Ready or not

I am 36 weeks pregnant. One week from full-term. One-and-a-half weeks from the point at which Corin made his appearance. It’s getting REAL over here, folks.

Midwife visits are weekly now. The infant car seat is strapped into its spot in the Jeep. The lovely cradle loaned to us by a friend is assembled next to our bed, cushioned with soft linens. Newborn clothes are washed and waiting in the nursery closet. Newborn-size diapers (good grief, do they really start out that tiny?!) are stacked in the changing table. Some sweet friends have planned a shower for me next Saturday night, and I think after that I’ll be able to say we’re pretty much ready.

But are we?! I am so excited about meeting our baby girl, holding her close, breathing in that helpless newborn sweetness, watching her change almost hour-to-hour. But oh, man. I’m also remembering the very long, sleepless nights, the constant feedings, the jaundice worries, the copious amounts of spit-up, and then I’m imagining tackling all that while also managing a very busy toddler. The only thing that keeps me from truly panicking is remembering that our mothers will be here to help with this transition. I was discussing with a friend the other day that bringing home a new baby really seems to be about a four-person job.

I’m also hoping that with a little experience under our belts, we’ll be a bit calmer and more equipped to handle the ins and outs of newborn parenting. Surely it will come back to us…?

Corin proudly lining up his Matchbox cars (pants-less, because that seems to be how we roll since potty training began)

This week Corin and I have spent a lot of quality time together. I took him to the mall, and we rode the carousel and treated ourselves to cookies. We went to Babies R’ Us, and Corin picked out a stuffed toy to give Baby Sister when she arrives. We joined friends for a fun play date at an indoor playground, and we spent time on the floor (much more a feat for one of us than it used to be) assembling elaborate webs of train tracks. I feel the need to soak him in, to store up these last moments of just us. A part of me is mourning the end of all this one-on-one time.

But ultimately, this transition is such an incredible blessing for our family. We’ll soon have another little person to love, with that priceless front-row seat to unfolding human development. Corin will learn important life lessons about adapting, about caring for someone smaller and weaker than himself, about sharing attention and possessions.

As I get physically more uncomfortable, I try to stay focused on absorbing every moment of this final stretch of pregnancy. I remember what a miracle it is that we are here, that this is happening, that the squirming and thumping that rocks my belly is really, truly a baby, our daughter, the answer to so many heartfelt prayers. What a gift!

Nesting

Truthfully, I don’t love that term. “Nesting” just sounds so…overly-domestic. But I can’t think of a better way to describe what’s been happening around our house the last week. I have been cleaning out cupboards and closets, donating or throwing away useless junk that’s been accumulating for eons, reorganizing every area of clutter I can find. I feel an urgent need to create as much order as possible before newborn chaos descends upon our household. It must be contagious, because Jon hung a new shelf in the pantry/laundry area to create more storage space, fixed a leaking shower faucet that had been driving us nuts for weeks, and has gotten right into the spirit of moving, reorganizing, and donating or throwing away remarkable amounts of stuff.

If Baby Girl were to follow Corin’s schedule, she would be here in four weeks. A bit shocking, no? Thank goodness we’ve been knocking out that to-do list at a rapid clip. I am THIS close to having the nursery finished and ready for sharing pictures. I hope to have that post ready for you in the next few days.

It probably sounds like all we do around here is get ready for Baby Girl, but that happens amidst the much bigger job of keeping up with our increasingly-active toddler. Corin has turned into quite the talker. We have a running commentary for pretty much everything that happens at our house. It’s pretty fun most of the time. His ability to make a mess has increased dramatically. Toys and household items appear in the strangest places. The other day, he came to inform me, “There is something in the potty.” My hopes of a new potty training break-through were dashed as I fished our dog Tennyson’s rope toy out of the toilet. I have learned to first check the laundry basket (Corin’s or, that failing, the baby’s) any time shoes or other essential items are missing. And oh, the places one finds Matchbox cars…

Corin’s creativity and imagination are developing rapidly, which brings plenty of new challenges. Last week, I heard him banging a toy on what I thought was the floor. Later, I found an alarming area of damage on the dining room wall that clearly indicated the actual location of the banging. When I asked him if he had caused this new mayhem, Corin’s immediate response was, “No, Tennyson did it.” I had to turn around so he couldn’t see me laughing. We then addressed the principles of the matter. A more experienced mother since advised, very wisely, that if you know your child did something, it’s better not to set him up to lie. Clearly, the instinct to blame someone else begins very early. Just wait until he figures out what a great scapegoat little sister makes.

If pregnancy was an Olympic event, this would be the home stretch.

(Wait, did I just mix Olympic and baseball metaphors? Oh well.) We are now less than nine weeks from my due date, which seems like a very short time when I start ticking off the items on my before baby to-do list but a very long time when I put on a maternity shirt that no longer covers my belly or wake at 2 a.m. with searing heartburn.

We are so excited about meeting this baby. It looks like we have finally settled on a name, but I hesitate to broadcast it too broadly in the off chance we change our minds. We may be baby name over-thinkers. It does add to my confidence in our choice that Corin pronounces it beautifully.

The nursery is nearly finished. I am not too humble to say I think it’s looking awesome. Pictures to come once the finishing touches are done.

We got back Tuesday night from our much-anticipated beach vacation. Hilton Head Island was our honeymoon destination, and it was so nice to have several days there to relive the romance while Corin lived it up with Mimi and Grandpa. Life happened, and the “romance” included a scorching sunburn through layers of sunscreen for my red-headed husband and two jellyfish stings for me. But we still had a lovely time. We even got to meet up with dear friends on their way through the area. We didn’t do much picture-taking, and what we did get was late in the evening, but here’s a sampling of our anniversary/babymoon/husband’s birthday trip. (My vanity is preventing me from sharing the only picture of the two of us together, because it is terribly unflattering.)

I am very thankful for those few relaxing days together in a lovely place. Soon we’ll be immersed in a newborn haze, fumbling our way through the transition to parents of two. Maybe on a few of those sleepless nights, it will help to remember the sound of crashing waves and the feel of damp, salty winds.

A part of me

Have you seen this post on the long-term presence of fetal cells in the mother’s body? This, my friends, is wild and woolly stuff.

I read through some of the research linked from the article, and the more I read, the more incredible it seemed. There is real poetry here, as the author of the blog post points out. As an embryo adoption mom, it nearly brought me to tears.

This precious baby I carry is biologically unrelated to me, but as I write, her cells are crossing the placenta into my body, becoming a permanent part of my physiology, and perhaps even preparing to someday help me fight illness or injury. Already, we are linked in a bond utterly unique to mother and child.

I know the quiet joy I feel as her little fists pound and her feet jab, that connection that has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with the role of nurturing a tiny life into existence. But I always suspected perhaps there was more happening in the neonatal processes. I wondered: How much do these nine months of intimate connection influence my baby? Beyond the emotional connection, does the physical bond of pregnancy make us a tangible part of each other? I love that at least in this one way, I can know the answer is a solid “Yes.”

Dog days of 27 weeks

For your entertainment, here’s an exchange I had with another mother after story time at the library this week.

Her: Looking pointedly at my belly, “So how much longer do you have?”

Me: “Longer than it looks like. I’m due October 4.”

Her: Eyes bulging, mouth hanging open, “Oh my. Do you have big babies?”

Me: “Well, Corin was born a little early and weighed 6 lb. 13 oz., so no, not really. I just get big.”

Her: Mumbling, eyes still bulging, “I mean, you look great. I’m just sure you’ll be uncomfortable.”

Me: Smiling as graciously as possible while steering Corin toward the door, “Yes, it will be a long three months.”

Really, I didn’t need this well-meaning mother to confirm that I have hit another growth spurt. Aside from surprising glances in the mirror, the increase in exhaustion and general discomfort has all but assured me: I am getting big. And the third trimester doesn’t even officially start until next week. Maybe I can at least hope it will coincide with a break in the unrelenting triple-digit temps gripping this section of the country.


27 weeks

But there’s plenty of good news. Baby girl is very active, we’ve made some progress on names, and I finished painting the crib this week. I will say this about hand-painting a jenny lind crib: I recommend a sprayer. (Disclaimer: I’ve never actually used one. But I have to assume it would be easier than the pain-staking process of hand coating 52 spindles in one coat of primer and two layers of paint. And it might prevent those couple of drips husband says I should leave but I know are going to eternally bug me.)

newly-painted crib

At last, something to show for all those hours in the garage!

On bonding

I spent several hours yesterday sanding and priming Baby Girl’s crib, a stellar craigslist find, as is pretty much every piece of nursery furniture I’ve ever purchased. Well, more accurately, I started priming the crib and then let my dear husband take over. I also have a changing table to paint, so we’re going to be at this for a while. I will at some point post pictures, provided I don’t totally screw these projects up and find them to be a hideous embarrassment. I’m starting early, because Corin arrived at 37 1/2 weeks to an unfinished nursery. His nursery mural – an awesome functioning Narnia lamp post courtesy my talented husband – was complete when he was about 8 months old.

I’m excited about decorating a girl’s nursery. I’m excited about dressing a baby girl. I’m just excited. Years ago, when I pictured the family I hoped for, I wanted a boy first and then a girl. With all the baby plans that went awry, somehow this one was meant to be. I think I would have been thrilled with another boy, but given the uncertainty of any future family plans, I love that we are getting to experience both a son and a daughter. I love the way Corin says “baby sister.”

I am 22 weeks pregnant and already starting to get uncomfortable. Physically, this pregnancy has been harder than my first. I was more nauseous and threw up for longer, although I still had it a LOT easier than many. (God bless those of you who have had to hang over the toilet for the entire first trimester or beyond.) I have had heartburn on and off for a couple months now. (Great midwife tip: eat almonds to settle the acid!) I get very tired, which I assume is related to caring for one child while gestating another. (Jon read this and questioned whether gestating is a verb in that sense. I assured him if it isn’t, it should be.) At 5’2″, I don’t have much baby room. I grow immediately and increasingly OUT. My sweet girlfriends have been sending me pictures of celebrities who gained a lot of pregnancy weight. My skin is a mess. I have what I guess is a muscle strain from rapid belly growth.

It’s funny, though. Even with all the weirdness and discomforts of pregnancy, I am enjoying it so much this time. I didn’t hate pregnancy the first time, but I think I worried more and felt less at home in my own skin during those nine months. I did feel a connection with Corin before he was born, but I remember thinking the prenatal bonding wasn’t quite what I expected. This time, I am so aware of the bond I feel for our baby. Maybe it’s because this time I know what it really means to have a child to love. Or maybe I’m more aware of that bonding because of my early adoption-related fears on the subject.

In any case, I am soaking up as much as I can of this experience and am so looking forward to meeting this little one. I worry a little about HOW excited I am, because I’m 90 percent sure I’ve forgotten exactly how hard those newborn days are and am unprepared for the two-child balancing act. Hopefully our previous newborn experience will kick in. And please let this baby be a better nurser than Corin was… Also, thank goodness for family. I hope our parents are resting now. We’re going to need them.