Infant to Toddler: I Get it Now

By Angela

My last post was about coming to grips with the fact Zelda is changing. I couldn’t quite articulate it last post, but the change can be summed up in one sentence:

Zelda is no longer an infant, but a toddler.

I guess you might be thinking DUH. I mean, she’s practically one and a half now (where did the freaking time GO?). I think the delay in that AH-HA moment is a combination of being a first-time mom and full-blown denial. I mean, motherhood is so subjective. That seems to include having blinders on when it comes to our own children. We’re so proud of how they grow, yet we’re so sad to see it happen. It’s more “I miss those baby snuggles!” than “Oh shit, she’s climbing the cat tree!” It’s when those two are reversed that you’ve accepted the inevitable truth: you have a toddler on your hands.

Here’s some other signs that snapped me out of denial:

1. I can’t stand the smell of her poo anymore.

I used to think, “Hey, the smell isn’t so bad. I can handle this.” Nope. It now smells like straight-up human feces.

2. Trips to Target/the grocery store/the mall are much more stressful.

“Let me out, Daddy. Carts are for chumps.”

We (well, let’s be real here, I) used to love the occasional spur-of-the moment tripto Target or the weekend visit to the mall. We’d take our time, stroll around, and push an indifferent Zelda around with us. Now she wants to walk EVERYWHERE and inspect everything. I honestly don’t mind it until she pulls a display off the shelf or tries to steal an item someone else is holding.

3. I start randomly singing songs from the shows she likes.

Right now it’s “Little Baby Bum,” a show from the U.K. We let her watch a little in the morning so we can get ready for work, and a little in the evening so we can get dinner on the table. And the song have penetrated our brains, even when she isn’t around. Just today I caught myself singing, “Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me,” when I was driving to the dry cleaners.

4. She’s discovered whining—and tantrums.

When Zelda cried, it usually meant she wanted something: a diaper change, food, a snuggle. Now she cries when she is denied something: getting picked up, a piece of food, or re-reading a book that’s been read twenty times. It’s not real crying, but it is loud, desperate, and pathetic. I now understand why parents will do anything to get them to stop doing it in public, because man o man you suddenly turn into the worst kind of nuisance. When she has a tantrum, she drops to her knees, then collapses forward on the floor until she’s facedown on the ground. It’s almost cute because it’s so dramatic. I usually tell her that life isn’t that bad.

5. Words are emerging from the baby talk.

Right now her vocabulary consists of up, dog, apple, mama, dada, and water. When I say “vocabulary,” I mean that she not only says those words, but knows the meaning attached to them. She’s starting to catch on to other words, so Matt and I really need to start watching what we say.

6. Eating is gross—and maddening.

I’m not a fan of mealtimes anymore. Food gets everywhere. Sometimes she chews up a mass of food and spits it out in her bib (we have one of the kinds that catch everything, which is a lifesaver). Sometimes she throws it over the side of her high chair, much to the delight of our dog. Sometimes she mashes it all up into goop and tries to offer it to me or Matt. It’s cute to watch her try to feed herself, but it’s no fun to clean up after. Especially on days she has fruit.

“I get my own chair now.”

7. Her rate of growing is speeding up exponentially.

She’s on the lower end of the percentile spectrum, but I suspect that will change soon. Her appetite is huge these days. Her body is filling out more, and her weight is noticeably rising. It’s to the point Matt will get her out of the crib one morning and will ask, “Did you grow overnight?”

8. She’s a master manipulator.

I like to joke that I have nerves of steel and that Matt is a pushover. Zelda knows how to play him like a fiddle. For instance, she knows when he’s irritated with her—like when she’s throwing food over the side of the high chair—and he tries to be stern, but she turns on the charm and acts irresistibly cute. If she cries at bedtime, Matt will always go get her, but she ends up with me. When I say, “time to go back to bed,” she starts acting charming, and Matt will say, “oh, look at her. Just a few more minutes.” I have to admit, it’s worked on me a few times as well.

She’s too much, sometimes.

9. Miss Independent

Zelda’s starting to forge her own path, and it’s becoming more and more apparent. When I’m pushing the stroller, she’ll get in front of me and push it from her much lower vantage point. Just recently, when Matt and I were at the MGM casino in Maryland, she had to go up and down the stairs with little to no help. She’ll bat away our hands if we try to hold hers, and she makes it a point to only indicate a need for help if she is stuck. As Matt is fond of saying, “She’s an independent woman who don’t need no man.”

Miss Independent on the stairs at MGM Grand, Maryland.

10. She picks things up FAST.

Zelda can now turn on the TV, get to Netflix, and navigate to the Little Baby Bum show. She can swipe on a phone to her Wheels on the Bus app and start playing it. She smashed her fingers in a drawer once by accident, and the next time she started to move her fingers out of the way when closing it. Matt’s dad got her a kiddie drum set, and she picked up how to change the beats and tones within a short amount of time. She holds the sticks and hits the pads, then shares one of them so Matt and I can play with her. I know every parent thinks his or her child is amazing, but her ability to learn straight up awes me.

 

I’m sure we have many more wondrous things in store for us, good and bad. Being a mom is so amazing, yet so heart wrenching at the same time. Nothing anyone says really prepares you for the journey.

Now what’s the phase after toddler? Full-blown kid? Heaven help us.

 

Trying to Love My Postpartum Body

By Angela

Okay, Zelda is almost 8 weeks old, so I’m officially out of my postpartum period. Truthfully, though, I’ll probably consider myself “postpartum” for a really long time.

One of the elements I’m trying to come to terms with postpartum is how incredibly different my body is. It makes sense, if you think about it: new chapter of my life, new role, new family member, new body to go with it. I’m extremely fortunate. However, I find myself struggling to accept this changed body.

kmpostpartumRemember when Kate Middleton made an almost immediate post-pregnancy appearance after having her first baby in 2013? In my overwhelming ignorance of pregnancy, childbirth, and the details associated with it, I recall being confused about how she looked. She’d just had a baby! Why did she still have a bump? I wasn’t the only one who was shocked. If anything, the whole event was a shockingly vivid picture of how in the dark so many of us are concerning pregnancy and childbirth.

It also highlights how weight-obsessed culture can be. I’ve also noticed there’s a tendency to highlight postpartum weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge accomplishment. However, the line between encouragement, sharing an accomplishment, bragging, and outright shaming is thin. And that thin line is important, as it sends mixed signals to people who receive these messages. Am I being too sensitive? Maybe. But when you do a Google image search of “postpartum weight loss,” these are the first three hits:

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Mixed messages, indeed.

I took the weight gain with pregnancy in stride. If anything, I was disappointed I took so long to show. I grew fond of my bump, and near the end I caught myself looking at my body in awe, like I couldn’t believe that I was capable of growing and carrying another human being inside of me.

Theoretically, I knew my body would be changed. I think, immediately postpartum, I was so relieved to not be pregnant that I didn’t think much about weight. We were so wrapped up in trying to survive I didn’t care. Then, maybe about three weeks ago, I started caring.

maternityjeansI’m pretty sure the catalyst was trying to move from my maternity pants to my regular ones. I can fit into my pre-pregnancy pants, but it ain’t pretty. Then I realized t-shirts and blouses that used to be somewhat big on me were now tight. The mirror, formerly a vessel admiring my pregnant body, suddenly grew cruel. It pointed out a new flaw every time I looked. Stretch marks. Loose skin. A double chin. And somehow, inexplicably, I started to panic a little.

The changes weren’t just in weight. My breasts, formerly large and in proportion, changed dramatically. They swelled monstrously and began to sag. My nipples got bigger and turned brown. I chalked it up to the price paid for feeding my baby. I accepted the truth that they’d be like that from here on out, but luckily some friends that already had kids assured me my breasts would change back to a semblance of their pre-baby state eventually.

My ladybits are changed, too. I couldn’t muster up the strength to look at them until maybe two weeks ago, right before my 6 week OB checkup. I knew I’d had a minor tear during delivery and gotten a couple of stitches, so I didn’t feel any sort of rush to peek. When I finally did look, I was pretty shocked at how much they’d changed. I’ll spare the details, but I will say that having a baby is a trauma on the body. With the rhetoric and the mystery surrounding birth, we tend to forget that. It takes time to heal. I wasn’t quite ready for what I saw. I haven’t looked again.

I’m over the moon in love with Zelda, and any price is worth her cooing and smiling at me in the morning. But I’m not in love with my postpartum body. This means I’ve got a laundry list of tasks, starting with a diet change. I do love my sweets, but I’ve got to lay off them for a bit. I need to walk more. Dust off the old Wii Fit. Be more disciplined. As for the other changes, well, I’ll have to learn to accept them. It’s not necessarily fair to compare my body now to the body it was. Somehow I need to get it that to stick in my head and move on.

Any time I’ve faced a challenge in my life, I’ve tended to face it head-on. So my new challenge is clear: try to love my postpartum body. I won’t look like I used to, but that’s okay. Once again, I’m reminded of the words a friend told me: the person you were before essentially dies, and a new person emerges. I thought she was referring to headspace only, but I think it applies to the bodyspace, too. The changes are a physical testament to the person you’ve become.

It’s the body of a mother.

New Mom, New Anxiety: Dealing with PPA

Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Erica for sharing her experiences in this post. She writes for her own blog, Mom Jeans, but was kind enough to contribute here. I found this post difficult to write due to the sensitive subject matter. However, I think it is important to talk about and I appreciate her willingness to be open on the topic.

Here we are, one month and counting into parenthood.

Matt’s already blown off some steam about the sleep deprivation, frustrations, and difficulties returning to work. Not going to lie, this is tough business. However, we knew that going in. Thanks to my mother and mother-in-law, we’ve at least picked up the tools to do this on our own. All night crying sessions have given way to trial and error routines that end with her quiet and us relieved.

Even so, like Matt, I’m struggling. A lot of my struggling, though, isn’t directly associated with sleep deprivation or frustration. Sure, I’ve been experiencing those, but I’ve surprised myself and taken them better than I thought I would. I haven’t broken down from exhaustion yet. However, I have broken down and cried from weird thoughts and scenarios that involve death and dying.

Hand pointing at a Anxiety word illustration on blue background.

The first night we were home, I did the classic new parent move of standing over the crib to make sure Zelda was breathing. I was terrified that she would just spontaneously stop. What with warnings about SIDS and such going around with no clear explanation, my fuzzy sleep-deprived head would start revving up. Eventually sleep won out, but that was clearly the first instance I can remember fearing for Zelda’s life.

In the coming weeks, my head would crowd with more vivid and macabre pictures of Zelda dying: dropping her when taking her to the changing table and splitting her head open, slipping out of Matt’s grip during a bath and drowning, seeing her strangle on some spit up or vomit and choking, being in a wreck and the car seat failing, or the dog suddenly turning on her. Then they got weirder, like someone breaking into the house and shooting her, someone taking her from me at the metro and tossing her in front of a train, or going to the store and her catching meningitis. Then I started to get afraid of Matt or someone in my family dying. It was like the snowball that jus gets bigger as it rolls downhill.

All of them sounded phobic to me, some completely irrational. I cried a lot, but I did it when no one was looking. I didn’t talk about the weirdness going on because it sounded so irrational, even to me. I wondered if I was going crazy, or if this was some strange version of postpartum depression (PPD). I wanted to be strong for Matt and Zelda, so I swallowed that fear and put on a brave face. I think the only time it slipped was when I asked my mom to stop watching so much Law and Order: SVU. All the episodes with children dying seemed to confirm all the fears in my head.

One day I offhandedly googled “I’m afraid of my baby dying.” Sounds like a cocktail for disaster, right? We all know what happens when you google symptoms. Turns out that was a good move. All the first page hits had names like, “Postpartum Anxiety and the Incessant Fear of Losing Your Child” or “Anyone Else Constantly Worried Their Baby Might Die?” After reading blog posts and forums from other mothers who had the same weird, horrifying thoughts I had in my own head, I relaxed a bit. This is, to a degree, normal. I’m not crazy.

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After realizing that postpartum anxiety (PPA) is common, I opened up a little more. I told some close friends about it, including a mother who has a one and a half year old. She related her own experiences:

Due to a history of depression and knowing an entire boatload of hormones is released just after birth, I assumed PPD would hit me hard. However, I didn’t get depressed, I started to worry. I worried a lot. You know that scene in The Joy Luck Club where the mother drowns her baby? To me, that’s what PPD was. I didn’t have PPD, so what the hell was wrong with me? I loved my baby. Every time she cried, I didn’t hate her, I hated my inability to keep her happy. The horrible and isolating thoughts about her dying crept in slowly. Images of horrific and tragic accidents, me sleep deprived and slipping down the stairs with her in my arms, SIDS sneaking up and taking her away from me in the middle of the night, our cats killing her for no reason at all. I couldn’t watch the news because every story made me panic.

It wasn’t until 6-7 months I told my doctor. When she asked, “Are you sleeping?” I broke into tears; I hadn’t slept more than 2-3 hours at a time since she was born. My heart was constantly in my throat and I had no idea why. Turns out I was suffering from PPD and PPA. I ended up getting a mild antidepressant and therapy. My moods still come in waves but they’re gentle, friendlier. It doesn’t feel like a constant storm. I no longer worry about my baby leaving me. Being able to enjoy my daughter and motherhood is the best feeling in the world. I can’t imagine if I hadn’t gotten help how different my life could have been.

 My thoughts still stray from time to time, like my friend’s, but they’re not as bad as they were those first couple of weeks. I think it might have been a perfect storm of sleep deprivation and the uncertainty of being a new mother, mixed in with those boatloads of hormones. Once i opened up about it, the thoughts got way more manageable. What blows my mind is that no books about having children really cover this sort of thing. Yes, some mention PPD and to keep an eye out for symptoms, but I had no idea PPA existed until the night I did my google search.

I’m sharing this information in hopes that someone comes across it and it eases his or her mind. You’re not alone. Talk to a friend, see your doctor, voice your concerns. It may be difficult for fear of stigma, or people judging your ability to be a mother. Speaking up is a brave thing to do, and the more women that come forward and talk about their experiences, the more other women may feel inclined to speak up.

Hang in there.

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5 More Things I Learned About Pregnancy

See Part I here. I had a lot to say, so I decided to break it into two posts.

Not just the first three months may suck, the whole thing may suck.

cut you

I had a tough first few months. My morning sickness was like a 24/7 hangover that felt never-ending. I was fatigued all the time, and the thought of trying to eat something was completely out of the question. My family practitioner wouldn’t give me anything for the nausea until I’d seen an OB/GYN, and the OB/GYN was booked for at least two weeks. I was absolutely miserable and eagerly waiting for the magical second trimester everyone was telling me about: bursts of energy, cheery disposition, hearty appetite, and just a general lifting of the black cloud of fatigue and nausea. The second trimester was better, but not by a lot. With the advent of the third trimester came severe acid reflux, trouble breathing, sleepnessness, depression, more fatigue, and even some nausea thrown in on the odd nights. Yes, Every Pregnancy is Different™, but I think it’s safe to say I kept hoping it would get better. It never really did.

Most of the time, people don’t care if you’re pregnant.

Right off the bat, I’ll say that “people” does not include friends and family, because they certainly care. What I mean by “people” is general people outside of those categories. Case in point: the metro. I commute on the metro daily, and at this point, 8 1/2 months into the pregnancy, it shows. My feet are swelled, I waddle when I walk, and I huff and puff from walking short distances. The metro gets pretty packed in the evenings, and I usually have to elbow my way around just to get on a train. And when I do, it’s standing room only. A handful of people have offered me a seat when it gets like that. By a handful, I literally mean 4 people. I don’t need to sit all the time, but there are days when I sure would appreciate it. I actually had one woman, from the luxury of her seat, tell me it wasn’t good for me to be standing or even riding the metro when I was so far along. Her concern did not extend to giving me her seat.

Commuter Pregnant Woman Problems
Commuter Pregnant Woman Problems

The first few months when I was having marathon puke sessions in the bathroom, waking up in the middle of the night to puke some more, and feeling like I needed to sleep in the afternoons, I couldn’t let any of it on. I’d just started my job and wanted to look good. And even now, if I’m not feeling well or something is off, I can’t really say, “I’m unable to do X because I’m pregnant.” It sounds lame. Of course, the second I try to lift something or I volunteer to do something else, I get told I shouldn’t be doing those things “because I’m pregnant.”

I don’t like the 12 week rule.

I understand that the “12 week rule” for announcing is there for multiple reasons: fear of miscarriage, unwanted advice, work worries. However, I don’t really agree with it. One article says, “The thinking is that if you tell your friends and family before 12 weeks, and experience a tragic miscarriage, then you need to share that news, too. Many women believe it’s just easier to keep the news to themselves than to share their sadness with others.” I call bullshit. BULLSHIT. I get that everyone is different and processes their experiences differently. If a woman chose to take this route on her own, I would not fault her for it. What I have beef with is how other people spout it like it is gospel. To me, it’s essentially saying, “You should not tell anyone until 12 weeks because you need to suffer through a miscarriage alone.” Unsolicited advice? Meh, you get it at all levels and I’m sure I will get it post-birth, too. The last reason is probably the most understandable, because discrimination against pregnant women is still very real in the workplace. At the same time, a woman is expected, should she experience complications or morning sickness, to keep silent. Somehow it all seems really unfair to me. Even one person I saw announce before 12 weeks on FB got blasted for sharing too early, but she pretty much gave an e-shrug and said she could announce when she wanted.

PMS is nothing on pregnancy hormones.

hormonesI’ve always been a pretty emotional person. It was pretty easy to tell when it was my time of the month, mostly because I’d alternate between weepy and irrationally angry. You could almost say I was the poster child for every stereotype about PMS. I found out later, after trying many different kinds of birth control, that hormones were not in my cards because they amplified every terrible feeling I had tenfold. So when I got pregnant, naturally the onslaught of hormones was going to make me a little crazy, right? I’d read about mothers-to-be getting weepy at silly things and figured I was in for a little bit of a roller coaster of a time. Sure enough, the smallest things got me going. I bawled my eyes out on the Winnie-the-Pooh ride at Disney World because there was a family in the cart in front of us and I was picturing me riding with our little girl. I got misty when I saw mothers with their children at the mall. I’d cry at songs on the radio I never even batted an eye out before. I think, at first, it was normal. But then the tide turned. I was irrationally sad and angry all the time, which I talk about in a previous post. I’m happy to say I’ve finished the acupuncture treatment and I’m still doing fine. I feel more adjusted than I have since I got pregnant, to be honest. It’s a good feeling.

You will lose friends, but you will find support networks in places you never thought possible.

I didn’t expect to lose friends. I was even more shocked to learn you lose ones you had for a long, long time. Instead of hash on that, though, I will say I realized that support networks and encouragement come out of the woodwork. Friendships that have always existed have grown even stronger, which I am infinitely grateful for. I’ve had people reach out that I have only spoken to every now and then, or people I’ve only kept in touch with via social media. I know social media gets a bad rap a lot of the time, but I will say that it has proven invaluable for letting me know that people care and that I’m not alone. It reminds me that even though some people find it necessary to cut you out of their life for whatever reason, there are plenty of others that are just fine with having you around, whether it’s virtual or in real life.

BONUS: People suddenly turn into MDs.

One of my big pet peeves are those “just you wait” comments. My poor husband got the JUST YOU WAIT the other day when he was getting his hair cut. I said it was a good thing I wasn’t there because I would have said something. Anyway, the other one is when people say, “Well, in MY PREGNANCY . . .” (or the derivative “In X person’s pregnancy”). I say I’m abstaining from alcohol? “Well IN MY PREGNANCY I drank and my baby was just fine.” I’m watching my caffeine intake? “In MY SISTER’S PREGNANCY, she drank a ton of coffee and her baby came out perfect.” Hell, in Disney I said I wasn’t riding certain rides because I was pregnant, and some lady nearby piped up, “MY DAUGHTER rode all those rides when she was pregnant and her baby was fine.” Well, aren’t you special. Where’s your decade or more of schooling to make such a bold statement?

I get it, some of the rules seem extraneous. I’ve even cheated on the coffee rule a handful of times. But last I checked, personal anecdotes don’t trump the recommendations of a doctor. Hell, if we took personal anecdotes as gospel, I’m sure we’d end up with a lot more unvaccinated babies, too. Also, if Every Pregnancy is Different™, how do I know what worked for one person would be an assurance that my baby would be absolutely fine? I can deal without drinking, or riding thrill rides, or raw fish, etc. for nine months. II’ll bitch about it, but I can deal. I’d rather be a stick in the mud and be safe than sorry.

I’m sure I’ll look back on this list and laugh my ass off. Oh, I still have so much to learn.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Being Pregnant

Some surprising truths I learned about being pregnant, the hard way. Slightly vent-like post follows.

You may never get that earth mother/goddess feeling.

From the second I saw that second line on the pregnancy test, I expected to get overwhelmed by these warm and glowy feelings about motherhood. I expected to be constantly amazed of the prospect of growing another human inside of me, to be one with the earth and maybe understand the circle of life a little better. Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating a little, but I definitely expected to feel something about it. I envisioned myself walking around, a hand on my bump and feeling serene. Instead I was strangely ambivalent for a long time. Matt even commented in a past blog post he forgot I was even pregnant sometimes, mostly because I wasn’t in this dewy-eyed cloud of impending motherhood.

Then I started to worry. I think, to a degree, I’m still worrying: daycare, no maternity leave, complications in labor, freak accidents. It’s like there was no time for me to “enjoy” the pregnancy because too many other things have clouded my mind at the same time. I’m pretty convinced that anyone who said pregnancy was a wonderful and beautiful experience either A. Left out the unpleasant parts, or B. Is comparing it to their situation now, which is likely having a screaming child somewhere nearby.

You can’t believe the things your body is doing. Some may make you feel awe, and others you may feel horrified.

Feeling awe and horror at the same time is starting to be a common occurrence for me. I didn’t really start ballooning out until fairly recently, so I didn’t have a sense of the changes that were occurring in my body. Oh, I remember feeling the stretching uterus in the second trimester and watching my breasts get to ridiculous anime-sized proportions, but I didn’t really grasp the magnitude of what was happening in there until the birthing class Matt and I took last week (read Part I and Part II). One of the things the teacher explained was how the organs in the body shift around. The lungs apparently move upwards and get bunched up, which is why breathing gets to be so tough. Somehow the thought of my lungs expanding outwards to the sides as opposed to the normal way shocked me. I still haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. And the intestines? Woof. Even now, I’ve been informed that all my ligaments are stretching out more and more in preparation for birth. I can’t even.

Then there’s the feeling when Zelda moves. At first it was small, light pops and taps, and they were like this comforting white noise in the background. Now they’re prods and twists that make me short of breath, need to pee, and send my stomach into odd sideshow displays. Remember that scene in Ghostbusters right before Zuul kidnaps Dana? Here’s a refresher: Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 8.41.38 PM

The dog’s face pushing against the door and leaving imprints? Yeah, it feels like that. Sometimes I think it’s cool. Most of the time I’m kind of creeped out.

Peeing happens. A lot.

I must say, I had no idea how much bladder control I would lose during pregnancy. I guess you read about “dribbles” and “some loss of control,” but the literature doesn’t really prepare you for it. I went from having a nice, regular 34 year-old bladder to a 100 year one in no time. The first run-in I had with incontinence came when I was experiencing morning sickness. When I vomited, I lost control. Completely. I’ve had some humbling experiences, but peeing myself while heaving into a toilet is up there. Luckily I managed to avoid it at work, but it was one hell of an effort.

peeIn the second trimester I got a month-long cold that involved lots of coughing and sneezing. Every single time I coughed or sneezed, I’d pee. I started having to wear maxipads all the time. I even considered Depends. Now, in the third trimester, I know my way to the bathroom without a light. I hear that incontinence comes post-birth, too, so . . . yeah. Good times. Don’t even get me started on how many times a day I have to run to the bathroom.

“Just you wait” becomes a common moniker.

I can deal with unsolicited advice. In the end, it always comes from a genuine place and is not meant to be harmful. What grates at me, though, are what I call the “just you wait” comments. Think you’re tired now? Just you wait! Or how about, I’m sure you’re enjoying your night out now. Just wait–you won’t be able to do this soon! I can see it now: You’re complaining about incontinence now? Just you wait till AFTER the baby’s born! I digress. I think these kinds of comments grate on me because they come off as kind of smug (and to be fair, I’m pretty sure I’ve used them in some kind of context other than childbirth so I’m no angel, either) and not helpful in any way. What happened to comments like, You’ll be tired as hell, but you’ll make it or Your life will change, but not in a bad way? Solidarity, not one-upmanship. And yes, as a result of this experience I’m going to be a lot more mindful of what I say from here on out.

Cereal is a perfectly acceptable meal.

On a lighter note, cereal. I can’t live without it. I’ve consumed more cereal in the past few months than I probably have in my lifetime. I had cereal for dinner tonight, as a matter of fact. Maybe I should be worried about getting essential nutrients in my body and eating healthier, but no one really tells you how freaking hard it is when the thought of food makes you want to upchuck most of the time. The funny thing is, the doctors don’t seem too worried about it either. So I’ve accepted the fact that having cereal is better than nothing.

NOTE: I know pregnancy is a huge gift and should not be taken for granted. I’m thrilled that Zelda is a healthy baby and everything’s been great on her end for the past 8 months. But in the end, I feel like there’s a hush-hush unspoken rule about pregnancy in our culture–that we can’t talk about the uncomfortable parts because we come off looking bitchy, or ungrateful, or some other form of “shut up and deal with it.” I’m putting these things out there as a way of making peace with the things that were not what I expected. I also want to let others know it’s okay to vent and not feel bad about it.

Thanks for listening.

“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.

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.