A Perry Pumpkin

We had a little pumpkin carving extravaganza at work leading up to the big day. Somehow, my team got on board with a jack-o-fetus. I drew it onto the pumpkin using some fetus silhouette clip art (can’t wait to see the kinds of ads Google will start feeding me based on that day’s search history) as a reference. I also got to scoop out the pumpkin guts, because it is seriously one of my favourite smells in the world…not pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice mind you, just that wet, earthy raw pumpkin goo smell. LOVE IT. No, this is not just a pregnant thing this is an everyday weirdo thing. It was then lovingly carved by my two teammates (while I paced in the waiting area) into the disturbing creation I now present:

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As you can see, it was a little touch and go for a while when we realized that the umbilical cord was inadequate and the baby fell out shortly thereafter. We took the opportunity to do a little detail work and cleaning up around the edges before bracing him (or her) back in there with toothpicks.

Baby brain freeze

My husband likes to remind me that baby brain is not a scientifically proven fact. He does so as he blows out candles and turns off burners I’ve forgotten about, reminds me of appointments and gently corrects my ass-backwards logic on simple topics. He is right though, there is not enough evidence to conclusively say baby brain is a real thing – and yet so many of us preggos report a variety of problems, particularly forgetfulness.

Some research has shown that pregnancy and motherhood have no negative cognitive impacts. Other studies have shown the presence of impaired memory during pregnancy and shortly afterward. Is it down to hormones? Sleep deprivation? Stress? A newish study suggested that during pregnancy, women use the right side of their brain more as they prepare to bond with, and care for, their newborn babies. But if there is no “real” cause, a likely explanation seems to be that baby-related shit just occupies an inordinate amount of brain-space and basically, something’s gotta give.

And give it did. Yesterday, I reached a new low. Actually, it was weeks in the making but shit finally got real. Let me put it this way: a lot of things happened in the first trimester, but paying my gas bill was not one of them. So with an overdue account of $212, I came home to a bright pink disconnection notice on my door. Here we huddle, bundled under the duvet in flannel pajamas with two cold, judgmental cats and only the white-hot heat of my embarrassment to keep us warm until morning.

Andrew was super cool about this whole debacle. No pun intended. I know I would not have cut him as much slack if this was his fuck-up. His understanding knows no bounds. Of course, while I was on the phone with the gas company arranging for reconnection, he casually mentioned that he dropped a four-digit sum at a charity auction the night before on a pair* of signed Muhammed Ali boxing gloves. Stings like a bee that one. Well played, sir.

*I stand corrected, it was A SINGLE GLOVE.

Book review: Expecting Better

I have read exactly one pregnancy book so far, and this was it. I’m a voracious reader, but on this topic I find myself reluctant to invest the money and time for a few reasons. Firstly, Google is a bit of a book killer in that it’s about a billion times easier to just search the one obscure thing I’m curious about at any given moment than to sift through a poorly organized index. Secondly, pregnancy information is both boring and disturbing in pretty much equal measure. More than anything though, the problem is that my reading preferences are pretty particular: I want books that tell me what I want to hear. I’m looking for corroboration here, people, not condemnation. I am a choir in desperate search of a preacher. And I want that nice preacher to tell me that it’s okay to dye my hair, eat tuna and drink the occasional beer.

So this book, subtitled: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong— and What You Really Need to Know, really appealed to me. As the author points out, just one or two weak studies can rapidly become “conventional wisdom” and this means that in some cases, the existing “rule” is wrong. In others, it isn’t a question of right or wrong but what is right for you and your pregnancy—like the ham sandwich example from the book that I frequently bore people with to illustrate this point. Avoiding ham (the deli meat kind) would lower your risk of listeria from about 1 in 8,333 to 1 in 8,255. Depending on how much you want to eat ham (me: a lot) and what your tolerance for risk is, you might say, “Why risk it?” or “Any risk is still a risk!” Or, if you’re me (ham girl) you would say, “meh, I’ll roll the dice on those odds.” Nobody’s right or wrong here – but having quantifiable information allows you to make a decision that feels right to you. Which I find infinitely more useful than the blanket recommendation to avoid all deli meats.

Hmm, what would make this post more of the promised book review and less of my typical ranting? Author credentials. Right-o then. Emily Oster is an economist – heavily trained in statistics but not a medical expert – who found many of the current pregnancy recommendations to be problematic in a number of ways. Upon first becoming pregnant, she set out to find evidence to support her own coffee habit (and was able to) and ended up writing a whole book about it. She sifted through a bunch of studies on popular topics, evaluated them and made her own judgments based on the “good studies”.

I found all of it fascinating and incredibly empowering. Not only because of the way it allowed me to ignore some of the conventional pregnancy “wisdom”, but also because it encouraged me to look more critically at all studies (and the journalistic reporting of such) on the whole. This is not a touchy-feely book to be sure, but some people have criticized it for having a blunt tone, even finding it confrontational—which I didn’t at all. Though I suppose if I were a doctor (she’s fairly critical of the medical system as it pertains to pregnancy and its patronizing treatment of women) or a public health policy-maker I would be pretty frustrated with having my authority undermined.

I particularly liked that she doesn’t give hard and fast recommendations, but lays out the information and helps you consider what might factor into your personal decision-making process. I also liked that she takes you from pre-conception through each trimester, all the way to labour and delivery, with topics relevant to each phase. I find myself referring back to it all the time. It doesn’t necessarily replace your doctor’s advice – but it does help you understand their recommendations and question them in an intelligent, informed way. If nothing else, it’s a refreshing break from the don’t-do-this, don’t-do-that just because I said so sort of advice that seems to go hand-in-hand with getting knocked up.

So then, 5 stars. Loved it. Do read.

 

Three’s company

Besides the overarching concern that something is going to wrong with Perry (a sincere thank you to the mom who told me – unprompted – that she also checked for blood every time she went to the bathroom) my single biggest source of stress this pregnancy has been worrying about postpartum visitors. My cardio needs are entirely fulfilled by the breathless, heart-pounding reaction I have every time this topic comes up. It’s not an ideal way to anticipate my first weeks as a new parent, and I know it’s no picnic for Andrew either.

I know myself pretty well by now. Well enough to know that I am a card-carrying weirdo. A freakshow of not-so-endearing quirks. I really enjoy my alone time. I know that certain types of lights or graphics make me feel like I’m going to have a seizure (I won’t actually) and that I require aisle seats in large venues to feel comfortable. I also know that I have weird personal space issues that mean I’m not especially at ease sitting in the middle of a couch with other people on both sides of me – I like to live on the edge (of tables, classrooms, couches and crowds) and I hate feeling vulnerable or out of control in front of most people.

Of course I understand that people are excited and will want to see the baby, and I’m excited to show them – for limited periods of time and with certain boundaries intact, natch. It’s not because I don’t like people or I’m a freak about them touching the baby or anything like that – it’s all about me and my issues. My need to figure things out on my own and not be overwhelmed when I’m in an intense situation.

Which is the thing: it’s not personal at all – and yet it will be so hard for some people to not take personally.

And it’s not exactly fair either, because I don’t feel the same about all prospective visitors. There is a list of people I’m totally cool with and whose presence under almost any circumstances would never freak me out, but it’s a pretty short damn list. I’m equally worried that these people won’t be around enough, as I am that others will be around too much. I don’t feel like I was around enough for my friends who had babies, compared to how much I want my friends around when I have mine. I never felt like I knew their situations or schedules enough to know whether I was wanted or not, and I opted for the chicken-shit route of waiting to be asked to visit or hang out, rather than offering. I still have no idea if this was the right way to handle it or not. For that reason, I’m going to try to remember to issue a standing invitation and frequent reminders to the people on my short-list.

Overall though, I feel like I will want my house, my privacy and my little family mostly to myself for the first few weeks. I don’t know how I’ll feel physically, or what I’m going to feel like doing, wearing, eating or saying during those early days. I suspect the answers will be something like shitty, nothing, not much, hot dogs and fuckity fuck fuck– but these are just educated guesses.

Figuring out life with a newborn seems complicated enough without worrying about being good company—even for the kind of company that thinks they will be doing you a favour. Because with company there is always some level of expectation, even if I’d be putting it all upon myself. For example, they might not expect me to get dressed and look presentable but I’d still feel compelled to. They might not be offended that I’d rather eat crackers and watch Netflix than sit down to eat a meal with them, but I’d still feel like a jerk.

Also, how much help will we really require? Maybe I’m being totally delusional, but I feel like I have a perfectly competent partner who can help me out. We don’t have other children to try to feed, entertain and get to school or anything like that. Plus, we have my parents literally one block away from us. If I cut through the alley and skirt around the pond in Bill and Rick’s backyard I can be on their doorstep in 30 seconds. This is both a longer and funnier gauntlet to run when you’re drunk. Not that I plan to be, I’m just sayin’ if I have to do it with a carseat in hand, I’ve trained for it.

Mostly, I’m scared that the presence of all day, every day company before I’m ready for it will force me into hiding in my own home. I don’t want to eat hotdogs alone in my bedroom with a baby that I can’t figure out how to breastfeed while people lounge in comfort in my living room, chatting it up with my husband who should be with me while I cry and occasionally hit him. Is that too much to ask?

What do you want?

This is the question that naturally follows after hearing that we plan on finding out the baby’s sex – which is, in itself, a polarizing choice. Some people are staunchly pro-surprise while others are pro-planning. We are philosophically neither of these; we just want to know because we are curious and impatient. I don’t really see a big planning advantage – how much gendered shit does your newborn need? We’re going unisex on the baby room anyways. Maybe there’s a practical advantage if you had older kids and were hell-bent on knowing exactly how many pink dresses and Barbies to keep vs. give away, but that is clearly not our situation. And I’m not really one for surprises so, whatever. I JUST WANNA KNOW DAMMIT.

Anyways, a lot of people are curious if I have a preference one way or another. I’m curious if I do too. I want to say that I’m ambivalent about it – and that is the right word – but not the way most people typically understand its meaning. We tend to think ambivalence is equivalent to not really caring one way or the other. BUT (boring language lesson time!) ambivalence actually suggests having strong – often conflicting – feelings about two options. And this is exactly what I have.

When I think of girls, I think of the sweetness, the fun dress-up opportunities, the chance to have a peer-like relationship with them in their adulthood, Rory & Lorelai Gilmore (I warned you, Kate) and the general lack of boy grossness. But I also think of the body image issues, the lifelong personal safety concerns that boys don’t have to worry so much about, the perilous mean-girl frenemy dynamics, the ages 13 to 18, and the old “having to worry about every dick in town vs. only one dick” dealio.

When I think of boys, I think of the easygoing, rough-and-tumble nature of boys and their friendships/pursuits, probably never hearing my child say they hate my fucking guts, and the general lack of girl drama. Boys just seem easier in a lot of ways, but I also think there is a lot of important work to be done in the way of teaching boys about respect and behaviour. Are there enough intelligent, socially conscious people out there raising rad little guys who respect women as equals and understand things like consent? I think we could do an okay job of that, and that really appeals to me.

Planning on only one child adds a “this is it” factor to the mix. Andrew grew up with two older brothers and I think it would be really nice for his poor testosterone-trampled mom to finally have a little girl to dote on. For some reason, baseless as it may be, I also feel like singleton girls might have an easier go of it than singleton boys. I guess perhaps I feel that boys need the teasing and roughhousing of a playmate more than girls do? Or that girls are more likely to enjoy solitary play without turning into trenchcoat-wearing weirdos? I don’t know. I can’t really argue this one with any sort of validity. Feel free to set me straight on how totally wrong I’m getting it.

I wonder if I have some kind of subconscious preference that will only reveal itself when we get the news and I am hit with a pang of relief or disappointment – however fleeting. We shall see. If I do, I’ll be honest about it here.

What I do know is that I can see the pros of both sides so clearly that I will be able to validate the shit out of whatever hand we get dealt. A valuable life skill if ever there was one.

Rounding Second

It felt only fitting to trot out a baseball pun on this fine October day when the Blue Jays will be playing winning game 3 against the Royals.

Of course, I’m actually referring to moving into the second trimester, which begins at 13, 13.5 or 14 weeks, depending on what you read or who you ask. At any rate, I’m over 14 weeks now, so definitely into it. Woohoo! This is supposed to be the magical trimester when you feel good, look good (ha!) and the parasite is pretty firmly settled in for the long haul.

At the moment, it’s a weird no-man’s-land where the nausea, food aversions and extreme fatigue is gone, yet I don’t actually look or feel pregnant. It’s not that I’m dying to start showing (or shopping for maternity clothes) but it would be nice if my midsection looked more like it was storing a baby than a supersized quarter-pounder meal.

In many ways it’s actually like a weight has been lifted. I’m not angry about being awake at 10 pm any more, I can live without a daily nap and I don’t feel bone-crushing physical exhaustion from things like standing in the shower. I’m getting my patience back and I can get my head around the effort it takes to put on makeup. All good things for me and the people who have to be around me.

Last Friday I had my first appointment at the maternity clinic and I was pleasantly surprised by how positive of an experience it was. If you know me well, you know that I have very low expectations for society at large. Organizations are not well organized, businesses don’t do good business and a shocking number of people just don’t do their jobs very well. It’s a cynical outlook, but I’ve found that if you don’t double-check information, confirm details, take down the name of who you’ve dealt with and conscientiously advocate for yourself, things are bound to fuck up.

This clinic though, gave my faith in humanity a decent boost. It was super organized, everyone was friendly, knowledgeable and helpful and I left actually feeling good about the hands I am in. I was especially impressed with the thoroughness of topics covered by the doctor on duty – everything from how supportive the father of my parasite is and whether there is abuse of any kind, to stress and mental health issues, to how I feel about my body, sexuality and weight gain. These are topics my own family doctor never addressed to my satisfaction – even when I specifically saw her about things like anxiety and panic attacks.

With my prenatal care sorted out, it feels good to have one less thing to worry about. As a bonus, I got to hear Perry’s heartbeat for the first time with the Doppler stethoscope. 155 – a little bit faster than it was two weeks before. Now it’s only 4 more weeks until we get to find out if it’s a boy or a girl!

A clarification.

I realized after posting the preceding “One & done” post that it may have come across a bit judgy. It probably wasn’t the first and it surely won’t be the last post that will. I have been posting under the presumption of an unspoken disclaimer that goes something like: All content is the sole opinion of the author alone, based on her personal experiences and situation and is in no way reflective of her feelings about how other people should conduct their lives. But now it feels like maybe this should have been a spoken agreement. So now it is.

I’m not the population police, nor the baby buzzkill. If you want to have 5 kids in 5 years, go to town (although I can’t actually imagine you’ll have the time or energy to physically go to town or even leave your house if you’re on that kind of a schedule).

But seriously, I’m not judging you for having or wanting a second or tenth kid. I will however enthusiastically judge you for having ANY number of kids AND also:

  • Bitching non-stop on Facebook about how hectic/tiring/expensive your life is.
  • Not putting aside money for their post-secondary education.
  • Expecting your older kids to help you raise the younger ones (Duggar style).
  • Neglecting or abandoning your once beloved family pet(s).
  • Refusing to vaccinate.
  • Insisting on bringing your kids places they are not welcome (adults only weddings, black tie affairs, Las Vegas) because you can’t afford a sitter. Bonus judgment if you get huffy because these places don’t have kid-friendly amenities.
  • Flooding my newsfeed with 70 photos of the same 2 month old on the same day. (Tip: they all look the same)
  • Letting them run wild in restaurants and fancy stores.
  • Lecturing people without kids on their “empty, selfish, unfulfilling lives”

Did I just make things better or worse? I can never tell these days.