Friday, March 15, 2013

My Doula Thinks I'm Lame, And I Really Don't Care

As I explained in yesterday's post, I don't actually have a doula. I did, however, attend a prenatal yoga class that was taught by a doula, so I like to pretend I have a doula-by-association. Also, for purposes of this post, "doula" just sounds cooler than "yoga instructor."

At the beginning of every yoga class, the doula asked a question like, 'Have you had any weird pregnancy symptoms?" or "Have you picked the baby's name yet?" Then we went around the room, introduced ourselves, and answered the question.

One week, the doula asked, "Who is going to be present with you during labor?"

Most of the students answered, "Just my husband." One student responded, "My husband and my mom." (Her mom is a labor and delivery nurse.) I was the last person to answer the question, so when it was my turn, I said, "My husband and a big stack of DVDs."

To my response, my doula-by-association said, "Okaaaay." From her tone of voice, I could tell she was really saying, "How lame. Who on earth would want to miss out on the amazing miracle of labor? Courtney, please, you should be embracing your every contraction and celebrating every wave of pain that racks your mortal flesh. Don't space out and watch a movie! Only lame weaklings watch dvd's when they are in labor."

Yeah? Well, maybe I am a lame weakling, but I don't care. I have no idea what I'm going to be like when I'm in labor. I might be very chatty. I might be very quiet. I might want to scrub the kitchen floor. I might want to take a shower, bake some cookies, do the Hustle and take another shower. And yes, I might want to watch a movie to pass the time.

I know I'm not alone in this desire because the labor and delivery rooms at our hospital are equipped with blu-ray players. Since the thought of being able to watch a favorite movie comforts me, I have filled my hospital bag with an ass shit ton of DVDs and Blu-rays. (I'm sorry, I don't know why, but lately I'm obsessed with the phrase "ass shit ton.")

In case you are curious, these are the movies that have secured a place in my hospital bag:

- The Avengers: I specifically bought this for labor and told Nathan we cannot, under any circumstances, watch it until the contractions start. I can't wait to see Hulk smash.
- Beetlejuice: An old favorite.
- Inception: I could watch this movie every week and never tire of it.
- Despicable Me: The minions and Gru always take me to a happy place.
- Clueless: As if! This will satisfy any desire I have to watch a chick flick without making Nathan puke.
- Napolean Dynamite: If this does not distract me, then I'll know it's time for the epidural.
- Seabiscuit: Although my favorite race horse is Secretariat, this is my favorite movie about a race horse.
- The Back to the Future trilogy: There are no words to describe my love for Marty McFly and Doc Brown.
- Julie & Julia: I love me a good cooking movie. And I love me Meryl Strep and Amy Adams.
- Pride & Prejudice, the Keira Knightley version: On the one hand, I will be the one in labor, so if I need some Jane Austen, Nathan is just going to have to deal. On the other hand, I love my husband, so I'm not going to subject him to the longer BBC Colin Firth version.
- The Muppets: Jason Segal, Amy Adams, and Kermit? If the opening dance number doesn't make you smile, then I'm sorry but you have no soul.
- Sideways: Not only is this movie amazing and hilarious, but it involves lots of beautiful wine. I have not had a drop of wine since June. Two weekends ago, I sniffed my cousin Julie's glass of Chardonnay and oh my god, I wanted to die, it smelled so good. Maybe this movie can inspire me to get through labor so I can celebrate with a glass of something bubbly.
- Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves: Confession: I asked for this movie for Christmas when I was in junior high school. My parents assumed I had a crush on Christian Bale, but actually, I had a huge crush on Kevin Costner.
- The Truman Show: This movie is one of my all-time favorites but I haven't seen it in years. And holy crap, Paul Giamatti is in it? Oh shoot, I so want to watch this movie now. Must... exercise... self-control....
- Master and Commander, The Far Side of the World: Because sometimes a girl in labor needs some Russell Crowe, and we just watched Gladiator in January.

Notable omissions:
- The original Star Wars trilogy should be first on the list, but I don't own the DVD or Blu-ray. And I refuse to buy it until the powers that be release the Blu-ray of the original version, before George Lucas screwed it up by adding new scenes and special effects. If I have to watch the fake CGI Jabba the Hut while I'm in labor, I'll kill someone.
- I'm leaving the Lord of the Rings at home because despite my love for hobbits and dwarves, I can't handle Samwise Gamgee while I'm in labor. He's just too earnest and genuine.
- Many chick flicks did not make the cut because if I see Nathan smirk at Bridget Jones or Lucy Honeychurch, I will hit him until he cries like a girl.
- I am also leaving behind anything that will make me cry, e.g. The Hunger Games, The Dark Knight Rises and Moulin Rouge. (As for Moulin Rouge, I know I'd end up throwing Nathan out of the room during the first musical number.)

Hopefully I will not have time to watch even half the movies in my hospital bag. But, if the Universe has decided I need to have one of those epic marathon labor sessions, I am prepared!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Doula's Favorite Breathing Strategy

For those of you who don't know, a doula is a labor coach/advocate/support person. I don't actually have a doula.  Although I know people who loved having a doula's support during labor and delivery, that's just not my style. A doula would annoy the crap out of me and make me feel unnecessarily self-conscious. (And I might get arrested if I punched her in the face.)

So technically, for sanity reasons, I myself do not have a doula. But for several months, I went to a prenatal yoga class that was taught by a doula, so I feel like I had a doula-by-association (or something like that - I'm sure my dad can think of a better phrase than my feeble pregnant brain).

I generally loved my doula-by-association and her yoga classes. At the beginning of every class, the doula led a mediation and taught breathing techniques that can be used during labor. I'm not really good at sitting and breathing, especially if a spandexed-and-hennaed yogi is telling me to quiet my thoughts. But it was very relaxing to practice the doula's breathing techniques, and her strategies for dealing with labor pain made sense.


One time, the doula spoke about her personal experience with labor. She gave birth to her daughter sans medication. Tangent/rant: the doula would say she gave birth to her daughter naturally, but I'm sorry, I refuse to perpetuate the misuse of the phrase "natural childbirth" because it implies that childbirth that involves medication is "unnatural" and that's just a big pile of bullshit. Do we call it "natural pneumonia" or "natural meningitis" if you decide to forego the antibiotics? Of course not, we just call that "stupid." Not to say that you are stupid if you decide to breathe your way through labor, but don't tell me I'm being "unnatural" if I get an epidural.

Anyway, the doula had an unmedicated childbirth, and she told my yoga class that she got through her labor by "observing her contractions." She regarded labor as a learning process whereby she could study and learn more about the contraction. Every time she had a contraction, she breathed quietly and thought, "Oh wow, this is a contraction... this is what it feels like to have a contraction... it is so amazing what the female body can do..."

This strategy worked for my doula - and wow, more power to her - but I highly doubt it will work for me. Nathan and I went to a labor and delivery class last month that was taught by another doula. Tangent/rant: we feel like we were conned, because the class was taught at our hospital, so we were expecting a non-doula instructor. But what do we know? Apparently half the population of Southern California are practicing doulas.

At one point during the labor and delivery class, the doula passed around wooden clothes pins, had us clip the pins to our ear lobes, and guided us through some breathing exercises. I spent the entire exercise thinking, "Holy crap, this clothes pin really, really hurts. Can I take it off? Shit, everyone else still has their clothes pin on. Even my husband is doing this lame ass exercise. Traitor. I can't believe we're inflicting pain on ourselves. I am learning nothing. Am I breathing right? Holy shit, this really, really, really hurts. I hate everything."

Since I could not handle the clothes pin exercise, I highly doubt I will be able to get through labor by simply "observing my contractions." I intend to go with a completely different approach. Rather than observe and study my contractions, I am going to do everything in my power to ignore them. I will breathe and pace and sit on the birth ball (yes, we have a birth ball!) and do whatever it takes to distract myself from the pain. And Nathan will rub my back and brush my hair and tell me I'm beautiful and do whatever he can to help me forget the contractions. Some people might be curious to experience a contraction, but I do not have that sort of interest in pain and suffering. I'm just interested in getting to the good part, when Baby Girl joins the world and draws her first breath. I don't need to experience a Middle Ages-style labor to revel in my daughter's birth.

And does anyone actually think that women of earlier times were delivering babies by so-called "natural methods"? Shit, no! They were probably drinking booze and laudanum until they passed out.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Cardigan for Baby Girl

Yesterday, I finally put the finishing touches on a cardigan I've been knitting for Baby Girl:

I finished the cardigan a few weeks ago but needed buttons. There is a fabric store in West Los Angeles that has the most amazing button selection, but yeah, I didn't have the energy to make the pilgrimage. I decided to visit our local JoAnne's instead - except I kept delaying that outing as well, again for lack of energy. Finally, after lunch yesterday, I managed to drag my pregnant ass to JoAnne's and was rewarded with these sweet bunny buttons:

The pattern for this cardigan is in More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. It's the first pattern I tried from the book, and I pretty much want to knit everything in the book. The cardigan was relatively easy to knit but it was a learning experience. It's been a long time since I knit something more complicated than a blanket or scarf, and I thought I could knit this cardigan while watching television. BIG EFFING MISTAKE. I was 90% done with the cardigan when I realized I had done something ass-backwards that could not be undone. This mistake was entirely my fault and I had to unravel the entire sweater and start over.

Fortunately, baby sweaters are so tiny it hurts, so starting over is not such a big deal. But seven or eight years ago, I was a crazy perfectionist. If something like this had happened, I would have cried and raged at myself and buried all of my knitting supplies in the back of my closet. I would not have touched my needles for at least a year.

But I've grown up a lot and become much more patient with myself. When I realized I had totally effed up Baby Girl's cardigan, I shook my head, laughed a little, calmly frogged the project, and happily started over. Maybe this is just a sign that I'm getting older and wiser. Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones. Or maybe it's the fact that I haven't had caffeine since before I got pregnant. But I think it also has something to do with cooking.

I've been cooking more and more over the last decade, and cooking has taught me a lot about mistakes and improvisation. If you cook enough, you will ruin your fair share of dishes and that's okay. At least twice a year, I completely ruin dinner and Nathan has to run to McDonald's for burgers and that's okay. Sometimes the roasted asparagus is a little too salty or the cookies are a little burned, but hey, that's okay. Cooking has taught me to be patient and kind to myself when I whip up a kitchen disaster. Lucky for me, that patience has spilled over into the rest of my life.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Until recently, I was able to "exercise" in a way that actually resembled exercise. But in the past two weeks, my belly has gotten so big, I am lucky if I can waddle around the block. For example, before writing this post, I took a 15 minute walk around my neighborhood ... and I feel like I deserve a parade and medal.

Thank God we are enjoying lovely warm spring weather in Pasadena, because tying my sneakers has become virtually impossible. I'm all about slip-on shoes these days - even if that means wearing my lime green Crocs in public:

Getting a photo of my feet is an exercise in balance and patience.
Ordinarily, I only wear these Crocs at home, but these days, my belly, aka The Circus Sideshow, gets all the attention. No one is paying to my footwear. Just look at my shadow:

If you listen closely, you can hear my shadow
laughing at me.

No matter how big my belly gets, I am determined to keep moving (even if that means waddling around the block in slow motion). Movement keeps me feeling healthy and energized. I used to go to a prenatal yoga class that made my body feel like HEAVEN. But last Tuesday, I went to class and discovered my body could no longer handle the poses. I thought I was going to die as I tried to contort my body into a floor pose. I kept toppling over, so I bailed early and left class during the break. Sometimes, you just need to listen to your body (or, in my case, sometimes I just need to listen to my belly, which was saying, "Screw yoga, let's get a vanilla shake.")

I also went swimming a few times in February. By "swimming," I mean "clutching a kick board while jogging my feet underwater." When I was in the pool, I felt light and free. But then, at the end of the swim, I always had to get out of the pool... and the force of gravity made me feel like I weighed 1000 pounds. Let's just say I have a good idea what a walrus must feel like as it heaves its body to shore. Regardless, I won't be swimming again until the summer. It's too much of a production to "shimmy" into my maternity swimsuit, drive to the pool, claim a lane, etc. etc.

But I can waddle, so waddle I will until Baby Girl is ready to make her big debut. Hopefully my belly won't scare any of the neighborhood kids. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Breaking Up Is Never Easy

I think I'm going to break up with Girls. But, there are only two episodes left of Season Two, so I am going to give Lena Dunham two more chances to redeem herself. Unfortunately, in light of recent episodes (and lots of unnecessary nudity [gag]), that seems highly unlikely.

Man, I hate breaking up with t.v. shows! It's one thing to watch a show once or twice and decide, This show is not for me. For example, everyone and their mother loves Breaking Bad, but I could not get through the first episode. It was way too intense for me. I have no regrets on the Breaking Bad front because our relationship never got past that first crappy blind date.

But it's another thing to watch an entire season of a television show, proclaim your undying affection for it and then realize the relationship is going nowhere and needs to be severed. Of course, a television show is an inanimate objection and there's no need for an uncomfortable break up talk (and there's no chance that Girls will stalk me and send me inappropriate text messages at 2 a.m.) But still, I do not take the decision to break up likely. What if the show and I are just going through a rough patch? What if the show is about to get its shit back together? I always feel obligated to watch just one more episode to see what happens even when my heart knows I'm delaying the inevitable.

I have had my heart broken by television shows before. Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and Glee come to mind. I loved those shows intensely ... and then the love was over and every episode felt like a terrible homework assignment. I agonized over my decision to break up with each of those shows; and every time, when I deleted the show's season ticket from my DVR, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of relief and joy. (Especially Glee. I still congratulate myself on ending that abusive relationship.)

I know it will be this way with Girls. But it's tough because I thought Girls had the potential to be one of my soul mate shows. I'd watch every episode religiously; read interviews with all the stars; buy every season on Blu-ray; and spend hours gossiping about the characters as if they were real people. Season One was scandalous and crass, but every episode engaged my attention. I knew we were in love and it was the forever kind of love.

But then along came Season Two, and it turns out I fell in love with a bratty, selfish, obnoxious show. And worse, it's boring. I check email and play Words With Friends, something I usually only do while watching mindless reality shows. I think the problem is I don't like any of the main characters. And it's not just that I don't like them: I'm not interested in their stories. I don't care what happens to Hannah or Marni or even Jessa. I'm only interested in what happens to Ray and Adam (which seems like a minor problem on a show named after the female sex).

Maybe one of the main characters will actually do something interesting next Sunday, but I'm not holding my breath. At least my relationship with Downton Abbey is still strong and wonderful.