Babies bursting out all over

Week 25: 6/25/07


Before this regularly-scheduled blog, an update: Aron's sister Jessie is scheduled to have surgery tomorrow, and things are looking very hopeful. Thanks to everyone who has wished her and us well. (And in lesser news, Sylvia's asthmatic-but-not-real-asthma coughing is on the wane.)

Maybe it's true of a lot of people my age (33) or of my maternal status (one child, age 3), but gawl-darn do I know a lot of pregnant women. Through Sylvia's daycare alone, I know four fellow moms who are expecting, and three who recently gave birth. (This is a daycare of 10 kids, mind you.) I also have five friends who are pregnant, one who just gave birth, and still I'm having an annoying sensation that I'm forgetting someone.

It's great, and only sometimes awkward, to know so many other women experiencing what I am, or some version of it. Great because of the comfort that comes from feeling the universality of pregnancy, that we're all in it together; also because we can make use of each others' resources. In the past week alone, I told one friend about the acupuncturist I went to when Sylvia was transverse (which is like breech, only straight across my belly--within 24 hours of the moxibustion and needle treatment, she had turned head-down), and passed the website for a cool belly band onto my friend Sheryl (both belly band and Sheryl pictured above), who's just entered her second trimester and looking for something to help ease the painful short-shirt and sagging- or too-tight pants dilemma that hits at that time. And the cool belly band site? Had been passed along to me by another friend, one who's about five weeks ahead of me.

Last week, I found out that yet another friend is pregnant, now about 7 weeks along. It was planned, but still a surprise--it only took her a month of "trying." And while she's thrilled, she's too busy lying on the couch and feeling miserable to jump for joy. When I was talking with her about it, because I had just been through it myself, I didn't say,"Ohmygod you must be so excited!", which is how very many well-meaning people tend to react. Maybe some women truly feel this way, but I found it impossible to be both very excited and very miserable at the same time. So instead I said, "I think the first trimester is the hardest part of being pregnant--you don't feel pregnant, you just feel like crap." And I think that this actually might have helped. Not as much as a magic bullet for nausea and exhaustion, but better than nothing.

But yes, it can be awkward

My friends are all grown-ups, so we seem to be immune to any serious "Gasp! You're doing it that way?!?" sort of hysteria. But out of a sense of politesse, I think we tiptoe around our different approaches to pregnancy, not wanting to offend or imply anything but a completely nonjudgmental outlook. But here is where that tricky stuff of comparison-parenting starts, right? Which hospital? Which midwife--oh, an OB? I mean, that's great! Are you going to get an epidural? A doula? Which doula? Did you register for gifts? Is your baby's room all set up? No room? No crib? Oh, you're sleeping together? That's great! Diaper service? Do you think I should do a diaper service? Wipes warmer? I was going to let the baby just think cold was part of the normal diaper-changing experience. But you're not? Do you think I shouldn't?

It is really shocking, once you get into it, how you could spend your entire day vacillating between judgment and self-doubt. Or maybe that's just me.

Which is why I'm so glad I've been through this before. The most valuable lesson I learned in Sylvia's birth--aside from that my true kick-ass mutha stripes show after 21 hours of labor, and that you wouldn't want to meet me in a dark alley around that point, especially if that dark alley ends up in the birthing room at the hospital, even more so if that dark alley is the Freudian place I'm alluding to--was that no one, especially not I, can judge another parents' actions.

Of course, I still do judge other parents. But I've also developed a long list of things that I used to think mattered a lot to a child's eventual well-being, and now I don't. What a parent registers for is one of those things. If a baby sleeps with her parents or not is another. How the baby got into the world is yet another. (I may judge the screwed up system that narrows doctors' and our fields of vision about birth, but I no longer judge the decisions anyone makes in the pressure-cooker of labor.) I know too many parents and kids who've done it every which way to say that one method is always right; I've also seen Sylvia blossom and grow under not always ideal circumstances--a cold tush with every wipe!--no matter how ideal I strive for her circumstances to be.

Still, a little distance can be healthy

Even though I love comparing notes with pregnant friends, I've been finding that it's the friends who are just a few years out--those who have second kids who are now a year and older--that really make me feel like I can relax. I was out to dinner with three such pals a while back. They had true wisdom to share, like one friend, who said, "With the first baby, you're too panicked to just live your life, even though they're sleeping 20 hours out of every 24. With the second one, you're making dinner while the newborn is asleep in the sling, and your first is yelping around the kitchen."

But even better was that they made me laugh until my jaw ached as they traded anecdotes: about their sometimes-heinous births, about the leaky breasts and exhaustion, about staying up after the baby has finally nodded off to watch one more episode of Weeds on DVD, about the partners who won't behave and children who won't listen, about our sometimes-depressed, sometimes-ecastatic outlook on life, about the too-infrequent sex, about Mommy Brain, about the cute guy in the seafood department... about how freaking normal it is, how expected, how possible it is to live through and love through this all is and will be.

Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy.

Next week: Emily and Aron decide to hire a doula.