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I’ve been surprised by how many women have found my blog by searching “ambivalent about motherhood” or “ambivalent about pregnancy” into a search engine.
I’ve been overwhelmed by how many women are going through the ambivalence I felt when I first got pregnant. And how many of us are curious about how we’ve all moved forward since we first posted.
So here is my update:
My son turned 4 this year. He’s a happy healthy thriving little boy who looks like my father and like Mzee’s mother. He’s got a lot of my strong willed personality. I like him. As a person. I find him a fascinating little person in his own right. I find his likes interesting and his dislikes fascinating. He asks for what he wants and speaks truths as he sees them.
Its been a challenge to balance my growing career with being a wife and mother.
But as Sheryl Sandberg says, the most important career decision a woman makes is in the choice of her life partner. I’ve got an amazingly supportive husband who agreed to leave his well paying corporate job and move to a different country with me so I could focus on growing my work. Its been a year since the international move and all is well.
But we’ve also had to have serious negotiations about our roles in the family.
I think our marriage is very gender unconventional but thats because of our personalities.
I’m impatient and brash, he’s patient and very nurturing. So he does the things about parenting that need the patience and I do the things about parenting that need mixing up. I take our son out and about into the world with me when we’re running errands. When he’s with his Dad they stay home. Dad is the one to read him a story and put him to bed.
The price I pay for that is when he’s got a boo boo, he runs to Dad first. Its hard sometimes but I also know that Dad has put in the work and I don’t begrudge him. We play different roles in our son’s life.
But I’ve also had to learn to balance my career zeal with my time with family. One of my resolutions for this year is to be at home and present more. I won’t work from home. I leave work at work and I don’t work the insane hours I enjoyed working before having my son. I’m enjoying it actually. But I know i’m enjoying it because its a decision I’ve made and not one forced on my by society’s conventions.
We’ve also had a challenge getting other people to accept the roles we’ve built in our marriage. Women especially are the meanest. Women are the most staunch defenders of conventional gender roles. It blows my mind.
I’m still a work in progress. My family is still a work in progress.
And in the last few months my hubby and I have been debating whether to try and have another child!
Quick post while baby naps…
My brain is barely functioning!
I keep forgeting stuff and can barely retain new info. I’d heard about this phenomenon but its really trippy when it happens to you!
So much for trying to work on my book while baby Barack is napping. All i can muster is folding laundry and ironing.
Hopefully things get better in some weeks here because this really is not sustainable.
In other news, today is my first day alone with the bambino. He was born exactly a month ago (January 16th) and since then I’ve either had Mzee or his parents or my parents around. So far its going swimmingly. I even figured out how to go to the bathroom while holding him because he was screaming his head off and I really had to go. about those Kegels……
I keep thinking that if I knew six months ago what I know now I would have had so much more fun with my pregnancy.
I spent so much time and energy flipping out and fearing the labour and delivery that it seriously cut into my enjoyment of pregnancy. Turns out I had nothing to worry about and I should have just chilled out.
1. Yes labour and delivery are painful but its doable and bearable with the right kind of pain medication. I went into the process thinking that it was either an epidural or nothing. Kumbe there are IV medication options which is what I took and it worked perfectly for me. Every hour the nurse would load me up with a dose and I would continue labouring. I could still feel the contractions and the pushing but the meds just took the edge off. Halfway through the nurse looked at me and told me that I was well on my way to doing this without an epidural and for the first time I believed that i was capable. That nurse was awesome!
2. My body is capable of a lot more than I’ve ever given it credit for. I’ve had a really rough relationship with my body for years now. Coming to America as a teenage girl to a family where the women had serious body image issues themselves was horrible for my self image. Consequently i’ve wasted the last decade in conflict with my body. I feel like labour and delivery have ended a long civil war. My body has won. I love it, I respect it, and I am in awed amazement at what it can do. For example, I’m already weighing less than I did on the day that I found out I was pregnant!! This is not because I went on some extreme diet during the pregnancy. I just decided that I wasn’t going to care about dieting and that I was just going to focus on eating healthy but eating what I fancied. Nausea took care of my tendancy to overeat and the rest is history. I’m hoping to parlay my newfound respect for my body into a new healthy lifestyle. wish me luck!!
Announcing the arrival of one baby Barak born on Friday January 16th at 4.30pm and weighing in at a hefty 3.8 kgs or 8lbs and 8oz and 21 inches long. Labour was 13 hours and nowhere near as bad as I feared!!
He was born vaginally with no epidural!!!
He’s doing well and despite some worries about bruising on his head and some hearing tests, he’s doing very well and is perfectly healthy.
I’m doing well too. Its been an amazing experience and I have so much to process about the whole experience.
In short, his birth was the most incredible experience of my life and I wish I had not spent so much of my pregnancy freaking out about labour and delivery because not only was it not that bad, it was in itself a transformative experience. I am in awe of my body and what it can accomplish!!
Will try to post more in the coming days but as you can imagine my schedule is not mine anymore!
Thanks to you all for the warm wishes! Can’t wait to share tales from my journey into motherhood with you!
yep. No baby Barack yet. I’m due in less than four days now but it sounded from my last visit to the doc like the dilating had slowed down. I have another appointment on Thursday and will know if I’ll have gotten any more extra centimeters.
I’ve been having tons of braxton hicks contractions though. Thankfully they don’t hurt.
In the meanwhile i’m pleased because I’ve had the free time I needed to complete some projects around the house and especially do some work on project A which I had not been able to focus on as much as I would have liked.
I’m begining to feel ready to meet the little guy actually. The room is stocked and decorated, his clothes are washed and folded and his crib is assembled.
It also feels like Mzee and I have been doing a lot of work getting ready for him emotionally. Perhaps blame it on hormones but we’ve been having some really intense conversations and I feel like we’ve been reconnecting a lot recently. All goes towards making me feel more comfortable about bringing this baby into the world, into our home, and into our marriage.
Now back to twiddlig my thumbs and waiting……
wow, life is moving along at a fast pace.
Just came back from the doc and found out that I’m already 2cm dilated and 70% effaced. Its amazing to me but the doc could actually feel the little guy’s head right there! Thankfully I’m not having painful contractions so i’m counting the progress thus far as ‘free’ centimeters in terms of dilation. And I’m hoping for even more ‘free’ ones before the painful contractions come 🙂
I’m thinking there is no way we’re doing to make it to the due date on the 17th or even my hope of giving birth on Obama’s inauguration day on the 20th.
My students’ grades are turned in and the semester wrapped up at work, my hospital bag is packed, the baby’s room is in decent shape (even though we’re still waiting for the mattress and mattress pad to arrive), but I still don’t feel ‘ready’. I don’t know if I ever will actually.
I’ve had horrible sleep for the last two nights. I’ve woken up in anxiety attacks worried about the baby and unable to sleep again. Its wierd because until now i’ve been pretty possitive and able to sleep quite well through the night. I don’t know where this fear is coming from as it seeming to hit me from nowhere.
Mona’s post reminded me of an unanswered question.
What will I ever tell little njugu karanga (peanut) if/when he asks me if I ever did drugs?
Truth is that I had quite a good time in college and the beginning of grad school. I limited myself to herbs (nothing powdery or that needed complex equipment like needles etc). So should I tell the truth and risk him thinking “well, she turned out alright so I will too”, or should I just plead the fifth and direct little njugu to his squeaky clean father who would actually be telling the truth when he say’s he never even touched alcohol until we started dating?
Paroz out there, will you fess up to your previous sins? Have you fessed up yet?
sorry I gotta bitch.
So there’s this ridiculous expectation that pregnant women glow. I’M NOT GLOWING!
In fact, at the risk of being a ‘bad’ woman, I’d be hard pressed to say that i’m enjoying being pregnant at all. I’m nauseous all the time, completely exhausted, I feel thoroughly fat and ugly, and the realization that my life will never again be mine and mine alone is dawning on me too fast for comfort.
I must admit I got caught up in the unrealistic expectations. Particularly the ones that tell you that your second trimester is full of energy and radiance. I”m well in to my second and feel just as crappy as I did in the first.
i’ve never been of the Miss Kenya proportions but the physical changes are happening too fast. I now don’t have a belly and instead my entire midsection has inflated all around from my boobs down to my knees. I feel more like the Michelin tire blimp….
I know I know it could all be much worse. I could be on strict bedrest and so long as the baby turns out healthy thats what counts, and Its all going to get worse once there is a little wailer attached to my boobs at all times. I know that. But on some days its just hard being pregnant.
I’m sure i’ll be back to my normal cheery self again tomorrow but for today, I just needed to exhale and let it out.
At today’s ultrasound we found that we’re having a healthy, big and tall boy. (I can’t believe its been 20 weeks already!) I must say that it came as quite a suprise because in my mind I had decided that we’re having a girl. Don’t know why but that had been my intuition. oh well. so much for women’s intuition. Perhaps it was just me wishing…. Good thing I hadn’t painted the nursery pink!
Now comes the fun part of picking names. Mzee and I are picking a Swahili first name then each of the grandfathers get to pick out one middle name and then he’ll keep mzee’s last name for his last name. Yep, this unfortunate cross cultural kid will get loaded down with four names total.
Mzee and I had so much settled into thinking that its a girl that we had picked out the girl name: Naima. Boy names are harder. We’ve got a short list of swahili boy names none of which we’re thrilled about. we’ve already considered Fadhili, Tumaini, Taraji, Jabari and Johari and none of those are really working well for us.
So Swahili speakers out there: What are your suggestions for swahili boy’s names. Help!!
Yesterday i passed the 12 week mark and I breathed a muted sigh of relief for surviving the first trimester!!
I leave for Kenya in less than 24 hours (still no apartment lined up!) and I’m really wondering if this is a dumb thing to do. To commit to over 20 hours in the air with another 10 hour layover. Doesn’t sound like its good for pregnancy but they say it is. Its usually a hard journey to make even without the additional exhaustion of pregnancy. Not to mention I am still in the throes of pretty intense ‘morning’ sickness with constant nausea and heartburn and assorted other maladies.
What if I start bleeding again while on the airplane? Or while in Kenya? Will I be able to get the medical care I need?
Its a real battle in my head. On one hand women give birth in Kenya on a daily basis and children survive and thrive. I was born there and turned out well for all practical intents and purposes. I really dont’ want to fall into paranoia.
Then again I now have two friends in Kenya who have lost their babies in pregnancies that I’m convinced could have been saved had they been in the States. There is no doubting that the medical technologies are far more advanced in the states.
Am I being a bad parent by traveling and not ensuring that my unborn child has access to these medical technologies?
Mzee seems to be o.k. with my traveling. I wonder though if he’s not speaking up because he doesn’t want to get into an argument about it. It must be rough to not have that control. The welfare of his child is completely dependent on me and the decisions I make at this point. I had never thought of the challenges of fatherhood in that way before. The only point he has completely emphasized is that I am in no way to lose weight while pregnant. I had this idea in my mind that I could still lose some pounds in the first trimester and it wouldn’t matter. Boy did he make a stand! Surprisingly, I’ve been able to maintain the exact same weight for the past three months. All thanks to the nausea.
Anyway, am I being reckless by traveling and denying my unborn baby access to the best medical care possible? What if something happens to me while i’m there? I’ve gotten dysentery during a trip in the not too distant past. How would getting it again affect the baby? What if I have to take medications when i’m there? What if I’m raped? I know its far fetched but I know enough to know that rape is a real problem that hardly anyone talks about. And I’ve been threatened before….
worry worry worry
Warning: Do not read this post if you are the prudish queezy type!
I have a question for all you women out there who have given birth. Its not the kind of question we ladies talk about in polite company but really, I gots to know!
So i’ve been saying I really want a c-section because i’m afraid of giving birth the ‘natural’ way. What i’m really trying to find out about ‘natural’ births is if your ‘down there’, oh heck, your vagina, ever gets tight back again or does it legea legea forever afterwards.
Just how loose do you end up? Yes yes I understand that giving birth is a natural process and your vagina was designed to do just that but c’mon. Passing a 9 pound watermelon through what is usually a tight space has got to do its damage.
I’ve heard of all sorts of vaginal rejuvenation surgeries and i’m wondering if giving birth is the reason women end up wanting/needing them. Yeah, I know, i’m slow…..
And of course that makes me think about female circumcision and kind of how there is some point to stitching things back up to make them taut again. Note. I said kind of and somehow.
Do you ladies out there have some words of wisdom? Also jamaas with wives who are mothers, notice a difference? How much did it affect your sex life?
Night before last I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up making calls to Kenya and chatting online with a friend in Sudan. It was 3am by the time I got to bed and I noticed I had started bleeding.
Mzee and I decided it was not worth going to the E.R. for but to wait to talk to the doc in the morning. Well the bleeding continues and by morning i’m completely freaked out. We had to wait until the afternoon to have an ultrasound to see what how the kid was doing and if I was starting to have another miscarriage.
I had already started preparing myself and convincing myself that I’ll be o.k. even if we lose this one.
Thankfully the ultrasound revealed a kicking healthy baby. And I literally mean kicking. S/He was jumping around in there, doing loops and just having a good time.
I”m now 9 weeks 5 days along but have a condition called Subchorionic Hematoma
The doc is not worried about it since mine is quite small but I’m to take it easier than usual and, unfortunately for mzee, join the B. train for two weeks! That will be hard! (pun intended!)
Other than that, here is a pic of peanut as S/He develops. The growth has been phenomenal. There are arms and legs and a cute round belly.
I still marvel at the technology that lets us see details this small on a munchkin that is barely 1 inch big deep inside me. Wow
And i must admit, this past scare is really helping me shift my focus from being ambivalent to kind of even excited about having a kid.
Whats wrong with me?
I”m not feeling this bright jumping for joy feeling at the prospect of being a mother and I feel guilty for not feeling it.
See, the thing is, I LOVE my life! I’m perfectly content with the way things are going. I’ve finally finished grad school, I have a job that i’m really excited about, I’m financially comfortable, and i’m married to the best hubby on earth!
Its taken me years to finally achieve this and i’m not sure that throwing a baby into the mix is not going to ruin it all.
Far from those couples that have a baby to try and fix things, I am really content and happy and i’m worried that having a baby will throw me and my life off the comfortable balance that its in right now. I know its selfish to think that way but at this point i’m still not at a place where I identify peanut as a distinct person separate from me. It still feels like this strange alien thats hitching a ride in my body.
I keep reading all this psychology stuff that says that after I feel the first kicks it will become real that there is a baby in there but for now I’m focused on wondering how much all this is going to change my life.
I must admit I also feel very isolated in not having someone I can talk to about what I’m feeling. I’m a complete extrovert in that I process my feelings on the outside. I feel like admitting to others that I feel this ambivalent is automatically going to mark me a bad mother. I mean surely, its not normal. is it? The texts say it kind of is but I haven’t heard anyone else admit that they felt this way when they first got pregnant. I mean I’m supposed to be overjoyed right? The maternal feelings should have kicked in by now and I should be glowing. I’m not. Instead I’m terrified and unsure of whether this is a good idea.
Whats wrong with me?
where do I start?!!
On Friday of last week I finally earned that Ph.D! wooooooooohooooooooo!!!!!!!!
After seven years of tears, anguish, an almost nervous breakdown, hours of therapy, and a body that is broken and bruised, I emerge a much tougher woman than the girl that went into grad school. I’m working to overcome the bitterness of the abusive process I’ve just gone through in grad school by focusing on the fact that I’m done!!! Its in my past. I feel like i’ve earned the ability and space to say to the world of academia take me as I am, or go screw yourself!! Thats freedom my friends. Thats freedom.
From now on I will remain true to myself and my ideas. I promise myself to be kind and generous to me. I finally have the freedom to hang my intellectual self worth not on what others say, but on the truth inside my heart.
O.k. much as i’m bitching about how horrible the process has been. I must also say that I’m thankful that I did it. I”m only 30 and having these three letters after my name (Ph.D) is going to grant me audiences who would otherwise not bother to pay attention to what I have to say. Having that kind of voice is priceless and I am thankful for it. Especially being a Black woman the world is keen to dismiss you as having nothing to say.
In other happy news:
Mzee and I went to the doctor’s today for my ultrasound. THERE’S A HEARTBEAT PEOPLE!!! Let me hear an Amen!! The doctor put my chances of a miscarriage at 5% down from 50%!
It was amazing to see this little bubble inside me have blood gushing through it. To say nothing about the technology that allows us to see this small small thing so far deep in my womb and watch its even smaller heart beat. The baby is apparently just larger than a pea right now!. So, with the heart fluttering away, I embrace the nausea, vomiting and heartburn. It seems a small small price to pay.
Oh, and I’m typing this as I watch live Obama’s acceptance of the Democratic party nomination. What could be a better evening?
What am I whistling and singing along to? Michael Buble’s rendition of ” I’ve got the world on a string”. He’s a fantastic artist by the way. Check out ‘lost’ and ‘everything’ which are also amazing.
Whats up with the term ‘morning sickness’. Nothing about it is happening in the morning for me. Its more like all day sickness. In fact, the only time that i’m not feeling like throwing up or actually worshiping the porcelain goddess is in the morning when I first wake up.
Oh, and nobody tells you about the killer heartburn. Now heartburn sounds like a polite problem that should be easy to deal with. Not this stuff. Its constant! It feels like someone has lit a bonfire in my throat. Peanut (the euphemism that Mzee and I use for him/her) better be taking all this time to grow. Damnit! I’m going to be so pissed if all this is for nothing!
On to happier topics; In the meanwhile i’m having a good time visiting with old friends, spending alone time in my old haunts, and writing in my journal. Its been a fantastic vacation though I must admit some of the lunch meetings with (soon to be former) professors have left my stomach in knots rather than relaxed me. I still have a lot of anger about how unnecessarily hard this process has been and the major damage that the last seven years of stress has done to my body.
O.k. Back to being positive: Tomorrow is the big day. I will be a Dr. Mwananchi Mkenya at 4pm tomorrow and thats a good thing. Woohooo!!!!!
So I’m back in my old stomping grounds waiting to defend my dissertation on Friday. Its actually really nice to be back and to have the extra time to visit my old haunts. I’m realizing now that I did have a really good time here and that I loved it here. At the time I was too wrapped up in the pain of grad school to appreciate it all, but now I can.
I rank this city second to my current digs in terms of places I would live in the U.S. That of course is a difficult decision for me because New York City now drops down to a close third.
In other news, my hormone tests came back encouragingly. My HCG doubled in two days just like it was supposed to. My cramping has all but disappeared and the spotting has decreased. I have an ultrasound next week to see if there is a heartbeat as there should be in the seventh week. Thats the big thing i’m holding my breath for. My head is in the sand until then.
In the meanwhile, I’m taking time off and enjoying my solitude and re-living experiences from one of the most intense periods of my life.
I just got back from the doctors and I’m struggling to see the good news. With the ultrasound and HGC testing it looks like my pregnancy is 5 weeks along. Which would be all good news except for that doesn’t match up to the date of my last period and hence projected ovulation date which would place the pregnancy at 7 weeks. And the continuing cramping and increasing bleeding are further indicators that something is very wrong.
With all that info the doc placed my chances of having another miscarriage at 50%.
I’m devastated, overwhelmed, sad, confused, and tired. I can’t even cry or pray.
I know that 50% means there is a chance that we’ll pull through. But I know what a miscarriage is like and I don’t want to go down that path again. I’m remembering Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane: “My Father, please take this cup of suffering from me. Yet not my will but your will be done”.
I leave to go defend my dissertation next Friday but its so hard to concentrate!
Mzee and I just landed from San Diego this morning and drove straight to church to get baptized. Not that we sinned sana while on the trip :), we’ve been planning this for months now.
It actually feels like a big deal to me. I was originally baptized Catholic as a child so going through today’s decision as an adult is a much deeper stronger experience. God has really brought me far and I am deeply enjoying my growing relationship with him.
I feel like a strange Christian though. I refuse to swallow wholesome the politics of a majority of Christians. I think that as a group we are some of the most dysfunctional family (Christians that is). From Ted Haggard, Jerry Falwell, and some of the nuts preaching in Kenya, I think that the name of God and Christ is so misused today. I used to be an active participant in the church a long time ago but I stopped because of Christians. I couldn’t deal with the hypocrisy.
Now I’m back and trying to focus exclusively on my relationship with God and to build my faith not based on the behaviour of Christians, but on God’s Word, and his speaking to my heart. And part of that is not being afraid to challenge and question and wrestle with God. Its taken me a long time to figure out that he can stand up for himself in my life. He can stand up to my toughest questions. And he lovingly answers even my most ridiculous challenges. So with that, Mzee and I took the plunge this morning. Committing ourselves publicly to walk the walk we have been walking for the last two years anyway.
In pregnancy news: I’ve been experiencing regular cramping for the last couple of days and i’m terrified this might be another miscarriage like last time. There is no bleeding which is reassuring and some of the literature I’ve been reading on the web seems to indicate that cramping sometimes happens in early pregnancy. I have a blood test tomorrow (Monday) to measure my HGC, cholesterol, diabetes etc and then another on Wednesday to check if my HGC (pregnancy hormones) are doubling every two days as they should in a healthy pregnancy. This was the test that revealed my impending miscarriage last time so I’m quite a bit anxious. Wish me/us luck.
This is actually my second pregnancy.
I had a miscarriage two years ago. Strangely enough the hardest part about that was not losing the baby, but rather the month we went through where we didn’t know if the pregnancy was viable or not. It was excruciating not knowing if we needed to change our lives around to accomodate a little one or to keep going with the plans for our lives we had already made. Not knowing whether to emotionally get attached, or stay numb and view the whole pregnancy as a medical malfunction of my reproductive organs. The pregnancy ended at barely two months.
I comforted myself about losing Ephraim (we decided it was a boy and gave him a name) with the thought that had he made it through the pregnancy he would have been deformed so it was better for nature to take care of a situation that wasn’t right. Its strange because from the very beginning the doctors could tell that something was wrong with the pregnancy so I never let myself get too attached to the pregnancy. I felt numb throughout the process because of that. Naming him brought some softness to the situation. And after the miscarriage we brought Ephraim to Kenya where he is now buried.
Even though this pregnancy feels different and there aren’t the warning signs we had with the previous one, I’m still cautious and not allowing myself to get excited quite yet. In the back of my mind is still the ‘what if’ question. Especially as I wait for bloodwork to be done on Monday and Wednesday.
In the meanwhile, Mzee and I are off on vacation to sunny San Diego!!!! I’m excited because I bought him private golf lessons on the Torrey Pines golf course where this year’s US Open is being played in just a few weeks. yep. its a smug smile of self satisfaction i’ve got on.
If you could tell with full certainty that the child you are carrying would be born with serious deformities would you have an abortion?
My pregnancy is too young so this is not a situation i’m facing but its my greatest fear about this whole process. Its been my fear about pregnancy for years. I find sometimes that airing your fears makes them not so terrible so I’m glad to have this blog.
I would be racked with guilt either way. If I ended the pregnancy I would feel so guilty for ending a life. On the other hand, going through would guarantee that the child would never be independent and I would feel guilty for giving the child such a life sentence.
What would you do?