Saturday, July 31, 2010

Parenting 101: Raising a Puppy

Over the past couple months or so, I've been increasingly aware of the fact that having a puppy is preparing me, in a small way, to be a mother to a small human. Some of the similarities between puppy parenting and human parenting are barely visible, while others are laughably identical. I've chronicled some of these observations below.

At some point in their lengthy careers, mothers for millenia have claimed to own a pair of eyes in the back of their heads. This sounded like a suspicious assertion to me, but after being the mother of a puppy for the past six months, I've realized that, indeed, I now have them. Granted, they are still a little out of focus since I've not cost the last few times Bear peed on the carpet or snagged one of my ear plugs as a chew toy. For the most part, however, slight changes in sound, sudden movements across the hallway, or a general awareness that "things are not as they ought to be" are all daily occurrences in my life as Bear's mom. So that second pair of eyes, they're there, opening slowly, waiting for the tiny person who will certainly require them.

I didn't grow up with a dog. Our first pet was a hamster named Esther, whom I purchased while I was in my first year of college. I lived at home at the time, which did not bode well for Ester due to presence of pet-curious sister and the nearly perpetual pet-free nature of my parents' home. During that year or so, I gained a glimpse of what it was like to be responsible for another something, something that was not myself. Feeding her, changing out her cedar shavings, making sure her exercise ball did not roll down the stairs - caring for Esther was often dull. But it had to be done. After we adopted Bear, my responsibilities multiplied. And so did the joy of having a pet. Together Josh and I feed Bear, take him on evening walks, clothe him (although with little success since he usually chews the Snuggie off before the velcro patches even touch), and dream up ways to make him happy. If this isn't a peek into our future as parents, well, I truly have no idea what I'm doing.

Another skill I'll need with the baby is the ability to differentiate between cries and various other sounds. Bear is giving me a quick lesson in this as I learn how to discern the nuances of his communication. There's the "please play with me" bark, the "please let me out to pee" bark, "the oh my gosh I'm about to pee on the carpet" whine, the "I'll have what she's having" bark/puppy eyes request for food, among many others. Bear is a fairly verbal dog, but unfortunately he only knows one word: "Ruff". We are working on this, of course, as we fancy all our children to be bilingual. For now though, the task of translation is a constant one.

Perhaps one of the most best puppy-baby similarities is that the same person (or animal) who annoys me greatly one minute can charm my heart the next. One minute Bear is crashing through the kitchen, slipping and sliding into the cabinetry, begging for food and causing a general ruckus. The next minute he's worn himself out completely, tucked under the kitchen table, sweetly gnawing on a rawhide or nodding off to sleep. It's incredible that he can go from feeling like a terrible nuisance to an adorable ball of fluff in a matter of seconds. It's like I forget that I wanted to banish him to the backyard only moments before, and I find myself exclaiming how cute he looks or bending down to nuzzle him. I think this may be one of my greatest gifts as a parent: the ability to see more than a mayhem and chaos-causing noisemaker, but instead a cuddly, fun-loving, bundle of joy who, remarkably, looks a lot like me.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


My friend/roommate, Rachel, has an excess of swimsuits like I have never seen. This is one that actually fits me. I put it on and suddenly felt the urge to don my little black heels and have a mini photo shoot. I figured I should take advantage of my camera-courage since these moments are usually short-lived. There was obviously no way I was going to post these on facebook, but since I have an almost purely female audience here, I felt a little safer. Here's what Josh captured from a couple minutes in our hallway. Just be aware, these are way too racy for a pregnant woman, and altogether unnecessary. But let's just call this, "Victoria Secret's 'Knocked Up'" swimsuit line.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I now understand why white men in the sixties did not want to employ women.
It's because we can get pregnant. And pregnant women are cranky, hungry, tired, and significantly less productive. And we walk slowly, with a waddle. For all of you who are either productive pregos or simply not pregnant, I apologize for the gross over-generalization. Let's blame it on all this estrogen.

On the flip side, it seems I get some amusing glances from passersby these days. Looking as obviously pregnant as I do - thank you very much - folks take notice and smile sweetly, as if I'm a little old lady or some other moderately helpless being. The other look is a look of knowing, as if they realize I have no idea what I just got myself into. Those are a little irritating. If you see me, please don't do that. Or if you must, wait until I'm not looking.

I feel like the baby is going through growth spurts starting every Thursday night and lasting through the weekend. This could be entirely imaginary, but I swear I get full more quickly and have trouble catching my breath after a few steps when the calendar hits Friday. And did I mention how heavy I feel? I've only gained eight pounds, but it might as well be fifty. I'm going to have to invest in some comfy shoes, moonwalkers or the like. Walking weightless would be grand.

Last night I had a birth dream. I was standing in a small tub with my friend, Jessica, behind me, supporting me. She had just had her baby maybe hours before. The nurse could see I was about to go into hard labor, so she ran out of the room to get me some vodka. Not sure what kind of hospital they were running there. It was time to push so I did, just once, and out he came. And it didn't even hurt. He was beautiful. I looked at him and eyes open, he looked back. I turned to Jessica and said, "I dreamed he would look this way." So we shall see. sent me an email suggesting that dads could now hear the baby's heartbeat by listening to your belly. "Yea, right!" I thought, but I told Josh to try it anyway. What do you know? He heard the baby's little heart, much faster than mine, and he tapped out the rhythm on my belly so I could hear it too. Hurrah!

Around our house, the high five is an essential communication staple practiced by Josh, me and the dog. Well, Bear's high five is more like a high ten since he gets on his hind legs and presses both paws up toward your hands, but you get the picture. It seemed only right that the baby should learn high five as soon as possible, even before we are skin to skin. Last night Josh laid his hand on my belly and said, "High five, baby". *Bump* went my tummy. We laughed, wondering if it was a fluke, but after four total attempts with consistent "high fives" from the baby, we knew he knew. He is indeed one of us.

I realized a couple nights ago, just for a moment, that my life is indeed about to change. Big time. My prayers, my thoughts, my time, my energy will be swallowed by approximately eight tiny pounds of squishy, giggly, pooping flesh. The money I spend on me will go to him. The time I have for myself - hardly any as it is - will belong to him. The prayers I pray for me will transform into shotgun pleas for wisdom on how to calm him, clean him, raise him to love God and keep his room clean. I have the strong suspicion it will only make sense to give all these things to him, that love will be the strongest compulsion. But I have no idea what this feels like, to love something this much that I give up everything. And gladly, or at least most of the time so. But I have a feeling that this is the good stuff, where the real rewards in living hide.

Here's the 24 week belly update:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


As I watched The Business of Being Born, I was briefly introduced to a doula. Originating from ancient Greek, doula means "woman's servant", and this person's role is to provide emotional and physical support and advocacy for a woman in labor. In the film, the New York couple who used a doula in their birth appeared to be the pseudo-granola, yuppie types. Since the doula is not a midwife, or nurse, she does not make medical decisions during the birth process. She is simply present for assistance to the birthing mother, a sort of labor attendant. I scoffed. Only high maintenance, coastal women would need a doctor or midwife and a doula. Goodness.

I proceeded to dive into the natural birth process with abandon. There would not be any needles, drugs or gut-slicing (graphic, I know) in my child's birth as long as I have a say in it. I bought Childbirth without Fear, after my friend's recommendation, and enrolled in an online class on natural childbirth. The third session of the class re-introduced me to a doula. I skimmed the material half-heartedly. I wouldn't need this information.

After much searching for local midwives, I was disappointed to discover there were none to be found. I wondered who would fully support my desire - and grand efforts - to have a natural birth, if my doctor was only partially on the wagon. I talked with a woman at church who had attempted natural birth with her first child, but due to complications, required a Cesarean. She told me she used a doula during her birth, and rattled off a name or two. Talking to a real, live mother, I heard the word "doula" differently this time. The doula she named was here in town, a Christian, which was important to me, and someone this woman trusted. I got her information and contacted her that evening. I browsed her blog and pored over her website, learned everything I could about her. And I surprised myself. I fell in love. Or deep appreciation, perhaps.

I realized that a doula can give be there to give me what I've been trying to extract from my poor husband this whole time: real empathy, compassion, competence, advocacy for the birth process I want, ensuring I'm always informed. She can even help me be comfortable - as much as possible - and give Josh guidance on how to help. Best of all, this is her job. I won't be forced to rely on some unwitting family member or friend to provide these services. We will all be free to gracefully glide through birth - yes, I know this is optimistic - and enjoy the baby when he is born. What a gift!

I'm planning to meet with the woman I hope will be my doula in a couple weeks. Is it weird to say that I like her already? Well, I do. Here's to a change of heart.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

For Ingrid


Just watched got my pregnant, emotional brain rocked watching The Business of Being Born. Wow. I laughed, I cried twice. Now I have some real research to do. I think I'm sliding quickly back toward my hippie, Oregonian roots. Once the emotions come down, I'll be raiding the experience closet of an OB nurse friend of mine whom I trust deeply. I need advice. This birthing thing may not be as scary as I thought. I know for sure there will be no epidural, no pitosin and no C-section, unless the life of baby or me is threatened. How I will accomplish this is something of a mystery. But I am determined to enjoy birth, to be present, to remember it, even if - correction - even though it will hurt. This kind of pain is worth it. I'm sure of it.
Try as I might - and Lord knows I have tried mightily - I've had difficulty procuring a significant amount of pregnancy empathy from my husband. Perhaps this is because he is not pregnant. I very much want to be understood so I work overtime to create word pictures and comparable scenarios so he can "experience" my particular symptoms. I tell him how it feels like my internal organs are getting shoved up into my rib cage. I describe in extensive detail the stretching of my skin after a big meal. Despite my grand efforts, he would rather I stop with the overly graphic imagery and consult with my fellow pregos instead. Girls, I need help. Although it appears he may be unwilling, he is simply unable to comprehend the mystery, the wonder, the weirdness that is pregnancy.

I talked to my friend, Jessica, who is only a few weeks behind me in pre-momhood. We shared our mutual experiences attempting to talk our husbands into feeling pregnant. She’d had no success either. It appears there is a pattern here. We decided to band together, have a telephone book club with Childbirth without Fear, empathize, whine and support each other. She has a midwife and is neck-deep in natural childbirth techniques, literature and whatnot. I haven’t made up my mind yet. My mother had back labor during all four births but chose to labor naturally. Either she is a glutton for punishment or has an other-worldly tolerance for pain. I am not a fan of pain, or discomfort for that matter, and I feel like I want to keep that epidural needle on standby, just in case I freak out.

This morning as I talked with Josh about the birthing process, I talked round and round about birthing methods and how I hoped for his informed participation. It took about 20 minutes before I realized what I truly wanted. I knew it was the real issue because I started crying. Typical, I know. What I wanted was someone with me. I feel alone in this pregnancy thing, even with my husband’s support and friends with babies and all the stories from women who have gone before me. I want to know that the labor and the pain and the experience matters to Josh and that he would be willing to sit with me in it, and not bail if it gets messy. This he finally understood. Feels nice to be staring at the same page.

I still haven’t picked a childbirth method. I don’t know very much yet. I’m still scared. But knowing that my man has my back, and my belly, and whatever else may proceed from there, puts my little mind at ease.

And since you're all wondering if I actually do look pregnant, as I've begun to claim, here's a bit of evidence:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Strange things are happening to me...ain't no doubt about it."

The line from the first Toy Story soundtrack seems appropriate at the moment. I'll explain.

Baby's been in a growth spurt, went from half a pound to a pound in just two weeks. Incredible. And oh, can I feel it too. The skin across my abdomen is stretched out like canvas over a frame, tighter and tighter and...ouch, tighter. I didn't realize I would be able to feel the growth on the outside like this. People talk about how a pregnant belly "pops", and it sounded cute and fairly painless, like some quick, overnight happening. Not so. I'm not sure if it helps, but I'm adding globs of lotion and oil to my belly on a regular basis, hoping that somehow the extra moisture will ease that strange stretching sensation. And the marks it threatens to leave behind.

Josh could feel Baby last night. Finally. Two, brief bumpety-thumps beneath his hand, then baby quit, but it was something. I've had him to myself for the past five weeks. So glad to share the magic.

The past couple weeks, Baby and I have been having fun with a Morse code sort of interaction. He can’t talk to me, but he can tap. And so this is what we do. He pushes out, I push in. It’s our first game. I imagine that in addition to playing with him, I am teaching him some sort of cause and effect rule, or the law of physics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Move over, Baby Einstein. Of course, I can’t always push back whenever he moves so there goes that idea. Regardless, it really is so fun to have him busting a move, bouncing, rolling, whatever sorts of things he does in there. The mystery that is growing inside of me, a human life and soul – may it never cease to amaze and confound me.