December 28, 2016

The Womb Life, Part 2

We’re only 4 days away from the due date of our second baby girl! I thought she’d already be here by now, and in reality, she’ll probably arrive as I finish writing this.

Physically, this pregnancy has been about the same as the last one…smooth sailing. I’ve been blessed with two relatively easy, healthy pregnancies. Mentally and emotionally, however, this one has been a roller-coaster of stress, anxiety and pressure. Between managing a full house renovation, starting a new job, trying to do a good job of raising Piper, and prepping for the baby, we unintentionally took on too much all at once. The past 6 months in particular have been very hard on us. And the craziest part? I haven’t been able to have a drink in 8 months! But I’m happy to report that we’ve gotten to a good enough mental space to finally feel ready for the baby to come. If you would have asked me a week ago I would have had a different answer, but I’m at peace now and ready to do this! Here’s a look back at the highs and lows of the past 39 weeks… 

Week 3
We had been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for 6 months. One-by-one we watched other friends get pregnant or already deliver their second baby, and time started to feel like it was slipping away from us. Some very faint lines on a pregnancy test have me wondering if our luck has turned, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. 

Week 4
We venture off to Maui as a family of three and come home from Maui as a confirmed family of FOUR! We tell Piper but she has absolutely no clue what we’re talking about.

We unofficially calculate the due date: December 26. Oh dear…not at all how I had planned or wanted this to go. But when you’re given the gift of life, you welcome it unconditionally!

We tell ourselves that we have to aggressively push for a start date for our house renovation, which is already 2 months behind schedule. 

Week 5
I arrive back at work and find out that I’m going to get a big promotion. While it’s so exciting, Steve and I also worry about how we’re going to keep it all together (spoiler alert: we barely do). 

Week 6 
We meet with our contractor and hammer him on start and end dates. We tell him that we HAVE to be finished with everything before Christmas. He does not seem worried at all…

I’m so tired that I fall asleep while Piper lays next to me banging her wooden hammer toy next to my head for 10 minutes straight. 

Week 7 
I begin feeling nauseous most of the day. It’s hard to remember exactly what it was like with Piper, but I don’t remember it being this bad. My previous cravings of pickles and salsa are back in action. I also notice that I’ve unintentionally started a new diet that I coined the 3C’s – carbs, cheese and chocolate. I look like I have a little bump forming…WHAT?!? This is much, much earlier than the last time. 

Week 8 
We go to our first doctor’s appointment. While we’re waiting, I tell Steve how much more relaxed everything feels this time around. Then as the doctor is about to turn the screen around for us to see the ultrasound, I am most definitely nervous and my heart is beating so fast. I imagine no matter how many times you’ve been through a pregnancy and no matter how relaxed it might feel, the very first time you see your baby will always be a nervous, exciting and anxious moment.

Our doctor tells us that we didn’t get a Groupon…no twins. She then smiles and lets us know that the due date is set for January 1, 2017. New Year’s Day! We’re pretty sure that it should be ~5 days earlier than that, but we’re going with it.

On the way home, I tell Steve I think it looks like a boy.

We fly up to Lake Tahoe to spend the week with my parents. I want to wear my airplane “uniform” of spandex workout gear, but it’s all a little tight-fitting and I’m worried that they’ll see my baby bump before we can surprise them with the news.

Later that day we sit down to exchange some gifts and I hand over the ultrasound picture with the grand announcement, “We’re having a baby!” to which my mom replies, “I KNOW!” Apparently the bump was just too obvious.

It must be the salt in the virgin bloody marys that my mom is dealing me all week…I look and feel huge. Second pregnancies play some serious body image mind tricks.

WEEK 11 
Somebody should really warn you that it’s not nearly as fun telling people your exciting news the second time around. Everyone’s reaction is, “I figured.” 

Week 13 
I decide to tell everyone at my company about the pregnancy. Two of my team members say that they’ve noticed me wearing the same outfits over and over again :/ 

Week 14 
I start feeling little bubbles in my stomach – the baby moving! All of the books say that it’s impossible for me to feel it at this point, but I know that feeling.

Our friends start coming out of the woodwork with their baby news. Just as before, we have several friends who are expecting within 2 weeks of us. So fun!

While we’re at a party, a friend asks me if we want a boy or girl. I give her the obligatory, “We’d be happy with either,” speech before confessing that we’re really hoping for a boy. She’s the first person who has ever told me that she had hoped for two girls. I am so surprised…I honestly have never heard anyone say that before. I ask her why and she very matter-of-factly tells me, “So that they can be sisters”. Of course! Sisters! That would be cool, too! This one conversation single-handedly changes my perspective on gender. Steve and I talk about it that night and we both agree that we would honestly be happy with either. 

Week 15 
I have an appointment with the doctor who happened to deliver Piper. I haven’t seen her in 2 years. It’s impossible not to get choked up as you thank the person who helped bring your child into the world. She gives me the okay to fly to India for work at the end of October. 

Week 17 
My career coach tells me that of the top 10 stresses of life, I will be going through numbers 3, 4, and 5 (new baby, new job, house renovation) over the next 5 months. Sigh.

We go to our third ultrasound and have the technician put the gender in an envelope for us to open later. We don’t have a plan for when or how we want to open it. The baby weighs ¾ of an ounce. 

Week 20 
We reach the half-way point of the pregnancy. Our house renovation STILL hasn’t started yet.

While watching the closing ceremony of the summer Olympics in Rio, Steve feels the baby kick for the first time. It must be a sign. Future 2040 Olympian on the way! 

Week 21 
Our contractor finally gives us a start date for our house renovation. It’s 8 months later than we had wanted, but at this point, we’re just happy to get an actual date. 

Week 22 
After taking a quick poll amongst our friends for gender reveal ideas, we land on the perfect way to find out: paint balloons. We research on the internet and try everything from finger paints to food coloring. Nothing works well until we find a concoction for “chalk balloons” – corn starch, water and food coloring. By the time we’re done, our kitchen looks like a mad scientist has been experimenting. 

We hand the balloon recipe and sealed envelope with our baby’s gender off to our friend, Angel, who agrees to fill the balloons up for us.

The next day is our street’s annual block party, which has been taking place every year since 1969. Our neighbors have been hyping it up since we first bought our house 10 months ago, so we invite all of our close friends to join us.

Towards the end of the party Steve, Piper and I change into our white shirts, the paint balloons are passed out, and everyone gathers around us in a circle. Steve and I hold hands and brace for the balloons as they hit us, only...THEY DON’T BREAK!!! Even though they were made only a few hours before the party, the corn starch solidified and we are basically pelted with hard rocks. It looks like a modern-day stoning.

As everyone winds up to take a second shot, one of the balloons bounces off Steve, hits the ground right in front me, and bursts open…it is PINK! A GIRL!!!

That night we pull up the list of names that we had considered for Piper. It’s funny how your tastes evolve over the course of two years! Some names that I used to love, I now hate – probably because I can imagine what it would be like to say it 100 times every day. 

Week 23 
We spend Labor Day packing up our kitchen, master bathroom and office to prepare for the house renovations starting the next day. It is a long day on my feet, and even though I currently have a lot to distract me from the pregnancy, the physical reminders are ever more present.

The work begins the next day, and boy, do they make an impact! We are shocked at how much they can demolish so quickly. It is very clear by the end of day 1 that there is no turning back now. 

Week 24 
I am exhausted and overwhelmed with my lack of time. Every night Steve puts Piper to sleep at 9:00pm while I take a nap. I get back up around 9:30 or 10:00 and we stay awake until about midnight working on house research. I keep up this routine for 4 months straight. There’s just no time to even think about baby names, nursery design, or shopping for anything remotely related to the baby right now.

The one thing I do work very hard to keep sacred is the time I give myself for physical activity. I try to make it to the Tri Club swim practice at least once per week. It’s strange to think that I’ve gotten more in shape as the pregnancy has progressed, but that’s how I feel. My dutiful little family makes the trek to La Jolla with me every week after work so that we can be together as much as possible. While I swim laps, Steve and Piper swim in the open pool or hot tub. It’s an important time for me each week, and I’m so lucky to have their support. 

Week 26 
A major heat wave hits San Diego with temperatures getting up into the 100s. Our air conditioner decides to die. At one point it is 92 degrees in our house. 

Week 27 
We visit friends in Phoenix, and one night while Steve and I are trying to sneak into our pitch-black bedroom without waking up Piper, we smack right into each other. Steve gives the baby a massive head butt. I’m pretty sure she felt that one! 

Week 28 
The 3rd trimester! Not ready, not ready, not ready! Need more time!!!

The house renovations slow way down because our contractor pulls two guys off of our job to work on someone else’s. This upsets me so much that I’m in full-on meltdown mode. I want so badly for this house to be in somewhat working order by the time the baby gets here, and it all feels so far out of my control.

Call it retail therapy, but I walk into a baby store to return one item, and walk out with $250 in baby clothes. Steve and I both thought that we’d save so much money not needing to buy new girls’ clothes, but the second I see them, I just have to have them. I justify it by telling myself that the baby deserves something of her own.

It’s funny how colors come into play during this stage of pregnancy. I am planning to decorate the nursery in differing shades of peach. When I get home from my little shopping spree, I realize that I’ve bought the baby four different peach outfits that look almost identical.

I realize that the reason for my meltdown earlier in the week was my biological nesting instincts kicking in. My heart, body and soul are telling me to get things ready for the baby’s arrival. It feels so good to get some things squared away for her, even if that means a few outfits placed into a plastic bin amidst a construction zone of a house. 

Week 29 
Going on about 4-5 hours of sleep per night, I’m off to India!

I squeeze my legs into my old triathlon compression socks and board a 19-hour flight from San Diego > Newark > India, pretty anxious about how it will go. When the plane finally touches down in New Delhi I thank God that we have made it safely.

When I finally get to my hotel room I take off my compression socks and can’t believe that I have absolutely zero swelling. Amazing!

The next day I travel with four co-workers to see the famous Taj Mahal. I love that the baby is along for the ride. Much cooler than Piper, who only made it to Tijuana, Mexico in the womb.

Week 30 
My trip to India continues with a self-guided walking tour of an intensely chaotic, dirty and intriguing section of Old Delhi. Along with some co-workers I walk the back lanes among the paper, décor and spice markets. With my travel bag slung over my body, most people on one side of me probably can’t even tell that I am pregnant. The others most definitely look me up and down, but I never feel that I am putting myself or the baby in danger.

After the first day of sitting in a lot of meetings, I notice that my ankles have started to swell. By the next morning the swelling has not gone down, which is highly unusual. As the second day goes on, the swelling becomes worse – especially in my left ankle and foot. I sleep that night with compression socks and my legs elevated. When the swelling still hasn’t gone down by the third morning, I call my doctor back in San Diego. She tells me not to worry but that if they become significantly asymmetrical I should go to the hospital. With tears in my eyes I tell my closest friends so that they can take care of me in case things get worse.

While I’m on the phone with the doctor I also receive the okay from her on that henna tattoo I had gotten on my hand the night before. Whew :)

The swelling never gets better, but it also never gets any worse. Several hypotheses include salt, MSG and the pollution – which is 8x higher than Beijing on the day that I fly home.

The journey back to the US is also an adventure. After sitting on our plane for 3 hours in New Delhi, United cancels my flight and there is no one at the airport who is willing to help re-book me. Miraculously with help from my assistant back in the States, I’m able to score a seat on a Turkish Airlines flight from Delhi > Istanbul > San Francisco > San Diego.

Everything looks to be working out until I go up to the check-in counter to get my boarding passes. I see the boy look down at me and then call over to a girl and whisper, “She’s pregnant”. The girl asks me for my doctor’s letter, which I produce for her, but she insists that it must only be a week old. My letter had been written 20 days earlier. I have to call my doctor’s office and have them email over a new letter. Thank goodness it is 3:00am in Delhi and only 2:30pm in California! They still question the letter once it comes through, but finally a manager gives it an okay, and my tickets are issued. Many, many, many hours later the baby and I are back in the US and reunited with Steve and Piper.

All-in-all it is a great trip and one that that I’m extremely grateful that I was able to take. The baby was a trooper through every aspect – the flights, food, time change, long periods of sitting and also standing, heat and emotional rigors. 

Week 31 
Steve and I venture off to a refresher childbirth class. Several people ask me why I need to go to the class if I’ve already had a baby. I am sure the information hasn’t changed much in 2.5 years, but like an athlete visualizing before a race, it’s more about getting in the right head-space before delivery. If I don’t force myself to go to it, I’m worried I’ll just show up at the hospital without having thought about labor once. This is my way of dedicating time to process what is going to be happening very soon.

Even though I stopped running at 16 weeks with Piper, I have felt good enough to continue jogging into my third trimester this time around. I begin dialing it back to an alternating jog/walk every quarter mile for 3 miles. Even though I look ridiculous jogging around town, I feel good doing it. 

Week 32 
I fly to Denver for a week-long work conference. It’s my last trip before the baby comes and I’m so excited to just get past it and be home with Steve and Piper. The first two days are very long and exhausting. I work 16 hours and then go up to my room to work more in bed until about midnight or 1:00am. By day 3, I tell myself that I have to take my foot off of the accelerator.

While watching the presidential election results come in from my hotel room, the baby is extremely active. I text Steve to let him know that there is an alien in my belly.

That weekend the three of us head to Buy Buy Baby. We open up and then close out our registry on the same day, only 7 weeks before our due date. Who does that???

Week 33 
Steve and I have another major expectation reset when we have a talk with our contractor and come to the conclusion that our upstairs and kitchen probably won’t even be done by the time the baby arrives. I’m extremely upset and call my parents (again) for some perspective. They tell me that of all people, Steve and I can do this. If we traveled the world with next to nothing, we can certainly provide for our family in a home that’s not perfect. I have no doubt that we can do it; it’s just not HOW I wanted to do it. After a very sad day of letting my new reality sink in, I feel better that some of the pressure is off now. 

Week 34 
My doctor listens to the baby’s heartbeat and says that she’s a very mellow baby – 120 beats per minute. That’s a relief because I was sure that my stress had rubbed off on her.

The day after Thanksgiving we go on our annual hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve. I print out the list of baby names that we have narrowed down to, and we spend most of the hike saying them out loud to each other. By the end of the hike we have decided on one and even have Piper practice it. Let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than hearing Piper say her future sister’s name in her little kid voice.

By Sunday afternoon I’m starting to feel mentally and emotionally down again so I go out on a jog/walk to clear my head. I get a later start than I had wanted, so it’s starting to get dark outside as I am finishing. As I cross the street less than a quarter mile from home, I foolishly trip on a piece of asphalt that I can’t see through the darkness. I fly forward and land right in the middle of the street. My hands catch most of my fall, but by the time my body catches up with the ground, the left side of my belly hits the street. I am in pure shock. I get myself up, get out of the middle of the street, and walk the rest of the way home.

As soon as I get cleaned up, I spend some time googling falls in late pregnancy. Nothing makes it sound too serious as long as I’m not bleeding or feeling contractions. I brush it off at first, but by 9:30pm I feel guilty enough that I call my doctor’s office to be safe. They calmly suggest that I go to the hospital to be monitored overnight. Steve and I feel that they’re being overly conservative, but we can’t in our right minds not take their guidance. Ironically I have on my to-do list for that evening to pack my hospital bag :/

Steve stays home with Piper while I drive myself to the hospital and am admitted around 11:00pm. It feels very surreal to be back on the labor and delivery floor. A piece of me even wonders if it’s a good thing to experience the hospital first-hand to help get me in the mindset for the birth. I do better without surprises when I can visualize the situation ahead of time.

I am really clam through the whole hospital ordeal, probably because it feels like a formality more than anything. I am just disappointed in myself that I made such a stupid mistake. I don’t want jogging during pregnancy to get a bad rap; I would do it all over again. But my idiotic combination of running at 34 weeks pregnant, in the dark, on a torn up street, while I was upset was not my smartest moment in hindsight.

My nice nurse wraps two monitors around my belly for the night to keep track of the baby’s heartbeat and possible contractions. Everything checks out just fine, and I’m discharged at 6:00am.

All-in-all it is a smooth, quick and uneventful trip to the hospital. It’s not one that I ever want to make again, but I’m so relieved and grateful that the baby is safe and sound. I promise to take good care of her, and to take better care of myself for her sake. And much to my mother’s delight, I hang up my running shoes. 

Week 35 
Steve travels three days for work, and I’m left to fend with Piper at 35 weeks pregnant. I can barely keep up with her even when he is around! She is a really good girl and doesn’t give me much of a hard time. But even still, the stress of getting her to school, picking her up from school, making dinner, cleaning dishes, entertaining, getting lunches ready, showering and putting her to bed all on my own takes a toll. On the first night I can tell that I’m having contractions. They aren’t painful, but I can feel my stomach tensing up. I worry all evening that they’re going to turn painful and that I’ll have no one to take me to the hospital. It turns out to be nothing of importance, but it’s so hard to know what’s going to happen with a second baby. You always think they’re going to come early.

That weekend Steve and I go to the hospital to take a tour of the labor and delivery floor. Even though it’s the same hospital that I delivered Piper at, the rooms have been renovated since then. They look like a Las Vegas hotel room. I want the old rooms back.

I ask Piper what the baby's name should be, and without hesitation she says, “India!” 

Week 37 
We stage a mutiny with our contractor. The baby could realistically come any day, and we still don’t have a single room complete. The two rooms that are furthest along – the master bedroom and baby’s bedroom – still don’t have floors, closets or doors. We decide it’s time to take matters into our own hands, and we schedule all of the sub-contractors to come in and crank out the necessities. By Wednesday the nursery has floors!

Later that night I wake up at 2:45am with pains that would get stronger every 8 minutes for about 30-45 minutes. I am completely freaked out that the baby is on her way 3 weeks early. The weirdest part is that even little Piper was stirring in her sleep during that exact same time! It ended up fizzling out after 45 minutes, but it was enough to completely frazzle us.

A couple of days later Piper informs me that, “The baby is gonna come off mama’s belly with a hammer” – LOL! She has been hanging around a construction site for too long.

On Friday I walk out of work with a 4-month maternity leave in front of me! That weekend the crib and dresser arrive and we start piecing the nursery together. It’s so unusual (and wrong) that I don’t actually see the nursery come together until 2 weeks before the due date.

I go into full-on nesting mode the rest of the weekend. Steve, his parents and I work so hard getting outlet covers in place, speakers and curtains hung, closet systems installed, bookshelves assembled and painted, clothes washed, and drawers filled up. I tell Steve that it’s my greatest decorating masterpiece that I never actually had the enjoyment of decorating.

Week 38 
I realize that this pregnancy has been different from Piper’s mainly because of the time of year that it is. When I was 38 weeks pregnant with Piper I just wore slip on sandals all of the time. It’s chilly now, and it’s nearly impossible to bend over and get socks on and shoelaces tied. I don’t know how women in snowy areas do it!

I have been wanting to take some maternity photos and worrying that the baby will come before we can get to them. In between rain storms, we head to Balboa Park and Steve does a great job as the photographer while Piper chases the ducks around.

My doctor tells me I have a 50/50 shot of making it to Tuesday (2 days after Christmas). Steve’s parents and brother really want the baby to be born on Christmas day while everyone else does NOT! 

Christmas rolls around and we have such a great day, but the clock is on the back of my mind the entire time. I keep thinking, “Only 12 more hours, only 8 more hours, only 5 more hours until I can stop worrying about it!” Finally when it reaches 10pm, I know we have made it. Pure relief. 

Week 39 
I really never thought we’d make it this far given the odds of a second baby coming early, the stress we’ve been under, and believing our due date should be 5 days earlier. I’m so incredibly grateful that our baby girl has hung in here long enough to give us time to get things sorted. We've also been able to spend some much needed one-on-one time with Piper while she's still an only child. My parents arrive in San Diego today. Could she be waiting for them to get here???

What a roller-coaster it has been. The house is still a mess with the exception of 2 rooms, the baby book isn’t filled out, and we’re already starting from a sleep deficit. But despite all of the imperfections which we’ve come to accept, we’re happy and so excited for her to get here. I’m most looking forward to seeing how tiny she is. I can’t wait to hold her in my hand…while holding a tall glass of wine in the other.


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