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Jan 30 2014

The Calm Before the Same-Sex Parenting Storm

By at 11:52 am

clock

My wife and I are planning to start trying to conceive in March, and suddenly, two months or less out, I find myself trying to freeze time. I don’t mean feeling immobilized or freaking out and not wanting that time to come. I mean that I am living in and enjoying every moment until then.

I’ve spent the past couple years agonizing over when we could have a baby. Not every second, of course. We were occupied with house-hunting, moving in and settling in, my conversion to Judaism. A lot of wonderful things have been happening, and we’ve had a great first couple of years of marriage. But I’ve also been acutely aware throughout of our financial struggles and goals as well as the complicated and expensive process of family-building for us as a same-sex couple, and that’s kept conception always just past the horizon. Now we have a realistic time frame and it’s right around the corner!

A first consultation and then following up on some initial fertility issues kept us busy and distracted throughout late fall and early winter. Now we’re just kind of…waiting. Waiting to get a little more money for this very expensive process so we don’t have to dip into savings or charge it or go on a payment plan. Waiting for our upcoming mandatory counseling session so we can be approved to order sperm.

And in the meantime, I am reveling in the smallest, sweetest details of domestic marital bliss. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 29 2014

How Pete Seeger Calmed My Pregnancy Fears

By at 2:08 pm

pete seeger

As a mom, there have only been a handful of times I have let my children see me cry. Yesterday, when I learned of the death of the great Pete Seeger, was one of those times. When I tried to explain who he was and some of the things he stood for, I could not complete my sentences. So I turned to YouTube and let Pete speak and sing for himself. Within minutes, my 4-year-old was dancing to “If I Had a Hammer,” and then we were all singing “We Are Not Afraid, To-day.” And of course, since we are farmers,“Inch by Inch.”

Meanwhile, my family and friends started sharing their personal Pete Seeger stories. My father told me about seeing him play near his cousins’ New Jersey chicken farm when he was a boy. My husband’s mother recalled seeing Pete play concerts at Jewish Community Centers near her home in Bayonne, New Jersey, during the 1950s when he was black-listed and few would hire him. My friend’s parents had a first date at a Pete Seeger concert. Other people sailed with him on the Clearwater or sang with him at summer camp, a political rally, or on a street corner.

This is my Pete story. I was raised on his music and my parents still keep his CDs on pretty much continuous loop in their house. When I was pregnant with my son seven years ago, I had placenta previa, a medical term for a low-lying placenta. The doctors said I would need a C-section if things did not change. I got even more worried when I had another ultrasound and the doctor was questioning whether the placenta was healthy in general. This was late in my pregnancy and that night I had a dream. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 28 2014

Exercising While Pregnant, Pee Breaks and All

By at 9:29 am

pregnant woman lifting weights

I was a little late to the exercise game. When I lived in Boston, I walked nearly everywhere. Between that, my relative youth, and living in graduate student poverty, I stayed fighting trim. After moving to North Haven, a place with no public transportation and vast distances between things, I bought a car and embarked on a sedentary lifestyle. After a few years essentially without a social life, where most evenings were spent on the couch eating cheese and crackers and watching Netflix, I had become downright zaftig.

I’m only 4’10”. I don’t have many places to put excess. Once my expansion had finally sunk in–thanks to an inadvertently exposed midriff in a family photo–I embarked on a lifestyle change. From a hilarious aerobics class to a new found love of yoga, Pilates, and eventually running, I went from couch to half marathon in about as much time as it had taken me to merge with the couch in the first place.

When I became pregnant, I was determined to keep up the good work. For a few weeks after the two blue lines, I took the dog out for runs. While usually we’re good for a few miles (even though his legs are only three inches long), I found myself breaking out in flop sweats after the first half mile. We toned it down to walks pretty quickly. As I entered the doldrums of the first trimester, even walks became slogs. My husband started having to take the dog for his exercise, while I trudged behind. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 15 2014

What My Baby’s In Utero Music Tastes Say About Her (And Me)

By at 9:53 am

music

The other night, after dinner, my husband and I decided to play music for the fetus. We picked out a few of our favorite records, hooked a pair of studio monitor headphones into the record player, and began our baby’s musical education.

I’m the music teacher of my rural Maine island’s tiny k-12 public school and my husband and I are both musicians. We have a recording studio in our house, and spend all day surrounded by music, from beginner band to my husband unwinding with his nylon string guitar. I’m sure some of that filters through the amniotic sac and impacts the baby’s day, but we wanted to tailor a musical interlude to the baby.

I reclined on the couch and stretched the headphones across my 22-week belly. First up: Kraftwerk, Radio-Activity. We waited until the spoken introduction–a little ominous, I felt, was over and switched the audio into the headphones. The baby was quiet and still until the bass synth kicked in. She kicked, too, nailing the right headphone dead on. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 14 2014

Top 10 Ways to Respond to People Who Ask if You’re Pregnant (When You’re Not)

By at 1:50 pm

pregnantcard

The other day in the office we got talking about how awful it is when someone audaciously asks you if you’re pregnant…when you’re not. Seriously, I don’t even ask people when they’re 8 months pregnant, just because… just because! There’s an unspoken rule to keep your “mazels” or probes on pregnancy to yourself until the mama feels like telling you.

Yesterday we posted a question on our FacebookThat awkward moment when somebody asks if you’re pregnant and you are most definitely not… what’s the best way to respond to this?

You all came up with so many hilarious responses, we decided to choose 10 of our favorites. Without further ado…

1. “It’s not appropriate to ask a woman if she is pregnant even if she is crowning.”

2. “Yes… It’s your husband’s!”

3. “Stroke your tummy and say ‘food baby.’” Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 27 2013

Torah MOMentary: What Pharaoh & New Moms Have in Common

By at 10:47 am

frogs plagues

This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a new mom. This Shabbat we read Parashat Vaera. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

This week’s portion, Vaera, contains seven of the 10 plagues that God sends Egypt to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.

After each plague, Pharaoh begins to relent, but then he (or, weirdly, God) “hardens his heart” and decides he actually does need those Israelite slaves after all. And so the plagues increase, all the way into next week’s portion.

Reading about these plagues and Pharaoh’s resistance to let those Israelites go, I thought about how hard it is to change after a long time. What does it take to convince a stubborn person to loosen their grip, to be more gentle, to change their life? And why do I feel so sympathetic to Pharaoh even though he’s clearly the bad guy here? Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 17 2013

What If I Have a Girl?

By at 9:57 am

Pinky

I’m afraid of raising a girl.

I’m 20 weeks pregnant and very soon we will find out the gender of our third child. This is the longest we’ve gone without knowing the sex of our babies and the longer we wait, the more anxious I’m getting. I’m anxious because I’m afraid this baby will be a girl. And I’m not really sure what to do with a girl.

My husband has always wanted a girl; one he is convinced will hang onto her Daddy’s every word like a sunbeam. With both of my previous pregnancies my husband was sure we were having a girl only to find out they were both boys. I, on the other hand, breathe a huge sigh of relief when we see that little arrow on the ultrasound pointing to the boy parts. I joke we’ll have an entire men’s basketball team before he realizes genetics are working against him.

I can deal with boy parts. I had two younger brothers and am now the mama of two little boys. I have a general idea of how to do the boy thing. It was once said, “If you have a boy you only have to worry about one penis, if you have a girl you have to worry about all of them.” I’m not sure if that’s funny or horrifying. Boys are rough and tumble or sweet and sensitive. They wear shirts, pants, and shoes–no accessories required. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2013

A Father’s Letter to His Unborn Son

By at 12:17 pm

father holding newborn son in arms

You are coming soon. And when you arrive, we will bless you. But for whom is this blessing? Is it for you? Or is it for us?

I can already feel the moment. It’s January, and the wind is leaking through the window. Your mother will be spent, and in the drafty night, crankily demand that I try to soothe you.

You will be at my shoulder, both of us stuck between sleep and alertness, barely able to see.

And then will come my blessing for you, remembering how my father and I recited the Shema together before bed. We would name each aunt, each uncle, each cousin, and then finish with a patriotic flourish that invited God to look after “all the Jewish people, the United States, and all Earth.”

Jacob to Manasseh and Ephraim. All the way down, from me to you. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 12 2013

The Only Pregnant Jew in Rural Maine

By at 5:03 pm

rural

I was raised by my secular, humanist Jewish family in the woods of central Maine. We were surrounded by lakes and maples, heard loons at night and occasionally, a moose and her calf wandered into our backyard, much to the consternation of our golden retriever. There were no sidewalks in our town, no traffic lights. My sisters and I played Laura Ingalls Wilder in the backyard until dark. It was isolated and idyllic.

That same isolation became disruptive once we entered the small public elementary school in the next town. We were raised to be proud and outspoken about our heritage, to speak up when teachers talked about Hanukkah in the context of “Christmas Around the World,” to bring in our brass menorahs and wooden dreidels and explain our customs to our classmates.

You may already know how this story goes. Sixth grade boys drew swastikas on their notebooks and showed them to me. “Do you know what this means?” they asked, feigning innocence. My sister’s classroom teacher referred to Judaism as a branch of Christianity, and her classmates called her a “stupid Jew” when she corrected her. A small blonde girl in my class kicked me as I walked up the stairs to the bus, hissing “Jew” in my ear as I fell. In middle school, well-meaning friends urged me to become a Jew for Jesus, to avoid my inevitable damnation. Our bus route took us past hand-painted signs nailed to a grove of trees that read “Jews = Sinners” and “Sinners Damned to Hell.” Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 10 2013

I’ve Been Talking to My Son About Death Since the Day He Was Born

By at 10:13 am

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I kneeled by my mom’s side as she lay at home in her bed under the care of hospice. “Bittersweet,” she said as she smiled through tears and put one hand on my small belly. That moment together would be one of our last. She died just two days later. I was eight weeks pregnant.

Prior to the very end of the year in which my mother battled cancer and then battled the side effects of the chemotherapy intended to attack that cancer, she was an active and involved nana to my niece and nephew–the kind of nana who got down on the floor to play, who sang and danced the hokey pokey, who listened on the phone with endless delight to impromptu cello rehearsals, and who worried, like any good Jewish grandmother, whether or not they brought a sweater.

My son has no other grandmothers. My husband’s mother has been quite ill for many years. Even if she was told she has grandchildren, we are not sure she would understand or remember. My husband’s stepmother, a lovely woman, has seen our son only twice.

As a child psychologist, I’ve spent time thinking about how to talk to children about death. I’ve read the literature. I’ve talked to my young clients about death and dying. I’ve advised parents. When and how do you tell them? How much do you share? What age is too young? Read the rest of this entry →

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