Friday, May 26, 2006

you place your bets and takes your chances

Okay, y'all, it's that time. When will Baby _______ finally make her appearance? Place your bets--on anything from birthdate to weight, length, bald or blonde--and we'll see who wins the title of prophet & visionary extraordinaire.

Some tips: official due date is May 30; Brent and I were both 8 lbs., 11 oz.; I was mostly bald with an old man fringe 'round the ears; nephew Levi continues an unbroken bald streak into his first year.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Maybe y'all are getting tired of the church posts. Too bad 'cause this is my blog. You can go to if you want some controversy, or the cool Lutheran neighbors' site or Ally's blog for cute pics of adorable children.

"Laugh with those who laugh, and mourn with those who mourn," (St. Paul, Romans 12:15). Or, perhaps less profoundly but just as classic: "Honey, laughter through tears is my favorite emotion," (Dolly Parton, Steel Magnolias).

Even the weather yesterday laughed and mourned by turns--glorious sunshine gave way slow showers, occasionally punctuated by inundations of stronger rainfall, and then gave way to sunshine again. We sat under a canopy surrounded by pots of tea and Devonshire cream and shared love stories and traded reminiscences, and occasionally remarked on the mercurial weather. This was my baby shower, thrown by the women at the Brooklyn church--the most relaxing baby shower that ever was. After what I can fairly call the most luxurious experience of my life--a prenatal massage at The Spa, treated by my Brooklyn sisters--we simply gathered together for an afternoon of uninterrupted hanging out in a gorgeous place with delectable food. It could not have been more perfect. How do you say thanks for the gift of a perfect day?

The weather cleared for our walk to church together from the tea shop to the Y, and--after a mad dash to the bathroom, as my bladder was the one element not in cooperation with all other elements of the universe to provide me with the perfect day--I entered our church space to discover to my astonishment that Ira was there with us. It took awhile for it to register, actually. I heard Sophia in the background calling out over and over, "Ira! Ira!" in this joyous tone, but it wasn't till I looked around to find a seat that I finally saw him. And there he was! Just 4 seats down from me! It was bigger than meeting Heath and Michelle. And the sunshine poured down strong through the window, warming my back all through our classtime while Joe talked about the canon.

And then Joe talked about what it means to abide: an archaic, unused English word that shows up all through John. Abide in me, and I abide in you; abide in God's love. To abide: to be present, fully available to the other, without pressing forward into the future anxiously, without projecting our desires for the other into the present moment to make ourselves, and the other, dissatisfied or ashamed of what is. Joe is on my short list of fine preachers (Joe, Mike Cope, my dad, and Brent: this is my list of fine preachers I have heard) but something beyond the ordinary happened in last night's sermon. We heard Joe speak, but it was God's witness.

And there were tears. More than one person was convicted; more than one sorrow was shared. And there were sympathetic tears as we mourned with those who mourn.

Many times over the last few months I have felt ashamed at the embarrassing overabundance of good fortune in my life. Things haven't always been this good for me. In fact, things have never been this good. It's a strange thing, I said to Brent a couple of weeks ago, to realize that you are as happy as you've ever been in your whole life. And sometimes I have wanted to hide that, not wanting to flaunt it in front of my brothers and sisters who are struggling with real tragedies, not wanting to be unintentionally cruel in my own contentment.

And what I learned yesterday was that they are as eager to rejoice with me as I am to weep with them. And this is what it means for us to abide with each other.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Baby's definitely dropped. Ursula, who may be our favorite of the four midwives in the practice (I don't know if it's the charming German accent or the unexpected sense of humor or what but she is so cool) told us so yesterday: "Ze baby ees quite low. She ees down zere." Not that I needed an announcement, really. When someone's head is riding along in your pelvis you pretty much know it.

Anyhow, no signs of labor yet. I still have no idea what Braxton-Hicks contractions should feel like, or how grody the whole mucus plug thing will be, or how dramatic the water-breaking thing should be (although Mom informs me that her water never broke with any of us, so it seems I might have to diagnose labor without the most helpfully definite sign of it. I feel gypped. I mean, come on, on TV births the water always breaks and splashes all over the floor and that's how they know to panic. How will we cope without that?)

So, this week the big project has been getting ready for the untimeable inevitable. Made a packing list, started packing the hospital bag. Made a shopping list for things to take with us and went shopping: juice, Gatorade and Propel fitness water (since I really do hate Gatorade), some healthy snacky easily digestible things, and the irreplaceable A & D ointment for the baby's butt (parenthetical note: it still looks odd to me to see it in a tube instead of in those little free sample packs we grew up with, which seem to me still today to be its most natural packaged form). Bought a little lavendar outfit Brent liked for her going-home outfit as his liturgical side kicked in and objected to taking her home in just any ol' onesie. Charged up the digital camera and deleted all old files on it so we can fill it up with adorable baby pictures. Made a people-to-call list, drafted an announcement email and the Cool Lutheran Neighbors to send it out for us, and added them as a blogger here to post the news here as well. Went to a La Leche League meeting and borrowed the local chapter's Womanly Art of Breastfeeding from their lending library and have started perusing it. Made an appointment with a pediatrician for tomorrow afternoon. Watched the birthing DVD Maria lent us yet again, and still cried, again, at the first birth (that one is just so awesome!)

What else is there to do? Faithfully keep up with the prenatal yoga. And just...wait. But "I hate waiting" and it makes me feel like I want her to just hurry it on up; then again, we need to hang on at least till Mom gets here! It's not that I'm scared of doing this without her, but just that both of us would be so bummed if she missed it.

Overall, though, I still feel like I'm gearing up for a big soccer tournament or something. Anticipating it, preparing mentally and physically, thinking of it like a great big sporting event that I of course will inevitably win after a stellar and inspiring performance "on the field." But I would probably be content to have the baby named MVP.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

kitty on steroids!

I wish I had a really manic picture of the cat to accompany the title, but she's not feeling quite that well yet. But she is, literally, on steroids. This morning we stuffed our protesting feline into her hated cat-carrier and took her back to the Carnegie Cat Clinic to see how well the antibiotics had worked and evaluate what else would need to be done. She's perked up considerably since we started administering the antibiotics--even played fetch with us a few nights ago with her favorite toy, something she hadn't done in months. She's also started grooming with a lot more enthusiasm and frequency and no longer looks so ragged. So we knew that she was a lot better than she was a couple weeks ago, but we went with fear and trembling because we were so afraid of being told that all her teeth were going to have to come out, and we have no way to pay for it.

This time, the vet was able to actually open Tiamat's mouth and look inside it (poor kitty was in so much pain last time this wasn't even possible). Her gums were a lot less inflamed and red, but the inside of her mouth is still very abnormally red and full of sore places that need to heal. But, wonderful news! Dr. Miele told us that a steroid shot would be the way to go and would bring Tiamat a lot of relief in just a couple days from all the remaining soreness and ulcered places. The steroid lasts 1-3 months in her system, and quite possibly will bring things to a place where maintenance of a healthy mouth will be the answer rather than extracting teeth. Her actual teeth are fine, so if we can just get the stomatitis under control, then we can try preventative stuff. This of course remains to be seen, but the Doomsday Scenario has been pushed back and we are so relieved.

The cost of today's visit was $36. Altogether, our 2 visits and the meds come to about $160. And thanks to a timely suggestion from my mom, the things I sold at the yard sale Saturday before last (many thanks to Priscilla for organizing it and letting me crash it!) and the stuff Brent put on Ebay to defray the cost of the vet bill bring it to $80. There's a community yard sale out here at CRW this Saturday as well, so hopefully we'll make some more $$ and maybe even cover the cost entirely. That's probably too optimistic, but one can hope.

But best of all, the cat seems a lot happier. And her breath doesn't stink so bad.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Birth Plan

Here it is: The Birth Plan. Not, of course, that we at all expect things to go according to "plan," and besides, my favorite line from Cool Hand Luke is still "I never planned anything in my life."

Birth Plan for Baby _______

Jennifer Thweatt-Bates & Brent Bates
Princeton Midwifery Care
Maria J. Brooks, doula
est. due date: 05/30/06

* I want the following people to be present during labor and birth, and preferably no one else: my husband, Brent Bates; my mother, Patricia P. Thweatt; my friend & doula, Maria Brooks; and the midwife (Peggy, Ursula, Brynne, or Grace).

* I would like to be able to play music or dim the lights if I choose, and wear my own clothing if I choose. Or not wear clothing, if I choose. (Who knows what the heck I’ll choose.) I want to be able to walk and move around during labor, and eat and drink as I feel necessary.

* I want to try any birthing or laboring position that feels right, or that the midwife or Maria thinks might be helpful.

* I strongly prefer monitoring of the baby by intermittent listening of the heartbeat and not by continuous Electronic Fetal Monitoring.

* I want to try any pain-management technique known to midwife and/or doula as I feel the need: positioning, massage, breathing techniques, bath/shower, hot tub, etc. Do not offer pain medication; if I want it, I’ll ask for it. If I do ask for it, I want to be encouraged to hang on a little longer and be given some idea of my progress; if I can gut it out I’ll be much happier in the end. If I really do want pain medication, I will insist on it despite encouragement.

* I do not want a time limit set on the progress of my labor.

* I want to be able to listen to my body and push as I feel the need.

* I do not want an episiotomy. Any techniques known to my midwife or doula to help prevent this are welcome. Bottom line: I prefer to risk tearing to being cut.

* I would like to view the birth with a mirror if possible, and be able to touch the baby’s head when it crowns.

* Brent would like to help “catch” our baby (or in his more elegant and liturgical terms, “receive the baby”).

* I want to hold her right away (no warming unit), and breastfeed as soon as possible. I plan to breastfeed exclusively and do not want any bottle feeding to occur (no formula, water or sugar water) as this may interfere with the breastfeeding learning process. I want all newborn procedures to take place in my presence or Brent’s presence and with our explicit verbal consent.

* We want 24-hour rooming-in with our baby, and would like to postpone the first bath and bathe the baby in our room. For any newborn procedure that must be done in the nursery, Brent should be present.

* We want to waive the eye medication procedure and are prepared to sign a waiver to that effect.

* If something horrible happens and I must have a C-section, I want to understand the situation and see the necessity of it. I want Brent and my midwife to be there. I definitely do not want to be knocked out completely (if this is possible) as I want to be as alert as possible. I’d like for Brent to be able to hold her as soon as possible, and to be present for all newborn procedures. I want to be able to begin breastfeeding as soon as possible.

We know that birth is unpredictable and that we cannot anticipate every decision we may be faced with. Mainly, we want this birth plan to show that we prefer, generally, as little interference as possible and as much freedom as possible. We’ve never done this before and don’t have any idea what it will really be like, so it’s important to us to be able to experience things as they come without undue anxiety. No panic, people! I am healthy and strong and have a lot of confidence in my body’s ability to figure this out as it goes (my head can catch up later).

I go to an amazing church. Or more accurately, I am part of an amazing church. That old Church of Christ lesson about the church isn't the building, you know, it's hardwired in at this point. It certainly isn't the building that makes this church what it is, although there's a certain grungy style to meeting in a barren, concrete-floored former workout room at the YWCA. It's what happens there every Sunday that makes this church what it is, and what that makes possible for the rest of the week for all of us when we leave and go back home to neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey, wherever.

I've been grateful for this church for a long time, but every so often something amazing happens that functions as a new reminder that church isn't just something we do because we're in the habit, or because we happen to like the people we get together with, but because there's something life-changing, transformative, about it. These little epiphanies are few and far between and spontaneous and maybe don't get noticed by everybody, but Sunday night, there it was. A little glimpse of God in the middle of a circle of plastic chairs in a barren concrete-floored room, as one friend revealed a need and the response was immediate: we will take care of you, if you need us. That's what we are. The church.

I would love to say more, but I was just there, observing an amazing moment between people as they became Christ to each other, saying amen. Just a witness to a presence that was suddenly more than the sum of those visible.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

afternoon with the vet, evening with the midwives

Over the past few weeks I have slowly become convinced that there is something wrong with the cat. At first it was just that she seemed to be a little neurotically possessive of my lap. Then she started looking a little less well-groomed than usual. Then she was sleeping a lot, and getting kinda smelly. Then, she started occasionally spitting up. Not hairballs, just spitting up after she ate her kitty treats and lapped up her special cat milk that comes in cute little juice-drink-like purple boxes. Then, her spit up started looking reddish, like she was bleeding somewhere and I thought, okay, it's time for the vet.

Still, it took me three weeks to find a vet, call a vet, make an appointment and take her there. I just couldn't decide if she was really sick or if this was just kitty stress that would eventually go away. I vacillated. We're on a budget that consists of stipends, loans and part-time employment. If kitty's not really sick, then we could really use that $50-$100 elsewhere...

Anyway, I finally took her. When we got there, the vet said in surprise, "How old did you say your cat was?" "Three and a half years," I replied. "Why is her coat so horrible?" she exclaimed. "I don't see coats like this on cats unless they're 18 years old!" "I don't know," I said helplessly. "That's one of the things we've noticed lately. She isn't grooming and I don't know why."

The vet leaned down and peered into my poor kitty's mouth. "This is the problem," she said. "Her teeth are awful."

My poor kitty. She stinks and spits up and hasn't been grooming because she has stomatitis, a really terrible and advanced kind of feline gingivitis and her whole mouth hurts her. She can't chew (so she chokes on her food and spits up) and she can't groom (obviously) and, of course, she's stinky because it's like halitosis from hell when your whole mouth is full of infection.

So we have some antiobiotics to give her--1 cc every twelve hours. This morning, her third dosage, Brent and I spent an hour wrestling with her trying to get the syringe close enough to her mouth that I could squirt the stuff in. It never worked. I can't begin to describe how incredibly awkward that was for me at this point in the pregnancy, on top of all the stress and frustration inherent in trying to get your cat to do something she really, really doesn't want to do, plus how bad it makes you feel to cause an animal pain even when you're just trying to do what's best for her. She was frantic and freaked, and finally, I called the vet to plead for help. Isn't there another way? I begged. Her mouth hurts her so much she flinches long before I get close enough to actually get the medicine in there.

Apparently we can put it in her food. Would've been nice to know to begin with, but at least there will be no more human-kitty-pregnant-human wrestling matches on the floor.

I wish that was all. There's a chance that the antibiotics alone, though they should clear up the infection, won't be enough and that she will need dental work and teeth extracted before we're done. How much that costs depends on how many teeth will have to go, and how hard it is to get them out, but the Doomsday Scenario is about $1000.

It's pretty hard to contemplate pulling $1000 out of nowhere to spend on our cat's dental health when we 1) have no income to speak of, 2) expect a baby in a month, and 3) haven't been to the dentist ourselves in literally years.

But what are the options? We can't not take care of the cat. We just don't know how we're going to get it done.

So, after the afternoon with the vet, we spent "an evening with the midwives." The midwives at Princeton Midwifery Care (where we go) hosted this informational event at the University Medical Center, and since Brent and I have opted out of formal childbirth classes, we thought we'd go to this one-time free event in case there was anything we could learn that we haven't already. Mostly, the information covered was stuff I'm already well familiar with by now, but it was great to be able to tour the hospital wing where we'll be giving birth. That was helpful in a lot of ways--it made the whole anticipated event a little more real, a little more concrete, and a little less unknown. The LDRP rooms are spacious and pretty homey. You can slide cabinet doors closed over all the emergency equipment and once the warming crib and monitor stuff is moved out it looks more like a bedroom than a hospital room. Lots of lighting options, private bathroom, little fridge, fold out chair for Brent to sleep on if he wants, and lots of chairs. There's a Jacuzzi down the hall and--this was very exciting--the midwives recently acquired a birthing stool that I can try if I want (I don't know how comfy that will be or if it will work for me but it sounds nifty). So I can now get back to work on my birth plan with a better idea about the facilities and some of the procedures at the University Medical Center. But the real highlight of the evening for me was a little talk given by a doula and childbirth educator on Gail Tully's forthcoming book Spinning Babies. When she asked if anyone in the room was 36 weeks or more, I jumped at the chance to volunteer for her to diagram how the baby is lying. (I beat out another girl who also said she was 36 and a half weeks along--feel a little bad--oh well.) Basically, it's a logical sort of analysis based on where you feel strong kicks, flutters, and where the smooth bulges are in your belly. It turns out that Baby _____ is head down (knew that already), with her feet up near the right side of my ribs (where I consistently feel strong kicks and occasionally see weird bulgy bumps that must be a foot stretched out or something), partially facing out toward my bellybutton, and with her hands down in front where she occasionally punches my pelvic floor with nice little staccato drum rolls that make me wince and head toward the bathroom. And now I have a nice big diagram to put in Baby ______'s little book. Before the birth, she'll need to turn so that her face is toward my spine. But there's plenty of time for that to happen and most babies do this themselves when the time comes.

So...cats and babies. I still carry this residual feeling of guilt that I have been a terrible caregiver for Tiamat and that this bodes ill for upcoming motherhood. My kitty's teeth are practically rotting out of her head and I barely even noticed. I hope I manage to be a little more attentive from now on--to cat and child.

Monday, May 01, 2006

happy birthday baby

No, not my baby, d'you think I'd be blogging???
This baby: Happy 1st Birthday, nephew!