I'm seeing signs that evolution isn't really something we're that good at yet. Thanks to my friend Chris for sending along this link of a 70s pregnancy pamphlet with current commentary. Has anything much changed? – Oh a tad, but fetuses still start out with tails. Check your backsides.
Maybe it was the fourth time my doctor's nurse called me "Kathleen" while holding my chart in her hand that got me thinking. Maybe it was their inability to tell me my first trimester weight gain since they'd forgotten to write it down. Maybe it was the third occasion the office staff didn't call me back when they said they would. Maybe it was the fourth time I asked a question and my doctor shrugged, maybe it was the fifth. Maybe it was the second time she told me in the identical memorized stump speech about the need for HIV testing, while never noticing my family history of diabetes. Maybe it was the doctor who explained to me the dilation race - that I would have to dilate 1.2 centimeters per hour (?!?), or else "Something's wrong!" (read: "Get me the knife!") Maybe it was the third doctor's set of paperwork I filled out where I either signed away my right to a jury and trial in the case of a malpractice suit, or any chance to retain an ob should I decide to even preliminarily inquire or engage the services of a midwife and be dumb enough to tell them. Maybe it was the part I signed about how in the event I should need hospital care while attempting a home birth with a midwife, the doctor has no responsibility to treat me. I mean, the Hypocratic oath is just words, right? Who knows exactly what solidified my decision to call the midwife. Many things go into a decision.
Thursday, September 30, 2004
I'm seeing signs that evolution isn't really something we're that good at yet. Thanks to my friend Chris for sending along this link of a 70s pregnancy pamphlet with current commentary. Has anything much changed? – Oh a tad, but fetuses still start out with tails. Check your backsides.
I don't wanna be pregnant. I don't wanna be pregnant. I don't wanna be pregnant. I don't wanna be pregnant. I don't wanna be pregnant. I don't wanna be pregnant. I don't wanna be pregnant. I don't wanna be pregnant. I don't wanna be pregnant.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
This one's a long one, but I won't be around for a couple days, so consider it a 3-day blog.
I just got a recommendation for a book - Navel Gazing: The Days and Nights of a Mother in the Making by Jennifer Matesa. I've already ordered it and I'm looking forward to reading it. She is another someone who writes about being pregnant and is not so thrilled by its many benefits (ahem.). She became pregnant by accident also, and also - somehow - didn't immediately fall head over heels for the alien in her belly or start picking out borders for the nursery. In addition, (although Ann Lamott remains my hero) like so few others, this book covers the pregnancy itself – not just the postpartum chaos.
Writing like the kind I expect to find in Matesa's book, when not thought of as horribly blasphemous, is talked about using terms like "brave." It is rare, this is true. Most things in print either 1) cover the "how to" stuff of pregnancy and what to freak out about, or 2) jump ahead to the do's and don'ts of motherhood, baby in the flesh. And gee, they all cover both those things so well. Take an example from one of my books. The heading in the chapter on week 16 or so reads "How your actions affect your baby." Under it, the very first subheading is titled "Increased vaginal discharge." Straight arrow logic, people. Heck yeah.
Regardless of the point at which they enter the fray, all these charming reference guides seem equally likely to presume eager parents hovered over a pee stick, hopeful smiles glued to their faces. And this assumption spills out into society at large. The following conversation was overheard in one of the parent education classrooms: Instructor: "When are you due? Aren't you excited?!?" Mother: "So excited!!" Apparently, it is an assumption with good odds of being correct. But dangerous nonetheless. If that question had been directed to me, what would I have said? Not sure. And if I knew, is honesty the goal? – We are a how-are-you-fine society. I don't think honesty is what we're after.
Realistically, intellectually, although I can't pretend to know what all of it will feel like, my own assumption is that I will love my child. Seems likely anyway. And at some point, the possibility exists that I will even "not be able to imagine my life without" him or her, as the saying goes. But I want to strongly establish the idea that regardless of how I'll love my kid, it doesn't invalidate or erase the fact that right now I feel restless and confused and ambivalent. Or that two months ago, between the morning sickness and the depression, most days I couldn't get out of bed.
These times are part of my experience, my pregnancy and my life. An immigrant doesn't forget her home country. A patient in remission can't flip a switch and only count the healthy years of her life. She is different for the experience of having been born somewhere else, for having been sick. Just as many things lead me to experience the news of this pregnancy in a certain way and can't be seen apart from it, the sadness and the struggle that followed remain an element of who I become later, even if or when that's a happy, well-adjusted mother.
In past relationships, men would be attracted to a gregarious, bubbly me that would then eventually give way for stretches in favor of a more sullen, burdened, intense girl, troubled by the world and uncomfortable in her own mind. They would pine aloud for the "old Kitty" to return. And I would vacillate between guilt about why I couldn't just "snap out of it," convinced I must always perform at a 10 to be loved, and anger at their stupid, shallow, asshole ways, convinced I must end this relationship and swear off men. I am both people. I. am. both. people.
I read a book once called Imagining Robert written by the brother of a mentally ill man. In it, the author longs for his brother as he was pre-illness onset. However, with years of the disease to color their lives, he smartly ponders who his brother might be if the doctors actually find this "magic pill" cure they are constantly promising is just around the corner. What of his other life (other self) that prevailed for years? Is that simply cut away and brushed aside as an aberration? This, this happy person, in line with what society expects is the "real" personality then?
Dr Brilliant (formerly Dr Dull) told me in our initial meeting at my 12-week mark that the emotional inconsistencies of pregnancy can take some getting used to. You may feel a certain way, she offered, and not understand why. I had to stop myself from laughing in her face. Lady, please. I'm not only familiar with erratic emotions, I wrote the blog on it. Pregnant, schmegnant.
I am someone who experiences life in extremes, in fits and starts, from within a sensitivity bubble. What's that condition Sylvia Plath had where she couldn't weed out any stimuli? Exactly. I can, as an old roommate once commented, have issues with my breakfast cereal, but minutes later I can also fall passionately in love with a jingle on a TV commercial and find renewed hope in humanity. The world is hot to the touch, my pillow is soaking wet, my laugh is inappropriate and travels across crowded rooms to the ears of self-appointed judges in moments of quiet reverence. I don't know the names of Hollywood stars and don't bother asking because no, I've never seen that movie. My books all have post-its at my favorite quotations, my car is a venue for commentary on social justice, three a.m. is just as good a time as any to paint, scream, try on the contents of my closet.
Lady, doctor, honey, my emotions minus this nine-month hormone shot would wear you out in no time flat. It'll take me no fewer than 250 words to describe how you just straightened your lab coat with your left hand. My words will cut to the marrow or sprinkle you generously with magic dust, depending on my whim and purpose. I don't miss much. So please, spare me the advice column on the "ups and downs" of pregnancy. I'm alive. You, I frankly can't vouch for.
Perhaps they should include this Navel Gazing as required reading in med school. Or maybe just my blog. ;-)
Saturday, September 25, 2004
So I went to this meeting where doulas, labor coaches, and midwives were presenting who they were and what they do. I was thinking a doula would be good, and a particularly attractive accessory since my doctor quest has been less than fruitful. To my surprise, I came away considering a midwife and home birth. I mean, what are the chances I'll be satisfied by what happens in a hospital? For all my cynical chatter and my east coast roots, I'm a holistic gal – a vegetarian, an acupuncture patient, a nature lover, a believer in mind-body connection. In a hospital, undoubtedly, some doctor or nurse will piss me off royally and I'll have to spend the better part of my child's first year spinning the tale to friends and strangers of how I was unjustly treated. As a new mom, I'm just not that sure I'll have enough energy. So I'm looking at options.
I listened to the midwife and midwife-in-training who were at the meeting speak about their work. They kept referring to "midwifery." The short "i" and the airy softness of the unvoiced "f" without the heavy vibrations of the "v" in the plural noun, gave the topic a semantic magic. It whispered and swirled like fall leaves ("leafy" leaves) in a private tornado, trapped by the wind in an alcove of a building. Looking at such a scene it is at one time both fierce energy and calm grace, chasing itself in a crazy circle but held up, one realizes, only by soft, invisible air.
Home birth. It's a thought.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
1. Although the prenatal vitamins made me sick (this part is typical) and I disposed of them early on, I try to take my folic acid supplement. While I suspect I get my recommended daily dose from – I know it's weird but – the food I eat, I pop the wee pills every morning. For those who aren't familiar, folic acid is said to promote healthy brain development in the unborn child. My husband is kept abreast of my daily pill routine since whenever I take them, I hunch my shoulders, twist my fingers into gnarled twigs, and drag one leg behind me, calling out in an Igor voice, "I think I can feel the brain growing, master!!"
2. In my preggo yoga class the other day, the topic of conversation was fears we have. I discovered that one of the biggest fears of 2nd time moms is that they won't possibly have enough love to give to a second child since they already love the first so much. Huh? Now, I in no way want to poo-poo or diminish anyone's feelings here, but THAT'S your big fear???? Nothing about pain, tearing, hemorrhaging, parenting, changing your lifestyle completely, being isolated and overwhelmed, turning your relationship with your partner upside down, money, postpartum depression, shelving careers, childcare, or integrating this new creature with the fuzzy ones already living in your house (to name a mere few)??? See, it would seem that the fact that they are second-time moms already signals a conquering of some of the fears I trip over on a regular basis. I'm not sure my preggo yoga needs are being met in this mixed group. I'm going to push for separate classes.
3. I'm 100x more likely to wake up sobbing about stretch marks that haven't appeared yet than to ever utter a sentence that includes the phrase "welcoming this new baby into our home."
4. I'm four months along now. You'd think I'd be used to the idea of being, you know, pregnant. The other day, on the way to the shower, I caught sight of myself in a mirror. "Oh my god!" I exclaimed to the cats, "I look pregnant!" In just the last couple days, my belly seems to have popped a bit more, the sides rounding to the inside of my hips, which are also rounder now. I'm at that stage where to the average person I don't really look pregnant, just chubby around the middle. On a scale of 1-10, ten being "this makes be really, really happy," I'm hovering around one, one and a quarter.
In general, I often think I am unfit and/or refuse to swallow the reality of this whole situation. Here and there I gain solace, however. Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions about her son's first year was written in 1989. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area. The big San Francisco earthquake happened when her son was about a month old. She admits in the book that although she understood the gravity of the situation and was horrified by reports of the dead, the dying, the bridge split in half, she was really most concerned with the fact that her son had the sniffles. She wanted to call 911 and get someone over to the house right away – her baby was sick! This line of thinking made sense to me, and I began to feel better about myself. Oh, and her second biggest concern was how in the world they'd be able to distribute her new book to the bookstores in all that chaos. That's my girl.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
I found this horoscope a few weeks back and it's been lying revered but crumpled on my desk. Thought I'd share. Sometimes the stars are just dead on. With thanks to Rob Breszny.
It's a perfect time to order a custom-made action figure that looks like you. You'd really
benefit from having a miniature version of yourself to play with. You could dress it in superhero costumes, fantasize scenarios in which it pulls off epic feats, and use it to help you escape the imaginary constraints that have been inhibiting you. But there are other ways that would probably work just as well to free up your bold, adventurous spirit. Maybe you could write a short story starring you as a daredevil. If nothing else, create a sock puppet of yourself.
Monday, September 20, 2004
My heart is attempting to stabilize. Husband-guy just drove off with one of my cats – my Emily – to drop her at the vet for a gum cleaning they have to do under anesthesia, and to remove a very small growth on her neck. The growth is hopefully nothing; her gums are black in places. Bad gums – she gets it from me. I can't bear to think of her waiting in a cage before they put her under. I can't stand the thought that she'll be scared and hungry and in an unfamiliar place. I've taped her picture and her story onto the carrier, including our phone number and address as if she's off to kindergarten. My husband finds this amusing and sort of sweet. I figure it's just a logical precaution since I'd throw myself from a cliff if they mixed her up with another cat or couldn't get her back to us.
Emily gazed innocently out the window while my other cat, Zap Mama, heard my husband in the shed getting the carrier and raced under the bed. I cherish their little personalities – wholly distinct and quite well-known to me. I have to go pick Emily up at lunch time.
See, several friends have suggested how prepared I am for a child because of how I relate to my cats. I see no comparison. At the market a while back, the friend I was with ran into someone she knows who just had a baby (who hasn't?). I glanced perfunctorily into the carriage and was not impressed. Two minutes later, a woman walked by carrying a beagle puppy and I nearly went into cardiac arrest the thing was so cute. Animals. I can take care of animals. People? I don't really like them very much. And the small ones seem needy and tend to drool.
Sure a baby won't jump onto the keyboard as I'm trying to finish a freelance article the editor says "isn't quite there." But you can bet my cats have never called me from the police station or come home crying from school. And if I come home crying from school, my cats are right there for me.
As Mike pulled out of the driveway with Emily, the dog from across the street came out to see them off, wagging and woofing and watching them go. He knows of what he woofs. He's old and has been through chemotherapy. I don't imagine I would choose to put my animal through chemotherapy, but that's beside the point. I think he's looking out for Em. These are the souls I can manage. These precious, furry ones that the neighbor feeds while you're on vacation.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
My husband and I currently live in a small, one-bedroom apartment that's the first floor of a house. We just moved here about a month and a half ago. Signed the lease before we knew about my "condition." I hear that babies start out rather small, however. And as we are not the type prone to purchasing large, nonsensical items from (oh the thought turns my stomach…) baby stores (gulp.), we should probably be okay for a bit. That is, if our upstairs neighbor doesn't mind the sound of a crying infant at all hours of the night, but that's another entry entirely.
We live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. My mother- and father-in-law continually ask us when we'll buy a house. Our repeated explanations of the cost of doing so in this area, are simply met by lists of cousins and various other relatives who have bought houses, or several houses, or built houses, or in some way tackled the American dream (sic) and won.
We don’t have the means to buy a house here at the moment, but nonetheless, we do have a vision. We refer to it as "Turtle Ranch." I'm not exactly sure why. We're weird. We like turtles. I don't know. It's Turtle Ranch, okay? Turtle Ranch is the house we will have someday that we will build without taking down any redwoods or live oaks. It'll be modest in size and sport wide window ledges for the cats. We will outfit it with solar power and throw in a writing studio on the property for moi. It will be kept immaculately landscaped without the aid of leafblowers by the two of us. I will grow beautiful flowers and aromatic gardens. Eventually we will rent out the garden/deck part of the property to small wedding parties and the like, which will serve as income to fund this project and validation for quitting my job and spending all my time gardening.
The other day my husband asked a valid question – namely, will there be turtles on Turtle Ranch? Yes, I said, imagining a stone walled-pond of serenely swimming reptiles. In the next breath, however, I worried about the threat of raccoons. Never fear, I had a solution, we'd make an atrium and the turtles would live in a pond there. Oh, says husband, impressed but adding up the increasing cost of our dream, sure. I decide not to tell him how my vision is still spinning along, and I'm now worried about the little kids from the wedding parties and whether their parents will leave them unattended and if they might harm the turtles. Dream interrupted by eight-year-olds poking sticks at century-old turtles, defenseless but for their chance to exit my vision now, while there's still time. My future child has no such option.
Friday, September 17, 2004
I've always had a difficult relationship with money. Virtually nothing can tie me in more knots than injustices that come from having or not having money. I'm even uncomfortable with the physical reality of it. Being near the stuff leaves me hyper-aware of its psychological and social implications. It can smell my fear.
My husband and I took a trip once to some little Gold Rush towns in the mountains of California. One of our activities was to spend a morning at a silent Zen retreat. (Yes, a little known fact of Buddha's life was his stint panning for those elusive yellow nuggets in the hills of California.)
It was me who had chosen this stop. Out of curiosity about the practice. Out of the need for contemplative moments in my days. For the beauty of the place. For the yummy vegetarian food. The silent part was strangely more disturbing to my naturally quiet husband than to me. We were awkward visitors trying hard to learn the rules of our host culture. People who had chosen this as a life's vocation glided here and there in robes, reminders that we were temporary intruders, observers at best.
For several hours, we had been silently meditating, silently pacing over rocks and streams, and we would now silently eat. As we entered the dining hall, slowly, mindfully, a small basket for donations hung on the wall to the left of the lunch line. In what I hoped would be a fluid and unobtrusive gesture, I attempted to drop a bill into the basket. As I did so, it fell from its perch, its contents of checks, coins, and dollars clattering in all directions. The silence was broken even more by my feeble squeak of "Sorry!"
As the stories of Bush's military record unfold, disappear, unfold again and the liberal side of things cast snide remarks about a "senator daddy" and the privilege that wealth can bring, I grow anxious. I can't wait for his sorry ass to be pinned to the ground and pray it'll happen in the minds of the average American before the election. But there is more. I worry just slightly about stretching the divide of class wider, about feeding my own bias that money is bad and people with money are bad people. Of course what Bush did and does was and is wrong. Of course he is a lying hypocritical bastard with innocent blood on his hands and as much good will and understanding for humanity and the natural world as…well, he doesn’t have any good will or understanding. But there's a tiny part of me thinking that the class divide doesn't need any more crow bars.
While I'm sorry there are any examples of exceptionally rich people at all, there are examples of exceptionally rich people who do good. Take George Soros. And in a necessarily controversial move, Soros has more recently poured his fortune into direct efforts to unseat Bush and the War Machine.
Right away, I notice the major difference between these Georges. Bushy inherited his money, while Soros earned it. Nature v. Nurture again? And in this example, nurture is winning. It gives me hope in a way (the way that says I'm desperate for hope here). Hope that I can teach my child things. That he or she won't be needled and prodded by our genes alone in the struggle to make sense of the world. Can I teach her to stand taller even though the genetic odds are that she'll be rather short? Can I teach him away from depression when all the elements for a struggle against his own brain as the enemy will lie within his dna? And despite a history of hearts that give out too young, can I massage that heart to beat longer and with love for people even as screwed up as Bush?
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
I've been swimming lately. Eve got me started going to the university pool. My first day, I was hesitant, but since I'd put in the effort to shave my legs in my tiny corner shower and to wrestle my nose clip back from the cats, I figured I should go.
Originally, Eve had told me lots of preggos and kids swim there. But instead, I arrived to find the pool full of studly college boys doing laps. It doesn't help that it's an Olympic year. A Michael Phelps year. They're all zipping around with lungs the size of Kansas, these boys and I'm more than a little intimidated.
At this point, I suppose I should mention something – I can't swim. I mean, I can get around in the water when need be, but the childhood swimming lessons just didn't take. Okay, they were a disaster. A having-to-be-removed-from-the-diving-board, -little-fingers-white-with-fear-peeled-back-one-by-one disaster. Follow this with impressionable middle school years when my best friend could only swim by holding her nose. The consequence for me, little copy cat, fit-in wanna be, was my own loss of ability to swim any other way.
Somehow, however, I still love the water. Can't imagine any better place to be – flopping around in a pool, beaching it, riding in a boat – whatever, gets me near the stuff. It's, dare I say, "grounding." So back at the pool, I squirm into the last lane left, which isn't really a lane, but a skinny little space in the deep end under the diving boards. Me and my green foam kickboard drop in between two sporting men who can't be happy to see me. After a few paltry attempts to exercise my legs and jimmy across the pool and back with aforementioned flotation devise, I spot Eve – the one who coaxed me here. "Where are all the fat ladies??" I call across the lanes. Just then my kickboard leaps from under me and smacks me hard in the jaw. I bite my tongue and try not to cry.
Frankly, I'm shocked that I've continued to go, me, my belly, my sucky-ass swimming skills. From where cometh this new feeling of I-don't-give-a-crud-if-they're-staring? I'm overly proud of my little exercise routine so far. And I'm the type who wants to be credited for these simple things, loudly and often. Like today, when I missed swimming, I went biking instead. I know, right? Go ahead, slather me with praise. Unbelievable, my dedication. I need lots of pats on the back for stupid shit. This character trait is yet another reason why motherhood is not necessarily the ideal vocation for me.
Monday, September 13, 2004
There so much to say here, I may have to make this part 1 of several. For anyone who read installment one of the doctor saga, you won't be terribly surprised that I decided to doctor shop a bit. I called the birthing center at the hospital and got some discreet recommendations. Since the desirable female obstetricians all practice in the same office with my current Dr Dull, the nurse suggested checking out a man whose patients reportedly "like him very much." Uh-huh. Such are the times of my life. Never would I have believed for a minute that I'd VOLUNTARILY go see a male doctor, much less a male ob.
The morning of my consultation appointment, I threw all caution to the wind and brushed my teeth. It was a special occasion, after all. (Oh – haven't I mentioned that a sure way to vomit up my carefully chosen, iron-rich preggo diet is to brush my teeth? Yeah, the preggo books don't mention that either. Dr Dull shrugged when I told her and said to gargle afterwards, adding that some vomiting won't deplete my overall caloric intake that much. Thanks, Doc! That's exactly what I was worried about – caloric intake! Damn, you're good! I'm bringing my Oral B to your house!)
I entered Boy Doctor's large, neat, empty waiting room with straight-back chairs and was greeted efficiently and friendly enough. After filling out paperwork up the wazoo, I met the nurse who, naturally, wanted me to pee in a cup. It's a theme in my life, it seems. I'm the candidate for clean toilets everywhere! I reiterated the consultation status of my visit and so was ushered into the doctor's office. It was large, neat, and empty also, but with comfortable chairs. Pictures of two young girls were the only things on his L-shaped desk, not a piece of paper or a folder to be found.
I asked questions and he gave me answers plus. For example, he didn't bother me with things like having to draw my own conclusions. No, the considerate doctor provided those as well. Question: How many of your patients' births are you actually present for in the hospital? Answer (summary): Last year, I missed 10 out of 200. … That's incredible! What is that? 5%? Incredible!
He went on to provide me with an extended example of what, I thought at the time, was already quite clear. It involved a story about his family on its way to his daughter's school picnic, which, he took pains to stress, she was very excited about and that only happens once a year. It was a holiday weekend, and he wasn't on call. When his beeper went off telling him he had a patient in labor, he turned to his wife and girls and said – I quote – "See ya!" and headed for the hospital.
Curious story, doc. So, I say, laughing, "Is that meant to be a plug? Don't you think that could be seen in more ways than one?" So, he says, "It's a matter of commitment." So, I say, "And how much of that commitment do you think has to do with the fact that you're a man … (to self: stuck in the stone age)?"
Walked this earth for over 40 years. Read books. Studied medicine. Started a family. And another one for the reject pile, I'm afraid. Damn. We're running out. In her book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, Anne Lamott has a beautiful description of her conflicted feelings when she discovers that she's having a boy – i.e., that "her baby will have a penis."
Anyway, I am then treated to a monologue about female and male obs that I found truly enlightening. It covered a wide gamut, and I'm not being facetious when I say it opened my eyes. For starters, he mentioned how virtually all female obs are part-time, how his wife "takes care of the homefront," and how his daughters really don't want to talk to him anyway since they are girls and pre-teens (here's where he's lucky I didn't jump him. a friend of mine once tried to argue with me – me, girl who lost father at 6 years old – that a young girl missing a father was somehow less tragic than a young boy missing same. get me fucking started why don't you.)
When the fog of geez-I'd-slit-my-wrists-if-I-were-married-to-this-moron started to clear, I started to think. I hadn't solved my problem of disliking my current doctor or what doctor I should go with, but I had more information. If a stranger to me ends up delivering my baby, perhaps I'm in some tiny way contributing to the humanization of my doctor. Maybe she is somewhere else, having a life, a family, a bowl of udon soup.
to be continued…?
(BTW, I've set it so anyone can comment now, not just blogspotters.)
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Another September 11th anniversary has passed. There is so much to tell you. I imagine that by the time you are old enough to understand, this "war" will be ancient history, or not, it's hard to say. But especially if it is, all the more reason to tell you about it, in increments, in stories.
You are a blessed being, like us all. You are perfect. You are entering an imperfect world. Love it with all your heart.
Yesterday morning, I woke up at 5:30 am PST and couldn't get back to sleep. I was sad and fitful and anxious. And then I realized. That's about when it had happened. I'm sure many others were thinking about the events of September 11, 2001 at that time, and maybe they woke me with all their thoughts. We are part of a collective consciousness. Or maybe it was all those souls lost then and since. They haven't gone far; they want peace; they want to help.
Our choices, big and small, each day shape this space we live in. They matter. Don't get battered into believing that you must save the world, just never forget that you can.
Friday, September 10, 2004
So I just tried out preggo yoga for the first time. (That's prenatal yoga for some of you.)
After nearly an hour of "what doctor do you have?" and "second-time moms tell us about your birth experience" chit chat, we settled down to a few warriors and downward-facing dogs. I knew right away I was different. First, I brought my own mat. Second, I didn't want to talk about doctors and birth experiences. Oddly, I wanted to do yoga.
Despite the fact that the instructor had just the right soft, but raspy voice needed to direct us into impossible poses and distract us from muscle spasms, doing yoga was not easy. For one, I haven't done it in months and I'm way out o' shape. For another, it's a bit hard to Zen-out with a dozen pregnant women constantly leaving the proceedings to pee in the ajoining room. It goes something like,
Instructor: "Deep breath in. Fill your lungs. And, slowly, out..."
Instructor: "Can you drop down into your sensations?...What are they saying?"
Instructor: "Check in with your body. Can you soften your jaw? Release your shoulders a little more? Let the tension dissolve..."
As the class broke up, the others were predictably huddled in groups talking about i dunno what, while I acted the loser from middle school and sulkily packed up my gear. They were headed for things like dinner and relaxing evenings in front of Nightly News (sic). I, on the other hand, would shortly find myself hosting a poetry slam in front of a coffee house crowd yelling into a mic things like "Are you having a good time?!!" I returned my pillows to their cubbies and the cliques began to dissipate. As we left the building, I could see I didn't even park in the same place as these women. Does "societal outcast" skip a generation?
Confession time: one of my favorite past times (not listed on my profile) is singing along at the top of my lungs to Pat Benatar hits from the 8o's. Come out, children of the 80's, all of you! Embrace your musically-pathetic youth! (Pat is not included in this description.) Come to terms with being raised in the time of young people beating their way up the corporate ladder for white walls and black BMWs, Flashdance, Footloose, legwarmers, a time before Reagan was just ashes and an airport! Sure, it was horrible and wasteful and gluttonous and Republican, but it's OURS. And come to think of it, this decade (and what DO we call this decade??) has FAR out-stripped the horrors of the 80's. I'll pause here while we all ponder whether that's a good thing...
So, Pat Benatar. Yes! And one day recently, while I was driving along, she popped on the radio and I knew what I had to do. I had to go buy a Best of CD and sing to my baby on a daily basis. Happy Mama, happy baby. But just as suddenly, I had second thoughts. Remember that one questionable hit - "Hell is for Children?" Years from now, my child might find the CD in my collection, put it on and recognize it in the faintest way as the stuff of her/his in utero lullabies. And then s/he'll see that title. Look, I'll have plenty to explain as it is. I put the plan out of my mind for a while. Am I headed for a life of self-censorship? I wondered. But my craving wouldn't go away (and I know about cravings). After all, we belong, we belong together. So, I found a cheapo Best of without the Hell song. It's also inexplicably missing "Love is a Battlefield." My first parental sacrifice?
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
A couple people suggested to me that if I wrote a blog I could talk about things, feelings, states of being, associated with pregnancy, most particularly a surprise pregnancy, that maybe needed to be talked about, that others don't write about. I guess I really haven't done that yet.
I haven't written about how utterly shocked I was, and how my doctor told me the news like I already knew and never once asked me how I felt about it, chucking vitamins my way and scheduling an ultrasound. ("It's a fun appointment! Bring the dad.") I haven't written about how I had hoped to someday adopt, that physically having a child was more frightening to me than most anything else I could imagine. I don't know how to write about how mad at myself I was for ignoring my intuition to doubt just enough that I never wanted to be pregnant and consequently let this happen. I haven't mentioned yet how duped I felt, how angry at my husband, how depressed I was for the first 4-5 weeks I knew. How black the world was, and how many times I mentioned in terror postpartum depression while those around me nodded curiously and so didn't get it - still don't. Then there's the lunacy of how sick I felt just when I was supposed to be making a major life decision. How I would curl up at noon and rock myself to a queasy sleep with recordings of "everything happens for a reason" playing in my head in the voice of virtually every person I knew and want to choke on the guilt I felt for not being happy like everyone else. There was also how as my husband bounded off to work each morning and I lay crumpled, roles I realized we'd have after the baby was here too, the 21st century felt like nothing at all special and co-parenting a joke. I suppose I could also write about how my mother-in-law instructed me in her supremely simple way to "Be happy," and my own mother sent me the most misdirected letter of our relationship to date telling me to "face reality" and "stop being selfish," among other things. How could I not just rise to the occasion amidst all this joy?
My conversation with my husband about children was unfinished, and a prescription for a new pill was on its way to me, and oops, what a summer it turned out to be. Now I ponder daily my private world in relation to the larger one (not that I didn't before...). Wonder about writing, wonder about purpose, wonder if I should be answering phones for candidates with cartoon faces and sketchy voting records. Wonder who the woman is I will become. Clench my jaw hard at night in anticipation of meeting two new people - the child that I still have zero real sense of and the me that will emerge. Divide my time between trying to figure out how to get my security deposit back from the bastards at the property management company from two apartments ago and trying to figure out what the school systems are like in Italy, whether their virgin-slut dichotomy for women is a less harmful cultural climate in which to raise someone than the psychotic individualistic materialism we promote. I listen to the death toll in Iraq rise and want to throw myself on the ground and beg the Universe to send many pretzels to W or at least some common sense to the Midwest so November doesn't leave us ripe for more acts of pre-emptive heroism.
This pregnancy is a terrible, wonderful thing.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
I'm scared that the insurance will just stop. Like someone with post-traumatic stress disorder or the Depression-era kid all grown up and still saving soap shavings, the legacy of US healthcare (or lack thereof) and my personal experience with same, follow me into the present. I don't trust that we really have insurance and that it'll really keep paying for this prenatal stuff. My past, my historic lack of money, and my lack of faith in my country's social netting, color how I experience this new respite of a husband with a full-time job and benefits. It seems nearly impossible.
I catch these little thoughts floating toward the back of my brain that maybe if I just skip a test here or there, limit my doctor's visits, try not to stick out, be a quiet, well-behaved child, eat all my veggies, the gods of insurance won't notice me, will leave me be, keep paying the bills, won't visit upon me their wrath, won't wake up from their giant's nap, snap the tiny ropes we'd secured around their ankles while they were sleeping, sniff the air once and come for me, wild-eyed and hungry.
I'm simply not that far away from my past, when I looked through the couch cushions for change to take the bus to work, or when I lurched from the dentist's chair and ran from the office sobbing after they told me their "plan" for me and how much the payments would break down to.
Recently, before the pregnancy, I had a CAT scan done because blah bla bl... The doctor's office got pre-approval from the insurance company and I was free to go be injected with disgusting liquids and radiation. Soon afterward, we received a bill. As you might imagine, it wasn't a small bill. We decided the insurance payment just hadn't caught up and put it aside. Then we received another bill. My husband (or my "guarantor" as I like to call him) filled out some form and mailed it back. No worries. We'd be clear now. Then we received the third bill. And that's when I started to panic. My anxiety level made living with me unbearable until we finally got it straightened out. During my drama, my mind raced. We don't have anything - what could they repossess? The cats? I hyperventilated and chewed on my hand.
Having insurance hasn't solved the issue. Fear is imbedded in memory.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
We interrupt this pregnancy journal for a pregnancy topic reprieve. (The following story actually does relate to pregnancy et al. in at least two ways: 1) when you're pregnant, naps are crucial and leafblowers are loud; 2) if everyone is right, and all this will end in an real child, how will I explain the social structures of this world we live in to said being?)
Let me start by saying my neighbors are all very kind and very friendly. They are also all very rich and very white. Their gardeners are all very brown and equipped with leafblowers. Where should I begin...?
Am I outraged at the social and economic advantages of having light skin? Sad for this gardener out my window who, for all I know, was a sculptor or a chiropractor or a veterinarian in his home country before coming to the US to discover none of his schooling or experience count? Am I horrified by the fact that my town - although diverse - hides its minorities so well they are virtually invisible in every aspect of society until appearing in my ESL classes, and my neighborhood is one of the least diverse areas I could ever hope to live in? Am I thinking those very rich, very white, very retired neighbors should just do the bloody gardening themselves instead of spending weekends at conventions of fellow classic car collectors? Except that then the foreign-born veterinarian wouldn't have any job at all and wouldn't send home Western Union envelopes of the little money he's able to save each month so that his little brothers and sisters can eat and go to school so that the next time the US Empire decides to attack social freedom there, perhaps one of his siblings would have become the union leader or literacy specialist that will stand up and fight for the rights of the village and get international recognition but still be thrown in jail without a charge making this whole employment situation way too complicated for an idealist writer to figure out?
Sure, sure, I'm upset about those things. But what really gets me are those paradigms of noise and waste - the fucking leafblowers!
Every single morning since I've been more than a few weeks pregnant, I wake up and sneeze three times. Every morning. Three sneezes. One, two, three. They're usually the disturbingly violent kind that scare away the cats and, if god forbid I've started on my toast, send food particles in various states of decay far and wide. Naturally, I say I'm allergic to being pregnant. No one else has provided me with any other viable explanation so far. Recently, however, I've begun to think it may just be the little fetal creature waking up too. Rearing its bulbous head, tickling my insides, reminding me who's in charge.
Friday, September 03, 2004
how'd they do it? how'd they find the skinniest, tiniest little twig of a woman to staff the maternity clothes store? she's obviously never been pregnant and i'm not sure if she's made it to the other side of puberty.
yeah, okay, so, i'm down to my overalls and my goodwill paint-splattered pants that fit. unless i wanted to wear that damn black skirt every day, something had to be done. but you know i didn't go with open arms and free heart.
I deflected two "How y'all doing todays" and one "Are you looking for anything special" in tones that I hope conveyed just the right amount of "I have a compassionate understanding that you are just doing as you are told" with a couple pinches of "back the hell off, NOW, stick figure!"
It's good to know that some things never change--I was immediately drawn to the only rack in the store not on sale. While I marveled at the bosom-y smalls and cringed at the plethora of elastic waistbands, one quick shove to the right sent the display to the left and all its contents crashing to the floor. Crap. Dammit. Now, having made work for her, I'd have to be nice to the saleswoman. Son of a bitch. I tenuously picked out a couple things and asked in my sweetest, most socially acceptable voice if I could try them on. Itsy-Bitsy was more than happy to oblige.
And there it was in the dressing room. Just as Marie had warned me. The tummy pillow. Giving a whole new meaning to the term "strap-on," these are pillows you can velcro around you to see how you will (theoretically) look or fit into the clothes three more months down the line.
I ignored the tummy pillow and put on a red blouse (it goes without saying, with one of those little preggo ties in the back) and black pants (it goes without saying, with elastic waist) and peeked back out at my husband. Not bad, we decided. I questioned aloud the ability of the pants to keep stretching with me. Skinny Bitch had a solution, "Did you try it on with the pillow?" She pronounces it like it's a lymric, her words rise and fall and rise again. I raise only my eyes and glower at her - clothes crashing to the floor or not, all bets were off for this one, I have my limits. "Nooooo." I pronounced slowly. "Oh, okay," she stammers and takes one step back into a display of floral print summer dresses, their back ties dangling down like so many tentacles.
So now I have to tell you that eventually, after several more minutes and a few more outfits and unanswerable speculations, I caved and put on the damn pillow. Dress up has become a dark sport. I'm going with "not fun" as my overall evaluation of the experience.
I bought the original shirt and pants. Embolded by the pending sale and before I can find my credit card, my nemesis rolls off her valley girl tongue this stock phrase: "Do you need any stretch mark cream or belly balm today?" There are some combinations of language you hope never to hear in your lifetime. By way of response, I turned to my husband, a patient soldier, and asked "Do you need any stretch mark cream or belly balm today?" We all knew the answer to this question. Herein lies the real rub. Nature is cruel. And more shopping is, for now, out of the question.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
I'm going to make a fortune. And I didn't even have to watch an infomercial. No, I'm going to write a book that's a collection of all the quotes from friends and family -- their initial reactions when I told them I was pregnant. I'm going to publish it in smart colors, cloth cover but pocket-sized - like the "overheard at the bookstore" books, or that one with quotes from NY taxi drivers - and I'm going to send it out with stunningly attractive cardboard displays painted like marble that can be placed right at the cash register for that last-minute, impulse buy. I'm going to be rich, I tell you.
Who wouldn't want to own this stuff? --
There was Angela, who had witnessed my apparent downward spiral in health before I knew what was going on. When I told her I was pregnant, she blurted out, "Oh thank God! I thought you had leukemia!"
There was my sister, who nearly let out a high-pitched, quite uncharacteristic squeal. Then told me, "The first year is great, you'll love it." I inquired about the next 17 but never got an answer.
Eve said "wow," a lot. It went something like, "Wow, wow...wow. Wow-wow-wow. Wow. Wow...Wow-wow." etc. She'd told me once all her friends were becoming stay-at-home moms and she wanted to be one too, just without the kids.
And there were the 2,000+ variations on "everything happens for a reason." Then Anne. Anne was the only one. She sniffed here and there collecting data and then asked, "So, where do you stand on the 'everything happens for a reason' line of philosophies." Anne is smart. That's why Anne's my friend. Anne will share in my fortune. The rest of you are SOL.
the local parent education program has classes once a month on different topics and you can pay 5 bucks and go get questions answered by people in the know. i haven't been and actually it conflicts with my teaching hours so i may never go or else i'll send out my scout (i.e., my husband) and he can get all connected to his feminine side sitting around with a room full of bellies.
they've named this little series "Great Expectations." now, call me a skeptic, but I'm willing to bet the person that came up with that name, hasn't actually read Great Expectations or the like, nor have most of the rest of us bumbling parents-to-be. but nonetheless that doesn't stop us from praising ourselves as clever little bees and laying claim to 19th century writers no one wanted to go near round about the 10th grade. now, for those who skimmed the high school reading list, correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe Dickens was the one who wrote about the woman stuck in her cobwebby house with all the clocks stopped, still dressed in a yellowing wedding dress, refusing to face reality. Uh, yeah, just checking...