Thursday, December 14, 2006

I didn't order the side of guilt, thanks

I hang out on a message board full of other women who are around the same stage of pregnancy as I am. Sometimes it’s nice to get reassurance and commiseration; sometimes I feel like a total alien. It’s supposed to be a more independently-minded corner of the Internet than most places pregnant women congregate, but occasionally conformity rears its smoothly-shaped little head.

Someone said she’d been feeling guilty for feeling so crummy all the time; people kept telling her that she “looked good” since the start of the pregnancy and she felt bad for looking great but feeling like roadkill. Someone else said she felt guilty for feeling crappy, too, since people expected her to be super-excited and it’s hard to work up enthusiasm when you’re puking your guts out on a regular basis. She said she doesn’t discuss or even mention the I Feel Like Hammered Shit factor of pregnancy to anyone except her husband. Some women said they felt guilty for not being Ms. Happy Happy Joy Joy about being pregnant when they know there are a lot of women who want to be pregnant but are unable to be.

I piped up and said that I’m pretty candid about it. Causal acquaintances, I’ll smile and say “oh, much better” when they ask how I’m feeling, but everyone else is fair game. Maybe I just have a more understanding or intimate circle of friends and relatives, but when my mom or my college roommate asks “how are you feeling?” I can say “all I eat are pretzels and soda water, and sloths are more active than I am” without fear of reprisal or someone screaming at me that this is the happiest time of my life so I should count my blessings. My mom finds some of my symptoms funny, my extended relatives hang on every update, and my friends with kids are sympathetic, and many of my childless female friends are curious.

As soon as I mentioned that I didn’t give a bright, shining happiest-of-happies response to inquiries about my condition, I could feel the other women on the board drawing away. It was that rustle you know all too well as a girl, the sound of every other woman in the room moving the other direction and whispering about you.

I have to say I don’t get it. I’ve seen women act like pregnancy is this fabulous exclusive club we should all be so grateful to join, as though we’re all going to be canonized for pushing babies out our vaginas and are the luckiest people in the world because a sperm met an egg. I can’t quite wrap my brain around that mindset.

I am a pretty no-fuss gal. My husband and I had a ton of sex for three or four weeks straight, and I got pregnant. There was no charting of temperatures, no thermometers in my vagina, no screaming “I’m ovulating!!” into the telephone, no scheduling of sex, ordering him not to masturbate, or dictating that we do it only on certain days or only every other day. We wanted a baby, so we went at it. We just had a whole ‘lotta sex, and that was that.

So now that I am carrying what, by so many accounts, I should be viewing as a gift from God and a precious, beloved miracle, I am not one to lie about it. I don’t think pregnancy is some clandestine order full of secrets to be hidden from other women. I am not going to smile and tell someone I feel like Mary Fucking Sunshine when I’m really about to puke on their shoes. If someone tells me I look good, I can say “thanks,” but I’m not going to feel guilt about looking good while feeling shitty.

And I am certainly not going to feel guilty about getting pregnant when other women can’t. I have enough shit to feel guilty about in my life, I don’t need to make things up. I’m not insensitive; I certainly wouldn’t prattle on about how being pregnant sucks to someone I knew was having fertility problems. But I’m not going to search for guilt where there is none. I’m pretty sure my friends that have bought houses at night don’t sit around going “God, I feel so bad relaxing in my own living room when Weetzie and Max can’t even make a downpayment for what this cost.” I’m pretty sure some dude who lives in Newport Beach in a fancy condo and drives a brand-new Ferrari didn’t feel an ounce of guilt buying that car even though most people can’t afford one. There are a lot more people who can’t afford a Ferrari than people who can’t get pregnant. I don’t see why I should be expected to feel guilt over people I don’t know, have never met, will never meet. I know there are women who would give everything they have to be in my shoes, to be carrying a child, but that does not make me less tired, my muscles less sore, or quell my nausea. It does not make me feel better to dwell on the misfortunes of these women; I’d like to think that they don’t want me feeling guilt or pity for them, that they would rather I enjoy my child while they wait for their own to arrive.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Had my 16-week appointment yesterday. I still have not switched OB's, although I want to. I like this guy, he's very nice and personable and all, but he insists on internal monitoring from the second I get to the hospital. If my water hasn't broken, he'll break it, and then they'll poke an electrode into the baby's scalp to measure heart rate and very probably stick a probe into my uterine wall to measure contractions. None of which I am cool with. So now I have to go through the pain-in-the-ass process of switching doctors. Sigh.

Anyway, yesterday the doctor couldn't find the heartbeat with the doppler. I was unconcerned; I've heard from a couple people that sometimes they're just hard to find. I had felt sick when I woke up in the morning, which meant my hormones were probably still working, and the doctor said he wasn't worried. My husband sure was, though. Max grew more tense with every minute that slipped by, every pass of the doppler wand across my exposed stomach. I could feel his anxiety as he stood next to the exam table; he was frowning and his jaw was clenched. Finally the doctor said "oh, it's just easier to see it, let's go into the next room and just do an ultrasound."

So he did, and the baby appeared right away. The first things I saw were legs. Two skinny little legs with feet, kicking around in the grainy grey window. The wand moved across my belly, and a head appeared. "See?" said the doctor. "Still there, everything's fine. It's perfect." He started to point out the various parts, but I blurted out, "Is it sucking its thumb?!"

It was. Not only was there a recognizable head, but there were arms and hands, one of which kept flying up to the mouth.

For the first time, I felt a little awww feeling. I have been pretty "meh" about this whole deal so far, even though it was a (meticulously) planned pregnancy and very much wanted, etc. I'm not overly sentimental about stuff like this by nature, and pregnancy is not very fun, so I have not been much for teary-eyed moments. But this was different; this was a person-shaped thing, not just blobs, and it was sucking its thumb. It was doing a thing that babies do all the time. So I felt a little "awww" and I felt a little "wow." It made it seem much more real; that grainy image of thumb-sucking sank in more deeply than all the barfing, all the insomnia and aches and strange feelings have.

Holy crap, we're having a baby.

16 Weeks

Well, I have now officially completed 16 weeks of pregnancy. I have 24 more to go. Which seems like a really long time, especially since I don't particularly like being pregnant. I'm not anxious to have it over with and have the baby in-hand (that award goes to Max, who would like to have his wee babelet arrive...oh, some time last week), I just don't like being pregnant. It's not fun. But more on that later.

The fetus: is about 4.5 inches long (crown to rump) and weighs approximately 3.5 ounces. It's about the size of an avocado right now, which should give me something more interesting to think about than "why the fuck are they charging that much for carrots?" next time I go to the grocery store. Anyway, the lower limbs are much more developed now. The head is more erect than it has been previously, and the eyes have moved toward the front of the head. The ears are close to their final position. Some of the body systems are working, including the circulatory system (the heart is pumping roughly 25 quarts of blood per day) and urinary tract. Yep, the baby is swallowing aminotic fluid and peeing it out, right inside me. Which does not gross me out as much as you'd think, since it's basically going straight through. There's nothing in there for it to collect on its way, so it's not like actual pee. The patterning of the scalp has started, although the hair is not recognizable yet. The eyes are still fused shut, but they are moving (though slowly). It's even started growing fingernails and toenails, which will continue to grow while it gestates.

I am feeling better, although I'm starting to get the "fuzzy-brain" feeling the books and other mothers have warned me about. I'm getting more forgetful and spacy (I know, scary, right?) and my ability to multitask has gone to shit. Formerly, I wasn't happy unless I was doing two or three things at once, like watching a movie while knitting and surfing the internet. Now it's very hard for me to even surf and watch a movie at the same time, much less do anything else too. Writing, even silly blog posts, has become harder. Sometimes I have to sit for a few minutes and search for the words I want before I can even start. I leave out letters and words when I type, or type nonsense words and it takes me two or three passes to catch them.

The cats are loving this new twist, because when we're watching something I have to pay attention to, I stop doing everything else and just watch, which means my lap and my hands are free for Kitty Comfort Time. I read something in a magazine that said the baby needs a lot of the nutrient Choline right now, a nutrient that's essential for memory and brain development. If it's not getting enough from the placenta, it steals mine. And I end up feeling like a first-class space cadet.

Other things: I can feel my joints loosening, and it feels like my tailbone is shifting around when I lay on the floor. Sometimes I feel like you could take my arms and legs and pull me like a Stretch Armstrong doll. I know that my whole body loosening up is necessary if the kid is going to make it out in one piece, but I thought I'd have a little more time. That whole thing comes off like a cruel joke anway - "Ha ha ha! Not only are you going to gain weight and have your center of gravity fucked with, just for fun we'll make you as loosely-jointed as a marionette! You'll have no choice but to flail wildly, lose your balance, and fall on your ass more times than you can count!"

I can feel my stomach muscles rearranging themselves too. When I turn over in bed or when we're engaged in activities of an intimate nature, I definitely notice that things are NOT where I left them. It's bizzarre, going to move and use a muscle but finding in in a different spot. It is definitely much weirder than losing your keys or finding that missing sock in the fridge.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Some guys get all the stuff

In the realm of baby gear, dads are quite popular right now. There are blogs dedicated to them, gear designed specifically for them, everyone falling through their asses to get dads to read, spend money, enthuse. A lot of nice stuff is being produced, sleek, well-designed items that look purposely un-babyish. While I am happy that there's nice stuff out there, it irritates me too. You see, all this carries with it the assumption that dads, since they are male, care more about design and utility than moms do.

Take for example, this diaper bag designed specifically for dads. It's made from made from the recycled inner tubes of tires, trimmed with hemp, and fitted with a battery-operated light so you can find things inside easier.

I'd love a super-durable, rugged-looking bag with a light inside. It sounds like a great diaper bag, aside from the "Harley" look they gave it and the $175 price tag.

Unfortunately, it appears to be off-limits to me, since I have a vagina. They're very clear that it was designed for men. And it's not the only thing. More and more baby/child gear like this pops up every week. Nice-looking, functional things, for men.

That's what bugs me so much in all this. There seems to be this underlying assumption that since I'm female, I'm okay with a pastel, teddy-bear-covered stroller or a diaper bag drowning in ruffles. I'm not. I'd rather try to stuff diapers and wipes in my pockets than tote around this monstrosity. Yet in order to locate a link for that diaper bag, I had to go to the "Just for Mom" section of their website.

It's good that dads are getting more involved; it's great that there's a whole culture springing up to support them. But it really smacks of a "well, I'll do it, but only as long as I'm certain I can look cool while I'm doing it. If it involves looking dorky, forget it." Which is an extension of the larger "man-child" aspect of our culture. Guys are allowed and even expected to maintain this perpetual state of adolescence. Women are not. Women are, of course, genetically primed to be responsible, dependable grown-ups.

I see this everywhere now, from the idiotic things in pregnancy books to the shit people say to the whole concept of a baby shower as a "girls-only" party. It's frustrating, being constantly treated as though my only goal in life was to procreate and my husband gets treated like he should be ready to run for the hills. It's also very inaccurate in our case, because the opposite is true. He was the one seeing white-picket fences and babies long before I even entered the picture. I'm the one who's still not too sure about this whole parenthood thing, I'm the one who is not entirely sure about being a responsible adult. Maybe we should switch: he can push the frilly stroller around and I can carry a diaper bag made from tires.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Attack of the in-laws

Okay, so I've already written about how my mother-in-law has been calling it "our baby" not "the baby" or "my grandbaby" or "it" and has said that she will continue to call it whatever they want. Which raised my hackles a bit, as many things my MIL says usually do. His mother and I don't mesh well.

She has boundary issues. For a long time, Max encouraged her by telling his parents (and his sister, who at 15 years older than him, is like a second mother) every single thing that happened in his life. I would tear my hair out in frustration whenever he got on the phone with them (when we started dating it was three times a week, but that has gradually slowed to once a week or every couple weeks). He would chatter on about how he thought his boss was stupid and his boss knew that and was trying to get him fired or how we were going to put the $600 worth of transmission repairs that needed to be done on his already-carrying-a-huge-balance credit card or how there was a sound outside that was very probably gunshots. His parents would get in a tizzy and spend the next 2 hours lecturing him about responsibility, or financial sense, or authoritatively saying that we needed to move, of course you can afford some place else, anybody can afford to move to the good side of town if they want to bad enough. It took me a very long time (years) to finally convince him that these were not things his parents needed to know. Tell them work is good. Tell them you had a great sandwich for lunch yesterday. Tell them your Sociology professor thinks you're witty. DO NOT tell them every stupid, dangerous, or ill-advised thing you do, because they will continue to think of you as a five-year-old moron and treat you as such. Parents should at least make a pretense of treating you like an adult, but you have to give them something to work with. And honestly, they just don' t need to know about all the stupid or hard things that come up in our lives. Their time for safety lectures and kissing boo-boos ends at some point.

He always accused me of having an insane need for privacy and not wanting to tell anyone anything. It's mostly true. I am crazy about my privacy as far as my family is concerned. I am extremely guarded about what I tell them, because in the past they have taken my trust and used it cruelly. So now I limit what I say, and they don't fish for more. It helps that I can tell my parents I'm working overtime this week to pay for car repairs and they will not feel compelled to give me a lecture about fiscal responsibility and car maitenance; they know that transmissions imploding like a black hole are just a fact of adult life. Max's parents...not so much. They like to dispense advice, they like to meddle, they like to push and pry.

Before I even considered getting pregnant with the child Max wanted so badly, I questioned my ability to deal with his parents when kid was involved. I knew his mother was salivating like the Big Bad Wolf in anticiaption of a grandchild. I knew their insane need to have their stickly little fingers in every aspect of their son's life. They have gotten a little better about it, but not much. And although I thought at first they could be cool about this whole baby thing, I'm starting to doubt it.

Besides laying claim to the fetus, my MIL is convinced it's a boy. To the point where she refers to it as "he" in conversation. At first she'd correct herself:

"After he's born - well, you know, IF it's a boy-"

But now she doesn't even bother:

MIL: "And he's going to do [this and this] and he's going to be like [that], blah blah blah..."
Max: "Mom, you know, it could be a girl. The baby could well be a girl."
MIL: "Hmm? Oh, whatever. Now, where was I? Oh, yes, he's going to [blah blah blah]..."

Those brackets above would be filled in with actual content if I knew what she'd said. My husband claims not to pay that much attention to his mother's phone-call ramblings, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he just doesn't want to tell me what sort of crazy expectations his mother is placing on our unborn child.

She's probably expecting that the baby will look, act, and cry exactly like Max did when he was a baby. She and my sister-in-law keep insisting that I must be craving Peanut M & M's, since MIL ate them all the time when she was pregnant with Max. Seriously, they ask me about it every fricken time I talk to them and ask him about it when I'm not on the phone.

SIL: "So, what are you craving, anything...sweet?"
Me: "Nope, actually I'm rocking the Carb Train right now. Mashed potatoes and oatmeal all the way."
SIL: "You sure you're not craving some chocolate? Like M&M's?"
Me: "Nope, but I do get a pretzel every time we pass a stand at the mall."
SIL: "Really? You don't want sweet stuff? No chocolate?"
Me: "Nope. But if you have some granola bars, I'll take those."
SIL: "You sure you're not eating Peanut M&M's? My mom ate so many of those when she was pregnant with Max..."
Me: "I'm pretty sure. I don't even like chocolate anymore."

They still sent me some in a "care package" with a note that said "I ate so many of these when I was pregnant with Max, I thought you'd probably want some too."

My husband tries to defend them, says they're just excited. I told him I think they're nuts and his mother is convinced it's a boy because they want a male heir so badly. I'm quite sure they are pissing themselves with glee at the prospect of another Sacred Male Scion to carry on the family name and "traditions." They like things to be done the "traditional" way; they harassed me about not changing my name when I got married; there was a lot of talk about how their last name had "a thousand years of history behind it" (umm, if you say so) and much wailing and gnashing of teeth about who would "carry on the family name" were Max to change his last name to mine. I tried pointing out that his father and father's brother married a pair of sisters, so his cousins (who have eight kids between them) were practically exact genetic copies of Max and SIL and seem to be hellbent on re-populating the Midwest, which should solve that whole "family name" issue. I was told that that was not the same, and does not count.

Wait until they find out that the kid's probably not going to have his last name. That should be fun.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Baby Flicks

Not long after the two pink lines appeared in the window of my peed-upon stick, Max and I spent a weekend watching baby-related movies to celebrate. It was a fun, free, activity that allowed us to snuggle together and quietly get used to the idea that a third person would be joining us in less than a year (more importantly, there are two bathrooms in our apartment so I did not have to run very far when I needed to throw up or pee). Here is a list of some of our favorite movies involving babies:

Raising Arizona - my husband had never seen this! He loved it, particularly the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse and the convenience-store robbery. There is something sweetly crazy about this movie, and I don't know how anyone could hate it.

Three Men and a Baby - stereotypical gender role-stuff aside, it's pretty funny watching the baby totally trash their oh-so-hip penthouse.

The Object of My Affection - technically, a movie about a pregnant lady, not a baby necessarily, but I love it. That is more the arrangement I always had in mind when I thought of "having a family" - a bunch of people who love each other, and a kid in there somewhere. So I watch it wistfully and smile.

Willow - we were both kids of appropriate age when this originally came out, and love it just as much now as we did then. Yes, it's a mushy Ron Howard sap-fest, but the baby is cute (ours might look like that, with the curly red hair), there are funny one-liners, medieval weapons are used, and I can't think of anyone better to leave an orphaned baby with than a dwarf magician, a sorceress, and a sword-wielding Val Kilmer.

Look Who's Talking - do I even need to say more?