In which we move ahead

Me: I’m really enjoying my book. It’s funny writing and it’s interesting to me the way they went about their boycott. <shifts A Year Without Made in China across the table>
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Actually, the husband in the book reminds me of you. But it’s annoying me that instead of going without stuff and clearing out their house, they find other ways to buy stuff they don’t need.
The husband: Hmmm.
Me: But anyway, it’s really interesting. A very entertaining read.
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Oh my gosh you’re afraid I’m going to make you do it, aren’t you?
The husband: <avoids eye contact>

* * *

There’s a Google commercial going around right now that ends with a little girl asking into the phone, while lying on the floor next to her sleeping dog, “OK, Google, do dogs dream?”

Google’s response is, “Dogs dream like humans and about similar things.” The little girl smiles and pats her sleeping dog on the head.

Dietrich is sleeping right now and isn’t available to do a final dogblog before we move ahead. I don’t know what he’s dreaming about but maybe it’s all the new puppies in the neighborhood that we meet on our walks these days; he loves them, so the husband and I try not to talk too loud about getting a second dog when Dietrich is within earshot. We wouldn’t get a second dog here in the green-ceiling condo anyway, but the time will come, before Dietrich is too much older, that we’ll add to the pack in four-legged format. Dietrich is too great a dog to not pass on his wisdom to a younger pup.

And the oyster would love a second dog, too. After she took a nose-dive off a friend’s porch last week, skinning her cheek and her nose and developing a purple knot the size of her fist, she cried for a minute and then asked for crackers and puppies. The girl bounces back pretty quick.

And speaking of kids, today was my last monthly blood draw at the ob, provided the numbers come back normal. They have been normal since March so I trust that September will be no different! That means we have the blessing of Western medicine to add to the pack in two-legged format. When I asked the husband the other week if we should go ahead when we get the go ahead or if we should wait for, hmm, I don’t know, something or…another time…or…I don’t know. His response? “I’m always up for another kid.” Good man.

When we talked about having kids before the oyster, one thing I wanted was to be debt-free. That didn’t happen before the oyster came into our lives but it happened in June and delayed though our milestone was, it was an excellent 29th birthday gift to me. Then again we weren’t actually debt-free until August when I remembered a library fine of $4.50, packed up the oyster, drove to our old neighborhood, and forked over the quarters I was saving for the library book sale at the end of the week. All in the name of financial freedom.

Dietrich is awake now and he is looking at me with his cartoon eyes, which suggests that he thinks I’m leaving something out. Oh, I think he wants me to mention his gray chin hairs. All gray. Very distinguished and handsome. He also wants me to mention that we signed up for dog food delivery from Amazon so he gets a package every month and he feels very sophisticated and urbane.

But back to the conversation with the husband at the beginning of this post. This week I finished the book A Year Without Made in China: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni. It’s my kind of book–a personal social experiment conducted purely to see if it’s possible? Yeah, that’s me. And no, I’m not going to make the husband do it. But it fits well with the moves we’ve been making toward a more minimalist lifestyle in the last few months and the fact that I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it from Amazon is proof positive of that. Dedicating ourselves to the frugal oyster budget was a great foundation for this minimalist thing and I like making less-is-just-less-and-that’s-the-goal a permanent thing for us. 

Anyway. Dietrich thinks we should keep the Red white and new Facebook page when we close up blog-shop tomorrow and I agree. That will be helpful in staying connected while we also spend less time in front of the computer, talking on behalf of the dog. Who has his own dreams of published books and perfectly broiled salmon, if Google is to be believed. 

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Full

It is Monday afternoon after my string of ob appointments and I nap. The husband takes the little oyster to the store and comes home with milk, eggs, and a bud vase of luscious orange-red roses. Six large blooms, snuggled together in a bold eruption of color and scent. I set them on my bedside table so I stare at beauty before going to sleep and as I wake up. I am fully aware of each time I wake up. I don’t sleep well in the week after finding out we lost Norbert. But each time I turn over in the night, curling and uncurling my body, shoving my pillow back or up or away, I smell the bright roses in the darkness. The scent brings me peace. Not an overwhelming, flooding, everything-is-fine-now peace, but a whispering, trickling, everything-will-be-ok-again-someday peace.

Me: Thank you for my roses. They help me smile a little bit.
The husband: That’s not why I got them.
Me: What?
The husband: I got them because I love you.

blessing 2

When the husband and I got married we used the traditional wedding vows in our exchange, except for one small adjustment from the generations before us. Instead of concluding with “until death do us part” we instead promised to honor our vows “until God parts us with death.” God dictates life, death does not. We trust fully in this.

My body has stopped bleeding for this tiny life that was lost. My heart, too, is healing but in a new shape, and softer. The invisible mark Norbert left won’t be like a regular scar, a stretch of flesh that reacts by healing harder than it was before the hurt. Instead this scar will be a softer spot. For lost babies, for mamas who love and then lose them, for tears that are cried alone and for feelings that are swallowed because…the words aren’t there? Because no one listens? Those are not my burdens and I ache for those who carry them.

Both of our moms came, back to back. I needed their company more than I needed someone to unload our dishwasher. I needed someone to chat with the husband over coffee and to chase the oyster while I took my time getting around the house. They were, and they did. The little sister brought hugs and Chanel eye cream. Flowers, cupcakes, cards, meals. No one intended to fix this with their gestures and no one did. The gestures alone were a gift. Faint comfort felt fully.

It snowed. A heavy, lasting, whimsical, Hogwartsy snow that I watched from our comfy chair in the corner. A frozen balm just for my soul maybe.

Three weeks on I don’t wake up in tears each day. I don’t cry myself to sleep each night. I am viscerally aware that healing is underway. I am fully trusting that this baby, who was not named and was never met but whose days were numbered and known from the start, lived exactly as long as God planned. We were never meant to hold this child and for what reason I don’t know, but for some reason.

I don’t wake up in tears and I don’t go to sleep in tears but I wipe tears when the little girl at the playground talks about her baby sister coming this spring. I sniff tears when I tuck away the booties crocheted for Norbert. I swallow a lump when a friend says this baby has already heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant” but that one, that one is a good lump, a humbling lump, a this-story-doesn’t-end-with-me-and-my-sadness lump.

I grieve the loss of a new life I loved. Our baby. We both mourn the loss of possibilities. The husband and I look forward to the children we’ll have in the future but there will never be this child. The shift of the road ahead is permanent and maybe if I picture it not as the road ahead but as the way forward, I can see it with eyes that take in the scenery while it’s there to be seen and not with eyes that are tempted to look back and dwell. I expect to always feel this loss; fully in some moments, faintly in others after more time.

Besides. All good things are from above, the book of James says. I believe it’s true. My heart is cut and it is dented, but it is still full of good things from above.

little boots

blessing 4

blessing 3

Feelings

The pre-op nurse called me from the waiting room and walked me into the same-day surgery wing. “It’s a requirement of anesthesia that we do a urine pregnancy test,” she said, stopping outside the bathroom. I felt sucker punched. All my air whooshed out and a dozen questions, questions I wanted to snap in my meanest voice possible, filled my head. Don’t you know why I’m here? Didn’t you look at your chart? Are you kidding? Is this a joke? Don’t you know my baby is already dead? I stared at her.

“I’m here for a D&C,” I croaked at last.

The hint of an embarrassed smile crept onto her face, as if, of all the reasons I could possibly be there, surely this wasn’t the one. Surely she hadn’t just told the lady with the miscarriage to take a pregnancy test. I went into the bathroom and when I got to pre-op bed #9, she apologized.

I am sad.

The word devastated, which I have also used to describe how the husband and I feel right now, conjures up in my mind images of far away earthquakes and floods and the messy aftermath of lives changed forever, sometimes destroyed, with clean up and recovery and time needed for all of it. And then I realize that yes, devastated works here. Devastated a lot closer to home.

Miscarriages are not uncommon but it never ever crossed my mind that one might happen to us. Suddenly the blogs, the books, the supportive posts people write to those who have lost babies apply and we’re part of a club we never knew we’d qualify for and never asked to join. No one asks to join and no one ever leaves. Miscarriage is Hotel California for really, really sad people.

Sad, heartbroken, devastated, crushed. All words people use to describe how they feel after a miscarriage, all words other people use to assume how you’re feeling. They’re all accurate of course. They’re all exactly how I’ve felt since Monday morning and will continue to feel for who knows how long?

But I wasn’t ready for the other feelings that have surprised me this week. I haven’t read about them in other blog posts. I didn’t expect the shreds of optimism on my way out of the ob’s office after the first visit, praying silently to God, the Author of Life, to breathe life back into my small baby. He has raised from the dead before, why not now? Why couldn’t there be a heartbeat at our next sonogram?

I didn’t expect to remember my new pink planner in my purse and feel stupid. Stupid that I brought it along to plan my next visit. Stupid that I didn’t know my baby had died and I wouldn’t need another appointment. Stupid that I had other things written in there this week–coffee, book club, brunch–that only a stupid person would have planned.

I didn’t expect the relief that was almost physical when my ob and the sonogram nurse referred to our lost child only as “your baby” on Monday. Nothing scientific or medical, just “your baby.”

I didn’t expect fresh tears at every. single. post. on my Facebook wall. And I didn’t expect 60 comments, plus private messages, emails, and texts.

I didn’t expect that my feelings–of all things, my feelings!–would be hurt when I read about the actual surgery. The other times I’ve had surgery, I’ve gotten something out of it. With Martha, peace of mind and ultimately a good diagnosis. With my emergency c-section which was a disaster for all intents and purposes, we got the oyster. This time, a less physically invasive but more psychologically violating surgery would take something from me and give me nothing back. It would take something I had already lost, meaning twice in one week I was losing our baby, whom we had loved so fiercely and wanted so badly.

When I woke up from anesthesia after Martha surgery I was panicked and I cried because I couldn’t form words in my head and I was scared that I had lost speech. When I woke up from surgery yesterday I cried, too. But I cried because I wanted my baby back. I cried because I was sad. And then I cried because my post-op nurse was pregnant and my baby was gone from my body.

When we left the hospital I felt negligent. I felt wrong leaving behind the child we love and will never know on this earth. The child that on Monday was “your baby” but now, to the hospital and the lab doing the biopsies and tests, is “the specimen.”

I know my body will heal the fastest. Physically I feel scraped, emptied out. I didn’t know my body could make the colors that I saw on the hospital bed sheets when I stood yesterday to put on my own clothes. I was fascinated and disgusted all at once. I felt bad for the young woman I saw changing sheets in the other recovery bays.

I felt sad surprise when today I put on my jeans and already they button again.

I feel peace from the prayers offered up for us, for the Bible verses and truths friends have reminded me of. I feel like, while I’m not starting to heal yet, I will. We are devastated but we are not destroyed.

I don’t feel angry. Anger isn’t helpful to me. For a few minutes this week I have felt bad for myself. In a lighter moment, I felt like Neville Longbottom. Why is it always me?

neville

This week a trifecta of my biggest fears–losing a baby, missing the miscarriage, and needing a D&C–came true. I don’t deal well with loss and healing will take me a long time. I will not compare my grief to the grief of others. I don’t feel like we should be less sad because our baby was so young and small. I don’t feel like we should recover quickly because our child never got born.

When I feared losing a pregnancy, I thought the idea of death being so close to us would unhinge me but it didn’t. Death came to our family, to our home, and to my body, but death does not have the final say. The only home our child will ever know is a perfect home in Heaven. In fact, by the time we even knew our baby was gone, Heaven had been home for almost three weeks. Sometimes this gives me the kind of comfort a mom needs; sometimes I feel stupid again. How could I not have realized?

I ordered a book about healing from miscarriage and I feel bad about it. The book will help me, I’m sure. Words help me, whether they are my own or others’. What I feel bad about is the title, Empty Arms. My arms aren’t empty. I do have a child. I just don’t have the one we were expecting right up until Monday morning.

And I feel like I couldn’t survive this if we didn’t have the oyster. Her chubby legs and soft cheeks, the way her eyes get squinty when she smiles, her loud voice and sweet, tentative steps, these are the things that distract me from grief. Not because grief is bad and I need to turn my face away from it but because grief is not the whole story and I need to acknowledge that there is joy living alongside it.

Fog

On December 1 the husband and I were thrilled with a positive pregnancy test. Baby #2! An August baby! We couldn’t wait. Our insurance had changed since the oyster was born so I had to find a new ob. I did, and within days had scheduled an appointment. We all went to it a few weeks later.

December 23 I had a sonogram. I went by myself and on the screen, there it was. Our little baby. A tiny bean, wiggling back and forth already. A healthy heartbeat of 146 bpm. Placenta in a good spot. The sonogram lady printed me two pictures to take home. I put them on the fridge. Norbert, we called our baby.

Our Christmas tree was up. We placed a “Baby’s 1st Christmas” onesie under it and texted the picture to family, saying “look what’s under our tree this year!” We told my parents it was on back order and wouldn’t arrive until August. It was a fun Christmas, although all-day-morning sickness was kicking my butt.

January 13 was my next regular monthly ob appointment. The husband stayed home with the oyster and would just go to work when I got home. I packed my blue Norbert folder for all the papers I would get at this appointment. I packed my new 2014 pink planner, to schedule my next appointment. I asked all my questions. We talked about screening tests. She got the doppler to listen to Norbert’s heartbeat.

I felt like she was taking a long time with the doppler. Poking, pressing, moving. She had me shift. Poking, pressing. The oyster never took this long. But I still have belly fat from carrying the oyster, that couldn’t be helping. She took my pulse to see if that’s what she was hearing. I stared at the ceiling. She shut off the doppler.

I’m going to get the sonogram machine, I’m just not getting what I need to get.

But I have a lot of belly fat. That’s probably why, I thought.

The sonogram machine warmed up and again she was poking, pressing. I stared at the screen. I watched, like she was.

I need to do an internal sonogram, is that ok? Baby just doesn’t seem to be cooperating.

Well maybe it’s an anterior placenta, I thought. The placenta is just blocking the baby from the sonogram machine.

I stared at the screen with my heart beating faster. Poking, poking. My heart slowed down.

Please, please just be an anterior placenta.

I looked at her. She was frowning but I wasn’t worried until she called me sweetie.

How many weeks are you again, sweetie?

Eleven. Please be an anterior placenta. Please.

This is an 8 week baby. I’m not hearing a heartbeat. I’m so sorry.

She helped me sit up and she rubbed my back while I cried. She held the Kleenex. She told me she wanted me to go to one of the other locations for a better sonogram. Even though she said it was to confirm what she saw, I thought maybe the equipment was faulty. The better sonogram would show a wiggly little baby, 11 weeks along. I picked up the husband and the oyster.

Do you see these flashes of color?

Yes.

Those are reading blood flow. The big flashes, like here and here, are your blood. There should be a flash where the baby’s heart is beating.

But…it’s just dark there.

I’m so sorry. Your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat anymore. I’m measuring 8 weeks, 4 days. I’m sorry. We don’t know why these things happen.

They sent me back to my ob to talk about what we would do. I could wait. I could take meds to make the waiting shorter. I could have a D&C. Those were the options.

Which one is the least traumatic?

Well, there’s physical trauma and there’s emotional trauma.

The husband asked, Which will hurt the least?

D&C. But there’s something else.

What?

The second sonogram showed that the placenta is cystic. We don’t know if that’s why this happened, or if it’s just the placenta deteriorating because the baby didn’t need it anymore. But if it was the first, it’s possible the pregnancy was semi-molar, in which case we’d advise you not get pregnant again for six months. We’d monitor your hormone levels and if they were normal after six months, that would be fine to try again. If not, you would need to wait another six months. But the only way to diagnose this is with a D&C.

Ok.

We scheduled it for Wednesday, today.

There is a thick fog this morning. Heavy, gray, settled soundly on all the things I can see from my window. The ground is wet, the grass is wet, everything is soaked with the grayness of it.

But it is not raining.

After birth, the lies continue

Now I get why older generations didn’t talk sex and pregnancy with their children. Pretty sure it was because they wanted grandchildren and we all know that knowledge is power. As a mother in the 21st century and a public servant, I feel it is my civic duty to expose the lies associated with the postpartum life.

1. Pregnancy is 9 months long.
Untrue. Pregnancy is 40 weeks long and if we discount the errant five-week month or two, anyone with basic math skills can see that 40 weeks means 10 months. During a time in which every day matters, it’s misleading to measure pregnancy in units as large as months. One day makes the difference between pre-term and full-term. We discern a baby’s appropriate development based on how many weeks s/he has been cooking away. An ultrasound has the weeks and days of gestation printed across the top, not the nearest whole month. Would you round up or down? No one can answer that because pregnancy is 40 weeks, not 9 months. And then for some people, it’s 40 weeks. and. three. days. #%$%^&@%$

2. Dipping into your husband’s closet is a cost-effective way to expand your pregnancy and postpartum wardrobe.
False. Dipping into your husband’s wardrobe is a cost-effective way to make you feel like a sea cow dressed in men’s clothing.

Wearing your husband’s clothes while pregnant is a terrible, horrible no-good, very bad idea for two main reasons. One, if your husband is larger enough than you that his clothes fit you during pregnancy, see above. Two, if you and your husband are about the same size, by 25 weeks (see Lie #1) his clothes won’t fit you and by 32 weeks you’ll outweigh him and your last shreds of self-confidence and dignity will be trampled beneath your swollen, sea cow cankles. There are two small caveats to these guidelines. One, if your husband is slightly taller and broader than you, his t-shirts can hug in all the flattering places before 20 weeks, lending you that sporty, glowy*, newly pregnant look. Two, after delivery his casual oxford shirts can button nicely over your much-larger-now bosom and skim your much-larger-now hips. That is, if the shirt buttons can reach their holes all the way down. And they probably won’t, so you will cry a little. And as you cry you will look down at the ground which you can now see. And there you will see your sea cow cankles and bread loaf feet and you will weep anew. And you will long for the day when your old fat pants no longer fit you like jeggings. And you will wipe your tears on the sleeve of your husband’s shirt. And a little bit of your snot, too, because he’s a wonderful, patient man who lost weight during your pregnancy and he deserves some snot on the shirt sleeve for that.

3. The pregnancy glow.

The pregnancy glow lasts about 15 minutes. Then, as you realize what you’re in for and your girth expands exponentially and you have less energy to put on make up…and shower…and do laundry…what people mistake for a glow is actually the sheen of oil on your face because you don’t even care not even a little bit about what people think or if you have mascara on or not. In fact, it’s quite likely that if you had mascara on two days ago, it’s still on because you were too tired to wash it off, which means now you have the smoky eye look going on and combined with the oil slick on your face, I could see how some would conclude that you’re “glowing.” But really, there’s no glow. There are breakouts and you’re supposed to stay out of the sun so you get white and puffy all at the same time and then you feel awesome, the same kind of awesome you felt as a high school freshman, which we all know was everyone’s best time.

4. Back is best!
For mom, sure, it kind of is. It’s lovely to be able to stretch out and lie flat on your back like you haven’t been able to do for months. The sleep is divine. Then during your lovely back-sleeping you wake up short of breath and realize the baby is on track to sleep through the night and you’re about to be crushed under the weight of your own boobs. I digress. The ‘back is best’ mantra of course references the current pediatrician-endorsed way to lay your baby down to sleep. Funny thing about APA guidelines is that babies don’t read or follow them so when your baby falls asleep on her side and she wakes up and wails when you lay her dutifully on her back in her crib with no bumpers, tight-fitting sheets, no toys and no blankets, do yourself a favor and tilt her back on to her side, prop her up with a blanket, and offer a prayer of thanksgiving that you found a way to help your baby sleep soundly. Then every time you go to the pediatrician’s office and have to fill out the yes-or-no survey, cross your fingers under the clipboard when you answer “do you ever lay your baby on his/her side or stomach to sleep?” I even drew the quotes around no once. “No” I “never” do that.

4. Baby wash cloths.
Pfffffft. They neither wash nor are they cloth. Baby wash cloths are the biggest waste of space and money in the entire universe of things a baby could possibly have. Pack of 12 baby wash cloths? Oh, you mean pack of 12 crappy, cheap little strips of junky material that curl up in the wash, roll up when you try to use them, and attract like a magnet the hair of every creature who lives in or has visited your home? Ever? And when wet they have the audacity to wilt like the house-brand paper towel in a side-by-side comparison commercial. Baby wash cloths are the fabric equivalent of a booger you can’t get off your finger.

5. Babies don’t need shoes.
Sure they do. Because baby shoes are cute and since none of yours are going to fit when all is said and done, someone in the house may as well have kicky little rides. This is the first and one of the only times it is acceptable to live vicariously through your child and her hot pink Mary Janes with the flowers on the toes.

6. Trust your body.
Yes and no. For example, your body will want to sneeze after you get home from the hospital. Your uterus will ask it not to. This is a time when you should not trust your body. Deny the sneeze at all costs. Here’s another example: When it is time to get up from lying down, your body will want to sit up. Do not allow your body to sit up. Ask someone to sit your body up for you. This is another time when you should not trust your body. On the other end hand, your body will want to eliminate waste again. You should trust it to do so when it is ready but you should also be popping stool softeners like they’re candy and probably washing them down with something sugary that will give you the runs. Don’t be a hero.

7. This is the best time of your life.

I’ll be real, I am seriously enjoying motherhood and parenting and expanding our family. But to say this is the best time of my life is like saying the Carter years were a high point in American history. It just ain’t so. It’s dangerous and completely unhelpful to let new parents think they should be having a blast with the first few weeks of postpartum life. The serious indignities of labor and delivery (and these indignities multiply tenfold if it’s a c-section–who knew?) extend, albeit temporarily, into your new life. Things you thought would go away immediately don’t. Things you thought would look normal again haven’t yet. This isn’t the best time of your life and don’t pretend like it is. The best time of your life will happen later but watch the champagne because good times+the bubbly is how some of us got here in the first place.

Pregnancy: My best frenemy

To begin, a haiku:

Pregnancy. You are
a tricky minx, your games are
mean. Two can play them.

Pregnancy is like a girlfriend you are really close with for a while, say 33 weeks, and then suddenly you realize she has been talking about you behind your back and what she needs is a high five in the face with a chair. But like a true frenemy you can’t shake pregnancy until she’s good and ready to be shook.

So if pregnancy thinks her last few weeks with me are all fun and games, I’m here to blow her cover. Pregnancy, if we were Facebook friends, I’d post pictures from your middle school sports tryouts and then I’d email pictures from your bachelorette party to your boss and then I’d shave words into your cat’s fur and post pictures of that. So there. Two can play this game.

There is an implication in some circles that pregnancy is the most wonderful time in a woman’s life and each second of it is to be cherished. I am thankful for my pregnancy and for the little oyster who should be here in FIVE WEEKS (!!) but I’m not going to pretend that gaining 40 lbs, losing 70% of your mobility and inadvertently peeing on your own hand when you use the bathroom should qualify as the best time in anyone’s life.

Some things that no one mentions about pregnancy before you become fast friends with her, and which she will use against you the longer you hang out with her:

Movement

Or not.

The weight gain is a given. The truly handicapped ability to do simple things like, um, move, is rarely mentioned. In order to simply turn over in the middle of the night, I must awaken and mentally calculate the trajectory that will beach me on my other side for the rest of the night. Is it easier to get a rolling start and go across the back to land on the other side? Should I inch into a table position on all fours and then unfold limb by limb into a recumbent position?

I take a breath, conduct my final calculations, wave to the judges and picture the end goal until, with much ado and absolutely no aplomb, I am able to execute the maneuver.

The simple act of picking something up off the ground is also a thing of the past. I figured this would be the case, but I didn’t figure that powering through and reaching down for that pile of briefing papers wafting cruelly to the floor in front of all the other Hill press secretaries would lead to a head rush so bad I can feel my heart beat in my eyeballs and be out of breath for ten minutes.

Sleep

I get having to pee constantly. This wasn’t a surprise. The difficulty associated with heaving myself awkwardly out of bed in the middle of the night was entirely new, as any core muscles I used to have have atrophied and the only thing going for me is my ability to convert my potential energy into kinetic. As we all know, an object in motion tends to remain in motion and since I don’t even bother opening my eyes for my midnight loo runs, the dog has learned not to sleep in the hallway. The effort of said awkward heaving generally causes a contraction or two which makes the trip to the bathroom that much more crucial.

Hemorrhoids

Ah HA, pregnancy! You thought you’d get me on this one but I, I read ahead in my pregnancy week-by-week book and I was on to your game. Which is why I laid in a stock of Frosted Mini Wheats and fiber gummies and have partaken of these delights religiously, often twice daily. I made it a personal goal to avoid this ‘symptom.’ And by personal goal, I mean I put avoiding hemorrhoids above weight control on my priorities list. This was one indignity pregnancy would not inflict! If I had purchased Mini Wheats stock, the husband and I could both retire. Hemorrhoid-less, thank you very much.

Looks

For someone whose hair was schizophrenic before pregnancy, you’d think adding hormones and subtracting sleep would have little impact on my coif. You would be wrong. My hair, which prior to pregnancy did whatever it wanted and I was ok with that, now does nothing anyone wants and looks on a daily basis like it’s having a panic attack. The glossy, thick locks that everyone crows about on behalf of pregnant women have skipped me. The last time my hair looked like normal-person hair was after the little sister (read: a professional) cut and styled it. If my hair was always puffy, I could deal. Always flat? Same thing. But my hair, despite vitamins and conditioner, will be doing one thing when I walk away from the bathroom mirror and have totally changed its mind in the time it takes me to find and put on flip flops. Hair, WTF.

On the plus side, my nails are strong and white, thanks in large part to my vitamins and steady diet of Mini Wheats and milk.

On the plus-sized side are my feet. I’m so glad someone invented circus tents pants so that I can hide my elephant paws under the guise of being professional at all times. The swollen feet and ankles are one of those things I thought I escaped. Then they seemed to realize they were supposed to be puffing up and to make up for their missed cue, are now working overtime to embarrass me and make lower extremity movement uncomfortable.

Mucus

Pregnancy increases all bodily fluids, both in production and volume. My eyes are always leaking. My nose is always running. I’m always clearing my throat. The low-grade nosebleed I have had for weeks steps up the game now and then. And when all these things aren’t leaking out of my face, they are clogging things up so bad that I of necessity become a mouth-breather. Because that really helps a pregnant lady feel good about herself.

Kinesiology

Or whatever the word is for being physically self-aware. Yeah, I’m still not there and this pregnancy is almost done. I still run my belly into the freezer chest at the store. I still smack myself with the door to the bathroom at work. I still bunt the husband into the hall closet when I think I can “just squeeze past ya” in the mornings on my way to the bathroom. I have managed not to resort to the pregnant waddle but other displays of gestational self-awareness are few and far between.

With all this said, I would like to make it clear that I’m grateful to have faced only indignities and no real medical issues with this pregnancy and the little oyster. Apart from being so tired I could cry (but I won’t because that would take energy), none of my complaints are anything out of the ordinary for a standard pregnancy. And with all THAT said, I do think it bears repeating that no one mentions these things when insisting that pregnancy is the best time of a woman’s life. Sure it is. A real gas, you might say. A real gas. Another thing they don’t mention.

To conclude, another haiku:

Pregnancy, full of
tricks. If we meet again, you
bring it on, you broad.

Ahh, the famed third trimester

Wherein the already-strange pregnancy dreams take on a terrifyingly lifelike quality, the “helpful” countdown-to-baby ticker on my target.com registry is in the double digits, and a good night’s sleep has gone the way of the buffalo.

But I won’t complain. It’s my blog and I could complain, but what good would it do me or anyone? There are enough complainers in the world; in fact, I’m Facebook friends with a swath of them who seem to make a competitive sport out of it. And really, there’s nothing to complain about when everything is ticking and kicking along as it she should. I just kind of wish the primary kicking hours were between 8a-3 pm, instead of 8p-3 am.

Leg cramps? Not so bad. Tendonitis? Major bitch first thing in the morning but doable after I get moving. Aches, pains, and general discomfort? Meh, I guess they’re pretty temporary and I blame most of them on our 100-degree-plus temperatures and the fact that I have a physical outdoor job.*

Even the preggo dreams, which are weird beyond weird, have inspired me–or motivated me out of sheer terror–to get moving on the sort of baby prep that someone more Type A than I would have had done a month ago.

For example, over the weekend I had a dream that I had the little oyster at midnight and the next day I left the hospital at noon, 12 hours after delivery. The baby was sleeping. Three days later, I realized she was still sleeping but that I didn’t know what to do with her when she woke up because I left the hospital too early and no one had had the time to show me how to feed or wash the baby. In my dream I was particularly concerned that, since she had been sleeping for three days, she also hadn’t eaten in three days, which I was pretty sure was weird. This dream made me realize that a birthing class, a book about what to do with a baby once it’s out, and actually having a few necessities like bottles, diapers, and wipes would put my mind seriously at ease.

Last night I dreamed I was hanging out in an old friend’s bedroom (everyone else was doing homework, I was not) and a rat crawled out of her laundry pile and ran up to sit on the side of my face. I figured if I held really still, it wouldn’t maul me, while the other friends there flailed about, panicking about what to do with the rat. I think this dream is telling me to get my brain scans transferred to my o.b. so she can take a look at Martha and we can settle the to-c-section-or-not-to-c-section question for good. Apparently the lingering question is more troubling to my subconscious than I realized.

And of course I’ve had the classic raging river/swiftly moving current/rising tide dream that all books and websites say is indicative of my seriously unprepared state. Hardly comforting, but hardly news. Am confident that acquisition of more baby staples will quell this.

And so we embark on the final trimester. The husband and I have chosen a name we’re really excited about for the little oyster; I revealed to the good congressman and his staff (and his wife) at our last meeting that I’m pregnant and have yet to hear anything from them about the press job so I’m fairly certain I’ll be staying home with the little lady and walking dogs through the fall and winter months; next week I get my RhoGAM shot (in the butt, apparently) and do the glucose screen that my true loves, fruit and lemonade, clearly want me to fail; and then the parents come visit.

And then it’s another month of organizing, washing, setting up, crafting, buying, rearranging, and organizing again.

Then the little oyster arrives.

And then the weird dreams will stop! Ha! Because so will sleep! Sads.

*More on said job later. I’m gathering pictures of some of the dog breeds I’ve worked with so far, and I get distracted by the puppy pictures on Google images.

It’s basically an $80 toothbrush

Over the weekend the husband and I got a shiny card in the mail, advertising discounted prices on new patient services at a local dentist.

Having one’s teeth cleaned during pregnancy is one of those big must-dos that I had no idea about until the oyster was good and in there. Unfortunately, when the husband and I switched from my insurance to his, we didn’t select dental coverage and the fact that this makes me a horrible mom and I haven’t even met my daughter yet has weighed on me since.

Enter the new patient deals. I immediately scheduled my cleaning and x-rays for $79 and slept well for the next few nights. Yesterday at the ob I asked about having the x-rays done and she gave me the all-clear, since the dentist of course uses the lead-filled aprons and my teeth are in my head, not my uterus.

But today the office wouldn’t do the x-rays. They told me I can come back for the x-rays after the baby is born, since I did pay for them, and went ahead with the teeth cleaning and consultation. The body produces more of everything during pregnancy, including blood and saliva and sure enough, the standard cleaning alone rendered me a mouth full of gore. I did not panic.

The kind dentist, who told me that when his first son was born in the middle of the night he put a curse on him for it and now that son is a high-risk obstetrician so he got his, poked around in my mouth and pointed out the small areas of concern. He suggested that snacking less and therefore raising the acidity in my mouth less often would help prevent future decay and that an electric toothbrush would also help me out. I said that I just happen to have a birthday coming up, I’ll put it on the list. Instead he gave me one as a present. 🙂

When the little oyster arrives, the husband and I will add her and dental coverage to our insurance. In the meantime, I will brush faithfully with my new birthday present and continue to floss. The snacking less, well, we’ll see.

Today I also got a job offer! Yes, readers, you are looking at one of northern Virginia’s newest canine perambulatory specialists. In other words, I’m a dog walker. I start at the end of the month. Hopefully the tendonitis my foot has recently developed will be under control and I will be able to execute my duties swiftly and faithfully. I bet I’ll have to take a vow that says that.

A t-shirt that slims one’s hips…why?

Or, In which I rant and rave about one side of an issue while in my head formulating valid counterarguments for said issue and still choosing to take the position herein extrapolated.

Last night the husband had a softball game and my poor back couldn’t handle sitting in the bleachers, so I went to Barnes and Noble and spent an hour with Real Simple instead.

Normally I love that magazine and look forward to each month’s new edition (I called it an ‘episode’ the other day–it’s the TV age, what can I say?) but this month’s was a letdown. The gift ideas for dads and grads made me think what?? and the rest of it was just as puzzling and, in my humble opinion, unoriginal and useless.

Particularly so was the article about finding a flattering t-shirt. I get the articles about finding a bathing suit that flatters one’s shape–there are as many different bathing suit styles as there are body shapes in the first place–but t-shirts? Anyone with eyes should be able to tell when a t-shirt fits right and is flattering, and if someone can’t tell, I can virtually guarantee that person isn’t reading Real Simple to remedy the situation.

The little blurb that introduced the t-shirt article ended with the claim that there were even some t-shirt options to “slim your hips!”

<crickets>

I like looking nice, and I like clothes that fit me well. But I only expect my t-shirts to do certain things, like have holes for my arms and cover my boobs.

Almost no woman looks at another woman and says to her friends, “Wow, that t-shirt really slims her hips. What a flattering cut on her particular shape and proportions” and my scientific research, i.e., asking the husband, reveals that no man would a) notice or b) care how a woman’s t-shirt makes her hips look. Men don’t tend to appreciate women’s t-shirts for what they do for the hip area.

It’s important to feel good about the way you look, woman or man, and clothes that fit can help with that. But since when do my hips need to be slimmed, Real Simple? And what makes you think that until your lackluster t-shirt-hunting articlette, women everywhere were in a panic over the dearth of hip-slimming t-shirts we so desperately need and could find nowhere, simply nowhere?

Before thumbing through Real Simple, I read the first few chapters of Tina Fey’s autobiography Bossypants. She made an excellent and humor-laden observation along the same lines: since when did it become more than fat or skinny? Fey writes (and I summarize) that at any given moment, a woman somewhere is trying to fix one of the following physical problems with herself:

pores too big, brows too thick, brows too thin, brows too high, brows too light, lashes too sparse, skin too red, skin too yellow, skin too green, feet too big, calves too big, calves too small, boobs too big, boobs too small, boobs different sizes, waist too high, legs not long enough, hips too big, butt too flat, butt too round, butt the wrong shape, hair too thin, hair too flat, hair too thick, too curly, too straight…

Who decided the size of anyone’s pores is a problem that one would want to fix using your not-so-moderately priced product? Who says these are problems in the first place? What is “too small” or “too big” and to whom are we comparing these calves of obviously gargantuan proportions?

It’s great and important to feel good about yourself but I wonder how many women would have recognized they had all these problems to fix without the help of commercials and magazines like Real Simple.

Yes, you can definitely choose to ignore all this stuff and live your life sized and dressed in a way that makes you happy and comfortable. And sometimes there are real problems to fix and knowing what products to use is helpful. But as I watched some commercial last night about getting your spider veins zapped away, the entire 60 seconds of which showed a woman’s tanned, shapely and vein-free legs running around a family picnic, I couldn’t help but think who in the world except for that woman noticed the veins in the first place, much less enough to have a conversation about her and what a horrible, ugly, rotten, veiny person she must be, if her nasty pegs were any indication. No one, that’s right.

On the show America’s Got Talent the other night a plus-sized pole dancer performed. Now, pole dancing and naked women generally are not my things, but I know there were some people who were intrigued. What wowed me was that average-sized people, even on the morning shows today!, were simply agog at the fact that she “had the guts” and that “it must have taken her a lot to get up there” and “more power to her” and so on, once she got up there and shook what her mama and McDonald’s gave her.

More power to her? It must have taken a lot? Do we say that when svelte Jenny McCarthy poses naked for Playboy? Does anyone think Jenna Jameson “has a lot of guts” for baring it all in her films and photo shoots? No, because those are the body types we expect to see, the types we want to see, the types it’s ok to show off. Everything else is wrong and “more power to” whomever disregards the social norms dictating acceptable sizes, and performs in a bikini with a pole on national television.

Don’t get me wrong, the large pole dancer appeared unhealthy and watching her wearing a bikini and gyrating against a pole is a mental image I wish I could erase. But under the guise of praise and admiration, what “good for her, it must have taken a lot of guts” really means is “she and what she is doing are not anything we want to see because she and what she is doing don’t fit what we as a society have decided and tried to imply to her is acceptable for someone her size and shape, which, as we have also tried to imply to her, are wrong.” It’s insulting, patronizing, and dishonest all masquerading as accepting.

Yesterday I dashed into a maternity clothing store in search of a few summer staples. When I told the saleslady, who had asked, that I am at 24 weeks, she exclaimed “You’re so small! You’re tiny!”

Am I? I have more fat in more places than I have ever had and I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life. I don’t like how I look, I don’t love how I feel, and despite having an “excuse” for being this size, I don’t like it. Really, I’m not tiny but why should I want to be? Why was the saleslady’s exclamation meant and taken by me as a compliment?

Because tiny is best, just ask Real Simple. Whether it’s your hips that need to be smaller and you’re in the market for a t-shirt to help, or your eyebrows and pores need to be smaller or your calves, waist, caloric intake, any of that needs to shrink, rest assured that you’re on the right track with anything you’re doing to make it happen because no matter what it is, whatever you have and whatever you used to have, it needs to be smaller. Get a t-shirt to help, if that’s the only solution.

A typical baby doc visit and pregnancy auto-pilot

PSA: Today is brain tumor awareness day. As I told the husband this morning, in my mind (ha! get it??) brain tumor awareness day is September 15 but since May 22 is the date for mass (again, get it?) awareness, please be aware. Brain tumors are out there. Or in there, rather (gosh I kill myself). Go gray in May!

* * * * * * * * * * *

A friend was lamenting her impending trip to the lady doctor but then backtracked, saying “it’s probably nothing like having to go once a week, like you do.”

I told her au contraire, by the time you’re knocked up, provided that everything is going well, the monthly visits are non-invasive and quick. I’m very blessed to be having a textbook pregnancy so far, and this is a typical visit to the baby doctor:

Nurse: Step on the scale please.
Me: <eyes closed>
Nurse: That’s good, good. Now we’ll do your blood pressure.
Me: <falls off scale, opens eyes, sits, breathes deep>
Nurse: Excellent, right this way.
Me: <sits on crinkly paper in exam room>
Doctor: Hi. How’s it going? How are you feeling?
Me: Good. I walk the dog twice a day.
Doctor: Are you feeling the baby move regularly?
Me: Yes.
Doctor: Good, let’s hear the heartbeat.
Me: <lies on crinkly paper>
Doctor: <waves heartbeat wand over my belly> Sounds good.
Me: kthxbai.

The nice thing about pregnancy is that it’s gradual. You’re going to gain 30 lbs? Not to worry, you’ve got nine months to do it. You’re going to outgrow everything you own, underwear and some shoes included? No biggie, won’t happen overnight. Everything is going to ache and burn? Sure, but not all at the same time.

So much of what I read about pregnancy is negative or just plain stupid, and I’m talking about the articles and websites, to say nothing of the idiots who post on chat boards and e-communities–there’s a name for that kind of stupid, and I’m not comfortable including it in a post. My parents read this stuff.

I rolled my eyes at the article I found called “10 icky pregnancy side effects,” because in case pregnant women everywhere weren’t already fully aware of the itchy skin, random bloody noses, and constant need to pee, it’s really nice to have an article that spells it out for us.

My other favorite was an article–which linked to others like itself for more information/guidelines/rules about how to be pregnant–that detailed the daily chemicals we preggos come into contact with, how distressingly toxic these are to our feti, and how we must, simply must, without wasting another moment, haul our laptops to the bathroom, and sort through our face washes, moisturizers, toothpastes, and hair gels to cross-check each 27-letter ingredient against The List of Baddies Heretofore Provided and dispose properly of each offending product, promptly hopping into our cars (hold your breath, don’t breathe in the fumes you may contact on the road or rightoutsideyourownhomeomg!) and patronizing the local organic markets to purchase for prenatal consumption vastly overpriced products that use only Siberian sea salt extracts and Canadian spring water in their composition. And packaging.

Natural ingredients are awesome, but there is simply no way on God’s green earth that I’m going to believe washing my face with Noxzema is harmful to my baby and a dereliction of my motherly duty. Yes, I did text my older sisters, who have normal and healthy children of their own, to find out what truth there was to this business, and they were equally unconvinced and unswayed.

A lot of the pregnancy industry (yes, it’s an industry) is predicated on taking advantage of women who are vulnerable to opinions, thanks to hormones and the idea of being solely and uniquely responsible for another human life, and pumping them full of more opinions-disguised-as-requirements than there sperm in a fish in the sea so that they buy every last product out there to guarantee a health pregnancy and brilliant baby. Implying that only a bad mother would continue brushing with Colgate total and painting her nails adds insult to injury, both of which preggos are extremely susceptible to. These women, already getting familiar with the new responsibility their bodies take on, are eager to do whatever the pros say to do or not do, buy or not buy, lay on, sit on, pick up or avoid.

Case in point: I have read and heard that it’s dangerous to lay on your back after a certain point in pregnancy–but this certain point varies from book to book and doctor to doctor–because the weight of the growing baby puts pressure on the mom’s major blood vessels and can constrict blood flow to the baby, killing it. After about 18 weeks, I was extremely careful not to lay on my back, responsibly propping myself up on an extra pillow to lay in bed and read and wedging myself between a pillow and the husband at night to guarantee that I didn’t roll onto my back and murder my unborn daughter. And then I went for the 20 week ultrasound, during which I was–did you guess?–completely flat on my back for well over an hour, and which procedure I will repeat at 25 weeks, presumably inflicting the same lack-of-harm on the little oyster as the last time I held this supposedly life-threatening position. And guess what? With only one pillow to think about now and no more contorting myself like a Tetris piece to remain firmly on my side while asleep, I sleep better, which itself is better for me and the baby.

Unlike preparing to bring a baby home and gathering all the required equipment, insurance, etc., actually carrying one during a normal, healthy pregnancy is a relatively auto-pilot thing for a body to do. There is work involved and some adjustments to be made for sure. I can’t move as fast as I used to or carry things on my hip at the moment, but that’s because my body adjusted itself to not do those things anymore, not because I planned to stop carting the laundry basket around on my hip at week 22. Do I need to wake up each morning and consciously think of what I need to do today for my body to complete another day of pregnancy? Apart from making sure I drink enough water to fill a Volkswagen because it helps me not cramp, no I don’t.

There are some obvious things to avoid while pregnant, and others to take in moderation. Chat boards should be avoided, while websites should be consumed in moderation.

Ha, and you thought I was going to say no wine while expecting. Yeah, ok.