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!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Where's My Mac 'n Cheese?!

I gotta say that after I got past the first 12 weeks or so, pregnancy has been pretty awesome. The baby is so active I would swear she's auditioning for Cats. Yesterday, the doctor told me I have "the glow"--yay! Male in a position of authority telling me I look good! And it's wonderful for who is someone all-too-familiar with insomnia to be able to lie down at night and know that I'll sleep as long as I want.

I appreciate the doc's "glow" comment, of course, and his compliment about my lab work ("Your levels are excellent! Pregnancy agrees with you!"). But as usual, he had a tiny bone to pick. The 28-week glucose test came back marginally high. I failed by two points. Damn, I hate failing tests.

Fortunately, since it was so marginal, he won't make me do the really awful three-hour fasting one; he's giving me a second chance at the one-hour non-fasting test. I suppose I could make an effort to just eat better starting now, but aside from cutting out juice--the only sweetened drink I enjoy--I haven't adopted any significant changes.  It's kind of hard when it's the holidays, and when my relationship with food these days is akin to Liz Lemon's.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Today, Baby: Work

Today, baby, I want to share with you a little about the household you're going to be born into. Your mom and dad, well... we work a lot. Some may say this is not an ideal situation, but stick with me and I'll try to explain why it might actually work out OK.

I figured this was a good time to write about this because it is one of the hardest times of the year for me. I'm a writing teacher at a community college, and November and April are really tough months for us. I have a tsunami of papers to grade, and there always seems to be a hurricane of social events to attend. Because we have wonderful friends, and because I think the job I do is important, I put the time in. 

Last weekend, for example, I had two sets of papers to grade and some prep to do. Your father, who had work of his own to do, went grocery shopping so I didn't have to leave the house except to go out to dinner once.
(This doesn't mean I don't take breaks. I stopped once or twice a day to watch an episode of the Olive Kitteridge miniseries and sighed with relief at the reminder that some folks have harder lives than I do. Baby, I have a feeling I'm going to be taking lots of breaks for you :-)

Then, I actually go to work. Although my at-work days are comparatively shorter than some--I might be on campus 8-4 one day, 9:30-3:30 the next--you'll find me at my computer at home other times emailing and grading online papers. Because I also think it's important to give back to the campus, I do things like attend workshops or bother faculty about accepting blogging challenges, and I go to campus events to support our awesome students and friends and wake up the next morning craving for a few hours of extra sleep, especially since you've been on board.

But baby, I love this job so much. And I think your dad is intensely fulfilled by the studying and work that he does, too. I hope we bring home positive, loving vibes knowing we are trying to work in a way that positively enriches the world, that we aren't dumping oil in the oceans, stopping the president from passing mild immigration reform, or filling the Environmental Protection Committee with creationists who don't think that anyone except God can make a difference in the climate. 

I suppose there's a chance I could turn into one of those ghost employees that only shows up to work two hours a day, but I don't think so.

Maybe the kind of work we do (your dad is en route to being a nurse, by the way) will matter to you one day. Or maybe not. Maybe when you're older you'll resent us for working, for not being at home all day to keep the house super clean and organized and to sit with you on the couch after school while you watch a cartoon and eat fish crackers, if those are even allowed anymore.

I know we will do some of that stuff with you. I know that even when I'm about to fall over from exhaustion, I'll go to the kitchen and make macaroni and cheese with steamed broccoli. I'll sit on the floor and play with whatever your favorite toy happens to be. Your dad and I will tuck you in bed and sing songs--hymns from childhood, Tori Amos lullabies, Death Cab for Cutie, and more. I hope it's enough.

But just in case it's not enough, because inevitably we'll fuck up in some way we never imagined, we'll start a therapy fund, OK? It's probably a good idea for everyone to have therapy at some point in their lives, so we might as well get ahead of the curve.

Baby, today you are 26 weeks old in there and, according to BabyCenter, you're the size of a scallion. Sigh.