Kicking and screaming my way into the light

On Origami Yoda and Dream Theft November 11, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — thursdaynexxus @ 2:12 pm


Above: An “emergency five-fold Yoda” my son made for this post.

I recently read Seth Godin’s education “Manifesto”, a 30,000 stream-of-consciousness style post called “Stop
Stealing Dreams: What Is School For?” More accurately, I devoured it – read it over my lunch hour and commute,
then over several hours the next morning. (Then I found the TED Talk where he summarizes the ideas in under 20
minutes, oops). Godin delivers a sharp analysis of the issues with public education in the U.S. – the problem,
he argues, is in the basic design of the system. Rather than merely flawed, it is completely outdated: the
original purpose of public education was to produce factory workers and mass consumers. More than anything
else, our current school system operates on and inculcates obedience and compliance. Our changing economy and
culture demand something entirely different: flexible, imaginative graduates who will use their skills to shape
the world around them. He posits that a school teaching these skills would allow students to use their existing
passions to drive their studies, a method resulting in better knowledge development and retention.

Coincidentally, I’ve also been wrapping up the final book in the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger. If you
have a tween, you’ve probably heard of these books; if not, I highly recommend them. The series explores
questions similar to Godin’s “What is School For?” as it pits a group of bright middle-schoolers against the
school principal and administration in the era of No Child Left Behind. Throughout the series, the kids fold
origami finger puppets based on Star Wars characters and consult them for “Jedi wisdom” in the face of their
problems. Though the puppets are remarkably effective, perhaps a way of representing the kids’ moral compass in
their peer-pressure culture, using them lands the kids in detention for “disrupting the learning environment.”
In the fifth book in the series, the school has failed to meet state standards, and in response, the principal
cuts all elective classes (including music and LEGO robotics), then purchases an expensive (and
inane) video-and-worksheet curriculum for the “back-to-basics” classes that remain. The kids respond with an
“origami rebellion,” wielding their puppets as they brainstorm creative ways to eliminate the new curriculum
and get their favorite classes back. The books ask the question, “What really disrupts the learning
environment? Kids folding origami or standardized tests?” It’s clear that Seth Godin and Tom Angleberger would
answer this question the same way.

In the wake of reading these different (in form) yet similar (in message) treatises on American education, I felt
prompted to ask myself, when was the last time I felt free to be myself, pursue my passions without restraint,
and simply learn as much as I could in the process?

It was first grade. What a year! I won a gold medal in my school’s “Reading Olympics”. I
discovered my all-time favorite book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Along with other girls from my class,
I joined my Brownie troop and started ice-skating lessons (I had the Dorothy Hamill haircut, too). My
wonderful, amazing teacher, Mr. H, had us reciting classic poetry to our classmates and taught us
the basic concepts of algebra (I was fascinated, but wouldn’t return to it until 8th grade!). The highlight of
it all was that I starred in our class play. I played a “woman on the street” reporter (a role that had been
written for a boy – every time we had to change a line frome “he” to “she” I felt proud). I loved reading,
writing, acting, music, skating, and math. Everything just seemed so amazing! What happened?

A few things. When I think of second grade, I remember getting my name written on the board (for asking the kid
behind me for an eraser). I was so mortified – I’d never gotten in any kind of trouble! Right after Christmas, we moved from California to Washington and I was moved up to third grade. My memories of the rest of that year are almost all painful. My first day in class I had all the answers on my math paper marked wrong, because I
didn’t understand a concept the class had already learned. I had to catch up on a quarter’s worth of learning
cursive (I never did master penmanship). My classmates shunned me and I spent my recess periods roaming the
playground perimeter alone. One day I arrived at school to find my desk dumped out on the floor. I noticed that
another desk had been emptied, that of the only child shunned more than I, a boy with messy hair and dirty
clothes. I was starting to ask myself what bully would have done this to us, when my teacher explained to the
class that we had not met her standards of cleanliness and we would need to spend our recess period organizing
our desks. The only bright spot in the year was when that teacher took an extended leave and we had a pleasant
substitute who taught us songs and showed us pictures of Antartica.

It’s a sad story, but my husband’s is sadder: when I asked him the same question (in school, when did you feel
free to be your true self and just learn everything you could about your natural interests?), the answer was
never. He didn’t know his alphabet by age 6, and nearly had to repeat Kindergarten, despite the fact that his
teacher had been so impressed by his artwork that she phoned his parents.

I’m not trying to argue that it’s not important to learn the ABCs, but I think it’s clear that both of us were
taught from a very young age that compliance and obedience were far more important than whatever talents or
interests we might have. I am certain almost all of us can tell stories like this, if we went through American
formal education. By fifth grade, I was in a “gifted program” where we did advanced work and had a few fun
projects, but it was really clear that school was about figuring out what the teacher (foreman) wanted from you
and then completing that job on time, with high quality (and under budget?). As I read Seth Godin’s manifesto,
I had an “a-ha” moment, finally able to put words to the cognitive dissonance I had always felt in school.
After that rough third grade year, school once again came easily most of the time. I was praised for my work
and told I was bright. But at the same time, I felt like I needed to wait for someone to tell me what I should
do with the skills I had. I didn’t know how to reignite the passion I’d possessed as a young child; and anyway, it
seemed like that would interfere with the hours of schoolwork I needed to finish. As I approached graduation
(from high school, then college, then graduate school) I always felt lost. It was embarrassing, a “Reality
Bites” cliche of another aimless Generation Xer. For awhile, I trained myself to think it was because I was a
woman. I would marry and raise a family and that would be my calling. (I did, and I am, and it is. But that’s
not why I felt lost.)

For as long as I was at least dimly aware of the difference between what was taught in school and passion, my
pragmatic self argued that this was a necessary gap, that passion doesn’t pay for a roof over your head or
bread on the table. Passion is a luxury. And, as Godin points out, for much of the last century, it was true
that obedience and compliance did pay off financially for the average American. But the economy has changed,
and obedient, compliant workers can often be replaced by machines, or their work outsourced (and if it can be,
it will be). Godin points out that the old manufacturing economy in America is being replaced by a new
entrepreneurial economy, one that rewards creativity and individuality rather than obedience and compliance.
Even in the large global corporation I work for, there is a drive to increase passion (and hopefully
innovation) in our employees: The remarkably different corporate training class I recently took was designed to
help people reconnect with their passions and address their fears.

I asked my sixth-grade son, who is in a gifted program (and has had wonderful teachers and done some really
great projects and definitely learned useful skills), “What if you went to school and they told you you could
do anything you wanted?”

“I don’t think I’d like that,” he told me, his brow furrowed. “I like to know what I’m supposed to do.”

I have to agree with Godin that this system is no longer working for us. My son has 6 more years of public
education. 6 more years of doing as he is told, followed (maybe) by 4-6 years of the same (at exorbitant
prices). Will he emerge with the same listless feeling I did? The world will be such a different place in a
decade. Will he be ready? I’d love to try to change the system (passion ignited! yay!) but I fear it will be
too late for him (and for my daughter, now in first grade, and maybe even for my little guy, who hasn’t started
yet). I want to support them now. It occurs to me that as I’m going through my own process of growth and
change, that some of the questions I’m asking myself might be good questions to ask my kids too.

What are your interests? What do you want to know more about? Why? What makes you feel alive? Why?
What needs in the world could these things meet?

What do you think? When did you last feel free to be yourself in school or at work? Can we teach innovation?
How can we help young people connect with their passion to drive their education?

P.S. As I was writing this, I got a call from my boss, asking for help creating a web site for a company
volunteer program that has the purpose of drawing girls into STEM fields, and from there into our company. It’s
crazy how my job has been aligning itself to my passions, now that I am starting to own them. Coincidence??


Fear, Resistance, and Dancing: My Week of Introspection October 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — thursdaynexxus @ 4:41 pm


Personal Leadership Strategy is a leadership class offered by my employer. You have to be nominated to attend, and they fly you to their training campus for a week. It’s unlike any business class I’ve ever taken, focused entirely on personal work and giving attendees space to know ourselves better. This was my response to the class, most of it written in a frenzy on the flight home.

I am standing in front of my classmates at the end of our week-long, intensive training. In my hand I hold a caricature of myself. The artist has sketched me confident, softly smiling, a questionnaire in one hand and a briefcase marked “skills, smarts, and years of experience” in the other. I know what I’ve been asked to do: Describe my caricature and answer a question selected at random by the faculty leader. I am not nervous. But this isn’t what I want to do. My emotions about this time at Crotonville feel like they want to burst out of my chest. What will happen if I let my feelings speak? Will they come tumbling out, jumbled and unintelligible, like speaking in tongues? I cannot find a way to organize my thoughts. There’s still nowhere to begin. So I do as I’ve been asked and take my seat. As I listen to my classmates, I feel a little bit jealous because many of you articulate these very emotions, while I do not feel ready to give voice to mine. So if you will forgive me for doing it from this distance of time and through a computer screen, I’d like to share them now.

Two nights before I left for the class, I dreamed about the trip. In vibrant color, I saw Pope Francis roller-blading down a New York sidewalk. Since I’m not Catholic and I rarely recall such vivid dreams, I found this a bit strange and wondered what it might mean. I felt excited to make the trip and find out. I knew we’d be doing personal work in the class, and since I have been working on “owning my shit” and being vulnerable (just finished my second read of Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly), and since I recognized I was “stuck” in a few areas, I approached the class with anticipation. When we started to dive into the course material, I was delighted to find it aligned completely with some practices of inner healing prayer that I’ve recently begun following in my church, which have brought me great freedom. It seemed clear that I was meant to be here, that this would only build on what I’ve been learning.

So I was unprepared for the number of times I’d want to “cut and run” and how that would expose some of the very things that had me stuck. The early exercise where partners tried to guess my feelings from facial expressions alone proved fruitless, as my face refused to cooperate and reveal any emotion. Later, as we watched Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk on her stroke and how it changed her understanding of neuroscience and of life, tears sprang to my eyes as her voice cracked and she described “a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people.” Too much, I thought. This is too much. During the evening health event, as the doctor coached us on posture and its expressive capabilities, the partner activity, which required us to take turns pretending to be angry and “standing up to” the angry person, nearly sent me scurrying back to my room. What is it about this emotional exposure that bothers me so much? I wondered.

I would soon have a chance to wrestle with that particular demon. When we talked about the negative voices in our heads, I knew pretty well what mine said: You will be ridiculed (and deserve it). I had never considered how that voice emerged from a legitimate, good desire to protect myself during some particularly unkind experiences with peers growing up. It was so incredibly healing to honor that voice’s noble intentions before letting it go. I had always tried to stomp it out, stuff it down, “give it to Jesus,” but never felt truly free of it. Paradoxically, acknowledging that it came from a real place and wanted to protect me helped me release it.

And yet. I told my partner for that exercise, “I’m afraid it will come back.”

The sense of freedom from that voice was exhilarating. Further building on it was the sense of safety, of knowing we were all in it together. That last full day, several of you bravely stepped forward and allowed yourselves to be examples of the healing work we were doing. I hope you felt the support from the room – and from this distance, if it no longer seems real, I promise you it was. I felt those final sessions galvanized us with the sense that we are all part of the same deeply good and deeply broken tribe.

In the middle of the week a thought had occurred to me. This class felt to me more like a church retreat than a business class. And at my last church retreat, we celebrated with a dance party. It felt so amazing to let go of that fear of ridicule and move my body to the beat as it wanted to. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we ended with a giant dance party?” I discarded the thought almost as quickly as it came – This is still a business class, no matter what it feels like. Yet when the faculty leader arrived at our celebration dinner having changed out of her wedge heels into sparkly flats, it fluttered back to me. And so it was! Down went the lights and up came the thumping bass. When I realized it was really happening, I didn’t need to be told twice. Never before have I been one of the first on the dance floor.

And I remembered what I told the caricature artist about “the leader I want to be”: “I have a clear vision and share it passionately. I sing my song and dance my dance, and others want to join me.”

When I returned to my room that night, sweaty and exhausted, I remembered that I could fill out the course evaluation and in return get a peek at the random question list for our final class meeting in the morning. Ever the dutiful student, I started to review the list. It was never-ending! Quickly I realized I would never be able to prepare to answer each question, nor did I want to. Adding to my stress, a few emails popped up that reminded me of things I’d forgotten to do. Too tired to deal with any of it, I collapsed into bed.  The next morning, I awoke with a migraine, my stomach churning, mind racing. I was fearful – Some of those questions cover topics I don’t even remember discussing! What will I say? I was angry – So, after this week of trying to get us out of our own heads, it still comes back to memorizing acronyms and techniques? That dance party was a lie! No wonder they didn’t give the questions until you completed the course evaluation!

I wobbled into the shower, nauseated, trying desperately to employ some of the techniques we’d learned to beat back the anxiety. It was like fighting the hot winds of a wildfire, but slowly, I began to get some relief, and I recognized that old demon, Fear of Ridicule, was being triggered. I forced myself to face the question: Even if I totally bomb – even if I completely blank – is anyone really going to mock me? After all we’ve done this week, would anyone dare? I knew the answer was no. I acknowledged, as we all acknowledged, that I am a novice in these arts, and everyone expected my answers would reflect that. Finally, I realized, smiling to myself, that it wasn’t at all about the content of the questions. It was about what we’d really learned, what we’d taken into our minds and bodies that week, and even if I couldn’t name the specifics, I had surely learned. I could trust that. And the nervousness, the anxiety evaporated and did not return.

If I’d been able to finish gathering my thoughts, here is what I would have said to all of you:

This has been a sacred experience.

We were, are on holy ground.

You are the ones who made it that way.

Thank you.

Bless you.


Sleep, Interrupted (Part 2) November 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — thursdaynexxus @ 10:40 pm

When, despite your best efforts, it’s been a rough night, recognize that energy and patience levels are low…Being a parent is a very tough job, made even more challenging when you are awakened in the night.

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, Sleepless in America

Disclaimer: I am not a fan of parental “advice”. This story is told in the following spirit: “Wow, something actually worked! Maybe it will work for someone else!” Maybe not. But for any parents who have despaired of ever succeeding in helping their child change some unproductive behavior, then enjoyed a glimmer of hope one day, this may resonate. I hope everyone else will come along for the ride.

All right, everyone buckled up? OK, let’s head back to that early Saturday morning…since it’s been awhile since my last post, you might not remember, but anyway we’d basically been up all night with the junior members of the household.

As I sat up in bed, nursing my baby and rubbing my eyes as much to shield them from the sunlight as to assuage their burning, I took careful stock of the day ahead and made a mental list of our assets (the liabilities were pretty obvious):

  • For the first time in a long time, our family as a whole had no plans on the calendar. No place to be, no need to rush.
  • My eldest (the only family member who had slept all night) had a play date scheduled with a neighbor whose mom was happy to pick my son up and drop him off (yay, thanks Tracey!).
  • It wasn’t raining (here in the Pacific Northwest, that’s always an asset) and the temperature was mild.

I decided at that moment to make my goal an afternoon nap for the four of us, and to pursue it with unwavering commitment, taking into account the following facts I had learned while reading about children and sleep:

  • Morning sunlight helps set the “body clock” so that it’s ready to sleep at the appropriate time (television has the opposite effect).
  • Exercise is important in preparing the body for sleep at a later time.
  • Most children become sleepy about half an hour after eating lunch.
  • Sensitive children sleep better with a “nest” of security blankets, special pillows or “lovies” around them.

This day, my daughter and I would put all of these statements to a pretty extreme test. What did we have to lose? Sanity was already well on its way out the door.

I got out of bed, donned my slippers, and shuffled out into the living room, where my older kids were eating cereal and watching Netflix. Knowing that this was heading down the wrong path, I announced that after this episode of Spongebob was over, I would be turning off the TV and taking my daughter out for a walk. Surprised, she acquiesced pretty easily. I grabbed a quick bite, dressed myself and the baby, and bundled him into the stroller. Then out we went (I think the element of speed as well as surprise helped this happen without complaint. We were halfway down the block before she knew what happened).

We spent a pleasant hour wandering our neighborhood, noticing the way that the leaves on some of the trees had started to change, admiring our neighbors’ gardens, and running in circles around the parking lot of a nearby elementary school. By the time we returned, my eldest had left on his play date, and my husband had started to make lunch.

As lunch concluded, I talked to my daughter about rest time, since she does better when she knows what’s coming next. My husband took her to her room to read stories while I nursed the baby. As soon as he was asleep, I tiptoed into my daughter’s room to relieve my husband (who has sleep apnea and needs a CPAP machine to nap decently). To my surprise, I found my daughter relaxed and ready to rest. We snuggled up under her blankets, and few minutes later, we had slipped into sleep.

Oh, blissful, blissful slumber!

90 minutes later, I awoke refreshed, and found my daugher still zonked. Quietly, I crawled out of her bed and listened at my bedroom door. Hubby and baby were also still out. I enjoyed about 15 minutes of “me time” before my husband, rested and smiling, joined me. The little ones both slept another half hour.

Ahhhhh, grown-up conversation with the father of my children!

When my eldest returned from his play date, he found a family restored to peace and calm. We enjoyed a rare family night, making dinner together and playing games. And everyone went to bed on time and slept all night (well, not the baby, but it was just the usual up-once-and-back-down routine).

What started out as a nightmare had turned into kind of a dreamy day. I have to acknowledge the light schedule was a serendipitous factor in our favor (one that will make me reconsider keeping appointments when have a rough night in the future). And I do feel like God had mercy on us. I am glad, though, that we were able to take advantage of what we knew about physiology and temperament to set the stage for recovery from one very bad night.

In the two months since, we’ve attempted to employ these strategies again, adding a few more (a Pandora lullaby station, an alternate location for napping), with varying levels of success (a picture from one of those successful days appears above – yes, she really is sleeping!). Like so many other aspects of parenting, there’s a lot of trial and error involved. But somehow the memory of that day when it all worked keeps me going.


Sleep, Interrupted (Part 1) September 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — thursdaynexxus @ 12:13 pm

I should have known better. This is not my first time at the rodeo. Many a Saturday has found me bleary-eyed, guzzling coffee, MORE tired than I am on a weekday because I ignored the simple fact that babies and young children don’t differentiate between the weekday and the weekend. “Oh, right, it’s Saturday; I’ll skip a feeding so Mom can sleep in.” Nope. But I let that Friday-night end-of-the-week feeling run away with me, and it was midnight before I fell asleep, my head full of Psych episodes, Facebook status updates and news stories. Good night and thank you, Internet.

When the baby awoke at 3:30, I felt regret but not surprise. He’s been waking around that time for several weeks. I have found that with this third baby I am not nearly as interested in changing his sleep habits as I was with #1 – I know from experience how quickly they change on their own, so it seems easier just to roll with it than to try and effect a change that might only last a few days. Plus, we’ve gotten really fast at this. 30 minutes later, he was fed and changed and back in bed, snoozing away. My turn, I thought as I snuggled back under the duvet.

My 4-year-old had other ideas. At 4:30, my “mom radar” picked up some shuffling, doors opening, then a toilet flush. When I opened my eyes, she was standing between me and her sleeping baby brother’s crib. “I pee-peed in my jammies,” she said mournfully. These days, my husband and I have a standard operating procedure for nighttime awakenings: since I’m usually up at least once with the baby, it falls to him to support the other two. However, this felt a little bit like “female trouble”; plus the baby’s sleep was fragile and I wanted to get big sister out of the room as quickly as possible. So I ushered her back to her room, helped her with the necessary changes and tucked her back into bed.

An hour later she was still awake, her little body nearly vibrating under the covers. I’ve been reading a great book on sleep, which emphasizes the importance of understanding, monitoring, and reducing your child’s tension level. She was one tense little girl, perhaps due to the trauma of having an accident. Whatever the reason, my late night had left me very little emotional reserve for helping her calm down. I had reached my breaking point. I kissed her and returned to our room for “reinforcements” (aka Daddy). 30 minutes later he came back to bed – unsuccessful in returning her to dreamland, but at least she was quiet and in her room.

6:30am – My alarm, which I NEVER leave on, not even from day to day during the week, went off. The cat began to howl for food. The baby stirred, not really awake, but not quiet. My husband fed the cat. Baby continued to move around and moan sleepily for an hour, then settled back down.

I’d just drifted off again at 7:45 when a loud knocking jolted me awake. My daughter had decided that if we would not get up with her, her older brother should. He refused to come down from his bunk, so she continued to knock until my husband intervened. Unfortunately, she has recently brought her shriek to new levels of shrill strength, and as her father attempted once again to get her back to bed, she employed it at full volume.

There would be no more sleep for any of us this morning.

But in Part 2, I will share how we recovered from the horror!


Birthday Boy May 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — thursdaynexxus @ 4:47 pm

And then, out of nowhere…there he was. – Juno MacGuff

Since this is my third baby, I harbored few illusions about how much I would “get done” while on maternity leave. So I did not expect to write a slew of blog posts. I admit I did think I’d get at least a couple done by now. But there was math homework and art projects and three baths (maybe once a week) and colds and coughs and just general sleep deprivation and lack of discipline (hey, I did watch all 53 episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix. I mean, that takes commitment).

But I need to get the birth story out almost as much as I needed to get that baby out twelve weeks ago. So let’s go back before the poop-outs and the spit-ups, before the nights he was up every two hours (thankfully few), before my three-year-old daughter’s regression (“I’m a baby, wipe my bottom Mommy!”), before postnatal yoga, even before the throes of establishing breastfeeding (definitely a post for another day).

As my due date approached, I lay awake in the early morning hours, the baby kicking (hard, still – weren’t they supposed to ease off at nine months?). Sometimes it still felt a bit more like “alien baby” than baby. I reminded myself that this has always been how pregnancy felt to me, even when the baby was one we set out to have from the beginning. There is nothing more natural than carrying a baby – and yet, to have this growing body kicking around inside me just felt unnatural sometimes.

My labor and delivery started in much the same manner as they did for my older children. A routine post-term checkup. An ultrasound revealing very low (in this case, no) amniotic fluid. (Where did it go? How has this happened three times and I never notice?). Which meant I would have to be induced. My husband and I were actually pleased when we heard the word “induction”. We’ve been through this twice before, after all. And now we knew we’d get to have the baby today! No mad dash to the hospital! No calls to relatives in the middle of the night! “It’s like checking into a hotel,” my husband said, grinning as I excitedly updated my Facebook status to “TODAY’S THE DAY!”

The nurses laughed, but their eyes showed concern. The on-call OB soon arrived (my doctor was on vacation, of course – not one of my kids was delivered by my regular OB) and explained that the same ultrasound that revealed low fluid also showed a baby that wasn’t moving. This seemed strange, since I could feel him moving, the fetal monitor showed plenty of motion, and the nurses could see him moving just watching my belly. Just to be sure, another ultrasound was ordered. Once again, baby refused to peform. For the first time, I heard the word, “c-section” used to refer to me. All I could think was, that can’t possibly be necessary, he’s fine, we can hear his heartbeat, I can feel him moving. But it was clear from that moment that this was going to  be a more “interesting” birth than the other two – or at least, more closely monitored.

The next step, the OB and nurses explained, was to monitor the baby through some induced contractions to determine whether he could tolerate labor and delivery. As the nurse started the oxytocin drip, I texted my sister, “I can hear them sharpening their scalpels!” But there would be no scalpels yet – baby did just fine. On to induction, right? Not so fast. Unfortunately, the cervix – or the “door” that my daughter kept asking me about when we talked about baby brother’s arrival – was shut tight. I was allowed a meal (a sure sign of nothing happening anytime soon) and given Cervidil (a “ripening agent” – and I promise this is as graphic as I’m going to get). I tried not to look disappointed when the OB said it would take twelve hours to work. After all, as several nurses (I’d already seen the first of many shift changes) reminded me, this process takes two weeks to occur naturally, and I was starting from square one. I updated my formerly exuberant Facebook status to a less-than-thrilled “Gonna be a long haul” and tried to relax while I waited for the Cervidil to work.

I should’ve tried harder. As evening approached, I started to cramp. Oh good, I thought, I’m finally starting labor. But when I got up and moved around, the cramps dissipated, meaning they weren’t “real” labor pains. Unfortunately, by then it was 11pm and I was tired and didn’t want to move around. So I lay awake, listening to my husband sleep and hoping the cramps meant the Cervidil was working. If it wasn’t, I’d be seeing the surgeon in the morning.

This was the first of several low points, where my body just seemed to refuse to progress. Periodically throughout the night I could hear newborns squalling, and I was shocked at the visceral jealousy I felt. I wished I’d had to have a c-section, because I’d already have my baby and be in recovery by then. I grabbed my phone and turned to Facebook for distraction. There I found dozens of encouraging messages from my friends and family. Say what you will about social media – in those moments of discouragement and worry, it was tremendous to be able to receive kind words from so many. Thanks to everyone who took a moment to cheer me on. I know social media can be taken to extremes – my OB mentioned a patient who was updating her status while he was checking her cervix – but in my case, it helped me refocus on the positive and on the end goal, instead of on the difficult moment I was in. I hope you will continue to encourage your friends, and I will endeavor to do the same. Who couldn’t use more love?

At 3:30am, the Cervidil was removed and the OB checked my progress. We’d gone far enough to proceed with the induction (phew, evaded the scalpel again!). We started IV oxytocin and cramps began again, but quickly vanished when I got up. Eventually, the nurse checked me and said I’d made virtually no progress after hours of oxytocin (=Low Point #2). The OB was called (a new one this time – shift change!) to verify this and again decide if we should continue with the induction or try something else (besides c-section, there were other therapies for flattening the cervix that sounded so painful that I couldn’t even let myself consider the possibility). I went back to Facebook and the “therapy” of my friends’ encouraging comments. When the doctor arrived an hour later – lo and behold! – I was dilated 4cm and having real contractions. Hoorah! In labor for real!

I dithered about the epidural for maybe five minutes. I had received epidurals for both of my other deliveries. This would be my last chance to “experience” childbirth without the aid of anesthesia. Then I considered how tired I was. I hadn’t slept in at least 36 hours. It came down to this: Getting an epidural would allow me to take a nap, so I got one.  I started to regret my decision when I awoke, as the nurse checked me and said I’d made very little progress during my nap. With my eldest, I’d slept overnight with an epidural, and awoke in the morning nearly ready to deliver (yes, it was awesome, thank you). Now I felt foolish – Low Point #3. Yet when the OB arrived, I’d made it to 7cm.  And on we went.

This scenario repeated itself one more time – a check at around 8pm showed very little progress. Ho-hum. No need to call the OB this time; we’d wait a little longer. At about 8:30, my epidural suddenly seemed to stop working. There was a button I could push to give myself a “boost”, so I pushed it. It did nothing. The nurse said I could try the button again in 15 minutes, so I did. Still nothing. I had gone from no pain (no sensation, actually) to incredibly intense pain in the space of about 15 minutes. Not fun. I had always wondered how I would behave in intense labor pain. Would I curse? Rail at my husband? Apparently (and to my relief), neither. I pretty much just grabbed the sides of the hospital bed and whispered, “Make it stop,” over and over.

The OB arrived and did her check. Her eyes grew round and she said, “Don’t sneeze.” In less than an hour, I’d gone from 7cm to ready-to-push (no wonder it hurt so much). Three pushes later, my son was in my arms and I was laughing and crying hysterically, shouting, “I had a baby! I can’t believe it!”

Twelve weeks later, part of me still can’t. Watching him now, asleep on my lap, it’s hard to believe he’s real, and really mine. I don’t know what the future holds for this young one (a year ago, I still didn’t know it held him). But I am grateful for this child, and for this moment of peace.


Full Term February 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — thursdaynexxus @ 10:14 pm

Well, here I am, full term, and only 4 blog entries to show for it (well, at least I averaged more than one per trimester)!

I’ve got a lot of thoughts brewing, but they’re just not fully formed, and with all of the nesting going on (double-nesting: gotta get everything ready at work and at home), I just don’t have the bandwidth to get it all out on virtual paper.

So, inspired by my friend’s awesome graphic blog Five Things, I will share with you the five things I will miss most and least about being pregnant.

Five Things I Will Miss The Most:

  1. Enhanced sense of taste – Food tastes AMAZING. My husband, who does most of the cooking, especially likes this. No matter what he makes, I adore it. “Sweetie, that is the most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich I have EVER had!” (Although, for the record, he really does make a fantastic PB & J. I don’t know how he gets the peanut butter spread so evenly.)
  2. Crying easily – sometimes it just feels good to let loose and get some cathartic release.
  3. Not having to clean the litter box. It’s a nice break.
  4. My fabulous maternity wardrobe. Although we hadn’t planned on more kids, and we eagerly offloaded our baby items, I couldn’t quite part with that box of cute clothes for me. So I was a little bit excited to get to wear it all again. My favorite: a gray suit. I indulged in just a couple of new pieces (from the clearance rack!) this time: a short denim skirt and black sweater dress. I wish all my clothes were this fashionable.
  5. Feeling the baby kick – yes, it’s cliche, but there is nothing like that feeling. This time through, it was a little different, I’ll admit. It took me awhile to wrap my head around this imminent blessed event, and there were more than a few times that he’d kick me and I’d think of it as sort of a physical event, but not, you know, as my BABY. Pleased to report that has finally changed, probably because he is by far the most active of my children – in utero, anyway. I think he just wants to remind me he’s in there, but I hope he relaxes a little after birth!

Five Things I Will Miss the Least:

  1. Enhanced sense of smell – This goes right along with enhanced sense of taste, but since I can control what goes in my mouth, I am generally assured that most of it will be good. I really don’t need to be able to smell our cat’s flatulence from the other side of the house, but for better or worse, I can!
  2. Crying easily – this makes both lists because I am used to being pretty even-keeled emotionally and it’s unsettling to cry so much – I don’t feel entirely like myself.
  3. My mouth tasting as if something died in it. This was helped immensely by taking xylitol as recommended by my dentist, but even so, wow, I have had some serious yuck-mouth.
  4. The swelling. I have been lucky to have very little swelling this time around (it’s really been a very uncomplicated and easy pregnancy), but I wanted to give this Honorable Mention because it was definitely part of my first two times through. My son was born in July, and by the time I hit the last few weeks, temperatures were soaring, my blood pressure was inching up, and I literally had zero shoes that would fit my giant feet and ankles. Not even flip-flops.
  5. The constant sensation of having to pee. That’s the third trimester in a nutshell.

If you are a mom, what do you miss about pregnancy, and what are you glad you’ll never experience again?


37 and Pregnant October 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — thursdaynexxus @ 5:47 pm

The scene: May, 1985. My childhood bedroom in Everett, Washington. I am about a month shy of turning eleven and wrapping up what I can only describe as a harrowing sixth-grade year (it was the first year of Middle School in our district and I was still recovering from having to get naked in front of other people after PE class). During this difficult period, I would frequently retreat to my room for some solitude and space from my younger sister, then age 9.

My mom enters the room, smiling. Mom rarely comes to my room not holding something that belongs in it, like clean laundry or items I left in the living room, so I know this is a Special Visit. I look up at her, wondering what’s going on.

“I have a secret,” she whispers, grinning conspiratorially. I am hooked. I love secrets! Especially secrets that Mom is telling me and nobody else! What could it be?!

Then, “I think I’m pregnant.”

I don’t remember exactly what I said or did next, but I imagine it disappointed Mom just a little. Because I do recall that all I could think was, “This can’t be happening. A BABY?! No way. She’s probably just been feeling sick. That’s it. A little stomach flu.”

But most of all, I thought, “She is WAY too old to be having a baby!” Mom had just celebrated her 37th birthday.

The ensuing months proved that Mom hadn’t just had the flu. As her belly grew and we prepared for the arrival of our new family member, the defining characteristic of her pregnancy continued to be her age. Somewhere in the middle of her pregnancy, she had a new procedure called a sonogram,which produced an unintelligible printout of white dots on a black background. And later, amniocentesis. When I asked what that was, she explained that it would allow the doctor to determine whether the baby had certain diseases that were more common when the mother was older. That didn’t sound good. But we’d get to know the sex of the baby, which appealed to my curiosity (since the sonogram certainly wasn’t telling us anything).

The amniocentesis was a bust. They couldn’t push the needle through her uterine wall – too thick. I thought, “It’s because she’s so old.” The doctors were frustrated and worried. Mom didn’t seem too concerned; in fact, I think she was relieved not to face the decisions she would have had to make if the tests had come back positive. We bought green and yellow baby things and waited.

My very healthy baby sister arrived at the end of Christmas vacation, just after New Year’s. And still, my mother’s age continued to draw comment. It didn’t help that Mom had a full head of gray hair, which often led people to think she was older than she really was. She finally began coloring it again when she could no longer stand people thinking she was the baby’s grandmother. Once someone even asked if the baby was mine – granted, it was a kid in a McDonald’s playground, but I flushed with embarrassment just the same.

When the baby was six months old, we took a trip to California for my parents’ 20th high school reunion. “Twenty years!” I thought. “That is such a long time. I can’t believe they have a baby.” Apparently, neither could their classmates. My parents were the talk of the reunion. They were absolutely unique among their classmates (in a large public school) in making this life choice.

When I realized I was pregnant, it was not lost on me that I’d be having my third child at the same age my mother was when she had hers. My mother passed away nine years ago, when I was pregnant with my oldest, but I am sure that she is having a good laugh at my expense.

I almost gave the entire blog the title “37 and Pregnant” – but then I realized that I will have a very different experience from my mother. My husband and I attended my 20th high school reunion this summer and it was literally crawling with babies and toddlers. Tina Fey describes having babies over forty as “a commonplace fool’s errand” nowadays. My parents were just ahead of their time, I guess.

And yet, the risks of complications and birth defects go up exponentially after 35. The little flyer I got from the doctor’s office outlined just a few: Down Syndrome and other chromosomal birth defects, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, placenta previa. Thoughts about these do needle me a little bit – when my son asks me if I might die when the baby is born, or when I think, “I have 2 healthy and able-bodied kids. What if this one isn’t? How will that affect our family?”

And yet, I think back to my mom’s final pregnancy and her sanguine attitude. She seemed to think, “I was meant to have this baby, I was made to have this baby, and whatever this baby is or is not, I will love it.”

That will be my meditation for the next few months.