I Am A Character In A Greek Myth

Taking care of a newborn calls to mind many a Greek or Roman mythology allusion. The number of rags and receiving blankets we tear through is obscene; the moment I put on clean sheets, and tunnel my way into clean, soft, bliss, they are christened with sprays of breast milk (my fault) or spit up (Little V’s fault). Sometimes, during a diaper change, Little V will pee and/or poo right as we are putting on the new diaper. On one particularly egregious occasion, I went through 4 diapers before I was able to finally take leave of the changing table. On another, after putting away 3 loads of laundry today, I realized another entire (almost full) load had accumulated in the meantime.

The time she spends feeding is not per se an unmanageable amount of time, but it seems that with the feeding, burping, feeding again, changing, burping again, then possibly changing again, a 40 minute process turns quickly into a two-hour ordeal. Or I finish the process, sit down for 10 minutes to start something, and it’s time to go again. I’m usually an extremely efficient person, and it’s difficult to suddenly realize 4 hours has passed, and not really be able to identify what I’ve accomplished, aside from feeding Little V. Today, I finished putting away 2 loads of laundry – by the way, I didn’t even do the laundry, my dad did – wrote a thank you note, cleaned the cat litter boxes, Googled symptoms of newborn constipation and acid reflux, and called an online boutique to bitch about the fact my order was placed 19 days ago and still has not been shipped. It’s now 1:45 p.m. Next up on the agenda include a call to lactation support, working out, and bath for baby. Let’s see how we fare.

This certainly harks back to the story of Sisyphus, who was doomed to roll a gigantic boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back to the bottom, repeatedly, for all of eternity. My mother once told me cleaning up after us was a Sisyphean task, except she was referring to me as a teenager, not a newborn, so I guess this will continue for many years.

I also frequently describe leaving the house with a newborn (to do practically anything) as a Herculean task. Even a quick trip to the grocery store has required a concerted effort. We’ve had to learn how to make her comfortable in the car seat, time the outings when she is sleeping, and make sure there’s an exit plan in case she starts crying or gets hungry while we’re out. I like to think we’ve actually done quite well. We usually take no more than 15 minutes getting everything together on our way out, which I think is an accomplishment in and of itself. Yet, the planning and supplies that go with any outing do feel a bit daunting.

I’ve also always said that reproduction is an act of narcissism, in that people’s self-love drives them to replicate themselves. I do look at Little V sometimes and think she bears quite a bit of similarity to me as a baby. On the other hand, I saw a picture of her the other day and hoped she had not inherited my asymmetrical eyelids and that it was merely the angle of the photo.

We used to receive extra credit in Latin class for discussing daily references to Greek or Roman mythology, and I’m pretty sure this post would have pleased Ms. Altieri.

Yet, despite my complaints and ridiculous comparisons to mythology, I am incredibly grateful to be able to have a child in my particular circumstances, with the aid of a wonderful husband, parents, friends, advanced medicine, and Google.

Choice

After all my complaining yesterday, most of which came to mind at 1:00 a.m. when I woke up for no reason and could not go back to sleep, I leaned toward more grateful thoughts when I woke up in the morning, and instead considered what a blessing it is that I have enough choice in the matter to even be able to contemplate, weigh, and choose the advantages, disadvantages, and life changes of having children.

There was a not-so-distant time in human history where reproduction seemed close to inevitable, but science, technology, and the free market have created the present world in which I live, which allows me to have a choice.I have access to multiple forms of highly effective types of birth control, and abortion if required. If I wanted, I could live an unfettered life in which my career, love life, travels, conveniences, and everything else in life, are not impacted by children. If I wanted.

Having the choice leads to agonizing over-analysis, but it’s still better than the alternative.

Being Preggo: The Good Parts

Doctor’s Appointments

Ultrasounds are fun! It’s amazing what medical technology has done for humanity. Just a couple of months in, you can see your little fetus bouncing around and waving her hand inside your belly. It’s neat-o. She looks like a little alien and sucks her thumb. By the time of the anatomy scan around 20 weeks, they have the ability to scan the entire fetus organ by organ, to ensure everything is in its right place and in developmental order. But don’t think for a minute this has eroded my rabid support for abortion and reproductive rights.

Friends

People are quite supportive and friends you may not even have been very close to will periodically check in on you, which is very sweet and thoughtful. Also, the bar is considerably lowered for you in terms of life. You will be praised for doing mundane things like actually wearing heels and not looking like a total slob when leaving the house, and people will ask if you are capable of a 15-minute walk. You will feel like a champion just for getting through the bare minimum requirements of life. Just kidding. This is actually not entirely a good thing.

I am also incredibly fortunate in that I have many friends who are pregnant at the same time as me (it’s an “we’ve hit the early thirties” thing). They are there to share experiences and advice, give good book recommendations, and be positive when I’m not feeling so sure (or to reaffirm that they are not so enthusiastic about the same things, either!). I have 5 other friends having babies this year, so I feel less alone in this. This kind of support is priceless.

The Angst

This was on the complaints list as well, but there’s an aspect of this I suspect I have missed, and I somewhat welcome its return. It’s nice to have a head full of thoughts and ideas, however disjointed, nonsensical, and fleeting they are. I had two moments, one involving Donald Trump, and the other involving a lost cat that incited in me a uncontrollable word-vomiting in the form of angry blog posts. It’s not the best in terms of emotional regulation, but having been dry on ideas for some time, it was refreshing to be reinvigorated again.

I entered two poetry contests for absolutely no reason. I do not even write poetry but my husband’s cousin posted a link of random free writing contests for the month of March and one thing led to another. Since I can’t blog about beer anymore, I flipped through journals from 12 years ago and sorted through my thoughts and words from what seems like a lifetime ago, to turn them into blog posts. It was like a 20 year old me left behind pieces of a puzzle for 32 year old me to put back together. If I really want to keep this up I have 12+ journals worth of junk to sort through, but we’ll see what whims strike next.

Preggo Complaints

I am making this list because I have read from more than one source that evolution is such that a woman conveniently forgets the discomforts of pregnancy and labor, because if she didn’t, she’d be less inclined to reproduce quite as frequently. This is concerning because I believe in making informed decisions, and if my own experiences and recollections are going to be erased, it seems I would not be making as informed of a decision as is ideal the next time around. I’m only coming up on week 20 here though, so surely this is not a comprehensive description and there will be more to come.

Peeing

I previously erroneously assumed that peeing at all hours of the night was only a thing once your belly was quite large and the uterus began to push on the bladder. I was disappointed to learn that waking up 2+ times a night begins almost immediately, because your body is in the process of creating more blood and fluids, and your kidneys are working in overdrive! This was certainly a surprise to me. The good news: It only lasted for 4 months, and for the last couple of weeks, I have been sleeping straight through the night again. Whew. I know, enjoy it while I can.

Bad Sleep

I am a champion sleeper when not pregnant. I have the ability to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, and very few things can disrupt my sleep, including earthquakes, doors slamming, or my cats meowing for food. Sometimes, a cat has to give me a pretty good chomp on the hand to wake me up, and even then, I fall back asleep easily. It is only upon hearing one of my cats chew off a piece of our bed frame in hunger that I have felt guilty enough to come to consciousness (this has happened before). However, pregnancy has changed this. Obviously, waking up to go pee is partially to blame, but there are other contributors, like hormones, probably. I found that I often could not fall asleep, and/or would wake up earlier than I wanted even if I was extremely tired. Or, I would wake up to pee for the second or third time, and then not be able to fall back asleep for 3 hours. The good news: The body pillow really helped. In the last couple of weeks, I haven’t needed it, but I did find it of immediate use when I first got it.

Nausea

Mine wasn’t even that bad, and part of me thinks I don’t even have a right to complain. But it still sort of sucks and even though I did not throw up, for several hours a day, I would feel carsick. Foods I usually loved sounded disgusting. The only things that sounded remotely appetizing were gummy bears and white bread (super healthy). There are still foods I don’t want to eat now because I ate them while nauseous and they continue to seem unpleasant, two months later. The good news: I thought forgoing beer would be difficult, but it turns out the idea of beer is rather vile when you feel constantly carsick.

Fatigue

Even when I did sleep enough, there were 3 weeks where it was really difficult to get through the work day. Every advice column says to be liberal with naps and to take them as needed, but this simply isn’t realistic. First of all, I have always abhorred naps. I am not able to cut them off at 30 minutes to an hour, and I wake up 3 hours later in a dazed, foul, mood, feeling like I’ve wasted my life. This meme accurately captures my feeling about naps:

That being the case, I’d theoretically be open to naps under these new circumstances, but honestly, who takes naps at work? I have a nice private office, but there’s no couch, and I’m not going to sprawl out in the office lobby sofa to snooze for 20 minutes while everyone else goes about their business. That is not comfortable, and I probably would not be able to fall asleep under those circumstances anyway.

By the time I got home, getting the motivation to work out was pretty much a fantastical notion. I just wanted to sprawl on the couch and do nothing. A sedentary activity like reading was tolerable, but sometimes I would fall asleep while reading. This was the time I really needed a nap, after slogging through the work day, but does it really make sense to take a nap at 6:00 p.m., wake up at 7:00 p.m., then go to bed two hours later? Because that’s about how late I was able to stay up regardless of how much sleep I was getting, so why waste one more hour of the day being unconscious?

Overall, I really felt like I needed 10 hours of sleep a night to sort of feel normal the next day, get through work, and not need to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. Even when I did get enough sleep though, I lacked energy overall and could not do the things I wanted to do, or enjoy things I normally enjoy. Everything seemed like a monumental task, even activities I usually like. Fatigue cast a bland, dull pall over the luster of life. Everything was tiring, boring, or too much. I ended up watching a lot of telly, and then hating myself for it, because I hate telly and felt like a waste of life. Good times. The good news: This was only really bad for like 2-3 weeks and in this time, I tore through My Man Jeeves; Right Ho, Jeeves; Rebecca; and Expecting Better (a highly recommended read for preggos).

Exercise

Within 3 weeks of finding out I was pregnant, I felt like I aged 10 years. Hills I previously sprinted with regularity had me huffing and puffing. I could not even finish running up one particularly steep hill I used to jog frequently with no problem (had been doing it for 3+ years). The boring, 20-minute jog we usually do became too much, and I had to stop and walk in the middle. This was very frustrating, as it felt like I was working out 3-4 times a week only to increasingly grow out of shape.

Getting Fat

This needs no explanation. You can’t control it. You’re supposed to gain weight, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. I crave foods I don’t normally crave, and am open to ingesting all kinds of desserts I never touched before. I rarely used to buy ice cream. If I did, it would be a small container once, at most twice a year, and it was exclusively Haagen Dazs’s rum raisin. But when I was about 10 weeks pregnant, we were at CVS with a friend picking up pain medications after his vasectomy (isn’t the juxtaposition beautiful?), and I suddenly wanted cookies and cream ice cream. Really weird. I thought my weight gain would be slower, having cut out approximately 1,000 calories in beer a week, but I was sorely mistaken. There were weekends where I probably ingested more calories in sugar and desserts than any thing else. A new and unwelcome phenomenon.

Itching

This does not seem to be a common complaint, as far as I can tell, and maybe it was exacerbated with the dry winter weather, but I itch all over.  I have read it is caused by stretching skin, but I find myself frequently scratching my belly and boobs like a monkey. Super attractive and fun.

Angst

I have not felt this angsty since  I was 19. I cannot pinpoint it as anything other than a generalized feeling without a specific rational basis. I feel the need to write and vent a lot, as evidenced by my frequent, rambling, posts beginning March 17.

Fear

I’ve been quite honest with people who ask me about my thoughts, and have offered that I feel fearful. I’ve been reassured that I will make a “great” parent. While I’m not sure about “great” (though I’ll surely try), I do figure I am reasonably competent and responsible enough to you know, not totally ruin or kill a human being. That’s not really what I’m worried about.

I’ve never been anyone but me, and never lived a life for anyone but chiefly myself; quite frankly, I’ve been quite content this way, and now it all feels like it is coming to an end in some ways. My freedom will be significantly diminished, friendships and relationships are prone to change, and priorities will undoubtedly shift. Although I’m getting used to the idea, in the first month, I felt very much like I’d leaped off of a cliff without looking below.

My mother was a published author before I was born. Fuck. Is there some – or a lot of shit I gotta get done in the next 5 months? Goddamn.