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Posts Tagged ‘pregnancy’

web_schenck-whitney-2014_05_19-dsc_5755_800_800Memorial Day was a study in contrasts for iDaddy and me. We spent the morning at the new Whitney Museum, opened recently in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan right at the southernmost end of the High Line. (Contrary to my expectations, based only on the way the building looked as it was being built, I loved the museum and thought that all the choices they had made, in terms of both architecture and curation of the current exhibit, were just right.) Then we spent the afternoon with Ur-Momma, hanging around with her in her senior-housing studio apartment, having pretty much the same conversation four or five times during the two hours we were there, in predictable rotation.

The conversation veered off into slightly new territory when Ur-Momma started talking about the thing that really bugs her about being 90 years old — that she’s not necessary to anybody anymore.”I don’t have any value,” Ur-Momma said. “Then maybe you should change the definition of ‘value,'” said I. It just comes with the territory, added iDaddy in his kind and gentle way. “We’re a lot younger than you, and we’re not necessary to anybody anymore, either.”

And it’s true, we’re not: our two daughters are fully adults and can get along fine without us, hardly ever check in with us, don’t really give us details about what’s going on in their lives (well, Meta doesn’t, at least). But maybe that’s one thing that a new grandchild will do for us: give iDaddy and me the feeling that we’re kind of necessary again. That’s what drove our actions the day before Memorial Day, anyway, when we spent at least half of it trying to figure out how to get the baby car seat into the back seat of our Toyota. iDaddy’s job — after I’ve done my own assigned job and aided as much as I can during labor and delivery — will be to drive Nutmeg, Southpaw, and the baby home from the hospital. Necessary indeed.

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delivery_room.jpg.CROP.promovar-medium2How well I remember Six Practical Lessons for an Easier Childbirth, a book mentioned today in the front-page New York Times obituary of its author, Elisabeth Bing. Not that I remember what the six practical lessons were, exactly; just that it was one of my favorite books among all the childbirth advice tomes I found myself devouring back in early 1980, when I was pregnant with Meta. Bing’s book gave me comfort, made me think it might actually be possible to push out that baby without hurting her, without hurting myself, and without begging for drugs. All of which is the way it happened.

I was surprised to read in the obit, by Times reporter Karen Barrow, that Bing’s own childbirth didn’t go as easily as she led me to believe mine would go.

As Randi Hutter Epstein reported in her book “Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth From the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank” (2010), she continually asked her doctor, “Is the baby all right? Is the baby all right,” until the doctor said he could not concentrate with her chatter and gave her laughing gas and an epidural.

“I got everything I raged against,” Ms. Bing told Ms. Epstein. “I had the works.”

But thanks to Bing, who was 100 years old when she died last week, women don’t get “the works” anymore if they don’t want to (and certainly not simply because they’re asking too many annoying questions). Thanks to Bing, Nutmeg is having a baby in a setting in which she’s asked, in advance, what her atittude is toward medication, toward walking around during labor, toward being monitored, toward being cut — all the decisions that, in my day, we women in labor had to just hope would be left to us, not to our doctors. I’m curious to see how the advance planning actually plays out in the delivery room, but I have to believe that asking them will make a difference — and that the existence of Six Practical Lessons, still in print 48 years after it was first published, helped create a culture in which those questions are asked of expectant mothers in the first place.

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538087_com_leemiddletoncopyNutmeg’s best friend had her baby yesterday, and the delivery didn’t go well, from what I hear. Sounds like it was two days of labor, a C-section, and later an infection in the mother that’s still being treated, relegating the baby to the neonatal ICU. “She is (thankfully, and I’m sure deliberately) sparing me the details,” Nutmeg reported, apparently unfazed.

But I’m fazed, at least a little. It’s just a reminder that, no matter how healthy and hardy a woman seems, the quality of her labor and delivery is unpredictable. It went swimmingly for me, with both Meta and Nutmeg, and I’m hoping that I’ve passed on those easy-labor genes to my daughter. But I might not have. My picture of myself as the grandma in the labor room, the person charged with making sure that no unnecessary medical interventions are pushed and that attendants are actually in the room when needed, has always included an image of the mother in the labor room — a competent, focused Nutmeg doing what she’s done all her life, getting it done. But her best friend has those qualities of focus and competence, too, and the particulars of her labor nonetheless got the better of her. I know that Nutmeg’s friend and her baby will be just fine — and that the baby and Nutmeg’s baby will be great pals some day — but this story gives me pause. Probably a healthy reminder at this stage of the game, when that little fetus in Nutmeg’s belly is, according to Cute Fruit, now the size of a cantaloupe.

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jicamaI’m not surprised that Nutmeg is turning out to be, as Southpaw puts it, a “hardy pregnant lady.” She’s pretty much been hardy her whole life — or maybe the better word for it is uncomplaining. I actually can’t remember a time when she complained about anything, other than when she got chicken pox at about the age of 7 and seemed to think it was somehow my fault. (She was always very angry at me about her chicken pox, and refused to let me try to soothe her — I have a photo of her glaring at me from a baking-soda bath with terrible accusation in her eyes.)

So it’s nice to see that this hardiness, or stoicness, is getting her through pregnancy. She’s at Week 32 now, her baby currently the size of a jicama — the iPhone app CuteFruit no doubt runs out of less exotic produce to compare fetus sizes to over the course of a whole pregnancy, and this week jicama it is — and yesterday Nutmeg’s doctor did another sonogram, apparently just because she could. All is looking good in there, Nutmeg reports to us. She and Southpaw could recognize a fist and not much else. The doctor assured them that after the baby is born, things like arms and legs will be a lot easier to identify.

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