My parental leave at my day job started last week. Waffle’s two weeks time off officially started this past weekend. Now we’re just waiting for Baby T. Rex and finishing up some household projects and doing chores and running errands and relaxing. The relaxing is the hard part.
My due date is this Saturday, August 20th. We’d love for Remi to come any time now. They’re pretty much fully cooked and we’re ready (or as close to ready as you can be). First time babies are more likely to come late than early, so we may have quite a while to wait, but then again, one-to-two weeks is…not that far in the future.
I’m feeling a bit wistful and nostalgic as I realize this is our last childfree time together as a couple. In the future, we may take grown-up only dates and vacations, but we’ll always be parents from here on out. Our family of two will be a family of three.
Every time we do something, it feels meaningful. Our last childfree grocery shopping trip. Our last childfree walk down by Ontario beach. Our last childfree 1:00 AM Taco Bell run. Our last childfree fill-up at the gas station. Our last childfree movie night. Our last childfree change of our bedsheets. The cat’s last nail trim. I’m snacking on hummus right now and it could be my last childfree hummus snack.
Every time I’ve spent time with my friends and family over the past month, it’s probably been the last time I’ll see them before we have Remi. I feel like I have to hug everyone and tell them I’ll see them on the other side.
It feels like that, like we’re standing behind a maroon velvet curtain on opening night and everything is about to begin as soon as the rope is pulled. Everything is building to this moment. The lights will go up and this new scene that we’ve practiced for but never performed live will begin.
We’ll walk on-stage, step into the light, and become different people. Just like that.
However, it doesn’t feel like our life before Remi was lacking or less-than or “backstage.” There’s also a feeling of sadness, of saying goodbye to our lovely life before parenthood. I’d always imagined myself being childfree forever. Waffle hadn’t thought about kids for quite a while, since he committed to being with me.
We’ve had a really rich 11 years, some excruciatingly awful times and some extraordinarily beautiful times. We’re only in our thirties, but it feels like we’ve grown through several life stages with each other already. We have. From messy (emotionally and physically) college undergraduates to gainfully employed grown-ups, from protesting George W. Bush’s second inauguration to rooting for Hillary Clinton, from my college dorm room to owning a four-bedroom house. We’ve had two cats, five rats, three guinea pigs, and two bunnies as housemates and companions.
We had the years of reckless and insatiable lust, the years of emotionally abusive fighting and breaking up and immaturity, the years of regrounding and redefining ourselves as individuals, the long stretch between then and now of deep friendship and affection and healthy communication and loving support. A decade isn’t that long, but between your 20’s and 30’s, it can feel like forever.
We’ve worked hard and we’ve been lucky and we’ve benefited from middle-class privilege that allowed us to get to where we are today. These last few years, especially, we’ve finally been able to rise slightly above living paycheck-to-paycheck. We’ve been able to have grown-up experiences together, like our shared obsession with immersive theater and the money and time spent on travel and tickets to see as much of it as we can afford. We aren’t rich and we’re still frugal, but we’re definitely not struggling.
We’ve been able to do a lot as a couple, had a lot of time to figure out who we are as individuals and as a two-person family, and the privilege of relative economic security to nurture all of that. I think because of that, we’re ready to nurture this new (and also expensive) thing called Baby T. Rex.
The biggest difference between being in a relationship and being a parent is that your first priority becomes someone else. In a relationship, ideally, you’re still prioritizing yourself. You may choose to care for and put the needs of your partner(s) or relationship over your own needs sometimes, but in a healthy relationship, you’re still your own #1, your own ride-or-die. When it comes down to it, you have to love yourself first so you can love your partner(s). And you can always leave. You can always walk out the door if your needs aren’t being met in your relationship anymore.
As a parent, you are committing to care for another person in a way that is, honestly, much more intense than a romantic partner. If things get tough (and they probably will), you’re still a part of your child’s life and family. You don’t get to leave. To me, that’s an unbreakable bond. I know that’s not always how it is. I know parents don’t always support their children or put their children’s needs first. I know a lot of children have to walk away from toxic parents. But I don’t want to be like that. I see this as a lifelong commitment, no matter what. I’ve never made a commitment like this to anyone before. As a commitment-phobe, it’s a little terrifying to think about.
Still, I think there’s a difference between putting your child’s needs first and putting yourself last. I don’t plan to put my whole life outside of parenthood on hold. I want to include and prioritize Remi in my life, not make them my whole life. I think that is part of being a parent, too, modeling a healthy sense of self-worth and making time for myself and for Waffle and me as a couple so that we’re the best parents we can be to Baby T.
Of course, the first few weeks and months are going to be fiercely overwhelming and Remi will be, to a large extent, the alpha and omega of my life. Between caring for them and trying to adjust to a post-baby life and squeezing in sleep, it’s going to be Baby T. Rex time all the time.
As they get older, I’m sure we’ll want to do more things that are family friendly and allocate our time and funds towards things that benefit Baby T. Squeezing in a date night or couple-only time will be less frequent. However, Waffle and I both want to still do things and have things in common as a couple so that our whole relationship doesn’t become solely about Remi. That would be a big burden to put on a kid and a great way to lose touch with each other as friends and partners.
For now, right now, everything kind of is about Baby T. Rex. Every day when we wake up, we think, “This could be our last childfree day.” We’re trying to enjoy it, but we can’t help but be anxious for Remi to get born already. We’re here. We’re waiting. We’re ready to welcome Remi into our arms and get this show started.
8 Random Baby-Making Things I’m Currently Over-Processing
1. Consensual Poking
One of my midwives suggested acupuncture as a way to get my body prepped and open for labor. I’d never received acupuncture before. I’m not particularly opposed to it, I just hadn’t had the need or made the time.
There’s a lovely little community acupuncture place near me that’s part of a national movement of acupuncture groups dedicated to providing affordable care in a group setting. There’s a sliding scale that allows almost anyone to enjoy care regardless of financial means.
It’s not as weird as it may sound. You receive treatment in a large, open, comfortable room where other people are also receiving treatment. Cell phones and talking is banned. Dim lights and peaceful music and soundscapes and large, comfy chairs make it a very peaceful and intimate environment, even though a stranger with needles in their arms and forehead is snoozing right next to you. The practitioner was very gentle and thoughtful about explaining everything she was doing since it was my first time.
Did it help open my oxytocin receptors? I don’t know. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being a total skeptic and 10 being a total believer, I’m about a 6 on natural medicine and health care. I can say it was enjoyable and I might go back again this week. It put me into a nice, deep sleep and I woke gently after about an hour, feeling refreshed. I don’t know that it helped augment my transition into labor, but it was a spectacular nap.
2. Hatching a Birth Plan
Our birth plan is finally on paper! It’s pretty straightforward stuff and only one page.
The largest section is dedicated to ensuring our birth team knows Waffle isn’t going to be called “mom” and trying to let them know that she/her and he/him pronouns are both appropriate without making a big deal out of it. Or inviting awkward questions we don’t want to deal with while I’m in labor.
Our doula read it over and assured us it wasn’t written in a rude way. The first draft was admittedly kind of bitchy. We just really don’t want people bugging Waffle with inappropriate questions while we’re focusing on delivering a human baby through my cervix and into the world!
We kept in the part that was like, “Please ask questions about how to refer to Waffle if you have them, but don’t ask questions about Waffle’s gender identity, transition status, health history, or anything not pertinent to our birth process.” KTHX.
3. Waffle’s Latest Obsessions: Board Books and Football Jerseys
Waffle has moved on to amassing cool board books and New York Giants baby gear. I’m totally on board with the board books. I’m a word nerd and all about a huge library for Remi and reading to them every damn day.
I honestly could care less about the American football stuff, in general. Technically, I grew up in a Buffalo Bills family, but I transitioned to the Giants for Waffle because…because I just don’t care all that much.
The Giants preseason just started and Waffle can’t wait to watch fall games with Remi. He’s hoping to indoctrinate them to be a Giants fan from Day One.
4. Searching for a Friendly Pediatrician
On the list of things to do since the last column was finding a pediatrician. We couldn’t find anyone who specifically advertised LGBTQ-inclusive pediatrics in our city, nor did any of our friends have recommendations specific to LGBTQ-inclusivity, so we just picked a place near us that was accepting new patients and crossed our fingers.
Waffle actually got called in to work the evening of our prenatal appointment, so I went by myself. After we went over the basics like hours, staffing, afterhours care, etc., I took a deep breath and asked the question. “Do you have experience with LGBTQ families?”
The doctor quickly replied that they do and that they have many LGBT patients and parents, as well as staff. I was relieved, but still unsure if “LGBT” really meant “lesbian and gay” or if they really did understand bi and trans health and families, too. Before I could ask, she brought up that their staff had all recently attended a training on transgender identity and healthcare issues. OK, good sign!
I brought up that Remi will call Waffle “dad” and Remi will know him by a different name than his legal name (though he’s also fine with using his legal name). I was trying to get through it as quickly as possible, as this part of the conversation is often confusing for people and I just want to get to the part where it’s like, “Here are the names and pronouns Waffle uses. Everything is cool.” It’s also awkward to have this convo when Waffle isn’t around to speak for himself, but this was something he wanted me to cover at the prenatal appointment and he couldn’t be there.
About two minutes into my cautious ramble, the doctor chimed in, “So he’s genderfluid?” and I was like, “Yes! Similar to that!” and it was a huge relief that she even knew the word genderfluid and was comfortable with the concept of non-binary people. She wrote in both of Waffle’s first names and pronouns at the top of our intake form. Then I asked if they treat trans youth and she said they do and are supportive of things like puberty blockers. It was set!
Hopefully, we like the practice once we start going there regularly, but I’m feeling optimistic. I left feeling like 2016 is a pretty great time to be a queer parent.
5. A Baby Book for Your Lil’ Queer Family
This baby book from BabyStepsBook that Waffle bought for Remi is pretty great at being inclusive. The cool thing about the designer who created and makes these books is that you can customize them for your family. You can get two mom pages or two dad pages or one page for a single parent. You can get pages for additional parents if you have more than two parents in your family. You can have the parent page customized to say “baba” or something gender neutral or whatever your kid will call you.
You can add pages for a donor or for adoption or IVF or a surrogate. You can order extra pages for pets and for human siblings. You can custom order pages for pretty much anything.
It’s not cheap because each book is handmade by the designer, but it’s great to find something that works for lots of different families and parents. Waffle is unofficially in charge of filling it out. We started putting pictures of us and the pets in this past weekend.
6. Things I’ve Googled in the Past Week:
- too much amniotic fluid complications
- what is normal amniotic fluid level
- oxytocin acupuncture labor
- natural breastfeeding
- too much amniotic fluid natural birth
- tea tree oil safe third trimester
- nightshade free pasta sauce
- nightshade free salsa
7. No (Night)Shade
So I, uh, have actually never written about this or even talked about it publicly before, but here goes! I have a skin/autoimmune (maybe? science is unclear) disease called hidradenitis suppurativa. I’ve had it since I was 12.
Basically, I’m very prone to boil-like abscesses and infections around apocrine sweat gland-bearing areas like my underarms and groin. Sometimes it’s extremely painful and it’s definitely embarrassing. I have a lot of scars from it and almost always have an active infection. Luckily, my partners over the years have been really understanding. It’s not contagious and it’s not a sexually transmitted infection. It’s just something that’s always made me feel really unsexy in my otherwise fairly positive relationship with my body. And it can be excruciatingly painful. At times, I have abscesses as large as a golf ball that make it difficult to walk or sit.
It’s not something I like to talk about and I mainly just deal with it on my own. Dermatologists don’t know a lot about it and there’s very little research on it. It’s chronic and uncurable. Doctors will typically just help you deal with the symptoms by prescribing antibiotics or surgery in serious cases. Neither of those things interest me. I’ve learned to manage it on my own, using natural remedies like tea tree oil, witch hazel, and drawing salve, as well as heat therapy, etc. Most people with HS deal with it on their own and share info with each other online.
Since I got knocked up, my inflammations have been out of control. It got so bad that I made a radical decision. I’d known for a few years that a good number of other people with HS have had success with elimination diets. One of the common triggers seemed to be nightshade vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers. If you know anything about me, you know I LOVE HOT SAUCE and hot things, in general. I’m Korean, it’s in my blood! But I didn’t want to be in labor with a golf ball size lesion on my down-theres.
So I cut our nightshades and, well, I’ve never had a remission be so fast or last this long. I’m happy it worked, but SUPER SAD about peppers. I seem to be more sensitive to tomatoes than peppers, so once I’m fully healed post-partum, I’m going to experiment with adding peppers back in, but I think I’m off tomatoes forever. Sorry to the whole Italian side of my family!
8. Super Bonus Third Tri Ultrasound
We had a bit of a scare late last week when our midwife was concerned I had too much amniotic fluid around Baby T. I was sent for an ultrasound the next day. She assured us we shouldn’t worry until we knew more. Of course, we worried. I mean, we tried not to, but it’s hard to resist the temptation of Google and that was a very bad idea.
What if I have to be induced? What if I can’t labor at home? What if we have to have a c-section? None of those things are off the table, if necessary, but I started feeling anxious that this delivery might be more stressful than I’d hoped.
Luckily, everything was fine and we got a bonus sneak peek at Remi. I admittedly still think ultrasound pictures all look the same (Am I a horrible person?), but Waffle just about died from love and joy looking at little Remi and their little hands.
I apparently don’t have extra fluid and Remi is weighing in under seven pounds. Maybe I was just bloated that day? Sometimes I think maybe the midwives don’t realize I have a nice amount of belly fluff just from being me. I’ve always carried my belly out front, so my tummy was rounded before we even put a baby in me. Either way, we’re relieved everything is cool and proceeding as planned.
One week to go! Any time now, Baby T. Rex. Seriously, now would be good, even. ANY. TIME. We’re all waiting for you!