26 February 2011
We'll be returning to Michigan from May until August, which is both exciting (yay, being near family and friends!) and scary (1300 mile drive while 9 months pregnant). The courthouse is located in downtown Detroit. We are talking, Ren-Cen, Fox Theater, Comerica Park, swim to Canada downtown. Since we just found out 12 hours ago, and we spent 8 of those sleeping, I haven't had time to do a ton of research, but I have already found several apartments nearby. The favorite place so far is about 10 miles from the courthouse, 2 miles from the nearest hospital, they allow cats, they have washers and dryers in each unit, they offer short-term leases, they have furnished 1 bedroom apartments, and they are in an area that is safe! We aren't signing any leases yet and we still have a ton to talk about (we found another place .5 mile from the courthouse that allows cats), but I am excited that the preliminary stuff has been good. We are also making lists of people and organizations that could offer us some support in finding a decent place in a safe neighborhood.
Although I resisted it at first, I am realizing that finding a furnished apartment would save us at least hundreds of dollars, not to mention tons of hours of stress and hassle. Also, I was speaking with another law school wife yesterday and she made the trek down from Michigan to Florida at 36 weeks pregnant, so I definitely spent some time talking to her about her experience.
I am so excited, nervous, scared, anxious. Last night our prayers of pleading for guidance and direction turned to prayers of joyful thanksgiving.
25 February 2011
I am not a baby person. Babies are cute and all, but I'd rather enjoy them from afar. I've made great strides in learning how to interact with babies with my nieces and nephews, but I am still pretty bad with them until they hit about two years old. My immersion into the ultra-conservative Catholic world of Ave Maria School of Law has given me more opportunity to interact with young children. A friend of mine has a particularly friendly 8-month-old whom I've successfully held on several occasions. Despite my growth, I still prefer to retreat to my no-baby comfort zone, and I never volunteer to hold people's babies. I sincerely hope that giving birth will magically turn me into a baby-lover, which almost everyone I have confided to assured me will occur. If nothing else, they comfort, you'll love yours even if you're still not too keen on everyone else's kids.
I've been doing a ton of reading on babies, my main source being What To Expect When You're Expecting, which assures me that motherhood is a growth process. I won't be granted a diaper-changing instinct the second the baby makers his/her appearance and not all mothers instantly bond with her baby. It takes time and patience, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second-nature. Or so I read.
So now begins the vulnerable part. Even after 6.5 months of pregnancy, I still don't feel particularly connected to the baby inside of me. During both ultrasounds, I felt more like I was watching a baby show on TLC than I was looking at my own child. When the doctor finds the heartbeat every four weeks, I am more acting the part of excited mother than feeling it. And even now, after a month of feeling kicking, it takes me several minutes to realize that isn't indigestion I feel, but a living, breathing, child. And when I do realize it, I don't gasp in amazement at the wonders of burgeoning life.
I'm also pretty resentful about this whole being pregnant thing. I have never really been comfortable in my skin. Ever since I hit puberty and started putting on weight, I've yo-yo dieted my way anywhere from a size 11 down to a 2. Stretch marks, pale skin, freckles, visible veins, and cellulite in my thighs (even when I was a size 2) make me uncomfortable in most clothing. Anyway, being pregnant has made all of the above issues significantly worse, and added a few more (eczema, anyone?) into the mix. Nausea, an ever-expanding stomach, an ever-expanding bust-line, hitting the bathroom every 30 minutes, swelling, discomfort whether sitting, standing, or sleeping, leukorrhea, exhaustion, and headaches, to name a few, have me feeling more like an incubator than a person.
But before I have you all convinced that pregnancy is the worst thing in my entire life, I would like to talk about some of the things that have helped me to grow closer to this foreign little being inside.
Quitting my job. Getting rid of all that stress did wonders to relieve my symptoms. I can't even tell you how many people approached me afterward and said I looked like I was doing significantly better. Even my husband noticed, which is a particularly big deal (it is a running joke in our house that I could walk into a room naked and he wouldn't notice). Without all that stress permeating my every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment, so many things I thought were pregnancy-related turned out to be stress-related.
The fewer responsibilities combined with the more time I have from leaving my job give me the opportunity to relax when I need to and nap when I feel tired. I actually get a lot more done (as proven by my daily to-do lists) because I can structure my day so that I can rest in between certain activities, giving me energy boosts to exercise, do the dishes, and vacuum, all in the same day. With the ability to go grocery shopping and cook dinner restored to me, I don't feel enslaved to my body, which means I feel less resentment over the changes the new-comer is bringing.
Yoga. This is slightly misleading because I actually hate yoga. I tried it both before I got pregnant and a special prenatal yoga class in the second trimester, and I still hate it. But I did buy a prenatal yoga fitness DVD (before I took the class), which has done wonders for the baby's and my relationship. It would be more appropriate to call it a prenatal stretching and breathing DVD. It is a touch long (50 minutes), but it goes through so many different stretches to relieve tons of aches and pains and also stretch out the lungs and encourage deep breathing. It has made me more aware of the changes going on inside and has even taught me how to bend down and reach over with a big belly in the way.
Exercise. Getting out and walking and hitting the tricep and bicep machines at the gym make me feel more normal, energetic, and like I still have some control over my ever-changing body.
I saved the best for last. Matt. He either feels the same way I do (ie, the ultrasounds) or I can feed off his excitement (ie, the kicking). He takes pity on me when I wake up in the morning complaining about a lack of sleep, and he helps around the house, cleaning the litter pan, helping fold the laundry, cleaning the bathtub. I can NOT imagine being pregnant and single.
I am genuinely excited (and anxious and nervous) about postnatal life. I've done my research on nipple confusion. I've already weighed the pros and cons of disposable vs cloth diapers. Now that the baby can taste the amniotic fluid, I am making sure to mix in a fair amount of fruit and veggies in my diet so the baby gets a taste for healthy food. Even though it took me a few months to fully convince myself, I feel prepared to try to breastfeed my baby. I do want the best for our baby and have already found myself instinctively protecting my mammoth-size stomach. But this whole thing has been a very slow process. I try to surround myself with pro-family and pro-children influences, especially being so far from home, as a surprising number of people in this world aren't afraid to tell you that being 24, in law school, and pregnant isn't their idea of a smart move.
I still have nearly 14 weeks left to cultivate that lovin' feelin', so I'm going to keep striving to make connections with this foreign little being who needs me more than anyone else in the world.
22 February 2011
Matt has been applying to several summer positions in Michigan. Nothing has yet developed (however, not enough time has gone by to expect any phone calls). So far so good, with most locations being places where family live or places we've lived before. Career Services advised Matt to take the first position that he is offered, so he has backed off when it comes to applying to Florida firms. I hope that we hear back from people soon; I want to start preparing to have a baby!
The organizations of which Matt is a member are looking to elect new leadership positions for next year and Matt is hungry for distinction among his peers. I have been praying for wisdom when it comes to dividing up our time for next year, since I have no idea how much life will change once we start juggling a baby, school, work, job hunting, let alone new responsibilities among the old organizations.
Spring Break for us is next week. On Monday, Matt's parents will be flying in and staying until Thursday. We are definitely looking forward to it as it is their first time visiting. I am a bit nervous that I won't have the stamina to keep up as we sight-see. I am also nervous that Matt will accomplish nothing related to school during the duration of their stay, but we discussed it last night and we both agreed that he should make a list of things he wants to accomplish over break and we'll stick with the daily to-do lists to help urge him along.
Is it normal to spend all night laying in bed wishing I was sleeping and all day napping? I haven't had insomnia this bad since I was in high school, and I'm very dismayed at its return. Swelling has also begun to set in, causing Matt and I to hit up Kohl's 60% off jewelry sale in hopes of finding a necklace chain from which to hang my wedding rings so I can still wear them once the swelling really gets going. High temps (highs in the low 80s) with high humidity (94% as of 9am this morning) is the culprit when it comes to the swelling.
A very generous friend of mine down here volunteered to throw me a baby shower. I am very excited as I was seriously expecting not to have one at all and can't wait! Usually I don't like being the center of attention, but I have to admit, her willingness to throw one has me feeling very loved and I'm excited to celebrate. It is scheduled for next month, at which point, I'll be 30 weeks along (!)
After finishing Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge, our prayer life has taken a huge turn for the better. Matt and I have started praying together, and I have been praying alone more. I feel a lot more confident about some of the big unknowns looming in our future, and I know that regular prayer has helped me significantly in growing closer to the baby.
There are several Big Unknowns in our life right now; they are the main sources of stress in our lives.
1. The Contour. My 11-year-old car (I've had her since she was 4) has been limping along lately. Last year we pumped more money into her than her Blue Book value deems her worth. We know that she won't last us until the end of law school, but when should we replace her? Cash for Clunkers decimated the private cheap car market, so we are trying to weigh the costs of getting a cheap new car (Ford Fiesta + A-plan pricing + trade-in value, anyone?) vs. buying something used off the lot (yay, warranty) vs. buying private. Then there's the matter of how to pay for it.
2. Medical Bills. So, how much, exactly, is it going to cost to have a baby? I have a number in my head from when we first found out we were pregnant, but I honestly don't remember how I came up with it. We have a few grand tucked away (yay, buying low selling high with Ford stock), but I would like to know if I need to find a few more dollars.
3. Summer moving costs. If we do end up in Michigan, we will be tasked with an uncalculatable assortment of bills. At the very least, we'll need a storage unit down here, a moving crew to help with all the heavy things I can't carry, we'll need to pay to ship some of our belongings up, we'll need an apartment, and if the apartment is unfurnished, we'll need to buy a *very* limited amount of ridiculously cheap furniture, dishes, etc. We may need to fly someone down to drive up with me before finals end, then I'll have food and hotel costs on the way up, we'll need to get Matt to the airport, and fly him up after finals ends. Those are just *some* of the financial costs. Oi, I think if we end up near family, I am going to start contacting people asking if we can borrow their basement furniture for one summer.
So that's what's been rolling around for now. I guess the updates weren't so "mini" were they?
15 February 2011
So, there is a big pond behind my apartment building, and my lanai (Floridian for screened-in porch; very common down here) overlooks said pond. The main inhabitants of the water are some very large, ugly, aggressive ducks known as muscovies. Muscovies are particularly hideous and make an awful hissing noise. There is nothing endearing about an adult muscovy.
However, a muscovy duckling is super-cute. Looking just like any other baby duck, the yellow and brown puff-balls paddle adorably around the pond cheeping away. However, muscovies are very bad duck parents and every since we moved in, we have noticed large broods of ducklings dwindling down in groups of 1-3 until no one remains. In the year and a half that we have been here, we have only tracked one brood from ducklings to adults; no other brood survived.
About a month ago, we spotted a particularly bad mom duck swimming along with 10 chicks, three were all yellow and seven were yellow and brown. Even though she was particularly awful (swimming or flying away and leaving her entire brood completely alone for hours at a time), the babies managed to stay together pretty well and a few weeks after their initial spotting, eight still remained. Then, seemingly overnight, all but three of the babies were gone. Normally, we never see them again, but with this particular brood, because of the bright, creamy yellow chicks, we saw their dead little duckling bodies scattered along with shore of the pond. It was quite a devastating sight for both Matt and I. Needless to say, within a few days, the remaining three chicks disappeared.
We thought maybe we'd found the next lucky family when we spotted a relatively good mom duck with three chicks, two brown and yellow and one all brown. At this point, I had left my job, and being home, I would see the family swimming by several times a day. Quite often, they even napped right beneath our second-story apartment window. The little ducklings got to be rather big (compared to the size they usually are when they die) and Matt and I got our hopes up that they would survive to adulthood. We even went down to the pond to feed the ducks (something we don't do very often since we hate muscovies). The babies gobbled up the bread and I quickly declared the little brown one with the white beak as my favorite duckling. Over the next several days, Matt and I tracked the little family, monitoring their wellness.
This past Sunday, I was sitting on the lanai when I noticed the brown baby duck swimming all alone: no mother, no siblings. It swam quickly and erratically, cheeping loudly and continuously. Occasionally an adult male would chase it and it would run on shore, cheeping frantically and pathetically flapping it's tiny, featherless wings. The entire evening passed and the mom never returned for the brown baby duck.
We assumed that was the last we'd see of the little brown duck, but yesterday, Monday, I was out on the lanai again and guess who came swimming by? Yup, my duck! He was swimming calmly and wasn't cheeping madly. He would still get chased when he ran into an adult male muscovy, but for the most part, he was chilling on his own, surviving just fine! I text Matt excitedly and he declared him a hero duck. I even asked God if he would watch over the little duckling. The baby paddled around the pond all day and just prior to sunset, when all the other ducks were starting to get ready to bed down for the night, there he was: happy and alive.
It's now 10:30am on Tuesday and I just went to check again and I still don't see the brown baby duckling yet this morning. I have usually seen him by now. We've had a few cold nights in a row and I wonder if he survived last night. Then this morning the landscapers were mowing the grass and I worry that he might have gotten run over by the tractor. I am still holding out hope that maybe he's alive, but I do hope that if he is dead, I don't discover his body on the grass alongside the pond. Ugh, it is too emotionally stressful to be a girl! I am fully committing to never getting attached to a baby muscovy again.
14 February 2011
So, if you're not aware yet, many law schools encourage their full-time students to find work, paid or unpaid, during the summer. Last year, we found out pretty early that Matt landed his dream fellowship and was stationed in Naples, working remotely for a guy in Maryland. This year he doesn't know exactly what he wants, so he needs to spend a lot more time researching and applying. Matt committed to spending this month generating as many leads as he can (ie, finding and applying to as many internships, externships, and associate-ships that meet his criteria). We are hopeful to hear back from someone in March about summer work. As soon as we hear back, we'll be able to make concrete plans about where we'll live and give birth. I see all the possible ways this could end up sort of like a tree. At first you just have a few main branches (FL, MI, somewhere else). But then each main branch splits off into several smaller branches (If FL, then Naples or somewhere else. If MI, then near family or away from family). Each third-level branch splits, then the fourth levels, so on and so forth until you can't even comprehend how many tiny, little branches there are. Part of me wants to draw out the tree so that I can watch as developments slowly hack off and make clear our path. The other part of me knows that if I start down that path, I'll end up compulsively researching and worrying over each little branch until I make myself sick and drive my husband mad.
We just keep plugging ahead and praying that God will reveal His Will to us. Matt is going to apply this month, continue to apply next month, but we hope that we'll be using March to sort through acceptance notifications. If I need to make a road trip to arrive early at our destination, I'll need to be ready to go by the end of April at the absolute latest (which also means that we'll need to work out the car situation, storage situation, driving companion situation, living in the new city situation, etc), so I would really rather not wait until April to know even where we're headed.
So, not much has changed since the last time I posted, other than the development of a time line. I did speak with our insurance company to discover that they do cover epidurals, they have in-network providers all over the world, the max coverage for the hospital is separate than the max coverage for my doctor, my deductible did not reset in Jan, and they do, in fact, cover two ultrasounds plus all other ultrasounds that the doctor deems medically necessary. So yeah, my track history proves that I quite often spend a lot of time worrying over nothing. Let's hope that proves true as we search for work over the summer.
11 February 2011
Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge
The book, written by the authors who wrote the equally amazing Wild at Heart and Captivating, is full of unbelievably insightful things and has already done a lot to help me make sense of the frustrations that even a healthy marriage undergoes. My vision for this blog was to "record the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and financial stress that the brutal machine that is law school inflicts on a married couple." The book's quote reminded me that a post regarding such a topic was long overdue.
The context of the quote in Love and War is in discussing the ways that Satan tampers with a marriage. Even if he is not a contributing factor to the initial disaster (such as someone getting a cold), he will never miss an opportunity to try and pit a loving married couple against one another. I think one of the major ways that Satan attacks me in our marriage is by hitting us when we pray. Matt was born and raised Catholic, while I converted in college, and I definitely feel like I am at a disadvantage. He knows so much more intellectually than I do and I often feel it no more powerfully than when we're praying. We can be doing something as simple as saying the Rosary, and Satan instantly moves to fill my head with frustrations and annoyances. "Why does he speed up when he is saying the Our Father, but slow down at the Hail Marys? The Hail Marys are the longest part!" I have the perfect opportunity to be mediating on the Decent of the Holy Spirit and instead I'm annoyed at the speed with which my husband is praying. I also get really annoyed when he doesn't pray the Rosary exactly as my little "How to Pray the Rosary" pamphlet outlines. He adds all these extra little prayers in, especially at the end. Instead of reacting happily to the opportunity to spend more time in prayer, I get annoyed that my 20 minute Rosary has been stretched into a half an hour. Even when he prays non-scripted prayers from the heart, I always get so judgmental and I feel so righteous in my judgments. Our prayer life for both of us was certainly much stronger before we got married, in part, because Satan uses me as a way to prevent it from growing.
Another way that every marriage suffers is when our complexes acquired in childhood rear their ugly heads. Even if we had the most holy of parents, everyone is only human. Choices our parents made and that we made growing up affect the way we interact with each other. I personally struggle with affirming Matt and letting him express his masculinity by leading our family. My own mother was very controlling, both in her marriage, and of her children, and both my sister and I struggle with being overly bossy in our own relationships. (I think the root issue for her was about feeling loved, but that's a topic for a different blog). I am so often convinced that my way of doing something is the absolute best way and I feel like he doesn't love me if he doesn't take my advice. As a result, a major source of frustration for Matt in our marriage is my telling him what and how to do everything.
You can probably guess how the cycle goes: I take control of a situation and tell Matt exactly how I want things done, Matt feels like his voice is being ignored and becomes bitter about my control. I feel like he doesn't love me because he doesn't take my advice. He feels like the only solution to prove that he loves me is to do what I said, therefore emasculating him. Months of marriage prep and several years of being married have taught us to look past the initial issue: who gets control? To the deeper issue: I don't feel loved. Recognizing this truth helps us to move past surface issues. Sometimes I can realize that Matt does love me and there is nothing wrong with keeping a week's worth of Wall Street Journals piled up on the desk. And sometimes Matt can realize that I'm feeling unloved and reassure me that he does love me and wants to save them so he can read articles he missed throughout the week.
Love and War encourages couples to say to themselves in times when the war is building in intensity that, "we're in this together" and also, "My spouse is not the enemy." Sometimes just recognizing and admitting the facts are enough to stem the assault. Other times, it gives us both the strength to fight the battle. We continue to work together, talking through fights to discover the deeper issue, recommitting ourselves to praying together, and knowing that we're very, very blessed to be learning these lessons at such a young age.
09 February 2011
Today, however, is different. And for no apparent reason.
I have a to do list in front of me and while it is not very different from yesterday's to do list, I am for some reason very daunted by all of its demands. Maybe it is because I have insomnia like I haven't experienced since I was a teenager. Maybe it is because I didn't do any exercise this morning. Maybe it is because I had french fries and a frosty at 10am this morning (In my defense I also had a Dr appt this morning!). I don't know why, but I am feeling particularly tired. I just want to read a book until I fall asleep. It is a gorgeous day outside and the air smells wonderful and I just want to lay here with the patio door open and drink in this glorious day until I drift off into a peaceful nap.
It is okay to be lazy? Because I am not working, I feel like I should be super productive in every other way I can think of. I should vacuum; I should do some work on that magazine I volunteer for; I should do some more outlining for the novel I am working on; I should stop ending sentences in prepositions. Maybe I can nap this morning and do all of those things this evening? I don't know. Well, it was my intention to have another productive day today. But it looks like the best laid plans of mice and men will be going awry...
07 February 2011
As promised, I will now publicly disclose the details of our laziness. So our rule was that we couldn't hit the snooze button or turn the alarm off. The previous night we would decide when we wanted to wake up the next morning. If when the alarm sounded we wanted more sleep, we needed to discuss it together and reset the alarm for a new time. This way, we were making choices with real forethought, rather than making sleep-induced decisions.
Up until Sunday, we did really good! There were times when we wanted to hit the snooze button, but then I would remind us that I would need to report it to the entire blogging community. Several times, this alone got us up. The other thing that got us out of bed was needing to reset the alarm, which helped us realize on certain days that we really didn't have time to sleep in. Since we discussed the new time to wake up together, we held each other accountable to being logical with our rationalizations. Even on Saturday, we did sleep in compared to the week (planned!), but we woke up way earlier than we usually do! We even managed to make it to the gym. So, at Tuesday-Saturday, we did really well.
Sunday was not so hot. The alarm was set for 6:30am and when it went off, we hit the snooze. When it went off again, we decided to go to the 10am Mass (Catholic church service) rather than that 8am and reset the alarm. We did bad in that we hit the snooze and we were both annoyed at ourselves for not making the early Mass, which we haven't been able to do in months. But Sunday was better than this morning.
I think we hit the snooze button maybe 5 times? It was set for 6:30am, I think, although Matt's early morning class was canceled. We had plans to go to the gym, Matt was going to do some reading at home before his afternoon class, I was going to start my to-do list. Anyway, we kept snoozing until he finally turned the alarm off. I finally rolled out of bed a little around 7:45am and Matt followed about 15 minutes later. Since we got up lazily, we continued to lazy around the apartment. Not a good start to the week.
I wanted to go public with our laziness last week in the hopes that it would get us back in the habit, so that we could then carry the torch on our own. I think the no snooze rule will definitely get us through the week, but the weekend is the difficult part (and on days when there is no early-morning event scheduled). If I don't think about how comfy more sleep would be, but instead remember how good it felt the last time we got out of bed on time and had a productive morning, I will be much more motivated to get up!
So I am going to think positive now. We can't do anything about this morning, but we can definitely try again tomorrow.
02 February 2011
We do feel prepared to handle the medical costs associated with giving birth, and the costs of buying baby stuff, and we were working on what to do about replacing our dying car. How we will finance the summer if we do end up out-of-state for an intern/externship is definitely less exciting, but still very doable. So, in sum, we feel confident that we will comfortably survive the next 6 or 7 months (until the start of his 3rd and final year of law school) using our myriad of sources including savings, investments, and student loans.
We certainly will survive even his 3L year (with our trusty budget still in hand), but that is far enough away that we still feel that we have a lot of options. One of which includes me finding part-time, work-from-home employment. Luckily for me, I have experience in such an environment. I did the freelance writer, editor, designer thing in Michigan when I got laid off in the great economy crash of 2008, so I do feel comfortable taking that route. I am hesitant to start working again right now, though. In Michigan, all of my work came via word-of-mouth or referral. I had a positive relationship with all of my clients, and we shared a mutual trust built on a history of results. Whatever I do in Florida will require significantly more start-up effort, I will need to take additional steps to ensure that I am legit with the IRS, and I will need a formal pricing structure, billing/payment system, and steps to take in the event that someone doesn't want to pay the bill. I am really hesitant to get everything up and running right now just to turn around and take a maternity leave. What I would like to do is spend this time now preparing my future business, which I will then begin in the fall when Matt goes back to school and the baby is 3 months old. Matt and I have spoken about this and he is fully in support of my plan. He also supports my finding some freelance work now if I become too bored being a stay-at-home wife and also supports my staying home this fall if we think it is better for our family. He is a pretty supportive guy, and I count him among my blessings.
Alongside said preparations, household chores, and baby preparations, I would also like to use this time to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. I have been toying with an idea for a novel for several years now and I would love to spend some time putting pen to paper and seeing what happens. Since it has been quite a while since I have spent time doing any creative writing, I have blocked out some time this week do some writing exercises and get the creative juices flowing again.
Sometimes it really amazes me how much life changes, even in a short period of time. I am in such a different place than I thought I'd be even a year ago. Forget what I thought I'd be doing in 4 years, back when I was graduating college (has it really been that long?!) I can't say every decision we made was the smartest, but I can definitely say that so far, things have turned out for the better and the future looks wide open.