"This loaf's big with its yeasty rising..."

The last few days of pregnancy are a funny time.

I'm 40weeks + 3 days pregnant now and, since we all expected this little one to arrive early, I've been experiencing those 'last few days' for a while now.

I've done all the prep. We have a diaper service, we have baby clothes, we've talked about the upcoming arrival with our older child, I have two nursing stations set up in the apartment (burp/leak cloths, homemade nipple butter, nursing pads, water, snacks, and a good book at each), we purchased an organic waterproof mattress cover, and of course the arrangements for the birth were made long ago. It's an amazing feeling, to be so prepared - I certainly wasn't the first time around - but it also heightens the anticipation. I've never been very good at anticipation.

I like to wait until the last minute and then dive into something. I don't like thinking about things ahead of time, and I usually just rely on my charm/privilege/talents/luck/friends to get me through difficult situations. This is probably the worst life strategy in the entire world.

When I was 9 months pregnant with SBJ I wrote a  list of things you should never say to a pregnant woman. In them was the question, "Are you excited?" I hated being asked it because, yes, I was excited - in the way you might be excited before giving a talk about your deepest dreams to a crowd of 4,000,000...unrehearsed. Excited in the way that, probably, my viking ancestors felt excited before going into war. Having a child is incredible. I can't really wrap my head around it. So, even the second time around, my feeling is anticipation mixed with dread. Because in my experience, that's what having a newborn is like: terribly beautiful and terribly joyful and in some deep way, terribly risky.

So there's that.

Then there's the physical.

I've enjoyed being pregnant this time around. As I wrote to a friend recently, "I wish I could be eight months pregnant forever." But I'm 9+ months now and I wouldn't want this - the heartburn, the pelvic ache, the minuscule bladder - forever. Or even for another week. They say that the end of pregnancy is so uncomfortable so that women will actually want to go into labour. As a birth nerd (and writer and, sometimes, giver) I don't see the desire to go into labour as that unusual. But I do look forward to the time when my body can start recuperating instead of sending all its best nourishment, energy, and attention to this little one.

But since we'll be exclusively breastfeeding, that will take at least a year...

And then there's the social.

I carry this physical, emotional 'burden' (OK, 15 lb. abdominal basketball) with me everywhere I go. It makes people smile. It makes people talk to me and ask questions that I like answering. Somehow it doesn't make them touch me. I get props for doing things I would normally do but also normally find onerous (pulling my son to daycare on a wagon; carrying him in my arms; wearing cute dresses with porridge spilled on them) and, in my neighbourhood at least, the fact that I am pregnant does not preclude my status as a woman. This is maybe the best part, and perhaps why I would like to be eight months pregnant forever.

The men who might normally harass me (indeed, who did before I was visibly pregnant!) are polite and encouraging. They don't expect me to hop into the car beside them, but they still say things like, "Hey baby mama, lookin' good!"

It all feels so non-threatening. As a heavily pregnant woman, I am ever-more vulnerable but also ever-more safe.

And then there's the physical (part II).

I have never been so 'in touch' with my body. Every strange thing my body does is reason to think I'm in labour. Am I extra tired today? Or do I have extra energy? This could be a sign! And since my labour is expected to go very quickly, I have to pay careful attention to these signs so that I can notify the right people when the time has come. It's unusual for me to take such good care of myself without feeling guilty. It feels good and right.

I'll end this rambling with my favourite poems, "Metaphors". It's by Sylvia Plath and it captures the ambivalence I feel about pregnancy: its unfathomable immensity and its daily, mundane, back-aching corporeality.

I'm a riddle in nine syllables. 
An elephant, a ponderous house, 
A melon strolling on two tendrils. 
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers! 
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising. 
Money's new-minted in this fat purse. 
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf. 
I've eaten a bag of green apples, 
Boarded the train there's no getting off.

Discipline and Porridge: Breakfast At Our House

I was talking with my friend 'Arda' about discipline the other day. This is what I said.

I am in complete agreement with you about setting limits and boundaries and discipline. We do the world NO FAVOURS when we give in to their kids all the time, especially sons. Sometimes I feel like a real disciplinarian in contrast with other parents. I try to limit my 'nos' to things that are dangerous or disrespectful (as opposed to just unsightly or embarrassing for me - does it really make a difference to me if he dumps his porridge bowl onto his high chair tray? No, because I have to wash it anyway and he's a good eater. But if he dumps my bowl, or if I've asked him not to, well that's another matter). 

Because just that morning, this had happened.

Re-lactating: What am I going to do when my milk comes in?

Here are some musings about the nursing relationship: how it's been to be nursing a toddler, weaning a toddler, and what it might be like to also be nursing a newborn.

Sweet Baby James was exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months of his life and didn't really start to consume much solid food until about a year old. He was a humungous baby, so that meant that we nursed almost constantly. It was rare to go more than an hour between feedings. It was a big part of our relationship. Since I carried him in the sling most of the time we were together, we got good at nursing in it and I was able to go about my daily life (shopping for groceries, talking with friends, hiking in the woods) while he suckled. Yes, being able to walk down the street nursing my baby made me feel like Superwoman.

I intended to nurse him until, "either he or I gets tired of or uncomfortable with it." Children's immune systems are not fully developed until about six years (not coincidentally, around the same time they lose their 'milk teeth') and I had no problem nursing him until then if it was still going well for both of us. But being pregnant, my milk has dried up completely - I'm now producing colostrum for the new baby, not milk for the toddler. My decision (which is actually our decision: mine, my husband's, and SBJ's) is whether or not to allow or encourage SBJ to nurse alongside the baby when my milk comes in. 

Part of me wants to because I think our toddler would like it, benefit from it health-wise, and perhaps bond with the baby a little better. There is no evidence to support the commonly held belief that a toddler will 'drink up all the milk - milk is produced on an as-need basis as hormones are released from the pituitary gland in response to suckling. The big birth blog that I write for (www.birthwithoutfearblog.com) also publishes a lot of beautiful photos of tandem nursing looking so maternal and sweet... I have a romantic notion about it, I guess. 

Part of me, however, does not want to. Up until a few months ago, I gave our son a LOT of boob. It's been nice to have my breasts back as my own. It's been a relief that I can change in front of him, bathe with him, sleep beside him, without hearing a fierce request (demand) for la-las. Being a toddler, he would pull my shirt down, grope me, and try to play with my nipples -- all of which I found annoying. And even some of my more natural-minded mama friends have said that once a kid is weened, it's best to just let sleeping nipples lie.

As always, my husband supports me in whatever I choose - but I know that he has appreciated being able to take SBJ for longer periods of time, bond with him in a closer way, and has enjoyed the benefits of having a wife who's not 'touched out' at the end of the day. To nurse or not to nurse, that is the question.

Tools over Toys

As you may know, my little tyke has some specialized interests.

Sweet Baby James doesn't like toys. He likes tools.

Tools for building, tools for destruction; tools for baking, tools for grooming. Anything that does something to something else resulting in a reduction in mechanical load is superior to him, and he would like one of his own, thank you very much.

The great thing about this interest is that I can satisfy it without actually spending any money or stepping foot in a Chemicals "R" Us toy emporium. We just scavenge the street (or papa's toolbox, or my art supplies) and find what we need. It's very eco-friendly.

But I am surprised at how persistent it is. It's not just hammers and blenders and saws. It's a subtle and pervasive inclination extending throughout every minute of SBJ's waking life. And when I look back I realize it's been like this for a long, long time.

Instead of playing with his toy animals, SBJ preferred to while away his bathing time by pouring water from one measuring cup into another. Over and over and over again. He's done it for at least 20 minutes a day, almost every day, for the past 18 months.

We took him to the Monterey Bay aquarium and he was most interested in the pedestrian gangplank they had recently built. It had rivets on it. Take that, jellyfish.

We took him camping and he would have spent all his time investigating a road gate with a lock on it if we hadn't decided to continue walking along the path to see how far we could get before he told us to wait up. We got pretty far.

When he was 10 months old he had a little dangly stuffed toy dog whom we called "Mr. Cratchers" (admittedly, a name better suited to a character in a horror movie, but new parents are funny like that). Mr. Cratchers was black and white and colourful all over. He had crinkly ears. He was designed to be attractive to humans with developing senses. He could be attached to any number of baby-holding devices through a green plastic claw. But to SBJ, the best part about Mr. Cratchers was not Mr. Cratchers himself. It was his tool of attachment.

We arrived in Palm Springs for a visit with my mom and step-dad last month. Within five minutes, SBJ had found the rental apartment's tool drawer, and was happily playing with their hammer, screw driver, and something styrofoam.

Just yesterday, I gave SBJ 1500 live ladybugs to disperse throughout the garden (they eat aphids and, hey, live ladybugs. From the internets!). He was kind of curious but so much more excited about the garden clippers I used to open the mesh sac in which they were delivered. So much.

And I was kind of sad about the ladybug thing. It's easy for me to get disappointed, especially when I've spent $75 on some stupid aquarium or harbored a romantic notion about looking up at the trees in wonder with my child. But it's just what parenting is. Constantly letting go of your preconceived notions. Meeting your kid where they're at.

Like, OK, so the only exciting thing about this paint set is that it can be broken up into small pieces and used as blender fodder. Fine. I personally would like to use it to paint something, but you see other, um, possibilities. The question is, how can I enjoy this game as it is, now?

And to appreciate the wonder that it is. Our babies growing into their personalities. SBJ with an artist mom, a physicist dad, a grandfather carpenter, two grandmother house-builders, and two great-grandfather engineers. His own genetic imprint coming to light, formidable and unstoppable.
He is the course of generations.

Yet also, entirely, himself.