Friday, September 25, 2009

What the Aitch?

DISCLAIMER: This post will be about breasts and pregnancy-related-breast matters. If you feel that you are not interested or that your interest is inappropriate, please discontinue reading this entry now.

What the AITCH! Aitch, that's right. No longer are we living in the realm of double dee's (like your grades) or even the more recent triple dee word score. We are at H and approaching I. H standing for huge and hell and humongous. I, God Forbid, is somewhere I can't even imagine going. It's in the idiotic, incredibly large, impossible category. But here we are at 16 weeks and a 34H.

I went to be fitted for a new bra today; in case you were still wondering what is fueling my alphabet-inspired rant. Bra shopping pregnant is not any easier than bra shopping not-pregnant was. I went to a special maternity clothes store in Toronto and tried on everything they had (I think). It took hours and many women and many hands checking me out and deciding what went where. In the end, I walked out with two new bras that will serve as nursing bras provided things stay in check. This cost the equivalent of Andrew's entire clothing budget for two maybe three years.

In my defense, Andrew's clothing budget is crazy-low and purchases like this should really be covered by medical insurance. The stress I'm trying to take off my poor back could be saving major chiropractor bills. I wonder if anyone has ever submitted a claim for a bra before? They're not even terribly cute, people. Cute doesn't come in this size.

At one point, a nice sales lady said, "Wow, what were you before you started growing?" Really? Extra attention up top is not exactly new to me, let's just face facts. As Carol, our lovely midwife said to Andrew, referencing my starting cup size, "Oh well, you were never deprived, now, were you?" I wish you could have seen him try to figure out how best to respond to her. I believe he went for the stare-straight-ahead and hope the question was rhetorical (it took me five whole minutes to locate that word).

My hairdresser, bless her heart, said when she saw me a few weeks ago, "I just knew you were pregnant; girl, your boobs are huge!" They are in fact huge, with an aitch. The great news is that they are no longer as sore as they were when the growth spurt began. In fact, their soreness was a major tip-off that I was pregnant and in the first few weeks, I found the aching a nice reminder that I was going to have a baby. But the measurements are in and I'm a little off balance. Has any pregnant woman ever fallen forward from the shear weight of her front?

The baby books estimate that each breast should gain about a pound. If that's the case, then I think we're on target or even a little over (I refuse to put them on the kitchen scale) and these new bras should be with me for a while. I'll have to get some pictures of the belly up soon so we have something to compare to, but the belly is still definitely overshadowed. Actually shadowed over.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yes I Can

Sunday night, Andrew met me in our kitchen. He threw his arms around me and whispered, "Thank God, you're back! I didn't think I could make it much longer without you." This touching and sincere confession on his part was my reward for (drum roll please) cooking dinner.

I did it. I cooked. Twice last week actually. I managed to be in my kitchen, not nauseous, not exhausted, cooking. It took some degree of external impetus: a handful of visiting Texans no less. To those who think it far to come, it has been done, and the travel time is not too bad. Dan Train came up just for dinner (and to deliver the cats with Tibra, but I'd like to think he came for a night hanging out with the Teleps). One night stays are not generally recommended though; consider this your invitation: Come, Stay with us!

Now, I won't say I'm back and on top of my game. I severely over-cooked the prime rib. Sin of all culinary sins. Seeing the not-pink centre of the meat made me dust off a few four-letter kitchen descriptor words. But I did manage a meal that really left me grateful for our new location. Upon surveying the table, I realized that our food was from well within the 100-mile radius. Most of it was organic, locally grown and picked up from our fabulous farmer's market. The fried green tomatoes were from our own front porch. The best part of this is that it wasn't intentional. I didn't set out shopping with a moral obligation - this is just what is available - and not at a premium price.

Oh to be back in the eating world among the living! It is a good thing. And since I was at the farmer's market and it wasn't too late, I picked up some tomatoes and beets for canning. Last year, my bushel of Roma tomatoes kept us from having to purchase canned tomatoes all winter. I began to develop a complex about buying tomatoes out-of-season after reading Robert Farrar Capon's book, Food for Thought. That book, very highly recommended, also solidified the complex I already had with margarine and blunt knives. Going without tomatoes for most the year is not an option, so I realized I could do one better than buying canned tomatoes by canning my own.

As the movement towards buying local and growing your own food has been growing, canning has been making something of a comeback. It was one of the new hobbies I have undertaken as a professional housewife after moving here. It is one of the hobbies that baffles my father who wonders, often aloud to me and others, why his daughter has thrown all those years of higher education into recapturing the lifestyle of his grandparents. However, eating my tomatoes all winter was worth it. Now, the stock is replenished and we've added pickled beets to the cellar.

Spending hours yesterday pickling beets reminded me that I could never have done it one month ago. The boiling vinegar and cinnamon spices would have killed me or at least left me immobile in the bathroom. I won't say it was easy. Beets are messy; my hands are still a ruby-red shade of purple. Steaming hot water on the stove heated the whole house and I felt like I'd accidentally ventured into Houston. I complained; I had a breakdown when I found myself temporarily locked away from my supply of vinegar, my back hurt. But now I have two and half dozen pints of beets for eating to show for my day.

Now, I just have to figure out where to muster the energy to finish de-beeting the kitchen.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

To be a Woman...

“Across the happiness data, the one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children,” said Betsey Stevenson, an assistant professor at Wharton who co-wrote a paper called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness.” Have you heard? It's the talk of the town; you can check it out here. Women are unhappy, more unhappy than they were forty years ago before the women's liberation movement, and it doesn't make sense to anyone.

Women have more earning power, more opportunities, more equality: what more could we want? The researchers point out that the argument that says women have taken on the workplace and kept all the work of the homefront isn't the case. In measurable hours, women spend less time working at home (cleaning and cooking) while men have increased the work they do at home. Men, by the way, are happier than they were forty years ago. Stevenson does note that this data doesn't quite give the picture in total because she argues that the emotional weight of the responsibilities of the homelife still rests primarily with women while men get to "help out" without bearing the burden.

This past year, I have been conducting a sociological experiment: I have been staying home employing myself as a housewife (and here my Dad just thought I was unemployed). As we transitioned from Vancouver to Ontario, Andrew and I agreed that I could have a chance to stay home and do some serious thinking about what would make me happy. It has been a remarkable gift to have this time and I am grateful that Andrew was willing to work with me on this.

One of the surprising side effects of our arrangement has been the reaction from those around us. Based on the strong opinions elicited, I often felt that this whole housewife gig has been the most counter-cultural stunt I've ever pulled off. People seemed uncomfortable with the idea that I was wasn't working outside of our house - I could, I was capable, but I just wasn't. For the past year, I have been questioned regularly as to how I spend my time.

In one of my best moments, in reply to the question that is always on the tip of everyone's tongue, "What do you do?" "I enjoy myself." I replied. The stunned party guest eventually moved on to talk to someone who had the decency to answer that they worked in finance or IT. Why do we ask that question of strangers we're meeting? How many of us have jobs that define who we are and what we "do"?

I have not been bored - apparently I have a very high capacity for spending quiet time with only myself as company. There are in fact so many things to do that I've found myself pressed for time. Being home and seeking what it was I want to do has led me to the conclusion that I thrive in this working from and on the home environment. Now, I just need to find a way to make money while doing it, because money is nice and important to make (yes Dad I do believe that). I do regret leaving Andrew to cover the financial burden of our lives.

Now, our upcoming arrival has complicated this little experiment. I had been looking to get back into the workplace in order to again accrue income, when I found that my interviews would be complicated by a deadline. Please hire me and I'll work very hard for you until March or maybe I'll have to quit in February. Now maternity leave in Canada lasts for a year; they do things so well here. But we do know the importance of keeping one of us home with our child when they are young - so I'm looking for some temporary work to bring in a little money before the baby. My housewife vocation has been augmented or perhaps I am to be promoted from housewife to stay-at-home-mom.

But there remains, this paradox of declining happiness in women: it does not seem surprising that the working-mothering-marrying-successful woman is not quite happy. She's busy; we can get busy with things that are put upon us rather than chosen or if chosen, it can be frustrating to spread your time so thin. Having spent the year avoiding that busyness, I have found that I'm a great deal happier than I was in the years before. I don't believe that the women's lib is really to blame and I happily encourage my sisters to conquer the corporate, government, and academic heights- or not - pursue what fulfills you. It may be time to ask what makes us happy. Maybe we should make sure we know how we define happy.

And really, am I on the sure-fire path to happiness-destruction by procreating? That seems hard to believe. At this point there's no going back, I'd better throw on some rose-coloured glasses and skip merrily down the road to the unhappiness that is motherhood. Perhaps, a little attitude is needed: "I'll prove 'em all wrong. I will be happy! Take that happiness statistics."

Excuse me, it's time for me to go throw up.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Last Throes of the Nausea

I hope.

In the event that I decide to repeat this whole pregnancy bit, I feel the need to record a few details. From what I've been given to understand the arrival of my child and the departure of a few key portions of my brain will render me un-hesitant to embark on this path all over again. I want some record in place so at least I know what I'm getting into.

[Disclaimer: in a very serious spot in my soul I am truly grateful for my pregnancy and all that it entails and I fully intend to do it all again later.]

To the matter at hand: I have still thrown up everyday this week. It is just once. It is not even really accompanied by nausea and food aversion - which makes it dangerous. At least when food seemed like a bad idea I could be sure the throwing it up part was safer i.e. no difficult textures, no spices. But really, people, I'm very tired of throwing up. My stomach muscles have adapted and strengthened and if I didn't have the beginning of a belly I would a have a vomit-induced six pack. I have this down to a science people.

I wake up and even though I feel hungry I must remember it is not time yet. I make myself a pot of mint tea or interestingly enough "Morning sickness Tea." Sometimes I vary the routine and try Ginger Ale. Now the key to a successful round of upheaval is to limit my intake to liquids. Often, this does not seem possible and I have a banana. After an hour or sometimes two, I must put down my tea and run for the bathroom. This is an orderly jog. I often remove my glasses on the way. Then I am in place to throw up. And I am not left disappointed in this.

I have tried to vary the routine to prevent this last little manifestation of the first trimester. I have tried not eating - that's too painful, I throw up stomach acid. I have tried eating crackers before moving from bed - I just throw up crackers. I have tried eating solid foods to stave off the vomit - I then throw up the solid foods - much harder than tea. The routine is sticking right with me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm not coming down with gestational diabetes, I just have poor judgement.

We had visit number two to Carol the Midwife this week. This time everyone in the room heard a strong healthy heartbeat. The baby is now too big to swim away from the doppler machine. The baby gave the machine a few kicks to let us know that he or she was doing just fine without us listening in. Carol let us know that the baby was strong, active and athletic. "Thank you," I said, clearly proud of my 15-week old prodigy.

Andrew, however, felt the need to clarify, "How much can you really tell about a baby at this stage from listening to the heartbeat?" Well, Carol smiled and blushed slightly, "About all we can really tell is that the heart rate was within what is considered to be normal. Every baby moves a few times an hour. That's really all we can know."

Sigh. Andrew has been informed that the next time our child receives a compliment, no matter how far removed from scientific veracity, he is to accept it, gladly. We will have no more of this demand for "proof" when something as obvious as our child's innate athletic prowess is recognized. He has gamely agreed to supress all further attempts to rain on our parade.

I was in need of that little bit of ego-stroking, the appointment started off with a little scare and (yes another) forced confession. Geez, I'm not getting away with much of anything these days. Every visit to the midwife requires a glucose and protein test and a weigh in. I have gained 6 pounds that accounts for my little belly and other growth. But the glucose test went a bit wonky. I turned the little strip that was supposed to stay yellow a variety of shades from lime to blue.

Now at some point during the appointment, I'm supposed to report my findings to Carol. She doesn't start off asking though, she starts by asking what I want to talk about. Well, I don't really want to rush into the fact that I've surely just acquired gestational diabetes, but I don't want to delay it either. I'm racking my brain trying to remember all I've read, Ina May (midwife, author, general good person) has some strict diets to control this, but what else will it mean? I'm thinking it means I'm no longer in the "normal" birth category. I'm far into the worst-case scenario, when I interrupt the thought train to bad places to say, "I-didn't-do-so-well-on-glucose-test-probably-a-plus-two-on-the-scale-I'm-not-really-sure."

Carol says calmly, "Oh. What did you have to eat today?"

"Today?" I say brimming with instant guilt. Andrew smiles. He realizes that I've been caught in something. He recognizes the guilty face. Today I ate fast food. Now at a normal time in my life this wouldn't be a huge confession, but I've been trying to eat healthy now - I'm growing a baby. I'm trying to bring in all the nutrients and vitamins and all that other nonsense that all the books say. But today, after having been so careful in my food log that I had to turn in, today I decided since I wasn't recording the food, and since I was in hurry, and hey, since I am almost entirely over that nauseous thing... let's pick up a sandwich from Arby's. Just a little delicious turkey sandwhich, oh and they pretty much come with curly fries and since I was there and hungry (How often had I missed that sensation!) let's add a couple of chicken tenders too.

"Oh that's fine, said the midwife, "it's those little boys that send you craving the Big Macs and bad food. But what did you have to drink?" Damn.

Now, I have kicked a few serious food habits in the past three months. Aside from the forced-sobriety-march that I've entered in, I had a distinct fondness for caffeine. I'm talking a carafe of coffee in the mornings and a Dr. Pepper later in the day type of habit. Dr. Pepper was one of my most Texan of habits; it is a key part of my cultural identity. With the help of my particularly aggressive morning sickness, I have entirely left my morning coffee and colas behind. But since I was feeling better, I thought a caffeine-free Root beer might be a nice treat.

Carol had a good laugh. "Oh that appeals to my sense of humour," she said in her lilting Scottish accent. "Next time you come to take the test, don't chug down one of those sugary drinks. They're just loaded with sugars." Right. Got it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baptism and my confession

Andrew and I were honoured to baptize and serve as godparents to Roberto Stathakos. The ceremony took place over the Labour Day weekend and everything went beautifully. The ceremony made clear the humbling responsibility that Peter and Angela have given us to stand beside them and help raise Roberto. The priest didn't mince words either letting us know that our job was to raise a saint. No small task, especially since he advised leading by example. I might prefer to judge our success as godparents by the measure one of the family members gave us instead, "It's your job to make sure he doesn't get any tattoos and piercings."
One of the tangible differences in an Orthodox infant baptism is the prominent role anointing plays. Now, I had made some passing jokes about slippery olive oil covered babies before in the blog, but I didn't realize that I was the one to do the oiling. As I held both hands cupped full of the blessed oil, I felt the connection to the older mythology of our cultures. I worried about leaving a spot uncovered, creating an Achilles heal perhaps by neglecting to oil it. As Roberto cried out in confusion (I suppose we could have practiced this so it wouldn't have felt so surprising for him), the more practical concern for not getting olive oil in his eyes won over my attention. Roberto was anointed, blessed and baptized and then he retreated to Andrew's towel covered arms where he was immediately quieted and comforted.
I know he looks pretty upset here, but he recovered quickly. He may forever associate church bells and possibly even me with a rather cold, odd experience, but minutes later he was sleeping warm and safe in our arms. His mother even managed to recover from her grief too.
It has felt particularly appropriate to undergo these rites as we prepare for our own child. Somehow it feels like a foreshadowing of things to come. But if the lessons I'm learning from Roberto and our journey are to apply to me, I'd like take this space to confess that I really learned my lesson last night. I was just trying to take a little shortcut - and feeling pretty proud of myself for even thinking of it - when the thing which must never happen, happened... again.

I flooded our basement. Again. Andrew warned me when he set up our washer and dryer. The basement doesn't have the proper hook ups available and the water from the washer must drain into the sink. He was very clear: the hose from the washer must always be in the sink and restrained there. Incidentally, the first time I forgot this rule coincided with the first time I used the washer. But last night, I didn't forget. I thought I had come up with a brilliant idea: you see the towels from Roberto's baptism were covered in oil and baptismal water. The oil and water had been blessed, and therefore, when cleaning the towels you shouldn't just pour the washing water down the drain. The water needs to be returned to the earth to directly give life and blessing back to the earth (use it to water your garden).

This should mean washing the towels by hand, but as I thought about the task, I remembered, "Hey, I can control where the water from my washing machine goes. I'll just put the hose into a bucket and no problem." Apparently, when cleaning holy things, God has in mind that you take the time to clean them yourself - or at least that's the lesson that I'm beginning to see. Now my time saving brilliant idea "blessed" my basement floor and carpet with about half of that holy water that should have been helping lifeforms outside of my house to grow and prosper. I have been mopping and wet-vac suctioning for hours now. This has become a hands and knees scrubbing suctioning time of penance.

For the record, "I get it. I'm sorry. No more short cuts for me."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Phase Two: a general accounting of what's what

We've made it to the second trimester! Now I can start telling people... oh wait. I'm a prolific secret-teller or a lousy secret keeper depending on which way you see things. Our baby is the size of a clinched fist. This is major progress from the blueberry and tic tac it seems like we just had.

Now is when the first trimester symptoms start to disappear. They really seem to be on the way out. I am not throwing up everyday. It's a great place to start. Also, I was hungry! And I mean very-seriously-interested-in-food not just eating because-it-was-on-the-to-do-list. Andrew has been doing a great job at accommodating the demands for food.

He's been very willing to stop the car at the only decent Mexican food restaurant in all of Canada (location: Toronto approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes from home) so I can get a burrito at 4:30 pm even though we're on our way to dinner. By the way, that dinner didn't actually get ordered until 9:30 pm. Moral of the story: always feed the pregnant lady. He also managed to drag his buddies away from the bar to bring pizza with "interesting" vegetables for his growing wife and child. "Interesting" being the only adjective I could think of to describe the type of vegetable that I wanted on my pizza - those not married to me did not envy Andrew as he had to presumably interview the vegetables to distinguish who had hobbies and who was boring.

We seem to be progressing nicely according to schedule. I have a very small, but noticeable to me, "bump." Meanwhile, the girls' progress has been noticeable to most everyone.

I had a very exciting moment yesterday when walking through High Park in Toronto. I realized I could actually feel my uterus contracting. The small bump got solid and Andrew could even join me in realizing the change. It's nice to feel any connection to the changes taking place. This month we should start to see more of these.

Additionally, High Park brought up a surprise attack of the hormone-fueled tears. Luckily, Esther and Dave are understanding people and my giant sunglasses hide these things well. The Toronto air show was taking place. The Blue Angels flew overhead buzzing the park and performing the flips and tricks that you would expect, but while everyone oohed and ahhed with the afterburners, I cried and had to stop talking. Mom, always the practical one, pointed out that Ryan (my little brother who is now deployed in Afghanistan) doesn't even fly planes, but it was a short hop for my normally acutely sensitized hormones to go from planes to brother to tears all in an afternoon of fun.

But today I'm battling a cold (thanks suppressed immune system) missing my brother and growing a baby. Andrew told me last night that he thinks I'm a fantastic "creator of life."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The unexpected when expecting...

There are some things that cannot be planned. Some experiences cannot be forewarned and even if they were, you would not believe them. "Surely that wouldn't happen to me!" You would say to yourself, perhaps with a slight note of trepidation.

A piece of cantaloupe got stuck in my nose.

I spent half an hour trying to dislodge a chunk of cantaloupe from my left nostril and sinus cavity. I had happily eaten my pre-breakfast snack and was on my way to throwing it up, all according to schedule, when a chunk diverted from its intended path and became a big, painful and incredibly silly problem.

Andrew found me over the sink blowing my nose for all I was worth. He may not stop asking after my well-being if I continue to provide him with answers like this, but he had a solution never-the-less. " It can't go out. You've got to go back the way it came." How did he know?

Sure enough, another five or ten minutes of sucking not blowing produced a cantaloupe. The void was felt acutely for another few hours.