Progress, hopefully

Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions. I tried again last night with putting something under the top of my hip bone and my waist as I lay on my side (a pair of leggings very loosely rolled up), and I was able to sleep through most of the night with a lot less pain, and none in the usual spot. Now the pain has switched to a slightly different spot.

Ahmed also gave me a massage two nights ago (and I’m working on scheduling a professional prenatal massage), but without some kind of mechanical correction to the problem, I have a feeling it would have gotten progressively worse even with massage, so I’m glad this idea seems to have panned out. Tomorrow night I’m going to make the roll a little thinner and see how the pain changes.

UPDATE: I tried rolling the leggings differently to get rid of the pain in the new spot, but it only made things worse. Trying again tonight. I haven’t had back problems before, so this really came out of nowhere.

As for the UTI, I came *this close* to going to urgent care to pay at least $150 to be told what I already know and given drugs to power-zap all the bugs in my body. But so far I’m not in pain, just mild discomfort. And I tend to have unpleasant side effects on antibiotics, and there’s a certain failure rate with antibiotics anyway (up to 20%), and antibiotics can lead to resistant / persistent infections.

So I think giving it 48 hours with d-mannose (which in any case should slow or stop it from worsening, if not cure it) is worth a shot. If it’s not significantly better by Tuesday, I’ll go to urgent care. If it is significantly better, I’ll continue the protocol for a week and see where we’re at.

UPDATE: The good news is, the teeny tiny spotting I’ve had for a few days isn’t coming from my cervix. Bad news? It’s coming from my urethra. My back-up midwife gave me the name of a DO who can prescribe antibiotics and has reasonable rates. I have an appointment with her at 5:30 today. Nice to have a back-up and not have to go to one of those impersonal (and over-priced) urgent care places, or go back to my OB just yet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

FURTHER UPDATE: Symptoms have only gotten worse after 24 hours of d-mannose. Don’t know if it’s because it’s moving things out or because it’s not doing much at all. Either way, I got antibiotics and started them tonight. Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) twice a day for 5 days.

My urine dipstick actually came back pretty clean, but maybe the d-mannose is masking certain indicators? Anyway, she said since I’m pregnant and symptomatic, it’s not worth risking it. If the antibiotics don’t work, I’ll need to come in again for a urine culture, I guess to see exactly what we’re dealing with. (I think 90% of UTIs are caused by e. coli, but some aren’t and may need different drugs.) Good times! ๐Ÿ˜›

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Mid-Back Pain

As a blessedly uneventful second trimester is close to winding down, I’ve suddenly been laid low by back pain. It’s not lower back pain, as I expected it might be, but right at the mid-back, kind of at the level of my bra strap. I wake up every morning and that whole area just aches. My bed, which used to be a refuge, has become a torture chamber.

Until yesterday, the pain has kind of worked itself out during the course of the day, leaving me just fine by the time I have to go to bed and do it all again. (Though it still kept waking me up at all hours in pain, making sleep really difficult and days quite bleary.) But yesterday the pain persisted all the way until it was time to face sleep and renewed pain once again.

I’ve tried different things to get it to stop. I tried wearing a sports bra at night to contain my comically enlarged mammaries. I tried using my wedge belly pillow. I tried sleeping at an angle to the bed, on my side with my knee over a pillow in front of me and my torso leaning over at a 45 degree angle. Nothing has worked.

I started to wonder this morning if it was because my belly was dragging my spine down into a crooked position. (At first, since it was right at my bra strap area, I assumed it had something to do with my mammaries.) I tried lying on my side and putting a very small pillow under my waist to try to straighten the spine, and there was some mild sense of relief, but I think it was too big, because the relief didn’t last long. And now I face another day achy and exhausted.

If anyone has ideas or similar experiences, I’m all ears!

Also, I’m pretty sure I have a urinary tract infection. Peeing has become uncomfortable and frequency has increased (which I didn’t even think possible). The urine tends to be dark and smell different than usual. I also feel weak and shaky. My (substitute) midwives are suggesting D-mannose, cranberry extract, and a gallon of distilled water per day. But a big part of me wants to zap this ASAP. Infections during pregnancy can cause serious problems.

Advice or anecdotes are appreciated about that as well.

Viability

Just passed the 24 week mark, and I know in my head that it’s a good thing I don’t really feel pregnant. I just feel normal but like maybe I had a big meal and am a bit bloated. And the little dude is kicking plenty — stronger and stronger. I even felt him kick the doppler the other day at the same time I heard it, a first! (I mean my hand felt the doppler move at the same time he kicked it. In general his kicks have been getting noticeably more powerful lately, occasionally even moving my whole body by maybe a millimeter.) His heart rate seems fine. It stays around the 130-135 range with brief forays higher or lower.

But feeling so not-pregnant is kind of messing with my mind like… is this really happening? I can kinda sorta feel my uterus slowly growing up toward my ribcage, but I look in the mirror every day and feel like nothing has changed for weeks. (My husband begs to differ.)

And somehow the “50% chance of viability if born right now” milestone has made me feel more anxious instead of less. Like, “Oh crap, he could really come at any minute, and it’s way too early!” After so many years of scouring fertility blogs and posts, it’s the horror stories that stay freshest in my mind at times like these.

I also managed to completely forget I was pregnant a week or so ago, and I was playing with my cat and flopped onto the bed belly-first. Afterwards my ab muscles were kind of sore (I think), and I emailed my midwife to ask if I had done any harm. She said the baby was fine — well-cushioned. If anything I may have wrenched my own already-stretched ab muscles and may have even increased my chance of diastasis recti. But I can live with that as long as the babe is OK. I just had this awful image of forcing the amniotic sac down into my cervix, but there have been no symptoms other than sore abs, so hopefully I’m in the clear.

In happier news, I just got my Old Navy maternity yoga pants in the mail today (got ’em on sale for $10), and I am in heaven! Finally, loungy pants that I feel comfortable in and don’t look (too) dumpy in (unlike with my three-sizes-too-big leggings, which look absolutely terrible and still manage to cut across my belly uncomfortably). I can also, of course, do yoga in them, as opposed to trying to squeeze into yoga shorts or wearing those awful leggings.

My midwife is now off on some island playing with sloths (true story), so there’s not a lot new to report. I did suddenly remember that I sob sometimes when I’m overwhelmed by how amazing something is (I cried all through my first live concert of Beethoven’s Ninth), and that may happen during labor. So I warned my doula, telling her not to be alarmed if it happened. She had a great protocol in place already:

“Crying in labor is SUCH a good thing! That release is needed and I see it often. Typically, if birthing person is crying I may put a hand on her hand and elicit eye contact. If she wants or needs to process something with me thatโ€™s the invitation. If she looks at me and smiles I know sheโ€™s releasing. However, if sheโ€™s crying and shaking her head ‘no’ thatโ€™s usually a sign that sheโ€™s getting overwhelmed and I try to engage with her.”

I think I chose well ๐Ÿ™‚

Otherwise I’m just working on my novel (FINALLY finished a draft of Chapter Nine that’s not a complete mess), working on someone else’s novel (via my freelance editing job), and cooking lots of great Blue Apron meals we got at Black Friday prices. (It’s a little too steep for us at the regular prices.)

I also got this adorable octopus in the mail from Etsy, which my friend Monika (also pregnant via California Conceptions) ordered for me. The tentacles are supposed to remind the baby of the umbilical cord and provide some comfort and continuity. They’re usually made for preemies, but I’m sure any baby will be glad to have an adorable knitted octopus friend. (The teacup I got as a “party favor” at my friend Emily’s wedding in Oregon in September. It clearly needed an octopus to put in it!)

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And I (finally) hung some pretty scarves up over the windows in our bedroom to make it a little more “nursery-like.” Then I went through nearly every drawer and bin we have, cleaning and clearing and organizing to get ready for the (continuing) tsunami of baby-ness that will soon overtake our space.

I also tried to organize and back up all the important files on my computer, but I still can’t really figure out the damn Cloud (even with significant Facebook hive mind help), and it was making me grumpy. So I just emailed the most important stuff to myself, put the other most important stuff on thumb drives, and told technology to get off my lawn. (My hard drive is still a crowded mess because I can’t bring myself to delete much, and when I copied things to iCloud, it also somehow secretly made an extra back-up copy somewhere on my hard drive that I can’t find, not only defeating the ENTIRE purpose but actually making things worse. Argh.)

mancloud

Oh well. Otherwise a happily boring week.

I’m not going to mention politics right now. A lot of bad things have been building for a long time, and it’s gravely sad and disappointing. But there’s not a lot I can do about it here and now other than stay happy and healthy and grow and raise a happy and healthy baby. For the next several months, my focus is there and on reading, growing, and writing. If not now, when, right?

Hopefully I’ll emerge from it a more centered and connected and fired-up agent for change in the world. After all, what could more viscerally inspire you to want to make a difference than your own precious children?

Gearing Up

I’m a little paranoid lately that my belly isn’t growing fast enough, but maybe that’s just because I check it every five minutes… Little Man’s heart rate has stayed in the 130-135 range for the most part, and he’s still kicking away. I love just putting my hands on my belly at night and feeling him swimming around in there like a mini-explorer. First this corner, then that one, then rest, then stretch. He’s more powerful than you’d think a being barely weighing in at a pound could be. I get so impatient to meet him. It’s great that you’re in my belly, but I want you in my arms!

All in good time. He has quite a bit of baking left to do. Sigh.

Meanwhile we’re more or less set — for the first week at least. We just got a used bassinet from a family who lives less than half a mile from us whose baby girl ended up bed-sharing and barely used it. It’s super adorable, and most important, it’ll put the baby almost right at eye-level with me when I’m lying in bed and has mesh sides for breathability. (I’ll have to bunch up the “skirt” thing around it so I can actually see through the mesh and air can circulate through it.)

Bassinet2

I took the annoying mobile thing off it, though I might put it back if it seems the baby wants something to look at. Hopefully I can find a way to rig up twigs, branches, flowers, and other things from nature for the baby to look at. I feel like I would have enjoyed that more as a kid than ersatz toys.

We’re not paying much attention to color, just getting what we like and can afford. No reason to cleave to random gender “preferences” dreamed up by manufacturers. Our next child (God willing) might be a girl anyway. We’re just vaguely aiming for a nice mix of pink, blue, purple, grey, and green.

We also have quite a few clothes, quite a few (used) cloth and (unused) disposable diapers we got in free retail store baby boxes, some bottles, an infant car seat / stroller combo, and three different baby carriers (two we found on sale at Lillebaby, one Ergobaby gifted to us used). We even found out my brother has a crib in my mom’s attic that we can use, left over from when he had twins.

The only three big purchases we still have to make are a crib mattress, convertible car seat (for when he outgrows the infant seat), and Pack n Play (where he can nap or play in the kitchen or living room without the cat bothering him too much). Almost everything else we need is under $40 (though it adds up, of course), and most of the rest of the stuff on our registry is more “wants” than needs. (We also have more than $200 worth of gift cards sitting in our Amazon account.)

So that’ll get us through the first week just with the gear and the samples alone, and then we can always head to the 24 hour Walgreens if we run out of anything at the last minute. Feels good to be ready to go, but… four more months is feeling like a very long time! It’s fine, of course, and I’m definitely not hoping for a premature arrival. But it’s funny how he feels so close and yet so far away…

I’m also learning that babies shouldn’t be put in “baby holders” like swings and bouncers and infant car seats for more than two hours a day. (Obviously if you need to drive more than two hours, car seat safety trumps baby holder overuse, but it’s best not to just leave them in those seats for hours outside the car.)

The reason is because it mimics the womb in a way and lets them just sink in like sacks of potatoes and prevents them from moving much. It can kind of lock their head in a favored position, too (likely the one they were stuck in in the womb), leading to more flat head syndrome and tight neck muscles.

Babies need to learn to deal with gravity and follow objects with their eyes and heads and generally stretch out and move their limbs around, which is hard when you’re mushed into a cushy sling. In short, babies have work to do as they learn and adjust to a completely new environment! Putting them in a “baby holder” too much short-circuits that. (I can only imagine it makes them less sleepy at sleep time, too.)

I think carrying the babies in a sling, wrap, or carrier is a bit different, because they have the stimulation of being close to you, being upright, moving around, and, when forward-facing, seeing what you’re seeing. I’ll have to look into it, more, though. Whether it’s better for the baby for me to carry him in a sling while cooking or put him close by on the Pack n Play to stretch, move, and look around.

The things I don’t know could fill so many books… In a couple months I’m sure I’ll start transitioning from prenatal / birth books to parenting books (though even birth books still feel a little jinxy, as if I’m presuming too much). Another whole new world.

Can’t wait ’til this world has our son in it.

Registry Fun (Week 23)

Content warning: This post will be incredibly obnoxious in an “excited about cutesy pregnancy stuff as if I’m a normal / fertile person” kind of way. If you’re not in a great place, this one might best be skipped.

Let me start by saying this is in NO WAY a solicitation for gifts from any of my readers. We’ve all been through enough wringers! Let the casually fertile subsidize our parenthood, since they skipped out on the tens of thousands of dollars we spent just to get here… ๐Ÿ˜›

This is just to share the fun I’ve been having researching baby stuff, being offered used stuff (yeah!), and picking out a few humble luxuries in the Amazon universe in case anyone feels like celebrating with us.

Feel free to take a look at my registry for inspiration, or to offer any advice or thoughts. If it’s not on there, it’s probably on its way to us used.

We already have a used crib, Bumbo, swing, bouncer, movement monitor, Medela bottles, play mat, baby bathtub, and approximately seven truck loads of clothes and burp cloths with our names on them. I bought 20 used cloth diapers and at least 40 inserts (and 18 prefolds) for a grand total of about $60. I also got an adorable gently used bunny lovey for $3 that retails for $30.

bunny

Yes, the lovey (a word I very recently learned from Jane the Virgin) is pink, like about 1/3 of the stuff I’m getting — I’d get tired of all blue. (We also have some pastel green and grey stuff.) And who knows? Maybe our boy will love pink. It was considered a “boy” color 100 years ago and might make a comeback at any time. When he’s old enough to let me know what he thinks, I’ll be sure to take that into account.

I’ll probably stick to disposable diapers until the meconium clears out and I feel like I’ve got things a little under control (at least relatively speaking). Then I’ll give it a “go” with cloth diapers and elimination communication. I love the idea of potty training by 18 months and not putting hundreds of disposable diapers in landfills. It may remain just a lovely idea, but I won’t know unless I try ๐Ÿ˜‰

And then I have all the blankets and stuffed animals I saved since I was a little kid. I’m SO GLAD they’ll finally get their second life. (They’ve just been sitting there in storage bags under my bed at my parents’ house mocking me for the past four years…) I never liked garishly colorful plastic stuff when I was a kid, so I’m going to try to keep that to a minimum. (With the exception of Legos, of course.) Hoping I can find wooden Lincoln Logs like the ones I played with as a kid.

Seriously, though, babies take up, like, one cubic foot of space. How can they need so much stuff? I’m trying to keep things as simple as possible, and I still have almost 70 things on my registry worth a combined $1500. Plus all the used stuff! Granted, most of it is tiny (most of it is pieces of cloth designed to clean up after babies), but it adds up. I’m not sure how we’re all going to fit in our one-bedroom apartment. It’d be easy to say we should buy some tall shelves, but then that’s a baby hazard. (I guess we can bolt them to the wall.)

And so many of the things have to be researched to figure out what might work best for us. Hours and hours of research and reading reviews and going to stores to test out strollers, etc. (We landed on a Graco LiteRider travel system, which is pretty cheap but seems functional. I hope it’ll do OK on our paved river trail. I initially wanted to get a jogger with bicycle-style wheels, but those suckers are heavy. My friend Holly said she’d pick us out a good umbrella stroller for quick jaunts. I’ll probably be mostly wearing the baby for some time, but I’m sure there will be times when rolling him around is a nice break.)

And then you’ve got nursing bras and bottles (we’ll do our best to breastfeed, but Ahmed may want to feed sometimes) and carriers and back-up disposable diapers and wipes and milk savers and changing pads and changing pad cover and changing pad liners… Every time I say to an experienced mother, “Oh, I don’t think I’ll need that,” she kind of rolls her eyes and says, “Just wait.” It’s a long list of “conveniences.”

Honestly I probably wouldn’t spend our own money on a lot of it. I’d just make do, like my mom did before me. But Amazon and our culture allow me to make a wish list and spread it around, so why not? As the time draws near, we can prioritize among the things a friend or family member hasn’t kindly secured for us, or scour Craig’s list for them. And you can bet we’ll find someone to pass it all on to as our second child outgrows it. (Inshallah — we are hoping for one more after this little guy, somehow some way.)

The stroller was our one big-ticket item, and my aunt in Texas took care of that (thanks, Aunt Barbara!). That and a LilleBaby All Seasons 6-in-1 carrier, which we found on sale and got for ourselves and removed it from the registry. Now all but eight things cost less than $40, and most cost less than $20. Nothing costs more than $80.

We do still need to figure out storage for baby stuff, but I imagine we’ll throw it all in one big bin for a while (and maybe get a cheap plastic dresser as well) until we have a better idea of what we’ll actually need. And we’ll change diapers either on top of our (wooden) dresser with the changing pad (if we can figure out how to do it safely) or on the bed/floor. The child will sleep in our room — the only bedroom we have — in a Pack ‘n Play until that’s no longer feasible. (No clear idea when that’ll be, but we’ll play it by ear.)

Thanksgiving was fun this year. I’m showing pretty obviously if I wear form-fitting maternity stuff. (I can still pass for not-pregnant if I wear a bulky sweater.) My cousin Andrea gifted me her maternity things — three pairs of jeans with that big black belly band, one pair of black pants, and one black skirt, plus three light, long-sleeved, scoop-neck shirts with shirred sides that hang low enough, even the biggest belly will never get under the hem. I’ll be able to wear that stuff through the whole pregnancy any time I need to look nice.

I also couldn’t resist Old Navy’s “everything’s half off” Black Friday sale, and we found some awesome values there. I got several seriously versatile pieces for less than $10 each! So I’m pretty much set as far as that goes. (I’m probably most excited about the $9.98 maternity yoga pants. My regular yoga pants are too tight now, and my second-hand extra-large leggings are just wrong for yoga and hit my waist at an awkward spot. They’re also quite unflattering.)

Anyway, at the two Thanksgiving shindigs I went to (one at my friend Holly’s house, one with my step-dad’s relatives — we do Christmas with my mom’s side of the family), I wore my cousin’s maternity jeans with some cute maternity tops and (finally!) got to talk shop with some of the moms and be congratulated and generally feel like I’m no longer this sad, perpetually left-behind person. As I’ve mentioned on other posts, my instinct is to shout to the world my son’s unorthodox origins, because I think it’s awesome and I’d like it all to be normalized. But by the same token, this precious boy deserves to be known as just himself before being identified as a medical marvel. For now, the fact that we’re pregnant and have a son on the way is the main thing. The rest can follow naturally.

Meanwhile a few of our Amazon gifts have started to arrive, and how exciting was it to finally get a stroller in the mail? Such a simple thing that we’ve dreamed about for so long. We also got two cool parenting books, two gift cards, the best travel mug of all time (a Zojirushi to keep this mama hydrated — I’ve heretofore been schlepping around repurposed juice or tea bottles when I need liquids on the go), and an adorable jumbo-sized thick Turkish cotton hooded towel that our little man can probably use until he’s six. (Ahmed doesn’t do towels himself; he just wraps himself in his Turkish cotton robe. Now his son can be his “mini-me,” hehe.) It’s like Christmas every time we check the mail.

Registry1

We also got this cute giraffe thing as a free gift from Amazon.
So we’ll have options in the hooded towel department.

My main complaint — if I may be so bold as to offer one amid so much bounty — is that I have a hard time sleeping soundly and wake up with my back aching every day. It’s not so terrible, and once I get moving around it goes away. But I kind of dread going to bed at night and waking up in the morning. I bought a HiccaPop pregnancy wedge pillow (why do baby things always have the most absurd brand names?), but it doesn’t seem to help. My uterus isn’t even that big yet, relative to how big it’s gonna get, so…

Also, I tried doing lunges for some silly reason, and since then my symphysis pubis joint has been a bit twingey. I scaled everything back and did some exercises that the internet says are supposed to help (squeezing a cantaloupe-shaped inflatable rubber ball between my knees, pelvic tilts, etc), and it’s been feeling better. But it was jarring to come up so hard against a limitation that wasn’t there before.

Oh yeah, and I think I forgot to mention that some jackass hit our car on Halloween night — when we were out trying to celebrate our healthy 19-week scan, using a coupon to save money — and zoomed off, leaving us to pay a $1,000 deductible. (We were also trying to save money by getting cheaper insurance with a larger deductible. Oops.) And that’s if we’re lucky and the car’s not totaled.

We were stopped at a red light at 45th Pl and Peoria. The lane to the left of us was clear, and just as the light turned green, this person clipped our left rear fender as he tried to get around us to zoom through the light. We barely felt it since our Toyota Corolla is genius at deflecting impacts, but we heard the crunch of it and looked behind us. We were looking in the wrong direction. By the time we looked forward again, he was gone.

We’ll take the car into the shop on Monday and hope they don’t find enough damage to total it out. The other driver was probably drunk and/or didn’t have insurance. The police were entirely useless. They were too busy to come meet with us and make a report at the scene, then they were all out for training for a week (literally every traffic cop in Tulsa), then the best response we could get, after a cursory investigation (which wasn’t as thorough as the investigate we had already done), was, “Unfortunately hit and runs are very common in Tulsa.”

Sigh. We had a beater car for our first two years in Tulsa and didn’t get a scratch on it. Then we get our first new car, and bam! Hit a deer last year and got hit ourselves this year. Ouch.

But everyone’s fine and it’s just money. And my brother was kind enough to lend us his truck (his family’s third vehicle) while the car’s in the shop. Onward and upward.

I’m doing my best to take it one day at a time, stay as healthy as I can, and let it all happen how it happens. In general I’m just grateful for every single bit of it (other than drunk jackasses on Halloween), and overall I feel great. Very few of the usual pregnancy complaints at all. Trying to abide in the joy and not wonder how and when it’ll all go wrong. Sometimes things are just going good, and it really behooves us to appreciate those times.

As for little Ali himself (still his nickname — we still haven’t been able to come up with another single boy name for our list!), he seems to be kicking stronger by degrees, though some days he’s quite chill. My fundus is a bit beyond my belly button by now, as it should be, and Ali’s heart rate, which used to hover around 140, now averages closer to 130, though I caught him at 150 the other day — he must have been doing baby power yoga at that time.

The little sucker’s roughly a foot long and a full pound in weight! It won’t be long until there’s a chance he could actually survive and become a full-fledged human outside of the womb. He’s very close to being considered not a fetus but a baby (albeit one that can still use a lot more cooking). It’s still really hard to imagine him being a foot long. That’s like a whole Subway sandwich! I know he’s curled up in there, but it just seems incredible. I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

(EDIT: I think he’s actually more like 8 inches from crown to rump, which is the usual measure at this stage. Might be 12 inches from head to toe?)

I still tend to think of him as being maybe five inches long and bouncing off the walls in there. It’s a hard image to shake. But his head is almost the size of a tennis ball! I wish I was better at feeling around and telling what’s what, but I’m terrified I’ll squish his head if I do anything more than lightly rest my hand on my stomach. Maybe my midwife will give me some pointers next time I go in.

Still super happy with my midwife and doula, and we also started our childbirth education class with another doula in town, who’s awesome and used to live in New York City. My prenatal yoga has turned into a Kundalini yoga class (same instructor) that welcomes pregnant people (and gives them alternative poses when needed), and it’s still a nice workout but adds a somewhat spiritual element that’s lovely. It’s good to be surrounded by so many supportive souls.

Oh, and Ahmed’s citizenship oath ceremony went off without a hitch, and my parents came all the way to Oklahoma City to be a part of it. It was a sweet day, and we just kind of glossed over the fact that the president on the “presidential welcome video” was a racist orange turd. Even he couldn’t ruin it. It was a moving ceremony, with 46 people from 21 countries gaining citizenship, even here in flyover country. A giant refutation of that ugly streak of nativism that the orange turd rode into Washington.

Life is really good. In a year that’s been tough for so many, after four years that have been so tough for us, I have so much to be thankful for, and I try not to take that for granted for a moment.

CitizenAhmed

My husband is the handsome guy on the left.

A Note on Names

I kept my last name when Ahmed and I got married. It wasn’t for any ideological reason, nor am I particularly attached to the name. It was just the path of least resistance. I don’t like paperwork. I didn’t see a point in changing my name. So I didn’t.

As a fan of simplicity, I’ve also never been a fan of hyphenated names. A nice idea in theory but destined to break down within two generations. I mean, what happens when two hyphenated people get married? Is their kid stuck with some monster last name with four words and three hyphens? What about their kids?

“Olson-Dogan” also happens to sound odd. Too matchy-matchy. (I’ve joked about naming our son Roland Olson Dogan.)

At some point you just have to choose. So why not go ahead and get it over with and not saddle your kids with something that won’t fit on most forms and makes your name hella long to say or type every time you’re involved in another scandal? (I’m looking at you, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.)

So. When Ahmed and I have kids, it’ll be up to us to choose which one of us they “match” with. And yeah, that’s kind of awkward. I’m not going to lie. If we go with his name, there will be people at airports who look at our passports and ask if I’m really the mom of these kids.

But that’s better than Ahmed having to explain why he has kids with him who don’t share his last name. An airport security person may just assume I’m the nanny while they might suspect he was a kidnapper.

Another option is for both of us to change our name to some new hybrid name. In addition to doubling the damn paperwork, there aren’t a lot of good options with our names. Dolson? Ogan? Dogalson? Why would we want to change either of our clearly ethnic, meaningful names into a nonsense word?

There really are no perfect solutions here, and I recognize that we’re all doing our best. This is just my two cents. It’s more about the kids than it is about me, and my top priority is for them to have a simple, elegant, lovely name that will serve them well throughout life. One that fits them and gives them a sense of identity.

And Dogan’s the cooler name (in my opinion), and I got to gestate the damn kid (and hopefully another), so it’s a no-brainer for me. The kids’ last name will be Dogan.

Path of least resistance. Works for us.

Later on, if the different last name thing gets really cumbersome, the path of least resistance may be to go ahead and change my legal name to match everyone else’s. It’d be a little bit annoyingly conventional, but hey. Whatever works.

Back to the Birthing Center

So, November rolled around and with it ObamaCare enrollment and my annual freak-out about dealing with our health insurance for the coming year. What it ends up costing is always so unpredictable, and what it ends up covering is never clear until you start getting bills. And then it’s still not really clear. You just kind of look at each bill and decide if you’d rather pay it and be done with it or ask questions. Sometimes they bill wrong — either in my favor, in which case I say nothing, or in their favor, in which case I argue. Providers sometimes offer discounts, too, if you act like you’ll otherwise have to pay it off in installments for a while. They hate that. Good thing I honed my haggling skills in the Middle East.

In short, American health care is a frigging stressful nightmare. I can’t even explain how jealous I am of my (often smug / bewildered) friends in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere who enjoy universal health coverage and just can’t understand why we Americans can’t get our act together. Why we aren’t marching in the streets demanding better.

Anyway. I calculated what it would cost if I gave birth in a hospital next year, and… it’s pushing $10,000 (including premiums + out of pocket max). This is a significant chunk of our gross income, and also pretty much all of the savings we’ve managed to scrape back together since the Great Fertility Tsunami wiped us out.

We live very frugally. Small one-bedroom apartment, $7-a-month cell phone plans, no cable, no regular Starbucks runs (we just make tea), mostly cooking at home, rarely going out, etc. The best things in life are free, right? And then occasionally we’ll splurge on something like signing up for three soccer leagues at once + sweet new cleats or a four-day meditation retreat.

Point is, that’s a pretty big number, and I was pretty bummed out about it. Especially since I never really wanted a hospital birth in the first place. The thought of it is already making my sphincters pucker. Like the way nurses keep changing shifts, and you have to remind each one anew what the birth plan is and what you want them to do and don’t want, and endure any who sigh or roll their eyes and generally break your mood or concentration at a time when you so desperately need to be relaxed and in the zone. I don’t want anyone trying to “manage” me or looking at a clock.

Nurses also, from what I understand, sometimes ply you with stuff you don’t need that the hospital ends up charging you a fortune for, and I’m just not here for that kind of thing. (During my very first visit to my OB — as much as I love him — a nurse presented me with a “gift bag” full of advertisements and formula samples. It really turned me off.)

Some nurses are absolute saints, including the lovely one who gave us the St. Francis tour. I 100% believe St. Francis is the best hospital in the state to give birth in, and a part of me is a bit sad about missing out on that experience.

But I’ve always felt that going to a place full of people who need serious medical attention for something as routine as giving birth seems like overkill. In my case, expensive overkill. And now that I know the baby and I are doing really well at the halfway mark (he’s such a busy wiggle worm! And I feel fantastic, and hungry as a horse), I feel more confident that things really can go just fine.

I bitched about the vagaries of American health care on Facebook, and several people suggested a home birth or birthing center. I realized I didn’t have a really good argument against those things. In the vast majority of cases, it’s a toss-up which method is actually more dangerous, and a hospital birth is simply not what my heart desires. I just felt kind of scared / guilted into it. And I don’t feel great about that.

I talked with my doula, and she said the midwife I had spoken to earlier had a sterling reputation and also a more relaxed pace than some more profit-driven centers, with fewer clients and more attention. She’s also laid-back in her approach — not a hoverer — and I appreciate that, too. She’s just there to monitor the heart rate, manage the space, catch the babe, and deal with any exigencies. Husband and doula are there to pamper me.

I called the midwife and asked her what she did when things went seriously wrong and how many times it had happened. She said that in the past decade, she’s had to ride in an ambulance with a patient four times, and each time everyone was fine. (The protocol is to call St. Francis at the first sign anything might be amiss and transfer the records and alert the doctor on call so he’ll be waiting in case a transfer is needed. St. Francis is less than four miles from her birthing center.)

I like it. Cautious but not overly cautious.

Here’s the main part that gives me pause: If something does go wrong at the birthing center, and I get transferred to the hospital, I’ll end up paying the midwife PLUS the hospital. If the baby needs NICU time in addition, we’re looking at paying $18,000 in health care costs next year. If we end up stuck with someone “out of network” (and I doubt we’ll be conscientiously checking everyone who touches us in the case of an emergency — it’s a pain in the ass in the best of times trying to figure out who’s in your network), costs could spiral out of control.

BUT, if we get lucky and the birth is healthy and the baby is healthy, we’ll “only” have to pay about $5,000 in health care costs in 2018.

Sigh. It’s weird how much choosing our medical plan for the year feels like gambling…

Of course, if my midwife notices any problems at her check-ups, she’ll send me to a specialist (or just send me for an ultrasound), and if it turns out to be something risky, she’ll send me back to my OB and the hospital long before I ever go into labor.

So that’s the plan for now. I haven’t talked to my OB yet. I’m hoping I can just quietly cancel my next appointment and quietly disappear, and then nonchalantly come back and pretend like nothing happened if I get sent back to him. ๐Ÿ™‚

But I’m actually really excited about a birthing center birth, and it’s a good feeling. I feel like I’m heading back where I belong. My motherly instinct spidey senses are tingling in a good way. The quiet, the space, the privacy, the intimacy, the autonomy, the unhurried pace… sounds like how it should be.