Monday 9 December 2019

A Very Full Fall

And here we are, just like that, at the end of another semester. This semester has required more discipline and focus than in years past because with a little baby around every moment is precious! I want to be sure to not waste time that I could be spending with him, but I also want to do my work well and be totally focused on that when I'm working. This balance is tricky to strike and some days are better than others. I am glad to have made it to the end of the semester! I have about three more days worth of grading to do, and I plan to have my students' final grades submitted by the end of the week.

Baby Cohen Matthew was born on September 27th, 2019, but he was due on September 18th. I had things ready to go for my online classes until week eight of the semester by the 18th, but when he took his time making his appearance, I used that last week to work ahead and get my classes fully set up until week twelve of the semester. I took my maternity leave from Monday, September 23rd to Wednesday, October 23rd. During that time I answered some emails and calls, but I primarily let my wonderful TA and colleagues take the majority of the questions, student help, and grading responsibilities. I'm so grateful to them for doing so and to my students for understanding the circumstances. I'm also very grateful to my mom who watches the baby for four hours every morning so that I can have uninterrupted work time, and I'm grateful for a baby who likes to take naps in the afternoon... except right now, apparently. We have had some fun this fall including Wade running a half-marathon for World Vision in the Madison Marathon, hosting visiting friends and then family for Thanksgiving, and taking Cohen on his first mini road trip down to Chicago to see my family who were visiting from Colorado and New Mexico. 

I think things have really gone as smoothly as possible this semester. I've communicated with my students via email, phone, Canvas chat, Canvas announcements, and video announcements, and I've joined department meetings vis Skype. I haven't made it down to Olivet this semester with the baby arriving about a fourth of the way into the semester and then not getting his first immunization shots until the last full week. I have already planned three visits down to Olivet in the spring, and I'm looking forward to connecting to my colleagues and students in person. 

I taught two sections of College Writing II this semester and one section of Advanced Writing. In both courses the students work toward one major written composition for the majority of the semester. They all turned in their work just before Thanksgiving break, and I was honestly so impressed. Overall, the students were creative in their topics, articulate in their expression, thorough in their secondary research, creative in their primary research, and expressive in their investment in the ideas. I think that large composition projects can be overwhelming no matter when they begin, but I was glad to see that the students tried their best to use the time given to them to compose strong, original academic texts. My Advanced Writing students were expected to submit their work for consideration for publication, and I would be so excited to see some of these thoughtful, well-researched compositions be published and read by a wider audience.

In addition to my teaching work, I have also been a part of proposing a writing major for the English department. Based on input and feedback from my department chair and colleagues, I composed a rationale for the importance of implementing a writing major. That, along with a proposal drafted by our department last spring, was presented and distributed to various stakeholders, and the proposal was accepted in October! The Department of English at Olivet will now having a writing major offered starting in the fall of 2020. I'm so excited about the possibilities and opportunities that this major will offer to current and future Olivet students.

I also participated in an online course development module in the student role, alongside teaching online classes, this semester. I had the opportunity to develop two online course modules for the department, and this six-week course development training helped me in my preparation for creating ENGL 329: Writing Fiction and Poetry, which I will be teaching starting in January. I'm looking forward to working with upper division creative writing students again this spring, and I am curious as to how the online setup will affect the course experience. I will be teaching two more sections of College Writing II in the spring, as well as continuing to develop course descriptions and outcomes for our writing major.

I wasn't able to attend Feminisms & Rhetorics 2019 in Harrisonburg, VA this year, nor the Bloom Women's Retreat in Green Lake, WI. Those are two fall staples that I am disappointed to have missed out on, but I look forward to future attendance. I did get to attend our Bloom move night closer to home, and I was glad to get some time with that community of women. I am looking forward to attending the Conference on College Composition and Communication 2020 in Milwaukee, WI this spring, as well as for my article manuscript, "Food Memoir: Agency in Public and Private Rhetorical Domains" to be published in Peitho this fall. That article has been through several iterations over the past few years, and I am very glad to have it finally be finished and published.

In addition to my scholarly work, I was proud to have completed my reading goal of reading 19 books in 2019. In line with the year itself, there is quite a bit of variety represented here. I really enjoyed most of the books, and I have recommended several of them to others. My favorite fiction book of the year was The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. It had just the right amount of intrigue, romance, whimsy, and literary references to be so satisfying. My favorite nonfiction book was Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, which I listened to on Audible. I included an overview of that book in my "Baby Blog" post. All but two of the books that I read this year were written by women, and I think overall it was a great year of reading. Looking forward to reading 20 books in 2020.

I started this year with a trip to Thailand over my 30th birthday and am ending it at home with a three month old baby. There was lots of questioning, excitement, work, and planning in between, but we've made it! I realized the other day that this decade has been my first one as an adult, and it really has been one for the books! In this decade, I've: taught English at the college level for nine years at five different institutions, gotten six tattoos, traveled to four continents, lost three close family members, earned three post-secondary degrees, lived in three different states, bought two houses, owned two dogs, gotten married, and had a baby boy. I'm ready, though, for what the next decade will bring.

Friday 25 October 2019

Our Birth Story

Wade and I met in middle school, became friends our sophomore year of high school, and started dating January 2nd, 2006 after attending our junior year homecoming dance together earlier that fall. Before Wade and I got married in 2011 we discussed having children, and we felt pretty comfortable with the thought: “if it happens, it happens." So when I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in 2012, we weren’t too disappointed. While there are treatments for PCOS and medical intervention to help women get pregnant, I knew I didn’t want to go down that road, though I did want to get healthier for myself. I treated my PCOS naturally, and Wade and I continued to use birth contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, as about a third of women with PCOS do still get pregnant without intervention. 

Fast forward about seven and a half years to January 2019, and Wade and I had just returned from an amazing trip to Thailand, where we spent a week (including my 30th birthday!) at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai, Thailand. The trip was literally a dream come true for me! We returned home to snow storms and canceled classes at Olivet, and I was glad to have that week pretty much off, as I could not seem to get over the jet lag or slight nausea I was assuming was brought on by our travels. I taught one day of classes, but I spent the first week at home pretty much asleep. 

One week after we returned from Thailand, I was beginning my weekly commute from Madison to Bourbonnais for work, and I had to pull my car over on the side of the interstate to vomit. This felt strange, so I contacted my doctor’s office to schedule a test for a bacterial infection when I returned to Madison that Friday. On the nurse’s suggestion, I took a pregnancy test after teaching that evening just to be sure I wasn’t pregnant. When that test came back positive, I figured it was a fluke, and I waited to take another until after teaching the next day. When the second test came back negative, I went out to sushi to celebrate my and my friend's thirtieth birthdays and cooed over another friend’s little baby, thinking: “phew, that was close!” I took the third test when I got home from dinner that night. I realized then I’d read the second test wrong, and I had three positive pregnancy tests sitting in front of me. I called Wade on FaceTime within a minute and gave him the news. It was quite a shock for both of us!

That Friday, once I returned to Madison, we went to an ultrasound appointment instead of the bacterial test I had been planning. On the screen, we saw our eight-week old little nugget and found out he’d been hanging out there since before Christmas! We got back in the car, and Wade told me that he’d bought me and the baby a present. He’d gone to the fair trade store, Serrv, on State Street and purchased a stuffed, multicolored cloth elephant, made in India. For the first time, I started to cry, realizing how much our lives were about to change. 

The sight of the elephant also brought me back to the sanctuary in Thailand and specifically back to the daily interactions that we had with the beautiful elephant Pang Fai , which means “aunty of light,” while were there. Pang Fai was one of the newest rescues at the sanctuary, though she had been in the logging industry for over 30 years before her rescue. At the sanctuary, there is no contact with the elephants unless they initiate it and the mahout (their keeper/companion) says it’s OK. Every morning we’d watch Pang Fai eat the vitamin balls that we prepared for her, and then after she ate, she’d reach her trunk out slowly and touch my stomach. I was thrilled because it meant I got to gently touch her trunk and look closely into her eyes, but I didn’t know why she was doing that. After Wade pulled out the cloth elephant that day of the ultrasound, it clicked in my mind. This aunty elephant was telling me that there was a little life inside of me. She was the first to know! It's such a sweet memory to have now.

I was glad we had the next seven months to process and prepare for this life change. My pregnancy was relatively easy and very normal. The worst of it was some intense sciatic nerve pain during my third trimester due to the baby’s position. My job shifted so I wouldn’t have to commute to school but could instead teach remotely, we bought a brand new, lovely home in a quiet community, and we felt pretty settled back in the Madison area. If there was a right time for a baby, this seemed to be it, so we got ready to meet our son who was due on September 18th.

Though I am chronically late for things, I was a bit surprised that our baby took his sweet time to make his debut. He seemed quite content to just stay inside! Soon after his due date passed we set an induction date for Wednesday, September 25th, 2019. That week consisted of some minor cramping and other labor signs but mostly we just waited. We took it easy the morning of the 25th, brought our dogs over to my parent’s, and then we headed to the hospital for our induction appointment. 


We checked into our room at Meriter Hospital at 3:00 PM on September 25th, and that’s when all the fun began. We worked with the team of nine UnityPoint Health midwives throughout the pregnancy, and we knew we would probably be seeing a few of them during our stay in the hospital. Our first midwife was Carol, and then we also worked with Anastasia throughout the stay, and Denise delivered the baby. We started the induction process with Misoprostol to thin my cervix, and we settled in and watched Property Brothers and ate dinner from Noodles & Company that my parents brought us. We settled into the room with an essential oil diffuser, a lamp, and a fan from home. The nurses and midwives monitored my contractions until they checked my cervix at about 1:30 AM on the morning of the 26th. I was only dilated about one centimeter, but I was having regular contractions.

After Benadryl did nothing to take the edge off the contractions, we decided to do a dose of the narcotic. Almost immediately I dropped off to sleep for about two and a half hours. It was a welcome relief. I had a bloody show at about 7:00 AM, but the 7:30 AM cervix check showed I wasn’t dilated any more than a centimeter, though my cervix was ripening. I ordered some breakfast from room service, talked to our midwife, Carol, and then we started the Pitocin IV at 11:00 AM. By 3:00 PM on the 26th we’d been in the hospital a full day, and the contractions were averaging about four minutes apart. 

By 5:15 PM I was up to 14 units of Pitocin, and the pain was starting to get really intense. At the suggestion of the nurses, I got in the bathtub at about 6:00 PM. I was starting to feel pretty intense waves of pain in my back as I labored through each contraction. My midwife Anastasia told me later she was really hoping it was just muscular pain, but I think we all had a sense that back labor was starting. I labored in the bath for a little over an hour, and though the setting was peaceful with Christmas lights on the sink and a supportive team of Wade, the midwife, the nurse, and our photographer, Nicole Streeter, things were taking a turn. 

We had taken a five-week birth class with Jodi Bubenzer called Embracing Birth during our second and third trimester. Through that class we learned about labor positions, medication options, and how to best work with our birth partner and care teams. It was a really informative course, but the one message that Jodi focused on the most was this mantra: “pain not suffering.” She told us that, of course, labor and childbirth is going to be painful, but she repeatedly emphasized that that did not mean that we had to suffer. We talked about how suffering is a mental state, and we wrote down practical, tangible ways to combat suffering. My list included items like, essential oils, pictures of my dogs, and practicing yoga breathing. I had or did all those things in the labor room, but on the night of the 26th, none of that was enough to combat the labor pain-- specifically in my back. 

Soon after getting in the tub I cried to Wade that I didn’t know how long I could do this. After laboring there for almost an hour, one contraction seemed to just rip through me. The pain in my back stayed tight and high far longer than the contraction, and as soon as the wave broke, so did I. I sobbed that it was just too much. I knew I was suffering, and Wade asked to see the midwife. Carol came in, and I told her I needed an epidural. She gave the order as the midwife Denise and the nurse Ashley stepped in to oversee my care. Jodi’s mantra of "pain not suffering" rang clearly through my head, and in that moment, it made the decision very easy. I hadn’t planned on getting an epidural, but I knew I would just continue to suffer without it. I was sure that physically, emotionally, and mentally I just could not continue laboring without some relief.

It took a little time, then, for me to get out of the tub, get blood drawn, have the anesthesiologist team come in, but I got the epidural soon after 8:00 PM. As the medication started to work through my body, I needed to return to my previously identified labor techniques. We started the oil diffuser, I looked at the photo of my pups, and I practiced my yoga breathing-- this time not so much to combat the pain but to combat the panic of being incapacitated in bed. 

I was glad to have those coping techniques especially once our nurse Ashley came in and told me they were having trouble reading the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor. She gave me some oxygen, I tried laying in a few different positions, but by 10:00 PM they had to turn the Pitocin drip down to give the baby some time to rest, and by midnight, they turned it off. My anxiety was high, as I was worried not only for my baby, but for how long I would be stuck in the bed with the epidural. I had already had a second boost of the medication, as I continued to feel strong pressure in my pelvis after the epidural. The pressure and anxiety kept me up throughout the night. Ashley was very reassuring, attentive, and helpful, doing everything she could to make me comfortable. Wade and Nicole our photographer were also helpful by offering quiet support as we waited. 

As our stay in the hospital creeped into the third day of Friday, September 27th, I basically waited in bed. Around 1:00 AM Ashley said that the baby’s heartbeat seemed to be doing well, and they turned the Pitocin back up. Though the contractions were nothing compared to the pain prior to the epidural, I was definitely feeling the pressure of them as they came and went. Ashley gave me the peanut ball to help open things up around 3:00 AM and soon after I felt a small gush of water, as if a balloon had popped. I asked to have Denise the midwife check my cervix again, and she did so at about 3:15 AM. She said I was dilated to 10 centimeters, and then she asked me one of the simplest yet most profound questions I’ve ever been asked: would you like to have your baby? The pressure in my pelvis was building with every contraction, but I also knew I was very ready, so I said yes. 

Wade, Denise, Ashley, and Nicole started to prepare around me. I felt both very much in this moment and yet somehow removed, as if I was watching it from afar. At 3:47 AM Denise said to push when I was ready, so I did. Wade held my left leg, and Ashley held my right. I pushed through several contractions, picturing myself doing yoga squats and trying to activate those muscles and breathing patterns. Just thirty minutes later, at 4:17 AM on Friday, September 27th, 2019, a crying, floppy, warm baby boy was placed on my chest. Cohen Matthew Bruce was here! 

The relief and joy of having delivered the baby was palpable. I felt very little pain as the placenta was delivered and Denise stitched my second degree tear. I knew I had pushed him out, but it didn’t seem real that he was actually here and that he was actually mine. Though we had been in the hospital about 37 hours by that point, the end came so quickly, and I was very thankful for that. 

Cohen weighed in at nine pounds, eight ounces, and he was 22 inches long-- a much bigger baby than anyone expected! He seemed absolutely perfect to me. Throughout his delivery I felt so surrounded by strong, calm, centered, encouraging energy as Wade and Ashley held my legs, Nicole stood by my head, and Denise helped coax the baby out. I honestly can’t imagine having a better team of people surrounding me in that moment. I might have felt some pain, but Cohen was delivered into this world, and into my arms, without any suffering, which is exactly what I wanted. 

Wednesday 11 September 2019

By the numbers...

I don't really know what "baby brain" is, but it might be real. In my experience, I've found the seemingly unconscious task of growing a human inside of me makes the conscious tasks of my day take that much more time, effort, and planning. I've been back at work since July 15th, and while I have accomplished some, it's hard to not think about what still needs to be done.

That being said, even as a humanities professor, by the way of a general update in this post, I thought I would list life and work happenings by the numbers:

60: I have a total of 60 students this semester in my online course sections. This is the smallest number of students that I have had in one semester while teaching at Olivet, but that is primarily because I am teaching one less class. One fourth of my contracted time has been designated to work on a departmental proposal for a new writing major (more on that below), so I am teaching a 3/3 load of classes this school year instead of a 4/4 load. Of the 60 students, I have had at least one quarter of them in courses before, so although I only get to know them online, I have at least taught 15 of them in person previously.

39: As of today, I am now 39 weeks pregnant. According to my update on The Bump, that means that Baby Boy Bruce is full term! We are hoping that he makes his arrival sometime in the next week to week and a half. Wade and I have a bet on his timing-- I think he will come before September 18th, and Wade thinks he will come after. If he comes on his due date, it's a wash. Let's see who gets that crisp $5 bill! I feel tired, and my diaphragm feels a bit squished, but this past week I have actually been feeling pretty well. Don't really know what that means... hopefully my body is just collecting strength!

30: I made a list of "nesting" type items to complete before the baby arrives. While some of them require continuous work until he's here (and probably after), I am glad to say that I have checked all 30 items off of the list! I do feel good about what we've gotten done.

29: On Sunday, September 15th, my little sister turns 29 years old! I liked turning 29 cause I have a weird preference for odd numbers, and I'm excited for my sister as she enters into the last year of her twenties. She does really cool work here in Madison, WI with Youth With a Mission, specifically focusing on working with refuge women and children in our area. We had our family celebration of her birthday a bit early, and we had a fun day with hot drinks, manicures, delicious dinner, and fun presents and cake.

18: As a more somber anniversary, today marks 18 years since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. 2,977 innocent people, including men, women, and children were killed. I think it's important to remember this day as a reminder to love those around us.

12: With our scheduled appointment this upcoming Monday, we will have had 12 midwife appointments leading up to the birth of Baby Bruce. If the baby comes early, we will have done 11, and who knows how many if he comes late! We have met with seven of the nine midwives, but I've seen or talked to the other two. We feel confident that whomever we have delivering the baby will do a good job and will listen well to what we want. We're also currently reading a book recommended to me by my cousins and to Wade by his coworker,  12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano, so I'm hoping we can get through that and learn how to teach our baby to sleep and eat well once he arrives.

And now our countdown from ten...

10: As of September 3rd, 2019, it has officially been ten years since I traveled to Oxford, England to begin my 3.5 month study abroad program at Oxford University through the program Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford, which partners with Wycliffe Hall, one of the six Permanent Private Halls of Oxford. My time in Oxford was, hands down, the most transformative period of my life. It was there that I learned to embrace the thing that I truly love, the study of English, and that wasn't hard to do, as I was surrounded by 60 other people who were doing the same. I also remember the exact moment, during our last assembly of the term, where I had the thought: this could be my life. I'm eternally grateful for the semester I spent at Oxford, and the last decade has really been defined by that time. Wade and I traveled to Chicago at the end of July to celebrate this ten year anniversary with 14 or so other 2009 Michaelmas term SCIO students, and it was a lovely reunion.

9: As I mentioned, one fourth of my departmental work time is dedicated to composing, sharing, and editing documents to propose a new writing major at Olivet in the Department of English! I'm really excited about this initiative, and it was one of the main reasons why they brought me on last year. The nine represents a document we just call the "Nine Questions," which are questions that require answers for a new major. My department chair and I put together an outline for the questions last semester, and I've spent the last month or so doing research, drafting, and editing our answers to the questions. There are several tiers of approval needed for our proposal, but I am excited about the possibility and what this will offer our students.

8: Wade and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary on Monday, August 5th, 2019! While we have been married eight years, we have actually been together for 13.5-- since he asked me to be his girlfriend at a snowy park down the hill from our parents house on January 2nd, 2006, the day before we went back to our junior year of high school after Christmas break. We've lived in seven different houses in three different states with our two dogs in these eight years, and I wouldn't trade them for anything! My sister helped us recreate some of our engagement photos that we took at the church where my parents got married and that we now live less than a mile away from!

7: One of the best things to come out of my time time earning my Ph.D. at ASU was my writing
group! As I've said before, I so appreciated the continuing support, feedback, and camaraderie that my writing group gals offer to me. We were able to meet seven times this summer, and we work well on our various projects together, asking for suggestions, bouncing off ideas, and catching up on life. As I prepare for the baby, another prepares for her wedding, and the third is getting ready to defend her dissertation! Lots of new beginnings.

6: Our baby boy will not be alone! Since mid-June we know six women who have given birth to precious little baby boys (and know at least four more babies are on the way). We are excited to be joining this fun Baby Boys of 2019 club.

5: Since the beginning of the year, I've also been a part of at least five different departmental or individual meetings (and countless more email discussions) to prepare for this school year. I did travel down to Olivet at the end of August to meet with my chair, as well as to attend the beginning of the year department meetings. Otherwise, I generally join on Skype or via FaceTime. Though it's a little tricky not being present, I am glad that I am able to join into the meetings and offer my ideas or suggestions. I also have met with my current TA who is doing a great job helping me keep up with my class work.

4: As another part of our proposed major, I have been working on the course descriptions for four new writing major classes. It is fun to think back to the variety of writing class experiences I have had, both as a student and as an instructor. We are proposing classes focused on writing theory (a personal favorite), special topics in writing, and seminar and capstone work in the major.

I also spent quite a bit of time this summer and fall volunteering as part of the leadership team for BLOOM, the women's ministry at Ridgeway Church. In addition to other seasonal events, we have been preparing for our fourth women's retreat to be held in October. I won't be able to attend, but I am very excited about the theme of "resolve" and the awesome schedule of speakers and events that we put together for this year.

3: As I think back on my summer work, I am reminded of the three students that I taught in the online section of Business Communication & Technical Writing. Overall, they did well. It was a demanding course for these students to complete in just eight weeks, as it required a 30 hour business practicum, extensive research, and a group project with live audience feedback. All three students did earn an A, and I am glad to have been able to work with them.

It has also been three months since I posted my last blog. Initially I meant to post one monthly this summer; however, time and energy got away from me. I am glad to be able to post my update now, and I will plan on doing another full blog post in about three months, closer to the new year. The work I will be doing this semester will be focused on developing the proposal materials, developing a new online class for the spring, and instructing my current classes. I think in addition to keeping a new, tiny human alive, that will be all that I have the time to complete.

2: I have two course preps this semester, though, I am technically teaching three classes. I am currently teaching one section of ENGL 306: Advanced Writing and two sections of ENGL 210: College Writing II. I taught Advanced Writing my first semester at Olivet, but I have not taught College Writing II at Olivet before. I did take it as a freshman English major at Olivet in the fall of 2007, and I have taught a version of a second tier writing class at three previous institutions. While it is always fun to create a new class, I do forget how time consuming it is to create instructional materials from scratch. I'm excited about the work my students are doing in both classes, though, as they are gathering ideas, research, and feedback for large scale writing projects to be completed in the last third of their semesters.

1: I have a few different "ones," as some things are more unique! As I mentioned, I did take one trip down to Olivet for course prep, meetings, and a departmental get together. Wade drove me down, for which I was very grateful, and we had a good time in the Bourb for a couple days. I have missed being on campus for other meetings, my students' library days, or the major party they held yesterday. Once my stomach looks (much) less like a beach ball, I'll be glad to be able to have the option to go down to Olivet a bit more.

I also submitted an article manuscript for publication after a final round of revision! I have been working on my manuscript for Peitho: Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition for years, and I am glad to say that it is submitted! The editors, mentors, and reviewers at the journal have been very kind in offering constructive and useful feedback on my manuscript. I am really looking forward to actually seeing my work in print.

Finally, I was accepted, as a workshop co-chair, to the 2020 Conference on College Composition and Communication. The conference will be held in March in Milwaukee this year! While I do like traveling to new cities every year, it is really nice that the conference will be held closer to home. The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Olivet has agreed to fund my trip, so my hotel room is booked, and I am looking forward to attending my seventh Cs in the spring.

Those are my updates by the numbers! As always, I appreciate a good balance of predictability and change, and I'm hoping between the personal and professional, this fall will have a good balance of both. Until next time!

Friday 5 July 2019

A Baby Blog

The spring semester at Olivet wrapped up about a month and a half ago. It is always a transition out of a semester and into a new schedule, but I've particularly enjoyed not having to travel down to IL during the week. My online summer class started two days before the official end of the semester, and we've been moving steadily forward since! My students' final projects were due Wednesday, and then I had the rest of the week to get their final grades submitted. I had three students in this class, and they did well. I will plan to talk about that class in more detail, as well as the other work I've been and will be doing this summer in my August blog post. 

In this post, though, I thought I would do a baby blog with updates on how things have been going the past 20 weeks or so. I am 29 weeks pregnant, which means that I am within both my seventh month and the third trimester of pregnancy. It has been a journey, and I would say so far, it has been a positive one! If you're not interested in all this baby stuff, though, please come back in July, and I will catch you up on all my summer work. I do think that part of my feminist praxis is to share not only the academic work I am participating in but the embodied physical work that is also happening, and a lot of the time, takes over my daily energy.

I found out that I was pregnant while I was eight weeks along. I have been taking a photo every week since to document the transition, so I thought I'd share the thumbnails of the past twenty weeks or so of photos of Baby Bruce growing away! It is still very surreal to me how these pregnancy changes just happen. I have very little to do with the very literal growing and changing happening inside of me. I don't know that it will/would ever stop feeling strange. Here is Baby B, weeks eight to 29!

There is a lot to do when getting ready for a baby! Our list has included the following items: track the pregnancy on an app, read about birth, sleep, and child training, meet regularly with our midwives, find a pediatrician, tour the hospital birthing suit, take a birth class, make a swim lesson plan, enjoy our shower, take a babymoon, find a birth photographer, practice prenatal yoga, get the nursery ready, make a birth preference plan, clean the car, install the carseat, clean the house, bedding, and baby clothes, and pack a hospital bag. I'd say we are about 70% done with the list, which I feel good about with a little less than three months to go. I'll share the details of what we've done so far, in case it's helpful to anyone to know!

When I first got pregnant I wanted to find a good app to tack my pregnancy and to help me understand what the heck was happening to my body. Now, as is true in a lot of these categories, there are so many options to choose from. As I talked to people and looked at the app store, The Bump app kept coming up. I downloaded that app, and it has been really helpful. It gives me daily updates on the size of the baby, but even more helpfully, it tells me each week what to expect both for myself and the baby. It is pretty accurate, and it helps me to know that what I'm experiencing is normal. There are also good articles linked everyday to help me learn more.

We got lots of recommendations for books that we needed to read before the baby comes. Unfortunately, there is only so much time and so much attention span that we have for all things pregnancy related. Some of that is used up with podcasts, and we particularly loved Dax Shepard's interview with Dr. John Gottman on the February 28th episode of Armchair Expert. We made our book reading choices primarily based on the recommendations that we kept hearing over and over. I'd say at least three people recommended each of the two books that we decided on reading. The first was to help us have a good kid, the second was to help us sleep well. The fact that the books were recommended by people with good kids who sleep well didn't hurt! I gave some other books a shot including The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, What to Expect When You're Expecting, and another one from our hospital, but I found them too dense to continue. Here are the two we read/ are reading together with their Amazon synopsis:

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

"When American journalist Pamela Druckerman had a baby in Paris, she didn't aspire to become a "French parent." But she noticed that French children slept through the night by two or three months old. They ate braised leeks. They played by themselves while their parents sipped coffee. And yet French kids were still boisterous, curious, and creative. Why? How?
With a notebook stashed in her diaper bag, Druckerman set out to investigate—and wound up sparking a national debate on parenting. Researched over three years and written in her warm, funny voice, Bringing Up Bébé is deeply wise, charmingly told, and destined to become a classic resource for American parents."

On Becoming Babywise by Robert Bucknam & Gary Ezzo

"For over 25 years, On Becoming Babywise has been the de facto newborn parenting manual for naturally synchronizing your baby's feeding time, waketime and nighttime sleep cycles, so the whole family can sleep through the night.

In his 29th year as a licensed Pediatrician, Dr. Robert Bucknam, M.D. along with co-author Gary Ezzo, demonstrate how order and stability are mutual allies of every newborn's metabolism and how parents can take advantage of these biological propensities."

We really liked Bringing Up Bebe; we even had my mom read it. We are working our way through BabyWise, and we're determined to get through in order to have a sleep plan. On the recommendation of a couple other friends, I also read (pre-crazy) Jenny McCarthy's book Belly Laughs, which was light, funny, and honest, if not a bit outdated. I'd recommend any of the three!

Baby Boy: 20 Weeks
The very first decision we had to make (prior to even knowing 100% if I was pregnant) was what kind of maternity care we wanted. We had the choice between a traditional OBGYN doctor and team of midwives through our local care clinic/ insurance. Very quickly we came to the conclusion that the midwives sounded like the best plan of care for us. Three of the reasons that we initially decided to go with the midwives (and have really enjoyed working with them so far) are as follows:

1) There is a team of care. We don't see the same midwife every time, but we see one of the nine midwives of the team every time. It also means that when we deliver, we will have one of the nine midwives in the delivery. In opposition to the OBGYN, who might not be available for delivery, we will have one of a team of people who has been monitoring our care throughout the pregnancy. This is also true of after hour care, as whenever I've called, I've always talked to a midwife directly.

2) They take their time in the appointments. Never having worked with an OBGYN through pregnancy I don't know how different this would be, but we have never once felt rushed by our midwives in our monthly (soon to be more) appointments. They come in, and very literally, make themselves comfortable. We chat, they answer questions, they ask questions, and they take their time. I've never left feeling frustrated or unheard by a midwife after an appointment, and I've appreciated their attentive care. We've done three ultrasounds so far, and I don't think we'll do anymore. We do get to hear the baby's heartbeat via the doppler at every appointment, and they measure the baby.

3) There are very few options off limits to us. I feel very blessed to have had a healthy pregnancy thus far, and we are praying and hoping that continues. If it does, and there are no complications, our midwives are very open to any type of delivery we want to engage in. We will deliver at our hospital, but they are open to medication or not, self-soothing through music, yoga, or essential oils or not, and even multiple types of positions for delivery. They say that they are there to support me in my birth, and that is very empowering. Our birth class instructor has told us how important that is, and I've already so appreciated their attitude toward delivery. They emphasized this through our birthing center tour at the hospital as well, which we appreciated.

The one exception to delivering with the midwives would be if we need a c-section, but I'm hoping that won't be the case. We've also found a pediatrician that we like a lot. She followed the same model of care, where she came in, answered questions, asked us questions, and spent time with us. We're glad to have to have that set and ready to go prior to the birth.

First Birth Class
Again, the choices in Madison for birth class are slightly overwhelming in terms of what direction to go. So, we relied on suggestions from friends. Friends with a three year old fondly remembered their birth class experience and recommended the same. They suggested taking the Embracing Birth Classes with Jodi Bubenzer on the west side of Madison. We've completed four of five birth classes with this teacher, and we've learned a lot from mindfulness to breastfeeding to types of medication to massage exercises to postpartum solutions to breathing techniques. We have one more class to go, but both Wade and I have enjoyed our time in the class learning from the teacher and getting to hear from the three other expecting couples in the class.

The same friend who recommended the birth class also gave me a suggestion for swim lessons! I've been reading about the importance of getting children comfortable in water and teaching them, as early as possible, how to flip in the water in order to be able to breathe in any type of emergency. The friend said they took their daughter to Little Strokes Swim Academy in Waunakee; she said her daughter loved it and is a really strong swimmer now. We'd like to get our little guy in this coming March to learn those same crucial skills. I'm glad to know of a quality place that provides this kind of instruction.

The month of June was very fun; I got a facial, manicure, hair cut, color, and style, prenatal massage, and pedicure all in one month! We definitely felt spoiled by so much love, attention, and opportunity to enjoy this time this month, as well. The weekend of June 22nd, my sister and some of my best friends threw us our third and final shower, and it was a lovely baby shower. My friend hosted at her house, our moms helped out, and so many women attended and showered us with love, attention, and gifts. We know that we are lucky to be part of such a strong, supportive community, and we don't take it for granted. Wade attended for about half the shower, and I'm so glad he was there to also feel all the love! The theme of the shower was High Tea for Baby B, and everything was done so beautifully. We had tea, scones, clotted cream, jam and lemon curd, tea sandwiches, macarons, lace decor, baby's breath, and decorated tea pots. So classy. So special. We used Baby List for our registry site, and I think it worked really well. I feel so lucky to have so many wonderful friends who would go above and beyond to make a day like this so special. Sharing this journey with my friends has been one of the highlights of the pregnancy for sure. Over 30 women attended the shower, and it will be such a wonderful memory for us.

Lovely Shower Hosts
First Family Photo

Amazing Display

Sweet Guests
The very next weekend, Wade and I got to enjoy some time away on our self-declared "babymoon" in Lake Geneva, WI. We spent three days and three nights in this idyllic lakeside town. We stayed at The Abbey Resort, and we really enjoyed the resort's amenities. We spent one day getting massages (my first prenatal!) and lounging at the Avani Spa, which was very relaxing. We spent time in downtown Lake Geneva, eating twice at both Tuscan Tavern & Grill and Egg Harbor Cafe. We also took a fun afternoon ice cream social boat tour through the Lake Geneva Cruise Line and learned about the history (mostly old, rich, and white) of the people and homes surrounding the lake. We spent some time reflecting on common goals, getting coffee and tea at Boxed and BurlapAvant Cycle Cafe, and the resort's Cafe Latte, and just enjoying time together. I always say, too, that one of the best parts about going away is getting to come home-- especially to dogs as cute as ours!

Enjoying Our Spa Day

Downtown Lake Geneva

Lovely Vine Wall 
Hey Baby Bump!
Another decision that Wade and I thought about early on was who we wanted at our birth and delivery. Once again, there are so many options. Did we want family there? Did we want a doula? Did we want any other kind of assistance? One thing I have learned through this pregnancy is never say never, as we just cannot plan what our future will hold, as much as we (especially as enneagram ones) want to do that! That being said, we are not planning on having any future children via birth, so one thing that stood out to me that I wanted was a birth photographer. I thought: if we photograph other momentous occasions in our lives like weddings and anniversaries, why would birth be different? I talked to Wade about it, and we decided to hire the wonderful birth photographer Nicole Streeter, who owns Nicole Streeter Photography, to do our maternity and birth photography. Every time I visit her blog or social media page, I am always swept away in the stories she tells through her photos. I'm excited to have her be a part of documenting our birth experience.

In 2013 I was preparing to run the Color Run in Indianapolis with my sister and my cousins, and I would experience extreme hip pain following the training runs. I eventually saw a chiropractor, and he diagnosed me with overextended ligaments, where my ligaments would stretch well but then not properly retract back into place after the stretching. This is both a genetic ailment, as well as one that was probably exacerbated by my 13 years as a dancer. The diagnosis has since been confirmed through both a medical doctor testing for carpal tunnel and a physical therapist who has helped me work on strengthening my wrists and hips, the primary areas affected. When I first received that diagnosis, the chiropractor suggested taking up yoga as a way to strengthen my core muscles and also gently stretch my ligaments. Following the Color Run, I did just that, stumbling upon a yoga instructor named Erin Motz on YouTube.

Fast forward six years (probably almost exactly), and I still practice yoga with Erin Motz regularly. So much so that we pay for a monthly subscription to her Bad Yogi Studio, and I practice yoga in our new home yoga area four to five times a week. Erin is an American who lives in Nice, France, and she is one year older than me (again, almost exactly). I appreciate her mindset, teaching style, and general outlook on yoga and life. What I could not have anticipated is that she would get pregnant about two months before me. What this has blessedly resulted in is a whole slew of prenatal yoga classes available through her studio, which I already have a subscription to, that I can practice again and again. This coincidence has been one of the biggest blessings of my pregnancy. I've literally cried some mornings getting out of bed with back pain (more on that below) to open my email and find a new class from Erin labeled "Second Trimester Back Pain." I never could have known how this would work out, but more than probably anything else listed above, this has helped me move through the last five months of this pregnancy more easily and comfortably.

Well, this is turning into a very long pregnancy post. If you've made it all the way thus far, congratulations to you! As I'm writing, I'm realizing that this may be more for me than anyone else-- a way to remember this unique time in our lives before s*** gets real and we have a new, live human baby boy in our house. There are more things on our to-do list that I mentioned above, but we haven't quite gotten there yet, and I think that's OK. I anticipate the next couple weeks being about building nursery furniture, cleaning cars, making birth plans, and packing hospital bags. To wrap up, I'd like to touch on some of the lows and some of the highs of this pregnancy journey. I know everyone's path is different, and I know that the last fourth of this pregnancy may be different than it has been so far, but here's where I'm at:

As can be expected, this pregnancy has not been a total walk in the park. Weeks before I even knew I was pregnant, my nose started running and it has.not.stopped. Seriously. Seven plus months of a runny nose. Thanks to my Bump app, I know why. The condition is called pregnancy rhinitis, and I guess it happens to about a third of pregnant women. I've gone through more tissue boxes than I can count, and it is especially bothersome at night, which is fun since sleep is so easy anyway. Ha. Speaking of sleep, other bothersome elements of the pregnancy include having to pee a lot of the night, my hands falling asleep if they are ever above my head (like under my pillow), and consistent lower back pain. A midwife said it's sciatic inflammation, and it's not very fun.

I dealt with some pretty nasty headaches my second trimester, but my mom suggested sugar-free Gatorade to help replenish electrolytes, and that has helped, as has moving into another trimester, as hormones and blood (never knew I could hold so much blood) shift around. Brings me to my swollen ankles, which at one point prompted a friend to say: "What is happening to your ankles??" Makes me think a third trimester through July and August will be a joy. I feel grateful to have only ever thrown up once, which prompted me to take a pregnancy test in the first place, and to have had very minimal heartburn.

Some really good things have come out of the pregnancy, as well. Overall, my skin has been clearer, and my moods have been fairly normal. I feel healthier in moving to more natural ways of living, which I touched on in my May blog. I also have had no problems with these prenatal vitamins or probiotics, and I also take one magnesium pill everyday and try to supplement my iron intake due to pregnancy induced anemia. I tested negative for zika and gestational diabetes, and a midwife also confirmed that due to the successful pregnancy I also no longer have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which I was diagnosed with in 2012 and was the main reason we thought birthing a child would not be an option for us.

Probably the best, best part of the pregnancy has been feeling Baby Bruce's little kicks, wiggles, and hiccups from inside. Our plan to grow our family was always to adopt, and that is how we would like to add at least one more person to our family in the future. That being said, this journey of pregnancy and carrying this baby inside of me has been special and unique. It wasn't what we had planned, but the feeling of carrying this person has been both difficult and very rewarding. I don't know what the last few months of this pregnancy will bring, and even less about what life will look like after the baby is here, but I feel like these last seven months I have been given a gift of carrying this person.

As I've said before, our friends and family have been so happy, so supportive, and so wonderful during this time. They know me well enough to know that I don't do great with unexpected change, and yet their joy and consistent encouragement has been such a support to carry us through the pregnancy thus far. I also feel lucky to also have friends who are currently doing this baby thing right along with me or have been in the trenches for the past year or more. As this blog post is witness to, they are an invaluable resource to us. Here's a shoutout to some of the best:

Awesome Baby Mamas

Our Crew

Lovely Ladies

Double Knowledge

Five Cousins: Two Adults, One Toddler, Two Babies
Baby's Four Grandparents

We've learned, we've grown, we've laughed, we've cried. 
I'll be sure to update when we've reached the other side!