Friday, January 29, 2010

More Aptly Named Pregnancy Symptoms

I've taken umbrage at the lousy job linguists have done in naming a few pregnancy symptoms. I feel I'm being charitable in charging these unknown individuals only with incompetence and not with malicious intent to deceive. Morning sickness tops my list as the worst of their offenses. Nesting may just be open to interpretation, but I think we deserved better. One could argue that nest-building birds may not be inherently peaceful, maybe they are all like those poor humming birds: "Must go a thousand miles per hour. Can't stop or I'll die."

Last night while copying out my recipe collection onto matching cards, because God knows you can't have a baby if your recipes don't coordinate, I felt something strange. It took a while before I really paid the feeling any attention because, frankly, I am feeling strange all the time. Then I felt it more acutely. What was that tightening, contracting feeling that was squeezing my whole belly into a giant knot?

A Contraction? Why yes, I was contracting. Don't you go and panic - they weren't the real ones. I, of course, experienced a strong shot of panic, because not panicking really never occurs to a person who consists entirely of nerve endings fed by hormones. They weren't painful; they were just noticeable. They are called Braxton-Hicks Contractions - the contracting of the uterus as your muscles prepare for the marathon of "real" contractions that push out babies. They can begin quite early in pregnancy (you just don't feel them usually).

Kudos to the naming people on this one. Contracting is exactly what it feels like. That giant movable mass out front that is threatening the existence of your bellybutton starts squeezing itself into a smaller tighter ball. And Braxton-Hicks, while obviously the man who put his name on the medical paper to verify that such things exist, isn't bad either. Is it my imagination or does it resemble a curse of some kind? At the very least, it goes well when accentuated by a stream of curses. As when, upon gaining hold of your panic at the contracting feeling in your uterus and your due date is still 6 weeks away, you say: "It's only Braxton-blankety-blank-Hicks contractions."

I'm just a walking saleswoman for pregnancy aren't I?

Another example of an aptly named symptom: Heartburn. "My God." you say, "What is this horrible burning sensation above my heart?" Ahhh. While you may not achieve actual relief from the burning you at least feel the satisfaction of understanding what the deuce is happening in your body. And by this point, having something you can understand is great comfort.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nesting is a Misnomer like Morning Sickness

Early on in the pregnancy, I read this great article about nesting. The author suggested that if President Obama wanted to accomplish his very full agenda he needed to employ a group of third- trimester-pregnant women. These women driven by the insatiable instinct to accomplish tasks NOW would fix the economy, health care and global warming quick and dirty. At the time, I was wallowing in the first trimester and could not see past the idea of leaving the bathroom (I carried those airplane bags around with me - and I used them). This article offered me a ray of hope: eventually I was going to be functioning, not just functioning, but efficient, possibly even productive, uber-productive.

What I failed to notice in the article was that the mothers-to-be weren't just solving the nation's problems; they were doing it desperately to keep the last shards of their sanity from slipping into the abyss. Last night, I lay awake on the verge of panic. How am I going to be ready in time for the baby's arrival? She is coming in 6 weeks. But it could be earlier! She could very easily come in 4 weeks! SOMEONE PANIC WITH ME! EVERYBODY PANIC WITH ME!

Where is that gloriously productive nesting period I was so looking forward to experiencing? Instead, I am frantically composing to-do lists which include tasks like: having my iron count checked, choosing a stroller, copying & filing all of my loose recipes, and going through all of the half used paint cans in the basement to find the matching trim paint to touch up the crown molding. And it has to be done NOW. And I feel no magical boost of energy. Instead, I have a big belly that impedes my ability to bend over; I run out of breath climbing the stairs and my lovely little one is samba-dancing across my bladder.

Then my friend Kim graciously told me: THIS is the nesting instinct.

THIS is not what I had in mind. THIS is not fun. THIS feels like an anxiety attack married an obsessive compulsive disorder and decided to have a baby. [And I just realized that I have to re-organize all my kitchen cabinets, again, because they are messy which means Andrew will never find anything when he's doing the postpartum cooking and he will have to ask me where we keep the salt. And where is that anti-heartburn tea I've been saving for the third trimester? ]

I begin to understand how my friend Aminah spent the first part of her labour re-upholstering her dinning room chairs: it had to be done before the baby could be born. It wasn't that she was smoothly running on superhuman endorphins. She simply got up after each contraction, picked up her nail gun, and resumed her task because it HAD to be done.

I would love to stay and write, but I've got to get back to creating a digital address book, eating lunch and considering which organic, scent-free baby detergent is best. And of course, I need to do this NOW. Perhaps, I'll also write another letter to my old Texas Senator to remind him that universal health care should trump partisan politics and that we should seek alternative holistic approaches to improving the quality of life in Afghanistan.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Love in Marriage

This May, Andrew and I will have been married for five years. Sometimes, I feel like the soothsayer when greeting newlyweds. Beware... but really, I try be honest and helpful. Instead of passing on another sugarcoated saying to people looking a little seasick so early in their voyage. I have often been the one who grimly pats them on the back and says, "It gets easier." And really it does. It also has amazing times where you realize how very much you love your spouse.

Today, we met with our midwife. We jumped through all the regular hoops and everything is going well. I don't have diabetes or irregular blood pressure. Our daughter's heart beat is strong and steady. Andrew now bites his tongue when the midwife derives various less-scientific conclusions from this: "She's sporty. She's happy. etc." Andrew has been at most every visit with me and he chooses to be there. I'm thrilled to have a such an active support and partner in this endeavour.

The rumor has it that pregnant women have insatiable cravings. This may be true; I can't really say. I've always had food cravings and can't imagine life without them. Frequently, they are not exactly the healthiest and most wholesome of foods (in my defense, last week, I craved cucumbers & bell peppers). I like to indulge in a bag of Little Ceasar's bread sticks. They are delicious and garlicky and good. Andrew is aware of this. He's also aware that I never intend to share the bag of bread sticks (they have gotten much smaller over the years).

While picking up pizza for his lunch today, Andrew remembered me and ordered a bag of bread sticks. However, I had reached the midwife's clinic by the time he did and was already in the room with the midwife. Andrew arrived and casually handed me a small, discreet, GAP bag.

My heart flooded with love and cholesterol as I realized what the bag contained. Not a benign pair of mittens or a t-shirt, but a clandestine package of greasy, garlicky, carbohydrates. He knew! He understood!

He had not only thought of how much I would enjoy a tasty afternoon snack, he realized I would have been embarrassed to be caught with such fare by our medical practitioner. Not embarrassed enough to forgo eating such foods, just embarrassed enough to be thrilled at his subterfuge. No wonder he chuckled as the midwife said, "You're quite healthy!"

He loves me!

Friday, January 15, 2010


Andrew and I were lying in bed last night when my belly began to spasm. It wasn't a scary large spasm just a very localized little outburst. The baby was regularly seeming to jump just a little bit. She then moved and kicked around with increasing speed but the spasms kept coming.

This as you might imagine isn't on the list of things that a person easily sleeps through. I rolled over trying to shift the jumping kicking one into less action. Our baby had the hiccups. She must have just gotten around to sampling the last of Pepe's tamales that I ate that evening. I'd read that spicy food makes babies hiccup; I just didn't imagine it would wake me up and last a solid ten minutes in the middle of the night.

Sleeping is not terribly difficult for me. I've heard it's often difficult for pregnant women to sleep. I am managing this quite well in spite of the frequent trips to the bathroom and strange stomach back pains. I credit my awesome pillow that Peter & Angela lent to me and the fact that I'm unemployed. If I don't sleep well at night, I just keep sleeping into the morning.

There are some serious drawbacks to not having a job, lack of money, for instance. However, I am fairly convinced that this time has been really important in helping me to prepare for motherhood. Don't get me wrong, I'm not tempting fate by saying I'm actually prepared, but I think that my healthy, uneventful pregnancy is directly related to the lower stress levels, and the time I'm able to dedicate to this baby-growing enterprise.

On an unrelated note: Andrew & I are seeking a volunteer to come live with us for the next few days. After his first night of RIM's pick-up basketball, he realized that the muscles which propel one to "jump" are not muscles that he has used in a while. The unfortunate side effect of this otherwise happy discovery is that bending down is painful. Meanwhile, I who am carrying an extra 20 pounds out front and have a person growing in my abdomen am beginning to give up all life below knee level. Andrew dropped something on the floor last night and we both leaned over and looked at it - then returned to our conversation. This could lead to a messy house and both of us forgoing some basics like shoes.

Would someone like to come pick up things for us for a while?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's only a flesh wound...

...but the genetic makeup that created this situation is being reconstituted and handed down a generation as we speak. What exactly is going on in the picture above, you ask? I'm cooking dinner. You don't cook dinner attired so carefully? Well if my father and husband were "helping" you - then you might.

My mother left the house for twenty minutes. I was making dinner for the family that night. I mentioned that I needed a pan - a cast iron skillet. Chaos ensued. The giant skillet my Dad retrieved needed to be cured - the curing handled by Dad & Andrew (a butane torch was involved) smoked the house up and set off fire alarms. The pan was then so hot that the oil shot out at least five feet in all directions as I tried to cook the lamb chops. The dynamic duo then "fixed" the situation by suiting me up as a Monty Python Knight. Mustard seeds may still be embedded in my skin from the incident.

I'm told that this doesn't necessarily happen to other families. Some families can just cook a dinner or take on a project. Not mine. And now I'm bringing another person to the fun. It will be interesting to see how our daughter decides to carve her own niche in this traveling circus. Will she use a blow torch? Will she cut out her place with sarcasm and irony? I know she'll find our troupe more than willing to smooth her path and make her welcome. I wonder when she'll first notice that we're not exactly normal? I hope she learns to laugh and take pride in who we are. We may be a little crazy and do things our own way, but I know that my baby will be loved and accepted for whoever she wants to be.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

If God wanted pregnant women to fly

The airlines don't recommend flying after you reach a certain point in your pregnancy. During our Christmas travels, I have come to believe that this is unrelated to air pressure and more directly tied to the stress you undergo from terrible airline customer service.

I should say, I'm not a stellar flyer anyway. I don't get sick (not counting the newly pregnant flights I took). I am not afraid of heights nor of mysteriously floating metal tubes filled with flu-infected people breathing my same air. I am a worrier and nothing gives you the opportunity to worry like a day of deadlines and strict schedules and thousands of variables.

As soon as I earned my own wings and began flying solo, I arrived at airports two hours early, before it was required, afterwards, I made it three and sometimes four if it was a miserable place like DFW. I hate that airport and have long known what puts in the f in DFW. Then, I married a man who is allergic to waiting in airports. His ideal travel scenario is cruising through check-in and security and stepping directly onto your waiting aircraft. You can do this in his model, not because you own the plane, but because it has already boarded and everyone else is seated in the final preparations before take-off. This as you may notice leaves no time for error, and I am a committed anticipator of airport error.

Our flight from Pittsburgh (we drove there) to El Paso was relatively smooth. My anxiety at the rising levels of falling snow was kept under control and we made it out with just a slight delay. That slight delay then meant that we had 15 minutes to navigate DF Worthlesses catacombs to reach our connecting gate. (Insert mental image of frantic pregnant lady running through airport here.) Andrew cleverly checked that fear by providing us with up-to-the-minute flight information revealing our connecting flight was also delayed and we had an oh-so-comfortable margin of 45 minutes to go from terminal A to terminal C. Ha, we stopped to pick up ice cream on the way.

After a lovely holiday with family and friends, we returned to the airport. Only it was an airport in which security had lost their minds and the entire Sun Bowl was ahead of us in line. However, I kept myself relatively calm and we walked through security directly onto our waiting plane. We took off to Pittsburgh with a short, but comfortable stop over in Dallas.

Traveling pregnant is not much fun. Early on, I was incredibly sick. Now, I'm too big to be comfortable. I'm not even really big yet either. People still are mistaking me for being either slightly pregnant or slightly fat. I am 31 weeks pregnant here - that's 7 months! There's 20 pounds out in front of me now, granted it distributes itself a bit, but this belly is in my way.

The baby's not terribly crazy about it either. It may be my very active imagination, but I am convinced that as we took-off, she reacted. Right as the plane pulled away, I felt all four limbs stick me in various places like she was bracing herself from a fall. I also imagined her franticly saying to me, "What the heck was that? You didn't tell me we were doing anything out there." She hasn't done this acrobatic trick again, but I have rubbed my belly and Andrew explained everything to her in subsequent take-offs.

Our little stop over in Dallas proved a bit more eventful than we imagined. A "customer service" agent helpfully encouraged us not to worry about not finding our connecting flight listed on the board or on any gate - he assured us it was taking off at its appointed time and gate. Only telling us about it's cancellation due to mechanical problems after we enjoyed an hour of wasted could-be-finding-another-flight time. He then became too busy with no other customers to help us rebook a way to Pittsburgh.

We danced through the half-truths and attempts to shuffle us out the door for the next few hours. Andrew deftly negotiated with these liars and losers while I alternated between concentrating on my sore back and concentrating on angry tears and inappropriate language. Then, I learned I wasn't going to arrive in time to make my (very happy last minute) flight to North Carolina in time to greet my baby brother as he arrived from Afghanistan. Pregnancy plus big sister plus war plus incompetence is not a pretty combination. Andrew then had to concentrate on keeping me from the American Airlines people's throats - all of them, any of them.

In the end, Andrew flew to Pittsburgh and lake-effect snow standing between him and our house. I had to laugh (a cynical, hysterical laugh) as it became painfully obvious that I had walked into a twilight zone where nothing functioned. Our checked bags were somewhere in the system not to be had, there was no C-2 baggage claim, our hotel reservation at the Westin was no longer available to us, the new hotel had no restaurant or internet, the shuttle driver forgot that I was second on her list to drop off, the fun kept going. I had a night's stay at a smokey hotel, but I arrived in North Carolina. I am here; armed only with a too-heavy-for-me-to-lift carry-on bag that contains: a very random assortment of my clothes and Andrew's, no toiletries, and no Christmas presents for Ryan. Ryan is expected this evening! Things are beginning to work themselves out.

This wasn't yet terribly obvious to me though as the guy next to me on the flight said, "I really like your hair." Thank you, I said, thinking maybe having no make-up or shampoo wasn't the end of the world. "Yeah," he continued. "You sure don't see many females with short hair." I took an immediate and profound interest in the contents of the Sky Mall catalogue.