Saturday, January 30, 2010

Homunculus

According to fetal development experts, I am currently carrying something that looks for all the world like a pinkie.

According to anti-abortion activists, I am carrying teeny-tiny, smiling human that comes with a hat and a teddy bear.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Toddler Has Taken Over My Body

This week, I am enduring a tutorial on food cravings.

I've had food cravings before, but never like this. Usually, I can defer an inappropriate desire for ice cream by taking a walk or turning my mind to other things for 20 minutes or so. These cravings are different — they demand to be satisfied and refuse to recede. It is strange to be obsessed by egg salad for an hour.

The state of things has led to a schism between my mind and body. In the past few days, I have had multiple Gollum-like conversations in which I attempt to convince the demanding toddler who has taken control of my stomach that HOT DOGS ARE NOT A BREAKFAST FOOD.

Unfortunately, food cravings, like toddlers, cannot be reasoned with.

Luckily, most of my food issues so far have not been fatally unhealthy. I have an aversion to all types of soda, which has made it easy to cut down on caffeine. I can rationalize my mania for egg salad and hot dogs as a desire for protein. It's not as if I'm craving broccoli or carrots, but I am eating those things too and not puking them up, which is good enough for me.

Perhaps this part of pregnancy is supposed to make me more sympathetic to the demands of a small person who as very immediate needs that cannot be deferred.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Housebound in the Vast Northern Wasteland

FB's mother and father live in a crumbling, mid-sized city in the Vast Northern Wasteland. Their home is not inaccessible — they live minutes from a major highway — but it is remote. On a day with good weather, it takes me about 7 hours to drive there (FB does not drive).

We generally visit the VNW two or three times a year: once in the summer, for a week and a half over Christmas, and sometimes for an incidental event (wedding, funeral, etc.). FB's dad comes to visit us in the spring, but in the three years we have lived here, his mom has only visited us twice (once for a single afternoon).

She always has an excuse for not coming to see us. She doesn't travel at all between November and April (the weather might be bad), she can't find the time (she is retired), she doesn't like to drive (even if FB's dad is driving). She is 62 years old, in generally good health, without any major physical limitations, and with ample financial resources. I know that it hurts FB's feelings to have her turn down his invitations again and again, but she seems unable to perceive his disappointment.

Two days ago, one of her last surviving relatives died suddenly of a heart attack. I had only met him once (at my wedding), but he lived relatively close by. I emailed my condolences to my mother-in-law and told her that we would be happy to go with her to the funeral.

This morning, I got an email from her explaining that she couldn't possibly go the funeral because she does not travel in the winter.

On Sunday, when FB called to tell his parents our big news, I sat next to him on the couch to listen in. After he broke the news, and after his mother told him that she was very surprised to hear it, given the fact that our house is not suitable for a child, they talked about other things. One of the topics was my father-in-law's college reunion, which will take place in mid-October. I am currently a grad student at my father-in-law's alma mater, and we live a mile and a half from campus.

"Perfect!" FB said. If Snapdragon is born on time at the end of September, a mid-October visit would be perfect. They could come a little early, stay a little late, see Snapdragon in all his/her post-fetal glory, and go to the reunion as well.

"Oh, no," says FB's mother. "I'm not coming then. I don't want to go to the reunion."

Sometimes I get angry with her obstructionism, but I try to keep my anger in check because I don't know whether her behavior is a manifestation of selfishness or of mental illness. I know that she has panic attacks in situations where she finds herself in an unfamiliar situation, especially if it is noisy or crowded. She has some sort of anti-anxiety medication prescribed to her, but she is reluctant to take it. As far as I know, she does not get any regular monitoring or therapy for her anxiety.

She describes herself as a "worrier," but that term does not do justice to reality. For years, she would not allow her sons to fly on the same airplane. She broods endlessly over bad weather, carginogenic foods, and the imagined presence of radon in her home. One of my major fears about getting pregnant was that I would be inundated with articles about the latest danger that would cause my baby to be born without a nose.

But the traveling thing makes me angry. I am happy to drive to the VNW a few times every year, but that will not be enough for Snapdragon. You cannot cultivate a relationship with a child if you only see him/her on major holidays. It doesn't work like that.

Her decision not to visit us, despite having the time, money, and physical ability to do so, is hurtful, but we are adults and can get over it. But what about Snapdragon?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Teen Mom

I've been watching MTV reruns of Teen Mom over the last few days. It's fascinating.

I hope that teenagers who watch this show get the same message I'm getting from it: your teenage boyfriend will not help you with the baby. Some of the girls on the show have very high hopes for their irresponsible partners, but the show consistently demonstrates that the fathers are disengaged, perpetually tardy, inconsiderate, and oblivious to reality. They say things like, "Why are you yelling at me?" after their tardiness prevents their girlfriends from going to classes/interviews/work. They are useless.

But the thing I don't understand is the moms' reluctance to put their kids in day care. Even though they are failing classes, missing work, and resenting being stuck at home with the babies, two of the moms have a horror of day care.

Eventually, both realized that they could not rely on their loser boyfriends for childcare and found professional alternatives, but they were obviously not pleased. One, who had been living in a fleabag motel, interrogated the fresh-scrubbed daycare staff about how often they vaccuum the floor. The other kept calling her son back to her to say extended goodbyes even though he was very happily playing with the other children.

Of course, it must be hard to leave your child with strangers. Still, the mothers' quality of life seems so low, I can't understand why they wouldn't welcome the chance to have reliable help. They don't trust the daycare providers at all, but it seems to me that the kids can only benefit from social interaction with other kids and the supervision of caring professionals.

Monday, January 25, 2010

So Tired

I'm totally exhausted today. I had a very short day, but it wiped me out.

I had one meeting on campus from 10-12, but I walked there and back (1.5 miles each way). It was raining on top of ice and I fell and bruised my hip and wrist. When I got home, I just collapsed into a chair and I haven't left yet.

Luckily, two of the books I need to read for the class I'm tutoring are available on audiobook. Blanket + couch + audiobook = lazy pregnant homework.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spreading the News (A Little Bit)

Today, FB and I had lots of fun telling our parents and siblings about Snapdragon.

We went to my parents' house for dinner and just slipped the news into the flow of conversation. My parents have been planning on renting a beach cottage for our family vacation this summer and when FB brought up the subject of dates, I said, "Well, we can't go in August because we're having a baby in September." General uproar. My dad dropped his fork, my my mom shrieked a bit, and my brother and sister were pretty much stunned. There was lots of hugging.

When we got home, FB called his parents. After he got both of them on the phone, he blurted out the news. I was listening in and the reactions were pretty much as I had expected: his dad was very pleased and his mom said, "Wow, I can't believe it," and immediately started worrying that our house is not child-friendly.

Then, we emailed the siblings that had not yet heard the news. We swore all to secrecy for a few weeks more.

Of interest: There is no good follow-up to "We're having a baby." After the initial congratulations and a few questions — When? How do you feel? — there's not a lot more to say. Everyone's a bit shocked and there isn't a lot more information to impart. In both conversations, we talked baby for about 5 minutes and then went on and talked about other things. I'm sure we'll find plenty to talk about as time goes on, but for now, there's not much to discuss.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Impostor

I feel like an impostor in the land of the pregnant.

For the past year, I have been preparing for this pregnancy — for months, I was a lurker on pregnancy advice sites, a clandestine reader of parenting blogs, a stalker of adorable Etsy shops. I wanted so much to join in, but I was on the margins.

Now, I am pregnant and I still feel like an outsider.

When I called to make an appointment with the midwives, the receptionist asked how many weeks along I was. I said 6, though I was barely 5. Why did I do that? Do I think that adding a week will make me more pregnant? Now I'm scheduled for an 8-week exam on a day when I'll be just a hair over 6 weeks. What good is that?

When I look at YouTube videos of pregnant women showing off their distended abdomens, I recognize them as authentic pregnant women. When I look at myself, I see nothing different. My breasts are a little sore and I pee on command, but other than that, there are few physical reminders that Snapdragon is in there somewhere. Sometimes I talk to him/her when I'm in the shower, but I just feel foolish. I'm not talking to my baby — I'm just talking to my bloat.

I know that this will pass. If everything goes well, I will soon have more belly than I know what to do with. Snapdragon will make him/herself abundantly real by punching my internal organs. I will have swollen feet and weird cravings.

But right now, I don't. I still feel like a wannabe, not a mom.

Tomorrow, FB are going to visit my parents. We'll break the news over dinner and then call his family. Maybe that will help it sink in.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Am Pregnant and I Am Pro-Choice!

Today, on the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I renew my commitment to the pro-choice principles that form the core of my morality.

While the non-feminist media generally uses the term pro-choice as shorthand for "supports a woman's right to have an abortion," my pro-choice stance is not limited to this narrow policy position. To me, pro-choice is the fundamental principle of a morality that respects human life, dignity, and autonomy. In recognizing the limits of my own experience and respecting the rights of others to make the best choices for themselves and their families, I affirm the most sacred law in my moral universe: "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke 6:31).

I trust women to decide how many children they will have, whether that number is zero or thirty. I am delighted to live in a country where Michelle Duggar is free to carry 19 children, but I am not forced to do the same. Whether they reach their desired family size through adoption, IVF, abortion, surrogacy, gamete donation, or any other legal means, I trust women to make the right choices for themselves and their families.

I trust women to decide when they wish to have children. I made a deliberate choice to conceive Snapdragon and I respect the rights of other women to make intelligent decisions about sex, birth control, pregnancy, and abortion. I do not want to live in an anti-choice country like China or Ireland, where the government limits women's reproductive rights.

I trust women to safeguard their own health and the health of their families, and I support universal access to high-quality health care in order to support them. What good are choices if they are limited by wealth or geography? I trust women to make intelligent decisions about their medical care and I expect lawmakers and medical professionals to treat them as the ultimate authorities on that care.

I trust women to make decisions about birth. As I embark on my own pregnancy/birth journey, I know that the choices I make will be intensely personal and that I will make them with Snapdragon's safety and my own wellbeing in mind. I know what's right for me and my family and I will never shame another woman for choosing home birth, scheduled c-section, drug-free birth, epidural anasthesia, hospital birth, hypno-birth, water birth, etc. I trust birthing women to make decisions about their care and believe that they are entitled to adequate information, knowledgeable advocates, and respectful caregivers.


I trust women to choose their own counselors. Whether they make decisions in consultation with a spouse, parents, siblings, friends, lovers, family, spiritual advisors, colleagues, therapists, doctors, deities, or no one at all, I trust them to know in whom to place their trust. I suspect that very few women choose to consult with the United States Congress in personal matters, but I suppose they could if they really wanted to.

I could continue this list for 20 pages. I trust women (and men) to choose their own spouses. I trust women to educate their children in a way that is respectful of their families' beliefs, no matter how much I may disagree with the content of that education. I trust women to make decisions about their professional lives and I believe that workplaces have a responsibility to make meaningful choice available (by paying a living wage, offering family leave, providing a safe work environment, guaranteeing equal pay, etc.). I trust women to manage their end-of-life care. I trust women to manage their own lives!

Being pro-choice means so much more than supporting access to abortion. Pro-choice is a worldview that recognizes the humanity, dignity, and basic rights of all people. It is the cornerstone of my morality.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Books

After the blood test confirmed my pregnancy last Friday, I walked over to the bookstore and loaded up on pregnancy books. I bought What to Expect When You're Expecting, Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth, The Expectant Father, and Laura Wattenberg's Baby Name Wizard.

FB and I spent the snowy weekend snuggled up and reading. It was lovely to burrow into the couch and revel in our secret.

Unfortunately, I have now read all of the pregnancy books and have gotten a bit ahead of myself. I have to keep reminding myself that I am actually only 5 (or 6?) weeks along and that Snapdragon is still a vulnerable little bunch of cells, not even a tiny tadpole yet.

I certainly can't spend the next eight months sitting on my butt, reading about fetal development, but right now, the only way I can engage with Snapdragon is intellectually. As time goes on, I will spend more time going for medical exams, moving furniture, and buying baby clothes. For now, all I can do is read and search the internet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Ticker

Ok, that new pregnancy ticker — the black one with the scary worm bobbing around in it — is officially NOT CUTE.

I find it sort of mesmerizing, though.

How Far Along Are You?

Today marks five full weeks since my LMP (that's Last Menstrual Period, not Lunar Module Pilot). Yet, I am unsure of how pregnant I am. Do you reckon your weeks like birthdays (you turn 1 after you have completed your first year) or is it more like elementary school grades (you are a first grader while you are completing first grade)?

Am I five weeks pregnant now? Or am I in my 6th week?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cool

One of the most succinct visual aids I've found yet:

Good News?

On Friday morning, I took a home pregnancy test and got a very faint line. I climbed back into bed and told FB that there was a good chance that Snapdragon was on his/her way, but that I wasn't 100% sure yet.

An hour later, I headed off to student health services for a blood test. It's funny — the words "pregnancy test" elicit a lot of strange looks at a university health office. Even though I smiled every time I said them — to the receptionist, to the admitting nurse, to the nurse practitioner, to the lab tech —I managed to make every one around me uncomfortable.

Everyone I saw asked the same thing: "Is this good news?"

I suppose the university health services nurses must see more "bad news" pregnancy tests than "good news" tests. The nurse who called with my results hemmed and hawed before telling me that it was positive. "And that's . . . good?" she asked.

Yep, all good.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Feeling Good

So far, I don't have too many symptoms of pregnancy. I've been peeing every two hours and have constant, low-level cramps, but nothing too terrible. The cramps don't really hurt — they just make me more aware of my uterus than usual.

Over the past few days, I've been eating some of my favorite foods in anticipation of nausea over the next few weeks. I may not want Indian food or quesadillas once the morning sickness sets in, so I might as well get them now.

FB and I have been enjoying a lazy long weekend full of board games, banana bread, prgnancy books, and housecleaning. Tomorrow, we go to meet the midwives for the first time.

No Boobs in Church





Virgin and Child
Dieric the Elder Bouts, c. 1465

via The Awl, a strange letter from the Washington Post:
"Dear Amy,

While attending the 4 p.m. Christmas vigil mass at my church this year, I was shocked.
I look beyond the fact that no one dresses up for church and that talking across the pews seems to be a normal occurrence, but what happened this year is beyond me.
During the Holy Communion mediation song (with only 10 minutes left to the service) the women behind me started to breast-feed her baby."
The nerve of some people, desecrating our celebration of birth, hope, and motherhood by feeding their babies. And get those paintings out of here, too!

At first, I found this letter funny, but the more I thought about it, it's just sad. Who looks on a natural, intimate act of motherly love and is revolted? Who cannot distinguish between a breast being used to nourish a child and one exposed salaciously? It must be very isolating to live that way — appalled at displays of affection, unable to distinguish between lunchtime and pornography.

Also, I was raised Catholic and, in our church, you weren't supposed to turn around and stare at the people behind you during the service.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Is Refusing Bed Rest a Crime?

Here's another scary story about pregnant women's bodily autonomy being violated.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Baby Food

The whole practice of comparing the embryo's/fetus' size to various fruits and vegetables strikes me as hilarious.

Why do people insist on making the baby sound so delicious?

I have chosen a Lilypie pregnancy counter that will keep all of my readers apprised of the tasty things my baby most closely resembles.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Success!

The nurse just called with my blood test results — I am pregnant!

My hCG level is 36, which is pretty low, indicating that I am just about 2 weeks past conception. This fits exactly with my own calculations.

I haven't seen an OB yet, but have figured out that Snapdragon is probably due around September 22!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hrm

Fact: I was expecting my period on Wednesday.

Fact: You could set clocks by my cycle.

Fact: I took a pregnancy test on Tuesday and it was negative.

Fact: It is Thursday evening and there has been no sign of my period.