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.