“I seek Mexican food . . . Denied!”

I thought the days of nausea and vomit were over. Granted, my appetite hasn’t really sprung back, but at least I believed the 24-hour hangover days were behind me. Well, I got a mini-throwback this evening.

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Yes, please. I’ll have this all week. Minus the tomatoes.

See, like a lot of pregnant women, I had to give up a number of things I liked for this pregnancy: mojitos, tuna nigiri, italian subs, a 2nd cup of coffee in the morning. One of the few things I can still enjoy is Mexican food. There’s no lack of Mexican joints here in Alexandria, but none have really hit the spot like a couple of places back home. Well, a new restaurant opened a couple of weeks ago and it is magnificent. I dream about those shrimp tacos on a daily basis.

Anyway, Matt was having a hard couple of days and didn’t seem excited by the prospect of stuffed shells for dinner. I suggested we go get some Mexican. He thought I was kidding because we’d just been there last week, but I was far from kidding. I never kid about eating Mexican food. So off we went.

Absolute woe.
Absolute woe.

I decided to treat myself and got an iced tea (unsweet, always unsweet). I drank it quickly because I was thirsty, then laid into some chips and salsa. Then, somewhere in between taking a chip break and getting the enchiladas I’d ordered, my stomach started to churn. I knew the signs. I started sweating a little, wondering why the hell it had to come on now. How I was going to eat my meal? When the food finally came, I took about two bites and put the fork down. It wasn’t happening.

“What’s wrong?” Matt asked.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” I whispered.

I asked the waiter for a box and he obliged, though he looked a little miffed I’d taken two bites. “It’s really good, ” I assured him. “I just ate too many chips. Lesson learned.” He smiled and continued on his way. I wondered if he had any idea I was about to toss my cookies in the restaurant. I watched Matt eat his fish tacos and the churning went from choppy whitecaps to full-blown swells. It was time to give up.

Luckily the bathroom was one of those one-room deals and I could be sick in peace. When I was in the deep throes of morning sickness and puking in very public places, I got adept at doing my business in a brisk and stealthy manner. If there’s one thing never covered in What to Expect, it was how good of a public puker you’d become. No mess, no fuss, no fanfare. In and out. And just like that, one of my simplest pleasures left was absolutely denied.

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I was a little bummed about it on the way home, but cheered up when I realized I’ve got an entire box of Mexican food waiting for me when the nausea passes. Silver linings, man. All that keep me sane.

It’s Not You, It’s Me: Not Feeling Frisky

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: having a baby kills your sex drive. Truthfully, I thought that sentiment only applied post birth. Turns out, I was completely wrong. I’ve got my copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting handy for enlightening me on such matters, and it’s pretty frank about sex during pregnancy; the libido waxes and wanes, or, in some cases, wanes and is lost completely. I’ll admit it: I’m having a hard time.

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What I don’t agree with, though, is the advice that “you’ll have to learn to accommodate some of the negative effects [of pregnancy] so their interference in your sex life is minimal.” How easy it is to chalk these feelings up to “negative effects,” right? How convenient to say “learn to accommodate,” because heaven forbid your sex drive is down to zilch. Let’s see exactly what I need to learn to accommodate to, yes?

Nausea and Vomiting

Please, tell me how you accommodate yourself to feeling like you have one prolonged, gigantic hangover? I sure as hell felt sexy when I was bent over a toilet puking my guts out. Bonus points for the urine leakage because my bladder control decided to take a vacation. I’m sure I looked super sexy when I caught a whiff of garlic and make the I’m-Going-to-be-Sick-Right-Now Face. I could just picture being in the middle of the act and barfing everywhere. All I wanted to do was lie in bed with my favorite blanket and cry. Sex was the furthest thing from my mind. Luckily, I’m just starting my fourth month and the sickness has eased somewhat.

Fatigue

I’m constantly tired. All the time, from the second I wake up to the moment I go to bed. I get up in the morning, and I feel like I don’t even have the energy to put my shoes on, much less drive out to the metro and ride the train to work. By the afternoon, I’m fighting to stay awake on the ride home. I want to sleep when I get home, attempt to eat something, and go right back to sleep. How am I supposed to muster the energy for sex when even putting my shoes on is a chore? “Try lovemaking during the day!” What to Expect suggests. A great idea, if I didn’t feel like every time of the day was midnight.

Your Changing Body/Emotions

I’m not big enough yet to deal with the belly getting in the way, but I definitely feel bigger. This is hard to explain, because in feeling bigger I feel fuller. And because of that constantly-full feeling, I definitely do not feel sexy. it’s hard to enough to eat because my stomach constantly feels full. Part of that, from what i understand, is from the constant buildup of gas and constipation. In between sounding like a trumpet and infrequent sneak-attack evacuations, I can’t say I really feel like getting frisky. Also, there’s a lot of aching and cramping going on down there, which I was told is my uterus stretching and moving. Ye gods.

And let’s talk about breast swelling. I’m pretty well-endowed to start with, and I always joked about the fact my breasts would get comically large when I got pregnant. We’re beyond comical, people. I’m talking horrifyingly massive. Matt likes it, but what neither of us really knew was how painful they would get. I assumed “breast tenderness” meant like, a premenstrual ache. That’s like saying Mount Vesuvius was a volcano. The slightest movement hurts. A small bump is enough to make me scream. While all my husband wants to do is love them, all I want to do is rip them off. Emotion wise, I’m apt to go from happy to angry to sad to bawling my face off in three seconds flat, so even if I do feel sexy, it’s a pretty fleeting emotion.

Anxiety

What with all the buildup of having a “high-risk” pregnancy and being at an “advanced age,” I’ve had a healthy dose of anxiety mixed in with all the physical feelings. For some reason, I’m constantly worried that something will be wrong with the baby or that I’ll somehow magically miscarry out of nowhere. I’m worried the heart will stop beating or there will be some major deformity. I know these anxieties are normal, but they creep in often. At least I’m not worried about the baby feeling it or knowing somehow. Aside from those things constantly banging around somewhere in my head, I’m worried about the bleeding I have afterwards and the possibility of infection. “Stop worrying!” What to Expect chides. Well, that sounds easy, right? Just like stopping the worry of a plane crash when flying. I can just switch it off, right? No.

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I think, by the list I’ve compiled here, it’s pretty obvious that my husband is not the problem. I’m the problem. Somehow I’ve gone back to this kind of pseudo-teenage phase where my body feels unwieldy, I’m emotionally out of control, and I have no idea how to deal with this kind of anxiety.

Here’s hoping the second trimeter is this “golden age” I’ve heard so much about.

The Sale of Indulgences

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I had a momentary lapse of will power at work the other day.

There I was, diligently editing book reviews to publish on my employer’s website. This is no easy task, as many of these would-be renowned authors still have a hard time figuring out what a preposition is and where to put it in a sentence. You are not the voice of a generation, just a guy who installed Microsoft Word on their desktop computer. Let’s work on figuring out why the subjunctive mood belongs in a review of a book about the 19th century whaling industry before you go and accept your Pulitzer.

Anyways.

I looked at the clock: 10:47 a.m.. It was drawing near to my lunch time (I get into work at 5:30 a.m.; I start to get hungry around 9:30 a.m.), so I decided to take a mental powder and go to my naughty place on the Internet for a few minutes before I dig into my leftover Chinese food. It’s sin on sin with a side of pork fried rice.

I shouldn’t be ashamed of it, but I find myself looking at these sites alone at all hours of the night. All places in the dark corners of the Interwebs that we don’t want others to see us looking at are like that. I even managed to squeeze out a few  minutes of special “me time” during Angela’s last pregnancy appointment. I am one sick son of a bitch. Like my Chinese food, I want one from column A and column B, and yes, leftovers will do me just fine. I don’t have to stick it in the microwave to know the thrill and heat of it all will satisfy me.

It has gotten to the point that Angela is now actively participating in my dirty indulgence. Sometimes we do it together, but we more often look at the same sites separately. We recently started to go out in public to see that which we crave online in the person. Until we fully dive in and start actively participating, I don’t think anything will truly slake my thirst. This is a disease, and I am slowly becoming Washington, D.C.’s most terminal case.

Angela sent me a link with a particularly tasty set of images earlier that morning. “Wow, this is super sexy,” she commented in the chat line when she sent the link to me. “I think we need to try it.” Oh, dirty girl. Dirty, dirty girl. You’re an expecting mother, I think to myself. Have some decorum. With a few minutes to spare before lunch, I clicked on my digital shame.

A wonderful threesome graced my screen, all in one. All the angles and curves. So many positions. They were ALL interchangeable. Locking in and out. First at home, and then in the car? WHAT? I have never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life. I feel as if she has sent me the meaning of life, or at least for the next three or four years.

I am salivating. The thought of trying something like this, possibly every day, is almost too much for me. But I can’t say no. I continue clicking.

The site leads me to a direct link where we can pay it if we wanted. Unfortunately, the price is high at $350 dollars. There are other places we can go on the site that offer up a similar experience. Some are cheaper, although most people comment that their experience will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Perspiration forms above my lips. My sweaty fingers are flying through the pages. As I get to the third or fourth page of material the site claims I would “like to see,” my coworker steps into my cubicle to ask me a question. My startled reaction is uncanny. It’s same reaction many a man (or woman) today once felt when something similar was going on:

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Clearly, I made a mistake. I was looking at it this is in public. Now she sees what was on my screen. The sleek curves and multi-position functionality is all too familiar to her. “Oh, that one is nice,” she said to me. “I had something similar to that for my son. I use it for my daughter’s child right now.”

Huh? What was I looking at?

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Look at that shit. It has a nearly five star rating and a removable seat for easy transformation. It’s beautiful. I WANT IT.

Yes. Baby retail is my (our) new addiction. As we begin the process of clearing out Angela’s office for Zelda’s nursery, I find myself looking more and more at reviews for cribs, strollers, clothes, toys, and games. Although Angela may only be about 18 or so weeks pregnant, but her need to shop for cute items for Zelda is similar to somebody looking at porn on the Internet. It is constant. I used to read informative blogs and articles on the Internet from the likes of Foreign Policy or The Economist. Now, I find myself scouring through pages and pages trying to find holes in the argument for the best kind of BabyBjorn carrier. I can’t tell you about the boiling political climate in SE Asia anymore, but I can wax philosophical about the best reviewed breast pumps on Lucie’s List, a review website for new parents (mostly moms, but whatever). I can only suspect that the need to look at this stuff will increase over the next month when we will actively start buying things. For now, however, we fantasize about convertible cribs and the best kind of multi-sensory mobiles for our child.

I think the addiction is out of control. We went to the mall the other day “just to stretch our legs and walk around.” Right. I don’t think we were fooling anyone, especially ourselves. The look of guilt in our eyes said when we passed by Pottery Barn Kids was unmistakable. I want it all, and I want it now. We went to IKEA the weekend before, when the addiction was only mild. The feeling was not unlike going into some Rothschild illuminati party from the 1970s. Decadence and retail sin. As Jon Secada gently played in the background in the store, Angela and I looked through baby beds and cute play furniture. It was truly like porn. Like…hardcore porn. I am talking full penetration. For a few hours, we were the Dirk Diggler and Roller Girl of expecting parents. My bum is on the Swedish.

IKEA WANTS

We left the store that day empty handed. We were filled with ideas. Good enough. The Internet is waiting, and I am looking at it like its a goddamn buffet, credit card in hand.

Don’t Be a Dick

I expect you

You are about to witness the strength of suburb knowledge.

The first book Angela and I bought after we found out about the pregnancy was What to Expect When Your Expecting. Heralded as the “Pregnancy Bible,” the book has sold over eighteen million copies since it first debuted in 1984. Every couple has it. LITERALLY everyone that is pregnant owns this book, and I only use the word “literally” when I am being completely serious. It is truly the Tide sample/Frampton Comes Alive of pregnancy books. Double Live Gonzo, dude.

As one would assume, most of it provides an overview of what women will experience during the course of their nine month pregnancy. Angela read it almost cover to cover within two days, commenting that it was both “straightforward” and “no nonsense.” Most reviews of the book say the exact same thing. What to Expect serves its purpose without pretension.

I wanted to be “in the know,” so I started to read it the moment she put it down. I was delighted to find there was a special section just for expecting fathers towards the end. The “Fathers Are Expectant, Too” chapter gives several pointers and suggestions about what men should do when their lady is preggo. As Angela said, it’s fairly straightforward, with such discussion titles as “Dealing with Her Symptoms,” “Feeling Left Out,” and “Surviving Her Mood Swings.” I read it quickly and put the book down feeling no less smarter about pregnancy than I was before I began.

Other books of a similar subject offer little help. The unofficial What to Expect for fathers (What to Expect While Your Wife is Expanding), is more humorous than informative. The first item brought up in the book’s main section (“What You May Be Concerned About”) discusses the horrific possibility of NOT having constant sex during the pregnancy. It’s as if they assume that a man’s genitals shrivel up when the blue line crosses the other on the pregnancy test. Worse than that, these authors have probably convinced countless men in the process. No, just no. I don’t want to be a punchline, just a good father.

There are good books on the subject out there, I just haven’t found them yet. And to be honest, I don’t know if I need to choke down the generalities anymore. Too basic. Too straightforward. The pumpkin spice latte of fatherly advice. To make matters worse, I think what these authors are basically trying to say to every expectant father is to NOT BE A DICK. That’s what it all boils down to, really. Why couldn’t they just say that and save 20 pages of material? How many trees can we save if we just said what we are all thinking? The earth mother weeps for you, mom and dad.

If I had to write my own book on expectant father’s, it would be one page long and simply read “Don’t Be a Dick.” Done.

It’s pretty simple. It has become my guiding principle since I first realized it. I have found over the past two and a half months that my needs are far outweighed by Angela’s. She is the one carrying my child, so naturally I should be the one who should shut up and focus on her issues from time to time. Let me first say that I’m not submitting to becoming a doormat. I am simply recognizing that life is far more difficult for her than it can ever be for me at this point. If I follow this one guiding principle, my reward is pretty sweet: a healthy baby girl. Why would I not make sure she is taken care of?

As a rule of thumb, I always make sure our conversations do not sound like I’m complaining about something, because she has a fetal trump card that is Aces high ten times out of ten. For example:

Me:  “Oh man, I am really tired. I worked really hard today.”

Angela: “I know you do. I’m sorry you’re tired. I love you.”

And the full translation:

Me: “WAHHHHHHHHHHHH WAHHHHH WAHHHHHHH.”

Angela: “SHUT THE FUCK UP.”

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place when I can vent about my troubles with her. I think what is important is understanding WHEN to lay down those cards. I made the mistake very early on in the pregnancy of attempting to get frisky. I think I said something along the lines of “love making” or “physical connection” (maybe I was worried my testicles would shrivel up?). She shot me a look like:

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From then on, I understood: DON’T BE A DICK (even when she doesn’t want it). And the funny thing is, she doesn’t have to be. I know she is interested in it. How the hell did we get into this mess in the first place?

I don’t think Angela want’s to get sexy. I think she wants to hear things that make her feel sexy, and those words usually don’t relate to how she looks or feels. Those words can include, but are not limited to:

  • “I’ll do the dishes and cook dinner”
  • “How many McChicken’s do you want?”
  • “I want you to get your rest”
  • “Let’s go shopping for makeup!”

You might not want to do these things. I can honestly say that the thought of fast food makes my stomach turn because of the frequency in which I have procured such vittles over the past two months. The most valuable things I learned thus far about pregnancy are not in any book that I know of. Here is my short list:

1. Make Her Laugh

We have been through a few rough patches over the course of the pregnancy. That doesn’t mean that I can’t take a few moments to do the “Mike Dexter” dance from Can’t Hardly Wait in my underwear to make her smile a bit before bed. A little smile goes a long way, especially after she spent the course of the day eating laxatives like candy and throwing up every hour.

2. Leave Her Alone

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Let me be clear: I am still TERRIBLE AT THIS. Whenever she wants to be alone, I feel the need to attach myself to her like a lamprey. I tell her I am restless and writhe around the bed like a chicken with its head cut off. I know now that the time she spends along might be special time with our growing daughter, and I want to respect that. It’s not all the time, but painfully obvious when it does occur. I think the best thing any guy can do is leave enough space to be heard but not seen. She’ll let you know when she wants you there.

3. Know When to Smother Her

As much as I want to give her space nowadays, I have found that there are times when she wants to be bombarded with affection. No, I am not talking about sex. A peen does not affection make. I am talking about kisses and snuggles and the magic that comes with watching a child develop before your eyes. I can’t describe it any better than that: it’s magic. I have to keep asking Angela if she is a wizard.

Above all, it is important to not be a dick to your partner. Make her laugh and feel special. Let her know that you will always be there and can’t wait to meet your child.

My Biological Clock

I’ve got something to get off my chest. Sure, any number of things about pregnancy cause me to twitch a little, but this is something that’s gotten to me for awhile. In my first post, I mentioned I was a late bloomer. By the time I give birth, I’ll be 35. This, according to a lot of the literature swirling around the Internet, is not exactly a smart move.

The reason this is on my mind more lately is because of my last check-up. The doctor mentioned the need for some extra testing and screenings due to my “advanced age.” She then rattled off some of the heightened issues possible when having a baby at 35, and concluded with a comment that I was “high risk.” I get it, the doctor is obligated to mention any extra risks and potential issues, and at 35 they do exist. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder why this particular line of rhetoric is used. Advanced age. High risk. It must have weighed on Matt’s mind, too, because as we were leaving he said, “Should we even thing about having more kids? They make it sound like you’re irresponsible and unhealthy.” While I told Matt it’s a societal thing, he’s got a point. After all, my biological clock is ticking, right?56641285

When you Google “Having a baby at 35,” this BabyCenter article is the first hit. The article, titled “What are the risks of having a baby if I’m 35 or older?” paints a pretty bleak picture of having babies at or past 35. The article does concede that women are having children at an older age, but goes on to list a parade of issues, starting with lowered fertility rates and higher miscarriage rates. Oh, but you’re not out of the woods yet: “Once you conceive, and get past the first trimester miscarriages, you face a higher risk of conceiving a baby with a chromosomal problem.” Then comes a litany of further risks: likelihood of developing a chronic disease, complications such as gestational diabetes, placental abruption, and preeclampsia, low birth weight, premature delivery, and higher risk of stillbirth and maternal death.

After all of that rainbows and sunshine, who wouldn’t be reluctant to have a baby? Maybe I should take the article with a grain of salt; it’s written by a an ob-gyn, but there are no sources to back up the stats and there are no real hard numbers given, such as the rates of these risks and how much they go up with age. What worries me is that this article is the first hit that comes up when googling about pregnancy at 35, and it may be the first article many women see. It’s a short article, but the word “risk” is used 11 times. One paragraph uses the word 4 times in succession, another uses it 3 times. The worry is also reflected in the comments:

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It sounds like 35 if the death knell for the ovaries and it’s next to impossible to have a baby. And even if you do manage to get pregnant, how dare you expose a baby to all those risks or bring a child into the world too late?

If I sound a little pissed, I am. I waited to have kids for multiple reasons. I decided I wanted an advanced degree. I lived on no more than 15k a year. I lived with my mom and dad because I couldn’t afford to move out. I didn’t get married until I was 31. I graduated and I wanted a steady income with health insurance. All of these are decisions I made in order to create my ideal environment to raise a child. As a woman, you’re already bombarded with terms like “biological clock” and, when you reach your mid-thirties, “advanced age.” It’s bad enough we live in a society that shames women for not wanting to have kids at all, which is completely unfair, but also one in which women are shamed for waiting to have kids.

Luckily, the tide is starting to change. One researcher, by the name of Jean Twenge, gives a ray of hope:

The scary statistic that one out of three women over 35 will not be pregnant after a year of trying comes from an analysis of French birth records between 1670 and 1830. Studies of more modern populations find fairly high fertility in a woman’s late 30s. About 80 percent of women 35-39 will get pregnant naturally in a year of trying. That’s barely different from the 85 percent of under 35’s who will succeed.

Okay, that helps a little. It’s definitely a lot less bleaker than the “Women lose 90% of their eggs by the time they’re 30” statistic. Even then, as another article points out, all that means is that the chances of conceiving are a little lower, not close to impossible. As a Time article points out, “While we do watch [pregnant women over 35] more carefully, we don’t want people to fear that they absolutely can’t and shouldn’t get pregnant after age 35. It’s not an absolute risk, it’s a relative risk.” I like this line of thinking. It’s important to acknowledge that there are risks, and that they are important to consider. My doctors have done a great job on that front. But it’s not absolute. There’s no need for this “advanced age” and “high-risk” rhetoric. There’s a balance between the two, and hopefully the tide turns a little further in the years to come.

And for the love of god, can we put a moratorium on the term biological clock?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Grandma with my Aunt Patty (left) and Mom (right)
Grandma with my Aunt Patty (left) and Mom (right)

I am a big fan of the Rolling Stones. I like them so much that I briefly played in a Rolling Stones cover band in college. If Angela was there, she would have gone crazy over the half-Chinese drummer (me) in his tight polyester pants. I am confident there would be one of her bras onstage by the time we got to “Satisfaction.”

Just kidding. I don’t think she likes the Rolling Stones, even though she had an unhealthy obsession with The Doors for years (and the Stones are 20x better than the Doors, sorry). If she was there, I think “early twenties Angela” would think I was a square and chastise me for not knowing who Skinny Puppy was. She would then proceed to the nearest coffee shop to write about the stupid conformist concert in her composition book. Still kidding…kind of. I am thirty-one years old now and three years married and I still barely know who Skinny Puppy is. It’s like the Rolling Stones of Industrial music, right?

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Anyways.

One of my favorite Rolling Stones songs is “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Although it takes a while to get started, the buildup to the second half of the song became the “golden ratio” of all power rock ballads ever since. It also helps that it’s the closing track on Let it Bleed, arguably the best Stones album.

Why do I bring the song up? Unfortunately, it’s incredibly apt. This past weekend, our family lost my grandmother, Barbara Young. She died peacefully in her sleep Friday morning. It did not come as a surprise to anyone in the immediate family, thankfully. Personally, I am more still in a state of shock that it happened. These things are the ripped band-aids of life that nobody can prepare you for. This weekend has been rough one. My lovely wife spent her time finding ways to occupy my mind in other pursuits (I think there is a Costco hot dog with my name on it later today). In between the excursions, I’ve had plenty of time to shed tears and think about her and her life and how it relates to our unborn child. We really wanted her to meet Zelda. In fact, it was one of the last things I said to her on the phone a few weeks ago on her birthday. It was not meant to be. You truly can’t always get what you want.

My grandmother was not a fan of the Rolling Stones. I don’t think she even liked rock music, classic or otherwise. What she did love, however, was Michael Bolton. I am talking about serious devotion to the pop rock icon. As a young child, I remember sitting in her living room looking at all of her colorful knick knacks and leafing through her Michael Bolton records. I think there was some Pavarotti and Rod Stewart in there as well.

She was always blunt with her music tastes. Actually, she was pretty blunt about everything. That was Grandma. I remember playing a tape of my band in high school to her on the way to dinner. After about a minute, she told my mom to “turn off that crap.” That was her in a nutshell. She was right – it was crap. When Angela dyed her hair blonde when we were recently married, she asked my grandmother if she liked it. She gave a one word response: NO.

I am laughing to myself while typing this post, mostly because I use humor as a defense mechanism. I want to remember the good times I had with my grandmother and not the years of pain she endured before she died. It truly breaks my hear that she is gone. It gives me comfort to know she is in a better place, pain free and with her husband.

My grandmother was the toughest woman I have ever known. If there was a definition for “piss and vinegar” in the dictionary, Barbara Young’s face would be the “see example” right next to it. She drank Milwaukee’s Best by choice and refused to drink the fancy craft beer (I agree, because Craft Beer is a cult). To the very end, she attended functions and family events with an uncanny amount of energy for her condition. She had the kind of pride that was infectious and admirable, not showy or selfish. She was also not somebody to mess with. She could eat you alive with one look. Wu Tang has nothing on her. When life gave her lemons, my grandmother would grab them and throw them back. Why? She didn’t take handouts, nor did she take shit from anybody – truly selfless. She was a rebel without a cause with a Hallmark Maxine shirt on.

She was my flesh and blood, so I can only hope that some of the qualities she possessed will trickle down to my daughter. She was exactly what every woman should be: smart, independent, loyal, and caring. My mother-in-law always said that I have my grandmothers smile. I believe it and am proud of that fact. I hope that (among many other traits from her) I can pass them down to Zelda.

She never saw Zelda, but I know she loved her. I know she wanted to make it to see her, but could not. Truly, the pain was too great. I cannot be selfish and wish her to sit through months of agony just to see our daughter. Life doesn’t work that way, even though I know she would have done that for me if I asked. I know she will be looking down on us, silently judging our parenting moves as only I would expect. As odd as that sounds, I think it’s perfect.

Barbara Young was a renaissance woman in an age when most mothers still looked to the Dark Ages of the nuclear family. She cared for my mother and Aunt largely on her own and on her own terms. I am truly grateful to have known her for as long as I did. I know that others in my family feel the same way. Angela, who lost all of her grandparents by the time she was twelve, was truly happy to have a grandmother for a few years. 

She was the matriarch in a long line of strong women I have in my life. As it turns out, I am SURROUNDED by strong female figures. The measure of any man is recognizing the ability to acknowledge the presence of a much stronger woman. My dad and I didn’t stand a chance. For that we are forever grateful:

  • My grandmother: Strong and Independent
  • My mother: Fierce and Protective (a carbon copy of Grandma)
  • My sister: Charismatic and Driven
  • My wife: Opinionated and Passionate, my Imperator Furiosa

It’s been an emotional weekend. I find myself experiencing the same roller coaster of emotions that Angela felt when she first became pregnant. But for now, I can rest easy knowing that she loved us more than I could ever love her. I’ll do the same for zelda.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go to the store to buy a sixer of Beast and pump up “Time, Love & Tenderness.” You can’t always get what you want. As I come to find, however, I got what I needed from her: the best qualities any woman (or man) can possess.

For you, Grandma. I love you.

Ultrasounds and Wub-Wubs

This past weeks has been full of ups and downs, from changing relationships to noticing some bodily changes. One of the bigger–and might I add happier–events was getting to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time.

We got our first ultrasound at 8 weeks. That was a kind of nerve-wracking experience. I couldn’t stop thinking about the scene in Marley & Me, where the main characters go for their first ultrasound and something is wrong. Jennifer Aniston’s character asks, “Is there anything in there?” and the technician doesn’t answer, just looks concerned and finally says the doctor will be in shortly. The doctor then informs the couple that the baby has no heartbeat. And while I laid on the table with my legs comically in the air, I couldn’t stop thinking about that scene and how utterly terrified I was deep down inside. Matt looked at the wand, the one that is used for the internal ultrasound, and asked, “They put that WHERE?” I laughed and that eased the fear somewhat. I told him it was one of the many joys of being female.

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Baby’s first close-up.

When the technician came in, she squeezed the goo on my stomach and pressed the device on my too-full bladder. I seriously had no idea you couldn’t pee before an ultrasound; it makes the picture clearer or something. So she pressed and I tried not to think about peeing, Then the baby showed up on the screen. It was kind of a surreal moment, and I wasn’t as moved as I thought I would be. Maybe because I never found ultrasound pictures that moving, or maybe I was numb. But we saw that little heart going, and a lot of the fear washed away. At the same time, I felt for those women who experienced the same thing Aniston’s character did in Marley & Me. I cannot imagine how horrible that is.

Fast forward to this week. We had a check up but no ultrasound. Blood tests came out clear, I’ve been gaining weight, and everything looks to be on track. The nurse got out a small machine to check the heartbeat, and I got nervous again. I got even more nervous when she swirled it around for a bit on my stomach and couldn’t find anything. It might have been only a minute, but it felt like an eternity. The we heard it. A distinct wub-wub-wub. To me, it kind of sounded like that interrogator droid in Star Wars. I asked, “Is that it?” The nurse smiled and said, “Yep, that’s it!”

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I hear a heartbeat and all I can think of are interrogator droids.

I couldn’t help it. I’m emotionally wrecked these days anyway, and I just started to cry. As I did, my belly started hitching and messed up the readings. The nurse was like, “Are you crying?” I said I was sorry, but she thought it was adorable. I managed to control myself enough for her to get an accurate reading, and she said everything looked good. So. Frikkin’. Relieved. I guess here I’m supposed to gush about the joys of life and the amazement of having something alive and growing in me, but I’ll stick to just saying I’m happy the baby is healthy and leave it at that.

Oh, and Matt’s reaction? See for yourself:

You Hate Our Pregnancy and That is OK

d7e14310c0261a3c5f84b11d7f8e91f4WELL, it has already started.

For many of you that have had children in the Internet age (can we say Web 2.0 anymore? Is that still a thing? I need to look it up on “the google”), one of the most pressing concerns a new couple has when they add a plus one is the fear of losing friends. It becomes a faustian bargain they make with themselves: do I post pictures of the pregnancy/baby, or do I keep my friends?

You start to see the signs. In the age of vague-booking, it’s a lot easier to see. I mean, it is literally in your face every time you log in. The other warning signs are there:

a. The same group of friends like or comment on posts about pregnancy
b. People begin to post about how much they dislike couples who post about pregnancy (or post links about it)
c. You can feel their distance, even when talking to them online

And if that isn’t enough, they do the most final thing anyone can do to end a friendship: they will unfriend you. This recently happened to Angela and I for somebody we have spent a fair amount of time with. I won’t go into the reasoning behind the unfriending, because I don’t want to be THAT person.

But I will say this to everyone who has felt anything from letters a to c above: This was all part of our plan.

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For months, Angela and I paced around our house trying to figure out how to properly find a way to piss certain people off. It was maddening. I thought I was a man who had all the ideas. I thought I was creative. I was wrong. I was so wrong. I couldn’t figure it out.

Having a child has nothing to do with becoming a father. I don’t think that is important. Well, maybe like five percent. It has nothing with my life long desire to be a father and watch something beautiful I created with a woman grow up. No, not at all. Truly, it was our deliberate choice to only get pregnant because we wanted to piss YOU off. So, with the recent news that some of our former friends are upset at this recent development. I am here to report that everything is going according to plan. No no. There’s no need to say anything now. Shh……hush now, sweet child. It will all be over soon. Let  me just smother you with this pillow of pregnancy pics.

But seriously, bravo. Thank you.

We worried so hard about finding the right way to piss you off. We first thought of both starting Crossfit and taking Instagram pictures of us working out. No, not good enough. I need a direct injection of hate.

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So we did. We then explored the idea of being crazy political fanatics and posting our own personal politics on Facebook ON BLAST, threatening our own friendship solely based on our political persuasion. Again, a fatal miss. We decided against that too, although that is always a solid backup. In the end, we found that having a baby was the only way to properly anger everyone at the same time. When we were in the process of getting pregnant, I was screaming out your name while listening to Zack Attack’s “Did We Ever Have a Chance.” Why? Why all the fuss? Because I felt the gods would hear our cries and grant us with a tiny friend ender. The gods have spoken and heard our cries for help.

So, this is an appreciation post. Thank you for showing us that you dislike our decision to become parents. Thank you for the friends who, despite this, are still attempting to feign interest in our lives. You poor bastards. Those crazy assholes who are all like, “I value Matt and Angela as good friends, despite their happiness of getting pregnant.” Ugh. You sad sacks of monkey shit. The real winners are the ones who outright despise our guts, or think less of us already for making this decision.

Life uh..uh..uh…finds a way. So does finding out who your real friends are.

Getting Stabby on I-95

One of the things I have been doing periodically over the past month is look at a variety of websites that offer the “tips and tricks” of dealing with a pregnant spouse. Most of the sites I look at give fairly general information and the “dos” and “don’ts” with your budding baby and baby belly. To be honest, it’s more than general – it’s downright obvious. I know it would be wise to always be nice to my wife and give her whatever she needs.

That being said, there are some tidbits I see around the baby daddy Interwebs that all fathers-to-be should acknowledge. Why? Because I made the mistake of ignoring one of these important rules last weekend.

I’ll get to that in a minute. I first need to provide a frame of reference as to why I made said mistake.

I had to go back down to the Hampton Roads area last week for a work function. Naturally, it would be a good time for Angela to visit her parents in Virginia Beach while I attended the event. Although the first of two events did not start until 7pm that evening, we decided to “play it safe” and leave at around 11am. That would give us roughly eight hours to get there, more than double the time it took for a normal trip from DC to Hampton Roads. That would make sense for pretty much anywhere else in the country. But then again, we live in the Washington DC metro area, and the road that cuts through it like a butcher to a slice of meat is I-95. This is where the story begins.

Sitting at the southern extreme of the Northeast megalopolis, the DC corridor of 95 is one of the most frustrating drives known to man. If you aren’t from the area, just ask somebody two words: DC and Traffic. Sure enough, they will mentioned the 95 corridor. The southbound lanes of 95 in the area are particularly bad, especially on a Friday or Sunday. I seemed to have forgotten this. This eight hour rule no longer applies, because logic no longer replies.

(Via ytimg.com)
(Via ytimg.com)

I am pretty sure that the creators of Mad Max took inspiration from driving down the Virginia stretch of I-95. Either way, me and Imperator Furiosa got in my car and left shortly after 11 for my event.

We immediately started to see traffic pile up. “Don’t worry,” the traffic guy on the radio said, “it’s only volume going southbound on I-95.” He was wrong. He was so dead wrong. This is the kind of traffic you remember. I suddenly felt like I was in the music video for “Everybody Hurts.”

(Screencap via Youtube)
(Screencap via Youtube)

We decided to avoid the heaviness of 95 and take a detour. I was slightly against it, as we were starting to move slowly. Angela, my lovely and amazing wife, prompted me to go to Interstate 1. For all of you that don’t know, Interstate 1 is the historic way you could get to Washington, D.C. from the South. It’s a lovely road filled with old businesses, etc. It’s also only two lanes and also heavily congested. Against my best judgement, we took the exit to Route 1 around Woodbridge, VA.

Route 1 was just as bad as I-95. No, it was worse. I wanted to tell her that “I was right.” I wanted to tell her that it was probably better to be slowly moving on an interstate than barely moving through stop lights. To make matters worse, we were both very hungry. We had also only driven about 15 miles in two and a half hours. What to do? Should I tell her that “I was right?” Should we stop and get food?

I decided to opt for humor. THIS is what most of the websites told me not to do: make a joke to a pregnant wife that she does not want to hear. That charming part of me SHOULD be hibernating.

I looked over at her. She seemed slightly flushed and more than mildly disturbed. Like Ralphie changing a flat tire in A Christmas Story, the inappropriate words just came out.

“Awww, are you mad? You mad, bro? You want to stab me?”

I didn’t think she thought I was being serious. For reasons that are clear now, she thought I was being serious. Her words that came next were clear and to the point.

“YEAH, I WANT TO STAB YOU. I WANT TO STAB YOU IN YOUR FUCKING FACE.”

Roger that. We both looked at each other. She looked mad at first, and then started laughing. I laughed too. We had to laugh at the situation. We had driven roughly a 1/20 of our trip and it was mere hours away from the event I had to attend. We stopped at a WAWA to fill up on gas and food and were back on the road. Although we were still grumpy about the traffic, of course, I knew not to crack any jokes. Needless to say, we got into the Hampton Roads area at 6:15 pm. I barely had enough time to get to my event. All in all, it was worth it. It’s a fun story that I am sure we will tell Baby Zelda one day – a story about a father who didn’t know when to shut up, and a mom who was waiting for any reason to get stabby.