Childbirth #2: the lightning round!

New big sister Lily meets baby Neve

When I was pregnant the first time around, I thought birth classes and birth plans were, to a certain extent, a silly waste of time and effort.

Both seemed to offer first-time mothers a false (but deeply, intensely desired) sense of control over something they ultimately have little real control over – namely, how the birth of a child happens. So as an alternative, Joe and I watched an informational DVD series about what happens in the mother’s body as the end of the pregnancy draws near, how to recognize early labor, etc.; and, at the urging of our doula, we filled out a birth plan that essentially said, “Jenn would really, REALLY like an epidural, but otherwise, we’ll try to roll with whatever happens.” Continue reading

More field notes from the front lines of parenthood

* I previously posted about how the second pregnancy is different from the first – but in what ways is it the same? Well, I’ve been lucky enough to never suffer nausea; because of my poor sense of smell, presumably, odors don’t bother me; the closest thing to a craving I’ve had is a slight urge to drink more fruit juice on a regular basis; I still hate how most maternity pants have no pockets (though I say this while realizing that because you have to constantly hike the stupid pants up all day, weighed down pockets might make the issue that much worse); peculiar to me, I think, my shins occasionally itch like mad, usually at night; I once again feel wildly self-conscious about the popped meat thermometer belly button; and because I walk through life naturally giving off a “don’t even think about touching me” vibe – which admittedly provided challenges in my dating days of yore – I have yet to suffer a stranger touching my belly. For the last thing, I am truly thankful.

* I’ve been wondering lately precisely how many times we will have to prompt Lily before she starts automatically including “please” with any and all requests. Currently, I’d estimate that we’ve posed the question, “How do you ask nicely?” about 14,000 times, and it’s gotten really old – and automatic, not surprisingly, so that on the rare occasion when she’s said “please” to start with, I catch myself saying, “How do you – oh. Right.”

* Perhaps the upside of her hearing this sentence construction thousands of times already is that she has demonstrated a decent grasp of adverbs at age two, which warms my writer-geek heart. “Walk slowly, Mama,” she’ll say, or “She’s not feeling very well.” Bless her little grammatically correct heart.

* When I don’t have to review a show on Friday night, and sometimes even when I do, we try to have Shabbos dinner. So we light candles, say the prayers (yes, I’ve phonetically learned the Hebrew, after much practice), and after clinking glasses, Lily has learned to say, “Shabbat shalom, Mommy and Daddy.” She has no idea what these rituals are all about, of course; and I’m merely riding on the coattails of Joe’s culture; but I will say that I really like that this has already been established as a simple tradition in our family, and that Lily embraces it and feels a part of it.

* In a similar vein, I recently bought a Passover book from her pre-school book order, and it’s truly bizarre. It’s based on The Gingerbread Man, but it’s the Matsoh Man, who everyone ends up eating at the seder. I don’t know what Lily thought of this story, but like the afikomen, I may be hiding this book. It just creeped me out a little.

* We’re mostly through the “I’m going to see how much I can control you” stuff, I think, but this morning, it reared its ugly head again by way of Lily insisting that I go put on the red shirt I was wearing yesterday. I refused, and this didn’t go well. She screamed and screamed at me, pulling on my sleeve, and this time, I thought, “I’ve got a lot to do before leaving. Why don’t I do these things instead of watching her turn purple?” So I said, “I don’t respond to people who scream at me,” and I unloaded the dishwasher, went upstairs to put in my contact lenses, etc. All the while, she pathetically tailed me every step of the way, squalling and bawling. The strategy eventually led to her calling it quits, which pleased me. But then I remind myself that one of the many frustrating, maddening things about parenting is that what works today won’t work tomorrow. Peace is always a moving target, and you’ve got to keep moving with it – which gets exhausting, but it’s simply part of the game.

* On a recent morning, Lily refused to let me change her diaper and get her dressed, I received an angry work e-mail, and the dishwasher flooded the kitchen floor. This last event was my cue to lose it. So just as water poured out everywhere, the floodgates inside me burst, and I bent over to cry for a minute. Lily was in the midst of doing something I asked her not to do, of course, but to her credit, she dropped it upon seeing me upset and ran to me, opening her arms wide to hug me. “It’s OK, Mommy,” she said. “It’s OK.”

“Thank you, sweetie,” I said. “Mommy’s just tired and sad this morning. But hugs always help. They help a lot. Thank you.”

I can’t tell you how much it means to me to see signs of empathy in Lily at such a young age. On the walk to preschool that morning, I thanked her again for hugging me and added, “I’m really proud of you for giving me a hug when you saw that I was sad. That was exactly the right thing to do, and I appreciate it.”

* Lily’s going through a fabulous phase just now, wherein she’ll sing made up songs and words for long stretches of time. (She sometimes sings the whole way on our morning walk from the door of our house to the door of pre-school – often while making naked Barbies dance in her hands.) Not always, but the tune often vaguely resembles “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Here she is in action:

Run, Mommy, run! Exercising (and drawing stares) through pregnancy

Maintaining my regular running regimen – which ideally involves going on 2.5 to 4 mile runs a few times a week – since having Lily has been challenging enough; but since becoming pregnant, it’s become damn near impossible. (Shoving a bunch of doctor’s appointments and tests and screenings into already-overstuffed days? Please.) But I’m trying my best.

It was much easier the first time around, of course. While pregnant with Lily, I “ran” quite regularly until 10 days before my due date, adapting as my belly grew so that by the end, I alternated stretches of slow jogging with walking. 

And during that first running-while-pregnant experience, the responses of those around me varied widely. There was the woman who stood in her yard and drily asked me, “Are you trying to induce yourself?”

And there were naturally lots of double-takes and stares at the gym when I ran on the treadmill. (I got the distinct impression that the employees were secretly terrified that I’d spontaneously give birth during their shift.)

But then, there was also the woman who, while I stretched with Joe after a gym workout one evening, approached to say that she and her husband were thinking about having a child; but because she’d previously been quite heavy in the past, she was nervous about putting a lot of weight back on during and after pregnancy. Continue reading

More differences re: the second pregnancy

I thought of several more things that are different this time around:

6. I felt like I was showing even before the little blue plus sign appeared on the stick. Yes, though some of it’s in your head, the female body does seem to immediately snap back into a “we’re going to need some room down here!” mode. (Thankfully, bulky winter clothes allowed me to hide the truth before we were ready to share.) But even so, I find I’m holding on to wearing my “regular” clothes this time, rather than diving right into the bin of borrowed maternity clothes. I remember, during my first pregnancy, hating the vaguely pudgy, “baby bump” stage that arrived during the second trimester, wherein onlookers couldn’t be sure if I was pregnant or “letting myself go.” So I started wearing maternity clothes before they were a physical necessity, in part, I think, because I thought it would send a clear signal to the world regarding my status; but I was also, in a way, trying on the idea of pregnancy and motherhood. These notions seemed so abstract to me at the time that having tangible items – like patently ugly maternity business slacks and blouses – somehow helped make something I couldn’t see feel more real. This time around, though, I don’t much care whether people know that I’m pregnant during this in-between stage; and I’m in no hurry to have my daily clothing choices limited.

7. Halle Berry’s pregnancy was concurrent with my first pregnancy, which was, to say the least, tiresome. Here she was, splashed across magazine covers, gorgeous and blooming in stylish designer maternity duds, while my also-pregnant sister-in-law and I were showing up for dinners wearing the same stupid black and white maternity work blouse. This time around, Natalie Portman is the Hollywood star who’s on the baby track with me; and she’s gorgeous, too, but less aggressively so, so it’s somehow less annoying.

8. For some reason – and this wasn’t true the first time – I haven’t had a bad hair day since conception. I don’t know what’s going on, but that’s been a nice, unexpected bonus.

9. During the first pregnancy, Joe went with me to every doctor’s appointment; this time, I’ve gone solo, and I’m totally fine with that. The first time, you’re both fragile and worried about everything that could go wrong. The second time, you generally assume everything’s fine unless you hear otherwise. This sounds less dramatic and romantic, perhaps, but it’s far more comfortable, too – a fitting general description of a second pregnancy.

Because who can resist the chance to wear those super-stylish maternity clothes one more time?

This is a Google Images baby, not our baby. Duh. I mean, it doesn’t even look like us!

Yes, for those who have read the blog for a while now, we are, indeed, closing our eyes and jumping – which is to say, in the face of all that could go wrong, and after somehow surviving Lily’s babyhood and slowly re-claiming some of the little pleasures we’d had to temporarily give up, we’re starting from ground zero again. The second (and definitely last) Grekin-McKee is currently scheduled for an early July arrival.

This was not an easy decision for us, obviously. Nurturing a baby is hard enough, but add onto that constant responsibility the need to engage with and love the child you already have, who will inevitably be a little heartbroken initially, and you’ve got a recipe for emotional and physical exhaustion.

So why are we doing this? (No, it’s not because it’d make for better blog material.) As with all tough choices, there’s no one answer that wholly satisfies. Both Joe and I felt that having a sibling, on a basic level, provides you with a person who bears witness to your life from its beginnings and shares (and thus understands) your history; as well as someone who might share the burdens, emotional and otherwise, that arise as parents age or grow ill and die.

Admittedly, that’s a bit bleak. So on the lighter end of things, I’d note that the other thing that finally tipped the scales for me was thinking, whenever Lily raced across a room to hug the stuffing out of me, how amazing it is to be loved so completely by a little person. “Who wouldn’t want to be loved like this even more?” I thought. “And how can I resist the chance to love another child in the same way?”

Cheesy and overly romanticized, I know, but it’s nonetheless true. The answer to “Why would I do this all again?” was ultimately: to feel and receive more ridiculously all-consuming love. Continue reading