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Archive for May, 2012

Mark’s brother’s engagement part/bridal shower was yesterday here at his parents’ house. A crowd of people – familiar ones flown in from north carolina and africa, strangers from the bride’s side from florida and other parts of massachusetts – not to mention all five of the dogs (our one, my in-laws’ two, and the bride & groom’s two). Strange to be abstaining from the famous sangria and the good beer that was purchased, and strange not to be able to eat as much (i get full much faster these days), but grateful this morning as i watched the hungover bodies rising late and moving slowly.

Mark’s parents’ friends were there, a few couples we see once a month or so when we join their group for drinks some evening or they come to the house for dinner. All of the women (and a number of men) insisted that I looked great, glowing, wonderful. I blame the glow on the heat (and the fact that I was apparently coming down with a cold – thank you, mark’s students, for this end-of-the-year gift!), and I felt like I just looked heavy, but I reminded myself that what I know and feel are not what people see. 

The bride’s cousins came with four children between the ages of 8-ish months and 7 years, and I got to be the one settled in with the oh-so-relaxed toddler in the grass while the other talked or played ladderball or, in the case of the kids, chased my poor little dog around the house. He (Chase, the toddler) was perfectly content to settle on my lap for a while, climbing over my limbs, grabbing at my shoulders and knees for support, and then I chased his awkward crawl here and there around a little patch of yard. I hope I get one like him, I thought.

 I feel like my body is having no trouble adjusting to the shifting balance, and I have yet to feel the swelling and aches that others seem to have by now (though a few minutes of stretching were needed to get the kinks out of my hips after a night on an inflatable mattress). It seems to be more the lack of space in my abdomen – less room for lungs to expand, less room for digesting food to move through my system – that’s I need to get used to. I feel a bit like I’m being edged out of my own body, the way that annabella, the tiny dog we  had when i was a kid, could take up all of the room in my bed somehow.

Baby had a first trip into the ocean last week! I’d gotten as far as my knees a few times, but last Thursday was the first day I was dressed appropriately and the water was warm enough to really get any deeper. So I waded in until my whole belly was under the waves and simply stood on the sand for a while. Not too long, though – Little Dog was with me, pacing on the shore, barking at me to come back in (she’ll only go as deep as her own belly – she won’t yet swim – and she doesn’t like it when mark or I get out of reach). I came back in and lay on one of the boulders, shirt hiked up so that just maybe a little sunlight would reach the baby – or at least a little extra heat.

 My tank tops are starting to get too short. I have two maternity tank tops that I imagine I’ll be living in this summer, at least until I get a few more. Everything that could accomodate the beginnings of the belly is starting to reach a breaking point. Only the sundresses are holding out. 

But except for a little tickling cold in the back of my throat, I still feel great. I do keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for all of those wretched symptoms women love to tell me about to attack me all at once. And I know that I won’t exactly feel my best once the third trimester starts in a few weeks. But right now, I’m enjoying the warm weather. Time for a walk, and maybe a little nap on the beach with the family…

 

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The Belly

It’s all about the belly. But it’s also the part that I have the most trouble attending to.

It’s easy to double check the mirror to see if that same old shirt works with this new body, to pull it tight to show off the growth to friends at work, to hone in on the kicking at off hours (which, by the way, doesn’t feel like anything else. In the beginning, yes, it’s like the slow pop of the bubbles in hubby’s carboy as his beer ferments, but not quite, but in this second phase, with the kicks strengthening, it’s not really like anything else). 

What I’m having more trouble with is talking to the baby. Singing to it. Telling it rhymes and poems. Because it doesn’t feel like bonding with my baby just yet. It simply feels like I’m a crazy person, talking at my stomach.

Every once in a while, when walking with the dog on the beach, I can do it. I can mutter along, thoughts spilling into the air and hopefully bouncing back to baby. Last time, I explained to the baby that I have trouble because people here on the outside don’t often talk to their own body parts. Mama has talked to daddy’s parts  and daddy to mama’s (keep those brains out of the gutter – I mean silly things like a chat we had the other night about hubby’s chest hair being invaders from Jupiter – his idea, not mine – who are colonizing him as the first step toward a peace treaty with earth. Weird, yes. But that’s how we roll). I told baby that when we finally meet, I will coo daily over every single square inch of baby and I’m sure baby will coo – and drool and pull and  push and climb – over pretty much all of mama as well. But now?  I’m having trouble.

There’s research out there. Not that baby can understand what I’m saying, of course. But that singing the same lullabye or ballad or even acapella pop song every day to my little rutabaga will mean that that same song, on the outside, will remind baby of the peaceful, happy time in utero and calm his or her nerves. But what lullabye? What do I want to sing every day for the next four months, and then most every day for who knows how many years and who knows how many times a day? I’m not a spontaneous singer. I sing to my favorite songs in the car (something, I’ve decided, city folk are totally missing out on) or when hubby and I are listening to the Avett Brothers for the billionth time. But I don’t hum while I wash dishes or belt it out into my shampoo bottle microphone in the shower. I just… don’t.

I know that baby hears me all day at work when I’m speaking to people in a kind and friendly way, which I suppose is good. But what about the times when I’m growling at drivers that waver into my lane or drive eight below the speed limit on my commute home? What about the times when hormones have me bawling onto hubby? I did read that a certain amount of stress is good for babies in utero, that it teaches them that the outside world is not entirely a fairy land of glitter (okay, bad example – nobody wants a lifetime of glitter) or magic ponies but a place in which you sometimes have to be on your guard, sometimes have to plan ahead for possible troubles. Of course, in the same way that I won’t be chowing down on salt to nudge my somewhat low blood pressure up, I don’t plan to be diving into stressful situations because “it’s good for baby,” but it does ease my fears about those less-than-ideal words spoken aloud.

Can other women pull this off easily? Just staring down at their (perfect, basketball-shaped, stretch-mark-less) bumps, chattering away about Peter Rabbit and singing Beatles songs?

I don’t know. But I’ve got 18 weeks (give or take) left to teach baby Our Song. Time to start scrolling through Itunes, I suppose…  

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Also, a Response

One of my favorite blogs is Eat the Damn Cake. It’s written by a girl in NYC primarily about women’s perception of their bodies and their places in society. She posted a piece a week or so ago about the pressure placed on African American women to be curvy (as opposed to that of Caucasions to be thin) – here it is:
When I considered the bodily expectations of specific groups of women, all I could think about (of course) were the unique pressures put on pregnant women – we’re supposed to be growing cute, obvious breasts and bellies, but we’re supposed to remain thin and fit everywhere else. We “ought” to each gain precisely 25-30 pounds – unless we’re underweight (gain more!) or overweight (gain less! or nothing!). Some doctors say it’s okay to eat whatever we want while others prescribe a very specific diet (though no one can agree exactly what that diet does or does not include). So I told her that, but then I wrote this:

I’ve been a vegetarian for five and a half years, and I’ve spent the past six years researching a healthy vegetarian diet. I’ve been pregnant for four and a half months, and I’ve been researching healthy pregnancy nutrition for a year and a half. The way I see it, I want to know as much as I can, if only so I know exactly where I believe I can bend the rules and where I can’t.

At the start of the pregnancy, I cut out alcohol and coffee. I haven’t really eaten processed foods or artificial sweeteners in years, so eliminating those was a non-issue, and I’m constantly checking labels for high fructose corn syrup, but hubby and I are basically from-scratch eaters around here. I intended to give up sugar altogether, but that (along with my promise to give up all coffee) ended after about a month. There’s too hazy a line between sugar (which is bad), honey (which helps you digest wheat and is good for allergies in addition to being antibacterial), maple syrup (the real stuff-which hubby adores), and molasses (which has pretty good minerals, including iron, which is big for prego vegetarians).

On occasion, there are the splurges. For some reason, this baby thinks we need chocolate donuts (which I usually consume once or twice a year). And plain potato chips (which I’ve never really cared about). And those cheap knock-off oreos (the effects of which I’ll get back to).

But I also eat cooked oat groats (uncut, unprocessed oats) with fruit and natural peanut butter for breakfast every day. I eat greens (collards, kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, cabbage) every single day (which I’m actually loving – they’re quick, easy, and you can season them with almost anything to make them delicious). I’m a fruit fiend these days (grapes? strawberries? apples? grapefruit? Yes.), and I’m super careful about getting enough protein and minerals and vitamins. I get good fats (necessary for building baby’s nervous system – i.e. brain – and, you know, those cute rolls of baby pudge that every single healthy baby has) from coconut oil and olive oil and flaxseed oil and avocados and full fat Greek yogurt (which, by the way, has massive amounts of protein). I take my prenatal vitamins every day, and I drink mostly tea, water, and OJ. I have a few sips of hubby’s beer on occasion, and up to a cup or two of decaf coffee while working (at a coffeeshop. You can’t quit coffee altogether when you’re brewing and serving it 3-5 mornings a week).

The thing is, after considering all of the normal guidelines on food and nutrition and growing a person pretty much from scratch, there’s a relatively new science out there called epigenetics. Epigenetics is basically the study of how what you do (and what your pregnant mother did) affects the expression of your child’s genes. For example, if your child is genetically inclined to be relatively lean because your family is and so is your hubby’s, but you eat poorly during your pregnancy and don’t really exercise, your child is far more likely to develop scary things like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and even some mental illnesses, even if the child, once born, consumes breast milk followed by a raw well-rounded vegan diet of champions.

So, you see, the pressures of pregnancy are far more complicated than avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and soft cheeses.

But epigenetics also gave us the study that suggests that pregnant women who consume reasonable amounts of dark chocolate five times a week are more content post-birth and have calmer, less irritable babies. And the study that says even a moderate amount of walking during pregnancy will help your baby to sleep better in the first year of life outside the womb. So it’s not always discouraging.

But wait – there’s more! Food when you’re pregnant is something it’s difficult not to obsess over. Most women have morning sickness, which means they can only consume, for example, ginger ale and dry toast for the first three months. After that, you phase in and out of what I like to call being a hobbit: first and second breakfast? brunch? lunch? tea time? While some weeks present relatively normal appetite, there are others during which baby demands an entire meal every couple of hours (sometimes including three a.m. wake up calls for bowls of cereal! Yes, I’ve been there). And during pregnancy, your body digests food very very s-l-o-w-l-y, which manifests itself in a number of ways: heartburn (which therefore encourages you to eat small portions of mild foods), indigestion (remember those knock-off oreos? or the last time you felt overly full after that big delicious meal? now it will haunt you all night with uncomfortable cramps and pressure and the speculation that you must have eaten a pile of bricks without noticing it), and, loud, uncontrollable gas (which my loving hubby usually ignores, thank goodness).

Which all means that during pregnancy, you’re either wishing you could stop being too nauseated to eat, starving, uncomfortably dealing with your own digestion, unwillingly sharing the gurgles and gases of said digestion with those around you, or some combination of the above. Food is a constant issue.

And we haven’t even gotten to the infamous Body Image.

I couldn’t wait to see my body pregnant. Bigger boobs? A cute little belly on a figure that was trying to be curvy but still not curvy enough in the right spots? I was going to be adorable. In January, with Massachusetts temperatures hovering in the 30s, I snuggled under blankets and dreamed of a summer of sun dresses and, for the first time, a bikini(!) in order to show off my fertile, beautiful, powerful body.

But pregnancy doesn’t transform your body all at once from what you see now to big and obviously pregnant. There are metaphorical (and literal) growing pains. It takes time. People talk about the day a pregnant lady seems to “pop,” but popping is a series of moments, like the popping of an entire batch of popcorn. First there were the weeks when the not-yet-baby was the size of a grain of rice, a lentil, a kidney bean, and my breasts were definitely bigger (and a little itchy, to be honest), but the belly remained unchanged. More weeks passed. Then there was the day I could see my belly was different. The day hubby noticed the difference. The day my mother-in-law did, the day my boss did. There was the day when my jeans didn’t fit, then the day when the jeans I borrowed from my slender hubby didn’t fit either. The day this shirt stopped fitting, the day that fitted hoodie might be stretching a little more than I wanted. There was the day I could feel the swell of my uterus below my belly button. And now we are transitioning from the time where people who know I’m pregnant can obviously tell to the time when strangers are beginning to notice that I’m not chubby – I’m having a baby.

But, see, the moment you can see the little belly bulge is long, long before strangers know you’re pregnant. And so you (if you’re like me) hide it. You mask it beneath sweaters and baggy shirts. You don’t want people you know to think that you’re just putting on a little weight. You don’t want strangers to think you’re showing off a belly built of beer and nachos, because that, according to culture, is trashy. And you don’t know if your belly is even the size it should be.

So you cry on your hubby (because pregnancy hormones encourage such things) because not only do you not want to be a fat cow, but what if your child is a fat cow? And what if you never lose the 30+ pounds you gain during pregnancy? And what if you’re a fat cow forever? And your child hates you for making her fat? And your hubby leaves you because when you two met, you loved hiking and long walks and yoga, and so you’re obviously not the woman he married anymore – unless you ate her? And you end up one of those people wearing the most unflattering outfits ever on those web sites mocking Wal Mart customers even though you haven’t been in a Wal Mart in years? What if that happens to me, hubby?!? WHAT IF IT HAPPENS?!?!?!?!?! Meanwhile, you’re dripping snot on him (and probably passing gas, remember?). If, at this moment, he still loves you and doesn’t run screaming, you’ve chosen a good one. Keep him.

You find albums of women online who are just about as far along as you are and inspect their bellies – Bigger or smaller than yours? Rounder? Cuter? More perfect? Many of them will look like they are still running 5Ks on the weekends. Some of them are. Many will look like they alternate days between CrossFit and hardcore prenatal yoga, which they do. And you will wonder why your belly seems to be frumpy and a little sad compared to theirs. Possibly because while you’re doing yoga from a DVD once a week and spending every hour at work on your feet serving customers and eating well and walking (or at least walking your dog to her poop spot down the street) every day, they are living their lives based around an obsession with fitness. Or maybe they’re just naturally thinner and more muscular than you (remember – genetics and epigenetics could be working against you and for them!). It happens.

And then when you’re proud because you jogged twice last week (only slowly and for five minute stretches during your walk, but still! Jogging!), the woman at the knitting store tells you how one of her twins died in utero and she’s certain it’s because she was taking a step aerobics class and you shouldn’t jog because it’s dangerous, no matter what your doctor/midwife says.

But then, around the halfway point, the magic happens. You don’t even realize it’s magic, because you assume it’s just your crazy digestion again. But that little feeling, like a bubble popping in your belly, is a baby – your baby – the reason for all of this watchful nutrition and careful but constant exercise and exploratory shopping trips to figure out what will fit this month – and that baby is kicking you, announcing itself for the first time, as if to say “Ma! Relax! We’re going to be okay! … Is there any bean curd with broccoli left over from last night?”

And, at least for the time it takes you to chow down on the broccoli, you are absolutely in love with your baby, your partner, and this marvelous, fantastic, full-busted body that is making everything possible.

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I know, this blog isn’t terribly interesting when I don’t post. But here’s the thing – most pregnancy blogs are about all of the crazy awful weird things you have to deal with while growing a brand new person. And I seem to not be experiencing most of those things.

I can’t whine about ankles swollen to the point where I feel like an elephant or stretch marks turning my belly into a detailed road map of some yet unbuilt city. I can’t tell you how much I just want the nausea to go away or how I can’t stand the smell of onions (those poor women!). I can’t regale you with terrible stories of the behaviors of my in-laws or my coworkers or strangers and their inappropriate responses to my choices. I can’t tell you that I’m worried because I’m an “older” mother or I’m obese or I’ve always had heart trouble. I really can’t complain.

What can I talk about? Well, I seem to be experiencing the silly, temporary symptoms. The truck driver hunger that hits me some mornings and lasts half a day or all day. The crying not over stress or sentimental commercials but over nothing – like yesterday, when we walked through the subway turnstyle at 7th and 28th and I just started weeping with no reason. The gas (which, due to my vegetarianism, was never anything I thought was lacking in my life). Yes, my breasts are bigger, but not abnormally so. And sometimes my feet get sore by the end of the day. And I definitely visit the restroom as least twice as often as I did six months ago. But that’s it!

Baby brown pokes at my on occasion, just little bubbling pops in my belly. I haven’t reached the point where I can recognize full-scale gymnastics, but many times a day I get the little bumps to let me know (s)he’s bored or happy I’ve eaten or just plain still there.

The midwife says my heart rate and the baby’s are spot on, that if my fundal height is any indication (and 99% of the time it is), the baby is just the size it needs to be. My blood pressure is a little on the lower side, but apparently as long as I have no symptoms (no dizziness, light headedness, etc), which I don’t, it’s nothing to worry about. Given the dangers of high blood pressure in a pregnancy, I’d much rather be on this end of the spectrum than that, though I am adding a pinch more sea salt to most things just to keep it from getting much lower. 

I know it’s all I ever say, but I’m just cruising on through at this point. Taylor, if you’re reading this, I know you say you never want to be pregnant, but if genetics play any role, I would advise you not to rule it out. 

We’re almost 22 weeks along here, which means 18 (give or take!) left. So puppy and hubby and I will keep walking on the beach and enjoying the weather that finally feels appropriate for the month. I’ll keep knitting and sewing (I’ve a few projects that just need the last details stitched up before I present them to the world) and figuring out what recipes work best for freezing pre-baby and cooking after (enchiladas, veggie burgers, and 2-serving bags of rice and beans top the list so far). And one of these days I’ll take another photo of the belly that does indeed continue to pop. 

 

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Tired

Busy busy busy.
I didn’t think I was, but I find myself going going most of the day and collapsing at night. I got a full night’s sleep Sunday, napped for two hours yesterday, and then slept nine hours last night. If this is the second trimester, will I be a zombie in the third?

The bump grows. I cleaned out my closet Sunday, packing up winter things and all the shirts and pants that no longer work with this mama body. It’s a little sparse now, but I suppose that means it’ll be easier to keep clean? I bought a shirt that works well now and is designed for easy nursing later on. I’m trying to consider all of these logistics, trying to plan ahead for the time when I won’t have the brain space to make decisions. As of Sunday, I’m twenty weeks along – halfway – and slowly chipping away at little things, like updating the registry with all of the things that I’ll need and beginning to research techniques for natural birthing. It makes me crazy curious about the women in my life – what their labors were  like exactly, how they were treated by their doctors/nurses. how they felt during and after.

There are little kicks throughout the day now, tiny bubbling bumps. The kid kicked all through the red sox game we went to Saturday (angry at how poorly the sox played? or excited that they were losing? to remain neutral, we’ll just go with the idea that the kid loves baseball – including the peanuts, cracker jack, and veggie burritos at fenway).

I’m just beginning to have tired feet at the end of my shifts. I’m just beginning to feel a little achy in my hips when I sleep. I’m just beginning to feel my center of gravity shifting, slipping, reminding me that my body is not the same.

On the knitting front, I took a break from baby stuff to knit argyle socks – 2/3 of the way through the first, I decided that it was most definitely not worth the effort. I just wish I hadn’t lost a week of knitting time to realize it. Still, there’s a baby blanket on one set of needles and (because I needed something small and easy to work on at the baseball game) a diaper cover on another. There’s new yarn for a knitted stuffed animal (as yet unchosen) and, now that the argyle sock is FINALLY untangled, three skeins aof soft, fuzzy neutral colored wool for some undecided baby clothes.

We have a midwife appointment Thursday, so we’ll affirm then that everything is on track. After that, a roller coaster of Mark’s birthday, Susie’s return from Africa, Susie and Casi’s graduations in NYC, work work work, and (hopefully) some warmer, sunnier weeks on the way.

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