food, The Tiniest Capen

Cruising along

It’s amazing what some sleep and less worry can do. Justin is feeling better, after a very slow recovery from very bad gastroenteritis, so I’m far less worried – and thus far less exhausted. I was totally overwhelmed by trying to be good to my body and self, caring for him, and working. My sense of balance and capability was shot for those 2 weeks. I also slept in our bed this week instead of in the baby’s room, which helped. Generally, I’m back to sleeping again – much less insomnia. And I’ve figured out what I can do to mitigate some of my joint pain, including weekly chiropractic, sleeping in a wrist brace, heating my arm and shoulder as often as possible, and both yoga and therapeutic stretching of key muscles in my lower body. I can manage this, even if I can’t get rid of it.

And so I feel a bit more functional. More like me. More in control of my options and choices. It feels good.

On Friday we went out and bought a huge number of groceries. ALL The groceries. 2 carts at BJ’s kind of groceries. And yesterday I started cooking. On round one, I had a date with ziplock freezer bags, and with help from Justin I:

— Broiled a dozen chicken breasts for later chopping/casseroling/freezing
— Put 4 pounds of pork roast in the slow cooker with apple cider, pulled it, and froze it
— Assembled a slow cooker meal of the remaining 2 pounds of pork roast, apples, onions, and sweet potatoes, and froze it
— Made 10 pre-portioned freezer smoothie packs of frozen berries, bananas, and frozen OJ concentrate
— Made and froze two Stromboli – one spinach and cheese, one pepperoni and cheese
— Prepped two freezer-to-slow cooker sweet potato dishes (one designed to be mashed, with apple and pecans, one designed to be cubes, with orange and cranberries)
— Portioned and froze 2 dozen italian sausages bought in bulk


Next steps are staging, cooking, bagging, and aluminum-baking-dish-ing my way through a couple of potato dishes, baked pastas, and rice casseroles, all with as many vegetables as I can shoehorn into each recipe. I’ve been using my “lie down and take a break” time to haunt Pinterest for casserole ideas (the kind that don’t involve Cream Of soups), and it’s been really useful and great fun.

We will eat home-cooked food in March and April. We will not constantly default to pizza delivery. This I vow.

Then we had some friends over for dinner and hangouts, and I made stew, my winter favorite. They brought brownies and ice cream, and I was a seriously happy camper.

Today, though, I’m going to take it easier. Today I pack hospital bags, write down birth preferences, write a quick un-official will, and start catching up on the giant backlog of thank you notes that are haunting me. Most of which can be done with my feet up and a bottle of water in hand, since I’ve been told I have an irritable uterus and any dehydration will exacerbate the Braxton Hicks contractions it causes. (Which aren’t dangerous, but are surely annoying. And I could use less annoyance in my life.) Right now I’m lying in bed in the quiet morning light, with the heated mattress pad on, soothing my aching hip, and TC is wiggling like a champ, while Miles purrs nearby.

Balance. I’m finding some.

Life’s good.

The Tiniest Capen

Because it amuses me:

19 weeks

29 weeks

34 weeks

Belly gets bigger, hair gets shorter and whiter. On the belly front, I’m measuring 41″ around at the navel, which is 8″ up from my pre-pregnancy measurement of 33″. On the hair front, I whacked it all off because it had straightened, heat-damaged bits in it from my last dye/straightening before the wedding. Now it’s just all curly, and it can grow happily for the next four months or so, at which point I will decide what I want to do about coloring it, cutting it, and styling it as a celebratory “let’s go back to work!” milestone.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen

I’ve reached a breaking point for single piece of advice that boils down to “rest more”. It has variants: “adjust your expectations of yourself”, “do less”, “take more naps”, “get more rest”, “take it easy.” They all boil down to one idea: Do less.

And it’s a great idea. I *am* very tired. I am pushing the limits of my own capacity. Pregnancy is hard work, and I’m not really enjoying it. I’d love to do less, take more naps, get more rest, and take it easy. I would love to spend today lying on the new couch doing nothing but staring at the ceiling. I really would.

I also understand that the people who are telling me that this is what I should do are telling me from a place of love, concern, and caring. I DO understand that.

My problem is that it’s misplaced energy.

As I said to Justin when I got pushed too far this morning, I have cut back. I am doing less. I’m working 40 hours instead of 60. I’m not bringing work home. I have a to-do list the size of Montana that isn’t even being touched (hope you weren’t expecting wedding thank you notes anytime soon and/or not in conjunction with baby thanks), and I’m prioritizing very carefully about what matters, and what doesn’t. Today’s list of tasks — about which I felt, and feel, very good, is:

sanitize all the linens, assemble crib, hang nursery curtains, do the dishes, feed the Swarteomans cats, nap on the new sofa.

And my response to the suggestion that I do less today was essentially this: This is what it takes for us to get done all the things that need doing in our home and life, because that matters to me and I have to work tomorrow. I mean, we need to eat, so clean dishes after having the pipes frozen and dishes pile up matter. I would like to sleep in my bed instead of on the pullout, so sanitizing the sickbed sheets matters. Justin and I are excited about setting up our nursery, and we want to do that together. And I should go do my catsitting, because allowing my best friends’ cats to starve while they’re in France seems unkind…

What should I skip? The nap?

Part of what’s rubbing me raw is delivery. I spend an inordinate amount of time considering my delivery and word choice when talking to other people. Part of that is because of what I do (carelessly delivered commentary can hurt when it’s meant to help, in the workplace), and part of that is who I am (I know how aggressive and abrasive I can be if I let myself, and I also don’t want to be that person, so I work not to). And so I hear word choice and delivery even when it comes from people who don’t think about it the way I do. I hear things that are unintentional, slights and aggression where none was intended — it simply wasn’t something the speaker considered. Most of the time I can listen charitably and hear the intent rather than the delivery, but sometimes — like today — my bucket of charity is empty, and I got nothin’ other than reaction.

So, for example, when I’m simply told “do less” or “take a break” or “take more naps”, I, on days like today want to say, pointedly and without any inflection, “Fuck off.” Because it’s not helpful. It doesn’t acknowledge my life. It doesn’t acknowledge the pressures I’m operating under. It doesn’t offer me any practical help or advice. It doesn’t feel like caring. It feels like impossible expectations.

On the other hand, when my friend Mary, who was on medical leave for most of her pregnancy, commiserates that she too had a hard time sleeping and took a lot of naps, I can take it in the spirit in which it was meant. Being able to take a lot of naps is great, and it helped her. I bet it would help me, if I too weren’t in my office 8 hours each day, specifically the ones when naps would be awesome. I can’t really nap at work. What I can do is take breaks, build some quiet time into my day, and take care of myself as best as possible in the framework of that job which I simply must do. Which I’m doing. And she’s not telling me, flat out, “Take a nap.”

On days like today, when I have a list of about 20 things I’d like to get done before I go back to work tomorrow, please know: I’ve already prioritized thoughtfully. I’m not going to do any library work today. I’m not going to try to tackle the wedding thank you’s or the wedding album or investigate writing a will or repot the plants or make bags of old clothes to take to the thrift store or finish knitting the baby blanket or finish felting Justin’s slippers or put away all the Christmas presents or scrub the microwave or brush the dog or print pictures for all the Slades or cook anything at all. I chose the most necessary tasks and I’m doing them.

And I’m happy about it.

Please don’t add to the list of people whose advice feels like thinly veiled accusations that I’m doing it wrong.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen

So, Malcolm knows SIT, he knows DOWN, he knows GO LIE DOWN, he knows SHAKE, and he’s learning UP for getting into the car and onto the bed, and ROLL OVER about 20% of the time. And he knows NO.

He does not know COME.

Justin’s sick today, lying in bed feeling miserable, feverish, nauseated. Poor guy. I keep bringing him soup and water and crackers, but there’s not much I can do for him. It’s a bug, he’ll kick it off eventually, life goes on, be kind to him and wait it out.

One thing I can do, though, even 32 weeks pregnant, is walk the dog so Mr. Sick doesn’t have to. It’s not awesome, as putting on my boots is becoming a trial with this belly in the way, and I can’t walk fast or far right now. But I can do it. That is, until said dog hears or sees something in the woods and takes off at a full-out run and doesn’t listen when I call him to come back. When he gets that distraction of something truly dog-interesting — a deer, coyotes, another dog, strange people who haven’t petted him yet — it’s as though I don’t exist.

The same dog who, earlier in the afternoon, was belly-up for petting and tail-waggingly leaning on me with love in his eyes. That dog. And my calls and clapping and wheedling meant nothing. In the blink of an eye he was out of sight in the woods and silence reigned.

I pulled out my phone. Texted Justin in his sickbed. “He just bolted into the woods.”

The return text from the sickbed? “Stay where you are. Call and clap. I’m coming.”

And out he came, boots and wool pants and a sweatshirt, looking like death warmed over. I’ve never regretted being immobilized by the awkwardness of pregnancy more than in that moment. I gave him the Carhartt I was wearing, and headed to the house to get a coat for myself, and gloves and a hat for him, as he walked into the woods to track our dog.

In any other year, I could have done it. I was dressed for it, I’m capable of it. But not today. Not off-balance, with one hip that won’t sit in its socket right and a shoulder that doesn’t seem to know it even has a socket, and every other joint stretching to the point of near-dislocation from the relaxin. Not weighing an extra 25 pounds carried in the most awkward place possible for activity. Not with three inches of fluffy snow on top of an inch of ice covering the ground. Not without my inhaler, in the last days of December. Not this time. Not today.

And so I did nothing useful while Justin spent 20 minutes tracking the dog. The dog who, upon being found, was thrilled to have a playmate in his forest romping. (Because FORESTS. ARE. AMAZING. YOU GUYS.) The dog who’s getting obedience training — focused on COME and STAY — as soon as we can manage it.

All I could say as I clipped Mal’s leash to his collar and looked at exhausted sick Justin was “you’re my hero.” All I could have done, without him, was stand there and cry and call my dog in vain and feel useless.

With him? As a team? Pretty sure we can do anything.

The Tiniest Capen

I was in Albany today, running a day-long meeting about Open SUNY for 70 librarians. It was beyond tiring, given the 29 weeks pregnant thing, but it went really well. Really well. At 3:30, I packed my stuff up in the ballroom at the Hilton, poured myself into the CR-V, put on an audiobook, and started driving. I made it out of the Albany traffic without incident, stopped for Chipotle and a donut, and headed further north.

In Warrensburg, the fog hit. 45 miles an hour through the Adirondacks? Safe, but slooooooow and I want to go hooooooooome. And after an hour of that, somewhere around Indian Lake, I thought I was going to fall asleep, which would be remarkably bad. So I started thinking about where I could pause for a nap… and then I knew. I stopped at the Indian Lake public library parking lot (one of my favorite little places; the library has open public wifi in a cell phone dead zone, bless their hearts). As I said to Justin, I could think of few places safer than the parking lot between a public library and a town hall in a tiny town in the Adirondacks at 6 pm… I set the alarm on my phone for 30 minutes, locked the doors, reclined my seat, and draped a sweater over myself… and promptly fell asleep.

I woke up 24 minutes later when the car cooled off, feeling better, except there was a sweaty place on my ribs where I had folded my hands when I fell asleep. So I moved them, and started adjusting my clothes, and immediately I got kicked in *precisely* the spot where my hands had been.

Apparently, someone had been very happy with our nap position, and I was disrupting things.

insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen

Bad things:

  • I dislike waking up at 4 am.
  • I dislike waking up at 4 am with the worst leg cramp of my entire life, which, I will note, was unprovoked, as I was ASLEEP when it happened.
  • I dislike waking up at 6 am.
  • On principle.
  • I dislike 8 am meetings.
  • On principle.
  • I dislike 8 am meetings on days when I feel like I got hit by a pregnancy truck, and that truck woke up the creature that’s kicking me in the bladder during said 8 am meeting.
  • I forgot I had a cup of coffee and it got cold before I could drink it. Because it was 8 am.
  • The part of the 8 am meeting I needed to contribute to started at 8:50 and I was supposed to be in another meeting in a different building at 9.
  • I was in meetings from 8-10:45 without a break.
  • I may have (through no fault of my own) double budgeted one of my fund lines.
  • My OB is unthrilled with my blood pressure.
  • A vendor was so crappy to me on the phone that I actually hung up on him.
  • I had to get short and aggressive with another vendor in order to get the information promised to me last week sent to me by the end of the day today, several days late.
  • My planning on that project is way off target as a result.
  • My friend’s dog died earlier this week and she just posted it on Facebook and it sucks.
  • All I ever write about anymore is complaints about vendors, because ohmygod they’ve taken over my life.
  • The dog has busted out of his cage a half dozen times and Justin has been forced to resort to zip-tying him in. This is not a long-term solution.

Good things:

  • We had just enough cream cheese left for me to have a very satisfying breakfast.
  • My dog is awesome.
  • My cat was not licking the soap this morning.
  • My choice to buy a strawberry croissant was awesome (if ultimately ineffective at combating pregnancy exhaustion).
  • All of my meetings with people who work in my library were pretty great in terms of their attitudes, work, and progress on interesting stuff.
  • My husband took me out to lunch because my stress levels weren’t really appropriate for anyone and maybe some Pad Thai will help?
  • It helped.
  • Malcolm could not thwart the zip ties.
  • I had the opportunity to stand up for one of my employees when a vendor was being a whiny shithead.
  • I actually got my response from the hotel vendor dude after I got in his face about the late thing.
  • The librarian at another SUNY upon whom I was counting to step up and take over some abandoned responsibilities so I don’t have to (because I can’t, because 6 months pregnant) has done so, graciously.
  • I can maybe see the light at the end of this tunnel.
  • I’ve decided to burn a few hours of sick time and go home and take a nap.

Bad and good. Good and bad. Life goes on.

dreamstuff, food, misc, The Tiniest Capen

I woke up at 6:30, having had terrible, vivid, and aggressive dreams about teeth and Dorothy and housekeeping and ugh don’t try to make sense of pregnancy dreams. And then I had some grand round ligament pains, so I gave up on sleeping and finished my book instead. Eventually, the dog woke up and noticed I was awake, and climbed up on the bed with me and cuddled in between me and Justin. When I woke Justin around 9:30, Mal decided it was pee time. PEE TIME NOW. Yes, dogface, I get it, but I need pants and shoes first, so be patient. He has this great calmly bouncy thing he does where he’s super excited to GO GO NOW LETS GO, but he’s never aggressive or noisy about it. So, after finding pants and shoes and a collar and leash, off we went and I took Malcolm for his walk this morning. How nice is it to have a reason to just go outside and walk the yard for 10 minutes? Walking with this big bouncy gentle giant makes me wish we had land. I’d have gone further and longer if there was more than a yard and a softball field to choose from.

Justin requested that I make french toast, so, clearly, I did. I never turn down an easy and earnest request. But, as usual, I made it by eye. 3 eggs, some milk, some cinnamon, a splash of almond extract, and the rest of the loaf of bread on the counter. I wondered, as I always do, if this is the time I’d mess it up somehow. (Nope.) Laid out a slab of bacon on racks in a baking sheet, and turned the oven on. By the time the french toast was done, we had perfect bacon. While we ate, him in a lake of maple syrup, and me with cinnamon sugar on one half and cherry preserves on the other, I said, “I want to make Swedish pancakes soon, too. I have my dad’s recipe somewhere.” He smiled, said ok, then, “I don’t actually know what you’re talking about.” Having grown up in the Rockford area, home of Swedes and Italians, my mind boggled for a moment. I guess I know what’s on our agenda next time we visit the family.

Later, I was telling a few brief Aunt Hilda stories (RIP, Hilda Ricci Borri) and I called her a force of nature. Again, he smiled at me and said, “you had strong female role models? You?” And I laughed. You think? They were an amazing bunch of women, the Ricci sisters. They taught us how to be family, and so much more.

And so my little family is enjoying a lovely lazy Saturday, complete with French toast and maybe a nap on the couch. Life’s grand.


insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen

Today on the airplane I tried to get my laptop from under the seat in front of me and actually couldn’t bend at an acute enough angle to put my fingers on the floor. As up to this point in my life I’ve always been Mistress Bendypants, this was … stunning. Baffling. Annoying.

At dinner all I wanted was a damned beer to go with my giant feast of fried seafood and southern sides.

Walking the half mile back from dinner, I got a cramp in my lower abs like I’ve never felt before — it stopped when I went into Williams-Sonoma to stand more still and look at cooking porn (all that Le Creuset in one place!), but as soon as I started walking, it came back. I just powered through to the hotel.

Lying on my hotel room bed, editing tomorrow’s talk, my laptop keeps bouncing. Seems the Tiniest Capen doesn’t like having my uterus compressed, and is fighting back. This is apparently an imposition… on both of us.

But none of that takes away from my joy. It’s just an adjustment.** It’s totally interesting. I’m enjoying the process, and what it demands of me, and how I’m adapting to meet those needs. It’s like a science experiment with my life.

It’s pretty damned cool.

**And, please, yes, I KNOW that the adjustments only keep coming from here. I intend to enjoy and learn from those as well. Continuing to comment on the fact that IT ONLY GETS WORSE FROM HERE makes me feel like I’m being lectured.

#mightyifitkillsme, The Tiniest Capen

Interestingly, no matter how many challenges I remark upon in my recent/current life, people latch onto one: weight gain and pregnancy.

The overwhelming majority of opinions that I get shoved at me say the same thing: Don’t worry about how much you gain, you’re doing what your body needs to do, and you can lose any extra later. Yay babies!

I know — truly know — that those wishes come from a place of concern and affection and belief. And if my main concern were that I “look fat” now or later, I’d take them to heart. That’s not my concern. Let me be bluntly open about this.

I spent the last four years working to control chronic pain, muscle fatigue, muscle spasm, and joint problems caused by a combination of my hypermobility, my weight, and my approach to physical activity. I spent the last four years weaning myself off of daily painkillers, twice weekly physical therapy, and weekly therapeutic massages. I spent the last four years dreading the moment when I accidentally let my physical symptoms get out of control and I’d end up in bed for 36 hours, drugging myself to sleep and crying through a trigger point migraine brought on by muscles spasming in my back and neck. I spent the last four years figuring out what my maximum possible weight was in order to allow me to be as active as I must be in order to control that pain, figuring out what kind of core strength I needed in order to have the stability my joints require, and figuring out how to live so that I don’t live in pain. I spent the last four years playing with the #mightyifitkillsme tag on my posts and tweets not because I want to look great, but because I need to be healthy and functional.

Coupled with appropriate diagnosis and treatment for long-un-realized asthma, it’s been a goddamn triumph. Those four years of learning, trying, working, and pain paid off. I don’t hoard the occasionally-granted scrip for Vicodin anymore. I don’t need muscle relaxers anymore. I don’t take anti-inflammatories daily. I actually started *running* for the first time, ever.

And now I’m pregnant, which is another triumph. If you’ve talked to me, you know I’m thrilled. We’re thrilled. But the problem is that I’m gaining weight, and exercising is harder, and my core muscles are being abused by the changes my body is undergoing. And my truth is that controlling my weight and committing to exercise and establishing and maintaining core strength are a key part of my ability to control my pain.

So my pain is coming back. Plain and simple. I don’t want it to be true, but it is, and I can’t ignore it anymore or I’m going to be a wreck by February. Today I have a screaming headache, my shoulder hurts and is rolling forward, and I can feel the pinch in my traps that I immediately recognize is the precursor to something worse. Why? Because I’m heavier, and so my muscles and joints have to work harder to carry around my mass. Because I’ve been exercising less, because I’m so damn tired all the time, and so I’m losing muscle tone. Because my abs are stretching and opening for the baby, as they should, and so I’m losing core stability.

All of that is hard on me. And none of that is about “looking fat”.

I can control parts of it. I really can. I need to give up some of my¬† hobby and relaxation activities so that I can exercise more despite my need to sleep more. Exercise can’t be the part that gives, unfortunately for my desire to finish watching Elementary with Justin. And I can eat better; in my generalized physical discomfort of the first and early second trimester, I was eating whatever sounded edible, because really, I needed to eat something, and if I could manage to eat it, great. Let’s do that. And I truly was craving simple carbs and fat. So I switched off my protein-and-veg diet and made a bunch of batches of cheesy potatoes and mac and cheese, and loved every bite. And as my body does with calories it doesn’t actually need, it turned them into fat, and I’m gaining weight. And I can feel every pound when I walk. In my toes, my ankles, my knees, my hips, my shoulders, and my neck. I can identify every arthritic spot in my body today.

And it hurts. Physically.

So I know that you’re all telling me that weight gain is okay, it’s a natural part of pregnancy, and I’ll be fine. And in the long run, you’re totally right. I will gain weight, as I should, and it will be okay. But when you offer me those platitudes, they feel empty. Because they don’t acknowledge that while yes, I’ll be okay, I’m healthy, and the baby’s healthy, I’m also causing myself pain and suffering right now, and in the near future. I’m causing it because I could do this differently. I need to do this differently. And it’s not about whether or not I “feel fat”. It’s about my health. It’s about pain. It’s about me, and my needs, and the fact that those matter, too.

The Tiniest Capen

So, at week 20 I’m firmly past reading about What Pregnancy Is Like and into reading about What Birth May Be Like (which will be followed by What An Infant Is Like). Not surprisingly, a friend of mine who’s a few months ahead of me is talking online about birth plans. She and I have a similar perspective on the women who freak out when birth doesn’t go as planned. I just don’t understand it.

I do understand wanting it to go a certain way: we all have medical wishes, desires for our own experience, demands about our own autonomy, expectations of respect and care, and reasonable requirements for what we’ll consider a “successful” birth. But when I hear that people are deeply depressed because it didn’t go as planned… I wonder. I wonder what they thought they were in control of.

I’m not in control of when the baby comes.

I’m not in control of how long early labor lasts.

Or when my water breaks.

Or when transition hits.

Or when it’s time to push.

Or for how long.

Or if it works or doesn’t work.

Or if the baby gets stuck somewhere in the process.

Or if I need a c-section.

Or if there are other unexpected complications that require medical intervention.

I can be in control of how I approach all those potentialities, and my own learning, and my own desires and education, and my conversations with my doctor and my husband, and our approach to induction and pain management and specific requests about procedures, and the choices I make at the hospital. I cannot control how the circumstances play out. There’s a baby and a whole lot of biology involved, and I don’t control those.

All we can choose is how we react to what life throws at us — before, during, and after.