Things That Make Me Feel Good

I know, I know, I haven’t posted in forever. Apparently life is crazy busy when you have a five year old, a newborn, and work full time. Who would’ve guessed? (Not me apparently, since I started yet another blogging venture during maternity that I haven’t touched since I returned to work five weeks ago.) But I wanted to post today because I actually have time. Baby boy is happily chewing a finger, E. is absorbed in her morning dose of the Arthur cartoon (a personal fave of mine), and no is going to need me for at least a few minutes. I also wanted to post something so there was at least some evidence of my existence between my last post and the beginning of summer vacation (a mere three weeks away).

So, I bring you this – things that make me feel good

image

New nail polish in a sweet blue!

 

image

Apology for the blurry pic – I’m not a skilled one-handed tablet picture taker. A cool new watch so I can start running again (I know, not having one is a pretty lame excuse). I had to replace my old AWESOME watch that a work friend gave me when I started running last year…I accidentally sent it through the wash 😦

image

A summer dress.

image

Food that isn’t bad for me. I have a serious carb and Reese’s addiction that I’m trying to kick (again). Thankfully I love yogurt (with a sprinkle of cereal on top) and a bowl of fruit. It also helps that it all looks so pretty.

After being cooped up all winter and then being cooped up at work, a little pick-me-up here and there is nice. Nothing quite like a pretty dress and ambition to get a girl going.

Advertisements

A Birth Story

I’ve been absent for a bit, as some who occasionally browse this blog may have noticed. Considering the prodigious number of posts I’ve done on the impending arrival of my new little man, you might be able to guess the reason for my absence.

Finally, finally, finally, after 42 weeks even of pregnancy, our man arrived February 22nd at 12:56 pm. He was 9 lbs 13 oz and 22 3/4 inches long. A big boy for sure! However, he was  (and is) completely and utterly perfect.

The big question now might be if I got my VBAC or not. Wow, well, where to begin with that story. The short answer might be disappointing – no, I did not get my VBAC. However, I’m not sad about it, as I might have thought I would be a few months ago (or even a few weeks ago).

This is how it all went down.

As I entered my February break from work still pregnant and went to my last prenatal appointment that Tuesday, I was pretty much at my breaking point emotionally. I felt like I was never going to go into labor naturally. I just wanted my baby in my arms. My OB gave me the option of scheduling a c-section for Friday and if I went into labor before then, then I could proceed with attempting my VBAC as planned. If I didn’t schedule a c-section for Friday then I’d have to schedule one for the following Monday.

After a lot of thought, I went ahead and scheduled a section for Friday. I was having tremendous amounts of anxiety and just felt that if I didn’t go into labor on my own by Friday it likely wasn’t going to happen before Monday.

Well, lo-and-behold, I went into labor on my own (a big achievement, in my mind, since I felt I might not be capable of going into labor by myself) Thursday night. I went in to the hospital at my scheduled time for my c-section, but explained that I had started labor and was hoping that we could see how things were going to progress and possible even let me go home. My OB was on board so long as I had another biophysical profile done to check on the status of the baby.

Well, while the baby seemed to be doing pretty well, he was still measuring very large and his amniotic fluid was super low. My OB was very firm in that she wanted me to have a c-section, almost to the point where I felt a bit betrayed by her 180 degree turn on the VBAC front. That said, I was starting to feel like a c-section might be the best course of action…under certain stipulations.

I wanted, if there was nothing immediately wrong with the baby, to have him given to me right away. No whisking the baby off to be vigorously dried off, poked and prodded, and wrapped up tight so there was a thick swaddling blanket between the two of us as my husband dangled him overhead. I wanted the baby passed to me, I wanted to take him in my arms, just as I would if he had been born naturally, and have him lain across my chest, skin to skin. My OB agreed.

Everything happened very quickly after that. I signed consent forms, had an IV put in, talked to anesthesiology, got prepped for surgery, met a variety of nurses and doctors, and in what felt like a matter of seconds (though it was really probably just a bit over an hour) was taken into the OR.

I felt okay until I came into the OR. It didn’t feel regret or anything, but the sudden gravity of what was about to happen hit me in full force. A mix of “Holy crap I’m about to have a baby” and “Holy crap they’re about to slice me wide open.” I shook. I shook hard. I asked repeatedly, as they gave me a spinal, laid me down on the operating table, felt my legs and abdomen go numb, where my husband was, when I’d get to see him, when he’d be with me. I needed his strength and comfort. I tried really hard not to cry.

But eventually the hubs arrived, took my hands, and tried to not show his own nerves. I felt so relieved with him beside me, especially at first, but as we started to wait for the baby’s arrival, my anxiousness started rise once again.

For one, I still had a cold. I had been getting these nasty colds on and off throughout my pregnancy (you may recall my brutal sinus infection at the very beginning), and this one wasn’t too bad, but it led to a really stuffy nose and a cough. Have you ever needed to cough while having a spinal? Really, really uncomfortable and weird. Between that and the stuffy nose I felt like I was having an asthma attack, but because my oxygen was fine, there really wasn’t anything they could do.

Eventually, however, it didn’t matter, because my doctor began to deliver our little boy. I didn’t get to see him right away, because, of course, that blue curtain was in the way, but a few moments later, the curtain was quickly lowered and my little one was thrust into my arms, bloody, squirming, and shrieking his head off. Perfect.

He lay atop my chest and started to relax, nestling into my arms, falling asleep. I cried as I kissed his surprisingly hairy little head and told him repeatedly, almost idiotically, how beautiful he was. I’ve never experienced natural birth, and now that I’ve had a second cesarean, I likely never will, but I know there is supposed to be high after you give birth. Maybe what I felt wasn’t the same, like I said, I’ll never know, but I was about as high as Mt. Freaking Everest in that moment, and trust me, it wasn’t the pain killers.

I got to hold my little man while the stitched me back up and got cleaned up. After a bit a nurse took him for just a moment to weight and measure him, then he was promptly returned to my arms and we were wheeled into recovery. Once in recovery I started to nurse him (a struggle at first, but now, nearly eight weeks later, we’re going strong) and bonding really began.

As I finish writing this (it’s taken me a few weeks, coming back and forth), I’m getting ready to start my last week of maternity leave. It’s been an amazing journey so far. I remember changing and learning a lot when E. was born (who, by the way, is an all star big sister), and the same is happening this time. I have learned so much about myself as a person and a mother. I am slowly coming to realize what is important, what my strengths are, and, most certainly, my weaknesses. Above all, I’ve come to see even more strongly, just how precious my little family is and how very lucky we are. I wouldn’t change it for anything and I’d happily do it all over again.

Julia and Henrietta

Today is Julia Child’s 100th birthday. I’ll be completely honest, I don’t know too much about her personally, at least not enough to recount it off the top of my head (and I’m too lazy to do a lot of Wikipedia research), but I’ve always liked her. I don’t know if it was her unique, enthusiastic voice, the crazy delicious food she cooked along with her guests, or the weird sense of familiarity I get every time I see her face, but I just like her.

I think a lot of it stems from my grandma. I mean, I don’t think she and Julia Child had an awful lot in common (other than both being uncommonly tall women – did you know Julia was 6′ 2″? – who played basketball in school). I mean, no offense to my grandmother, but she wasn’t exactly known as the best cook. I mean, passable (and I loved her Russian tea cakes), but certainly not a gourmet. But, as I mentioned in my Facebook status earlier today, some of my earliest television memories are of Julia Child as I sat on the brown shag carpet in my grandma’s living room, leaning up against my grandma’s shins as she moved between engagement and quiet dozing in the early afternoon. I think that’s why, whenever I think of or see Julia Child, this wonderful, warm and familiar feeling passes over me, and since my grandma passed, a little pang in my chest.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma growing up (my grandpa, too). They lived just up the road from us for a lot of my childhood and frequently babysat me. Grandma had a really strong personality, and as I got older, I could feel pretty disenchanted by her, her opinions, and her criticism. But that doesn’t discount what she contributed to me as a person and how much I loved her (a lot). And years after our little spats, a lot of it seems kind of funny (“Why didn’t you use condoms?” was a frequently asked question when I turned up pregnant with E. at 19. I had a pretty great answer that I won’t share here – save the hubs the embarrassment – that she accepted, if a bit sheepishly). In reality, she afforded me something she didn’t really give anyone else: Listening. I knew that if she had a problem, if I could calmly and rationally explain my feelings and reasoning to her, I wouldn’t hear about it again. There were few other adults in my family that I felt I could deal with in that manner.

But any negatives aside, she was a very positive force in my life. She was a smart woman. A reader. Attentive. She cared immensely about school and education and pushed me very hard to do well and was thrilled to acknowledge my hard work and achievements. It’s something her own family pushed, something she and my grandfather ingrained on their children (my dad and aunt). Being smart and well-educated is important, and I had darn well better know it and do it.

Even when she losing a very hard fought battle with cancer she wanted to know how college was going for me. During my last visit with her before she passed, I showed her my Practicum portfolio. I had brought it with me not realizing quite how bad off Grandma would be when we showed up. She could barely speak, spent most of her day in an armchair in the living room, and barely ate. She sat and watched E. play and the TV. For whatever reason, my portfolio was out in the living room and she spotted it out of the corner of her eye. With barely a whisper she asked to see my portfolio.

Now, the thing you need to know about Practicum portfolios is that they’re huge. Months of work, your own and students, along with a full unit’s worth of lesson plans, products, and explanations are compiled into one massive binder. It’s intense and not really something fun to browse unless you’re really into that kind of stuff.

She looked at every freaking page. She listened to my explanations, nodding her head, smiling, patting my hand here and there. I felt so happy that I could show this to her, to show her how hard I’ve been working, and it felt good to know, though by the time we were done she didn’t even have the energy to say it, that she was proud of me. I am immensely relieved and happy that this is part of my last visit with my grandmother, because it pretty much sums up our relationship. She and I both take education seriously. I love school, she loved that I love school – it is a huge part of who I am largely because of the emphasis she put on it.

When I think of my grandma, I feel a mix of happy and sad, as I think most people do when someone they love a great deal has died. I am happy to have had her in my life, to have known her, to have heard her stories, and gained some small part of her into my psyche as well as my DNA. But I am often, especially of late, struck with an overwhelming sadness that she is not still here. I feel a bit robbed, because we all expected her to basically go on forever, she was just that kind of person.

She missed my college graduation, E. starting preschool (and just being so damn smart, my 40 lbs. weight-loss (she was a bit of a health nut), and the purchase of our first house. And she’s missing this pregnancy, the making of her second great-grandkid. I think this time she would have worried less about the use of condoms 🙂

When I hear about Julia Child, when I read about her, the celebration of her life, I cannot help but think of my grandma. I know I said before that I could not think of what exactly the two have in common, but perhaps they have more in common than I had originally thought. There is something about the women of that generation that led to great personal strength and a wonderful about of intelligence and ingenuity. Julia pioneered the concept of the television chef, making delicious delicacies accessible to every housewife in America. My grandmother had her own pioneering to do, encouraging herself and her second generation American children to be better, even the best, among their waspy peers. At her job (an elementary school gym teacher), she pioneered the jump rope program (which I participated in as a young kid at the same elementary school), encouraging boys who thought it was a silly, all-girl activity, by showing them films of the provocative and controversial boxer, Muhammed Ali jumping rope as a part of his training.

In her own small way, she made her own changes to the world around her.

Lucky Thirteen

Week 13 (August 1-8)

Esitmated Due Date: February 8th, 2013

Symptoms: I’m feeling 100% better, which is great, but means my appetite is back in full force, so I have to be very careful about not overeating and gaining weight too quickly. Other than some twinges in my belly (baby movement maybe?) and sore breasts I almost feel not pregnant.

Body Changes: My mom insists I’m beginning to show, but I’m reluctant to say the extra chub on my belly is a result of a baby. That said, I’ve not really gained any weight and my belly is sticking out more, so…maybe a baby bump?

Cravings: Bread and cheese. Greek olives. Chicken and tuna salad with lots and lots of veggies. Vinegar (well, vinegar on and in things). Sour, salty, carbs. Aren’t those supposed to be signs of a boy?

High Point: There’s definitely something going on in my tummy! I am, on occasion, getting a little fluttering feeling just below my belly button. I know some of these flutters are definitely muscle spasms, so my belly is stretching out, getting ready to accommodate this new passenger, but there have been other twinges that feel pretty distinct from the muscle spasms, so I think I’m getting some movement.

Low Point: As you may recall, we had a camping trip to Vermont. Camping trip itself: awesome. Driving to Vermont? Sucky. It was a bad combination of a pregnant lady, and 4 year old who hates car trips, and another lady who gets stressed out driving places she isn’t familiar with or when she’s following her husband somewhere…or both (I’m talking about my mom). I don’t think there was any amount of preparation I could have done to make that car trip go better. I think it was sort of destined for disaster. But we got to Vermont and we got home, and in the end, we can all say we had a good time.

What I did to prepare this week: We believe we’ve secured a car seat! E.’s old car seat is just that, old. After five years it’s recommended that you trash the car seat you’ve got, and E.’s car seat will be exactly five years old when the baby is born. Friends of ours had a baby back in January, so by the time this kiddo arrives their car seat will only be a year old. They’ve offered it to us with three bases for a mere $60 (versus the $100 I was going to spend, and that would be with only one base). I’m pretty excited!

Paranoid Moment: The hubs purchased a home doppler from a friend at work a while ago. Occasionally we pull it out to try to find a heartbeat, but we haven’t had much luck. While it’s still early, I’m on the chubby side, and it’s a cheapo doppler, it’s a bit disheartening to not be able to find the heartbeat!! (Spoiler alert: This week, I heard the heartbeat at my midwives’ office – sounded great!)

What’s going on “in there”: I just realized that I accidentally posted week 13 details last week, so if you’re curious as to what’s happening in week 13, consult my last post!!

In Which I Choose to Make No Sense (but feel good while doing so)

I haven’t been writing as much lately and I’m not sure why. Sometimes I write to put down how fully I’m appreciating the little things in my life (like yogurt popsicles and goat’s cheese with my breakfast), but other times I just can’t write things down because I am too in awe of my world and the life I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy. There are some moments in my day where I am simply dumbstruck (difficult imagine, right?) by where I live, the people I live with, and how much I have ahead of me to enjoy.

That’s not to say I don’t have days that aren’t fraught with anxiety, because I am a fairly anxious person by nature, but it’s not the same. I find myself feeling a teensy bit more confident, less abrasive to myself (and hopefully others – I can have that kind of personality at times), and slowly becoming “grown-up” me. It’s weird. I feel like I’m meta growing up. Like, growing up in how I grow up.

Yeah. Wow. This is getting super ramble-y.

I guess my point is that I think I haven’t been writing as much lately because I’ve been just going through life, enjoying it, unable and unwilling to take the time to write some of it down. I suppose if something earth shattering had occurred I would have been better about writing, but things have been moving along as usual. Which is good.

I’ve been blogging for over a year now (not all on here, obviously), and while I have no intention of giving it up, I can sense a slow down (but maybe when school is done in a few weeks it’ll pick back up – I can never tell what I’m going to do). As I write I can feel a few blog posts boiling in my brain, so there will be more, I just have to remember to write the ideas down and then actually follow through!

Well, here’s to completely nonsensical, rambling posts – every blog needs one (or many).

My Pursuit of Happiness

It’s nearly nine o’clock at night on a Sunday and I’m exhausted. But it’s one of those pleasant exhausted feelings – that sort of mentally blissed out way of being.

For two days I’ve been stuffed full of every kind of information about birth, women, and the feelings they so strongly feel (both physical and mental during birth) during the amazing even that we so simply call birth.

After talking and listening and doing like I haven’t in over a year (the last time I sat in a college classroom), I feel a strength and readiness to begin to pursue more strongly a dream I had been keeping at an arms length. There is so, so much I still want to learn and to see, some things I need to think about, and my future, as it stands now, seems fuzzy and unsure, but it’s all good. It’s like the future ahead of me is hard to make out because it’s clouded or foggy, but so bright it will take just a bit for my eyes to fully focus.

Let me come out of the vagueness of above and give it to you straight. I spend this weekend learning the beginnings of what I need to know to properly attend a woman as a doula (a labor support professional – a person who helps a woman through labor and birth). The workshop I attended this weekend is one step towards becoming a certified doula through the organization DONA. I have a few more steps to tackle, but one of the largest is attending three births.

And this is where I say that if you are in Maine (or know me personally) and would be interested in having a doula attend your birth, my services will FREE while I remain uncertified, because I am training. This does NOT mean I will be any less effective than a certified doula. If you or someone you know is interested, please contact me (either comment below with a way to contact you OR contact me via Facebook (if you know me in real life).

I also have a couple of other workshops left to attend and some reading to do, but I’m thrilled this workshop is what I did first. It has given me a confidence and thrill to see what I could be doing not just as a hobby, but as a job. I do not yet know where this path will lead, if it’s a minor detour or the beginning of a lifelong journey, but it is exciting and beautiful all the same.

I know I’m starting to sound like one of those goofy New Age people (and maybe I’m slowly morphing into someone like that), but sometimes those over the top cliches are what best describe what you’re experiencing.

I’m just happy.

And I wanted you to know.

On Having a Little Girl and Body Image

I’ve been aware of my body for a long time. I’m not sure why – I don’t have a specific early memory of someone saying something to me (but plenty of later memories) – but I’ve known for a long time that I’m not one of the “skinny” girls.

Maybe it was being surrounded by taller, slender little girls in ballet class. Maybe it was that most of my earliest friends were these wispy, adorable kids who had boundless, physical energy (when I would prefer to sit and talk or read or draw and “write”). Maybe there were subtle comments made by the women in my life about their own bodies that I subconsciously picked up on, their own insecurities unwittingly effecting me. All I can solidly recall is that early on, far too early on, I felt that there was something a bit wrong about my body.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been plenty of times in my life where I thought I had a great body, that was beautiful, useful, and that I loved. Two key times come to mind: my mid to late teens, where even donning a “plus size” 14, I felt incredibly attractive. The best part: I was able to realize that not only did I look good, I was confident and I was smart and a few people chose to find me interesting, rather than a bit obnoxious (which, really I was more of the latter). The other time was during my pregnancy. I’d never been more gigantic, but when your body is just so full and ripe and full of life, it’s hard to not feel a bit sexy and fertility goddess-like (and any goddess is pretty damn hot).

After my pregnancy, when I chose to do very little for a long time to lose the weight I had gained since I graduated from high school and then over the course of my pregnancy (plus, my stomach was completely and utterly shot – and I wonder if there is any number of crunches that will bring my formally flat, belly-ring worthy tummy back), my body image slowly slipped into a dark abyss. I’m not entirely sure if my confidence in my attractiveness had ever been lower. But I had to make a decision, because, after E. was born, I was not looking in the mirror, silently thinking critical thoughts just for me. I was thinking them for her as well.

I believe the way a mother talks about her body directly effects how her daughter will look at herself. If your little girl thinks you think you’re beautiful, she will think she is beautiful, too (especially if you reinforce it with your own words towards her). If all you can muster are cutting remarks about how you look, then how can your daughter help but assume she, too, must have inherited the same disgraceful features (especially if you’ve birthed a little mini-me, which I have)? I made the conscious decision very early on that no matter how I felt I would only speak positively about how I looked, and as I’ve been losing weight, I have tried very hard to emphasize the health end of things rather than constantly talking about weight and pants size. It also helps that my wonderful husband has no problem telling me that I’m looking good (which is often, apparently) and casually flirting with me in front of our kid (appropriate, maybe not, but at least E. knows someone besides Mama thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips).

There are lots of things that I want E. to know about herself: she’s brilliant, she’s hilarious with great comedic timing, she has boundless and wonderful curiosity that she must never, never lose, she is worthy of every good thing that comes her way and that she is strong enough to tackle any challenge laid at her feet, and I also want her to know that she is gorgeous, body and soul. She will probably be built like me, therefore, she will be short, curved, and cute, but the fashion magazines she might glimpse on our grocery store shelves and her endless collection of Barbies might place that little niggling feeling of doubt that she is “less than” – which she’s not, and never will be. Among all my jobs as her mother, one is to help her know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is “more than” in all areas, including her body.

20120428-074710.jpg
(If anything is a sign of the self-confidence E. has in her own body image, it’s the amount of pictures I had on my iPad to chose from to put here. She loooooves to photograph herself or have her picture taken. She also spends more time in front of the mirror admiring herself than anyone I know.)

The Amazing Shrinking Me

Big, big news on the weight-loss front: I am down thirty-five pounds. I am muy, muy impressed with myself, if I do say so.

My current weight, which I’m choosing to not disclose here (at least not right now), is the lowest it’s been since I got pregnant with E., nearly five years ago, and I’m only about twenty-four pounds away from my high school weight (which was more than it ought to have been, but I have to say I looked pretty cute). My final goal weight is still another sixty-four pounds away (I’m trying to not think too hard about that part – sixty-four seems like a lot). While it occasionally feels discouraging and sort of impossible to reach my goals (I’d like to lose another twenty-five pounds by July), I am encouraged by the fact that I have in fact gotten this far, which is awesome, something I never thought I’d be able to do.

So, what have I been doing? Anything different from the last time I posted about weight-loss? A couple of things:

1.) Finding things to motivate me when I’m feeling down and out. Looking at those pairs of shorts I fit perfectly into now. Flipping through Self magazine, which simultaneously provides me with simple recipes, good workouts, and a little bit of healthy guilt. Remembering that I want to have the most healthy body I possibly can this summer so getting pregnant and staying that way is as easy as possible.

2.) Turning parts of this into a hobby. I’ve started to take up running. Yes, running. I’ve always thought runners were the coolest, what with their jogging and saying, “Yeah, I’m going for a run.” And the sweet kicks and iPod bands. I’ve realized that this is possibly one of the only sports I can participate in as an adult and alone (I’m not much of a team person), and in order for my healthy lifestyle to continue, I’ve found that investing myself in a related hobby is one of the best ways to do go forth.

3.) Nonfat, plain Greek yogurt. So, I’m still doing Weight Watchers (though I’m not always completely faithful to my points), but I’ve found a few things that make keeping under my points so much easier. Number one: Greek yogurt (as described above). I loooooooove sour cream. Like, I can eat it plain straight from the container. Plain Greek yogurt has a very similar taste and texture, and when you through a dollop of that on top of pierogies, with salsa, or on some chili, the difference is barely detectable. I’ll also mix it with a bit of feta, lemon juice, and dill and it’s perfect with cucumbers. Best part? Two tablespoons is ZERO points with Weight Watchers. While I don’t like it as just regular yogurt (even with fruit mixed in), it’s wonderful in savory dishes.

4.) Continuing with the food, here are two dishes I’ve been making consistently that are low-cal and totally yummy:

Turkey Chili
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 can pinto beans
1 pepper, cut up
1 onion, cut up
1 can stewed tomatoes, drained
Cumin
Red pepper powder
Salt and pepper

There really aren’t directions on how to cook this (and add or remove spices at your discretion). Basically, throw it all in a skillet and cook until the veggies are tender and the turkey is cooked all the way through. This makes several servings. The hubs doesn’t like ground turkey, so I’ll serve some to E. and I, leave some for lunch the next day, then freeze the rest.

Parm Pasta
1/2 – 1 cup pasta of your choice (I like whole grain or the veggie pasta)
Frozen spinach (as much as you feel like eating), cooked
2 Tbsp. fresh parmesan (if not freshly grated yourself, at least avoid the stuff that comes in the can in the pasta section – get something that need refrigeration)
Teensy bit of butter or oil
Juice from a lemon wedge
Salt and pepper to taste

Again, this is basically a cook as you like it and then toss it all together meal. Add to the ingredients based on who’s eating (this is, like, a one person deal). But, I’m telling you, between the fresh lemon and cheese and a little bit of color from the spinach, this pasta rivals anything with a sauce.

Food, I will say, remains my biggest issue. While my eating has gotten a lot better, there are still many days of weakness. Exercise, thankfully, remains the same, or is getting better (I am looking to register for a 5K in August, so now I have even more motivation to continue to work out. Losing weight has made exercise easier. My stamina is better, I feel stronger, and I can do more. That alone, even if I wasn’t looking better, which I am, would be enough reason to continue with what I’ve been doing.

I hope those others out there who are on their own weight-loss journeys continue. It’s a long, hard slog, but with positive motivations, some stick-to-it-iveness, we can all reach our final, healthy destinations.

Keeping Track

First of all, on a completely unrelated subject, I apologize for the serious lack of posts. Between Easter, the total lack of a working iPad charger, and quite a bit of exhaustion, I just haven’t been able to get anything written (super frustrating). So…sorry. (However, my absence has allowed me to finish THREE books, including 50 Shades of Grey, which was strangely amazing).

But here’s what I really want to talk about: Cervical mucus.

Oooh, yeah, you heard me.

Sounds sexy, doesn’t it?

All right, I promise I won’t get too weird on you, but I want to share my latest new hobby: fertility awareness. I mentioned some time ago that I had purchased the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility with the hopes of doing just what the book’s title describes and possibly getting pregnant more quickly, once the time came. Well, the time is nearly upon us and I’ve been tracking a few different items relating to my fertility for several weeks now, and while I’m far from an expert, I have absolutely no problem extolling on the virtues of the fertility awareness method (FAM) as both a way to more quickly conceive AND as a form of birth control.

What exactly is FAM? Basically, the fertility awareness method encourages women to observe a variety of “signs” of their fertility, primarily their basal body temperatures (your temperature first thing in the morning using a specific kind of thermometer – easily found at Wal-Mart, for example) and cervical mucus. If these signs are correctly observed, a woman can easily cause or prevent pregnancy (outstanding factors not withstanding) by timing when she and her partner have sex.

What are the advantages of FAM?

1.) For me, the number one reason I’ve switched to FAM as a form of birth control (because we aren’t yet trying to get pregnant) is the fact that I’ve, for one, gotten pregnant while on the pill, and for two, while I still had an IUD it drove me nuts (too many reasons to explain why).

2.) There are no foreign objects or extra hormones floating around in your body. I’m hormonal enough, I don’t need any help, and I always worried something would happen with the IUD that would result in some sort of internal injury. Plus, FAM is about as natural as you can get for birth control.

3.) It is extremely empowering to learn so much about your body and cycle. The more I read about what the female body does to allow for conception and the growth of a baby the more I am completely amazed. And when you actually observe it happening, you’re blown away. It’s like learning how some amazing and complex machine works, only cooler, because it’s your body.

4.) Once you learn how to do everything, FAM is far easier than taking the pill, wearing a patch, or having to insert a ring (and less physically and mentally altering).

5.) It puts the responsibility of birth control on both partners, rather than forcing just the female party to worry (which makes sense, considering men are fertile all the time and women are only fertile a few days a month).

What are the disadvantages of FAM?

1.) If you genuinely don’t feel like you have time to take your temperature in the morning and periodically check your cervical mucus during the day (easily done during bathroom trips), then you probably won’t be able to use FAM effectively.

2.) If you’re squeamish about your body down there, FAM probably isn’t a good option.

3.) There are periods of time when you will have to “abstain” or use other kinds of protection, because you’ll be fertile (i.e. you could get pregnant). That said, those periods of time give you and your partner a chance to get creative and find other ways to be intimate.

4.) I honestly believe if you’re not in a committed relationship, this isn’t the best form of birth control because it does hold a higher risk of pregnancy if you’re not really on top things and very careful. But, I also believe you shouldn’t be intimate with someone unless you’re in a committed relationship to begin with, so there.

5.) Like most hormonal, non-barrier methods of birth control, FAM does nothing to prevent STIs.

I think that even if you are not going to use FAM as birth control or you’re not trying to get pregnant, reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility or looking up other information about the fertility awareness method is hugely beneficial. There is no reason why a woman should not fully understand how her body works and why they do the things they do. A firm and clear understanding is so empowering and allows women to see that their bodies are truly amazing in more than one way.

Four Years

My mom does this thing on my birthday every year. She’ll look at me with that weird, nostalgic mom look and wistfully say, “At this time, twenty-*insert appropriate number here* years ago, I was…” and some part of my miraculous arrival would be revealed. I know I roll my eyes every time I hear it (in fact, I rolled them a bit as I write this), but in reality, I kind of like it (okay, love it). I don’t remember the day I was born, so it’s nice to know that someone remembers.

And now I find myself doing the same to E.

Today is her birthday, and every time I glance at the clock I try to guess where I was at that moment. It’s hard to remember, because time moved so quickly that bright Tuesday in early April. What I remember, however, with absolute clarity, is the moment I heard her and the moment I saw her and the moment she was placed in my arms and I held her to my chest. It was time slowed down, every emotion flooding through my body, out my fingertips, making my heart pump the blood through my body with a sudden new purpose.

I was a mother, but, more importantly, this was my daughter. If I didn’t have a reason for life, I most certainly had one now.

And the last four years have been the purest I’ve ever experienced, with the greatest joy and the greatest love (and sometimes the greatest fear and frustration). E. has transformed from a beautiful baby, the model infant – perfect nurser, sleeper, completely content – to a full blown child with ideas and loves and a vivid brilliance and ridiculous vivaciousness. I try to not think so much about how she has changed and how quickly it has all happened, because it can bring me to my knees with joy and wrench my heart with the horrible speed in which it has all happened.

I expect the next four years will go in much the same style the previous four have. I will blink and too much time has passed. There will be the cliche struggles and joys. And ever before me will be a girl who I will simultaneously see as the growing, wonderful person she is, but also as the bawling, raw, pink baby quickly thrust over the curtain as she was delivered nearly exactly four years ago today.

Happy Birthday E. You are loved.