Pregnancy: Week 39; Coronovirus Isolation: Week 8

It’s been 51 days since Pyra felt grass under her toes. 51 days since my sociable, sweet girl interacted with another child (in person). 51 days since my active, almost-20-month-old has run around outdoors and climbed something other than furniture or a parent. 51 days … and how many more?

But that’s the question we’re all asking right now, isn’t it? How much longer? No matter what our personal situation is, it certainly isn’t what we’re used to, nor how we want to live for an extended amount of time. You may have acres of outdoor space to romp in, but your activities or income are hindered. Maybe you go to work regularly, but you’re a little nervous about exposure to a virus that will be written about in medical and history books. We aren’t living our “normal,” no matter what our “normal” generally looks like, or even if we like our “normal” or not; but we certainly don’t want this current way of life to become the new normal. On that, I believe we could unanimously agree?

Anyhoo. 51 days of isolation. But here are some other figures that have been knocking around my head recently as well:

  • 38 ½ years old
  • 38 ½ weeks pregnant
  • 51 days of isolation due to a global pandemic

That darn “51 days of isolation” snuck back in there, refusing to be ignored!

My age and maternity situation just boggle my mind sometimes. I’m halfway through my 39th year of life and not only am I mother to a scrappy-sweet toddler girl, but I am also quite pregnant with a child whom we are told will have a penis and scrotum. Incredibly blessed to have the girl-boy combo, but did I mention that I’m 38 ½ years old?! At one point, I thought that 33 years old was sounding a little on the “old” side for starting a family. Ha!! That was back in 2014, when I first became pregnant and was ecstatic to begin our next phase in life; unfortunately, the next phase was “infertility rollercoaster” instead of “joyful life with munchkins.”

Yet here we are! Life is wonderfully uncertain and can always be counted on to throw a wrench – or a whole toolbox – into your plans and lead you down paths that twist and turn unexpectedly, frequently resulting in experiences and circumstances that we couldn’t have dreamt up, but wouldn’t change for all the cheese and bread in the world.

“Where would I be right now
If all my dreams had come true?
Deep down I know somehow
I’d have never seen your face.

This world would be a different place.
Darling, there’s no way to know
Which way your heart will go”

Mason Jennings, “Which Way Your Heart Will Go,”

For me, though, it’s not so much “which way your heart will go,” but where life’s twists and turns will lead you: almost undoubtedly away from your dreams, but very possibly into a beautiful, unexpected reality.

I wish I had been able to start a family when my body was younger, but I couldn’t. I wish I could have had babies without ever experiencing a lost pregnancy, but I couldn’t. But I would never choose to turn back the dial and do it over because I don’t know who I would be or where I would be in that alternate universe … I certainly wouldn’t have Pyra crawling into my lap for a toothy, slobbery kiss. And I likely wouldn’t be 38 ½ years old and 38 ½ weeks pregnant, in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Isolation Report

I don’t really have a lot to say on this front … not much changes over the weeks, except for the size of my belly and degree of weariness. I did leave the house for a couple hours last week- what a momentous and exhausting day that was!

I walked 40 mins (to avoid taking a taxi) to an ultrasound appointment. 40 very uncomfortable minutes because of my dang uterus. I had planned to enjoy a leisurely walk to the appointment as it would be my first lengthy walk outdoors in weeks, but instead I had “false labor” contractions* the entire way, which made the walk quite unpleasant and I just wanted to get there and stop walking as soon as possible. By the time I was a couple blocks away, I also had to pee so bad I was afraid I wouldn’t make it to the appointment with dry clothes. Thank goodness I’ve kept doing kegels now and again. (that means that I made it to the appointment without peeing myself!)

Anyway, the ultrasound went well and the results were reassuring. Baby boy has grown (although still small on the overall spectrum), my amniotic fluid and placenta look great (I didn’t even know that they can detect if a placenta starts “wearing out” but I guess they can!), and overall everything was super. The walk home was much better; my uterus must have been reassured by the good news and had settled down.

The previous day was also unusual and also because of prenatal medical appointments. However that day, the appointment came to my apartment. I was able to book a local hospital lab to come to my residence to take my blood and urine samples using WhatsApp (which is extremely common here as a primary means of communication, much to my delight). I sent the order for the tests by text and the lab even confirmed the appointment (in-person by text, not a robocall) on Sunday evening for the Monday morning appointment. They arrived at 8 am (30 minutes earlier than the appointment- so much for the Latin American stereotype of arriving late, right?) and the two technicians were in full protective gear, down to booties over their shoes. They proceeded to efficiently and painlessly draw several vials of blood for my prenatal bloodwork right at my dining room table, with Pyra and Rodney observing from a distance.

Everything went without a hitch, until they asked me for my urine sample. That is, they didn’t provide me with a sterile container and ask me to fill it … they just wanted me to hand over an already-prepared urine sample. Apparently, I was supposed to get a container at the pharmacy and have the sample ready, but nobody had enlightened me on this local tradition. The lab was kind enough to swing by a couple hours later, which gave me time to pop out to the pharmacy a couple blocks away and pick up the 25¢ sterile urine cup and fill that sucker up.

Can you imagine this scene? Waddling down the stairs of my apartment building with my huge belly, buzzing myself out of the security door and gate, my urine sample held discreetly in a paper towel and hoping that the neighbors all stay put? At least it wasn’t a stool sample, I suppose. Anyway … it all went well, and the results were accessible online by evening and showed everything to be normal. $70 for a lab to come to my home, take my samples, run a full panel of blood and urine analysis, and then have the results available remotely within 12 hours. What. A. Deal.

Recharging vitamin D during a few minutes of sunshine!

The only other thing I can think of to write about is that yesterday we finally inflated a kiddie pool for Pyra, and that has helped to eat up the long afternoon hours. We’ve waited for weeks to bring out the pool because the weather has been quite gloomy and rainy here. But yesterday we had a break in that trend and I blew up the pool. Like most kids, water play is one of Pyra’s most favorite activities, and the pool is the best $10 we’ve spent in months. However, the fun ended abruptly this afternoon when … can you guess what very predictable event happened? When a toddler is freed from the confines of a diaper and allowed to splash in a pool naked? Yeah. The afternoon water play turned into an afternoon of disinfecting the pool and terrace. Whoops. Silly mom. I just love to see her play naked!! But it was enough work for me that Pyra will be splashing around the pool with a diaper on for awhile.

I feel there were probably more interesting things to write about, but I’m done with writing for today. The magnetic force pulling me towards my pillow and bed is too great for me to withstand. I hope this ramble finds you well. Much love to you.

*I am convinced that I have an “irritable uterus.” From what I have read, I get an abnormal amount of Braxton-Hicks “false labor” or “practice” contractions. I had them a lot with Pyra too. This pregnancy feels worse, but I might just be more sensitive to them now. It’s crazy … sometimes I’ll just get one after another, after another, after another with only a minute or two between. And I think they frequently last longer (more like a minute) than “normal” Braxton-Hicks contractions. Usually, they are sporadic and I don’t mind them much at all, but when they keep going and going and I’m trying to do more than just lie around … it’s uncomfortable and annoying and I feel more than ready to be done being pregnant!!

Pregnancy: Week 36; Coronavirus Isolation: Week 5 (mostly whining and also a Pyra update)

My mood matches the weather. There’s a light misty rain falling. The clouds are high, so it’s not too dark; I can still see the mountains in the distance. It’s not a storm battering the earth with thunderous flashes of lightning, not even a drenching downpour to temporarily flood the streets. Just a half-hearted drizzle. Maybe when it’s over, the sun will appear from behind the clouds and the world -as viewed from our apartment windows- will feel brighter and fresher. One can hope.

I had some pretty great days in the past few weeks since I last posted, but this week was a greater struggle to maintain mood, perspective, and sanity. I was more tired in the last few days than I had been. The exhaustion exasperates the thinning patience of the afternoon and feelings of despair … that this situation has no end in sight. It often feels that there is no escape from the unchanging drudgery and constant responsibility as caregiver; that I have nothing to look forward to, no enjoyable activities, no hobbies to pursue without distraction. Even now, while I’m having “me time” in the back bedroom with the music in my headphones turned up, I can hear Pyra crying. It will only be for a moment … but I can’t completely tune out and escape, and when I try (like right now) I frequently end up feeling guilty. But. The drizzle has now ended and the clouds are a lighter grey- I am feeling better too. A little caffeine, a little quiet time, a little writing … these things do often help lift me out of poor spirits.

Today is the 36-week anniversary of Little Boy’s gestation. If the pregnancy continues without complications, we should see the tiny nameless man for the first time in 2-6 weeks. I can’t believe we’re already so close to his arrival. I can’t believe that I will be even more tired than I am now for at least the first week or so after his birth. I can’t believe these unchanging days will continue on and on indefinitely and that wandering outdoors with my babies without fear of illness is in some distant, almost unimaginable future. I can’t believe Tiny Little Man is unlikely to meet other humans (not to mention my family back in USA) for months after his arrival and that Pyra will continue to live without social interaction for so long.

I know I should just be grateful for our health, for all of our privileges and good fortune … but hormones and brain chemicals are tough competitors and they’re continually nudging negative perspective and self-pity to the surface of my turbulent sea of emotions. I try to push them down and argue them out of existence, but they persist. It is pregnancy hormones? Is it the dreary weather? Is it lack of sleep? Is it an unbalanced lifestyle? The uncertainty of our living situation? I suppose it’s a terrific mash-up of all of those options, plus others that I’ve currently forgotten or haven’t even yet considered.

There’s Pyra crying again. I’ll have to go relieve my guilt soon. Shower her with kisses … and hot water. Rod went out to the grocery stores twice this week after several weeks avoiding them, and yesterday he brought back a little plastic baby tub for Pyra (we don’t have a bathtub in this apartment, just showers). I plan to let her play in her tub for a long time while the hot shower washes away my negativity and the fun new water activity eats up some of the afternoon.

It’s so terrible of me to write during these moments of heightened distress. It’s an ugly distortion of my general existence and state of mind. Yet, that’s generally when my writing bug bites … not in the midst of satisfaction and joyful moments, but when the mood drops and yearns for some release, a means of expression that might help dissipate the unwanted feelings.

Well, I’ve not really provided much of any update except for my negative feelings. It feels like there’s nothing much to report, but I know I should make an effort. Let’s see. The washing machine won’t work and the internet is often slow or not functioning. Hm. No, that’s not a very good start. Let me try again.

I received some sourdough starter from my favorite bakery and have been semi-diligently feeding it. I’m still waiting for adequate energy to coincide with inspiration and timing to attempt my first baking with it. Meanwhile, I’m developing a nice amount of discard to make crepes with one of these days.

The midwife came for a week 35 checkup and everything seems to be well with Little Boy and me. Next week I’m supposed to get an ultrasound and blood and urine tests as we approach “full term.” I have no idea where or how that will transpire. I have left the apartment building only once in the last 5 weeks, and that was for approximately 30-40 mins and within a couple of blocks. I don’t know how far I’ll need to go, how long I’ll be out, nor if I can accomplish the tasks with one outing. I don’t want to unnecessarily increase the risk of getting corona in the last weeks of pregnancy, so I will be avoiding any transportation and walking my big belly wherever I need to go. I’ll report back when it’s all accomplished.

Pyra is a bright light in our lives and her development is entertaining and wondrous to experience. We are so lucky to have so much time with her! She is a cheery and active 19-month-old girl. Some of her favorite activities are: being naked; climbing, jumping and tumbling on the couch; playing with water; picking out new pants and socks to wear; watching and trying to pick up bugs; playing any sort of chase or rough-housing with mom and dad.

Py’s spoken vocabulary is still surprisingly limited, and hilariously pronounced, but her comprehension is phenomenal. Her physical abilities definitely outshine her verbal skills at this point. Pyra has great balance and strength and loves using her adorable body in physical play. She climbs in and out of her highchair on her own, climbs up onto a twin bed for diaper changes (with the motivation of almond and raisins for a treat), pushes a chair around the house to facilitate her reaching things she not supposed to or watch mom and dad in the kitchen. She isn’t overly clingy, but she loves snuggles and kisses (generally with a wide-open mouth involving teeth and tongue) and to be near mom and dad. Pyra enjoys music, watching family videos, FaceTiming with her grandparents, Auntie and cousins (in fact she often pats my computer and says “Papa, Papa, Papa” to request a FT call), and exercising with mom and dad- although she’ll often randomly bust out some “pushups” throughout the day, on her own too.

We appreciate her appetite and acceptance of a wide-range of foods. Some of her favorite foods include: peas, almonds, raisins/grapes, oatmeal, avocado, grenadilla fruit, banana, papaya, mango (pretty much all fruits), quinoa, noodles, sourdough bread, mushrooms, veggie soups, smoothies …. really, she likes so many things, it’s hard to make a favorites list. She even likes to take little tastes of ají (a local take on hot sauce). She’s getting really good at feeding herself with a spoon or fork. I even let her go at a bowl of yogurt and meusli with banana, and a surprising majority made it into her mouth.

Ok, well, my mood has lifted with the clouds. While the sun might not have actually appeared, it’s brighter both outside and inside this apartment and I’m ready to re-join my family. Time for Pyra to try out that new bath tub and for me to wash away the last of my gloominess.

I wish I had made this update during a cheerier mood … I feel like I misrepresent my overall disposition and that it’s not exactly uplifting to read my whiney rants. I don’t want to leave people with negativity. Oh well. This is where I am today, at this point in time. I plan to post some photos of Miss P to help lighten the mood. I wish the best to everyone out there, and hope that you’re managing your current situation with more grace, generosity, and patience than I have been. By admitting my less-than-satisfying recent perspective and behavior, I intend to make improvements. This is kind of like a pity-party that ends in a pep-talk. It’s somewhat embarrassing to reveal and share with others, but also an effective way to get my act together. To show myself just how low I’ve stooped and motivate myself to make changes.

All of a sudden I remember the much weightier trials that many loved ones are facing during these same times. Death. Illness. True tragedies. And I feel silly and petty for my behavior, mood, and perspective. I should feel silly and petty when I compare my “trials” with the real adversity and sorrow that others are facing. Why can it be so hard to push the “reset perspective” button, sometimes? Ugh. Now I feel ashamed of my feelings … not enough to push me lower down … enough to lift my chin a bit self-consciously. To be grateful again. Grateful for all of my good fortunate in a slightly inconvenient and uncertain time.

Anyway. That’s it for now. Rant over. Much love to everyone out there dealing with their own personal demons, with the coronavirus, with whatever life is flinging at them right now.

Life in Cuenca, Ecuador – Pregnancy: Week 32; Coronavirus Isolation: Week 1

Our adventure grows more and more interesting- I suppose that holds true for just about everyone these days!

The Move

Today is Saturday. On Monday, we moved into our “permanent” apartment on the last day before the isolation mandates from the local government became much more serious. We didn’t “need” to move until Thursday, and had planned a leisurely 4-day transfer to our new home. That was when confirmed coronavirus in Ecuador was limited to a single family in a distant city. Things changed quickly as our local government started to take preventative measures. We hadn’t even started packing when we heard that we needed to start home isolation on Tuesday and that Monday would also be the last day that the grocery stores would be open for regular business- good thing we had stocked up a bit on dry good and diapers already!!

I went to get the keys for the new apartment at 10 am on Monday (an hour earlier than scheduled because the owner of the apartment was getting out of the city to her country home in front of the impending “lockdown”). I got the request for an earlier meeting around 9 am as I was heading to our favorite local bakery to stock up on sourdough bread (3 loaves of classic and 4 loaves of seeded whole wheat ☺️). The bakery was serving one client at a time, and since we had ordered ahead, they had it packaged up and ready to go. I was glad to see they were already taking precautions to reduce risk to themselves and their customers.

Because we have no car and we needed to get all our stuff moved in as little time and as few trips as possible, I took a backpack and stroller-load of groceries and baby clothes with me to the apartment via taxi. Rodney stayed at home with Pyra so she could nap, and to limit our exposure. The driver wore a mask, but no gloves; I had neither. I had intended to handle all my luggage myself, but he started to help before I could say anything. I asked him how he was doing and he said he was a little scared. No kidding. Talk about an occupation that not only holds a high level of risk to contract the coronavirus, but will also likely be restricted or forbidden for an extended period of time.

I returned to our temporary apartment Rodney had started to pack up and together we finished packing and cleaning up in just a couple hours. A generous and dear friend had agreed to help us move back when coronavirus was much more abstract, an illness only affecting people in far-off places. All of a sudden the risk of contracting the virus was much more real. This friend decided she would still help us, despite our assurances that she was completely free of any obligation. Luckily, we were completely ready, and it only took two trips. We skipped any hugs or direct contact, and we were moved over and done with our old apartment in about an hour and a half. WHAT A RELIEF!!! We are so grateful for the generosity of our friend who no-doubt should have been getting groceries or tending to her own family’s needs, but chose to help us out. It was incredible and we are so thankful!! We didn’t make it to the grocery store that day, but we were completely moved and were supplied enough with necessities to survive awhile. We are Lord and Lady of our own little apartment ☺️.

The last load to take up to the new apartment! So much lovely crap 🙂

Isolation

So, this is only our 5th day of isolation and living in our new apartment, but it feels like so much longer! With nowhere to go, and nothing much else to do, we were able to clean up, organize and move-in much faster than we normally would have. In three days we were feeling pretty settled-in, despite the fact that we hadn’t been able to acquire many items we had intended to … like sheets for the beds, furniture for the terrace, and a couple of toys for Pyra. Luckily we were insane and brought SO MUCH STUFF with us from the US; having our favorite kitchen items and household goods on hand has helped out a ton during these crazy times. It has also helped me feel a lot more “at home” to have so many familiar items with us. I never imagined how important it would be to us- we had started out feeling pretty frustrated with ourselves for schlepping so much “crap” from the US … no regrets now!!!

Cleaning and organizing provided plenty of distraction this week!

Having to stay inside with Pyra with limited resources for entertainment hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been awful either. Kids love everyday items so much more than toys anyway. It’s just been a game of “what to let the 18-month-old run around with?” I’ve been much more lenient in what she’s allowed to handle … and I think that’s been good for both of us.

Trying to come up with stimulating new activities for Py … dried black beans and an empty egg carton for the win this morning!

We have small terrace which was one of the highlights of this apartment, and I am so happy we stuck to our guns and made outdoor space a priority. It is wonderful!!!!! Pyra and I stripped down to our skivvies to scrub it down after discovering that to play on it meant tracking in enormous amounts of filth. I put on my maternity bathing suit (thank you, sweet cousin, Emily!) and scrubbed that terrace on my hands and knees. It was much more fun than it might have been because I let Pyra help; her giggles and nude little body entertained me as we washed away the grime.

Enjoying the terrace 🙂 I confined waterplay to the tub and a swimsuit this afternoon after yesterday’s nudie waterplay ended in me disinfecting all the toys and terrace due to poop appearing on the scene!

Rodney did go to the grocery store once this week as we realized we needed more “flavor” for our cooking. We were so spoiled before all this started: going out for lunch or dinner several times a week. We’ve had to up our cooking game, and we realized we needed more options to create tasty meals. The grocery stores are open for only 30 customers at a time, so we were concerned that he might have to stand in line for a long time. Additionally, we had heard reports that some stores were refusing customers if they didn’t have masks or gloves. We haven’t purchased masks, but we wanted to get to the store one last time before coronavirus was in Cuenca in great numbers. So, Rod donned a bandana for a mask and winter gloves and ventured out with the stroller and backpack, looking ridiculous but as prepared as he could be. Fortunately, he arrived at the store at a good time and didn’t have to wait at all. Products were in good supply and Rod came home with lots of goodies to help us get through isolation with more convenience and less desperation. The ahí (a local take on hot sauce), eggs, and corn chips have made my life so much happier the last few days 😆.

Pregnancy

So here’s the subject that concerns me the most: giving birth to a baby (who lacks a developed immune system) in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. In Ecuador. Far from medical attention that I’m familiar with or trust. Far from family support. Far from ideal.

I am INCREDIBLY grateful that we were recommended to a midwife and we were able to meet her several weeks ago. I joined a childbirth preparation group that she leads and have been getting to know four other women who are due to give birth in the next few months as well. Despite so many uncertainties still lingering, I am not alone in this … WE are not alone in this situation, and we have a small support network that is so, so, precious to me.

Even before the issue of coronavirus had infiltrated our everyday lives, I was feeling super apprehensive about using the hospitals to give birth here. Nearly all hospital births are cesarean in this country and as I’ve been told by locals, the patient has very few rights. I even heard that random people (the doctor’s father) may be allowed in the room to witness the rare and fantastical vaginal birth, while spouses and family members may be denied access. What, what?! I was told that doctor’s don’t track c-section rates, because they are so commonplace and that of the vaginal births that do occur, 9 out of 10 are with an episiotomy. (Can you see me cringing and shrinking back with horror?!?!?! Because I am!)

Rodney and I were SO relieved to meet the midwife who is a professional (certified in Mexico) with tons of experience (started training in Columbia at the age of 17) and is incredibly empathetic, knowledgable, and makes us feel very confident in her (and our) abilities. Unfortunately, we can’t combine the assurances of modern medicine of the hospital, with the experience and knowledge of the mid-wife. The hospitals won’t allow her to be our primary provider, or even to be in the room during delivery. So we are pretty well set that we will be having this baby “at home.” Not what I had imagined when I first discovered that we were pregnant again; I had visions of a comfy North American hospital birth, with my mom and sister in attendance for support. Yeah, well, that’s not happening. We decided that dual citizenship was a higher priority for this little guy than my ideals for giving birth.

Of course now, I’m not even sure what is most responsible for me to do in terms of check-ups, ultrasounds, etc. Thank goodness I’m healthy and this pregnancy has had zero issues/complications! We still have to figure out whether benefits outweigh the risks to get the usual checkups and then an ultrasound later on as we near the due date. We have yet to discuss these concerns with our midwife. We still have a little time to make decisions and feel more comfortable: I complete 32 weeks tomorrow, giving us 6-8 more weeks before baby boy should arrive.

Until Next Time

Well, I should wrap up. Rod gifted me with time to myself, and I’ve spent it rambling away here. And now I hear my sweet little Py knocking on the door looking from Mommy. Actually, she melted straight to tears as Rod turned her away in an attempt to keep her distracted and let me be alone a bit longer. I should get back to my family so he doesn’t regret offering me this spectacular gift!!

Please take care of yourselves and your families. Respect government actions to help prevent the spread of this virus and protect the vulnerable individuals in our community. You may be healthy and fight off coronavirus easily, but your actions could potentially endanger others who wouldn’t be as lucky. People will die. But we can each help to reduce those numbers.

Much love and wishes of health and peace to you all.