Saturday, March 27, 2010

Distracting myself

I'm having a lot of contractions today. Now, I have a lot of contractions as a general thing ... for the past few days they've been every 15 minutes pretty much all the time. Maybe that means I'm making progress -- but maybe I've just been under a ton of stress and been on my feet a lot.

In any event, my pregnancy book says that it's a bad idea to focus too much on the contractions, trying to figure out if they're "the real thing" or not. Instead, I should distract myself by continuing on with my daily activities. My usual Saturday activities include taking a long bath and napping, but I already finished those. Then I sorted baby clothes and baked garlic knots. (Delicious! It's just pizza crust in a knot shape, with garlic.) The baking was not as unstressful as I meant it to be ... the fire alarm kept going off, which had me running around waving a dishtowel at it, because there seems to be no override button on this one. (We have three horribly sensitive fire alarms, plus an oven that manages to make smoke out of nothing.)

Anyway, what with the contractions and all the running around, my back is killing me, so I'm trying for something a little more sedentary. Besides, I have been neglecting you lately, dear readers -- seeing as blogging in my head on the way to work doesn't count.

My state of mind keeps changing. I've been so anxious and excited for awhile ... just counting down the days till school ends, and then till the baby's due date. Wanting time to pass faster so I can get to the good stuff. Then I hit 37 weeks -- the magic number when the baby is considered "full term" -- and began to feel more hesitant. After all, life is going to change pretty drastically. John and I are not going to have the time or freedom we had before ... will this mean less time for us? Plus, I do (despite all my complaining) kind of like my job, and very much like the kids. I won't get to see them anymore once I'm done. I even like some things about pregnancy -- mostly just the kicks. I love feeling baby kick. I realize I'm going to miss this time ... I shouldn't be wishing it behind me.

So, I had a day or so of perfect contentment. "Baby can come whenever," I said to myself. "I'll just enjoy my time till then."

Then the next day at school was perfectly awful, and I found myself counting the hours till I could be out of there. I couldn't imagine why I thought I could ever miss the kids -- they were HORRIBLE! Plus I was exhausted -- I went three days running with very little sleep, because I kept waking up at night and not being able to go back to sleep. I wanted to be done with work, and done being pregnant too. "At least," I reasoned, "I would be awake at night for a good reason."

Well, my last "real" work days are behind me now. Next week I proctor their standardized tests for three days. Hope we can handle it! Personally I think they're quite unnecessary at this age, and overstress the kids, but on the other hand the questions themselves are really easy. And then, Wednesday at noon, I am completely done, save for a promise to "come back and show them the baby if I can."

So, I should be back in my state of holy indifference, right? Well, no. There's been other news -- good news. John got the job he's been trying for. He applied back in January, and we thought we'd never hear back. But they finally did get back to him, give him a phone interview, and then make him an offer very soon after!

The job is in Washington, D.C. This jives well with our dream to live in Virginia, at least "for the time being," because it is a nicer place to raise kids in than Philadelphia (most places are) and we have lots of friends there. It is for a company that contracts for the government. And it's one of the few, rare jobs open to someone with library experience who doesn't yet have a masters in library science. Basically, it's just cataloguing -- turning a vast card catalog into digital records. John has three years of experience with this from back in college, and he really enjoys the work (which would probably drive me bats -- but to each his own).

This job allows us to fulfill all our dreams, like remaining financially solvent and not going on welfare. Though it doesn't pay what we both made together this year, it comes fairly close. And it pays much better than the bank does -- while giving him weekends off, something he hasn't had in six months. It also makes it possible for us to afford John's grad school, if he manages to get into it. He wants to do an online program to get his masters in library science and be a real librarian. This has been a dream for awhile, but he began the application process without knowing if he would be able to pay for it. We should find out in another month and a half or so if he gets in.

So, tons of happiness and joy -- but one catch, where it affects my peace of mind and contentment. They want him there starting April 19th. Baby is due April 16th. If baby is born on time, all is well. If necessary, John will go down there during the week and come back on weekends until we manage to get packed up and move. But if baby is late for his appointment to meet the world, we risk my going into labor without my husband there. I do not want this at ALL. So I'm back to worrying about how long this is going to take, counting days, counting contractions, and giving baby little pep talks about how nice it is out here and how he is grounded for life if he shows up late.

There's also a bit of sadness about going. In the past couple of weeks, I have had two very touching baby showers, one from our choir and one from the moms at school. I'm realizing how much I have been welcomed by the people here, even though they aren't always very expressive of it. It is sad to say goodbye. I'm glad Virginia is not so far away we won't be able to come back. I know it won't be often -- seeing as we wanted to visit Virginia often while we've lived up here, and barely did at all -- but I'm hoping we can come once in awhile and sing with our choir.

So, is it any wonder that all I want to do is count contractions?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Should Wives Work?

I wrote a long post about this topic in a notepad file. I'd written about 1,000 words and it looked hopeful that I might get to the point someday when my computer crashed trying to watch a Netflix movie. Ah well. Back to the drawing board -- and perhaps I can stop the rambling on other topics (such as women's role in the military or what femininity really is) and just answer the question for myself.

I have heard it said recently, on a few blogs belonging to Protestant housewives, that wives should not work. Period, end of discussion. If you're a woman and married, you are undermining your husband if you work outside the home. It is his role to go out and earn a living, and yours to stay home. If you are terribly bored at home, they suggest crafting or volunteering. And if your husband is unemployed, they suggest "putting extra effort into being frugal" as your contribution.

I'm sorry, I just don't buy that one. If you are married with no children, I don't see anything important enough going on at home all day that you have to be there. The housekeeping and chores do take time -- but not all your time. And I think that a man can be a provider even if you are bringing home a paycheck too.

Now, I have to add a caveat. I have discovered (firsthand) that a man does not like to be unable to take care of all the family's monetary needs himself. He may feel guilty or inadequate. There's also the concern that the couple will have children and the second income may disappear -- the man is going to want to be ready for this by taking care of the bare minimum of expenses himself. However, a woman's salary could go toward paying down debt, getting through a rough patch, or saving for something important (like a house). Not to mention that having the man's salary cover all expenses is just not an option for many families. It would be nice, but it can't always be done.

For a childless couple, whether the wife should work, and how much, is a judgment call. First, how much does she want to work? Does she have a strong pull to some career or other? Second, does the family need her to work? If it does, she'd better do it, even if she doesn't want to. It makes me angry to hear of women who happily sit at home, spending hubby's money on luxuries, while the husband is struggling to make enough for each month. In an emergency, we pull out all the stops and do what we don't want to. Just because you're a woman doesn't mean you get out of this.

Now, taking care of a home, even for just two people, can be a bit more work than is easily done in the evenings. Part-time work may be a good option. I know I really like that I get home at 4:15 (usually) so that I can get dinner on. (Can being the operative word! Some days I admit to just settling for sandwiches.) Personally, I'm not much in favor of working more than you have to, because I think the truly important things in life happen at home. But some people are very fulfilled by having busy lives, so to each his or her own.

What goes above for childless couples is the philosophy I've followed myself. I planned to work after we got married, even when it looked like we were going to be all right without it, so that we could pay off our loans. Also, I wanted to continue to use my skills and contribute to the world a bit more while I had little else to do. I didn't really want to sit in an apartment by myself all day, waiting for John to get home. And I knew I wouldn't actually finish my novel if I was home all day ... I would probably just surf the internet and make fancy dinners. It didn't seem quite fair to me. When John's job turned out not to be paying all our expenses, I was very glad that I'd made plans to work already. We have, so far, had plenty to live on, and the only reason we are so painfully frugal is because we're saving for the (very uncertain) future.

My objection to women in the workplace comes up when kids enter the picture. I told John long before we were married -- perhaps long before he was even remotely interested in me -- that I intended to stay home with my children. I have been a nanny, a teacher, and a daycare worker. I know firsthand that kids simply don't get what they need from substitutes. They learn, from an early age, to play their different "care providers" against one another. They lie. They have emotional breakdowns. They feel lonely. They have separation anxiety, which is considered "normal," but which I don't think kids should have to suffer. And, sadly, the parents often don't realize any of this. I decided, while working these jobs, that I could only see myself using daycare if I ended up a single mother somehow. As long as my kids had two parents, one of us was going to be staying home and taking care of them.

Why should that person be the mother? Well, John says mothers are better at it. Mothers have a special ability to empathize, to multitask, and so forth. I am not sure this is universally true, but in my experience, the moms do generally do it a little better. When the mom works, usually she takes over the minute she walks on the door. Not to mention the really practical considerations -- during pregnancy, and when children are very young, it's extra hard for the mom to be outside the home. Believe me, I know! Nursing mothers have an especially rough time ... and we all know (I hope) that nursing is better for the baby. It sort of makes sense for the person with the equipment to be the one who's around all day.

Now, we don't all have ideal situations. I think kids do better with Mom around all day long. But, what if Dad's income isn't enough? What if Mom has a PhD and Dad has a high school diploma? Well, we make the best solutions we can. Dad staying home and Mom working is an option -- one that gets better the older the kids are. And in a tough situation, the parents can work different shifts -- like the dad works normal days and the mom has a part-time weekend job. Then at least there is someone at home with the kids. That means there is less time to be together as a family ... the couple doesn't get a lot of couple time. It's always going to be a trade-off when you have several full-time jobs (raising the children counts as a whole one) going on in the same house.

However, I still believe strongly that the parents should be the ones who take care of their children. I also think that society should make it possible for the mother to stay at home full-time and care for her children. We should stop expecting all families to be two-income households. Now, I don't have a solution for how to undo an economy based on two wage-earners per family. But I would like one. Just today I read an article about how the poor are likely to be obese, in part because they don't have time to shop for or cook healthy food. And we all know that lower-income children have more behavior and learning problems. What if we could give them all their mothers back, letting them be in the home full-time to cook them healthy food, to help them with their schoolwork, to keep them out of trouble? Well, it's a bigger problem than I can fix. It would require higher wages, an end to divorce and unwed pregnancy, and a sense responsibility among the dads.

Meanwhile, I can at least arrange my own life according to my philosophy. John agreed with me that I should quit work when I have the baby. (This decision is made easier by the fact that a. the school year is ending, and b. I don't make enough to pay for daycare and do much more than break even.) Unfortunately, we don't have a solid plan for how we're going to make that happen, but we're working on it. One way or another, we're going to make it work. We have savings enough for the summer, more or less. John has many "sticks in the fire" in terms of applications for different jobs. And, if all else fails, I'll follow my own suggestion of taking up a part-time job during John's off-hours. I have experience nannying and tutoring. (It is even theoretically possible to do these with a baby, if necessary.) I have a couple of ways I could try making some income from home.

Okay, that did go long. But at least it mentioned the point. The summary: Wives without children should work if necessary or if they want to. Wives with children should stay home with those children, if possible. Someone must stay home with the children in any event. Real life is far from ideal, but we do the best we can, keeping the good of the children at the forefront, even if it entails sacrifice.

How's that for an answer?

In other news, I feel huge. I am due in four and a half weeks. Pray for baby and me!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Counting down the days...

The baby is due in 40 days. John is convinced we won't have to wait that long. I partly hope he's right -- I just hope it's not too soon. When I told the doctor how many contractions I was having, he said, "Uh-oh, don't do that, the baby is too little to come out yet!" (His prescription of plenty of water and a rest when I get them seems to be working fine ... no worries!)

Part of me is convinced I'm in a final countdown. I have a limited number of days; isn't there something I should be doing? I should get the last baby shopping done -- I had better do all the things I won't be able to do with a baby -- but what do I want to do that I can't do with a baby? That baking project, I guess. It'll be awhile before I get to that, if I don't do it now. And I ought to spend time with my husband -- but that's the problem: I don't have much time these days to spend with my husband. For that matter, I don't have much time or energy to bake bread, either. It makes me hope the baby lets me have those two weeks between my last day at work and my due date. On the other hand, though, I would much rather be holding a baby right now than baking bread anyway.

The other part of me is telling the first part to calm down. "You have six weeks to wait! Don't get all excited now. Take things one day at a time -- there is a lot of time between then and now." The problem is that I don't know whether this is true or not. Babies come when they're ready, not when we are or when we predict them. I might have only three weeks. I might have eight (I hope not!). This is harder than counting down for my wedding day was!

Then there's the mixture of excitement and fear when it comes to the actual fact of having this baby. I imagine holding the baby for the first time, looking into its eyes, seeing its little fingers, and so forth, and I am so excited. I simply can't wait. I really really want to get to this! On the other hand, one doesn't just show up to the hospital and get handed a baby. It's rather more difficult than that, and it will be a challenge completely unlike any that I have faced before. I find myself wondering how I will handle it. Will I have the natural birth I dream of, or will I find myself screaming for an epidural after half an hour? And then, of course, there's the possibility of something going wrong. A little bit wrong -- what if they don't let me hold the baby right away? Or a lot wrong -- what if I have to have a c-section? I would really rather not. Or the worst -- severe sickness, death. I try not to think about these things. Instead I remind myself frequently that God will give me the strength to bear the crosses He actually gives me -- until the crosses and the strength are both given to me, I am only going to frighten myself by thinking of them.

Overall, I'm doing very well. I'm tired, but not that level of wiped-out exhaustion I had a month ago. When moms at school ask me how I'm feeling, I don't feel like it's lie or give a laundry list of complaints. I just say, "Well, I can't wait, but I'm holding up so far!" And I feel much better emotionally than I did awhile ago too. I think the sunshine is helping, as I knew it would. Back pain is holding more or less steady -- perhaps a little worse in the mornings, but I am staying off my feet better. Contractions are uncomfortable but not unbearable. And I have no other symptoms most of the time.

I am finding a fault in myself, however. In the past, I always thought of myself as a pretty sympathetic person. Now, I have this attitude of "No one could possibly be suffering as much as me," and I tend to have no sympathy for the problems of others. John has a cold right now, and I find I actually resent him for daring to be sick -- like it's MY prerogative to have physical issues, and he really ought to be focused on those. It doesn't help that it has been a long time since I've had a cold and I don't really remember what it's like. And if he comes home from work and says his back hurts, I find myself wanting to say, "Yeah, well, mine hurt when I left for work. Hurts a lot more now!" Or when the kids hold up a bloody knee or a paper cut and say that they can't do what I ask because it hurts "so much," I want to sneer at them and say, "Look, this job isn't exactly a piece of cake for me right now either!" I really need to remember that the things I go through are not unique -- that other people have backaches and heartburn too, and that seven-year-olds have a much lower pain threshold than I have. No one made me the center of the universe just because I'm having a baby! So, I need to work on this.

The center of my universe, though, is the baby. Seems like a dozen times a day, John asks what I'm thinking about. "The baby." "The baby." "Labor." "The baby." "Baby clothes." "I wonder when this baby will be born." I just can't seem to focus on anything else! It's just baby, baby, baby, all the time. I am utterly obsessed. I do research constantly on pregnancy, labor, and infancy, not because there is anything particular I want to know, but because it's the only thing that holds my interest. And I pretty much guarantee I'll be worse about it once I have an actual baby to look at all day. It'll be "the baby did this today," "the baby did that," "the baby weighs this many pounds," "shall I put this onesie or that one on the baby?" And then baby pictures, if ever I manage to put down the baby to pick up a camera. I am in love with this kid now, how's it going to be when it's actually here?
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