Monday, September 28, 2009

The Fear That Binds

We are freshly returned from our long weekend away, which will probably be our last before the baby comes. I went for the job interview for that new job that I so desperately want, and it went very, very well. I still have to pass a few more steps before I find out if I'll be getting a firm offer, but things are looking very good.

And yet, upon learning how well my interview went, I was not ecstatic. I was worried and afraid. Not of getting the job--I would be over the moon if I got the job, despite the major lifestyle chaos it would bring my way for a while (ie, major move + new baby). I'm totally up for that. No, the fear is of NOT getting the job, which is simply ridiculous. I have been beating myself up with worry about all of the things that could go wrong, and what I will do if they don't make me an offer.

After much thought over the last few days, it's made me realize what a negative impact fear has had on my life over the last five years. I have been so afraid of failure on a number of fronts that I have not even tried. Which is so weird, because in life, I am generally bold and tough and a risk-taker. In my day-to-day worklife, I am generally confident I will succeed. In my personal life, though, I tend to try to avoid things I think I might fail at, which is absurd. I almost didn't try for this job, because I'd heard that it was very tough to get in and only a small percentage of the people who go through it actually get a job offer. But look at me--here I am, and I made it through the first three phases of the hiring process, on my first try, despite the crazy odds that I had heard so much about. I clearly need to have more faith.

I have wasted so much time worrying about things that may never happen. All of those early months spent NOT enjoying my pregnancy, because of the fear it would end in failure again. So many opportunities not pursued, because they might not work out. I have not even attempted to do things that I absolutely should have done, because I didn't think they would come to fruition. In some cases, my life is actually worse off because I have not done what I clearly should have done, because I was held back by my fear. But what's the danger, really, in failing? Rejection? I can handle that. Failure itself? I have been there; I can do that. Embarassment? Well, what is to be embarassed about, really? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you are afraid to try, then you will most certainly be stuck where you are forever, and that's not a very good alternative. When I sit and think about it, I cannot even articulate why I have allowed fear to reign in some aspects of my life.

This job is the only thing that I want to do next professionally. I haven't been able to come up with another alternative that is even remotely appealing to me. I have decided that I am going to forge ahead, and try to avoid the negative thinking and the self-doubt, the worries in the back of my mind that maybe it won't work out. There is a possibility that it won't work out, but there is an even better possibility: maybe it WILL, and that is what I need to focus on.

PS Congratulations to Jamie , who gave birth to the very gorgeous Cade on Thursday--who is himself the epitome of proof that it's worth pushing through failure, fear, and self-doubt to see what might happen on the other side.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chaos Reigns (almost 24 weeks)

First, some utterly boring musings:

I have been on the fence about the flu shot (I never get them, and I've never gotten the flu), and when I brought up the issue at my doctors appointment last week, my doctor admitted that she never gets them, either. And, she has kids, so I assume that means she didn't get one while pregnant, either. She did say, however, that the death rate in Australia has been 6 times higher for pregnant women due to pneumonia complications, basically because late pregnancy already interferes with breathing, and severe pneumonia just leads to complications. She said that she and her partners still have to decide if they are going to get them, and they may force her to get one this year. I still have to do more research. I don't really want to get it (particularly the H1.N1, which seems to have been so rushed), but feel like I should.

I also had an appointment last week with my G.I. dr, who has wanted to see me more frequently due to the pregnancy. I have been having some pain on my lower right side for the last 3-4 weeks. It is probably just due to baby plus digestion, but it gets to be fairly severe, and I still have a long way to go in my pregnancy. She took some blood to run liver and pancreas function tests, which she said can go haywire during pregnancy, just to be sure there's not an issue, and told me to call if I had any fevers, as it could be signs of an appendix issue. That's all I need--to get appendicitis while pregnant! She wasn't overly worried, though.

I think I was still up only about 12 pounds when I hit 23 weeks. Tomorrow is the day I do my weight check, and I'll hit 24 weeks tomorrow. I think I've actually gained a little bit of weight this week, which is good.

And now, for the (also pretty boring) drama:

On top of work being a complete whirlwind (major deadlines moved up by a week (!!) unexpectedly; minor projects due; major projects due; and, my primary assistant quit and left last week because she didn't want to deal with office politics any more), I also leave tomorrow for 5 days for my interview. We're combining it with a visit to my mom's, which I'm excited about, but when we planned this trip and I scheduled my interview, I had no idea that life was going to be so absolutely crazy right now.

So of course, in the midst of all of this chaos and drama, I got a cryptic email from my doula asking which OB practice I am seeing, and then telling me she needed to talk to me. After a few emails back and forth, she said she thought she'd better come see me to talk about the issue in person. Huh?

It turns out that she was talking to a group of other doulas, and the conversation just happened to turn to my OB practice. It turns out that my practice has a very bad reputation for being high-intervention. . .routine episiotomies, 2 hour pushing limits before c-section is required, etc.--all things my doula knows I don't want. My doula is amazing, and is completely supportive of whatever I want to do, but she didn't want to keep information from me. The list of issues went on and on, but one doula apparently even told my doula she won't take clients from my OB's office any more, because women have uniformly had such negative birth experiences. She said that there were three doulas there talking about their former clients' negative experiences, and all said that their clients were happy with the practice and the care they received, until they got into the delivery room. She said the doctors told the clients that they were on board with birth plans, and encouraged them during prenatal visits. . .only to completely ignore them in the delivery room. In fact, my doula said that my doctor has the very worst reputation of all (and she just gave me my doctor's name, as being the one with the worst reputation--she had no idea who my OB actually was).

I am not some overly crunchy earth-mother type. In fact, I am pretty mainstream, and happy with a lot of medicine, generally (um, this pregnancy has clearly been evidence of that--you think I need 7 ultrasounds during my pregnancy. . .by all means, do them! Chorionic Villus Sampling? Sign me up!). But I really, really don't want to be cut open. I've never had to have surgery, and I don't want to start now. The US C-section rate is so many times WHO standards and those of many other nations that I have to believe that there is something wrong with the American system, and not American women's bodies. I know so many women who blythely talk about their c-sections like they are no big deal, and even women who have sought them out on an elective basis. I am not one of those women. It's major surgery, with major recovery needed. And then there is just the increased risk of dying. . .simply intolerable to me.

I feel like I've thought about the birth more than some women seem to. Perhaps I've intellectualized too much a thing that isn't meant to be intellectualized, but. . . When I read other womens' blogs and talk to women about their births, many women just seem to fly by the seat of their pants and go with what their local establishment recommends. While they may be worried about the birth, or have had what they consider a tough birth, they just seem to go with it, and not stress about arranging any of the details for themselves, or wonder whether they could have done something to avoid their "bad" birth. I sort of feel like a lot of women just kind of show up in L&D and take it from there, and deal with whatever comes. Maybe this isn't the case, but it seems that way to me.

I wish I could do that, but I am not hard-wired that way. While I don't see this as a be-all, end-all pivotal life event (the birth. . .the baby's arrival, on the other hand, actually is), I want it to physically go well for me. I don't need to have a positive life experience that I will forever carry forward with me in that earth mother way; I need to have an experience that isn't frightening and horrible physically. I know it will be painful, but I'm not talking about normal labor pain--I'm talking about all of the other stuff that needlessly happens that causes needless pain, like episiotomies and c-sections. And, I feel like by making certain choices now, perhaps I can avoid complications and unnecessary procedures.

That was why we hired a doula. I read the studies that suggested doulas facilitated shorter, easier labors and much lower c-section rates, and that was it for me. It's also why I decided I wanted to deliver at a hospital with a birthing tub, so I could labor in it. It just seems natural to me to labor in water, since it's my usual stress go-to relaxation technique, and it tends to make pain better for me. Plus, it seems to me like lots of warm water MUST help in stretching tissues. Unfortunately, at my appointment last week with my doctor, she also told me that they just got rid of the birthing tub at the hospital I am supposed to deliver at (which is one of the reasons I chose the hospital in the first place) largely because her practice didn't allow their patients to use it, as they felt waterbirth wasn't safe.

I really like my doctor, and I really trust her and all of the other doctors in the practice. It's a small practice with only four doctors. They all have 20+ years of experience, they all went to really good medical schools, and they all trained at top-notch faciliities. If anything were to truly go wrong during my labor, I have every confidence they would get me through it okay. I have received very, very good medical care during my pregnancy, including the referral to a world-class MFM for the genetic testing.

This is where I am struggling. I know that the practice has the medical ability to make things turn out okay if anything goes wrong. But it's that same medical ability that may also turn a perfectly normal birth into a surgical event, simply because they are very conservative in how they practice. It's a double-edged sword: the thing that attracts me to them (the confidence in their medical ability; my feeling of safety) may also result in me getting more medicine than I need or want.

So, at six months pregnant, I am considering whether I should switch to another OB practice, at a different hospital which still has a birthing tub. I have been doing a ton of research again and asking around. It's a little easier to talk to people about now, since people know I'm pregnant. When I was looking before, people didn't know I was pregnant, and it made it hard to ask questions without outing myself to people I didn't necessarily want to be "out" to. My second choice practice, from when I originally chose my OB, was located at a different hospital that is equally far away from my house. I chose my current OB's office because a) a friend had gone there and liked it, and b) my second choice practice was a bit bigger, with about 5 doctors and a bunch of midwives, and some of the doctors had less experience and did not seem quite as highly qualified as my current practice.

The hospital affiliated with my second choice practice has an all-new birth center. They are affiliated with a major children's hospital. They have a much-touted birthing tub, promote waterbirth, have jacuzzis, etc. From what I've picked up so far, local women who are concerned about truly having a "natural" birth (which is sort of my concern, although I think most women want a natural birth for reasons a little different from my own) deliver at this hospital, as opposed to one of the three others that are available.

My doula has been terrific about working to get me more information, too. She's reached out to additional doulas and L&D nurses that she has for contacts. All highly recommended my second choice practice. All highly recommended the hospital affiliated with my second choice practice. One of the women she talked to said that she's never heard a birth story from someone satisified with my current practice. My doula also told me an interesting story about the doctor I happen to be looking at in this new practice (my doula has no idea I am even considering this woman). She said that the L&D nurse told her that the doctor had a patient who had serious high blood pressure issues, and was on mag. The patient was in labor, and really wanted a natural birth. The doctor personally sat with her for nine hours during her labor. Not once did the doctor mention a c-section, although at one point when things weren't looking very good, the doctor did talk about needing to talk about other options, if things continued down that path. They didn't, and the woman went on to have a healthy natural delivery. THAT's the kind of doctor I want--one who keeps me safe, and works with me.

It seems like this should be a no-brainer and that I should switch practices. And yet. . .there are a couple of doctors in this other practice that I don't love, at least on paper. I don't really want a doctor at my delivery who has only been practicing for 6 years, and is a D.O. rather than an M.D. Yes, I know credentials are not everything, but that doesn't feel like it measures up to 20+ years of experience, top medical school, top training. I can't control who ends up in L&D with me, because it's the luck of the draw on who's on call.

I'm going to try to tour this other hospital in the next week or so, and try to see if I can get a "consult" visit with this new practice, to sort of feel them out. I think in the end, I would probably be happier giving birth at this other hospital. But the neurotic part of me is reluctant to give up top-notch medical care, even if maybe it's too much medicine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Curious Case of the Roadside Memorial

When people die, I am a big fan of tributes to their lives, which have hopefully been lived well. My favorite memorials involve lots of tears and lots of laughter. . .and lots of beers, but I digress. I am not such a big fan of focusing on the death itself, because mostly, there is no good to come of it. Roadside memorials, in particular, creep me out. They are a perpetual reminder of a horrible end, rather than a celebration of the good things that the person in question brought to this earth. In my opinion, they are just about the bad. I can see the argument that they bring attention to dangerous stretches of roadway, etc., but I would like to hope that most people understand by now that car travel, particular at high speeds, can be dangerous.

There is a road that I generally travel at least twice a day. The speed limit is rather low (35mph), and the road is very straight, and heavily wooded, although the trees are trimmed back quite far from the road. It was with great curiousity, then, that I began to notice something odd popping up at an intersection in the middle of the wooded straightaway. First it was a flowering plant, nestled into the earth just west of the intersection. Then, the next day, another. And another the day after that.

Each day, morning and night, I would eagerly check out the site on my way by, curious to see what was new and different this time. The plants actually changed at one point, to a taller variety. Each day, there seemed to be one or two more plants than the day before. Yet, it did not appear to be a garden planned by anyone who had a right to be gardening there amidst the trees. The efforts seemed to happen slowly, in stages. There was something very furtive about the way the little garden appeared, changed, and grew. It was very strange.

Then one morning, I caught site of one of those mirrored garden balls. It wasn't in amongst the plants, but rather out near the street. It changed position a few times over the next few days. Then, a few days later, a small cross of rocks was built upon it. It was then that I realized it must be a roadside memorial of some sort, which I also thought was very odd, since I haven't seen or heard of any accidents at that location.

I have been wondering for weeks about the story behind this little garden, about what motivated the furtive gardener who put all of this there. Somebody spent a lot of time and money building this green memorial, with its blue garden ball cross. It meant quite a lot to someone, to build it so slowly, to tear things out and put new things in, to make it just so.

Then yesterday, as I came by, I saw a white pickup truck with a trailer backed up next to the little garden. A man, clearly the "hired help," most likely for the adjoining estate that owns the property, was tearing the plants out by the roots. When I came by a while later, every last plant, the garden ball, the cross--everything--had been removed, and the area raked over, forestland once more.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weight Off My Mind

. . .no pun intended, but my doctor expressed no concern at all today at my montly appointment about my weight gain, or lack of it. I have only gained a pound in the last month, but she says I am measuring right on track and all of the scans of the baby have looked great, so she has no concerns. She said that if I couldn't eat, she might be concerned, but since I am eating healthy and regularly, there are no worries--the baby is getting what she needs. So, on to something new to obsess about.

Luckily, I have plenty of other things to worry about. Work is CRAZY busy. I have a huge project coming up in November, and I am slammed with work on that, on top of a few other huge things that are on my plate at the office. I know that it will all get done. . .somehow. It's starting to wear on me a tad, though. It's harder than I thought it would be to focus on baby, house renovation, volunteer work, major projects at work, and looking for a new job, all at once. I know that the obvious solution would be to drop back on some of that stuff (the volunteer work would be the obvious choice), and I am slowly trying to pull back a little, but it's hard to give up things when I am so into all of them.

Truthfully, I am not investing a huge amount of time in looking for a new job at this point, since a) it will be six months before I could start, and b) there is only one job I really want, and I scheduled the job interview months ago (I know--weird that it got scheduled so far in advance; that's just the way it works for these positions) for a date in late September. That means that the interiew for that job I so very much want is NEXT WEEK! How did it get to be late September already? Given that I scheduled it months ago, it's almost surprising to me that it's finally here. It seemed so far away at the time I scheduled it, but I was worried about scheduling it any sooner, given the baby situation. I am equal parts excited and nervous about next week. I have been trudging along the complicated application pipeline for seven months now, and I am finally at the make-or-break point. I will be devestated if I don't get it.

Of course, getting this most amazing new job would also turn my world completely upside down (it will involve a major move away from family and friends, possibly shortly after the baby is born), albeit in a really great way. The job is just an incredible opportunity, which definitely includes sacrifices and hardships (like moving away from family and friends, among many other things), but it also would allow me to do some really great things, and possibly even make a huge difference in our world. Keep your fingers crossed for me, as I do my final prep for this amazing opportunity. I really want to perform well in this interview. I really want to be given a shot at this job. It seems like a crazy time in my life to be going for this, but it just feels so right. Now if I can just make it all happen for myself!

In a nutshell, there's TONS for me to obsess over right now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Things People Say (22 Weeks)

This weekend we went to a pig roast where family and friends were in attendance. It started off awkward for me, as we got there early to help set up, and the only other person there was a good friend of the hosts. I happen to know that her final IVF ended in miscarriage not so long ago, and they've moved on to adoption. I also know all too well how it must feel for her to be confronted with a pregnant woman. Our mutual friend also knows it's hard on her, because when I first told her two months ago that I was pregnant, she mentioned that she was not going to even tell her for a while. So, I was a little horrified when my friend starting talking about my belly (I am getting VERY round in front!) in front of this poor woman. I know it's been a few months since her miscarriage, but I also know all too well that a few months is nothing it all. After a few months, it still feels like yesterday. With a final IVF behind her and a new path ahead of her, I'm sure she still feels the pain.

Needless to say, she disappeared in pretty short order, and I didn't see much of her for the rest of the day. I wish I could've said something, but I'm probably not supposed to even know about her situation. I hurt for her, though. Unfortunately, a lot of people who knew her kept coming up to me all day to talk about my pregnancy, and I kept trying to change the subject. Yes, I'm thrilled. No, I don't want to talk about it at the expense of another woman.

I mentioned to a few people that I didn't want to talk about it in front of her. Their responses really floored me. One friend-a very sensitive, caring woman-shrugged and said "life goes on.". You can always tell the women who've never been there. They don't truly get it, even when it's explained to them. It was shocking to me, actually, how almost callous people seemed. She can't have her own child. It's not like she founf out that the grocery store was out of Wheaties. But the reactions to my concern for her mental health were essentially along the lines of "she should be over it." Sigh. You always carry that with you, even if you reconcile yourself to it. I wish people got that.

Later on, a family friend who didn't know I was pregnant saw me and was completely floored. Again, the belly giving me away-it was kind of fun, actually. It's the first time someone has found out by looking at me. The expression was priceless. The line of questioning that followed was not:

Friend: So, was this a surprise?

Me (knowing full well what she was asking): Was what a surprise?

Friend: The baby?

Me: To me?

Friend: Yes.

Me (snorting): No, the baby definitely was not a surprise to me.

As though this wasn't bad enough, a family member chimed in on the fun a short time later:

Her: So, how sure are you about your due date?

Me (again knowing just what she was asking): What do you mean?

Her: Well, are you sure it's right?

Me: Huh?

Her: Well, with my kids, I was never exactly sure of, you know, so I never was exactly sure the dates were right.

Me: I'm positive that my due date is accurate. I was keeping a pretty close eye on things.


And then, at another function this week, it was a not-so-nonchalant "I gained less than 20 pounds with each of my kids." Personally, I think this is an incredibly unhealthy weight gain, especially since she then went on to tell me that her babies were only 5 pounds. But more than that-why say that to ANY pregnant woman? Is it a competiton? A challenge? I am going to gain as much as I can (meaning 30-35 pounds, which is a lot for me, considering how I struggle to put on weight), to have as big of a baby as I can (within reason, of course), because that's HEALTHY, and NORMAL, and BEST FOR THE BABY. Women are so competitive, but we've got to draw the line at the "minimal weight gain during pregnancy" competition. That's crazy, and unhealthy for our children.

Speaking of which, stat's this week: +12 pounds from pre-pregancy weight. Crap. This means I'm down another pound or so, which makes it two weeks in a row. I can't figure out why, since I feel like I'm constantly eating. I went to a pig roast, for crying out loud, and hovered over the appetizer table for two hours until dinner was ready! I ate chips! With dip! And cookies, pork, pasta salad, veggies, and two kinds of dessert! I have a doctor's appointment this week, so I'll have to chat with her about my weight gain, and whether I'm on track. I am eating lots of healthy snacks between meals-fruit, nuts, cheese, veggies, and hummus-so it's tough to say why my weight is so static. I feel like I'm constantly eating, and constantly full.

Work has been really crazy, as I gear up for an upcoming project. I am doing a lot of blog reading on my phone, as I have a few minutes in between things, but I can't always access the commenting screen, for reasons I can't figure out. But I'm always reading, so don't feel ignored.

And finally, the name thing. Everyone is constantly asking what the baby's name will be. We have no idea. People think we are just keeping it a secret, but truthfully, we have no plans to name her until she is born. We have a "short list" of a dozen or so names, which is constantly evolving. It just feels right to meet her before we name her. I feel like we'll know the right name when we see her.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

21 Weeks

Today marks 21 weeks, and I ushered in this week with a bang. . .literally. I took a massive fall in the shower this morning. I had jumped out of the shower to lock the door behind my husband (who, I could tell by the lack of the sound of the lock turning in the door, had forgotten to lock the door behind him when he left this morning), and when I stepped back in, I slipped. We have a very beautiful, but very sharp, wooden molding on the side of the tub, and as one foot slipped out from under me in the tub, the other leg came crashing down on the side of the molding, and then slid along it. I ended up landing entirely in the tub, with one knee bent under me at an odd angle. Baby is fine, but my leg is a mess. There are bruises and scrapes down one calf and down my foot, and it hurts to walk on. I am nothing, if not graceful. Thankfully, I landed the way I did, and not in a way that hurt the baby.

Otherwise, things have been going really well.

Weight: +13 pounds overall (I seem to have lost 1.5 pounds from last week; not sure why).

I found a great sale at on the bedding that we picked out, and they were having free shipping as well, so on Monday I bought it (it was $40 cheaper than in my local store). It got here today, which I thought was super quick! I totally love it. It's a mix of polka dots and stripes, sort of bright green and chocolate brown. Hopefully, it will match the wall color.

And, we've hired a doula. After all of my research and agonizing over who to contact, a number of the doulas didn't even respond to my inquiries. Two were already booked, and two were available. One of those that was available gave such a lackluster response that I excluded her. So, we only got one response back that I really liked. We traded emails and then talked on the phone for a long while, and I liked her, but I wasn't sure what T. would think. We set up an appointment for this past week so that he could meet her in person. He's been pretty lukewarm on the whole doula thing. . .he didn't really understand what she could do for us, or why it might be beneficial to have her there. So, I explained to him that we'd meet with her, and then we'd talk about it, and then we'd let her know. But he must've REALLY liked her, because toward the end of the meeting, he told her she was definitely hired! She seems terrific, and it gives me peace of mind to know that she's on this journey with us. It makes me feel like I'm more likely to avoid the interventions that I don't want, and to have the kind of birth that I really do want.

The only question that remains is whether we'll be able to use our Sav.ings Account to pay for the doula. Under the IRS reg's, I think it's a qualified expense. But when I contacted my benefits company, they initially denied my request. I asked them to provide a legal basis for their determination, and cited the parts of the IRS reg that I believe support my request, and received a response back--from the woman who denied my claim--saying that they were now considering it, but the person who "had all the answers" was out of the office. I found it a little disturbing that they would just deny it out of hand, and then when I pushed it, all of a sudden, they were at a loss. On the bright side, at least they are considering it, and hopefully they will see things my way!