I’ve been trying to…

I've been trying to think of a clever way to tell you all the big news, but y'know, I woke up at five a.m. and I never get enough sleep these days and clever just doesn't seem to be on the agenda. So here you go: I'm pregnant!

This is, taken all in all, very good news for us. Yay! We were pretty sure we wanted a second child, because even though we often find Kavya quite overwhelming, both of us really love having siblings (hi, siblings!), and wanted that for her. Plus, once Kavi turned, oh, about eighteen months or so, the pleasure of having a funny, affectionate, clever child in the house twenty-four-seven actually started outweighing the frustration, exhaustion and sheer annoyingness of said child and our accompanying parental responsiblities. Most days, Kavi's become a definite net win. So we thought we had a reasonable chance of upping our overall happiness with a second munchkin. (Although, please note, research indicates that having children actually tends to decrease your net happiness. Oh well -- maybe we're outliers. :-) We started trying last September, and sometime in January, got lucky.

I'm due October 9th, which is causing all kinds of confusion because it's smack dab in the middle of the semester. In theory, I get six weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Yes, that pitiful amount of leave kind of sucks. Am I bitter that in Sweden, "all working parents are entitled to 16 months paid leave per child, the cost being shared between employer and State. To encourage greater paternal involvement in child-rearing, a minimum of 2 months out of the 16 is required to be used by the "minority" parent, in practice usually the father" (Parental leave, Wikipedia). Why yes, yes I am bitter. I am bitter that Sri Lanka has better maternity leave policies than the U.S. I am bitter that the U.S. is one of only five countries in the world that don't offer paid parental leave of some kind. The bitterness, it consumes me. It makes you consider moving to Estonia, where "mothers are provided 8 weeks of 100% paid leave before the due date, 100% pay in the first year, 85% in the second year and additional (third) year of unpaid leave. Either mother or father can take the leave, or they can swap in shifts. Additionally father is provided one month of paternal leave immediately after child's birth."

Our university does have better leave policies than our country does. Mostly my own leave is so pathetic because I'm not a full-time employee; Kevin actually does get a real paternity leave of a paid semester off, which he could take this fall or next spring. The irony.

This is all complicated by the fact that as professors, it's generally not cool to just leave your department and students hanging while you disappear for six weeks in the middle of the semester, so with or without leave, academics usually try to find workarounds that will work both for us, and for the department. What it looks like we'll be able to do is have me teach just one fiction class in the fall, moving my post-colonial lit. class to the spring. If all goes well, I'll have the baby sometime around 10/9, stay home for 2-4 weeks until I can easily walk again (depending on whether it's another c-section and how it goes, all a bit up in the air) and either have someone cover my fiction classes or teach them online or both. In the spring, I'll have a heavy teaching load -- 3 instead of my normal 2. But baby will be three months by then, so it should be do-able. (Oh, yay, the breast pump returns. Joy.) They're kindly offering me two sections of the same post-colonial class to try to make my life easier, which is a little boring, but will be a lot less work, so I think I'm going to take them up on that. Especially because my third course is going to be Intro to Asian American Studies, which is a huge lecture class, totally new to me, with intensive new prep work. (I'm actually pretty excited about teaching that class, but also a bit intimidated.)

Kevin's getting his load for next year reduced from three classes to two, and we're still trying to figure out whether it'll be most helpful for him to be not teaching in the fall or not teaching in the spring. We need to decide ASAP, so if folks have any thoughts on that, feel free to chime in. Alternatively, we could maybe ask for him to teach one class each semester, which is a little odd ('cause normally, paternity leave is used to take a semester off entirely), but might actually work best for us, especially since one class is a grad seminar, and, like my fiction workshop, is a little more forgiving of creative scheduling for a couple of weeks post-baby.

Just to be clear, I'm not complaining about either my department or Kevin's -- everyone we actually work with has been very nice and reasonable about it all. I could wish our university and/or our country had more generous parental leave policies, but that's a separate argument.

Whew. This was all a lot easier last time around, when Kavi came at the end of May, just as my last semester at Roosevelt was finishing up, and then I had the summer off, and then the Northwestern gig paid me a year's salary just to teach spring quarter, so I got the fall off too. This time is going to be harder. But I think we can manage. We can't really afford for me to just not teach my classes (and not get paid) for a semester, not if we want to keep up with our mortgage payments, so somehow, we'll figure out a way to make it work. It'll be okay.

The good news is that so far, everything seems to be progressing according to schedule. Miserable nausea for the first three months, check! Needing to nibble bread straight through my classes so I don't run out to the bathroom and hurl, check! Waking up in the middle of the night, starving, eating stale crackers from the nightstand so I can go back to sleep, check! Occasionally forgetting to eat on a regular schedule (of oh, every hour or so), and having my body abruptly DEMAND food, bringing me to my metaphorical knees, check! Very occasionally making Kevin get up out of bed to go get me food, check! Needing fruit in a big way (this happened last pregnancy too, which makes me think that possibly I normally don't eat enough fruit either), check! Absolutely hideous debilitating exhaustion that makes me feel like I haven't slept in three months, oh god, check check check check check.

The exhaustion has been killing me. Seriously, I HATE this part of pregnancy. The nausea has tapered off (I'm now at thirteen weeks), but the exhaustion is still with me. It may be slightly better this week than last, but I wouldn't swear to it. My effective work day has been cut in half, which, you know, is just the eensiest bit frustrating when I have classes to teach, a festival to plan, a child to watch, a garden to plant, and oh, four books to write. And of course, the writing is what gets neglected, because it's optional. I think I've written for maybe two hours in the last month. But worse than that, is when I forget how few energy reserves I have, and I try to do something ambitious, like, oh, spending half an hour digging up a garden bed. Which I then pay for with three hours of lying on the couch huddled in a blanket, shaking with miserable exhaustion. Did I mention I hate this? I HATE THIS PART!

It should be done soon. In theory. I'm not counting on it. There's supposed to be a big energy boost in the second trimester -- Nilofer told me that it felt like she was on speed. That didn't happen with Kavi (unfair!), but I do remember the exhaustion tapering off and returning to more normal levels. So I'm vaguely hopeful that might happen again. In the meantime, my doctor is recommending that I get nine to ten hours of sleep a night, plus a ninety-minute nap each day. I'm not sure how feasible that is, when my brain keeps thinking about all the stuff I have to do, but I'm trying.

But for all my complaining, this actually is much easier than the last time around. I'm not nearly so worried that Kevin will decide he made a huge mistake with the whole agreeing-to-have-a-kid thing and freak out and run away, so that's a big relief. :-) And last time, I spent most of the first six months irrationally convinced the baby was dead, which was very not fun. I've been a lot mellower about baby's continued existence this time around.

We got to hear the heartbeat on Monday, which was exciting, and then yesterday we had the ultrasound part of the sequential screen, which told us that the baby's nuchal fold was great. That's the flap of skin behind the neck, where they check the fluid levels -- too much, and there's increased risk of Down's. It'll be another week before we get the bloodwork results on the two trisomy abnormality issues, but those are much rarer than Down's (even in a woman of my 'advanced maternal age'), so we and our doctors are cautiously optimistic at this point. There'll be another screen at eighteen weeks, when they check for spina bifida (a hole in the baby's spine), and if that goes well too, then we should be reasonably free and clear. Knock on wood. The best part of the ultrasound was watching baby squirm -- it was really moving in there! Just tons of twisting and turning and flinging its arms up over its head and flipping over. Fun!

After the screening tests are done (assuming they continue to go well), the next big hurdle will be trying for a VBAC -- vaginal birth after c-section. If you remember, Kavi was breech (turned round the wrong way), so we had to do a c-section. But my doctor says if this one manages to turn (may be difficult with my fibroids in the way), there's no reason not to try for a vaginal birth (which is generally better for the mother, if possible, and makes breast-feeding easier too), so that's the plan. We'll just have to wait and see how things go. If it ends up a repeat c-section, I'll be a bit disappointed, but that'll be okay too. Not really a big deal.

We still don't know the gender -- that'll hopefully happen with the anatomy scan at twenty weeks, so two more months to go. We don't have a preference -- while a boy would be interesting and new, a girl would give Kavi a sister, and I really love having sisters. So either is good. Right now, we're just aiming for healthy baby, healthy mama.

Sorry this is so long, but when you keep a secret for three months, a lot of stuff builds up! Expect to hear a whole lot more complaining from me about exhaustion now. But also a fair bit of giddiness too. Baby coming! Woohoo!

13 thoughts on “I’ve been trying to…”

  1. Congratulations!!! I can hardly wait to meet him or her.

    My vote is for Kevin to do the lighter load both semesters. It would be easier to have his consistency at home for Kavi and for planning. Failing that. Have him do the Fall. I always found it easier to arrange child care for a slightly older child. And it was less guilt producing as well.

    I’m with you on the parental leave thing here. It was 9 months in Canada with my first. All my friends were off work for 9 full months and there I was, barely mustering a mere 3 months. In fact, I had to go back to work the Tuesday after our son was born (on Sunday) to train my replacement for 4 days.

    With my girl, the laws in Ontario had changed. It was 12 months!!! A whole year?! It was hard not to be bitter, I tell you.

    Very happy for you and Kevin. You are great parents and this is going to be a very fortunate child to be able to call you mommy and daddy.

  2. Congrats!

    It’s when I read about parental leave in the U.S. that I am so greatful that I live in Canada!

    Are you going to look at names from the same list you made last time, or have you thought of some new names since then?

  3. Hurray for you!

    Both of my girls were breech. Z never turned and was a scheduled c-section, but they were able to turn A at 37 weeks and she stayed vertex! There’s something to be said for the stretched out stomach of a second time mom.

    Anyway, I delivered A vaginally and without drugs. It took 25 hours and it wasn’t pain-free, but I was walking an hour afterward and recovery was a breeze.

    Here’s her birth story, if you’re interested:

  4. Congrats, and I’m somehow not surprised given the insistence on needing more space. I hope it all goes well. My suggestion would be for K to take the spring off, since you’ll be completely swamped. If you and he can be teaching on same days and go in to school together/have one babysit while the other teaches?

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