Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Parsing some feelings

This post turned out a lot more incoherent than I wanted it to, but I'm posting it anyway.  Maybe I'll try again in a few months when I have some additional related news to the mean time, don't take offense, just read it for what it is:  a mind dump of feelings and thoughts that I'm still in the process of working out.

A year ago this week, Paul and I started officially trying to have a baby.  It took us four months to get pregnant for the first time.  Four weeks from now is when I would have been due.

A lot of people already know all this, but a lot of people don't.  And that's exactly how it should be; I had all the support I needed, and any more would have been too much.  I was only 7 weeks when it happened, so although it was very upsetting, we were not as devestated as people often wanted to assume we must be.  That was, perhaps, even harder than dealing with the feelings we were having:  it was unsettling to feel like I wasn't anywhere near as sad as some people thought I should be.  I wasn't worried that I wasn't sad enough, I was just worried that it would give people a bad impression of me!  I was exactly as sad as I needed to be.

I'm having some sad feelings this week again because of the timing.  There have been a handful of negative pregnancy tests since November when my cycle came back, and each of those was a bummer, but not much more so than the first three negative tests before I was pregnant the first time.  In addition to the timing of a year since we started trying and getting close to my original due date, this past month I was 2 days late, so that negative test was a bit sadder than usual, but still fine.

See, the thing is, I know I am able to get pregnant.  I wasn't in love with the pea-sized little tadpole in my uterus; I was in love with the concept of being pregnant, but that all happened last October, and now that it's almost 6 months later?  I'm over it.  Really.  So I know it's going to happen again soon.  And all the gardening and planting and planning and yard work we have been doing?  I have been getting SO MUCH satisfaction out of that, out of watching our plans turn into reality, and knowing that all my hard work is going to produce lots of fresh veggies for me to enjoy this summer.  What if I was in the middle of my first trimester right now, during the most critical preparation and planting period?  Paul has been working himself ragged as it is, so without my work on weekends and evenings, I don't think we could have gotten to this point with the garden.  I am going to have to do a lot of hard work by myself while Paul is away at camp this summer, and I'm hoping to be pregnant by then, but I wouldn't trade these past few weeks if I had the choice.  Especially if I do get pregnant within the next month or three, I will consider the timing to be perfect.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the feelings surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.  I haven't really experienced either yet, but my focus stems from the path I'm on, and from watching many of my closest friends go through both, seven times now just counting the people I'm closest to!  I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many growing families.  It makes me so happy to get to know my friends' children and watch them grow, and to hear all their mom stories and know what an amazing support system I'll have once I join them.  Their births were all different: some fairly straightforward, some difficult and traumatizing, some c-sections, some with drugs, some without.  I also feel blessed to have friends who were willing to talk about their experiences openly, and a mom who was willing to tell me about her experiences.

When I picture my own pregnancy and imagine giving birth, I still picture it as idyllic.  Discomfort and pain, sure, but not too hard to deal with when you consider the reward you get at the end of it all.  And I think, no matter how many stories I hear, it wouldn't change that daydream very much.  I'm always going to imagine the best case scenario; it's just my nature.  But I also know that when I do run into problems, complications, and all the other difficulties that I'm sure to experience in some measure, having heard all these stories will help me cope mentally and physically.

The thing that I struggle with most at this point isn't the actual feelings I'm having:  I feel quite confident in my ability to feel and cope with any less-than-ideal situations I'm currently experiencing, and I'm comfortably, contemplatively moving through the slight melancholy from the anniversaries of trying and due date, mixed with the joyousness of Spring and producing beautiful and useful things with my hands in my garden.  Maybe an outsider would say that I feel so driven to knit and crochet things for other people, and put so much work into our garden, as a result of our un-success so far at starting a family, but I don't think it's that deep; I know I just enjoy doing all this creating and producing, and I would enjoy it no matter what happened in the past year; it just so happens to exist in parallel with the other stuff.  Cum hoc ergo propter hoc Correlation does not imply causation.

No, the thing I think I struggle with the most is my perception of how other people expect me to feel, and how my actual feelings, since they don't jive with their expectations, will cause weirdness that I'll have to deal with.  And not expectations of me specifically, but in reading others' stories on blogs I follow, and hearing how people talk about pregnancy and birth, the prevailing attitude of society doesn't jive for me, and it worries me on behalf of my future self once I do get pregnant again and join that world.

I'm also not talking about the popular back-to-nature movement of home births, birth without drugs, anti-c-section sentiments, anti-formula-feeding, etc etc.  I agree that birth has become over-medicalized and over-commercialized; I want to have as natural a birth as possible, at a hospital with a NICU, and then I want to breasfeed my baby exclusively for 6 months, and make all my own baby food.  Sure I want to do all of those things, and I will try very hard to make it all happen, but if I'm not able to achieve some of those things, I will not feel horrible guilt about it.  I will know that I've done my best and made the best decisions I can for the physical, mental, and emotional health of my baby AND myself.  Because if I'm not mentally or physically well, then my baby won't be either.  A friend of mine was unable to breastfeed after the first two weeks with her first child, and she struggled against attitudes that made her feel guilty because of it.  That is ridiculous.  But I also see red when I hear about women who were all but discouraged from breastfeeding by the lack of support and/or pushing of formula free samples.  Basically, either extreme is bad, which is pretty much my feeling on a range of topics, from healthcare to politics to religion.  I feel essentially the same way about c-sections too.

But what I'm trying to get at isn't the mechanics; it's the sentiment of "I loved my baby immediately and unconditionally, and I would do anything to save it."  That's what, historically, we've learned to expect.  But there's also abundant sources of stories and support groups surrounding traumatic birth experiences, and for women who do have very upsetting experiences during pregnancy and birth, and/or who don't experience quite the level of absolute imidiate love for their babies, it has become easy (at least in the online/blogging community) to find an outlet to share those feelings with others who had similar experiences.  But I worry that now that opposite extreme is becoming too emphasized as well.  When I read a birth story on a blog and the birth stories of a hundred women in the comments section, every one is either perfect or traumatic; filled with immediate unconditional love from the moment they knew they were pregnant, or struggling with difficult bonding.  The traumatic ones sometimes have the unconditional love, but my point is that there's never any mention of middle ground for either feeling.

I'm hopeful that it's largely the filter of the internet giving me this impression, because the stories from a few of my friends have been much more middle-of-the-road:  labor was long and tiring, and it was a tough call whether or not to get that epidural; it was surreal to hold that baby for the first time, and breastfeeding wasn't easy at first, but now things are getting better, and I am so happy to have my sweet baby in my arms and so in love.  And in the ensuing months, even while they're still newborns, sometimes you want to scream and sometimes you're as happy as can be.  But online and in some conversations, it makes me sad to realize that parenthood has become another issue where there are two sides to every issue and you have to be firmly on one side or the other; it's another casualty to extremism.

There's one other big area where I get apprehensive, and that's religion.  I've heard this discussed in relation to other topics (major illnesses, natural disasters, etc), but just today in reading one mommy blogger's terrifying birth story with a happy ending, I saw many commenters say, in so many words, that they hoped this experience made the parents realize that God is working in their lives and loves them and has big plans for them.  Here is my problem with that sentiment:  What does it mean for the parents whose stories end tragically?  The baby dies, the mom dies, they're never going to be able to have children, etc?  Obviously those same commentors wouldn't say that God doesn't love those people.  They'd probably say something like God has a different plan for them, but that rings false to me too.  I want people to know that I believe God's plans for us are unknowable, and it mostly doesn't make sense to me to point out God's hand in any one specific event, whether it's joyous or tragic.  I don't know how to reconcile it, but I do know that it's not like that.  Athiests have the same kinds of tragic and joyous stories as Christians or any other religion; God isn't sitting up there deciding how your pregnancy turns out based on how your life is supposed to go; these things happen for the same reason you stepped in a puddle on your way into work this morning, or found a dime in the parking lot at the grocery store.  I don't believe in predetermination or destiny, and statements about God's plan as they relate to specific outcomes of major events imply predetermination.  You can't have free will and God deciding your daily life at the same time.  I'll say it again:  I have no idea how it actually works, I just know it doesn't work like that.

We're all just trying to make the best decisions we can based on what we know and what we're feeling and what our intuition is telling us.  You can give advice until your face is blue, but don't pass judgement on other people.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Crafty garden

I have two new posts up on my craft blog!
I also have a lot of gardening in my future, but for now our big reveal is a bit underwhelming, even though it represents hours of hard work (mostly Paul's) over days, culminating this past Sunday when we finally finished moving all the compost from the driveway to our garden:

That beautiful wooden border?  is Paul's weeks of hard work and skill, and by turning our garden into a raised bed, we're hoping to take our veggie growing to the next level.  And also overcome the problem of lots of grass creeping into our garden.  And above when I said *we* finished moving all that dirt?  I really meant Paul.  I pushed a grand total of one wheelbarrow full of compost from the driveway to the garden, and Paul did the rest.  But on Sunday, I raked it all out.  And as soon as I can, I will be planting  the lettuces and cabbage, asparagus, spinach, and kohlrabi that are ready and waiting to keep the lonely rhubarb company.  Can you see him in the corner?  Here he is:

This is his second year in our garden, so we should be able to harvest stalks for pie and other yumminess!

AFTER we had worked in the garden and the rest of the yard for hours on Sunday afternoon, I used the remaining daylight to finally repot all my houseplants, and they sorely needed it.  I had moved the three biggest plants into big white pots from Ikea a couple of weeks ago, but the rest were waiting patiently, and now they're all happy in their new homes:

I really love all my houseplants!  Can you believe the pointsettia still has so much red?  It seems pretty happy in my north-facing picture window, so hopefully a real pot to call its own will make it even happier!  The peace lily in the middle has yet to perk up, but I'm still hopeful.  And my favorite are the succulents on the right:  the giant aloe, and the trumpet jade from a clipping my mom gave me over two years ago.

Lots more gardening pics to come, hopefully this weekend if the weather cooperates at all!  Are you planting anything this spring?  Edible, decorative, or both?  What's your favorite veggie, and if I grow it in my garden, will you help me eat it later this summer?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Online Organization

It's really not as important as IRL organization, but I felt the urge to get my cyber-self all up to date, and now I pretty much have.  Let me know what you think of the new blog look and content:
  • Tabs along the top include "Inspiration," which feeds in from my new Tumblr page that I plan to use to link to anything I run across on the internet that I want to keep for future inspiration!  I also plan to gradually add a few typical bloggy tabs, like the 100 Things, a photo tour of our house, and one or two other things...
  • The list of my favorite blogs to read is still in the sidebar to the right, as usual sorted by newest content
  • I also added a list of links that encompasses every site where I have a presence on teh interwebs.  Check it out!  And if you need some circular bamboo knitting needles, or a computer programming book, or a few other things, check out my Amazon store, where I have already successfully divested myself of a bunch of unneeded house clutter (see previous post) and made a few bucks to boot!
I've also read a couple of books in quick succession, and am started on a third, which is A LOT more reading than I've done recently; also happy to say that 2 out of 3 have been on my Nook!  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was amazingly wonderful, and you should definitely go obtain a copy immediately and read it.  One of Our Thursdays Is Missingby Jasper Fforde is the newly-released 6th in his Thursday Next series, and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't my fav.  And finally, I just started Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I have managed to protect myself from finding out anything about, because I know it's got some startling stuff in it that would have lessened my enjoyment of the book if I had known ahead of time.  So far I'm loving it, and it's a page-turner just because you have to figure out what the heck is going on in the subtly different world of the novel.  See the Goodreads link in the aforementioned sidebar.

So that's the news of late.  Reading has usurped knitting, although I did also get a portion of my houseplant re-potting done last weekend.  Since Never Let Me Go is my own (e)book and not a library book, perhaps I will intersperse it with some knitting...or crocheting, since I now have a baby shower to prepare for by April 30th!