Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Other People

(Article six of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
The reaction people had to my baby belly seemed to divide along age groups, kids, teens, adults, parents, grandparents.  I'm not a person that's used to bringing about a reaction from other people, quite the opposite actually as I tend to blend in with the wallpaper;  not so with a baby belly.

Kids are the most fun, although toddlers didn't really seem to notice.  I think it's because they're still developing a baseline for what's normal.  Many a parent said, "Look honey, there's a baby in her tummy!"  The toddler would usually look for moment then squirm away and run off.  After all, everything is a miracle to a two year old.  Open the door to the big box in the kitchen and cold air rushes out and lights turn on.  Pull the handle and water shoots out.  Push the lever and G.I. Joe disappears in a whirlpool.  Baby in her tummy?? Big deal!

Add just another year or two of sophistication and suddenly the baby-in-her-tummy idea is a lot more interesting.  These kids loved putting their hands on my belly and some would even run up to me and pull up my shirt for a better look and give the baby a shout out.  Their stream of questions almost always started with, "How does the baby get in there?"  Being a biology buff I had no trouble answering this question for my daughter, but in attempt to be sensitive to other people's beliefs and boundaries I would answer, "You should probably ask your mom about that, kiddo."  What did I tell my daughter?  Excellent question. It went something like this: "Mommies have organs inside their bodies called ovaries.  Once a month, these ovaries release an egg.  If the daddies fertilize the egg within a few days then a baby will start to grow.  That's why babies look a little like their moms and a little like their dads.  The baby starts out very, very tiny and gets bigger every day.  Then one day, a long time later, the baby will be ready to come out."  I was pretty proud of my simple yet accurate description of human reproduction, until I figured out that my daughter assumed the fertilizer was "rubbed on the mommy's tummy."  I think I mumbled out an "ummm hummm".  I guess my frank honesty only goes so far.

With regards to teenagers, some of the girls would show some enthusiasm but most teenagers would deftly avoid any eye contact.  It was like I was a drop of oil in a saucer with pepper flakes.  Firstly, they're wise enough to know how you got yourself in this predicament, (tee-hee-hee) but really the idea of pregnancy to a teenager is painted with a thick coat of scandal and over a primer coat of fear.  There was nothing more scary that the idea of being a "teen mom" when I was a teen and no scandal bigger than one of us turning up with a baby bump.  So their reaction was predictable but also lacking in perspective.  I've seen teenage parents do an amazing job and lead a great life.

Among adults it was immediately obvious who was and wasn't a parent.  The non-parent types would treat you with mostly indifference, (nothing wrong with that) but fellow parents are quick to light up with excitement and run through the typical script of questions while peppering your responses with their experiences.  Dads were generally not so forthcoming but occasionally I'd catch a tough looking, rough-around-the-edges-type with a big sappy grin at the sight of my engorged belly and I'd think, "Yep he's got a little princess at home too."

Some of my favorite reactions came from people who were older.  They come from a place of such experience, wisdom, and best of all, perspective on how fleeting these moments are.  They'd show unabashed happiness at the gift I'm about to receive and know firsthand that the discomforts and trials are not what I'll remember, nor what really matters.  Even from a casual exchange I'd feel uplifted, as though I just had a nice visit with doting grandparents.

I've never been a person to elicit much of a reaction from people, particularly strangers.  There's just something special about a pregnant woman.  She holds the magic of creation and the hope for our kind in one neat, adorable, little bump.  Which is what I think people really meant when Id get the usual, "You look great!"  I'd think these people were crazy or lying for my benefit.  My internal dialog would shout, "What do you mean, I'm huge, my face is fat, I'm tired, and I haven't seen my toes in ages!"  But now that I'm normal again, (well a new normal anyway) when I see a pregnant friend the words fly right out of my mouth, "You look great!"

Saturday, January 28, 2012


(Article four of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
The cruelest part of pregnancy isn't any of the aforementioned inconveniences or discomforts.  It the onslaught of information in every pregnancy book, pamphlet, show, etc. about what could be wrong with your baby.  I'm getting anxious even thinking about it.  One book had me stressed out after I read that stress was bad for the baby.  We live in an age of too much information.  If I have symptoms of an ailment, then a nice index by which I may look up my symptoms would be helpful. Just make sure it's all in some appendix at the back of the book.  It would even be nice to post a warning: "SCARY STUFF IN HERE -- OPEN ONLY IF NECESSARY".  If there's no indication of anything amiss, I don't want to know all the terrifying possibilities.  Just stick to showing me how big my tadpole is and what adorable parts she's developing at this point.

Of all the possible defects, the one that scared me the most was Down's syndrome.  The only reason I worried is because I opted for the screening.  WHCA recommends it; so how could I turn down the opportunity to know my baby was OK?  It also came with a bonus early ultrasound.  But!  The screening is done to give you the option of terminating the pregancy.   I can't explain the horror of imagining the scenario in which you'll have to make that choice.  Although the testing is done fairly early, you don't get your results (which are in the form of odds -- Vegas style) until 20 weeks.  That's about four weeks after I'd already begun to feel the baby move.  'Nuff said on this subject.  Shudder.

If  caused any pregnant mommies and undue anxiety, please accept my apologies and view the below video over and over until your blood pressure returns to normal.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Don't Worry They All Look Like Aliens at this Stage

(Article four of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
Isn't she the cutest little ink-blot you've ever seen??
The coolest part of pregnancy is getting those first few sneak peeks at the baby via an ultrasound machine.  The image is black and white, blurry, like a bad charcoal drawing; and also the most amazingly beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.  It always amazed me how little they are (only about 4" and 2.5oz at 15 weeks) and yet how much they already look like a fully developed baby.  I loved feeling them kick then seeing it on screen a moment later.  When feeling the movements my imagination would always try to figure out what was creating the sensations, but here I could see it, in real time, live.  It was breathtaking.  A weepy person I am not, but both times I saw my babies for the first time kicking around in there, I cried tears of pure happiness.  Afterwards, I'd check my book to make sure the oversized alien head on my perfect baby was normal...

Before I had kids, I'd view my friends' ultrasound pictures with indifference.  "Um yeah that's great.  Where's the head again?  Oh that? OK I think I see it.  Uh, here you go."  No so anymore, now they elict genuine responses of "How adorable!" and "Look at that cute button nose!"  I see no blurry images anymore. I see a cute little baby waiting to bring his/her own brand of joy to the world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There's a Baby in There!

(Article three of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
Sometime early in the second trimester (16 weeks or so) I'd feel little twitches, like muscle spasms in my lower abdomen.  Humm strange, then with wide eyes and a sharp intake of breath I'd realize, that's the baby!  This triggered a whole new mindset.  Suddenly every discomfort and sacrifice (no coffee, no wine, no sports, no lunchmeat, no hot baths, no this, no that, nononono...) was worth it.  It's the moment that the pregnancy in all it's beauty and magic became real.  There really was a new little life living, growing, and maybe even playing in there.  Suddenly my body was no longer mine, it was hers for as long as she needed it and I felt blessed to carry her.  Ah, l'amore!

This was also a gift for the other people in my life.  My husband Charley, loved feeling the movements and would talk or sing to her and imagine that her subsequent movements were in response to his voice.  During my second pregnancy, my older daughter enjoyed this phase as much as we did.  She would talk to the baby and even told her sisterly secrets.  Although I pretended not to overhear, it was invariably the suggestion that she should kick me.  Sometimes the baby obeyed, but usually I feigned feeling a good kick -- "Oh ouch, that was a good one.  Be nice to Mommy baby."  It was magic.  Once while cuddled up with my older daughter reading her bedtime stories, I felt a good kick and Danielle said, "Hey, she kicked me!"  I pretended to scold the baby by pointing at my tummy, "No hitting in this family, young lady."

By the end of my pregnancies, my babies, already eager for their first gymnastics lessons would start training, -- in utero.  My belly would contort into a rectangular shape (sideways) and I could often, very accurately, measure the size of their feet and even count toes.  Their antics earned more than one "whoa!" from spectators.  During a late lunch with a sightseeing group, our waitress remarked, "Wow - I can see your baby moving from over here."  I had more than one nightmare where the baby's foot broke through my belly button and was sticking out of my body.  I'd wake up in a cold sweat grasping my intact belly, then I'd heave a sigh of relief to find that it was just a dream.

Sometimes, as my babies rolled from one side to the other a point, probably and elbow or knee, would create a bump that would streak from one side of my tummy to the other.  I referred to these as shooting stars.  I didn't feel the need to wish on those, because my wish had already come true.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Trimesters by Girth

(Article two of the "On Being Pregnant Series")
Although my girth was unchanged, my first trimester was always the worst.  I felt tired and a little sick all the time.  It didn't matter if I slept  23 and 1/2 hours a day, as that 1/2 hour of awake time would be spent yawning, rubbing my eyes whilst wishing I would just throw up so I could feel a little better.  All this and there's no adorable baby bump to show for it.  I was sure people were wondering if I was milking-it.  After all, I sure looked the same.

By the second trimester it was abundantly obvious that I was pregnant, but only to me apparently.  I'd think my belly was big but other people could hardly see the difference.  "You're not even showing yet!" I'd hear often.  As any mom will tell you, the second trimester is golden.  I felt much better with most of my energy back, and I only had a bun in the oven rather than the whole bread truck.  Also, as pregnant ladies are wont to do, I'd radiate that glow that is a composition of hormones, super vitamins and happiness.  By the end of the second trimester I can remember looking down at my belly and thinking incredulously, "I'm going to get even bigger?"

By the third trimester, I always felt great.  When my baby belly first appeared, it always seemed to be in the way, then I'd grow accustomed to the odd weight distribution and girth, and it soon became the new normal.  Then it would grow again and I'd start all over again.  Interestingly though, when I was huge I could sometimes forget it was even there.   Especially with the second baby, since I was usually preoccupied with my three-year-old.  I'd start talking with other moms at the park and after a few minutes one might ask me how far along I was.

"Hummm - what?  Oh yes this, (pointing to my belly) I'm 35 weeks".

Once I joked, "What am I showing?"

"Uh yeah, lil' bit," was the reply.

Sometimes I'd wonder if under my thick sweater it was even noticeable; after seeing pictures of myself in said sweater --yes, yes, it was noticeable.

Even though I was big, in general I felt pretty spry.  Ironically this is when I'd get the most help from family, friends and strangers.  Holding doors, offering up their chair or place in line.  I'd usually politely decline—or graciously accept, depending on the circumstances, while sometimes thinking—boy this sure would have been great during my first trimester!

Friday, January 20, 2012

On Being Pregnant

Being pregnant was a fascinating (and sometimes downright scary) experience.  It seemed to go on for an eternity, then just days after the delivery I could hardly remember what it was like being that big, carrying a little life I loved so passionately, but had yet even to touch or see.  So I'm here to tell the tale before pregnancy amnesia claims the rest of the details and replaces them with such critical information as the names and whereabouts of my kids' stuffed animals, the location and state of their clothes, toys and the words to their favorite picture books.

For the next week or so I'll be posting new articles regarding some of the different aspects of pregnancy, including: Discovery, Trimesters by Girth, There's a Baby in There!, Worry!, Other People, and Hi Baby!


In each of my three pregnancies my reaction to the + on the pregnancy test was surprising.  The + sign themselves were overly long in coming and I was pretty sure how I would react when it was positive.  I had images of winning-the-lottery style jumping hugs and smiles—like the commercials.  Not so...

After my first + sign appeared, the am-I-really-ready-for-this anxiety washed over me like a cold Oregon Coast wave, but I escaped the undertow and danced in the sands of excitement and joy.  That pregnancy ended in heartbreak ten weeks later when I miscarried.

Three months later we started trying again and after many additional months went by the + sign reappeared.  There was none of the former anxiety, only joy tempered with a little worry about a repeat.  That pregnancy happily concluded with the birth of our first daughter, Danielle.

The third + sign didn't make an appearance until almost a year of trying.  When I saw it, I had to sit down as my heart pounded and my vision blurred.  My brain rapid fired words such as miscarriage, down syndrome, labor, stretch marks, sleep deprivation (ohGodIdon'tknowifIcandoitagain), engorgement, mastitis, cracked nipples, cleft palate, autism, spina bifida, sore hips, morning sickness, colic, premature birth, teething, nipple biting, shots, etc.  It was as if these words were bullets fired by a guerrilla soldier that was hiding behind the dunes of the sunny beach I was walking on while dreaming of breathing in baby smells again.  Whew!!

Stunned but not felled my by the initial attack, I persevered by taking each moment as it came. Although I'm in the thick of the dreaded sleep deprivation phase, I'm still very happy to be the mom of another adorable baby girl.

What was your reaction to the news that you were going to be a mom or dad?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Big Kid Paradox

My four year old, Danielle still uses a binkie.[1]  She loves, loves, loves her binkie and has it every night at bedtime.  Three times now, my husband and I have bought what we've sworn to be the last binkies we'll ever buy her; so she'd better take care of them.  When the latest set developed chew holes after only a few weeks it was time for a new tack.  I told her that if she wanted new binkies she'd need to save her own money to buy them.  She always takes this with a good attitude.  She likes having some control over her acquisitions and will show inordinate patience (for a four-year-old) with the time it takes to save for the object she wants.  However, this was not the case in this instance.  There was some whining, "Uunnnuugghh - how much do they cost??  How much do I have??  (Followed by frantic piggybank shaking.)  Can I do some jobs??"  But overall, it wasn't much.

With new determination she saved and counted, then counted again.  Until, at last, she had the required $5.99 for the newest set of binkies.  As soon as the money was tallied, she deposited it into her purse and we were off to Fred Meyers.  I picked up a few things I needed and we made our way over to the baby aisles.  She looked over the pacifier selection much as a fine restaurateur might peruse the dusty tenants of a wine cellar.  She made her choice and refusing to add them to our cart, carried them in hand to the register.  I paid for my purchases, then she for hers.  She carefully counted the money while the checker patiently waited.  Mercifully, the checker bagged Danielle's purchases and handed it over in exchange for her money.  "My aren't you a big girl," she said graciously.  Danielle puffed up with pride.  I wanted also to congratulate her, but as I couldn't seem to muster the right words, I remained quiet.

Upon our return home she made a beeline for her scissors.  Lacking the required hand strength to cut through the Kevlar packaging, she enlisted my husband's help.  He opened them for her and she dutifully went to the sink to wash them both.  After letting them breathe for the slightest of moments they were each sampled in turn.  "Was it a good year?" my husband inquired.  "Indeed father, it was."

1. Let he who is the perfect parent with the perfect children cast the first lego.  That's what I thought, now sitdownwouldja.