Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pregnancy During a Pandemic

In the beginning, I didn't think too much about being pregnant during this pandemic. The severity of the pandemic was changing daily, if not hourly, and the many consequences and parameters now set in place were not yet part of our lives.  Quickly though, the rules associated with quarantining and sheltering in place became more explicit, and the days stretched into weeks, and then months. 

It was earlier on, at the height of the daily news briefings, that a new realization started to sink in for me. There wouldn't be a trip home to show off my belly and accept a few days of doting from my parents and sisters. I was thinking about when I came home to see my family during my first pregnancy - my dad, adjusting the pillows on the couch as I napped, mom taking me shopping for my first maternity clothes so I'd be more comfortable. Gestures they would likely do anyway, but being pregnant and back home in my parent's house for the first time, they seemed more significant. 

 And more recently, I keep pestering my little sister about when she will be finished with a sewing project she is going for me. What she doesn't realize though, is the reason for the urgency. I keep thinking about when I receive the package, and how I will be able to touch the fabric she had touched before me. I honest to god think about it all the time. I picture myself smoothing my hand over the drapes she sewed, and it makes me feel closer to her. And I wish I could see my older sister. I wish I could hug her and let her know that I worry about her, living in a new state, not yet able to meet new friends or get a real feel for her town. 

Now, I prepare for the fact that my parents won't be able to fly across the country to see us when the baby is born - at least not safely, and certainly not without worry. But it hasn't been until recently that I feel an intense sadness - grief almost - when I consider it. Part of the sadness and panic relates to just how helpful they were when my son was born, and adjusting the plans and expectations we had all mapped out for the birth of my daughter. I'd had a very difficult recovery from the birth of my son. My mom essentially gained a newborn in me during those two weeks postpartum that she and my dad were staying with us. When my husband was busy attending to our son, it was my mom who helped me down to and up from the toilet, and in and out of the shower, wrapping my shocked and swollen body in its towel and helping me lift one leg at a time into my clothes to dress. It was my dad, tenderly arranging ice packs on my feet after I waddled, exhausted to the couch, and it was him who rubbed my back at the dinner table as I fought through fever chills and pain. 

The other part though - the larger, more looming part is the unanswerable.
I have the answers to the tactical. I know my husband will take care of me. He is inexplicably calm, resilient and focused when things are challenging. Despite his bravado, his tender heart is as big as his personality - and he will keep our ship on course. And I already know it will be 4 months later when he will finally allow his body to catch up on sleep, and his mind to rest. It breaks my heart, the sacrifices he will make. Breaks it, but in a good way. I also know our son's nanny will provide help and assistance to us that we will never be able to replicate or reproduce on the same level for her. We will hug her goodbye at night, close the door and shake our heads - how did we get so lucky? How can we ever extend back the same level of assistance and kindness she has given us? And I also know - at least I have to believe- that this time will be easier. That my mind and body are more prepared for what's to come.

So. It's the questions I don't have answers to that cause an instant, physical reflex, the kind right before a cry. My nose scrunches, my eyes squeeze shut and my throat closes briefly. 
When will my parents meet my daughter? When will they see my son again? 
Will they have the chance to develop a relationship with my children, like they do with my nephews who share the same coastline as them?

I don't know. 

Some nights, while my husband sits with my son in his room as he falls asleep, I'll push the screen door open and shuffle out to the back yard. I take a deep breath in, and stare across the valley and up into the twilight sky. I whisper into the air: I miss you. I miss you, I miss you. I. MISS.YOU. I miss you. 

And for a brief moment, I feel a cathartic sense of calm float over me. Another day has come to an end. Another day closer to giving birth. Another day with more insight into vaccines and restrictions lifted. Another day to come. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

On Becoming a Mom

It's the end of my maternity leave. Monday, I return to work after nearly 6 months of leave; 1 month prior to the birth of my son, and just shy of 5 months with him. Am I ready to go back to work? No. Not really. But I will be. I have been preparing myself these last few weeks, slowly getting reacquainted with the life of grown-ups and muni rides and noises of downtown. I've done practice runs of leaving my son with his caregiver, first for an hour or so, and most recently up to half a day, shoulders tensed and always stealing glances at my phone. Nervously clicking away in Google Translate to the nanny, "Is he awake yet? Did he eat? Has he pooped?" I've slowly wandered through department stores, attempting to find pants for work that button or zip to tuck away the soft, squishy parts of my body that remain after pregnancy. Armed with billowy blouses and 'transitional jeans,' from a clothing perspective, I'm ready. Mentally, I'm getting there. Friends and colleagues have told me the first 3-4 weeks after returning are a blur, but each day will become a little more gentle. "You'll get your groove back. You'll realize it's kinda nice to be able to walk out of the house without having to check your bag for the third time and ask, "Did I remember diapers, a bib, bottle and baby hat?" Admittedly, I'm looking forward to testing this theory. And I won't miss washing the endless tub of bottles that accumulate over the day. This, I can say with 100% confidence. 

In the very early days, when we were discharged from the hospital, I remember thinking to myself one morning, after 3 hours sleep and a 3rd round of pain medication: "Maybe Dean is better suited to do this. He's good at diapers and has more energy. I'll be the one to go back to work first." I was bleary eyed and in pain. So. Much. Pain. I could barely lift my baby, let alone my own legs from the bed to the floor. Nothing was comfortable. My whole pregnancy, I looked forward to the return of back sleeping and tucking my feet under my butt while sitting on the couch... silly me. These small joys would have to wait. Instead of peaceful moments with my son, gently rocking together in his nursery, Dean would guide me out to the couch and prop me up against a pile of pillows while my parents rubbed my feet and positioned ice packs around my swollen ankles. And so it went. Slowly and clumsily though, I found my footing.
Maternity leave was Stormy Daniels and Kim Jung Un and the Thai soccer team rescued from the cave. Harvey Weinstein and Mark Zuckerberg and the Russia investigation. Oh. And Judge Kavanaugh. It was about 1 billion dollars spent on Amazon and Instacart and Good Eggs deliveries. Hours and hours and hours and hours of scrolling the Internet and Facebook mom groups in the quest to find the ideal baby bottle, the best play mat, and safest pacifier; the right time to 'size up' diapers, and the correct way to wear your baby in a carrier. This list is endless and continuous. Many, many, many texts logged to various friends. Calls to my sisters. Facetiming with my mom and dad. "Am I doing this right?" Exhaustive research on Diastisis Recti and the safest way to repair my broken, separated abs. Two cases of mastitis, including one with a trip to the ER. Oh, and a 5 day anxiety spiral when I convinced myself we had bed bugs or dust mites or fleas, and spent another billion dollars on experts and mite sniffing dogs to come to our house and basically tell me, "Lady, you're crazy. There's nothing here. That will be a billion dollars please."  An ocean's worth of water used already for laundering  piles and piles and piles of wash. A baby book I have yet to fill out, and while on the subject of keepsakes, a wedding album I haven't made either. All four hours of The Today Show, every day.  And The Good Place and Sweet Bitter and every season of Southern Charm, minus the back half of Season 4 which mysteriously disappeared from On Demand, leaving me left to wonder, "But how HOW did Katherine end up loosing custody of her children again?!" Only one rainy day. A trillion steps logged with the stroller, peering into the beautiful single family homes of Pacific Heights, daydreaming about which pacifier they deemed the safest. Which play mat they shelled out the big bucks for. Witnessing businesses opening and closing along Union Street. Figuring out which cross streets have sloped sidewalks for strollers, and which do not. And crying. Lots of crying. All types of crying. Multiple trips to the lactation consultant. The physical therapist. The cranial sacral therapist. The postpartum core experts. The pediatric ENT. So much mommy and me yoga. 

It would be disingenuous to say I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. I'd do it all again, but not as quickly as a heartbeat. Because it was really, really, really hard. And it will continue to be hard. What's easy, is finding the words to describe the stresses and uncertainties. What's harder - impossible really - is to articulate how I feel about my son. How I feel about my husband becoming a dad, and me a mom. What is the word to describe the feeling of having gone from a couple, to a family. It is an emotion so big, there is no word yet created to express it. Is the word love? I don't think so. Because I love Ozark. And red Gatorade and the smell of baby lotion. It doesn't really seem appropriate to try and sum up how I feel about my family with the same word I use to describe a Netflix show and a sports drink. I'll keep searching for the word. In the meantime, today I am going to take my son for a walk. I'll feed him his bottles and put him down for his naps. We will giggle and give each other neck nuzzles and I'll pepper him with kisses and thank him for his smiles. The same as everyday. 
Because what I am realizing is, maternity leave coming to a close doesn't mean time with my son is over. He's my son. Forever! So it's not the end of something. Not at all. It's the beginning of everything. 

(Except for washing bottles. It is definitely the end of washing bottles.) 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Year Ago Today...

A year ago at this time, I reported to the San Francisco Hall of Justice for my first day of what would end up being nearly 2.5 months of jury duty. I served as juror #5 on a complicated and gruesome murder trial. A crime that took place years ago, but for many reasons, had only just gone to trial last year. The case was peppered with legal complexities and considerations - with an endless list of witnesses from both the prosecution and the defense. I sat in the courtroom four days a week, sandwiched between two older male jurors and listened. and watched. The information and testimony and images and evidence we were presented was sometimes confusing, highly graphic, emotionally charged and almost always horrific. I can't un-see or un-hear any of it. And I think about the trial and the people involved nearly every day. That is no exaggeration. 

During and following the trial, people often asked me: Sooo? Was it everything you thought it would be? It is a difficult question to answer. The experience ripped my guts out and shattered my heart. It put a strain on my relationship. It burdened my team at work. It consumed my every thought and made me feel jumpy and anxious and lonely. So lonely. 
I had always wanted to serve on a jury, which I know sounds completely ridiculous. I loved following high profile court cases profiled on the national news. It was my guilty, juicy pleasure, which I expressed quite openly. Now, I feel silly and ashamed for how gratuitous that was of me, how naive my obsession was with other people's pain splashed across the tabloids and displayed in a public forum. 

Law is complicated. Courtrooms are process heavy. People are.... strange. Being locked in a deliberation room with said strange people is bizarre and frustrating and tiresome. It is nearly impossible to remove emotion when reviewing the facts. Reasonable doubt is hard to define. And it's a very odd, sensational feeling to know the fate of a person's freedom rests squarely on 12 shoulders. 


But the experience made me consider things I never would have thought about. It taught me patience. Patience for people, and for process. Patience knowing you are at the mercy of the court - straight down to bathroom breaks. It tested my strength and called upon kindness. It tested willpower and empathy. It illuminated our criminal justice system. Yes, there are imperfections. And yes, there is privilege and power for some when others are silenced. But the system itself- although it is not without flaws- is, from my experience fair. I learned that there is no substitute for the feeling of being completely surprised and awe-struck by finally learning the opinions of the people you sat alongside for so many days. And I realized that you will never regret speaking openly and honestly both from the head and the heart, and I learned, that from every experience, we can find space to do something good. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

America, The Beautiful.

On Tuesday morning
from a hotel room in Denver,
when the country was still waking
and the energy at the polls was just starting to pulse,
I shared my thoughts about Election Day. 
 How I appreciated the camaraderie of the occasion 
regardless of political affiliation. 
I acknowledged the strains that accompanied the day.
Some people would feel victorious, 
others defeated.
I encouraged friends, no matter the results of the day
 to remember the good stuff. 
To remember the power behind
 our individual passions but also our shared privilege.
But I didn't anticipate the result. 
And I wasn't prepared for just how heartbreaking
'defeated' could actually feel.
And it's not just him over Her. 
I mean, it is but - 
- but it's more the overwhelming 
sadness and shame and guilt I feel that people in our country 
feel so broken and tired and angry and a lot of us 
didn't hear it. Or see it. 
Or worse we did, but... we didn't believe it.
I didn't at least.  
That's a tough pill to swallow today.
The fact that we let each other down.
I understand people feeling divided. 
And I support honoring our feelings 
as we make sense of all of this.
 I hope we can do this with kindness and with empathy.
 I said this Tuesday morning, and I'll say it again: 
The sunflowers will still turn towards the sun. 
The redwoods will still stretch to the sky. 
Rivers will run and birds will circle 
and we'll continue to take deep breaths and fill our lungs with air. 
Everyday the sun will set and it will rise again. 
And the stars will always be up there - even if clouded over.
And the best part is - 
Those things? 
Those beautiful things that make up America?
They belong to all of us. 
And no one can take that away.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My Feelings Lately.

There are moments, every single day, that most people wished that they had behaved better. Perhaps exercised more patience, more restraint. 

Everyday instances that we are not as proud of our reaction or reflexes as we could've been, if we had just taken a deep breath and not allowed ourselves to get overwhelmed, or defensive, or prideful. We're human. Our natural born instincts are to demonstrate survival tactics and power. To protect ourselves and prove our worth on this planet. 
Moreover, history has taught us to defend our beliefs fiercely and passionately. 
But there's a difference between passionate dedication, and abrasive intimidation. 

I can forgive the instances I mentioned above. I can pardon those moments of weakness, or impatience when reacting to rejection or disappointment that we all experience. But what I cannot wrap my head around, what I cannot understand, and what I cannot rationalize, is the trend - seemingly sweeping the country - of cheering on grown adults whose tactics include strong-arming and name-calling and shutting out and putting down. 

When did this happen to us? When did we become a country that favors prospective leaders who preach exclusivity rather than inclusivity? When did people start equating kindness to weakness? It breaks my heart. 
The political race has become an atmosphere seeped in "gottchas" and one-upping, rather than solution searching and problem solving. 
I'm not trying to romanticize politics prior to this election year. Certainly, there has been no shortage of misgivings or mistakes throughout each presidential term. Unfortunately, corruption is a term long synonymous with politics... but bullying should not be. Stigmatizing should not be. Hate, should not be. 

I know I am a bit of a dreamer with my eyes towards the moon, but I am not naive. I think most people respond better to a smile than a smirk.

I want to raise a family in a country that encourages everyone to acknowledge there are differences in the world, and seek the beauty and the opportunity to learn from these differences. We need to do more listening and less fist clenching. More considering, and less insult-slinging. Teach the values of integrity and grace. 

And I know we can do it. 
I know we can. 

In my life, I choose to lead with love, and with kindness. Maybe I'd make a really lousy politician. But I think I make a decent human. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Final Journey of 2015

In a few short days,
I'll be looking up at a whole new set of stars.
Piecing together constellations in the southern hemisphere,
staring at the sky from a different corner of the world, 
in awe.
A full moon. 
On Christmas. 
I can think of few better ways 
to celebrate the end of the year,
and the beginning of a new one.
I'll be splashing around on the shores of Australia, 
awaiting news from home on the arrival 
of my niece or nephew.
And with that,
It will have been a year
 that feels complete.
There were moments so joyful,
I wanted to call in the trumpeters 
and pound on a snare drum
and dance until the tread on my shoes wore thin! 
And yes, there were times during which 
the noises of day were replaced
with a sterile silence.
Sometimes, that's just the way a day goes. 
And you know. That's okay. 
I learned that in order to welcome in the new:
new love, new friends, 
new growth, new appreciations;
you have to make space by 
emptying out the stuff that doesn't 
fill you up anymore.
After all, what good is a heart that has
 reached maximum capacity, 
if the existing thoughts and feelings 
inhabiting it are stale?
There's just no time for that.
Make the space for a full heart. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A note, about feeling grateful.

I’ve been having trouble expressing myself
the way that I want to lately. 
And I think that’s because 
there are so many words that,
for a number of different reasons, 
I’ve chosen not to say.
I think it's human nature to hold back sometimes.
We convince ourselves that too much time has gone by,
or we fear that we may come across as impolite, or inconvenient.
We, or at least I,
 let other people’s opinions of a scenario leave me thinking  
that maybe my feelings aren’t valid,
or that I am being overly sensitive.
My whole life I feel like
I’ve been told to stop being so sensitive.
But for me, that’s like being told
‘Oh just stop feeling.’
And see – I feel too deeply.
It isn't feeling sad or glum,
it's almost feeling too aware.
I’ve felt this way ever since I was a little girl.
I have all of these feelings
and ideas and thoughts 
and they ping pong around in my head all day.
Happy thoughts, nervous thoughts, curious thoughts.
And so when someone says I just need to get over it,
well that’s like telling me not to breathe, or blink.
It’s just not possible for me.  
And I realize saying this  
might make people uncomfortable.
Because vulnerability can be that way. 
Speaking our truths can be pretty uncomfortable.
Over the weekend, I found myself in a conversation
with someone who reminded me
of the healing powers of self-expression.
And even if, for whatever reason,
we can’t physically say the things we want to say,  
we have to get the words or the thoughts out of our bodies
and into the universe.
We have to remove the negative energy from inside of us
so that it doesn’t manifest itself into physical pain.
This idea comforted me.
And I went from feeling a little anxious,
to feeling brave.
And validated.
And timely.
And convenient
and polite.
I felt the opposite of all the feelings that caused self-doubt.
I felt grateful.