Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Night Owl

I think the baby is a night owl.

She has taken to dancing a chorus line starting at about 9:00 at night. When I lie on my left side, as the doctor tells me I should do to avoid putting undue pressure on the vena cava, she springs to life like Bruce Lee, punching, kicking, and doing God knows what else. I am pretty sure she's shouting, "Move, bitch! You're squishing me!" so I turn to the right: instant bladder trampoline action.

I've taken to spending the first two hours of sleep walking to the bathroom and back, as any accumulation of fluid in the bladder will feel like bursting if a baby is jumping on it.

In these periods of semi-wakefulness, I've taken to thinking about the future, as is my want. What is going to happen? What will the first night at home be like? I never wanted children until I met Steve; what if this is all some elaborate plan to be the perfect woman for him and I find myself completely ill-equipped to mother? And, while we're on the subject, how does one mother without her own mother around to ask questions of?

These times of questioning remind me of the Old Anxiety Days in which I'd routinely be up until 3:00 a.m. due to some brain malfunction that prevented melatonin from releasing and the GABA receptors from doing their jobs. Time would pass and my mind would drift over routine, unsolvable worries. Ultimately, though, like Lydia Davis writes, "At that hour of the morning I can usually get myself out to the end of something like a long dock with water all around where I'm not touched by such worries." That moment where thoughts drop away always comes. I just need to trust it.

Fortunately, things aren't nearly so tragic anymore. It's tremendously invigorating to be in a place now where I am on the frontier of something entirely new. I imagine there are few changes as momentous as becoming a parent. I feel like I'm nearing the top of the roller coaster--chug-click chug-click goes the track as you inch toward the top--and the three of us are about to cascade down.

Today, baby, you're well into your sixth month of being alive in there. People are excited about you! Your grandpa is planning a baby shower, and this week someone passed on the coolest and fanciest convertible crib to you. I mean, this thing is the Cadillac of cribs. I think you're going to like it. And even though you will only have one grandma who lives in another state, I have a feeling that there will be plenty of grandma and auntie types to fill in the gaps :-)

Friday, November 28, 2014

¡Qué Sorpresa!

Surprise, surprise. Pregnancy comes with surprises.

Of course there's big stuff like feeling the baby move for the first time. I had no idea what to expect that to feel like so it was such a surprise to feel what seemed like polite gas bubbles were baby kicks. Especially magical was watching the baby on the ultrasound as she punched and feeling them at the same time. It's, like, there's something real in there. She's really alive!

Perhaps not surprising to previously pregnant people is that my taste buds have changed completely. I haven't had a sweet tooth in years, and since I started Bikram yoga years ago I totally lost the taste for diet soda. Now, though, I crave sweets like nobody's business: tea breads, pastry, dried fruit, juice. And if I allow myself a diet Coke it tastes like heaven's nectar. 

Another weird thing is that I think want beer and wine, but if I allow myself a petite glass I don't even want to finish it. Hmm. Maybe someone else is calling the shots.

Probably my biggest change is just a shift in thought. Up until about 12 or 14 weeks, I was just not into it. I complained a lot. I had some morning sickness, so a little of that is understandable. But I remember eating brunch with a friend who asked me what pregnancy had been like so far. I probably spent a good 15 minutes about how awful it was. But after one weekend with my girlfriends there was this huge shift in thought. Somehow I got the sense that the rough parts were temporary, and I could almost enjoy them as an aspect of pregnancy. Nausea? Surges of progesterone made to help the baby. Weight gain? Fluid, baby weight and some temporary fat stores, that's all. And whatever yucky side effect I may be feeling, it's all temporary. It will resolve itself, likely sooner rather than later.

And with the attitude shift comes this sense that there's just something kind of wonderful about being pregnant. Because I'd never really planned on having kids, I hadn't given much thought to what it means to be pregnant or what it does besides affect your body physically. Though I never thought women who were into reproduction were status quo or super femme, I figured it was just a means to an end. But it's a pretty empowering process.  I mean, you're growing a baby. And at the same time, you have your classes and your papers and the cats to feed and Thanksgiving dinner to make, and there are VAMP showcases to attend and meanwhile your little cord is sending vital nutrients to this living being who will one day tug at your earrings and crack your nipples with nursing.  

Maybe the attitude toward pregnancy shift is part of a biological process. There is a significant risk of miscarriage early on, and maybe the body knows to let things kind of ride for a while as it adjusts to the little being inside. And then, obviously, you've gotta take care of yourself and make little adjustments to your life before the baby comes, so feeling good about a future child is necessary. Those hormones, I tell you...
Today, baby, we saw your face on the ultrasound, and for the first time you looked like a real human, with pinched little lips and a chin. You're no longer just a generic cartoony sonogram baby! It's so exciting! You like lying horizontally with your head in the right side of my uterus--you were there a few weeks ago, too--and again you were holding your arms up in the "Hands up, don't shoot!" pattern. I think you're trying to show solidarity with Michael Brown.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Today, Baby: Traditions

Today, baby, I want to tell you a little bit about the traditions our family celebrates around the holidays (at least, my side of the family).

Thanksgiving for us is... well... pretty old school white America. Your ancestry can be traced back to Europe, but the family has been here for so many generations that the only thing tying us together is California. The family has been in CA going back to at least your great-grandparents (longer, if you count the tiny speck of Native American Maidu blood you'll claim--they're a California tribe, too). Whatever German, French, Irish, or Ukrainian traditions we had have been shuffled to the side in favor of "American" traditions. So the able-bodied women in the family divvy up and make classic dishes like turkey, stuffing, pies, green beans, etc. It's a pretty Leave It to Beaver table, though no one wears stockings or has perms. We do things buffet-style and there is more (happy, usually) shouting than on that show.

At Christmas we mix things up slightly. Slightly. I still bake a couple of pies, and we do a honeybaked ham. But my aunt and I have begun experimenting with side dishes and desserts, and if your other aunt comes down from LA, she might bring Chinese egg tarts along with healthier things than the usual fare we mack on.

Although I love food so, so much and could write about it for pages, there are other things we do that make the holidays ours.

One is cribbage. After dinner four of us settle around the table and play this card game. My grandfather--deceased two years next week--was in the Navy and this was apparently a big game for Navy types. Not long after my brother and I learned to add, we were taught the game and joined everyone around the table after dinner. I'm not much for card games, but this one is fun, especially because of all the little rituals  and sayings built into it. Your uncle Steve, perceiving the other team lagging behind in points, would sniff the air, a quizzical look on his face. "What's that smell? Oh, I know, a SKUNK." (Getting skunked means losing. Badly.) When someone has a poor hand of four points or less, you might lay it down with a sigh and admit that you've got "The Oklahoma." (Because what's in Oklahoma? Not much.)

It's just a good time.

The other ritual is, well football. Your grandpa was an NFL coach and then a scout for years. I've never been a sports fan, but the grunts and the sound of John Madden's obvious predictions ("Well, it's 3rd and long, so they're going to want to pass") or Chris Collinsworth's literary bungles ("This is such a tough call! It's just like Sophie's Choice") are as familiar as my own family's voices.

When grandpa was alive and still working for the Jets, there would always be talk of how they were doing. "How about those Jets?" someone would inevitably ask. He'd exhale slowly, make a "wheeew" sound and shake his head in a characteristic response. (The Jets almost always disappoint.) The kids, already bored of football talk, would try to turn the conversation to Simpsons jokes, but we'd only succeed when the mostly male adults had exhausted football convo.

That's just a taste of the holiday traditions. You'll notice I wrote mostly about the men in the family. You'll notice that it's the women that do the cooking. In breaking with the LITB trend, the men, at least my father and your future father, take care of the cleanup. Maybe that'll all change someday.

I can't wait to share Thanksgiving with you, baby, next year!