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Archive for April, 2012

Yes, I Worry

It amazes me how I can be only a few months away from labor and still have no idea what to buy someone else for their baby shower. I should be familiar with “baby stuff” by now, I’ve read about 13 books on prenatal health, pregnancy, childbirth and parenting… yet I can’t think of anything to buy, other than baby wipes and children’s books. Sure, these may turn out to be satisfactory gifts, but the general feeling of unpreparedness is haunting. I find myself filtering through every day actions with thoughts of, “Could I still do this as a mother / with Charlie?” “Would this be something a ‘good parent’ would do/think/say?”… and a lot of the time I don’t have an answer.

I realize I may compare myself to other parents in an unfair way, interpreting their decisions as somehow more informed or reliable than my own, but I’m not sure why. I consider myself a competent person who is able to pick up new information quickly, but I simply have no basis for comparison to estimate what sort of parent I will be.

I was riding the train today, looked out on Dolores Park and thought, “Man, the world just hands babies over to anyone.” I could be drinking lemonade in the park today, alone, an independent and still largely care-free twenty-something, or hauling an infinitely impressionable and vulnerable life through the park three months from now. These two realities are so close together yet so qualitatively distinct, it’s hard to grasp what this impending change really means, or what it will feel like.

I fear impending moments of hostility, aggression, loneliness, resentment, failure… and that Charlie will smell this weakness on me like a bloodhound. Or worse yet, that when he becomes literate he will read this blog and think, “what person more unequipped for parenthood could there possibly have been?” I recognize how challenging it is to try and become the kind of parent a child can be proud of. I understand the desire, and how devastating the idea of failure is… but more importantly, I recognize the utter futility of worrying.

Believing in our own strength is what allows us to grow stronger. I refuse to steer myself into self-doubt or over-analysis of circumstances that have not yet presented themselves. I may not make all the right decisions right away, but these are opportunities for us to learn together… and humility is valuable for both of us.

I just wanted to acknowledge that the fear is there. Sometimes I feel it in the pit of my stomach and have to will it away with the conscious acknowledgement of its uselessness. It looms, but I believe the only mistakes in life are the things people decide to label mistakes. We have made an infinite amount or none at all, according to who you ask. The mistakes and proud moments weave themselves together to create you where you are now, so are there really any mistakes at all?

Mistakes are all progress.

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Perhaps most women don’t recognize the great opportunities inherent to pregnancy. Now I’m not talking about creating a brilliant new life, becoming a more wonderful and selfless person in the course of parenthood, or any of those cliche bullshit life-affirming experiences everybody tells you will “change you forever.” Sure, that may all happen in due time, but while you’re pregnant and as uncomfortable as you have ever been, why not take advantage of the hideousness of the situation and really embrace 9 months of personal exemption from all womanly standards of beauty, grooming and perfection. Men may wince at the idea of women “letting themselves go” during pregnancy, but let’s face it, we’re just getting fatter, less comfortable, wearing more pairs of sweats and less bras than we ever have before, so why not take advantage of this time and really maximize our care-free nature in the meantime?

I’ve been trying to grow my hair out for YEARS! It seems an impossible feat because there is inevitably that period where my bangs start to get in my eye, yet are too short to tuck behind my ear and I just look like that girl from Welcome To The Dollhouse if I attempt to just pin them all back with a bobby pin… so I feel helpless. I feel that I am driven to trim my hair so that it is manageable and thusly the cycle of short hair continues. Today, it dawned on me that I have been given the perfect opportunity to power through the awkward hair length: pregnancy. I am miles away from the majority of people whose opinion of me I value; all I ever do is work, eat and sleep, so who am I trying to impress? I already look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow woman in anything I wear, so how much more ridiculous will I look if my hair is in my eyes and I’m wearing stretchy pants instead of underwear?

This is a temporary phase, of course. The main goal is saving up money for my new life with Charlie, anyway. I’m saving money by not buying cute new dresses, make-up, going out schmoozing and getting cute haircuts. This “anti-grooming” phase is a perfect part of my master plan, which may also allow for more cute dress buying when the baby weight is coming off and I may have some semblance of my good looks shifting back into place.

I don’t have a problem admitting that I’m choosing not to conform to feminine beauty standards during pregnancy because I find it offensive that women are made to alter themselves to be considered beautiful in the first place. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me NOT wearing makeup, NOT spending large sums of money on clothing & accessories and NOT paying someone to cut my hair into some style that is considered more attractive than the way it grows naturally. I don’t understand how this is considered such a fundamental offense for women to commit, especially during such a transformative and unbalanced time. It seems natural to me to embrace all the changes as they come, and not try to mask what is going on with primping and artificial conditioning.

My cousin linked me to this site yesterday which I admit I found very romantic and captivating. It’s called TheGlow.com and it features waifish female New York designers and their children in fashion-magazine style photo spreads. The idea of these women existing, managing their high profile jobs in such a busy, competitive city while gestating, giving birth and then parenting, was blowing my mind. One of the women said she didn’t know why women fretted so much about losing their baby weight because she lost all of hers through the stress of having to meet her hectic schedule of daily meetings after she gave birth.

This lifestyle looks beautiful. They are mothers who managed to prioritize and accomplish the demands of childbirth while maintaining the success of their business lives, and look at them! They all look like cover girls while they’re doing it. But the reality of their situation seems very plastic and tainted to me, and in the photo shoots their children seem like glorified accessories to their fashion lines. I can’t imagine prioritizing fashion and my figure over the healthy weight gain inherent to pregnancy, and that glorious period of gestation not being seized as a time of education and reflection on one’s own life and goals for the future of the new family. A cluttered schedule during pregnancy just seems counter-intuitive to me.

I just finished reading Origins by Annie Murphy Paul which reviews a handful of studies regarding the experience of stress by a pregnant mother and the subsequent physiological effects experienced by their offspring. In the book, the author herself is a freelance writer bouncing around to meetings in Manhattan and attempting to make deadlines during her first and second trimesters. It’s interesting to observe what some mothers consider adaptive and others consider maladaptive behaviors during their own pregnancies. She’s doing research on the detrimental effects of stress on the fetus, yet she’s rushing to meetings and experiencing the turmoil of deadline crunches. I see that in the lives of the mothers of TheGlow.com as well. How do they manage to center themselves and their bodies while they are bending to the whims of their clientele and the superficial expectations of fashion culture? How will their children interpret their lust for beauty and success? Or their waifish frames and schedules filled with meetings and deadlines?

I see these things as unnecessary sacrifices, and I know that is a reflection of who I am, how I was raised and where I come from. I watched a documentary the other day on the formation and subsequent success of Pearl Jam and it made me so incredibly nostalgic for the casual atmosphere I was raised in in Seattle. I never felt the pressures of wearing name brands or being a size 2 in Seattle (not to say those aren’t there, but when I was growing up grunge was the trend and it was a very anti-establishment trend indeed.) I see myself as someone not at all defined by what I wear or how I look. I see myself as someone that defines herself by her ideas, her writing, and how she relates to and treats others. That is how I feel most comfortable, so I suppose seeing people who choose to define themselves by what they wear and how they look seems very foreign and off-putting to me. Beautiful people have always seemed like aliens to me. I just imagine the amount of time they invest in trying to look that beautiful and the ways in which that time, if given to me, would be better spent.

I know this blog entry is a splatter of thoughts and feelings, many of which are unrelated and pieced together by the whims of my pregnant mind, but this is an essential fragment of a shifting identity. The parts of who I am that I really want to be for that time when my child is first getting to know me, are becoming more clear with every book, blog and article I read… and every day I wake up and decide I’m not going to cut my hair, it all seems to mean something. I may not belong on TheGlow.com but that makes me happy. My child and I may not strive to be hoodlums or street-rats, but I feel alright that we may never end up at NY fashion week, because we have many other places to be.

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NEW PREGNANCY DISCOVERY: If it is a commonly celebrated hot and sunny day where most people are drinking beer and scampering about in various nubile positions, you may find the pregnant ladies at home, floundering in their bed after a desperately cold shower like a beached whale on damp sheets. The desperation is real, there is no place I can go to escape this humungous frame I have a ten month sentence to. The best I can ever do is take off all my clothes, open all the windows, kick off all the blankets and lay on thin sheets, constantly shifting my weight from one side to the other in an attempt to encourage blood flow. The most miserable idea still weighs heavy on my mind, which is that there is probably another 3-4 months of this, wherein the level of discomfort will not remain the same, it will steadily increase in what seems like a masterfully designed torture regiment promoting population control.

Sometimes I wonder if babies are not unlike chocolate chip cookies and even more delicious when a bit raw and doughy in the middle. Surely other women have had this thought around the cusp of the third trimester when the thought of any additional degree of pregnancy seems unfathomable and unconstitutional. We imagine it reasonable to request a preemptive evacuation and save everybody the time and strain of having to bear with us through our darkest days. How much more easily would our kids slip from our loins if they were half-baked and travel-sized? You’d be surprised how reasonable all of this sounds when your ligaments are stretched so far you feel as if you’re defying physics by not snapping in half like a taut piece of bubble gum. You walk around every day feeling like you’ve had thirds and fourths at some Thanksgiving Day feast you can’t remember going to. Then phrases like, “Good things come to those who wait!” just make you want to kick someone in the mouth (unless they are pregnant and then maybe you just nod begrudgingly or high-five them disingenuously.)

Yes, I know that pregnancy is ultimately a perfect design. Every challenge you face becomes another clear lesson in patience, resilience and keeping a positive tone through complaint-warranted terrain. There is a haunting feeling of already being an example to someone. Can Charlie hear me complaining in there? Does he sense he’s being regarded as some kind of physical burden? Eeek! It can’t be! Time to pretend like I prefer my legs and feet swollen, they fill my socks and shoes out in ways I never thought possible! My engorged face and limbs add a magnificent amount of buoyancy to my swims and my microscopic waddling steps get me where I’m going in a zen-like expanse of time that allows for much needed reflection and humility.

I can see why the state of California considers me disabled, I definitely feel like I deserve a sticker. I have much more sympathy for elevators and clown cars. Parts of me are aching that I have done nothing with, ever, in my life. You wonder how some women pretend like their lives haven’t changed at all and continue to cram themselves into business suits and napless grinds. I am fading into an alternate reality wherein my previous life becomes hazy and the future is equally as mysterious. There is no cure to pregnancy other than birth, which regulates itself and hasn’t returned any of my e-mails. Its answers come in a series of biological signals Cronenberg must have entrusted me to unravel in some Existenz type spirit quest.

Pregnancy is a university with a completely organic application process. I understand how pregnant women can look at each other as allies; as if they’re all initiated members of some unspoken cult only they understand the laws of. It makes more sense to me now that I have danced the dance of sensations, moods, thoughts and pains of being a home to someone… and it’s still strange to think this is just the beginning.

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23 Weeks

Charlie is getting stronger and my uterus fears him. He is kicking and squirming a lot more in there, at seemingly arbitrary times, but pretty reliably after every meal I eat. Sometimes I put my hand on my belly to see if I can feel it through my crust & mantle… but most of the kicks are inward so I can only feel some of them with my hand. His growing power, although gradual, is steady, and it’s strange that there is no foreseeable end to it, other than labor which chooses to come when it comes. Those intangible things left up to nature are both intriguing and terrifying… but something in this hormonal cocktail makes me at peace with it all, and I am more often excited than as full of anxiety as Anne Lamott.

I am very grateful for Rara and Gus, who have silently appointed themselves my part-time entertainers/chefs/caretakers. They invite me over and let me fall asleep on Aurora’s memory foam, usually after feeding me, without fear of my massive consumption. I inevitably drain a noticeable portion of Aurora’s organic milk every time I come over, and have considered giving her a monthly grocery stipend to cover my damages. She doesn’t seem to mind, so far, but I try to lug food along with me when I waddle down to her house. Gus is excited that he has TWO people who will humor his new-found interest in playing Magic The Gathering and watching Game of Thrones, both of which we refer to as “Squandarlo” because of this http://youtu.be/EiJ1or56wr0 . I have $5 that says that’s the phrase Gus will iron-onto the onesies we are making tomorrow, but if not, Aurora will. My belly is slowly becoming public property and Gus likes to give it a very optimistic rub every now and again. Rara poked it last night and said “Ooooh! It’s hard!” and I told her not to freak me out with the idea of a massively muscular baby. She said, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s gonna come out all covered in spikes with its little hands clawing like this *ridiculously terrifying gesture*” and I said “Nooooooo” a bunch of times as they continued to elaborate on this theme. All of these things are massively comforting, all of them.

The Target dressing room taught me a lesson yesterday, which is that nothing will look flattering on  me for the remainder of this pregnancy. I look like a refrigerator with fabric stretched over it, as the elastic band of my stretchy-pants divides my massive flesh-land into several unattractive sovereign nations. It is a massacre of personal pride, but I try to just go with it. Being attractive isn’t necessarily a part of the job at this point, though I retain a sub-goal of not being actively repulsive. I bought a bunch of cozy maternity dresses and more stretchy pants which still manage to reach over my bump in a very temporary sort of way. Every day they remind me that our relationship can’t last forever, yet soothe me with the reminder that I have several other Xs to expand into within their clothing line.

I keep trying to grow my hair long because I believe that is what a mother looks like. I am equally as terrified that the longer my hair gets the more handfuls of it Charlie will assault… but if I start growing it NOW maybe I can do some Ina May Pricess Leia hybrid braided bun things. Who am I kidding though? I have attempted to grow my hair out the last 2 years and it remains the shortest it has ever been. Moms can have short hair too, I guess. My mom had short hair when I was born, maybe this can become a family hair tradition.

I am still reading books voraciously. In the last week I have read Anne Lamott’s sequel to Operating Instructions, “Some Assembly Required,” am currently reading “Origins – How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives” by Annie Murphy Paul, and before those two, was piecing through “The Happiest Baby On the Block” by Harvey Karp, M.D. I am very much enjoying all of these, as they each have some unique insight to offer. If anyone else has book recommendations they think are must-reads for new parents, I am totally into it. Reading has been another huge source of comfort to me while I am away from my family and all their child-rearing wisdom. These books are great sustinence in the form of very fun distractions.

It is my goal, with this blog, to try and remain positive and not elaborate on any negative feelings I have while pregnant. The feelings are there, and I try to think through them, but I really want the blog to be something that is fun for myself and others to read back upon… so I hope that I can share with you all the joyous and hopeful moments that come along with this pregnancy and that I can choose to be a more positive person and mother. Seeing that this whole thing is a grandly formative journey for both myself and Charlie… these seem like good goals to have for the both of us.

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