October 19

For the second time in tow years, I find myself as sick as a dog in a hotel room in a far-off city. Two years ago in May, I managed to get sick at my friend Mollie’s wedding in Kentucky and spent the better part of the weekend on powerful cold medicine. The last day we there, we were supposed to go spend time with some of Jon’s friends, and instead, I lolled around the bed all day in a drug-induced haze. It was actually one of the most relaxing days of that year, and I’ve looked back on it fondly.

This time is not as nice. My sweet husband is 2000 miles away, I can’t take any cold medicine unless I wanted to drug the boo, and I have to drag myself out of bed for all of the work sessions or I’ll have squandered my organization’s cash. Can’t do that. Instead, I’ve skipped the fun and social events including what I’m sure was to be an amazing night of margaritas and tapas at a local Latino museum. Those social events are certainly important for professional development, but at this point, I have to pick my battles.

So I’m lying here in my underwear, my body looking and feeling like a big balloon, last night’s pizza all over the desk, and the second depressing movie in a row on HBO. I’ve been mainlining Tums because they are the only source of vitamin C in the room and praying that tomorrow, when I’m supposed to visit my family in Iowa, I’ll feel much better. Sigh.

Baby, you are worth it, but I do wish you could tolerate cold medicine.

October 18th

I’ve been in Chicago since Friday when I flew in to see my family for a few days before jumping back into work mode at an arts funders conference. What’s amazing is that no one in my family actually lives in Chicago – they all just decided to meet up here since I was going to be here, since my brother Kent is so close, and since it’s a cool town. How awesome does that make my family? It was a fantastic visit, though too short, and I got to meet my new niece Marlena Michelle for the first time. She’s gorgeous, and sweet and loving, and I’m doing my best to prepare for the fact that our own little boo might be a little more difficult.

And now I’m in the thick of the conference. And although I love me a good conference – and this one certainly counts – I’m fighting a cold and also an overwhelming sense of the change I want to make in my own organization to be more adaptive to the world we live in now. I don’t know what’s possible or even, at this point, what is right for my organization, but I know that there is some good work to be done and I wonder what I can do before I go on maternity leave.

Speaking of the boo – in the first hour of the conference I managed to meet two other pregnant woman, both farther along than I am but both seemingly coping better than I am – not as tired, more mobile, etc. Maybe that’s because they’ve hit that elusive (to me) stage of feeling great, and maybe it’s because it’s not their first, and maybe it’s because they are younger than I am, but I hope to be – or at least seem – as functional as they do.

For now, all I can do is honor the energy I do have, and take the time I need. Although I would have loved to take advantage of all of the social and networking opportunities tonight, instead, I’m staying in my room with the boo in my belly so I can hope to fully participate again tomorrow. I’ve gotten a lot of love from my colleagues here because of my protruding belly, and have been grateful to all of them who – to a person – have told me that what is in my belly is my greatest priority and my greatest work. And these are people who give my organization money. So for them to share that priority means the world.

Mostly, though, I miss my husband, and I miss my family, and I think I’m going to mitigate my yearning with a stuffed spinach pizza.

September 28th

My body is a miracle.  All women’s bodies are, actually – that no matter our shortcomings or careers or quirks, all of us are hard-wired to make babies.  It’s amazing to me that my body is making a baby, and all I have to show for it is exhaustion and heartburn and zits.  Inside, where my body has always been infinitely smarter than I am, it is just showing off.  I mean, honestly.  I realize that gagillions of years of evolution and trial and error and whatnot has given me – or rather, my body – this particular knowledge, and I am also very clear that I am but a host to this little miracle parasite.  He will survive even if I wither.  But it is a miracle nonetheless.

But that’s all genetics and coding and cells doing what they are trained to do.  Once we are on the outside, and the people we choose to be and the choices we make every day are what really stack up and matter.  Yes, there is this crazy unbelievable thing happening RIGHT NOW in my innards, but it’s not the only thing in my life that takes my breath away.

My husband cleans hotel rooms so the maids will have less work to do.  When driving, he waits at stop signs even when it’s his turn, just in case the other person is a) not paying attention or b) just wants to go first for whatever reason.  He always, always puts others before himself.  He is creative in the way he shows his friendship and his affection.  He nurtures his friendships with the loving care of a master gardener.  He never lets me wash the dishes when I cook, and since he can’t cook – the man can’t boil water – he always washes the dishes.  He notices my tiniest quirks and works to make his quirks and my quirks fit together as best they can.  He’s also stubborn and headstrong when he cares about something.  He loves it when I sing along to the radio, which is good, because I can’t shut up.  Hell, he just loves it when I sing.  He loves my family.  He loves his family.  He rubs my head almost every night – and he did that before I was pregnant with migraines.  He does a much better job than I do of getting involved in the things I care about.  (I try to like having the TV on with football all weekend, but it just makes me so sad.)  He is my constant wingman.  When we go to my work events, which is often, he will stand and hold my hand when I need him to, and he’ll go off and make new friends when I need to focus on a donor or constituent.  He is happy in a crowd, and happy with just me.

I am better because of him, in a thousand ways.  I can love everyone I know better because he’s given me new access to myself, which enables me to open up to others.  He is patient where I am rash.  I realize we’ve only been married for five months, but every day is better, stronger, more joyful than the last.  With him, nothing feels impossible.

So while there is a miracle brewing in my belly, the real miracle of my life is my husband.  Every trial I went through to get to him was worth it.  I would have waited twice as long, gone through twice as much desolation and despair, if I’d known he would be waiting on the other side.  I pray to all that is good that I never take him for granted, that I always see him for who he is, and that I am able to deserve him for the rest of my life.

September 19th

So let’s be clear.  I had a very smooth first trimester.  I was bone-tired most of the time, to the point of often being non-functional, but aside from doctor visits and my CVS, I never missed an hour of work.  My boobs have ached since the day after my birthday, when I was only a couple of weeks pregnant and didn’t even know it yet, and that pain has gotten progressively worse.  And there were a couple of weeks that I felt nauseous a few times a day.  The last few weeks of my first trimester, I even started to get my energy back for large portions of the day.  But that’s it.  I never actually threw up and was spared the myriad of other symptoms so carefully catalogued in all of the books and websites.

But these same books and websites promised a shift during the second trimester.  I’m now three weeks into my second trimester and suddenly it’s as if the Wrath of Pregnancy has hit.  I’m back to being utterly exhausted, almost falling asleep at my desk, foggy as hell, PLUS, worse acne than I ever had as a teenager, heartburn bad enough to make me step out of meetings in hope that my chest won’t actually explode, headaches that leave me dizzy, and vivid, horrible nightmares that wake me up three times a night, at least.  And I won’t mention just how many trips I have to make to the bathroom.  EACH.  HOUR.

Honestly, I could be in one of those Clearasil commercials from the 90’s when they mocked the constellations of acne on the faces of sad teenagers.  Oh, and did I mention that my uterus aches all day, every day?  Actually, this last symptom has been less bad these last few days, but I think it’s because I’ve been so distracted by everything else.

And yet… and yet, we look at my belly, and imagine our baby boy flexing his fingers and rolling around in his little amniotic pool.  We are designing what the nursery will look like, and talking about what our lives might be like come next March.  I took a walk today, and within seven minutes of leaving my front door, was staring at the wide, wide Pacific Ocean where two days ago, we watched a least a dozen dolphins frolic with diving pelicans and barking sea lions.  And I couldn’t believe that I’m a wife, and a mother-to-be, and living in Santa Cruz, and married to the kindest, smartest, most loving man on the planet.  My life is a series of blessings.  So I welcome the zits and the heartburn and the exhaustion and even the nightmares, because my waking life is actually so damn great.

September 14th

My baby is chromosomally healthy.  And a baby boy!

I got a call from the Stanford clinic today, and they left the perfect message: “We have good news for you about your CVS results”.  Still, I called back in a panic, as it was 4:40 and I didn’t know how late they’d be open.  But I got one of the genetic counselors on the phone who was far more warm and caring rather than cold and clinical – you can’t help but love the NorCal way of life – who told me that all of the results came back normal, and asked if I wanted to know the sex.  I said yes, and she said, are you ready?  And I said YES!  And she said “You are having a boy!”

I knew the baby was healthy – I’ve always known – but it was only this last week that I started to really know that it was a boy.  I wasn’t sure, and early on, both Jon and thought it was a girl.  And while the news about it being healthy was no surprise, it was an incredible relief that I got to finally share this news with Jon.  I called him at work, so he answered in his usual subdued tones, and when I told him that not only was the baby healthy, it was a boy, he said, with almost no emotion, “That’s great.  I have to go throw up now.”  I think it finally hit him that we are going to parents – and I also think he needed to release an incredible amount of anxiety and fear.

So… now the planning in earnest begins.  I’ll tell my board president at the end of this week, as well as the board and full staff, and finally I can relax into being pregnant (and all that means) in my public life as well as my personal life.  That will be my great relief.

Thursday I’ll be fifteen weeks.  And hopefully entering the trimester that was my mom’s favorite – she claims to have never felt better in her life than during her second trimester.  Mine has started off far rockier than hers, but still, every day, I’m delighted to feel so awful in all the right ways.

September 3rd

I had the CVS on Wednesday, and I’m still recovering.  I’d been crampy all week – not in a bad or scary way, just in a my-uterus-is-growing-like-crazy way, so this new round of cramps is less concerning, but I’m stunned by the reports on the internet that say that getting a CVS doesn’t hurt.  Perhaps the women who’ve had a transcervical CVS reported little or no pain, but getting it done transabdominally, with no anesthetic – well.  I beg to differ.  It’s not like they are just drawing blood or fluid from your innards – they are removing tissue from your placenta, and it takes a bit of banging around in there to get enough tissue.  I certainly don’t want to scare anyone away from this procedure, but knowing what I know now, I’d wait and get an amnio.

But it’s done, and they got the tissue they needed, and I’m off my feet (mostly) for three days and now it’s just a waiting game for the results.  In two weeks, we should know about any genetic problems, and we’ll also know the sex of the little one, although Sean has decided it’s a girl, and that we should name it Sean.  So, now the wee one in my belly is referred to as “Sean the girl”.  (If it’s a girl, we aren’t actually going to name her Sean.  Most likely.)

Yesterday was day one of week 13, day one of my third trimester.  I’m less exhausted (though still incapable of doing much), not nauseated really ever, but my boobs still scream in agony any time anyone things about getting anywhere near them.  Taking off my bra at the end of the day is the most painful thing I do.  Sad for Jon, really, cuz they are huge and as firm as they’ll ever be.  I think they look fake.

And my little belly doesn’t feel so little anymore.  Nor does it look little.

At the last ultrasound, we saw knees, feet, hands, fingers, a spine, a heart, a belly, a face.  The little one was stretching and bouncing and waving.  S/he is the size of a lemon.  Hard to believe that my body is making all of this stuff happen, except for the part that it *feels* like I’ve been taken over and am but a vessel at the moment for more important work.

It’s going to be a long two weeks.

August 25th

Today I was supposed to have a chorionic villus sampling, or CVS.  It’s a somewhat invasive prenatal test that determines whether or not the fetus has various genetic abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome and a host of other disorders.

It got postponed because my placenta isn’t quite thick enough.  So we are doing it next week.

I’m terrified, a bit, of the procedure, and how it will affect my baby.

On the flip side, I’m wondering if having this baby will mean the end of all things fun.  Jon says it will just redefine fun, and I’m sure he’s right… but I can’t help wonder.

I’m showing like crazy.  It’s absurd to be hiding this at work, and now, I’ve got 2-3 more weeks of hiding an ever-growing bump.

August 20th

Last Friday, my belly popped out. I mean, I’ve been chubby since day one of this pregnancy, and quickly stopped wearing my most form-fitted stuff as I was keeping my nausea at bay by pretty much constantly eating. (I gained ten pounds in my first ten weeks, which is impressive.) But last Saturday morning, I walked out to the living room in my yoga pants in utter despair, because I felt so ridiculous and my clothes didn’t fit and there was no hiding my belly. Jon promised to take me shopping, and we ventured off to run errands.

We first stopped by a locally-owned maternity/kids shop, where they had a bunch of clothing on consignment. Everything I tried on was waaaay too short-waisted, or had spaghetti straps, or somehow didn’t work. Next stop was Kohl’s (ugh) where I knew I could find relatively cheap tops that didn’t cling to one’s midsection. I bought a few things, but still wasn’t feeling like I could tackle the world with this new belly.

And then? Jon, who had been morosely wandering the mall as I pulled on cheaply-made garment after cheaply-made garment, walked me over to Motherhood Maternity. Two very helpful salesgirls swooped over to me, and within minutes I was trying on jeans, work pants, sweaters, tops, all built to take you through all nine months of pregnancy, all designed to help you hide what you need to hide when you need to hide it, and all designed to make you comfortable at all times. AND it’s all cute and professional-looking. I felt as though I’d been given keys to the pregnancy kingdom. It was as if I didn’t realize that a few other women have been pregnant in years past and that some folks might have not only figured out how to make women comfortable – they’ve figured out an entire industry that

capitalizes on such a thing. I’m sure the clothes were made by underpaid children in a remote African country – and for that I apologize – but I can’t tell you the bliss of putting together outfits that didn’t make me feel like an aberration.

They sealed the sale – and my everlasting devotion – when one of the salesgirls inquired about my need for a “sleep bra”. Why, whatever is such a thing? Turns out it’s a thing to keep your woobies in place while you toss and turn at night. My boobs have been killing me since DAY ONE, and they wake me up at night every time I shift positions. And someone had thought of a doctor-recommended solution? BLISS! HURRAY! SIGN ME UP!

My belly is still sticking out, of course, as it should, but now at least I have clothing that I can wear for the next six months with only minimal discomfort. It seems like a small thing, but it was a most welcome solution.

One week left in my first trimester. Five days until my Chorionic Villus Sampling prenatal test. Can’t wait for the poking and prodding to be over.

August 16th

Hey, was Elvis born today?  Or something?

Anyway.  Today you are 10 1/2 weeks old.  Your dad-to-be has started to relax, despite himself, because how can you be nervous about something every waking minute?  He’s still nervous, but for the first time he’s started to feel my belly and get all gushy-eyed.  We saw you for the second time today, on the ultrasound.  Last time you were a tiny blip in my belly.  This time, you had a distinctive head, body, and – we think – an arm.  You were luxuriating on the bottom of my uterus, planning your future Presidential campaign.  Your crazy little heart is beating 163 times a minute.  That’s a lot, but not for a little baby.

I’m still super tired, but feel less exhausted this week, gratefully.  I’m nauseous about 90% of the day, but still haven’t actually thrown up, so for that, I thank you.  I’m taking a new yoga class from a woman who is in her second trimester and who is a bit cavalier about the yoga poses I can and cannot do.  “You’ll know if it feels wrong”, she says, so I’m blending that with what I’ve gleaned from every other yoga teacher (no holding your breath, no deep twists, no ab exercises on your belly, etc.)  I’m grateful to be somewhat back in my practice, and I hope you are enjoying it, too.

You should know that the summer I was pregnant with you was the coldest summer on record here in coastal California.  Tomatoes aren’t ripening, children aren’t getting sunburned.  Every day is socked in, and when it got sunny and hit 74 degrees yesterday, we walked outside, shed our coats, and wondered at the big round orange thing in the sky.

I’m overwhelmed when I think about the things I want and need to accomplish before you are born – everything from finding a temp ED to run my organization when I take a leave to finding a proper crib on Craigslist.  But mostly, I just want to lie around and daydream about what life might be like with you.  What kind of mother I’ll be.  Just how crazy that first month might be.  How I can make sure that you grow up near your cousins Lucy and Barnaby and Marlena.  At least, those are the cousins that will be closer to your age.  When you get around to hanging out with cousins Sean Patrick and Lucas, you’ll know you’ve really arrived.  You are going to adore all of them.  But I need to make sure you get to be near them all as often as possible.

Can’t wait to meet you.

Tuesday, July 27

I found out about you on Friday, July 2nd.  That was three weeks after you were but a single cell, and now, if what I read in the books is right, you have a spine, four chambers of a beating heart, and you’ve started creating everything that, presumably, you’ll one day need when you are stealing my car keys and rifling through my jacket pockets for loose change.

Jon would be really upset if he knew I was already writing to you.  I can’t help but risk it, since I’ve been talking to you here and there already – never out loud, and never anything interesting – but I’ve been thinking about writing to you since the day this adventure began.  So here I am.  I know we’re just shy of eight weeks along, and so we’re way shy of being out of the woods yet, but I need to write about my life for the first time in years, so, here I am.

In case you are wondering, I am tired all the time.  Tired doesn’t begin to describe it.  I am deeply, utterly, exhausted, incapable, sometimes, of the mere act of walking from the couch to the bed.  I’d say that I’m gaining weight at an alarming weight, except, I’m not remotely alarmed.  So far I’m not barfing – not even nauseous – and my doc says that my continually grazing all day may be what is keeping the ick at bay.  However, all I ever want to eat is grapes and cereal, and those do not a balanced diet make.

I think one of the reasons I’m writing to you is that I see people – family, friends, strangers – passing babies back and forth, making them giggle, spending hours just to get a laugh out of them – and I can’t help but wonder: was I loved like that?  Was I passed around and nuzzled and adored?  I bet I was – I’m sure I was – but I’m sorry I missed it, although I’m sure the knowledge is somewhere in my hind brain.  So, I’m here to tell you that you were loved like that from day one.  Heck, from 40 weeks negative.

Jon and I have to decide soon about genetic testing.  In one test, they’d put a needle in me and pull out some of the blood from your umbilical cord.  In another, they’d put a needle in me and pull out some amniotic fluid.  Both scare the crap out of me, both cuz of the pain, and cuz of my inability to deal with trauma well.  I can set a compound fracture in the middle of the woods, but I get woozy at the sight of a needle if it’s coming in my direction.  So, I’m nervous about these tests, and the effect they will have on me, and therefore you.  I also, for my own reasons, don’t believe the test is necessary.  But I’m of “advanced maternal age”, so I have to do it – I should do it – and I’m probably going to do it sooner rather than later.  I’m hopeful that you are less squeamish, more able to take physical stress than I am.  I’ll need you to be.

These days, all I want to do is lie down and read about you, and think about what my life will be like if we are lucky enough to have you in our lives.  Instead, I need to go to bed now, at 9:30, if I have any hope of having enough energy to get through the work day tomorrow.  So, until next time, hang in there, kiddo.  Be strong.