I had been happily plodding along throughout this pregnancy, blissful and grateful and willfully ignorant of the imminent realities of childbirth and change — until I attended a prenatal yoga class last week. The instructor was fantastic. The women attending the program were wise and supportive and zen-like. And yet I left in emotional disarray.
It started with the opening commentary: “There are a lot of second-time moms here today. Take a minute to place your hand on your belly and think about this pregnancy, this baby, this journey. What’s new and different about it? Even though it might feel like well-worn territory, it is also a new beginning. A new start.”
I lay there with my heart in my throat. I felt emotionally ambushed. I felt at once guilty for not giving this pregnancy my full attention (something I’d previously considered a blessing), ill-prepared, and awash with the tenderest of emotions I’d not felt in full force since I was anticipating mini’s birth. I felt tears prick my eyes and focused, momentarily, on the din outside the window: the very Manhattan sounds of street-work, honking horns, errant yells.
I knew I was going to be a loose cannon for the remainder of the hour and a half session. Yes, an hour and a half. I had not read the fine print and was forced to politely disguise my horror when I overheard the instructor relay this information to a fellow attendant, regretting having positioned myself so far from the door in the event that a discreet and early exit was in order. An hour and a half of anything is tough-going, but an hour and a half of emotional turmoil is agonizing, and I could tell I was in for it. I gritted my teeth.
We went around the room, stated our names and our due dates, and were invited to share updates on our physical well-being. You may be surprised given that I write this blog, but I am private about certain things — my health in front of a group of strangers being one of them — and I panicked about what to share, groping around for something not-too-intimate. But something surprising happened to me as I listened to the other pregnant women introduce themselves: I softened. I started to feel connected to this tribe of women. I felt, as I did that day I attended the bris of a friend’s son, overwhelmed by the massive march of humanity, by the poignancy of our shared experience. I began to feel pregnant in a far more profound sense than I have this entire pregnancy.
And then we were invited to chant. And I shut down again. I have always struggled to embrace the more spiritual side of yoga, and I mean no disrespect to the many women who appreciate that element of the practice. But it has always felt forced and bizarre to me, as if I were being asked to make the sign of the cross while on the elliptical. And this day was no different: I felt myself withdraw, again distracting myself by tuning into the street noise and foot traffic outside.
And so my emotions were already running amok when the instructor proceeded to use a decent portion of the class to talk us through coping mechanisms for labor. Suddenly, the weepy guilt and connectedness and love I had felt were tinged with anxiety and panic. Coping mechanisms? Mindful labor? What? As we held warrior II pose for an ungodly amount of time, the instructor urged us to attend to our reactions to the burn of our muscles: how were we managing the pain? Were we counting? Repeating a mantra? Leaning into, accepting, opening up to the experience? Breathing deeply? In other words, when met with discomfort, what techniques did we use to make it to the other side? I almost always found myself doing nothing productive but thinking, vapidly, “This is temporary. This will pass. Just make it to when she tells us to stop.” I was surprised to hear another mother share the same instinct as we reflected together towards the end of the session. The instructor nodded sagely: “That’s a coping mechanism in and of itself. Just know that each contraction lasts a minute. Focus on getting through that minute versus the entire arc of labor.” And I remembered, in a flash, the incessant praying of Hail Marys to pass the time while I was having my c-section. “Just focus on getting to the end of this decade,” I had been telling myself. Then: “Just focus on getting to the end of this Hail Mary.” Then: “Just focus on getting to the midway point of this prayer.” Then: “Don’t think about anything else but the words in front of you.”
I left a complete mess. I was sore, emotionally exhausted, terrified and embarrassed by my lack of thoughtfulness about impending labor, bolstered by the presence of so many other pregnant women, distraught about the unknowns of delivering my son, haunted by the memory of my first c-section, encouraged by the discovery that my “just make it to the other side of this minute” was a passable coping mechanism. Mainly, I felt as though I was in a kind of shock. I’m delivering a baby? In, like, a few months? This little body? Me?
Fortuitously, a girlfriend of mine texted me just as I was walking, adrift, down Broadway, aching for distraction. She was asking something innocuous but I cannot overstate my relief as I unloaded my experience onto her, a two-time mom who has given birth vaginally and via c-section and has lived to tell the tale with humor and wisdom and practicality that I have leaned on more heavily than she will ever know.
I issued an ineloquent brain dump on the class and my attending emotions that culminated in this: “It dawned on me that I know zero things about labor except for the maybe two hours of it I experienced prior to having an emergency c-section last time. It sucks that I feel like a tenured mom but am going into this delivery and facing the same unknowns and anxieties I had the first go around, assuming all goes to plan (HAHAHA) and I am able to have a VBAC. It’s put me in a weird, slightly anxious mood. Maybe good in the long haul to have confronted some of these thoughts now.”
She wrote: “Second pregnancies are sneaky like that. You’re so distracted with your first that you don’t have the time/energy/mental space to obsess over everything!…I will say that my experience overall with the vaginal birth was just better (and it was my first kid so I had no idea!) — more relaxed, more intuitive, more pleasant (Team Epidural forever), immensely easier recovery. Maybe that will give you some peace of mind?”
Then: “I made a point of not taking any birth classes or reading too much and it felt like my body was doing what it was created to do, you know? All I needed was a little support from my husband, good doctors and nurses, and an epidural. You’ll do great. “Worst” case, you’ll have another c-section, which I know is probably not your preference but it’s a known experience. The devil you know and all.”
I needed to hear every single word she said. I soaked it up like a sponge. I carried it around all afternoon, hanging on with particular intensity to her use of the word “intuitive” when it came to vaginal childbirth. I clung to her example, having determinedly not read much about giving birth prior to her own deliveries, and having turned out just fine.
I was reminded of my observation that there are two types of mothers: those who need to read and learn everything they can in order to feel empowered (“knowledge is power,” a friend of mine once said, fierily, as she explained why she was reading so much prior to the birth of her son) and those who are overwhelmed and even incapacitated by too much information. I am in the latter camp. I have learned this about myself time and time again over the past many years. I don’t want to read ten articles and books on potty-training. I want to poll the handful of moms I trust and follow my instincts and be done with it. Anything more is debilitating for me.
And that’s OK, my friend reminded me.
My body was doing what it was created to do, you know? It echoed through me. It reminded me of something important: that across the entire range of coping mechanisms we’d discussed in the yoga class, we’d not talked about faith. And I understand why, too — too political, too touchy, too dicey. But as I scrambled to figure out what my “coping mechanisms” were in class, I’d entirely overlooked the chief ones I lean on every single day, in matters meaty and minute: faith in my religion, faith in my doctors, faith in the love and advice of my loved ones, and a gritting kind of determination to just make it through the next minute.
So here we are. I don’t think that I’ll be going back to that particular yoga class again, but I’m grateful for the provocations it presented. It left me more mindful of and grateful for the support system I’ve built for myself, and, I think, better prepared for labor in a couple of months, provided I don’t need a second c-section, and I’m pretty sure that since I’ve made my preference known, I’ll definitely need a c-section, because that tends to be the way the cookie crumbles. But, ya know. The devil you know…
Post-Scripts: A Registry for Baby Two.
I’ve had lots of requests for my registry for baby boy. We truly do not need much, as we miraculously hung on to EVERYTHING from mini except for clothes and bottles, which I donated. But below, the new items on my list:
+Kickstand for mini (plus adapters — ugh, Bugaboo must laugh all the way to the bank with their overpriced attachments) to ride on the back of our Bugaboo. I’ve written about this previously, but we’re trying to avoid buying a double stroller — unless we discover we need one once micro arrives. We do have a Yoyo that we can use if we ever need both in strollers simultaneously (and are out and about together). We had a long debate over whether we should also buy the newborn attachment to the Yoyo, knowing that we have the bassinet attachment for the Bugaboo and (see below) will be investing in additional carriers. We thought probably not — under what circumstance would we need the newborn attachment to the Yoyo when we have a bassinet for the Bugaboo? Pls discuss if you’ve been down this rabbit hole before.
+Pacifiers. Mini only accepted a pacifier for a month or two, which, I understand, is probably a blessing in the long run (one last habit to break, one fewer orthodontic challenges), but man was it nice to be able to mollify the babe in a pinch. We used, and will re-purchase, Wubbanubs (smart because the stuffed animal holds the pacifier in place — and they look cute!), but I’ve heard good things about this brand, too. Will probably buy one of each.
+Kissy Kissy onesies. Gerbers are good backups, but the quality of a Kissy Kissy is second to — well, only second to 1212 onesies, which I will also buy several of. Both Kissy Kissy and 1212 have the absolute softest, silkiest cotton and it holds up so well over time. I think they’re absolutely worth the investment for sizes NB-6 months, when all you want to do is swaddle the little one in the softest of fabrics.
+Jefferies Socks in itty bitty sizes. I prefer to buy all socks in white (I still only buy white socks for mini, except for when it comes to knee socks, which I buy in all colors). You’re never without a mate, they go with everything, and I think the colored/patterned ones can be dicey style-wise. I don’t know why I’m so ascetic on this front…
+Philips Avent 4 oz bottles. I had bought an assortment of bottles and nipples for mini, and these were her favorite from day one. Personally, I like them because the lids actually stay in place (not so with Comotomos) and, with time, can be removed with one hand (not at first, though — it takes practice and loosening), the bottles NEVER LEAK EVER (!!! not so with many other brands), and they’re easy to hold.
+Baby Bjorn Mini Carrier. OK, call me a nut, but I have two carriers at home (the Baby K’Tan and the Lillebaby) and I’m buying two new ones for this baby. I didn’t like either of the first two — the K’Tan always felt unsecure to me, though I know other people LOVE them, and the Lille Baby was just a general pain in the ass to put on and adjust. I am sold on the Baby Bjorn Mini because it’s designed SPECIFICALLY for newborns up to 12 months, which is basically the only time I’ll be carrying this child anyway (any older is too heavy and long for my frame). I like that this isn’t trying to be a Swiss Army Knife: “use this from when your child is first born until she’s 22!” It doesn’t have 498 positions. It doesn’t have 39489 straps. It’s just meant to easily transport a newborn. I’ve heard it takes a minute to get used to it, but once you do, it’s easy as pie to maneuver, and I like the feature that you can completely unsnap the front in order to deposit a sleeping baby. My plan is to use the Bjorn and let Mr. Magpie use the Lille so we don’t need to constantly be adjusting and readjusting the straps depending on who’s wearing the baby. The carrier is SUPER important to us this go around because we’re trying to get by without a double stroller and I imagine I will be wearing this baby ALL THE TIME.
+Second carrier: Solly Baby. Isn’t the gingham print adorable?! I had a lot of readers and friends recommend this and I’m running with it. It’s apparently a learning curve at first but then people live with it. We shall see…I’m encouraged by reviews.
+Second camera for our Infant Optics DXR-8 video monitor. Mr. Magpie gave me grief about this one given that we live in like 1000 square feet. (Do we even need a monitor at all??? And — isn’t mini outgrowing hers?) Hear me out. First, I had debated whether I wanted a video monitor before mini was born — wouldn’t sound be enough to let me know whether I should run in and check on her? Well, possibly, but the convenience of being able to see whether she is standing in her crib while crying or laying on her stomach with her eyes closed while crying cannot be overstated. I have probably pre-empted about 394898 dozen sleep interruptions on her behalf by being able to quickly check the screen vs. slide back the pocket door to her nursery and rouse her. Further, sometimes I hear something and quickly glance at the monitor — was that her moving in her crib, or did something just fall off the wall? This gives me such peace of mind. I also like that it has a thermometer built into it because we live in an old, pre-war building and the radiators turn on or off at the pleasure of some operator in the building (who knows where he/she is), so it’s either boiling hot or freezing in the winter time. We have to crack the window ever so slightly if the radiator’s going full blast or layer her under blankets if it’s not. The temperature gauge gives me peace of mind as I go to sleep — “OK, she doesn’t need me to run in and bury her beneath blankets.” BUT ANYWAY. I think it will be ultra nice to have a monitor focused on micro, who will sleep in our bedroom (naptimes and nighttimes alike) and on mini, too, while both are sleeping (ha). And even if they’re not both sleeping at the same time, it’s so much more convenient to have a separate camera in place, permanently, versus moving one camera in and out of rooms. And while I don’t think the DXR-8 is without problem (for one thing, the power cord does not lay snugly enough in the socket of the camera, which means it is often “off line” unless we very carefully jam in the power cord and prop it up just so; for another, the battery life of the monitor is pathetic and I finally had to figure out a way to keep it plugged in all the time on my bedside table), it is DEFINITELY the best on the market, having read SO many reviews of competitors. Nest cameras are the only ones that came close to deterring me from the DXR-8, but they run over WiFi and our old house would occasionally run into spottiness with signal coverage; the DXR-8 seemed more infallible.
+Hipp Dutch baby formula. I did a ton of research on this after mini was born. I had heard it was smart to have baby formula on hand in the event that breastfeeding did not go as planned (and it did not for me), but I’d just assumed that the free stuff I’d gotten in the mail would suffice. I found that Hipp was much gentler for the baby to digest, smelled far less offensive, and did not stain as easily. It also has far less artificial ingredients. I like ordering from A New York Baby because it’s a small business and they ship REALLY FAST. I’ll be buying a canister of this FOR SURE.
+Aden + Anais burp cloths and swaddles. We still have a bunch of these, but they’re all in pale pink girly prints. I really like those burpy bibs because they fit around the crook of your neck, are SUPER thick, and can also be used as a bib for baby (the snap in the back enables you to clip it around baby’s neck). I honestly still use these burp cloths all the time for wiping up small spills, cleaning noses and hands, wiping mini’s face, etc. I’m rarely without one. We also always preferred cloth swaddles to any of the “swaddle contraptions” with velcros, zippers, etc. Mr. Magpie and I were both very good at swaddling after the nurses showed us how in the hospital, and mini stayed in a cloth swaddle until maybe five months of age. The Aden & Anais ones are the right size and shape — you’ll find a lot of “swaddles” that are too small or in an oblong shape that does not work for swaddling the traditional way.
+Little Giraffe baby blanket. We have one of these for mini in pink and she sleeps with it every nap and bed time. Super soft. Also, I’m pretty sure all of my siblings and I had similar-looking baby blankets with the wide satin trim and they make me feel nostalgic.
+Sleep Sheep. Mini still sleeps with hers on. I love this travel model because it can be velcroed onto anything — a crib, a bassinet, a stroller, a carseat, etc. I’m debating whether or not to just move mini’s sleep sheep out of her nursery and affix it to micro’s crib and buy this Hatch baby sound machine for her room now that she’s older and it can double as an “OK to wake” clock, as we are planning to transition mini out of her crib in the next six months.
+Nose bulbs. I could never get behind the Nose Frieda. Call me squeamish and old-school, but so it is. I was actually pretty adept at using these bulbs (it takes practice and a flick of the wrist) with mini so I’ll stick with what I know…
+Changing pad liners. These are clutch early on for an extra layer of protection while changing diapers. Also, much easier to toss this into the hamper versus changing the entire pad cover.
+Munchkin Diaper Bag dispenser. Trust me, never go anywhere without one of these.
+Mrs. Meyers Baby Detergent. We now wash mini’s clothes with our own (and have for some time). I’m excited to wash and fold all of micro’s layette with baby detergent!
P.S. You can find all of my favorite baby gear — all of the stuff we already have and own! — here.