Pregnancy with a toddler in the summer

… Kind of sucks. Growing a human is beautiful and I can’t wait to meet this little boy, but oh my goodness this is so much harder than the first time. 

I’m 34 weeks pregnant and we’ve been going through a heat wave here in NYC, with lots of hot, humid days with a heat index above 105° F. I’ve never been a summer person, preferring cool weather or even a rainy or snowy day to the clear skies with the burning sun. 

So this summer, with the heat wave, the third trimester, and the challenges of parenting a toddler… I’ve felt a bit like I’m melting to pieces. Many times it’s all I can do to get through the hour or the day. Tears seem to fall more easily. I go to sleep when my daughter does most nights, spending 10 hours in bed, and often still want a nap. 

I’m getting better at managing, though. I’ve been frank with my husband about the support I need, lowered my expectations of myself, set an earlier start to my leave (less than 3 weeks to go!), built more rest and refreshment time into my days, and also spoke with my doctors and increased my anti-depressants. All of this is helping, and I’m feeling more stable and ready and in control. We’ve made it to mid-August and there’s just a little summer left. 

One day soon, I will walk outside into a cool fall breeze, holding my new baby and watching my toddler and husband play, and it will be beautiful. 

Scenes from a Saturday

It’s Saturday morning, and I am on my work laptop. The last two days I have been at the office, working hard as one of my staff is leaving, and while I am eager to focus on family again, there are a few nagging items I can’t get out of my mind. I send off a few emails, interrupted here and there by my toddler who is hungry for breakfast.

I get my daughter dressed in her bear suit so we can run some errands. We head outside in the late morning, her bundled in her stroller and me wondering how navigating the snowy sidewalks will be today. I am relieved and happy to be done with work and spending time with my daughter, experiencing our weekly reconnection day after my time away. I am getting ready for a party and I need to stop at the grocery store and the bakery.

I have all 4 stove tops going – pancakes for breakfast, bacon, broccoli, and pasta for the mac and cheese I will bring to the party. My daughter is alternately playing on her own and clinging to my leg as I work. My husband is sleeping after a late night out with friends. I peek in on him to tell him breakfast will be ready soon and ask him to help out.

Our daughter is dressed and ready to go and I have packed up the stroller with the cake and mac and cheese. The party has already started and we are not yet out the door. My husband is moving slowly, his body showing how drained he feels.

“Do you have to go?” he asks. We embrace and I feel him curl into me, how genuine his pleading for me to join him in staying in our nest, ignoring the world and its demands together.

I had wanted for him to accompany us to the party, but I decide not to push, instead asking if he still wants to go out after. We had arranged a babysitter and were planning on a date, but I could tell he was in the mood to stay in. “I don’t really want to do anything at all,” he says, confirming my suspicions. I understand all too well how he is feeling – the sense that any effort at all is too much, that nothing could be rewarding enough to make it worth it. It’s not true, of course. But I know how true it can feel, when you’re there, in that place.

I pause. “Let’s at least get dinner, just the two of us,” I say. “We can always come home afterwards.”

He agrees.

As I push the stroller around the building and roll it up the stairs, careful not to wake my sleeping toddler, I hear the buzz of the party inside the building. The voices of adults mingle with the squeals and cries of children. I open the door and enter the space, looking around at the gathered families. Here are my daughter’s best friends, my best mom friends (though the “mom” qualifier is no longer needed), and their spouses, all gathered together to mark the occasion of our children’s first birthdays. It is a room filled with love and support, I know, and yet as I enter with my sleeping child I can’t help but feel a bit alone.

I roll the stroller with my daughter to a spot in the back, where she is somewhat removed from the din but we can see when she wakes. With a sigh, I note that I am 45 minutes late for a 2 hour party. After getting settled, I snap a picture of my sleeping daughter, and send it to my husband.

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“So far, she is sleeping through the party. Your daughter, much? ;)”

Once she wakes up, she is a joy. We have some food and talk with our friends. Then we all get together for a group photo of the moms and babies. As we laugh and smile and look at any of the many cameras in the hands of the many dads, I know that this will be a picture I will cherish – we will capture a moment, but it will call to mind so many more, of emails and texts and afternoons together in the park or indoors, of home cooked scones and pot luck dinners, of watching our children make their first friends, with each other.

During the group shot with the fathers, a few of us step out of the frame. My daughter and I run back and forth in the large space, enjoying the music.

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Someone who generously watched my daughter in addition to their own just the day before returns a sippy cup that I had left behind at their house. My daughter wants to drink from it, and I let her carry it, then lose track of it again in the sea of children’s things that is our celebration of ten 1 year olds and their moms and dads.

We are cleaning up, putting away furniture and sweeping the floor. The babysitter has picked up my daughter and is on her way to our apartment. I have messaged my husband, but heard nothing. I guess that he has fallen asleep and will wake when the babysitter arrives. I make the most of the time, chatting with the friends who remain and helping out. A boy, the older sibling of one of my daughter’s friends, brings the sippy cup to the mom I am standing next to. She tells me he thought it was hers because her daughter was drinking from it too.

“No worries,” I say as I put the bright pink and yellow cup in the pocket of my oversized coat, thankful at this moment for the coat and its large pockets. The coat is too big and not very flattering. I wore it last winter when I was in my third trimester, and I continue to wear it now so that I can close it around my daughter and I when she is in the wrap. It has dried finger paint on the hem from my encounters with not-quite-dry toddler art, and crumbs and specks of food from her snacks in the wrap. It is, as my boss put it, a “mom coat.” I probably should get a nice fitted coat for myself, but I just couldn’t bring myself to invest the money and time in the hunt for the right winter coat this year. I am not focused on that part of me. I am a mom first, and everything else after. It’s how I want it to be.

My pace quickens as I see my husband walking towards me on the street. I feel weird, like a train off the tracks, as I walk towards him without our daughter in sight. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve gone out without our daughter in the 14 months since she was born. As the two of us draw closer, I am giddy with happy memories – a decade of dinners for two, conversations both deep and light, games and trips and weekends in.

We embrace excitedly, sharing a big hug and a kiss, even though we’d just seen each other a few hours earlier. I lean into him as we walk, an extra skip in my step. As we hold hands and chat about where to go for dinner, I am relieved to hear more energy in his voice and feel more strength in his walk.

We choose to eat at Le Cheile, where we had our first dinner out as a new family of 3 a little over a year earlier and where we have been since many times, instead of Saggio, the fancy but cramped Italian restaurant where we ate our last dinner out as a childless couple. We are creatures of habit and comfort, and they have delicious mozzarella sticks.

I sit on a bench in the park, my legs awkwardly stretched in front of me on the deep blanket of snow. My husband sits across from me, helping me light the joint I just rolled as we talk about family size and when to have another child. I am enjoying myself, and I tell him so. It feels nice to be able to focus on each other and not worry about what our daughter is up to.

My throat feels dry, and I think a drink would be great. Then I interrupt our conversation – “I’m about to have a very mom moment. Are you ready for this?” I ask as I reach into my pocket and pull out the sippy cup. “Want some water?” I ask, thinking of all the people involved in making this drink turn up in my pocket on this particular day.

I smile, feeling immense love as I talk with my husband.

What a great day.

First date night tonight

Today is my daughter’s 4 month birthday, and I’m writing this as I head downtown for our first date night without our daughter. I’m meeting Husband when he gets off work, and then we’re going to have dinner before we head to a concert.

I’m looking forward to the focused time with my husband.

It feels weird, heading out without her but not being on my way to work. I bet it will feel even weirder being at dinner with Husband but not Precious!

But it will be nice to enjoy our dinner at our pace without any worries that it will get cold while tending to the needs of a baby.

We’re finally ready to start a new journey

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I’ve been feeling the need to write again lately, and today feels like a great day to start.

So much is different from the last time I wrote. About a year ago I got my energy up and my resume together and started applying to jobs. I got a good amount of interest and interviews and ended up with opportunities at several places, most of which were great and 2 of which seemed like dream jobs. After consideration I picked one, putting the opportunity to work on a team of people who I could learn from above my initial interest in the industry, and also keeping in mind how well the role and culture would likely work with our plans to start a family.

Almost a year ago now I started there, and I couldn’t be more happy about it. I’ve grown tremendously, get to do important work for the company, and really enjoy the company of my coworkers, who are smart, hard working, and fun. On top of that my income has nearly doubled! (I’m still amazed to be able to say that!)

It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I feel so lucky.

During this year, we continued working on lowering my antidepressants, because we wanted me to try going off them before getting pregnant. At the time I was on a significant dose of both Wellbutrin and Prozac. All told I think I’ve been working on reducing that for over 2 years! As I got to a minimal dose of both and then just one, I realized I was struggling again. But when I saw my doctor in the fall in that state of mind, I didn’t have the strength to tell him no when he, not bothering to ask how I was feeling, suggested we take the final step and drop it altogether.

As the fall continued I slipped further, having a harder time talking to my husband about what was on my mind, worrying more and more, ruminating often. Life was stressful as we filed to sue his former client and my former employer for nonpayment of a considerable sum, and as he worked less while dealing with the case money was getting tight again, but I didn’t share my fears of being broke again. Instead, I stayed in my head, worried and sad.

As fall turned to winter I stopped getting up to go to the rink. Still loving work, I managed to keep it from affecting my job performance more than a little, but it definitely affected my relationship and my marriage.

One day it came to a head, and I realized I could and should do something about it. So I went back to the doc and told him this wasn’t working, and I wanted some meds again. He gave me meds but sighed and acted like he didnt want to, and he didn’t consider that we should try the safest one because I might need to stay on it. He just said, “This is going to delay you further. You will need time to get this out of your system again before you start.”

I started crying, quietly, and he either didn’t notice or didn’t care, because he said nothing. So I left with my prescription and a plan to find a new doctor, crying on the train and in the park before collecting myself to go back to the office.

That’s when I found a reproductive psychiatrist – someone who specializes in mental health and medication during events like pregnancy and breast feeding. She has deep knowledge in the area and gave me lots of information about all of the studies on both SSRI’s and Wellbutrin during pregnancy. I am so glad to have her to work with me, and with her guidance we’ve switched me to Zoloft, as it has less accumulation in the baby’s system than Prozac and is better for breast feeding than Wellbutrin.

If you check my archives you’ll see that I had baby fever over 6 years ago, and I’m elated that everything is in place now. I have no depression symptoms, am happy with my job, we moved to a nicer, more baby-friendly apartment and neighborhood, and husband is ready and excited too.

So, I’m super excited to say that as of tomorrow, I will have completed my medication transition plan, and we are ready to try to conceive!

Overcoming the Inertia of Depression

It was another hard week, one that brought a second set of impending eviction hearings against my extended family, news of a family member’s coke addiction, my second painful ruptured cyst in as many months, and an unexpected motherboard failure of my husband’s trusted computer, which he depends on for his freelance web development work. By week’s end I felt so gloomy it was hard to imagine a positive future, and I was caught in my head with worries of infertility, homeless relatives, and a continued struggle to meet basic needs like rent.

But these problems were not only mine but my husband’s too, and he was struggling more than I with fear and distress for his family. I knew that he needed me and even though he was there for me, I didn’t want to be another source of worry and energy drain for him. I resolved to do all that I could to get stronger.

On Friday, I went to the kindle store and searched for self-help books on dysthymia, depression, and addiction. I found some that seemed to be approaches I am comfortable with and downloaded samples to my phone. And I began reading.

I found that just having the books added to my sense of control. I am doing something. I am educating myself further about the current guidelines for what works and what doesn’t. And I will use this information to craft a lifestyle that keeps my dysthymia in check.

As I read through the introductory chapters, I found it comforting to be reminded that my lack of activity and energy is not because I am a failure, a slob, or a lazy bum. Rather, I had fallen into a vicious cycle that affects many. I am not alone in this, and there are ways to manage it.

One thing I read in many places is the beneficial effect of regular exercise on both neurochemistry and hormone levels. I’d not been exercising (beyond walks) since the end of the skating season, and I felt like a failure as I continued to neglect exercise. But reading these books motivated me to try and to start simple. So on Saturday after our walk I fired up the Kinect and played Kinect Adventures until my body was tired.

That little act was very powerful in it’s effect on me. I felt more in control because I’d successfully gotten myself to exercise, my body felt better because the muscles were active, and my brain felt better because the exercise released dopamine.

A book about the dark side of female-male relationships

I recently finished reading what I found to be a riveting book, If I am Missing or Dead, by Janine Latus. It’s an honest, emotional tale of her own marriage and her sister’s relationships. It describes a past in which a 12 year old girl attacked by a middle-aged man is told by her own father to keep quiet or she’ll be labelled a slut, meanwhile her mother sits silently by, afraid to challenge her husband even to console her own daughter. Janine grows up to find herself in a marriage where she never feels good enough, while her sister keeps committing herself to alcoholic and even abusive men.

While the story isn’t all roses and cupcakes, I greatly enjoyed it and would recommend it. There were many scenes that felt familiar, things that I or my mother or friends have experienced. Looking at it all laid out, it helps to explain how intelligent women end up in relationships where they are beaten or emotionally controlled.

If you or someone you love have dealt with these issues of control and acceptance, then you will enjoy this book!

From Graduate School to Small Business Owner/Tech Entrepreneur

Today we pitch.

We’re asking for a reasonable sum – six digits – (of which we hope to get 25-50% from this particular investor).  It is an unimaginable sum to me, to us, who have been eating only pasta all too often lately and are months behind on our rent.  But it is a small sum in the world of capital raising for tech start-ups, and it is a small sum to this man who lives in an exclusive building that turns away people who make millions in annual income but don’t also have millions saved (too risky).  And there is much more to be made, and much in our plan to help the company’s value grow.

We are going for our second meeting with a potential angel investor today, at noon, at his Fifth Ave office.  He was very excited and interested after the first meeting, way back in April, when Husband showed him the demo of the program he had written, and rewritten, and rewritten again.  In April, I offered my comments and feedback, my thoughts and responses, and my support.  But I didn’t have a personal stake or title in the company – it was his thing and mine was graduate school, and science.  Not long before I took my quals for the second time, I attended a convention with my husband for his company. I had a great time, and I came away very excited about the field he was working in and the prospects for his company, which I knew intimately although I had no formal role.

So when I had to leave the doctoral program I was in, a move to working on my husband’s project, which was an innovative tech start-up, seemed both natural and exciting.  It was not only his project but his dream, to have a successful idea and to be able to be his own boss and do something that he enjoys. I want that so much, not only for him but also for me.  That job description is also ideal for me in my desire for a fully flexible, mom friendly career. And it’s appealing to me – in particular I’m loving learning all of these new things!

The skills and confidence that I had developed through my education and research experience in my field of engineering are well put to use here.  Chief among the skills I learned and honed in school that I use in my role now are: analytical thinking, mathematical analysis, problem solving, project planning and management, working on teams, putting together well-written documents, presenting and public speaking, and general research (before it was science, now it is marketing).

So helping Husband out with the company was an exciting choice.  I eagerly dove in, and learned all about the industry and the market (adding that to what Husband had already told me about the technology).  With the help of an awesome lawyer who was a friend of a friend, I arranged for and oversaw the drafting of hundreds of pages of legal documents for such things as incorporation, intellectual property law, stock agreements, and employment agreements.  And then I read all of them to make sure we approved and understood…many jokes were made about caffeine IVs!  But really I am so passionate about making this company work that I almost read them eagerly.

I learned also learned about business taxes and employment law – from reading IRS guides and government regulations.  And with the help and advice of my mom, I learned how to use quickbooks and the basics of business accounting.

Today, I go with Husband, as an equal, as a partner in the company, to this very important presentation and business meeting.  It happens to be with a man who managed a small office of mostly men (the women didn’t stay long), and who occupies a completely different economic echelon of society.  I will be giving half of the presentation, all of which I created myself.

I’ve never done this before.

I am going to walk in there with confidence.  Confidence that I am an officer, a shareholder, a manager, and the corporation’s secretary and treasurer.  Confidence that I am crucial to the team, and that my work and development of the company plan will speak for themselves. And confidence that he won’t want to pass up this investment opportunity.