


Entering the NICU is like stepping into a parallel world. I mostly curl up in a chair by his isolette to slip a finger into his little hand or, when we arrive at feeding times, hug him close with a bottle. Spence and I take turns; he is amazing with him. My own confidence increases with each hand-off, hug and diaper change, and I’m already far from the fragile, nervous woman I was just a month ago. Heck, a few weeks ago.

Because I’m a parent.

My goodness, I’m his mom.

It happened much faster than we would have ever wanted and the circumstances were less than ideal, but I get stronger every day — and so does Ollie. In my better moments, I feel capable and accepting. In the darker ones, well . . . less so.

But I cling tightly to the advice from other NICU parents: that once we get our little guy home, this chapter will close and life — beautiful, unpredictable, amazing life — will blossom. And we will be okay.

Better than okay, even.

Because we’re a family.


Family


More than anything, I’m grateful. Grateful Spencer forced me to take care of myself and Ollie when I was frightened and in denial. Grateful for the doctors who noticed the right signs at the right moment, and for the medical staff who cared for me during the scariest time of my life. So, so grateful for the NICU nurses who continue to care for our sweet baby and also soothe our own concerns each day.

I’m thankful for our amazing families, who rallied around to care for us physically and emotionally, and will love their nephew, grandchild and great-grandchild just as much as we do. The cards, emails, Instagram and Facebook comments from friends have buoyed our spirits, and we are so appreciative of the presents and offers to help.

At the firm encouragement of a social worker, I’m learning to say “yes.” It’s so hard for me to do. I hate to inconvenience anyone, to feel as if I’m burden; I thrive on self-sufficiency. But we say “yes, yes, thank you” to most everything now: rides, meals, help, prayers. Yes to everything. Yes to anything that can help us help our Ollie.

I’ll never forget the support we’ve received.

Also, I’m a hugger now.


Though we don’t yet know when Oliver will come home, he gets bigger and stronger every day. We’re definitely heading in a homeward direction — and that is a huge comfort — but he has a few tasks to accomplish before he’s ready.

I’m okay with that. I’ve made my peace with it. I trust that he is in the best place possible, where he is being looked after by caring professionals who know far more than his nervous parents do. While I can’t wait until he’s home with us, I’m also scared. The NICU isn’t anyone’s idea of paradise, but it’s become familiar. A known entity. With time, I suppose, anything will.

But we will learn. We can’t wait to learn! Spence and I have already absorbed so much about preemies, newborns and, most importantly, Ollie himself. So many of the things I was nervous about — child birth, breastfeeding — are either something I’ve now done or something I do every day. I figured it out. Trial by fire.

We’ve developed a new normal with Ollie in the NICU, but the real adventure begins when he gets home.

I’ve channeled much of my energy into washing his new clothes, organizing his toys, getting his nursery ready . . . and Spence has been putting together furniture, hanging curtains, painting. Our energy gets pooled nightly to tackle projects both big and small, and working on his room has given me a productive way to feel close to him when he’s far away.

Despite all that, we still have yet to finish.

But somehow, I think he understands.


He’s here

Oliver and me

Oliver William made his unexpected but much celebrated debut at 9:57 p.m. on Sunday, April 12!

At 3 lbs., 9 oz., he is our tiny and precious little one. Though he was eight weeks early, Ollie is already a fighter who amazes us every day. He is being well taken care of until he’s ready to come home with us, and we hope fervently that moment is coming soon.

Having a baby is a beautiful, life-shattering thing . . . and having to go home while our little one remains in the NICU has been one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life. I don’t know how we would have survived the last week without our families, and I definitely could not have survived any of this without Spencer. He held me up — literally. In every way possible.

I’ll share his birth story in the weeks to come . . . likely when I’ve had more time to process it all, and hopefully when we’re able to hold him constantly in our arms. In the meantime, you’ll likely see radio static here. I have a million things to say but no idea how to say them, but I know I’ll need to find a way as we press on.

‘Til then, we’ll be daydreaming and driving up to see our little love. We already know the roads by heart.


Sweet pregnant progress

Cookie dough ice cream

Remember how I was once all, Meh, sweets, bleh, whatever, just pass the chips and queso?

Well, I still really love chips and queso. (And salsa. And French onion dip. And anything salty, really.)

But my sweets aversion? Well.

I feel like I’m reaching critical mass in my pregnancy — and still have about nine weeks-ish to go. (Um, did I just state a single digit for the countdown? Yeah, I’m not ready for that.) Just in the last two weeks, I’ve started swelling within an inch of my life — just call me sausage foot — and have actually outgrown some of my maternity tops.

Just let that sink in a minute.

I’ve long resigned myself to not being one of those ladies “with a basketball up her shirt,” and honestly? I’m okay with it. I’m not a skinny girl. But I feel like I’ve gone from “Er, is she pregnant?” to “MY GOD, SHE’S PREGNANT.” in the span of two seconds.

(That Cookie Dough Blast has absolutely nothing to do with it, I’m sure.)

I’m regularly stopped by strangers on the street with kind questions, then avert my eyes from their pitying looks when I inform them that this little guy and I will be hanging out until June. Coworkers have commented on how I look like I’m already “about done,” and I have to laugh.

Because I am, in some ways. But also: I’m not.

While I’ll admit that the constant backaches, poor sleeping habits and inability to get up from couches and beds is a wee bit inconvenient, I am excited to be firmly ensconced here in the third trimester. It’s nice to feel the baby moving all the time, and reassuring to know we’re getting into the final lap of this journey.

We’re less than two weeks from my local baby shower, about a month from Spencer’s birthday and our New York shower, and I’m already working ahead to prepare for maternity leave. We got the nursery painted last week, have been doing some shopping and I’m finally at the point where I feel an urge to stock up on baby clothes. And diapers. And other necessities.

All this to say: I haven’t been doing much non-baby-related stuff lately. Or thinking about much beyond the growing kiddo treating me to 5 a.m. alien kicks each morning.

But I have been reading. And I’ll have reviews heading toward your eyeballs shortly.

Just after I finish this milkshake.


Thoughts after childbirth class

Well, we survived childbirth class.

And not just survived, exactly . . . I think we thrived.

So, um, I went into the experience pretty nervous. As I’ve documented during the last 29 weeks, I entered pregnancy basically wanting to know as little as possible about how this all was going to wrap up. I’ve always been nervous about childbirth as a concept, and I can’t say it was something I was eager to experience.

Having a baby? Yep, want to do that. But having a baby? Er.

My biggest take-away from Saturday was that our birth experience will be our own. It’s okay to compare notes with the ladies in your life, but don’t expect a replica of anyone else’s labor. “It won’t be your mom’s, or your sister’s, or your girlfriend’s,” Maura, our instructor, told us. “It will be yours.

We learned some deep breathing exercises (“Don’t hyperventilate!”) and how to tell the difference between “real” contractions and Braxton Hicks. Maura touched on infant care, our likely experience in the hospital, breastfeeding tips and tricks, and how much water we should all be drinking (answer: lots).

We did watch a few videos of real births and, yep, that was wild. I know childbirth is a miracle and our bodies were made to do this and so on and blah blah, but c’mon: it’s gross, too. But I expected that. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the time in college when I literally ran from a family studies class because I got physically ill during an informational video. So: progress?


Onesie


I’m still nervous. Still a little fearful of how everything will go down. But as a type-A note-taker, I’ve been studying the hospital’s handouts and pondering all of Maura’s sane advice. After reaching the point where it was worse not to know than to simply educate myself on what we’ll be dealing with in just a few short months, I actually feel . . . empowered.

No one else can do this for me. Though Spencer will be there to cheer me on, I am responsible for bringing our child into the world. Now that I’ve accepted that, I really feel better.

It was nice to be back in a classroom, too — even if just for a few hours. I’m a geek; I can’t help it. Spence and I took seats at the front of the room, and I scribbled notes like the overachiever I am. We found comfort in the knowledge that we’re certainly not the only nervous first-timers; twelve others were in the room with us and having their first children, too. And one couple is expecting twin boys.

Basically, it’s real now. Really real. There have been so many surreal moments throughout this pregnancy — seeing him move on the first ultrasound; finding out he is a he; feeling that first kick, etc. — that took time to process. But I think we’re finally in a spot where we understand we’re having a baby, and I feel like we have a game plan for this whole process.

It’s just a plan, of course — and plans often change.

But it’s a start.

Less than 11 weeks to go . . .


Five years

Spencer and me in 2010


Five years to the day from when we first met, Spence and I will take our first childbirth class.

Could I have seen that coming? Maybe not on March 21, 2010 — but life moves fast when you’re in love.

Because we had a “date-aversary” before a wedding anniversary, I still look kindly upon March 21. When I started researching childbirth resources, the six-hour class tomorrow — filled with all the “necessities” of getting ready to bring a baby into the world — was the only Saturday available. Everything else was held during the week, broken up over multiple nights, etc., and I’m already tired with a short attention span.

And I really need to pay attention.

I’m 29 weeks along today, the first day of spring, and starting to get these jittery, anxious nerves firing through my body. In the home stretch. This is a phrase I’ve heard often lately — and even said myself — but, honestly, it hasn’t really processed yet. The third trimester sounded impossibly far away when I was struggling to keep down dry toast in those early days, and yet . . .

And yet . . .
And yet . . .

Here we are. Closing in.

I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning when Baby J landed a few good kicks to my left side. I put my hand there to feel that jerky, alien-like movement and was suddenly alert, wide awake. With each punch came the sudden, jarring thought that there is a baby in there. And that he must get out.

I know it sounds ridiculous. I mean, I’ll be 30 years old this summer — this isn’t exactly a mystery or anything. But I’ve always had a mental block regarding childbirth and have been, you know, afraid of the concept, so I was determined to know as little as possible in advance. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

That theory worked . . . in the beginning. Back when we were still in shock that I was actually pregnant, I consoled myself with the knowledge that we had so much time before I had to worry about a hospital stay and breastfeeding and pushing and . . . well, everything else.

So much time. Months. Three-quarters of a year.

But now, 11 weeks from D-Day, it’s time to be a big girl.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what comes after the baby is here. We’re meeting with a day care provider this Sunday, for one, and Spence and I have already started talking about how we’ll be changing our schedules to accommodate the little guy.

Though I know nothing can really prepare you for parenthood, I’ve done some soul-searching about how our relationship might change . . . and how we’ll be growing as a family, not just a couple.

That’s intense, too — but in a different way. A good way. A way that decidedly does not keep me up at night.

But everything else?

Well.

Part of me is ready to get this show on the road . . . I mean, between the back aches, heavy belly, feet swelling, occasional bouts of lingering nausea and other fun symptoms, I’m less than comfortable. I can’t get off the couch unassisted. I’m tired all the time. The weight gain has been hard for me — and I still have months to go.

But another part of me? A bigger part, perhaps? Is totally okay with Baby J just, you know, hanging out in there for as long as he needs to. I recognize that this is a precious time in my life, and I’m not trying to rush it. Spence and I have our happy routines, and I’m content to daydream about all that’s to come.

Anticipation is half the adventure, right?

There’s something to be said for just soaking up the moment. Be Here Now — my life’s mantra — follows me everywhere.

And tomorrow, while I try not to panic and gag at the thought of all that labor entails, I will remember how I felt the day a curly-haired Spencer walked into a cafe and met my eyes with a smile. How we talked and sipped coffee on the first warm day of spring, soaking up the sunshine in a stiff breeze, and how my nerves drifted away immediately.

There was such a sense of this is right, you know? A sense of realness that I have never questioned. Anticipation buzzed right through me.

Five years later, we’ll be listening to the early signs of labor and taking notes. Later, we’ll pop over to the restaurant where we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day — probably one of our last “nice nights out” before Baby J arrives — and likely reminisce about that day at Panera.

It’s fun to remember what was . . . but even better to think of what will be.

As long as he’s next to me.


Wedding

Christmas 2014