Saturday, May 18, 2019

NICU

After all of the drama bringing Genevieve into the world, I was really hoping the hard part was over.

They tested her blood sugar shortly after she was born, and the numbers were lower than hoped for... they gave her some glucose gel, and retested a few hours later.

To be honest, these hours are really foggy in memory. She was born shortly before midnight on Sunday, and we were moved to the mother and baby room in the wee hours of Monday morning. I remember waking up feeling hot and sick to my stomach again, and I know they kept testing her blood sugar. She was very sleepy and not interested in nursing. We gave her a bit of formula and her blood sugar still wasn’t where it needed to be.

All this to say, baby girl ended up getting herself admitted to the NICU because of her low blood sugar.

Apparently this is an issue that is relatively common for "late pre-term" babies, and can show up in babies that have very long labors or very short labors. We're not really sure which one I had, since I was hooked up to an IV and having mild contractions for more than 48 hours, but I really didn't get anything going until the doctor broke my waters, and then she was born two hours later. So... fast or slow, she needed IV glucose.

They called her a "big kid" in the NICU because compared to their wee premies, a six pounder apparently seemed big to them. (Having had eight-and-a-half-pound Coco, I still felt like she was a teensy little thing.) They also called her one of their "sugar babies," which was cute sounding, except it all still meant that she was hooked up to an IV and monitor and had cords everywhere and her poor little heel was getting pricked every three hours to test her blood.

We were feeding her formula every three hours and upping her glucose IV as needed until her numbers got up above 60.

I have to say, I really liked the NICU doctor and the nurses were great. But being there was scary. We were in this dark little cubical of a room with a couch and what was literally the most uncomfortable recliner in existence. Sitting in in was painful, and it was so hard to put the foot rest down that I literally didn't have the core strength to do it. The monitors beeped incessantly.

The hospital gives you two nights for a vaginal birth... and since she was born at 11:32pm, the midnight that came half an hour later counted as my first night. My second night they moved me down to the NICU floor, which was good because I was close to Baby G and because there were far fewer interruptions--nobody took my vitals every few hours, so I actually got a bit of sleep that night, except that I got up to go feed the baby because I wanted to try breastfeeding before each bottle of formula that she was getting.

The nurses kept wanting me to pump, but I knew my milk hadn't come in and also I hate pumping. I have always had oversupply issues, and I knew that my milk would come in regardless of whether or not I was trying to "stimulate" it with a pump because it definitely came in after I lost Eliza and the engorgement was horrifying and traumatic. So it was just a waiting game. I pumped a couple of times as a show of good faith and gave her a couple pumped drops of colostrum, in addition to nursing her before each bottle feeding. It's freaking discouraging to pump for fifteen minutes and get nothing!

It was amazing to me how quickly we acclimated to the NICU. I went in wide eyed and terrified, and cried through the whole explanation from the nurse of what was happening and how she'd be monitored. By the end of the day, I was navigating the Giraffe pod and the parents lounge and the dim, beeping room suddenly felt like home.

I had to check out of the hospital on Tuesday, but Baby G was in the NICU for a couple more nights. David convinced me to go home and sleep for a few hours on Tuesday night after her midnight feeding, mostly because my poor mom had caught the stomach bug and was not functioning, so we wanted to help my dad manage getting the girls up and off to school in the morning.

We had sort of disappeared on the girls on Friday--one friend picked them up from school and fed them dinner, another friend picked them up from there are brought them home and put them to bed and waited for my parents to arrive. They got to meet Genevieve briefly on Monday morning before going to school, but then she was in the NICU and my mom was sick so no one was visiting. Coco was struggling a little bit (metldown city), so we decided it would be helpful for us to be at home briefly.

But let me tell you, leaving the hospital and leaving her there in the NICU felt impossible. I literally couldn't think about it. I walked out of the hospital and got in the car and drove home but I just couldn't wrap my head around what was happening.

The next morning, we were back in the NICU and told David that I was sleeping there until she got released. I was so swollen from my IV meds that my feet were unrecognizable. My eyelids felt grainy and dry.  My nasal congestion had immediately cleared up when I delivered, and my face was slightly less puffy as a result, but my muscles were still sore from the body aches. I felt like I had no appetite, but I had to eat and drink to flush the fluids out of my body. All I did was sit and hold the baby and drink water.

Her numbers were getting better at this point, but it was a slow weaning process from the glucose IV and she had to pass a "car seat test" where they put her in the car seat for 90 minutes and monitor all her vitals to make sure her heart rate and oxygen levels don't drop.

She failed the car seat test the first time--after an hour, her oxygen level dropped below 90 for 32 seconds (30 seconds is the limit). And this was so discouraging--we couldn't leave until she passed, and all I wanted to do was go home, but also I didn't want to take her home if she was in any danger of her oxygen levels dropping. I feel like I spent those NICU days just weeping on and off, knowing that it could be so much worse, but wanting everything to be different.

David went home again Wednesday night, and I stayed and slept on the couch in the NICU room. I felt like I didn't sleep at all, except apparently I was sound asleep when our pediatrician came through. (Side note: I loved so much that our pediatrician visited Genevieve in the hospital every single day--and she was friends with the NICU doctor from medical school, so it made me feel like they were a really collaborative team.)

Finally, it was Thursday and she was completely off the glucose IV and we tried the car seat test again that afternoon, with a specialist car seat fitter person making sure that everything was set up exactly right for our little six-pounder. This time, she passed the test perfectly and I cried again with happiness because we were finally headed home, almost a week after I'd initially been admitted to the hospital.

Of course, Thursday night I called the pediatrician in a panic because I thought Genevieve looked really jaundiced (and she was a little jaundiced, but the doctor assured me that her levels couldn't rise from where they'd been that afternoon to the danger zone in just a few hours. I was scheduled to see the pediatrician the next morning at 9am, so I went to bed feeling reassured). I was beyond relieved to be home, but suddenly it was terrifying not to have monitors and experienced eyes on all her vitals... it was just me!

(Well, me and the Owlet sock, which was definitely a good investment for my peace of mind.)

And so here we are... at home, baby asleep in my arms, the NICU in the rearview mirror. So grateful for the care she got, and so incredibly thankful that she is home with us now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Genevieve's Birth Story

I'm starting this post by saying that there are parts that are scary and maybe triggery for anyone who has lost a baby late in pregnancy. One of the biggest struggles was keeping my mind off of the stories I know of babies in situations not unlike Genevieve's. Anyway, here it goes... it'a long, but I can promise you a happy ending.



I had a regular non-stress scheduled for Friday, May 3, along with a growth ultrasound. I'd had a monitoring appointment on Monday, saw my OB on Thursday, and had this appointment on Friday, so I was feeling relatively calm. I'd just finished up the last week of classes and had finished writing my final exams. I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant. My biggest concern was that my ankles and feet were swelling--not necessarily a big deal, but something I associate with my pregnancy with Eliza. Basically, I just kept asking every health care professional I saw last week to reassure me that it was fine (and they all did).

I'd mentioned to David that this would probably be my last big ultrasound, so if he had time, he should try to be there. He was swamped with meetings and end of year stuff at school, so I was shocked when I saw him walk into the waiting room. He gave me a quick kiss and then explained that he wasn't actually there to see me--he'd had to bring a student to the hospital. That was unfortunate, but then he did get to be there to see the ultrasound after all.

Baby looked perfect on the ultrasound. She practiced breathing, her weight was estimated around 6 pounds, they printed some pictures for us. D hung out with me as we started the NST and everything was going just fine. He decided he needed to get back to work and I told him that I'd stop by Trader Joe's on the way home.

Maybe ten minutes later, I was feeling a lot of movement and watching the monitor. I noticed that the baby's heartrate was going down instead of up as she moved, which I knew was problematic. I remember thinking that I want to ask the nurses about that. Then my phone dinged that I had a text and I looked down at it. I don't even remember who that text was from or what it said, because the next thing I knew, there were three nurses in the room with me. They leaned my chair all the way back and had me roll onto my side. I immediately started crying and shaking even though I wasn't sure what was going on. Later, I would learn that baby was having a serious deceleration--the downward trend I'd noticed kept going and ended up lasting three and a half minutes.

The nurse asked where my husband had gone and told me to call him and tell him to come back. Tell him that we were going to have the baby. The maternal fetal medicine doctor had made the call to admit me. I was still crying when they put me on a gurney and rushed me upstairs. They got me on monitors upstairs right away and I calmed down when baby looked absolutely fine and I knew that lots of eyes were watching her heart rate.

The nurse who checked me in was wonderful. She told me that the deceleration alone wasn't necessarily that "exciting," but combined with my history, they wanted to be extremely cautious. I remember asking her to call my OB and her explaining that he wasn't on call but she'd talk to his partner who was and I tried to explain that he is always on call for me! She knew my doctor (and all the nurses love him because he's awesome and because he brings them candy) so she said she would tell his partner to just give him a call. She told me that in this situation it was likely that they'd ask me what I wanted to do--be monitored for 24 hours or be induced. I told her that I wanted my doctor to make that decision (which he ended up doing).

At some point, David showed up and we were moved to another room. I texted my doula to let her know what was happening and she happened to be driving past the hospital on her way home from downtown, so she went ahead and came up to see us. Around that time, we learned that my doctor had given the orders to go ahead and induce. But instead of our usual game plan of cervidil, as I'd done successfully with both Zuzu and Coco, he wanted a pitocin drip instead. Pitocin can be shut off quickly, should the baby should appear to be in distress and they needed to do an emergency c-section. But once cervidil starts, it gets absorbed so you can't exactly turn it off.

This wasn't great news because of the terrible Bradley method class I took when I was pregnant with Eliza, which convinced me that pitocin was the devil and would always result in a "cascade of interventions." I was still hoping to deliver naturally without an epidural, but I also was more than ready to have a c-section to get this baby out alive, so I was definitely willing to follow my doctor's advice even though I'd never had pitocin before and it made me nervous.

We started the pitocin drip around 9pm and they upped the dosage every hour overnight. I had mild contractions--nothing I couldn't talk through--but I felt like we were making progress and it didn't seem to be the horror drug that the Bradley method woman had insisted it was.

My doula came back Saturday morning around 9am and I was hoping that we'd follow the same kind of timeline as we had with Zuzu and Coco--start induction overnight, deliver the baby in early afternoon, recover from all of that Saturday evening, have the girls come visit on Sunday, and spend Sunday evening with baby on breast watching Game of Thrones.

Despite the contractions being mild, I found it difficult to sleep Friday night. The bed felt to me like it was stuffed with gravel. Every point of contact was painfully sore. Then on Saturday morning, I started feeling cold, hot, and generally feverish. I wondered if these body aches were a side effect of the pitocin. I kept trying to articulate the discomfort I was feeling, but no one really expects to feel comfortable during natural labor. It wasn't long though, before I was sitting on an exercise ball and realized I felt light-headed. I lay down on the bed and then realized that I was going to throw up.

Now, I'm no stranger to puking during labor. I did this a LOT when I was delivering Zuzu--sometimes the contractions are just so strong that you've gotta barf. But this was different. Yes, I was having contractions. But they weren't connected to the waves of nausea that I was experiencing. The contractions were mild compared to the uncontrollable barfing that started happening.

Seriously, I could not stop puking. Even when there was nothing left in me, I was lying in the hospital bed on my left side, my hip and shoulder aching where they met the mattress, my stomach enormous and filled with moving baby and an intermittently contracting uterus, just dry-heaving my guts out. I puked so hard I wet the bed. And I felt so freaking sick that I didn't even care at all.

It was at the moment of bed-wetting that I realized this was unsustainable. I could not do this. The nurses were also realizing that what was going on with my fever and barfing had nothing to do with the induction. David--who by this point was also feeling nauseous and looking pale and gray--mentioned that Zuzu came home from school on Wednesday with a stomach virus and it wasn't long before it was determined that the same stomach bug had struck me--just at the very moment I was being induced.

They turned off the pitocin to focus on getting me through the worst of it. My pitocin drip was replaced with anti-nausea medicine and fluids to replenish everything I'd barfed (and peed) out. I still had occasional mild contractions, but the worst of it was the body aches, which just hurt all over and made lying in bed painful. Plus I started swelling from the fluids, so my legs and feet were unrecognizable.

Through all of this, baby is on the monitor looking 100% absolutely fine.

By Saturday night, my poor doula had already been with us for something like 10 hours and I was no where near having a baby. She had rubbed my sore muscles and put cold rags on my neck while I vomited, but that was just treating a stomach virus--it actually had nothing to do with pregnancy, labor, or delivery! As it turned out, I suppose having that stomach bug strike at the hospital was fortunate in that I had excellent care and IV meds that probably pulled me through much faster than I would have recovered at home--plus someone else to clean up all the vomit and urine. It was still pretty nightmareish, though. I'd never  even thought about being sick and being in labor at the same time!

Saturday night I was drained and exhausted, but I still felt much better, and we decided to restart the pitocin slowly around midnight. Baby still had to be born! My doula (bless her heart) agreed to come back the next day around 9:30am. I was still hopeful that things would go smoothly and I'd have the baby in time to watch Game of Thrones.

(Spoiler: I didn't get to see Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones.)

As it turned out, the fearsome pitocin, devil drug of pregnancy, was ineffective. My doctor shrugged and said, "Some uteruses are unresponsive to pitocin." And I apparently have one of them. They started cranking it up every half hour because I was never getting anything but mild and inconsistent contractions and around 4:30pm on Sunday, the pitocin was giving me 20 mUnit/min and we weren't really making any progress.

I mean really WTF.

Baby still looked perfect on the monitors, but I had been on IV fluids for more than 48 hours and was like a swollen tick. I asked David if he could believe how big my face was and he said he didn't think it looked that bad and I was like, "YOU THINK I ALWAYS LOOK LIKE THIS?"

It was time to take next steps. The nurse kept talking about when they'd break my waters, but I wanted to let my waters break on their own. My labor and delivery with Coco was so amazing and I think letting the waters break on their own was a big part of that. Plus I was like 1 1/2 cm dilated and maybe 70% effaced? My doctor suggested a Foley bulb.

I had just heard of this device from a friend of mine--and heard that it was a horror show. I was initially resistant based on her experience, but when it was that or break my waters, it seemed like the lesser of the two evils. Plus, I was sort of on a timeline since I'd been on the IV for so long and had been induced due to the baby being in distress (although she never showed further signs of distress once I got up to labor and delivery).

So my doctor inserted this balloon up above my cervix, promising that if I hated it or wanted it out, they'd remove it.

It felt disgusting. It felt gross and heavy and kind of like having a speculum inserted for a pap smear. Unpleasant and unnatural. But it was supposed to get me to dilate and I was so, so ready to get this baby out. So I hung out with it, first just resting, then taped to my thigh to put more pressure on the cervix. When it fell out, my doula was sort of astonished. She told me I was her first client to actually use the Foley bulb successfully rather than insist on having it removed. David said he was going to start calling me "Nails" because I was so tough. I was just VERY motivated, folks. I'd already been in the hospital for two days!

So I was four centimeters dilated, having more contractions, but still things weren't moving along super fast. We totally missed Game of Thrones and by 9:30pm I was SO ready to get this baby out of me.

A nurse had told me earlier that due to my low platelet count, anesthesiology wasn't sure I was a candidate for an epidural. I said that was fine; I didn't want one anyway, but she explained that it meant that in the case of an emergency c-section I'd have to go totally under general anesthesia. I was starting to get concerned that if I didn't deliver relatively soon that I'd end up needing a c-section, and I think if I'd had a different doctor, we probably would have gone in that direction. I'm so fortunate that baby's heart rate remained perfect on the monitor, no matter how much puking I did. But at this point, having a c-section on top of a stomach bug was really unappealing. I was ready to give it a go at pushing the baby out.

Once they broke my waters (around 9:30pm), I got in the big tub in the room to labor there. I was so uncomfortable because my legs were so swollen I couldn't sit on my knees and rest my butt on my heels. I ended up sitting sideways like a cheerleader in the tub. But finally the contractions started FOR REAL.

All the intensity and frequency that had been missing from my "surges" (in doula speak) showed up and I labored in the tub, trying to yoga breathe. I was not as cool, calm, and collected as I had been during Coco's birth. I was tired. I was still achy. I was swollen. I was scared.

(Baby still looked great on the monitor.)

I couldn't have told you how long I was in there, but labor progressed pretty rapidly. The nurse asked if she could check me and I told her no (in what could only be called an unfriendly tone). I also horked up the soup and bread bowl I'd eaten for dinner. Poor David thought that was going to make him puke, but instead he let me breathe barf breath all over him while he held the bucket and I squeezed his hand. This was vomiting directly related to contractions, although I still felt a bit nauseous the next morning (the bug also lingered a bit longer for David since he didn't get any IV meds for nausea and just had to soldier through it).

My doula told me to let her know when I had to push, and the way she whispered it to me, I thought it would be like a secret and I wouldn't have to get out of the tub. But no. When I said that I wanted to push, she went and told the nurse, and they had me get out of the tub and move over to the bed. Things got super painful and I had a flashback to Zuzu's birth when I thought she was broken into sharp pieces inside me. I remember yelling (screaming?) that something was wrong but everyone kept assuring me that everything was great and I was doing everything right. David said he was kind of worried when I started freaking out, but he kept watching my doctor's face and the doctor was so calm that he knew everything was fine. In fact, the doctor apparently got called to another birth WHILE I was pushing the baby out and he answered his cell phone with one hand and said calmly, "Okay, I'll be there as soon as I finish up here," before putting his phone away, pulling on a new glove and catching the baby.

And then finally, FINALLY she was out of me and I was so relieved and my doctor had to tell me to reach down and grab the baby, and I did and she was perfect. Tiny, but perfect.

6 pounds, 9 ounces. 20 inches long. Born at 36 weeks and 6 days after an entire weekend of being in labor or barfing or both. A perfect little punkin, and we are so grateful that she's ours.


Friday, April 26, 2019

So Close. So Far. 35 weeks, 4 days.

I had a dream that we went to pick up a crib. It was in a swanky apartment in Manhattan, but once we got inside, it was was so full we could hardly move around. I’d clearly misunderstood something. I thought the crib was from Restoration Hardware but instead it was from The Restoration—like the seventeenth century. It was elaborately carved, but all the bedding was in tatters. I thought we should take it anyway, but David was less sure. I don't know what we decided.

From there—still dreaming—we went to a monitoring appointment in a taxi in New York. We arrived at the hospital only to be told the baby had no heartbeat. I couldn't speak. “I’m so sorry,” said the young nurse wearing a pink and white striped uniform.

I woke then, panting. I lay still, my heart pounding, willing the baby to move. After several agonizing seconds, she did.

I nudged David. “I had a bad dream,” I whispered. When he asked me what it was about, I just started to cry.

***

My screen time usage has sky rocketed. Daily hours are double what it was in the fall. This is not because I can't stop scrolling Instagram or Pinterest. It's because most sedentary activity—reading, watching TV, being a passenger in a car—is paired with kick counting on an app. I do this in intervals of 10, mostly so I can make myself stop. And so I have comparable data points. How long does it take to get 10 kicks? Usually less than 10 minutes, now. But when baby was smaller, with my anterior placenta absorbing movement like the tempur-pedic mattress that doesn’t spill the wine glass even when the bowling ball is dropped on it, it took at least twenty minutes. Longer than any of my other babies. My doctor says 10 movements in two hours is fine. I’d crawl out of my skin waiting that long between the interior taps and pushes that promise me baby is, literally and figuratively, still kicking.

***
A friend asked me if hitting 35 weeks was a relief. She was acknowledging that I’m past the day of Eliza’s loss at 34 weeks 3 days. She wondered if I found relief in passing that milestone.
Yes, I said. Eliza was small. Maybe growth restricted? I’m being monitored so closely that I do believe if the exact same thing going on with Eliza was happening to this babe, we would know by now. We’d maybe even have the chance to intervene. So getting to 35 weeks makes things a bit easier.

And no. Because countless other things could also go wrong. Viability is pretty good at 35 weeks. Developmentally, it’s quite possible—likely even—that if i went into labor today, baby would survive on the outside. But while she’s still on the inside, i need to be hyper-vigilant. If something goes wrong, I have to notice decreased movement or some other symptom and take action in time to save the baby. I have to pay attention at all times—which is impossible.

“That‘s a lot of pressure,” said my friend.

Yes, I agreed. It can make it hard to sleep.

***

I’m typing this on my phone at 2am.

***

I tell myself that baby is big and healthy. Fluid levels are normal, Baby is active, heart rate has been strong and steady at every check in. I want to say that most babies are fine. I want to believe that my baby will be okay. Mostly, I do say this. I think this. I will myself to believe it.
But for every 99 women walking confidently with their bellies bulging and their nurseries decorated, there’s one of us. One of us who knows that normal measurements and steady heart rates don’t prevent a true knot in an umbilical cord. There’s one of us who knows that healthy, strong women trip and fall on the sidewalk, landing hard on that baby bump. There are placentas that inexplicably detach while you sit on your couch watching television—one moment you’re laughing at John Oliver, next moment you’re hemorrhaging in the bathroom. There are impossible to predict accidents that snatch healthy babies away just minutes or hours after their heartbeat comes galloping through the monitor or their foot reassuringly nudges your ribs. You can’t prepare. You can’t always prevent.

***

When people ask how I’m doing, I say, Fine! (Always with the exclamation mark.) Or great. I know how lucky I am to be pregnant, to have this chance. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Sometimes, depending on the person, I’ll admit that I’m tired, that I’m ready for the baby to be on the outside. And partly that’s for all the reasons people expect: because my crotch literally aches when I climb stairs, and my back is sore, and my feet are tired, and baby is pressing on my sciatic nerve again, and my body is so cumbersome it takes monumental effort to roll over and get out of bed to go pee at least once every night. But mostly it’s because when the baby is on the outside, it’s easier for me to see that she’s breathing. I'm ready for this baby to be on the outside because my own anecdotal experience is so skewed that I'm quite sure my odds of keeping this baby alive are drastically improved once she’s out of my uterus.

***

“I’ll be a double big sister,” Zuzu remarks as she contemplates a new baby. She is eating Life cereal. She sounds pleased and quite important: “I’m the oldest kid in our family.” I pour hot water over a tea bag and say nothing, watching her face as she thinks this through. Her brain is thinking about sisters. She is working out birth order. She adjusts her statement as though she's clarifying things for me: “Well, I’ll be the oldest kid in our family who’s alive. Because Eliza is eight.”

She explains this to me gently, matter-of-factly, as though these are the observations every six-year-old makes over a breakfast of yogurt and cereal, as though this is an idea I might not have considered before she mentioned it. Oh, my dear girl. It has been considered. She's simply repeating an abbreviated description of the greatest grief of my life, a truth that is tattooed on my heart and revisited daily, my thoughts tracing the pattern of that ache in its infinity spiral: This is actually my fourth baby. All girls. Eliza would be eight.

***

I got home from monitoring yesterday. It was a gray-ish day, but it felt like spring time in our kitchen. A bright table cloth. Baseball on television. Clementine making good use of the doggie door we recently installed. (Cooper won't use it because he has figured out that humans are his servants.) David paused from the prep of a Blue Apron* meal to give me a hug and a kiss and ask how it went.

(*This post is not sponsored by Blue Apron, although the mere thought of this being a post sponsored by Blue Apron makes me laugh. Gallows humor, folks.)

“Good,” I said. “Normal fluid levels. Baby still head down. Passed the non-stress test quickly.”

Coco walked over, wrapping her little arm around my thigh. “Mama,” she said, looking up with her impossibly big eyes: “Is your baby still alive?”

My breath catches for the briefest second before I reply. “Yes.”

I squat down beside her, that move that Meghan Markle makes look effortless in three inch heels, but which makes me grimace and grunt as I ungracefully reach one hand out to steady myself against a kitchen cabinet. I wrap my other arm around Coco, pulling her in for a hug and breathing in her sturdy and reassuring smell of playground mulch and watercolor paint and the faintest trace of lavender soap near her hairline. I kiss her soft cheek and squeeze her tight.

“Baby is still alive.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Quick Check In!

35 weeks was yesterday.

Active, responsive, uneventful monitoring appointment. Baby was head down.

I'm rereading Bridget Jones's Diary to teach it as an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and it's so terribly anti-feminist and so much fun to read.

My anti-racism workshop wrapped up last night and while I am relieved to have my Monday evenings back, I was sad. It was nerve-wracking at first, but it became a kind of refuge and a place to think about and talk about really hard things with other people who also care about wrestling with really hard things, many of whom are involved in organizations and practices I still want to learn more about. In fact, our group is so reluctant to let go of the little community we've formed, that we've already made some potluck plans for the month of June. I'm not sure whether I'll be up for attending (depends how early or late in June, I suppose), but I certainly hope to cross paths with many of them again, and I sought out several people to friend on FB even though I have such mixed feelings about FB. I am grateful that I joined the workshop.

The calendar remains pretty full this week, although tonight is blissfully open. In fact, today is literally the only day in the month of April that doesn't have some appointment or event scribbled in its little square. I plan to go home after work, put my feet up and do a kick count, do some yoga for sciatica, help David make a Blue Apron meal, and maybe watch a TV show after the girls go to bed. It's a real party over here, folks!

Later this week, I have more monitoring, a reflexology appointment, work meetings, the girls have a birthday party, and on Saturday we have tickets to a Cardinals game that I am totally regretting. I may send David and the girls and see if he wants to take a friend? I'm just not into the idea of walking and sitting in uncomfortable seats. At a Cards game or anywhere, really.

I'm thinking about doing some baby laundry. Haven't tackled it yet, but maybe this weekend?

We met my cousin's new baby when we were home for Easter. David and I talked about how tiny she is! And she weighed 7 lbs 12 oz when she was born, so she's just regular newborn tiny. Part of it might be that she has a petite little head (my babies do not tend to have petite heads) so that makes her seem small, considering the head is a huge percentage of the total baby size. Coco was obsessed with the baby, wanted to hold her, wanted to change her diaper. Zuzu commented that she was adorable and then went to play with baby's big sister. But Coco was all over the baby. I think she's going to be such a big helper and only slightly overwhelming and exhausting for both baby and me.

Speaking of which, we picked up new headphones for the girls at Target. Zuzu was with me and I bought her a set for ages 6+ and Coco a set for ages 2-8. When they tried them on at home, we realized the set for 6+ seemed better quality and had bigger ear covers, which both girls liked, so I went to exchange Coco's for one like Zuzu's. (That was my sole purpose in going to Target, though I managed to spend an additional $38 as I walked from the front of the store to the back because that is what Target does to me.) Anyway, the lady at customer service asked me if anything was wrong with the pair we were returning and I said no, the other pair just fit better and Zuzu piped up, "My sister has a really big head!"

My sciatica flared up after driving back home on Easter Sunday and has been making me pretty miserable. It's usually at its worst first thing in the morning, which tends to make me very cranky as we are all getting ready for school. I told David he has to take at least one of the girls to school tomorrow because I cannot handle shooting pain in my back/butt/thighs AND the drama of getting them out the door. It is too much for me. Today Coco was in tears because she wanted to wear fake hair to school but her school doesn't allow fake hair. Zuzu screamed at me when I was brushing her hair because it was tangly.

Coco has also been doing a lot of babyish stuff--talking like a baby, crawling like a baby, pretending she's the baby... it's cute and I'm sure it's normal. It's also a test of my patience at times. But she's still so sweet and snuggly. She really is still a baby. Who just so happens to be starting kindergarten next year! Sniffle.

Okay... back to grading, prepping, and a bathroom break due to a baby pressing on my bladder. Mood generally pretty up today as baby is kicking a lot. As Bridget Jones would say, v.g.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Diaper Bag

I haven’t bought a car seat for the baby. I don’t have any diapers on hand (although Coco helpfully reminds me every time we go to the store that Baby Sister will need diapers). I don’t have a bed for the baby yet (a bassinet is coming—on loan from a friend). I have a two outfits from when the girls were newborns that I was too sentimental to part with, and a bin of hand me down baby clothes in the basement. I’m not putting together a nursery until baby is here because I don’t have the time or energy at the moment and Baby will sleep in our room for a few months anyway. (I think I’ve decided to move Coco into Zuzu’s room... I may need to invest in a new dresser to make that happen, though).

Today I was on the Lands End website, ordering clearance winter coats for the girls to wear next year (super sale prices, plus 5% back through Ebates) and I remembered that as much as I loved the Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag I got at Eliza’s baby shower, my mom gave us a Lands End diaper bag that we used more as the girls got older because it was a little less precious and more like a canvas tote/backpack, so I didn’t mind crumpling  it under the stroller. We passed that bag along to my brother and his wife, who now have a two year old and a baby, so it’s still getting used (even though part of the interior lining got ripped because Cooper are goldfish crackers right through the mesh pocket and ziplock bag they were in).

I mulled it over a bit, and after I put a couple cute jackets in my cart, I clicked on diaper bags... they had the backpack style that seems to be all the rage right now and it was 40% off with the promo code they were advertising, so... I ordered a diaper bag.

I didn’t monogram it because we aren’t 100% settled on The Closer’s name yet. I think we know, but I feel like I need to see her. A lot of people are asking if it will be another C, but of course people who know know that the pattern starts with E... so even though there are a couple C names that made the short list (Clara, Cecilia, and Corinne are all favorites), I think we are going in a different direction. We’d like to do a family name (a boy baby would have been named after each of our maternal grandfathers), so we’ll see if we land where I think we will when The Closer is actually here. The nickname is holding me up a bit... but Zuzu’s nickname came a few months after she was here, so I think maybe Baby will grow into that or it will happen organically? (Coco is hell bent on calling her Rosie Cutie Flower-Petal, which is maybe an improvement over Starlight Twinkle, the last front runner?).

At any rate, she doesn’t have a bed or a car seat or a changing pad or diapers, but a diaper bag is on its way, and that feels like something.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Oh, Hai!

I cannot believe it's been almost a month since I've posted anything. I realized recently that I have been incredibly lucky in that I was finished working at this point in my last two pregnancies. Having Zuzu at the end of June and Coco in August meant that I had summers off to lie around, do kick counts, and go to multiple doctor appointments per week as needed without having to schedule that around teaching, prepping, commuting, grading, or meetings.

I'm also trying to prioritize activities like napping and going to bed early, which is hard. Last week I made myself stay up late two nights in a row to plow through grading. This is not unusual for me, as I'd rather get it out of the way, but it resulted in me being so exhausted and emotionally unstable the following days that I realized it is just not something I can manage at this point. So that means I need to be managing my time better and fitting all of it in during normal daylight hours because I just can't stretch it into late nights and continue to function very well. And that means that I haven't been blogging and a few folks have wondered what's up (and feared the worst).

Let me say that things are still fine here. I'm in week 33 of this pregnancy, which means next week I'll hit 34 weeks 3 days (the day I lost Eliza) and my anxiety is feeling that anniversary. My keep-me-up-at-night worry has shifted from placental abruption (although that's still there) and is now mostly centered on cord accidents. Baby has been flipping from breech to head down and back. She's currently breech and I want her head down, but I also worry that all this somersaulting is going to knot the umbilical cord or wrap it around her neck/wrist/ankle and kill her.

Another doctor I saw briefly in the Maternal Fetal Medical center looked at my history, asked a bunch of questions, and then suggested that I'd had preeclampsia with Eliza. I was aware had many of the symptoms (particularly the swelling) but my blood pressure always runs quite low. There was never an official diagnosis or determination of cause of death for Eliza. There's also nothing that can really be done to prevent preeclampsia, although a baby aspirin can apparently help (which I'm already taking). It's not exactly new information, but it has made me hyper aware of any ankle swelling and it has reminded me that I may need to slow down and take it easy, even when there are things I don't want to miss out on.

So that's the pregnancy update. NSTs and modified biophysical profiles are going well. I had one NST that took a while for her to meet the heart rate accelerations they are looking for and it stressed me out a bit. I need to remember to bring a snack or a lemonade or something to those appointments. I definitely feel glad to be going twice a week; I'm scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays from now until delivery. The other good news is that as baby continues to get bigger, I'm feeling more movement (still all around the edges of the anterior placenta). I will take it!

* * *

In other news, I went to KC last weekend to visit my best friend and see Rachel Cargle speak. If you're not following Rachel Cargle, you are missing a challenging and important voice in anti-racism work. She writes primarily to an audience of white women, encouraging us to unpack white feminism and look at the ways in which we are (purposely or cluelessly) complicit in perpetuating racism. She does this not because she feels compelled to do white women a favor, but because she is actively trying to make the world a safer place for people of color, particularly women of color. She has also created a fund to pay for black women to go to therapy, prioritizing the mental health of those for whom existing in the world is more of a struggle than white women can possibly realize. She was a powerful speaker and while I intellectually have read and learned many of the things she mentioned regarding the problematic history of white feminism, it was both motivating and humbling to hear the message again coming from a woman of color.

* * *

I was in a terrible mood yesterday. My allergies have been so bad. My nose basically was so stuffed up that it sounded like I was talking and purposely plugging my nose, and my sinuses felt so much pressure it was like my face might just explode at any moment. Plus I started coughing on the stairs on my way to class and peed a tiny bit in my pants (thank goodness I was wearing black and it was only a tiny bit, but STILL not exactly making me feel like a competent professional as I head into a classroom to talk about Jane Austen).

I took out some of my frustration on my Missouri House State Representative, Dean Plocher, who went ahead and voted to allow guns to be concealed and carried on college campuses in Missouri with no required training or regulation. I can't even tell you how opposed to this I am. I felt a little better after leaving him a voicemail, even though I probably sounded like a crank caller with my nose completed clogged with snot.

* * *

I've been reading a parenting book I've found very helpful: How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber & Julie King. It takes effort on my part to follow their advice, but it actually works very well. I have noticed, though, when I am tired/not feeling well/cranky that I DON'T want to follow their advice and I just want my kids to do what I say the first time I say it. Unfortunately, my children's behavior is in NO WAY influenced by the mood Mommy happens to be in or the fact that Mommy's sinuses feel potentially explosive, so I really need to work on making these habits more automatic. Still, I highly recommend the book, and lots of it is skimmable (like the stories from parents) so it's a fairly quick read, though I still have it because I'm actually going to write myself up a little reminder cheat-sheet and hang it in our pantry to reference when I find myself thisclose to screaming at the small people in my house to put on their mother-effing shoes.

* * *

Here's some boring news: I'm really working on drinking lots and lots of water. I thought I'd been doing okay, but I was feeling so fatigued a few weeks ago and my doula asked me how much water I was drinking and I pretty quickly realized the answer was Not Enough. I used to have this app on my phone that was a little plant that reminded you to drink water, but I wasn't great at updating the app in real time and when the plant would wilt and look sad it made me feel really guilty (stupid cartoon plant) so I deleted it. But I do need a water tracker of some sort. My goal is to drink 80-100 ounces a day. This causes me to have to pee all the time (plus the aforementioned incident while coughing), but it does give me more energy and also keeps my amniotic fluid levels where they need to be, so lose/win/win.

* * *

Zuzu had some major girlfriend drama at school earlier this week when another girl in her class said her "Caroline Poopy-Pants Poops in her Pants." She told me all about it, VERY indignantly, and said, "AND IT ISN'T EVEN TRUE!" To make matters worse, another girl in the class laughed when her best friend said that. But Zuzu and her other friend didn't think it was funny! And Zuzu told the girl, "That really hurt my feelings!" She also reported it to the teacher. Anyway, Zuzu reported the next day that she had decided to forgive the insult and be friends again with that girl, so she seems to be navigating the treacherous world of first grade insults as well as can be expected.

* * *

The other day when the girls and I were in the car, we had the following conversation:

Zuzu: When we cut down trees, it hurts the earth. But we need paper so we can draw. So, it helps us. But it hurts the earth!

Me: Well, good paper companies will plant a new tree for every tree they cut down so the earth isn't hurt too bad.

Coco: (very somberly) One time, Sadie ate sand from the sandbox.

* * *

This morning, Zuzu asked me if I knew the most dangerous animal in the world. I guessed hippo, but she told me it's a fly because they carry diseases that kill 226 people a year. Is that true? It's so gross. And now I have officially reached the stage where my kid knows more than I do.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Break Time

I'm on spring break this week. I spent yesterday sorting through little girl clothes in the basement. I need to organize (and cull) dress up clothes and Coco is asking me to pull out Easter/spring decorations, so that's on the agenda for today.

My anxiety levels are much lower than they were last time I posted. I've had no bleeding or any other troubling issues, and the baby has been quite active. I'm also glad to be at home where I can lie on my side and do a kick count any time I want to (I really need my university to get me a full length sofa for my office). I'm still eager to see my doctor and I'm definitely going to request that we start monitoring with nonstress tests earlier than we had originally discussed. Nothing like a hospital visit to amp up the urgency of that kind of thing!

I was looking back at my New Years Resolutions and feeling a bit meh about them, considering that we're coming up on being a quarter of a way through the year! I haven't done nearly as much reading as I wanted to. I've read a few books, but I haven't made much headway on my Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge--mostly because reading books for class interferes. I did read a thriller for book club and I finally finished White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, which was great. The best book I've read so far this year is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I'm still not quite finished... probably 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through. I expect to finish it this week. It has been eye-opening.

There is a section about migrants and studies that show the farther someone has to travel, the more motivated they are to work extremely hard at any job they can get in order to achieve success and economic/personal security (relative to their previous conditions) once they arrive. It made me think of the terrible things Trump has said about the people migrating to the United States from terrifying situations in Central America and how determined and frightened they must be, and how I wish they could be given a chance. But the book also talks about the anti-migrant sentiment that has always existed--a fear of scarcity and economic anxiety that prevents us from being welcoming to newcomers. We just see these same patterns over and over again and it seems that we don't learn anything from them. Anyway, on top of all that it's remarkable stories and it's so well written. I'm already certain it will be one of my best reads all year.

Maybe my biggest personal growth stretch goal on the list was to do more anti-racism work/learning, and I signed up for a 12-week workshop that started in January. We just completed week seven, and I'm relieved to say that it's been a really good experience. It was not an easy start--leaving my cozy house just when we'd be getting settled in for the evening, driving across town in the cold and the dark to sit in a school with a bunch of strangers and talk awkwardly about whiteness and anti-racism... but I'm glad I stuck it out! The numbers have dropped off slightly, but that means I feel like I'm getting to know (and like!) the people who are there and it's definitely introducing me to people outside my normal circles of colleagues-from-work and moms-from-school. Plus, thanks to daylight saving time, it was light out when I drove there last night!

My biggest goal flop has been yoga. I found that I couldn't keep up with Adriene's 30 day challenges in my second trimester and the prenatal yoga videos were too boring (and like 40 minutes long! and you do nothing!). Don't get me wrong--I found a few that are okay, but not enough variety to keep it interesting. Plus, the usual excuses: busy, exhausted. After my scare last week and everyone telling me to take it easy, I almost felt like I shouldn't move at all! I need to get back into at least some gentle stretching, so that's something I'll do this afternoon (after I finish sorting dress up clothes and washing the few outfits that smell mysteriously like pee...).

It's never interesting to hear someone talk about being tired, but I have been trying to remember if I was always this tired in the third trimester. I am not someone who generally takes naps, but I could seriously take a nap almost every day. And I'm getting 8 hours of sleep a night! Maybe this is why they call it a geriatric pregnancy when you're over 35? Because I could nod off and sleep at any given moment, much like my octogenarian Papa? I do think that some consistent sunshine and warmer temperatures would make a huge difference in my energy levels. 

I have been so reluctant to buy anything for the baby. Monica gave me a huge bin of baby things, which I've left at my mom and dad's. Coco asked me on Sunday when we were at Target if we could get diapers for the baby. She frequently tells me that the baby needs a bed, a car seat, and a diapers. And she's not wrong! But no... we haven't bought any diapers yet. I'm also trying to decide whether the baby needs this monitor... the reviews have me wondering if it will relieve or increase worry... Anybody used one of these? Would you recommend? We used an Angel Care monitor with Zuzu and with Coco, although for a much shorter time with Coco. We had a couple false alarms, but I always felt good seeing that blinking light. I also used the Snuza with Zuzu, and some with Coco too, so maybe I should stick with what I know? (Not to mention it's considerably less expensive.)

I did discover a huge bag of newborn and 0-3 month clothes in the basement and I had no idea where it came from. It turns out that a mom at David's school passed them along to us, and he hid them in the basement because he knew I wouldn't want them yet! I did sort through the bag and fold everything into a storage bin. I am so appreciative, and I need to write the mom a note! I just am not quite ready to wash and fold and put things in dresser drawers.

I also need to figure out where baby's clothes are going to go... our master bedroom is absurdly large, so we're going to keep baby in there in a bassinet for the first several months (which is also what we did with the girls). But I will need to rearrange dressers. I may put baby clothes in the guest room, which also means moving things around in that closet... I don't want to lose the guest room, so I would imagine we'll move Coco into Zuzu's room and give the baby her own room, which isn't a big deal since they sleep together almost every night anyway. But they have way too many clothes, so that's the part I will need to figure out!

Anyway, these are the things occupying my mind these days (you know, when I'm not worrying about catastrophic climate change and my own contributions to it and how we can consume less plastic, possibly starting by banning these idiotic LOL dolls my kids are obsessed with--listen, folks, I am a BARREL OF FUN RIGHT NOW). (I did find that this podcast helped make me feel a little less despairing.)

Thank you so much for your kind words and good thoughts and good vibes following my last post. I'm at 29 weeks now and while the end does not yet feel like it is in sight, I know that we are getting close.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"A Rainbow Does Not Negate the Ravages of the Storm"

Warning: This one is scary.

My new doula sent me that quotation last night. She had heard it on NPR, I think, and it made her think of me.

The ravages of the storm got to me last night when I had an unexpected complication with this pregnancy.

First, let me remind you that so far everything has been normal skewed toward good. My numbers were strong from the start. My genetic testing came back with no additional risks detected at 11 weeks. My anatomy scan looked good at 20 weeks. My glucose test came back normal at 25 weeks. On Monday, I hit 28 weeks--the official start of the third trimester.

Last night (Tuesday night) I was finishing up a normal day. David was late because of interviews and I had just put the girls to bed when he got home. I lay with them for a little while, idly scrolling through my phone, and then decided to go take a shower and lie down in my bed to do a kick count.

The one hiccup with with this pregnancy has been that my anterior placenta has made movement really hard to feel. It's driving me bonkers, honestly. Kick counts take much longer than they ever did with Zuzu or Coco, and she tends to be most active just before bedtime (9-10pm). I usually have to be lying on my side to really feel movement, and I can basically tell the size and shape and location of the placenta because I mostly feel her around the periphery.

I was feeling okay last night, mostly because I'd had a doctor appointment yesterday morning. My regular (beloved) OB is out of the country on a vacation in India, so I saw his nurse practitioner. I was a little anxious about this (unlike other patients, I don't rotate through every doctor in the practice. I only see Dr. W. I am very much a Special Needs Patient in this regard.) But anyway, I'd rather see someone random than miss an appointment, and I couldn't really ask Dr. Wasserman to schedule his international vacations around my doctor appointments (I mean, I wanted to but some part of me remains rational). As it turns out, the nurse practitioner was great. She was familiar with my history even though I'd only seen her one time before--during my pregnancy with Eliza. She was kind and reassuring and answered all my questions and validated my anxiety and made me feel better.

I've been fixated on a worry about placental abruption. I've recently met a baby loss mama who lost her baby to a sudden placental abruption with no known cause at 36 weeks, and that's probably why it's at the forefront of my mind. But I also think the anterior placenta has made me more anxious--if I bump into something, or one of my kids uses my stomach to push off of and launch themselves off the couch, I get freaked out that I've just broken my placenta. Anyway, she told me that there is no evidence that the position of the placenta has any bearing on the likelihood of an abruption, which I found comforting.

But last night when I got out of the shower, I realized I was bleeding. I wasn't in any pain. I wasn't having contractions. But there was bright red blood trickling down my leg. I was 28 weeks (and 1 day) pregnant. I was panicking. The truth is, I've been looking for blood ever since I got a positive pregnancy test. It felt like a fulfillment of my greatest dread. (The shittiest thing about anticipating disaster and then having that disaster actually occur is that it doesn't even feel like a victory when you end up being right--it still just feels like a living nightmare.)

I yelled (quietly because the girls were sleeping) for David and told him we needed to go to the hospital. David called a neighbor to come stay at the house with the girls (who were asleep and had no idea we we even left). We drove to the hospital. It took maybe 15 minutes and I didn't feel any movement the entire time. I sobbed my story to the nurse at the desk and she took me back immediately and starting asking for my information and trying to take my blood pressure and pulse.

I was shaking uncontrollably at this point and could hardly catch my breath. I kept saying, "Oh my God. What if there's no heartbeat?" She wanted to see how much I was bleeding and she FINALLY (it really was only a few minutes but it felt like forever) took me back and hooked up the Doppler monitor. I was still shaking so hard it took a second before the machine could pick anything up, but then the baby's heartbeat blipped on the screen and I was able to calm down enough that they got a good read on it. It was totally normal. Which of course made me start crying all over again.

By this time the bleeding had already let up a lot. Another nurse came in and asked me a bunch of the same questions, and then a nurse practitioner came in. Everyone was very kind. I was totally wrecked--my hair was still soaking wet from the shower, I was crying off and on. But I got an ultrasound (baby looked perfect), a cervical exam (totally closed), and the baby was monitored for about two and a half hours (no decels, heart rate normal).

I finally started to relax after the ultrasound when they put the Doppler back on. I had stopped bleeding by then and I could just listen to the galloping rhythm of the baby's heartbeat as I lay on my side and sipped cranberry juice.

The nurse practitioner did a swab when she did my cervical exam and she determined that there was a pH imbalance. This minor infection can apparently irritate the cervix and cause a blood vessel to break or rupture. It is unusual, but slightly more likely to happen when taking blood thinners like a daily baby aspirin. That seems to be what happened to me, as there was no other source of bleeding they could find and the bleed had totally resolved within an hour.

They let us go home around midnight, with lots of reassurances and invitations to come back anytime I feel worried or concerned. Once I got home, I collapsed into that exhausted but jittery kind of sleep and then had one of my recurring nightmares about driving a car off the edge of a cliff because my psyche likes to work through SUPER OBVIOUS METAPHORS when I am stressed out.

Today I'm not having any bleeding (checking obsessively) and I have a prescription to fix my imbalanced pH situation. I'm feeling some movement as I sit on the exercise ball at my desk and I have an appointment to see my doctor as soon as he's back in town (not soon enough, but I'll take it).

I still feel so shaky and vulnerable, though. As we drove to the hospital, the night that we went in unexpectedly early with Eliza because I was having contractions was vivid in my mind. The major difference wasn't fear--I was scared both times. But with Eliza, I thought it was going to be okay. I thought they were going to fix it. I went in innocently assuming that whatever was wrong could be made okay again and maybe I was looking at a c-section and a premie.

This time I went in knowing what it felt like to get the very worst news. This time an emergency c-section and a super early premie felt like my best option, and I didn't think it was possible. I expected them to say there was no heartbeat because I'd heard those words before. I was not a naive mom, pregnant for the first time and confident the doctors could fix anything. I was feeling every bit of that previous trauma. Having had two successful pregnancies since then did nothing to negate the ravages of my grief. I know too well that there is nothing to prevent that tragedy from revisiting me. Statistics don't keep me safe. Lightening could strike again just as it did in the first storm of grief. We could go home from the hospital empty handed.

I really didn't need that brutal reminder--I'm already well aware that the odds being in my favor is no guarantee. But I'm so grateful that this time we got a different answer. This time, that teensy little four chamber heart was beating away in there. This time we get to hold onto hope.

I texted my doula an update on everything and she responded and then sent me the quote about rainbows and storms. It was exactly right. Even coming out safely twice doesn't make me feel like the storm never happened. It just makes me feel like somehow I got away with something, and I'll have to get really lucky (and be really vigilant) if that's going to happen again.

Now if you're looking for me, I'll be spending virtually all my free time between now and the end of May lying on my left side doing kick counts.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Teachers

I've started listening to a podcast by Laura Tremaine called "10 Things I Want to Tell You." The most recent episode was about teachers who made a significant difference in your life--good or bad. The premise is that she sort of starts the conversation and then you should share your own Things to Tell in a journal or with friends or on social media. So here goes!

I have vivid memories of teachers starting with first grade...

My first grade teacher scared me. I wanted her to like me, and I think she did like me (I was a good student!) but she was intimidating. Now that I look back, I think that she probably wasn't a great fit for first grade, personality-wise. She was never mean to me, but I definitely was scared of her after watching other kids get in trouble. There was a little boy in my class who got paddled nearly every day. Yes--capital punishment, wooden paddle, hit by the teacher in the hallway. Almost every day. (I reminisced about at my high school reunion this with another guy who was in my first grade class and we were both traumatized by being witnesses to this.) This kid got in trouble all the time for acting up. I'm sure now he would be diagnosed with something and given support and special services and counseling, but in the late '80s, he just got the crap beat out of him on the daily. I actually peed my pants in her class one day because I was too scared to ask her if I could go to the bathroom because she got really mad when kids asked to go to the bathroom on their own instead of when we all went as a group. She saw the puddle near her desk and yelled and asked who did it and she MUST have known it was me? I mean, I was back at my desk this time and I tried to put on a wide-eyed innocent face, but I had to be the only one who smelled like fresh pee. I had on a dress, but my shoes were soaked in urine. I think it was the end of the day, though. She must have known it was me, but she never called me out on it, I remember my dad picked up that day because I ran up to him and hugged him and I didn't want to let go because I didn't want him to see my pee shoes. I wonder if he talked to the teacher about it? Because I do remember him telling me it was okay to ask her if I needed to go. Anyway, she ended up switching from first grade to fourth grade and that was probably a good move for everyone (though hopefully that poor kid who got paddled every day didn't get assigned to her classroom again).

My second grade teacher was the opposite. Mrs. Brandt was so kind and smelled really good and was very huggable. She would tell stories about her boys and it made me want to grow up and have a bunch of boys (LOL not so much now). I got to take home our class pet, a small turtle named Tiny Tim who was a good sport and never gave me salmonella. Once I got to school earlier and went to the classroom instead of the cafeteria because I never got to school early so I didn't know we were supposed to go to the cafeteria. Anyway, Mrs. Brandt let me stay in the room and help her set up, which I loved. I remember watching her use Lysol spray all over the desk and cubby of a little boy in my class and wondering why it was just his desk that got treated. I assumed maybe it was because he smelled strongly of wood smoke. I can't remember what she said to me about it, but I remember her basically telling me not to mention to any of my classmates that she did that.

My third grade teacher was also wonderful. I had Miss Tinsley maybe her second or third year of teaching? She was young and cute and she told me that I reminded her of Ramona Quimby, which I took as an enormous compliment. I felt comfortable enough in her class that I got a little chatty with my friend Mandy and sometimes we'd have to put our names on the board, which we sort of relished even though it was supposed to be a reprimand (if you got two checkmarks next to your name there were consequences, but I don't remember what they were because I would behave myself after that). Miss Tinsley also encouraged my reading. And she let us vote on the slogan for our class bulletin board when we made butterflies by tracing the outlines of our feet. The top two slogans were mine and this kid name Kevin. Kevin's slogan was "From Feet to Butterflies." (Kevin was apparently a literal kind of guy. He spiked his hair (or his mom did?) with a lot of gel and I thought he was very cute but I thought his slogan was super lame.) My slogan was "Butter Up Your Wings for Spring!" and my slogan won and I was very proud and I thought that Miss Tinsley was proud too because she always made me feel like she was rooting for me.

My fourth grade teacher was also lovely. Her name was Mrs. Copeland and she read aloud to us every day (James and the Giant Peach was particularly memorable). She also wore visible eye shadow, which I thought was very glamorous. One day, though, she hurt my feelings SO much. She wasn't even there--we had a substitute--and she had left a note for the sub with lesson plans and also listing students who were good helpers. I must have been up near her desk talking to the sub or just nosing around (who knows?!) but I could easily read her perfect penmanship and she had written, "Amie, Mandy, and Leslie are all good helpers." I could not believe my name was not on that list. Like I wanted to put my head on my desk and cry. I didn't do that, but my heart was broken a little bit. After that year, Mrs. Copeland quit teaching and opened a little gift shop on the square and in middle school I'd often walk down there and buy cinnamon gummy bears from her, so there were no hard feelings. I think she quit teaching because our class was challenging. There was one kid who wrote sentences for his spelling words and put the word "fart" in every sentence. The laughter was riotous and I'm sure he got sent to the office, but I will always remember how awed I was by his nerve and how funny it was to hear him read a sentence about a fart out loud.

After fourth grade we went to middle school. I had some great and memorable teachers, but we switched classes so it was a different relationship only seeing them for an hour or so per subject. My favorite teacher was Mrs. Snyder, my fifth grade reading teacher. She told me once that if you cut my veins, words would come out. And I took that as another huge compliment. I read like crazy in her class. I could get all my work done and she'd let me sit and read whatever I wanted. My friend Monica likes to remind me of the time I basically read the entirety of Wait Till Helen Comes during our class period. I did love Mary Downing Hahn. Fifth grade was when I really decided I wanted to be a writer, and Mrs. Snyder totally encouraged that.

I can't list my best and most impactful teachers without talking about the other Mrs. Copeland, who was even more influential--in part because she taught me from second grade through sixth grade. She was the gifted teacher and we'd go to her "Action Class" one day a week. Mrs. Copeland put up with and encouraged all of our quirks and weird interests. She is honestly the teacher that I probably would want to emulate the most with my own classroom persona as a professor. She was always kind, but she did not put up with nonsense. She was always encouraging and patient, but we knew we were being held to high standards. She was not exactly warm and fuzzy, but she made us feel loved and made us want to impress her, too. I often felt like I wasn't as smart or talented as my classmates with their ACT-word vocabularies or super quick math-minds. But she encouraged my creative writing and my love of logic puzzles ("mind-benders" we called them) and I always felt seen, known, understood, and appreciated in her classroom.

In high school, I had a drama coach named Mr. Grooms who was legendary. He left after my freshman or sophomore year, but he made me feel like I had talent for drama and he also gave me a pep talk before a drama competition event that Monica and I still reference for each other to this day ("Even if you don't go to finals, you can still graduate from high school, you can still go to prom..." I had a little trouble with perspective.)

I had some memorable college professors. There was the huge, bearded history professor who taught a class about the Holocaust and sobbed on the day we discussed Holocaust deniers. There was the uber crunchy environmental science professor who drove me to the hospital the day I sprained my ankle on the way to her class (first I had to sit through her lecture with my foot iced and elevated--but she did send one of my classmates to get the ice for me). But it was a young English professor, Dr. Kelemen, who really served as my mentor and made me believe I had to chops to do graduate school or law school. I'm actually embarrassed when I think about my behavior in his Shakespeare class... I should have been a better student and talked more... I now appreciate student participation so much! I didn't do a good job of it as a student myself. Dr. Kelemen really talked to me like an adult and a peer. I remember going to get coffee with him and his wife to talk about my GRE scores and my options and feeling that I wanted to be just like the both of them. He gave me such great feedback on my writing--stuff that I still think about today. He invited the English majors to a holiday party that he and his wife hosted with friends and professors and someone was handing out stickers that said "Martin Sheen is my president" and I was like "These people are amazing. How do I hang out with people like this all the time?" Years later, when David and I were in London, Dr. Kelemen happened to be there at the same time. We met up with him a couple of his friends and went out to dinner and it was so intimidating and so cool. He has since left academia, but I am so grateful that I got to be his student. I do not have a stellar academic career--I don't say that out of false modesty--it's just true. I haven't focused on academic publishing or anything like that. But I do love teaching college students and I'm not terrible at it. And I can truly say that there is no way I would be here in this job if it weren't for him!

So those were my most memorable teachers... the ones who really made a difference in my life. I'm so grateful for them, and I'm grateful that Zuzu's first grade teacher is wonderful--so much so that Zuzu is convinced I know nothing and Ms. Williams knows everything and I don't even really mind.

(I know blog comments are nearly dead... but I'm so curious about good teachers and scary teachers and whether you went to school when kids still got paddled and whether you remember things in vivid detail from grade school the way I do--I've been told by some friends that my memory is kind of freaky. So if you have a story--tell me in the comments or on IG or share it on FB or something!)

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sunday Thoughts

We have been at my parents' for the weekend. The drive down on Friday was not fun--we weren't able to leave St. Louis until 6pm (getting home from work, packing, feeding kids, etc.--it takes so much time!) and then it was raining on and off and so foggy the entire time that I was tense (even though I was the passenger) and at one point I finally started drifting off to sleep only to do that startle-awake thing MULTIPLE times. So I just woke myself up.

But anyway, we arrived and have had a really nice visit. We made a Walmart run so the kids could spend the money they got from their other grandma in their Valentine cards. They bought these awful LOL dolls that they think are so awesome and which should really be regulated when it comes to the excessive and wasteful packaging. Part of the "fun" of the toy is that it's a surprise so you don't know what you're getting and you open each little accessory separately but it's all a bunch of plastic and garbage and I hate it. My mom also let the girls choose their own t-shirts to match these little rainbow skirts she got them and each one picked the most hideous options in their size range, instead of the relatively cute option I wanted them to get.

BUT I ran into my high school boyfriend's sister and grandma and I got to talk briefly with them and see his sister's new baby and that was really fun. I STILL miss that family and how welcome they made me feel.

We also saw my cousin and her little girl as we were in the check out line, which was fun even though we already had plans to go visit them and see their new house after lunch. It was like a bonus visit, and Mesa and Zuzu were delighted to discover they were wearing the exact same style of boots!

I managed a nap on Saturday afternoon (sort of--I felt sure I was always aware of the NOISE happening around me, but I did feel a little bit rested after).

{Sidenote: I'm not quite sure if this pregnancy is different in any significant way from the others or if I just don't remember things, but I am pretty confident that I am more tired this time. I have never been a big napper, but I am loving a good nap on weekend afternoons these days. I know I was always exhausted in the first trimester, but I don't remember being as tired in the following weeks as I am this time around.}

So we visited Brandi and Mesa and then we came back and my mom fixed dinner and my Papa came in town and ate with us and the girls were reasonably well behaved until my dad got them totally riled up and crazy but they settled down with a bath and some books and went to sleep pretty quickly (although it was probably 45 minutes past their usual bedtime).

Today I was really looking forward to a breakfast date with David. We like to send the girls to church with my parents and then go out for a big breakfast at the White Grill. Coco was whiny and mopey this morning and I knew it wasn't normal behavior, but I was chalking it up to still having the sniffles (they dragged on all last week) and being overtired. I should have been clued in when she didn't eat much breakfast and wanted to snuggle with me before they left for church. Instead, I was thinking about scrambled eggs and hashbrowns and I sent them on their merry way. Maybe ten minutes later, I was in the shower when David knocked on the bathroom door to tell me Coco had thrown up and he was on his way to go pick her up.

Let's all just hope we can make the drive home without her barfing in the car.

We drive a Honda CRV and I love this car. I had a different Honda CRV before this one and after driving it for ten years and 150,000 miles, we just upgraded to a new version of the same thing. I loathe new car shopping more than anything because I find it so stressful, so David actually bought it without me one day when I was home sick and I was thrilled.

But when we loaded up to go out of town just for the weekend with two kids (both still in five point harness car seats) and two dogs (one on the seat in the middle, one on the floorboard) and a cargo area full of suitcases and dog food and pillows... I'm really not sure how we'll LITERALLY fit another human person in the car, even a tiny one, especially since babies tend to bring a LOT of accessories when they travel (little divas).

We've researched car seats that will fit three across in a CRV (there aren't that many) and we plan to start with purchasing those (we'll be due for new ones anyway, thanks to six year expiration dates) but I'm just wondering if we'll need a bigger vehicle. I'm under no illusions that I'm too cool for a mini-van (I'm not at all cool) but I also appreciate the gas mileage my little Honda gets. The Pilot is obviously appealing because it's the slightly bigger version of what I already have and I am a creature of habit, but then I wonder if the garage will start to feel really tight because the Pilot just looks so much WIDER to me. And of course we will be making NO decisions on this until summer because apparently I am actually very superstitious and will not be tempting fate.

For example, I went to the mall on Friday (which I NEVER do, but I confess that I always enjoy it because malls are beautiful and clean and they smell good and they remind me of a time in my life when I was young and fancy free and my parents paid my bills and I DID go to the mall). Anyway, I was returning a pair of pants I'd ordered online that I thought would work for loungy maternity pants but didn't because they aren't actually maternity pants.

I have been really resisting buying maternity clothes since I know I'll never ever wear them again. I got lots of things on load from my SIL and I have a few loose-fitting tops that I can make work, so I committed to only buying maternity clothes second hand if I was going to purchase anything. BUT pants are hard, folks. First of all, I don't think many people sell or donate loungy maternity pants, probably because we just keep wearing them postpartum. Secondly, I have some jeans that I'd loaned to Jo and she gave back to me, but that's five pregnancies between the two of us and I remembered that I'd literally busted through the seams on the belly panel on one pair and she'd sewn them back together.

Anyway, long story short, I returned the non-maternity pants that were a pipe dream and then went to the maternity store and managed to find a pair of jeans and a pair of lounge pants on the clearance rack and only spent $10 more on the both of them than I had originally spent on the non-maternity pants. So I was feeling pretty good about all of this, but you know what maternity clothing stores do when you check out? They ask you for ALL OF YOUR INFORMATION--address, e-mail, due date--so that they can put you on their mailing lists and send you ALL THE COUPONS and ALL THE ADVERTISEMENTS for ALL THINGS BABY AND PREGNANCY RELATED for basically ever No. Thank. You. Pass.

So when she asked for my e-mail address, I lied. I briefly considered explaining the whole story, but instead I gave her an old e-mail that I haven't really used since college and walked away feeling relieved and wondering if I also should have provided an old mailing address because you KNOW they are going to snail mail me ads too. 

I've been fooled by that game once before, and I'll never forget that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I clicked and e-mailed and sometimes had to make phone calls to try to unsubscribe from all of the things congratulating me on my January baby who was born weeks early and never came home.

Keep your effing coupons and all your assumptions of a happy outcome. These companies have no idea how much pain they can cause with a freaking e-mail listserv.

In other pregnancy updates, I passed the one hour glucose test on Friday. There was some mild drama at the lab (and by "drama," I mean people talking to me in a rude and/or condescending manner) because I chose to drink the drink at home (as my doctor suggested) rather than parking myself in their waiting room for an hour. They were less excited about this approach and seemed really annoyed that I didn't know the exact number of milligrams in the drink my doctor had given me (ummm... it was the standard size for the one hour test! And HE gave it to me, so he will know!) but it was over and done with fairly quickly. Blood draws. So gross.

Tomorrow is the last Monday in February, which feels like something worth celebrating as well. I shifted my loyalties from fall to spring over the past several years, and I am more than ready for warm sunshine and sunlit evenings.

My big plans for spring break mostly involve reorganizing my house, donating half the stuff in the basement, sorting through the girls' clothes and sorting through my clothes, too. Two more weeks until I get started on that project! And then we'll have just six more weeks left of the semester.

One final thought for today... scrunchies. I'm a child of the 80s/90s, so of course I'm a fan of scrunchies. I ordered a set from Amazon and I have zero regrets. Zuzu also thinks they are awesome, which I find hilarious. Now if I start talking about revisiting baby doll dresses and Doc Martins, I may need an intervention. But I'm feeling just fine about this scrunchy habit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Galentine's Day - Valentine's Day - Love Poems

I know Valentine's Day is a commercial holiday just intent on selling chocolate and flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries and pieces of folded cardstock that cost more than a Starbucks latte and say someone else's words on them, but I still kind of love a day about love.

Today my English department hosted a "Love and Anti-Love Poetry Reading" and invited students to share a poem (their own writing or someone else's). We had a good turnout (you just never know with these things!) and several great poems shared. I heard "When a Boy Tells You He Loves You," by Edwin Bodney, which was new to me, and my old favorite "Tonight I Can Write..." by Pablo Neruda. One of my colleagues read "Having a Coke With You" by Frank O'Hara, which is so charming. I love a breathless, run-on poem.

In the spirit of anti-love, or maybe the kind of love in which the same person you've been married to for, say, fourteen years, is both incredibly wonderful and blindingly irritating (speaking hypothetically, of course), I recited the following poem by Margaret Atwood:

You fit into me
Like a hook into an eye.

A fish hook.
An open eye.

Brilliant, right?

Sending love into the universe... and now I'm wanting both a latte AND a chocolate covered strawberry.

If you're in the mood for some more love poems, here's a few writers with their favorites.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Winter Drearies

I'm home with Coco today, who most likely has Influenza A, given that all her symptoms match up and her best friend from school was diagnosed with it on Saturday morning. Coco woke up with a fever on Sunday morning and spent most of yesterday napping and coughing in my bed. (We changed the sheets before bedtime.)

She is much perkier today, and is determined to make the most of her day at home by binging cartoons and drinking juice--both major treats.

I'm trying to do All The Things for work and domestic life, which has me answering e-mail and setting up online quizzes, adjusting due dates, grading exams, and making lesson plans in between doing load after load of laundry, throwing together stuffed shells in the crock pot, making macaroni & cheese for the sickie, and I've just about convinced myself to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for The Closer.

My big excursion today was a walk to the mailbox with Clementine, which just reinforced how miserable this weather and how much I need some exercise. Maybe I can convince myself to spend 10 minutes on the elliptical this afternoon? We'll see if she actually takes a nap today... She seems pretty well rested at the moment.

Unrelated to the flu, I have been going to a weekly anti-racism workshop (getting further involved in social justice movements in St. Louis was a new year's resolution, and this is one step in that direction). One of the things we did was write a personal narrative getting at why we care about issues of racism and social justice. It was an illuminating exercise. I realized that Eliza's death was a profound turning point in my life, not just because of the devastating grief, but also because it burst the illusion I had been comfortably living with: the idea that life is mostly a meritocracy. I mean, I knew that bad things happened to good people, but I really was invested in the notion that we can control most of what happens to us, as long as we work hard and try to be kind and, you know, have grit and determination and all that stuff.

When Eliza died, the rug was ripped out from under me, and I had a new understanding (belated, clearly, since I had spent all my life living a pretty privileged and sheltered existence) of all the circumstances outside my control. I've now come to believe that, because the universe can throw a curve ball at any moment, because there are no promises about life being fair or just, it is crucial that we make sure the systems and institutions that we can control are as fair and equitable as possible. So that has become something I'm really passionate about--particularly since in a city like mine, it's painfully obvious how unfair and inequitable things like education and housing can be.

One of the first things we did at the workshop was go around and introduce ourselves and say "who your people are." Relieved that I didn't have to go first, I listened and thought as we went around the circle. You know who my people are? I said, "Readers, writers, academics, parents of young kids, and especially bereaved parents." It felt really good to say that out loud. It made me think of the days I longed for an arm band to indicate that I was grieving--some kind of outward sign that said, "My baby died and I'm barely coping. Please be gentle with me." I don't feel that raw and vulnerable so much these days, but I still sometimes feel set apart from the non-bereaved parents--especially the idea of them as a group (like PTO moms). It really is a sorority nobody wants to pledge, but it's filled with some of the best people I know. And I just feel like life is easier if people know from the moment they meet me that bereaved parents are my people.

This month of February is so bleak. While last week was overly busy, this week is much less chaotic, especially since Coco will likely be sitting out of her Spanish and dance extracurriculars. I'm trying to appreciate the coziness of being home--lighting candles, doing yoga, listening to Brandi Carlisle nonstop.

And speaking of hygge, I'm off to make those cookies. Wash your hands and eat some cookies and let's have spring hurry up and get here.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Closer - 25 Weeks

Tomorrow marks 25 weeks in this pregnancy, which feels really hard to believe. So close, and yet so far away!

A week ago, I had a teary meltdown worrying about the baby. 24 weeks is technically viability (although the odds are not great) and immediately my anxiety goes up. Viability means I need to pay attention, I need to know what's going on, I need to be intuitive and psychic and medically trained to figure out what could be happening and how to make sure the baby is going to be okay. No pressure.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned that we found a doula to work with again this time. I had hoped to work with the amazing woman who somehow transformed Coco's birth into a wonderful experience for me, but she's retired from the doula work, so she recommended another doula in the area who also seems great.

One awesome thing about doulas is that they are more interested in pregnancies than in children--that's the medical history and physical/emotional experiences they want to know about, right? So every conversation with her includes Eliza, she says Eliza's name all the time, she constantly talks about my "fourth baby" (which OMG four babies). So that's all really validating.

As some of you may remember, part of the reason I work with a doula is because I want to avoid needles. I don't want an epidural because the idea of a needle in my spine is scarier to me than the idea of experiencing pain for a few hours. And I am not judging anyone who gets an epidural (seriously in my circle of friends, I don't even know if one other person has delivered a baby without an epidural). It's just a control issue for me, plus now I've done it three times so it's what I know.

But I also feel like I don't quite fit in to circles of crunchy moms who are all about non-medicated births and breastfeeding (even though I do those things) because I want all the monitoring--all the non-stress tests leading up to a scheduled induction. For Zuzu and Coco, I was induced with a Cervidil insert that softens the cervix. Both times, that was enough to get my body going into labor on its own so I was able to avoid pitocin and an IV--I'm hoping we can follow that pattern again this time. This is assuming I don't go into labor on my own earlier, because my anxiety will not allow me to go past my due date and I expect to be induced in week 39 as I was with Zuzu and Coco.

So I'm planning to be induced, but also not to have an epidural. Natural birth advocates recommend intermittent monitoring during labor to avoid interventions that may actually be unnecessary. But I want constant monitoring. One thing that keeps me calm during labor is being able to look at the monitor and see the baby's heartbeat. I need to know that the baby is alive.

So basically, I veer away from the totally crunchy approach AND I want to avoid needles, which puts me in a weird category. Fortunately, a doula is pretty much paid to support you and your birth plan, and to help be your advocate. My doctor is the same doctor I've had for all the girls. He knows my quirks and is supportive of my plans (hopes) for this birth, so I'm not too worried about pushback or anything like that. But I do need the support and reassurance of the doula to get me through labor! David does a good job, but he also appreciates the guidance of someone else who reassures us that everything is going well.

Anyway, we met with the doula and talked through everything. She encouraged me to write up a birth plan. I always put "Goal: LIVING BABY" at the top because really everything else is just details, but if I can have the best experience possible for me and the babe (which would basically be a reenactment of Coco's birth, where I felt so amazing immediately afterward), that would obviously be ideal.

If all goes more or less according to plan/history, I have fourteen weeks before the baby gets here. I'll start official kick counts a week from tomorrow. I see my doctor again in three weeks, and then I'll start seeing him every two weeks, and in late March (after spring break) I'll start biweekly non-stress tests.

In some ways, fourteen weeks sounds like no time at all. In other ways, fourteen weeks is an eternity. It's an entire semester! It's more than three months. It's so many days, so many kicks, so many opportunities for infection, cord accident, placental abruption, all the unpredictable things I fear based on the heartbreaking stories I've heard. And all things over which I have very little control.

Another baby is a logistical and financial complication, a big shift for our family, a huge change I can hardly predict, and one that makes me a nervous in some ways. But this baby also feels like an incredible gift--like maybe it's too good to be true. I worry that we are asking too much, getting too greedy. We've been given two perfect little girls--how can I expect to get another one? Is this too good too be true? Is there enough luck in the universe for this to work out for me?


Monday, February 4, 2019

Bise* Week

*Zuzu wrote a story at school about her "bise weekend" and it took me a day to figure out that bise = busy. Why was she so busy? Two birthday parties to attend on Sunday! She's living the good life, folks.

Here's what I've been doing: David went to a conference last week. He was gone Tuesday through Saturday, which is an absurdly long time for a conference. He said that it was productive and informative, so I'm glad it wasn't a waste of time, but managing our daily routine is definitely a two-person job, and we all really missed him.

I was prepared to deal with the all of the things I expected--Coco getting teary at bedtime (she slept with his photo every night), dinners needing to be quick and easy to clean up, and getting up extra early to make sure I had time to deal with the dogs and packing lunches.

I was not prepared for the polar vortex! A huge part of the reason we moved was to get David and Zuzu in the same school district so that they'd always be on the same schedule. Normally, anytime there is a cancellation for snow, my university makes the same choice as their school district. But when schools were canceling for low temperatures (due to bus riders), my university was still open. So I had to bring Zuzu to work with me two days in a row! Thankfully, Coco's preschool was still open, but Zuzu spent a lot of time watching a screen while I was teaching on Tuesday and Wednesday. It all worked out, but it was a little stressful and draining to not have any quiet time to think/read/prep for class except for after they were in bed!

The week did have several bright spots though--I didn't get to watch any TV (I didn't sit on the couch and snuggle the dogs at all) but I did manage to cross all the things off my to-do list, which felt really good. We skipped Spanish Tuesday night because it was dark and snowing and freezing cold and I just wasn't up to getting out in it. We did go to dance, and had a very successful lesson.

A few weeks ago, Zuzu had a wretched time at dance. She'd been sick over the weekend, but I really don't think that was the reason. I can't begin to fathom the workings of her mind, honestly. She has loved dance and asked this year to do jazz in addition to tap and ballet, but suddenly she was complaining every week about having to go. And then there was the day that she went, but refused to participate. After class, the teacher let me know that Zuzu had spent the entire hour lying on the floor.

I was so mad, and I admit that it was because I found her behavior embarrassing. I also couldn't relate to it--I would have never done such a thing as a kid. I might have acted out at home, complained about class, or whined about going, sure. But I definitely would not have defied my dance teacher or flopped on the floor while my classmates all followed directions. I felt like she was being disrespectful and I was so mad.

Out in the parking lot, Coco asked me what was wrong. I answered matter-of-factly, "Zuzu lay on the floor instead of dancing and I'm upset about it."

Well, Zuzu was furious with me for sharing that information: "IT'S NOT BETWEEN YOU AND COCO!" I think she was just looking for a fight, because her rage culminated in her screaming, "I HATE YOU!" at me as she got in the car. In a parking lot full of moms loading well-behaved ballet dancers into mini-vans. Which is great, because if your first grader is going to lose her mind and scream that she hates you, you definitely want an audience of other parents. I'm not going to lie--it was humiliating. I was taking deep breaths and not responding to her at all. After her outburst, another mom called to me, "You're doing a great job, Mama!" which was really nice and actually made me get teary-eyed.

The next day, we had a long conversation about being respectful. I'm not going to force her to take dance lessons if she doesn't want to, but I also don't want her to think she can quit by being an a$$hole. So we talked about why she takes dance lessons--to be active and healthy, to make friends, and to have fun. I told her that there are other ways to do that, and if she'd like to stop taking dance lessons when her swim lessons start in March, that's fine. But if she wants to take swim lessons, she needs to participate fully and respectfully in dance for the next few weeks.

(What would we do if she refused? Cancel swim lessons? I don't know. Parenting Zuzu allows me to only see one step ahead instead of mapping out the whole path, which is what makes it so terrifying.)

(Another parenting question I have... off-limits language. I love words and I don't mind salty language and I personally would not choose to punish my kids for using curse words, depending on context--obviously if they called their teacher (or me) an effing bitch, that would warrant punishment. But so would calling their teacher (or me) a dumb-dumb face. For me, it's less about which words they choose and more about the fact they're trying to be hurtful and disrespectful. My kids haven't been exposed that that many curse words (except when they overhear me... whoops!) and they are young enough that it hasn't been an issue. But there are certain words that we say our family doesn't use--particularly hate, stupid, and shut up, which are words they may hear at school or on TV. And while I think it's important to not use those words, I also wonder if forbidding them gives them more power, so really they just save them up for maximum effect, as Zuzu did in the ballet parking lot. Coco kept talking about the "shhh" word the other day and I was trying to figure out where she learned the word "shit" until I realized she meant "shut up." Anyway, still figuring that out and trying to be a good role model...)

I've been bracing myself for dance lessons since then, but it's been fine. In fact, now she's decided she wants to stay in dance through the recital in June. (This child is baffling.) And while David was gone, she had a great dance lesson and the teacher actually pulled me aside (as I was pulling Zuzu out early to go home because driving in the snow makes me so anxious, particularly when I'm pregnant).

Thursday night we had no where to go, and my parents came up on Friday which was so amazing because they picked up the girls from school AND my mom made dinner. It was like I was on vacation! David got home on Saturday and life is back to normal. This week is particularly busy, though. How does it happen that everything happens at once?

I have a workshop tonight that runs from 6-8:30, and when you factor in the 20-minute drive there and back, it eats up my entire evening. It's a good workshop and my choice, but still a challenging time commitment.

Tomorrow I'm volunteering to put up decorations for the school musical performance immediately after school; later that night the girls have Spanish and I have a We Stories meeting, so D and I are going to juggle drop off and pick up and still try to make and eat dinner together.

Wednesday night is dance (fingers crossed it continues to go smoothly) and I'm on my own because David will be at his school all evening for an event.

Thursday afternoon I have a doctor appointment to check in on The Closer (24 weeks today). Thursday night I'm double booked, but I'm choosing to attend Zuzu's musical performance (I mean, I can't miss her first one! Plus it's "The Day the Crayons Quit" and I think it's going to be soooo cute. And I get a reserved seat since I'm volunteering on Tuesday. #incentive).

Friday I have to take Zuzu to a dentist appointment, and that night, she and David are attending a dance at school. (Confession: I'm so relieved not to have to go! I'm sure they will have fun and Coco and I will find something else fun to do that doesn't involve large numbers of elementary school girls shrieking in a gymnasium).

Saturday, David and I have plans to go to dinner and the Fox. It will be great to have a date night, but I'm not fully looking forward to it because sitting through a show at the Fox the last two times we've gone has made my sciatic nerve flare up the next day. Any suggestions for avoiding that while sitting for two and a half hours in small, old, not super comfortable theater seats? I'll get up and walk at intermission, but that doesn't quite seem to be enough. I am considering trying a water exercise class on Saturday. Pro--I'm sure it would be really good for me. Con--I will feel social pressure to shave my legs before I go.

Whew. So that's my week. Plus working--we're wrapping up Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew and Pride and Prejudice in my three different classes this week, so my head is swimming with questions about Shakespeare, love, vengeance, Austen, gender roles, marriage, and how these questions transfer to our twenty-first century context. The big questions are so much fun. But it's so easy to get weighed down by the minutiae--and I fully admit that I am someone who gets a rush of accomplishment from crossing minutiae off a to-do list. Hoping to ride that rush through the packed calendar this week.