[21 April, 2015]

tri 3

0 sighs or salutations

I am writing this in the last few days (or hours, who knows?!) before labor, but I wanted to jot down some details about the third trimester because I am sure it will be so far from my mind once baby is in my arms.

The third trimester has a reputation for being uncomfortable, and I noticed too that at around week 30, things started to become noticeably more difficult. This is when baby grows the most and the belly suddenly pops way out. I could feel the expansion of my uterus and the skin stretching, like things inside of me were exploding but in very very slow motion. The growing weight put pressure on my hips and legs, so I began to walk slower and become more out of breath when walking up the stairs. I could feel that there was a larger volume of blood now, and I even got my first nosebleed while in the shower. Until my stomach dropped (around week 37), at times I ran into breathing problems as the uterus now pushed up on my diaphragm. Constantly feeling like there is not enough air in my lungs, coupled with constantly stretching skin and internal explosion is what made this period, what they call in very vague terms, "uncomfortable."

Other common complaints are bladder and sleep issues, which haven't been too bad for me. That is, until the stomach dropped, and then I suddenly had to pee every 5 minutes. I sleep on my side ok, though sometimes I do find myself slightly rolling onto the stomach to my pre-pregnancy usual sleep position. Sorry, baby, if I squished you in any way!

I thought carrying a child was some mysterious process where it is somewhere in there. But turns out, it's not that far away, it's actually right there, under only a few layers of skin and muscle. Growing baby means growing movement and a stomach that goes crazy with rolling bumps and flattening valleys. It's fun and crazy and fascinating and sometimes inconvenient but also usually very amusing.

I've had enough energy throughout, although there are days I just have to lie down for a bit or flat-out nap. I'm continuing to work and the week before my due date, suddenly, everyone wanted me to accomplish all these projects! The differences in maternity leave and overall work vs. family balance are stark between Russia and the US. I will have to make it a conversation for another time.

At week 35, I took some professional pictures to document my body. It just so happened that I ended up with two photo sessions. The first one was by a fancy professional studio photographer who was looking for pregnant women for an exhibition she is organizing in June. I had never been a model in a studio before, and this gave me the chance to showcase my body in a novel way.

Then J expressed interest in doing something together, to document our growing family, not just my body. The second photographer, also very talented, does her sessions in a more photojournalistic style outside of a studio. We walked around the city and tried to capture moments of togetherness and anticipation. I felt a bit disappointed that I had to wear a coat outside (it was the middle of March; as you can see, there is still ice in the canals), so I am not even sure how much my pregnant belly, or baby, shows up in these, although I guess it does enough.

The official due date was April 20, but on April 17, J presented a paper at a conference here in St. Petersburg. Baby and I had an understanding of waiting until after the 17, although preferably with a few days of giving us time to rest and recuperate from my last-minute work stress and J's last-minute conference. The 20th is also Hitler's birthday so I was rooting for even a later date. The 22 is Lenin's birthday, so if it happens then, I'll take a socialist revolutionary baby any time.

[14 March, 2015]

prep and expectations

0 sighs or salutations

Not that you can really truly prepare for what labor will be like the first time, but I am really trying not to freak myself out here. It's just that I grew up in such a culture--both family-wise and overall--where labor has been portrayed as a very horrible, painful, worst-thing-you-can-go-through event. Both my grandmothers and my mother did not have a fun time with labor and so I did not grow up surrounded by inspirational stories of the amazing miracle of life. Their experience could be due to the time during the Soviet Union when medicine was not comfortable or customer-service oriented and there was little information or preparation for what women go through. Maybe this topic wasn't even discussed much; it was just something women resigned to silently suffer through in order to bring children into the world. So I am scared that if genetics play a part in this, I am indeed screwed into a horrible frenzy of an experience. But I am also trying to gather some level of preparation, mastery, and confidence in the fact that my body and I will get through it.

I know things rarely go according to plan or expectations, but I am trying hard to cling to the idea that I can prepare myself and at least ease some of the shock. I am going to prenatal yoga to theoretically stretch and strengthen my crotch muscles. I am trying to do oil massages in the crotch area to help stretch and lubricate the skin there. I am practicing breathing exercises, especially during times I feel especially panicky. I am going through classes and learning about stages of labor and visualizing possible scenarios. AND YET. You just never know, and that is the scary thing.

About a month to go. 

[07 March, 2015]

turn on, tune in, and drop out

0 sighs or salutations

Every parent has their own parenting trip: The part of their approach to parenting that is beyond a set of beliefs and standards. To talk them out of it would be like telling someone to stop tripping on mushrooms. Why would you waste your time like that?
I just love this description of parenting as a prolonged acid trip. Because yes, yes, and yes: you don't know how the trip will go, how long it will last, what types of experiences you will encounter during it. Every trip is different, every drug that gives you a trip acts a bit differently, every person reacts to every drug and every trip in their own unique way. No matter how much you prepare or think you know or ask for advice, the trip will mostly likely be something visceral and personal, based on your past, incorporating the present, and changing everything you thought about life.

Full disclosure: I have never actually done psychedelics, but the metaphor still makes perfect sense. So the next time I feel a tacit urge to judge a parent, I'll have to remember: we all just be trippin' here.

[01 March, 2015]

tri 2

0 sighs or salutations

I arrived in Russia toward the end of the first trimester and began the hectic journey of starting a new job and also setting up prenatal care. Socialized healthcare, for what it's worth, is still amazing to me. Sure, some aspects of it may be less fancy than private care (for example, I have to bring my own towel/sheet to put down on the exam table because they would rather not spend money on those disposable paper towel things, and frankly, I think this way is more eco-friendly and not a huge hassle anyway), but the quality, in my experience, has still always been up to standard. Dealing with insurance issues in the US has been so stressful and everything medical was so expensive and completely unaffordable to even the average middle class person like myself, let alone others, that I honestly breathed a huge sigh of relief when I could get checkups and vitamins and ultrasounds and all the tests without paying a dime (well, except through taxes).

The most annoying part about the second trimester for me has been everyone saying how this is the "honeymoon" phase. All the exclamations of "Enjoy it now! You're going to feel great! All this energy! Finally no nausea!" were mostly irrelevant, so I tried to ignore them without being too bothered although this was very hard.

As an aside, I am noticing a theme here though, that I get easily annoyed at people's unsolicited advice, warnings, experience-sharing, etc. I know I have to work on this, as it's about to get so much worse with an actual child that everyone has an opinion about. I just can't be bothered listening to things that are usually irrelevant to me, especially when I have generally thought about my situation already and made a decision or formed my own opinion. Seriously, I am not stupid and I am good at thinking, deciphering, intuiting, comparing-contrasting, and concluding, dammit! I am in charge of my own life and everything related to it (my body, my pregnancy, etc.), so let me be the master of it. I understand that the argument is that people just want to "share" or "relate," not disempower, but honestly, I still find all of it unnecessary and invasive. I've got to find a way to let it roll right off of me though, and that is currently my struggle.

But back to the honeymoon. Because my first trimester was not traumatic and did not include much morning sickness, it did not feel like an immediate relief to enter the second. In fact, the nausea started to peak around weeks 14-18, and I even did puke once some time in that timeframe (I was also feeling under the weather and weak all around then, so the puking did not come out of the blue completely). My energy did not pick up in the second trimester either. I spent a lot of time running around (while being exhausted) and stressing out about getting hired for the job though, so that might've also taken it out of me. That whole situation was rather ridiculous; plus, now I needed to tell my new boss about the pregnancy and I wasn't even hired officially yet!

But growing a baby still takes a toll on your body, no matter what trimester you're in. For example, I knew I was losing a lot of calcium to bone formation when one morning my tooth chipped. I picked up on my calcium intake and also on iron, which are the two ingredients they really watch for here. Suddenly my diet included a lot of dairy products, sesame oil and seeds, liver, and pomegranates. Good thing it was winter and pomegranates were in season. And good thing I love me some cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, and milk forever and ever.

My stomach wasn't super visible yet, but I could feel it expanding. The sensation was like feeling bloated, like I ate too much and now all the space inside was filled beyond capacity. Except that feeling never lessened after a bit of time. I still tried to wear clothes that would hide any possible bump, partly due to needing time to adjust to my changing body and partly due to wanting to avoid people's stares, guesses, and again, unsolicited advice.

I struggled against this imposed (patriarchal) image of a pregnant woman: the glowing and life-giving goddess who radiates with maternal calmness and happiness over impending motherhood. This image is a very tight corset to fit into, one that does not allow for fears and unhappiness and thoughts about anything other than motherhood and disconnection from your changing body. But reality is complex. I was equally stressed, worried about my job, focused on non-motherhood-related projects, and trying to save money by fitting into my regular clothing as long as possible, for example, as I was marveling that there was a new life steadily forming inside of me. The marveling wasn't constant, but it was intimate and genuine, something that I think brought me to an authentic connection with baby and my body, not one forced through narrow stereotypes.

[28 February, 2015]

the weight of fear

0 sighs or salutations

My biggest impending-parenthood fear is something irrational, I realize, and something stemming from my own childhood. It may be a common fear even, but it's not about whether I will screw up my kid (I know I will make mistakes and I'm allowing for the possibility that our personalities may not mesh, and besides, a little therapy never hurt anyone) or the loss of my previously spontaneous independent life (I am a generally flexible person who has withstood many changes in her day and does not hold on to any one way to live life anymore). My biggest fear, though, is that my child won't love me.

It's a fear. Of course I understand that it could happen, but that terrifies me.

I am cautious about where this line of thinking could lead me. I grew up with someone who unconsciously and instinctually feared abandonment to the point of requiring me to comply with their wishes before they'd comply with mine (that's the definition of conditional love). But acknowledging the fear is the first step in understanding it and keeping it from screwing everything up in the future.

I know that ultimately it is not the kid's job to love the parent, but the parents' job to love their kid. I know that the child is an autonomous human being who in the end owes me nothing. I know that the definition of parenthood is me taking care of someone else's needs without asking for anything in return. And if my child decides that they don't love me, well, they must have the freedom to make that choice.

But I'm afraid that this fear will somehow keep me from bonding with my child in those crucial newborn stages. That I will interpret their cries and assertion of needs and later, their attempts to individuate, as a personal insult of rejection. I hope I won't become overly upset at the thanklessness of this job (if it does indeed prove thankless) to the point of putting undue pressure on my kid to provide me with something in return (the definition of role reversal and parentification). I hope I will share whatever burdens with my partner and get support. I hope I will be a good-enough mother.