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Empowered – NSFW photo

I left my doctor – late. I can’t remember, but I think I was 27 weeks along. There was fine medical care, but no art/warmth time for questions, and a rotating staff of nice but not ultimately warm OBGYNs, and I was getting nervous about a hospital birth so far from home in Manhattan, which would require me to cross a bridge or tunnel to get to. At 5pm, this four mile drive could take three hours.

I looked into birthing centers, and different doctors, and read articles, and found out that, despite what you’d think, New York City isn’t really the greatest place to have a baby. I called three midwives. One answered the phone while walking down the street, and told me to come in for an initial meeting. I did.

I have a thing that happens to my bones when I know answers deeply. A nice warm heat rises out of my arm bones, and across my ribs, then floats up into my face and brain, and this is how I know that I know something before I know it. I felt it first when I met Leeloo, the dog who was the absolute perfect dog, and when I tried on the gown that I got married in before I had even fully gotten a look at myself in the mirror.

I felt it when met Marley for the first time. I saw him from across the sidewalk waiting for me – I was late for our first blind date – and automatically extended my still-glowing arms outward and around his neck within 10 seconds of meeting him, a level of familiarity with a strange man I had never gotten close to on the dozens of first dates before his.

So I knew in my arms and ribs that I was hiring this team of two women, and that meant that I am, barring complications of course, going to give birth in my living room, and that this was the right – not even right, but obvious – choice for our family, and my body, and this baby, even though it was not what I ever saw for myself.

I hugged them, too, with my still glowing arms. They insisted on me waiting for 24 hours before I officially hired them so I did, and called them as soon as the time was up.

They have me drinking a homemade blend of herbal tea, and taking probiotics that will help stave off Group B strep and WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE KNOW THIS?!, and sitting on yoga balls, and feeling my uterus for exactly where he’s laying inside of me (we are currently working – him and I in our first project together – to get him a little more to the left to be in a better birthing position). They touch, and listen, and talk, and feel, and it’s different, it’s wonderful, it’s close to spiritual, and I’m so grateful. They taught Marley how to feel where the baby is, too.

I’m currently full of gratitude, and wonder, and tiny knees. I am growing large. I have never felt more beautiful.

(And don’t you judge my hairy armpits!)

photo taken February 2019, in California, by Liv Lyszyk
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I Am Awesome at Being Pregnant

Third trimester, here we are. Aside from being exhausted in the first trimester, it’s been pretty easy and rewarding to be pregnant – much easier than I guessed it would be. 

As you know, in January of 2018 we suffered an early second trimester missed miscarriage of twins. I had to have an emergency surgical abortion, and in the months that followed I continued to suffer in a way that let my business slip behind the progress I’d made in  2016 and 2017, and I also lost the will to be careful about my eating and exercise, gaining about fifteen pounds in the first half of the year.

In August, I took a vacation with some feminist photographer friends to Colorado where we ran around the woods creating photo shoots of real queer couples, making magic with our cameras, getting ridiculously high in the hot tub (it’s legal!), and I posed for a totally nude photo shoot that left me feeling like a smoking hot goddess. (There’s a photo from this shoot in Becca Murray’s boudoir portfolio; I’m in the woods, in the headband and yellow earrings.) I got home determined to get myself right back on track… and immediately got pregnant again.

I was happy about the pregnancy, but had no hopes for maintaining any sort of of momentum with my newfound resolve to take care of myself, especially when afternoon naps became mandatory in those first twelve weeks, but I found that, eventually, exercise made me feel better, eating anything sweeter than a piece of fruit made me feel awful, and that super healthful meals balanced with protein and carbs were calling my name. (Also so, so many roasted yams.) My drink of choice is water, and I’ve been nailing getting plenty thanks to my awesome water bottle. My already pretty good skin has never looked better.

Basically, I’m in the best shape of my life, with a long, round, oval tummy. I feel completely amazing. And, because I started losing the weight I’d gained, I’m here in the third trimester without having gained a pound. I asked my midwives in alarm if that was okay, and they said it was fine given my history. So hey, I’ll take it, especially because I can fit into most of my pre-pregnancy dresses, and all of my blouses, still.

I spent a really long time being scared of being pregnant, but, aside from some random aches in my hips (because, yall, my hatred of yoga burns ever strong) this is the best thing that ever happened to me, physically.

It’s still practically unfathomable that there will be a little baby here in a few months. I can’t quite bring myself to acknowledge the personhood of this kid quite yet, so it feels like I’m preparing for a space alien to come visit. One that gets hiccups in the middle of the night, and occasionally twerks at inappropriate times.

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Baby, You Can’t Possibly Be That Complicated

“I think I’m okay,” I said to Joan, “but no one else is. Motherfuckers are stressing me out.”

People have asked us where on earth we’re going to put a baby, that we better travel now, that we can’t possibly go on vacation for the next decade, that everything will be ruined. Except for one couple at Ikea. The line was long, I sort of leaned on their cart. They caught me, and told me I could just put my stuff in the cart with theirs instead of holding it because I’d done that stubborn thing where you think you don’t need one but then your arms get too full. When I put it down, they saw I was expecting, and told me how wonderful life was in their small apartment with their baby when he was little, years and years ago on the Upper West Side, and how much they traveled, and that I shouldn’t worry. I didn’t even ask. They just… knew to tell us. Maybe other people’s fears were starting to etch into my face? I love them.

Where will he sleep? In a bassinet next to me. But that will only work for, like, six months. Yeah, well. In six months, I’ll figure out what’s next. Duh? Right? No?

He’s kicking. Kicking and squirming. I think he’ll be fine, and so will I. Right? No?

We held our breath through all of it. At eight weeks, the doctor peered closely at the screen before turning it to us. My heart pounded in my ears. 

Just one, she said, and showed us a gummy bear wiggling on screen. We celebrated our anniversary that night, in awe.

I told close friends right away. It felt stupid not to. Last time I held onto my secret and was so lonely, and then it was over and I was raw. We told more and more people. I wanted joy flowing at him to be maximised, as if love and well wishes could keep him firmly where I want him. This is not scientific, but hey.

A blood test at 10 weeks showed nothing wrong with any of his 23 chromosomes, and revealed the final one: XY. A cheeky sonogram confirmed it, and the tech giggled. “For sure a baby boy!” We made balls jokes for the rest of the day.

I bought all of his clothes on sales after Thanksgiving. Everyone who saw my haul quipped, “You’ve left nothing for anyone else to buy you.” That was my intention. I don’t want anyone else’s taste on my kid, really. When Marley and I got married, I slowly started buying all of his clothes. It’s how I love; it’s how he feels loved. I couldn’t imagine anything else for my bub.

You need this, you need that. Everyone has opinions. They’re overwhelming, and I try to be polite and smile through them. I’ve even asked for help, and people’s opinions, and then found myself both thankful and regretful, not because of them but because… its a lot. I hate when things are “a lot”. I think all we need are diapers, bottles, a good place for him to sleep, and some clothes. I bought a stuffed bunny, because I wanted to buy his very first gift, Marley bought him some books, because of course he did. Oh, and some booties, too. But other than that, not much else? A tub? Is the sink still okay? A changing pad (there’s no room for a changing table.)

We fold ourselves together in bed and place four hands in my middle, and talk to him. Now that I’m larger, I sleep in a pillow fort. I’m pretty sure we have 90% of what we need right there tucked into bed. I’m uninterested in this being much more complicated than the sex we still try to have, laughing as we rearrange the pillows over and over so we don’t squash him.

I think we’ll be okay. Right? Yes.

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