Back when I was about eight months pregnant, we needed the city to sign off on some of plans we had submitted for our ultra ambitious, cliched “pregnant lady in nesting mode” kitchen remodel. The planning department had been sitting on the paperwork for over a month, and we were getting frantic — any delay meant we were in danger of losing our insanely slender-margin-ed race against time to get into the house before the baby arrived.
So I put on my green maternity dress, the one that made me look extra specially pregnant…
…and I waddled down to the city offices.
Me: “Hi, I’m here to pick up our plans?”
Lady behind the desk, after typing in my information: “I’m sorry, they aren’t ready yet.”
Me: “Is there anything I can do to speed things up? We’ve been waiting over a month, and we need those plans signed before we can move into our house. Meanwhile we’re paying both the mortgage and rent, money we can’t really afford to waste, seeing as [pointing at gigantic bump] we’ve got a baby on the way…”
Lady: “We’re still waiting on a signature, and the man who needs to sign it isn’t in the office yet.”
Me, sweetly: “I can wait.”
Lady: “He won’t be here for at least an hour. Maybe two.”
Me: “That’s fine. I’ll wait.”
She shot me a nervous look as I lowered myself into a seat at the counter, closed my eyes, cupped my belly, and started practicing my breathing exercises, slowly and audibly.
A few minutes passed, then the lady placed a quiet call, her hand cupped over her mouth. Moments later a man came out from the offices in back, I’m pretty sure he was the head of the whole operation.
Honcho: “Let’s see…it’s been awhile since I’ve done this. Now where do I sign?”
And just like that, our planning woes were solved. All thanks to the mighty power of the wonder bump!
Now we’re looking down the barrel of our big final inspection, and we could really use some magic on our side. But sadly I’ve lost my baby stomach…more or less. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a prosthetic pregnancy belly?
Over the past months, we have received many a great baby-related gift — incredible hand-knit sweaters, body- and heart-warming blankets, gorgeous hand-written checks…the works. We’ve also purchased more than a few items ourselves — swings, tinctures, salves, batteries. But out of this blessed mountain of lovely and practical stuff, possibly the most valuable acquisitions we’ve received so far are the dozen or so plain old cloth diapers that (I think?) Natalie recommended we register for, and that (I think?) Erin and Adrienne actually purchased for us.
Above and beyond their intended use as a catchall for a baby’s hindmost quarters, plain old cloth diapers, it turns out, have no end of ingenious uses.
They swab up spit-up, clean up coffee spills, and protect the changing pad when the changing pad cover has already been soaked in pee yet someone (Marco! Or wait…no, that was I. Many apologies from Past Me!) forgets to replace it. They prove handily absorbent for tears shed over Anne of Green Gables, a happy rediscovery from a box of childhood books recently rescued from my parents’ attic.
They also help the baby sleep. Per Van Halen, our cradle indeed rocks. Unfortunately, rather than sooth Desmo to sleep, all that the traditional side-to-side rocking does is stimulate him into bright-eyed, bushy-tailed wakefulness. But! By wedging cloth diapers under both rockers, we have been able to totally take back the night:
Plain old cloth diapers are even powerful enough to keep the baby asleep during a deafening nail storm:
Note: As you can see, longitudinal rocking (vs. the cradle’s latitudinal rocking) as produced by his swing is for some reason fine. He is a very particular baby. We try to use the swing only sparingly, however, because my gut tells me the sleep it provides isn’t as wholesome as the zzz produced by more stationary bedding. But sometimes the swing is the only thing that works. Parenting, I’m finding, is full of last (vs. tropical) resorts.
Something about motherhood seems to be making me eat like Cookie Monster, where only about 27% of what I attempt to ingest actually makes it into my mouth. And since the baby is frequently in close proximity to these feeding frenzies, he catches the bulk of the fallout, like a passive remora collecting food around a shark’s mouth. Witness…
Food eaten by me only to be later discovered on my baby’s person:
> Macaroni and cheese, found tangled in his hair
> Black bean soup, discovered hours after lunch on his left pant leg
> Ice cream, dripped upon and then eaten off of his right arm
> One sesame seed, unearthed deep down the back of his diaper
And for his part, Desi has spit up on my back, front, and everywhere in between, sending his breastmilk back with a vehemence bordering on rudeness.
Back and forth we go, spilling and dribbling on each other in the world’s slowest, most protracted food fight.
Today was a rough day, one of those “up at 4am” brain-churn days full of frets, tears, and doubts…about my dread of leaving this teeny baby to go back to work at the end of this month, about the maybe brain-scrambling dangers of vaccinations, about the baby’s addiction to adult thumbs and violent swinging, about our ability to pay the mortgage, about the leaky roof and the upcoming rains, about burglars and raccoons and disembodied torsos…everything.
Luckily Tuesdays are the day that the ladies from my birthing class gather at a local bakery to chat and pat and coo on each other’s babies. And the fact that I had somewhere to go with all my worries sure did help a lot.
It’s a wildly varied group, our birthing class, and I don’t think we would have ever met if we all hadn’t gotten ourselves knocked up around about the same time. But unlike other random gatherings of strangers that life throws at you — traffic school, cuddle parties — the slender overlap of this group’s personal Venn diagrams, i.e., baby-having, has proved itself to be a commonality fertile enough to encourage actual friendships to grow.
And it really was such a comfort to be able to sit down today and hear that I wasn’t the only one who was feeling totally overwhelmed by the avalanche of contradicting baby books, or getting freaked out by friends with perfect-sounding babies, or catching themselves fantasizing about doing something ill-advised to their inconsolable babies…such as bounce him off the floor or toss her 600 feet into the air or gently push him deep into a magically permeable wall. See? All perfectly normal.
One of the things I’m looking forward to as a parent is the chance it gives me to bore my kid’s brains out with scintillating tales of how caveman crazy things used to be when I was little.
Like how no one had cellphones, which meant that if you were meeting a friend at the mall, you had to have your exact meeting place and time all figured out in advance, and you actually had to be there when and where you said you’d be.
Phones were tethered to the wall with long ringlet cords that got twisted over time, so you’d have to let the headset dangle periodically to unwind the cord back to normal. We still had the old fashioned finger dial, which meant you always dreaded making calls to numbers with zeroes in them because you’d have to wait five thousand years for the dial to finish its rotation and return to the starting point. And there was no Redial button, so trying to be the radio station’s Eleventh Caller was actually hard, sweaty work. There was also no answering machines or voicemail, and no call waiting — people just got busy signals. I bet you don’t even know what a busy signal is.
We didn’t have ATMs. The only way to get cash was to actually go inside the bank and get it from a bank teller, and you were always scrambling to get there before closing time, which as an absurdly early 3pm. Savings accounts came with tidy little passbooks that got stamped with each deposit and withdrawal.
We still had a black and white television, which had to be switched on a good half-hour before a show started because it took that long to warm up. Also we’d watch whatever show came on afterward, purely because changing the channel would mean having to stand up and manually turning the dial. (We didn’t have a remote!)
MTV was brand new and we’d stay up all night watching it, not letting ourselves go to sleep until a really great video came on, something totally surreal, like Pressure by Billy Joel, holy shit.
Kids didn’t sit in car seats, or wear bike helmets. And we walked ourselves to school.
I got $3.65 an hour at my job at the movie theater, where I sold tickets for just $5 ($3 for matinees). Gas was $.75 a gallon, and the Golden Gate Bridge toll was one measly dollar.
People would wave to drivers in other cars as a thank you for letting them merge.
Ziplock bags were this new invention, and only attractive, well-liked kids seemed to get them in their lunch bags. All the weird social-outcast kids in the too-short cords (here!) still had to use those baggies with the fold-over tops.
Frozen yogurt was new and weird and totally gross-sounding.
College papers were written on word processors, which had a little screen that held up to one line of text at a time, which you could actually edit before hitting Print and moving on to the next line — so much more flexible and forgiving and modern than the electric typewriters we learned on in high school typing class!
We held up lighters during slow songs.
We made mixed tapes by taping songs off the radio on our ghetto blasters.
And there was no email, or internet, or websites. Nor solemn mid-life-crisis blog posts about how quaint and strange this old world once was.
Three months ago today I was floating around the gigantic inflatable Lay Z Spa II (“an ideal way of relaxing in the afternoon or enjoying the ultimate romantic evening”) and throwing up into a plastic tupperware tub from Ikea.
I remember at one point, maybe twenty hours into labor, I completely broke down, crying pitifully on the corner of my bed, convinced I couldn’t possibly go on. It was as awful as awful can get — total Ultimate Westley-from-Princess-Bride Suffering — just the worst, most soul-splitting moment ever.
I also remember, just few hours later, stopping mid-contraction to apologize to my delivery team for my disgracefully unshaven legs. Most mundane moment ever!
I feel like I’ve been pingponging between those two extremes — small, regular-life baby moments intermingled with biblically epic moments — ever since. One minute I’m weeping over nightmarish thoughts of “What If This Baby DIED?” (I can no longer watch news stories or Law and Order episodes or Biggest Loser confessionals about babies dying, I just can’t.) The next minute I’m sitting peacefully, just watching the baby flap:
Did you know that babies can go three, four, even five days without shitting? Apparently their little bodies become so efficient at processing knockermilk that their bottom ends slow to a virtual standstill. This marked lack of productivity can be alarming for new parents (such as yours truly), but according to the baby-shit experts, it’s perfectly normal and not in any way cause for concern. However if, at day five, you can stand the suspense no longer, simply place a call to your pediatrician. As I discovered firsthand, one panicked phone call to your baby’s doctor is all it takes to make said baby’s ass explode in a fit of excellent “oh, wait…nevermind” timing.
On one hand, the shit-delay feature is pretty nice, since the pee-focused diapers that occur during the quiet before the storm are relatively scent- and mess-free. (Mess-free with the notable exception of the occasional surprise moments-between-diapers urine geyser. Ask Marco to tell you about the time he thought Desi had a piece of string stuck to his penis, a piece of string that somehow disappeared when Marco when to grab it…after a number of sleep-deprived attempts, Marco finally figured out that the string he was trying to grab was actually an elusive stream of urine. Ah, parenthood, etc.!)
On the other hand, when the day of reckoning ultimately arrives, it’s pretty spectacular. Shit Day cleanup involves a complete outfit change for both the baby and whoever was unfortunate enough to be holding him at the time of detonation. And cleaning up the baby is positively sisyphusian, with any progress you make repeatedly undermined by his shitted-up heels, which he bicycles gleefully, thereby redistributing the wealth of excrement over any areas you may have already managed to swab. It takes many, many wipes, and possibly a rinsing in the bathtub, to finish the job. Sometimes even the floor even needs to be mopped.
The whole process is usually a two-person job. Whoever’s holding the baby will yell, “It’s HAPPENING!” and the other person sprints into action.
Which is why, when Desi cut loose today — as indicated by his suddenly red, red face followed by an audible trumpeting from his hindmost quarters — rather than rush him to the changing table, I picked up the phone and called Marco.
Me: “What’s your ETA?”
Marco: “Traffic is awful…should be home in about an hour. Why?”
Me: “Do you think, if I sit here absolutely motionless, Desi’s shit-packed diaper can maintain its integrity long enough to wait for your return?”
Or maybe I should just wait until his nanny share begins in November to change him?
It takes a lot longer to get ready these days, what with having to assemble backup diapers and wipes and blankets and sunblock and in-case-of-shitstorm outfits, then snacking the baby up with some last-minute boob action, then winching the baby into his carseat. Where once I was a lithe speedboat, jetting off on a moment’s notice, now I am a bloated luxury liner that takes half a day just to change direction.
Preparing to leave town on my own for a gift of a weekend takes even more foresight and planning, plus weeks of groggy 3am milkings to lay in enough food to keep the gobble monster going in my absence.
I was worried that no single weekend could live up to the kind of expectations that involved preparation can sometimes breed, but my worries were, as usual, totally unfounded. It truly was a glorious getaway. I got my back meat massaged! And my chi yoga-ed! I wore a dress! (Turns out you don’t get to wear many dresses while breast feeding, not unless you want to hike everything up to the rafters — leaving the rest of your parts fully exposed to all eyes and elements — whenever the baby wants to initiate docking procedure.) I got to play fancy lady with a bunch of high-end skincare products! I overheated myself in the hot tub! I overate sea-salted brownies! I drank oceans of wine, and coffee, without fear of sousing or wiring the baby with tainted milk! I got to slumber-party with one of my all-time-favorite writers! And I got to lounge with a very special concentration of attractrive, life-seizing ladies, including rarely seen friends who sadly livetoofarawayforcomfort.
Unfortunately I took close to no pictures, mostly because my picture-snapper was otherwise occupied clutching goblets of wine. But also there were just so many talented photographers in our midst (see: Maggie, Zan, and Heather), my cheesy instamatic and I were totally outgunned and superfluous.
I returned home feeling renewed, reinvigorated, re-relaxed, and also lucky and mega thankful. Hugging on you from here, Broad Summit Organizers!
So…where were we? Oh right, I squeezed a baby the size and weight of a party ham from betwixt my lady parts and then the WORLD AS I KNOW IT EXPLODED into a parade of projectile baby shit and special vibrating chairs and complicated-sleep-system books frantically scanned in the wee, wee, wee hours (with infant screaming under) and also fountains of urine.
These past ten weeks have been strange indeed, chock full of contradictory feelings and sensations. We spend the bulk of our days just sitting on the couch, thrilled yet also scared and even just a tad bit bored as we gaze unto the baby, watching him lava lamp from criminally cute Professor Smile to ear-wrenching, purple-faced Enraged Tadpole. The months have whizzed by — it still seems like he was born just yesterday — yet somehow my life back at work feels like ten hundred years ago. Meanwhile I manage to feel simultaneously far too ancient (listen as my knees pop every time I lean down to pick up the 15-pound bowling ball of a baby) and entirely too immature and inexperienced to be a parent. On our first visit to the pediatrician, Desi suddenly found himself drenched in pee, and the nurse was all, “It looks like someone put his diaper on wrong….” Cut to Marco and me, whistling innocently. Nurse: “Well just wrap him in his blanket for now.” Back to Marco and me, exchanging stricken looks of “blanket? what blanket?”
There’s so much I’ve been wanting to capture here in these pages! But unfortunately I don’t seem to have the energy or time or brain matter to spare on writing. I feel like I’m constantly playing that game Concentration, the one where you puzzle plastic shapes into their appropriate holes as time tick-tick-ticks away, and if you don’t finish in time the whole game flies apart and you leap six feet into the air and then spend the rest of your life in therapy? These days I’ll get maybe two minutes into a bath or a bowl of oatmeal when The Tyrant Awakes (“Baby Alive!” yell Marco and I) and I’ll race to spoon a few more food morsels in the direction of my mouth and then — quick, quick! — it’s back to the mommy salt mines. Even when he does manage to sleep for longer than a handful minutes, the downtime is tainted with the looming spectre of his potential awakening. I always have one ear cocked for baby yells, a state of constant readiness that scores my long, house-bound days with a spicy mix of tension and intrigue and lower back pain.
As I type these words, it’s midnight and I’m nodding off and Desmo is scheduled to awake any minute, so I’m frantically trying to squeeze in a session with the freaky Metropolis-esque breastpump so hopefully the baby will have enough to eat when I scarper off to the Russian River this weekend to get myself wined and massaged at the Broad Summit. (Yay! And yet…the idea of two whole days away from the baby makes me more than a little nervous. What if Marco has a meltdown and permanently goes out for cigarettes? What if all the time on the bottle causes him to develop a fetish for rubber nipples and he refuses to breastfeed when I come back? What if I experience some sort of biological baby withdrawal and come crawling back just one hour after I get there?) And while I’d love to type to you about my near-religious experience ziplining trip through the redwoods with Maggie and how the 1.5 solid hours of adrenaline it produced sent me down a Pavlovian spiral of labor flashbacks. Or how the cat’s been celebrating the baby’s arrival by peeing in all the heating vents. Or about how there’s this book called Black on White that is nothing but page after cardboard page of black silhouettes of everyday objects. (Here’s the back-of-book description (spoiler alert!): “Black illustrations against a white background depict such objects as an elephant, butterfly, and leaf.” We call it Desmond’s Boring Boring Book…but he absolutely LOVES it. He can and will spend hours studying its spartan pages, while you cast about for some, any kind of color commentary. “See these two shapes that look like crackers? See how…round they are?”)
But all I have time to share is this one short message: To whoever programmed the Medula “Pump In Style” Breastpump to wheeze in such a way as to sound exactly like the first tentative cries of a baby slowly awakening in the next room: Thanks a lot, jerk.
On July 28, after about 30 hours of labor (twenty-eight hours contracting from zero to ten centimeters, an hour of strange floating nothingness, followed by about 45 minutes of true pushing) and lots and lots of undignified hurling (30+ times, holy moly), Marco and I are so lucky and moved and proud to announce the arrival of 9 pounds, 4 ounces and 22.25 inches of bouncing, frowning, hungry baby boy, who came preloaded with a working set of dimples, pterodactyl cry, great nose, lovely fat earlobes, and a whole mess of hair.
We spent about a quarter of the labor in the insane gigantic birthing tub, which helped with the pain (which was epic!), but because the tub was so gushy (the whole thing is inflatable), I didn’t feel like there was enough there there to hold on to, so ultimately we retired to bed for the actual delivery.
The midwives had been monitoring the baby’s heartrate throughout the labor, and by the time it came to start pushing, they were concerned by how the baby’s heart was slowing with every contraction, and they straight up told me, “This is it, you need to push and make this happen!” So I just hitched an arm behind one knee, Brazilian wax-style, and went for it. The pushing part hurt, a lot, hoo!, but not nearly as much as the contractions.
(Oh, the contractions! I’d say each and every one was more painful than the sensation of my appendix rupturing, if that gives you any idea. So, so terrible!)
At 5:18am, after about twenty monster pushes, the head was out, followed seconds later by the shoulders, stomach, legs, and feet…an unearthly slithering ba-da-da-da-da-da-da sensation that felt on my end more like I was delivering a centipede than baby…a howling, hungry baby that they rushed directly into my arms (reportedly at this point I addressed the baby as “Slippery McGee”), where it immediately started grubbing around, looking for breastfood. Because it was covered in a blanket, and because the midwives didn’t pause to check the sex before hustling the bundle to me, none of us knew the sex for about 20 minutes, which was wild. But after I successfully delivered the placenta and the midwives were satisfied with my physical okay-ness, we finally peeked under the covers, peered around the confusion of umbilical cord, and confirmed the presence of penis. Boy! Oh boy.
Desi Thomas Baroz
Born July 28
9lbs, 4oz, 22.25 inches!
It’s 3:42 in the morning and look who’s typing! [Sad, dangling-arm insomnia mime pose.]
I guess I kind of have some things on my mind?
Exhibit A: Homeownership
So we bought a house. WE BOUGHT A HOUSE! I know…so exciting! But also so, so stressful, my god, really I had no idea. The poring over listings, the touring of 100s of houses, the loan-getting, the deliberating, the bidding, the disappointing crush of getting outbid, the bidding again (and again), the negotiating, the faxing, the signing your name a thousand times, the whole “wiring your entire life savings into the void” thing (that part actually only takes a freakishly speedy five minutes — I complained to the bank teller that it should take at least three hours, just to reflect the gravity of this being probably the most gigantic transaction of my life, but no, you just sign here, sign there, and WHOOSH! My money’s gone!), the overwhelmed weeping…. Altogether, it’s like a fulltime job. A heart-wrenching, abusive job with horrible hours.
And that’s on top of the fulltime job I already have. While pregnant. And not drinking!
Had I known how much it was going to take out of me, I never, ever would have done it. But I am glad that we did. I guess? We got a good price, and a great rate, and our payments are relatively sane (for the Bay Area at least). And I really do think that if we hadn’t done it now, it never would have happened, this being the moment where all our planets — low-ish housing prices, enough savings for a down payment, gainful employment, parental aid — aligned into this one miracle opportunity.
But did I mention that the house is a fixer-upper? In the month or so since the close of escrow, we’ve upgraded the 1940s electrical system, re-piped the water-pressure-at-5%-capacity plumbing, replaced the gas-leaking deathtrap furnace with central heating, redone the sewer line, and also torn out the entire kitchen. And by “we,” I mean “Marco.”
What with me in my delicate condition, and my knowing less than zero about construction, Marco’s had to take care of everything: Lining up bids, getting permits, digging ditches, tearing down walls, putting up walls, crawling around in the crawl space, cleaning mystery feces (racoon? HUMAN?) out of the attic?!
We’ve also had a ton of help. Our friends have turned out in droves to sweat and swing hammers and measure things — it’s like a 24-7 calendar shoot over there. Rob in particular has dipped his oar in so much it makes my heart hurt with happy. And my dad! He’s been truly amazing, drawing up plans and building steps and crawling around in the horror-film crawlspace. I feel so grateful and humbled and small!
Despite all the help, things are still really and truly bananas. We’re pinching every penny, constantly examining and reexamining our budget and bank balance. And I never see Marco. He goes straight from work to the house each night, where he slaves until the wee dark hours, and he’s over there every possible working hour of every weekend.
The only time I see him is at our weekly home-birthing class. [Sound of tires screeching and records skipping and the world at large scratching its collective melon.]
Yeah. On top of all this life insanity, we’re also planning to have the baby at home. Huh?
Exhibit B: The Surprise Hippie Homebirth Plan!
I had every intention of having this baby at the hospital, I really did. As a hippie-hating Marin-reactionary, a homebirth didn’t even vaguely cross my mind. But then I accidentally saw The Business of Being Born, which brought up all these questions and half-remembered tales told by former-birth-center-receptionist and hairdresser-slash-midwife friends.
And when I brought my Qs to my OBGYN, I did not like the answers, which were brusque and dismissive and delivered with my doctor’s foot literally out the door.
So Marco and I interviewed some midwives, and really liked what they had to say. And we were impressed by how they give every question a sane, measured response, and how their appointments are at your house and they last an hour versus the 5 minutes at the OBGYN’s office. (Plus pun-lover me was ecstatic with the name of their business…ready? Wombservice!)
And WHOOSH! Suddenly we’re buying rubber sheets and a special “placenta storage” bowl.
So here’s where we are now: Ready or not, the house will become our new home on July 12, our very last day at the apartment. Our due date is on July 22, just ten scant days later.
Here’s what our kitchen looks like today.
And what I look like today: Profoundly pregnant and primed for popping, and officially 39 years of old.
Which will be done first, the house or the time bomb in the oven?
I’m sure we’ll be fine. Provided we get the kitchen and toilet and water heater and windows installed. And the walls painted. And the floors refinished. And we pass all our inspections. And the baby doesn’t come early.
Thinking about putting a baby up in there? Here is a collection of tips for you to consider, some small things that I myself have learned along this swell journey:
1. Don’t let them weigh you. Or rather, let them weigh you, but don’t let them tell you how much you weigh. You may feel a little nuts, shutting your eyes tight as you step onto that scale, and asking “Is it over?” — over and over — before you agree to step down. But the weightless calm that comes from not having that heavy number hanging around your neck is well worth the trouble. And the doctors/midwives will totally let you know you if you’re gaining too much, or too little. Meanwhile you’re free to worry about finding a pediatrician or learning self-hypnosis or getting a fireman to install your car seat or one of the other 10,000 truly terrifying things you’re supposed to be doing this week, oh boy.
2. Hunting for a house, buying a house, and renovating a house are things better done before you get pregnant, or after your child graduates from college, or maybe never ever. Your animal brain may be telling you it’s time to nest, but do no listen! Buying a house is horribly stressful and all-consuming and stressful, and it leaves you with no time to knit booties or smile beatifically or glow or do any of those happy, soft-focus things that pregnant ladies do on television and greeting cards. Just find yourself a dark closet in your apartment, line it with newspaper, and be done with it.
3. That wretchedly named Belly Butter they sell you may not actually do much to ward off stretch marks (apparently that’s all heredity?), but it makes for some fine-smelling (cocoa and lavender!) and effective hair pomade…for people with uncontrollable fuzzy troll-doll hair, at least.
4. Watermelon! Chinese chicken salad! Tangerines! Chocolate milk! S’MORES! Tums.
Many, many years ago, I formulated the Cortina Principle, which is my humble theory about how the world is packed with people who desperately want to talk to each other, they just need a ready topic to give them an excuse. Any vaguely out-of-the-ordinary accessory will do — a cute dog, an eccentric pair of shoes, a moderately rare vintage car.
And a visibly be-babied stomach? Is the mother of all conversation starters. Tidbits that strangers have shared with me since my front first exploded onto the scene include:
The restorative qualities of carrying, at all times, a backpack loaded with 15 pounds of dead weight. Supposedly this counterbalances the baby and makes your back feel fantastic? However, since walking up a scant flight of stairs currently leaves me feeling like I’ve just summited some horrible, oxygen-thin witch mountain, the idea of adding 15 pounds to the mix sounds like a recipe for non-stop weeping. So I guess my lower back will just have to suck it.
The location of the nearest public swimming pool, along with a very concerned and motherly, “It might help” — and I was actually looking pretty chipper that day.
The fact that, should my baby prove to be female, I ought not be afraid when her wee vagina fills with blood three days after delivery. (Apparently this actually happens? Yay?)
The news that the woman in front of me in line at Walgreen’s is obsessed with watching the weather report each and every morning, but no matter what they say, she always brings an umbrella, even though her daughter tells her she’s crazy, something that I, too, will be hearing first-hand soon enough.
Multiple declarations that it’s clearly going to be a girl.
Multiple declarations that it’s clearly going to be a boy.
One very unwelcome “Twins?” And thank you, sir, for making me feel extra XL…and for triggering my fears that I’ll soon be having an abnormally huge baby passing through my Personal Canal.
And finally, my all-time favorite, from the homeless man who pointed at his stomach and yelled, “Hey!”
I looked down at my stomach, and nodded encouragingly. Yes! The miracle of life! It is true!
On VH1’s 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs, which Marco and I accidentally watched almost all of recently, Dee Snider describes how his still-touring band, Twisted Sister, now looks like a bunch of old drag queens. “But luckily,” he adds, “we always looked like a bunch of old drag queens.”
About two weeks ago, my body turned some kind of baby-making corner, I think “popped” is the preferred term, and I am now officially, identifiably pregnant. Coworkers have begun to comment on my “waddle,” this being something that people, it turns out, get to say to you when you catch pregnant. And my stomachs are now also starting to get fondled. People can’t seem to help it, their hands just go right to my belly. The second they realize what they’re doing they pull away, hot potato!, and start apologizing. I guess lots of pregnant ladies hate to have their bellies fondled? Maybe, as things progress, I’ll develop an aversion to having my midsection groped, too, but for now I’m totally fine with it. (Ask me about the time in college I got very drunk and invited a boatload of people to rub my tummy “for good luck.”)
Also clothes are beginning to fit me strangely. My shirts ride way up, and dresses now strain in interesting new ways around my business in the front and party in the rear. But so far, I haven’t had to buy too many new items. I invested in a pair of crazy stretch-band maternity jeans (they don’t even have a zipper, you just pull them on!) and some longer shirts, all bought on super sale at Old Navy. I also picked up a pair of cotton stretch leggings at the very weird Pea and the Pod — they try to get you to sit down and sip water with them in there? Thoughtful Maggie also bought me some maternity tights. And that’s it!
It turns out the bulk of my wardrobe, my shirts and dresses and sweaters, still work more or less okay, despite the fact that I am now more or less huge. (I made a group of formerly pregnant friends laugh last week by declaring I’m about as large as I want to go right now.)
My secret? Is also Dee Snider’s secret: Always dress like you’re pregnant.
So it’s Valentine’s Day, a day I like to celebrate by bitching and frowning myself into a jagged bitter pill with a heart two sizes too small. As a waitress, Valentine’s night was always my least favorite shift of the year, what with the restaurant removing all the four-top tables and cramming in a million two-seaters to make room for the flood of gooey couples. Not only did that leave me with way more tables than usual to service, but the patrons I had to tend to were all of the dreaded “camper” variety, meaning they never, ever left. My time-to-leave hints — the de-crumbing of the table, the dropping of the check, the vacuuming underneath their feet — were no match for the super-strength hand-holding and eye-gazing and self-satisfied sighing. By the end of the night, I wanted to punch their faces off.
My dislike of the holiday has only intensified in the years since then. I will admit to some fun years along the way, in particular the butter-drenched artichoke party (eat your heart out!) I once hosted, an intimate gathering of close friends held on the floor of my old apartment on 17th Street. And Jill has hosted some cake-addled Valentine’s doozies in her day. But, generally speaking, I think the Day is pretty gross.
The times I’ve done the whole sturm und dance — the dressing up, the going out to a nice restaurant, the boozing and candling — always make me and my relationship feel lesser somehow. Maybe because what we’re doing and feeling is so very similar to the behaviors of the other couples wining and dining around us, which sort of negates that irrational “we’re the luckiest people in the WHOLEWORLD and the only two people who REALLYGET IT!” bliss that’s one of the great things about love? And, by extrapolation, if our coupledom is so much like all these other people’s relationships, then doesn’t that mean it’s equally vulnerable to the disappointments and statistically probable unhappy endings that plague everyone else? Really nothing quashes romance and sexy feelings like cold, black leaps of logic such as these.
Of course if Marco wants to take me out for a nice meal and get me flowers and chocolate things tomorrow, I’m more than happy to rise to the occasion with Valentinian levels of goo and swoon!
Anyway. This is all just long, vitriolic preamble to explain why I’m sitting home alone on Valentine’s Day. Marco has been sent out to drink beer and play guitar with one of his beer-drinking, guitar-playing friends, meanwhile I’m supposed to be getting caught up on some woefully-unattended-to writing projects, “Getting caught up on my writing” being Euphemism, it turns out, for “watching insane Dolly Parton videos on YouTube”:
I love this video, from the R. Kelly intro to the song she sings (one of my all-times) to the jumpsuit she’s wearing right on through to the freaky high-speed novelty ending. Viva the Dolly!
Last night, as we were sitting down to my very favorite tacos in the whole wide world (at La Taqueria on Mission at 25th, make sure to order the carne asada with cheese), I heard Marco gasp. Something about the small sitting-twisting motion of sliding onto the stool had triggered old injuries, and just like that, his back was thrown.
On the half-block walk to the car, Marco was a sad, slow-moving hunch of a thing. “Wow,” I said to him, “You went in all young and strapping, and you left an old, old man.”
Marco, in an elderly mutter: “Stupid Dorian Gray tacos.”
The combo of noir-lit Factory stars fidgeting in dreamy slow-mo with the electronic beep-booping and breathy songstering of Dean and Britta was mesmerizing, like some kind of hypnotic cool-patrol screensaver. After the thirteenth screen test, I felt like I’d been drugged and probably reprogrammed. And the 500 other well-read-looking hipster whities filing out with me after the show all looked equally zombie-fied. I’m still waiting to see what secret agenda we’ve been Manchurian Candidated to follow. Must watch Mad Men! Must convert gas-powered car to diesel! Must hilariously refer to Whole Foods as “Whole Paycheck”! Must write a blog post on my blog about how white I am! Hey.
After the show, we strapped on our paper bracelets (thanks sound man Peter by way of Liz!) and squeezed behind the velvet ropes of the standing-room-only VIP corner, where we carefully juggled plates of tasty empanadas spiced with the not-really-that-envious stares of the braceletless masses sitting pretty just feet away in some very comfy-looking chairs. The life of privilege sure makes my feet hurt.
The evidence continues to mount that I have small something living and growing inside my lady parts.
When I got the first sonogram at week eleven, I wasn’t really convinced. I watched the doctor launch the probe up inside me, and on queue the familiar grainy baby-shaped visual appeared on the monitor, just as it had on every baby-having movie or televised drama I’ve ever seen. But it still felt fake somehow, like my own personal staged lunar landing.
See? What is that? It’s like a stamp carved out of a potato by a fourth grader. That could be anyone/thing!
I was lying very still — the instinctive response to being impaled on a seeing-eye pole — so the visual was completely, suspiciously static. “Is it alive?” I asked. The doctor laughed and pointed to the middle section of the baby shape and said, “See? There’s the heart.” I squinted and craned, and finally was able to see a teeny gnat flutter that I guess could pass as the first beginnings of a human heart, but it still had a very “low budget animation” feel, like when Conan does the thing with the talking-mouth video in the cutout of a static photo of a celebrity.
There was no evidence that this was my baby, inside my uterus. They could be flashing any old sonogram up there, what would I know?
But then! A couple weeks later they sent me to some other medical facility for the genetic counseling that they recommend for all dusty-wombed women over the age of 35. After chatting for a solid hour about the horrifically high chances of the baby having a number of different life-threatening and depressing defects, it was time to decide whether we wanted to move forward with the scary CVS test, a test which can rule out with 99% certainty a whole selection of sad outcomes, but which comes with its own not-great 1-in-600 risk of miscarriage. And really, is there anything more hilarious than trying to choose between two different statistical chances of various baby deaths and horrors? Also fun: the insane 5-inch needle they use to take the test, poking it right on through the stomach.
Ultimately, based on our need to not spend the rest of the pregnancy what-if-ing ourselves into a frenzy, Marco and I decided to go ahead with the test. Before the doctor arrived, a nice nurse with a pretty Russian accent set me up for the sonogram element of the procedure, which helps the doctor get a visual on what’s getting speared with the giant needle. The nurse forewent the dildo camera and instead lubed up the outsides of my belly and took a few swirling passes at me with a nubby massager looking thing. The familiar deep-sea image popped up on the monitor, and the baby already seemed much more developed, with actual individual fingers and everything. (Possibly the passage of time? Or maybe just a fancier monitor?) But, just like last time, the baby wasn’t doing much — just lying there, looking very “generic fetus everyman.”
The nurse left to go get the doctor, leaving the sonogram wand sitting in its holster…right there within easy reach of my curiosity fingers! Furtively I grabbed it and started massaging my belly, and again the monitor filled with baby-like shapes. I sat up a bit for a better look, and I could see the mild crunch squishing the baby’s living room. And in that instant the baby … squiggled, it’s little arms fluttering like flippers on a poked tadpole. I moved and it moved! Irrefutable evidence that what I was seeing was real and inside my me! I laughed and my stomach shook and it squiggled again.
I was just starting to process that huge thought when the doctor bustled in and quick like a quick thing I returned the wand to its home and turned to face the wall, my face innocent whistling mask of nothing to see here.
And then suddenly, just seconds after finally getting that this baby was maybe real, the whole needle thing was happening and the risks we were taking truly sunk in. I was horrified, and felt like fainting and barfing all at once, renaissance-style. But it was all over in a merciful few minutes, and there the doctor was, proudly showing me the vials of fluid and humanity that he’d managed to extract, whee. Then it was a mere matter of lying terrified and motionless on the couch for 24 hours, and then waiting another excruciating week-to-ten-days for the results. All very relaxing.
I was slip-sliding away at Sundance when the test-results woman finally called and very nicely came right out and trilled “Good news!” It seems that, to the best of science’s knowledge, the baby does not have any of the unhappy things (for example Downs Syndrome) that they are able to test for at this early stage.
I was of course hugely, gigantically relieved by the news, but there was also a new undercurrent of fear. This thing really is real. Mighty real. It turns out.
I have so much to tell you! It’s been a crazy, busy 2009, and this week is even crazier and busier than ever because…I’m at the Sundance Film Festival! Seeing movies, going to panels, and generally trying very hard not to slip on any ice!
My big plan is to actually act on my resolution to write here more, but since I barely have time to sleep right now, I won’t be able to make that dream into a real boy until I get back at the end of the month.
You know those pregnant ladies who, when approached from their rear, show no indication that they are with child? That is already not me. Today, when I go to touch my ass, something I do a lot this being the Christmas season, my hand arrives at its padded destination a full second earlier than it once did, back in the golden days of two months ago. And my pants don’t fit so hot, and all my tights feel like they’re trying to kill me. Also I’m still throwing up with unhappy regularity. And still no booze! Despite last night’s long, delightful dinner with my galfriends over at Beretta, a restaurant specially known for its delicious, frothy mixed drinks, grr!
Okay, off to El Paso to meet Marco’s entire family now for the first time ever! Light a candle for me.
According to the internet, me and my dusty, wizened, 38-year-old eggs are approximately 689,295,271,239 times more likely to produce an autistic down syndrome baby with pattern baldness and a tail, as opposed to the dewy, fancy-free eggs of certain 33-or-younger someones.
Unfortunately there seems to be no data about the risks of reading depressing online statistics, though I’d wager they’re worse than smoking, boozing, and groping raw poultry combined.
Living in Pregatory Update — Stats for Week 9
Number of barf scares: 37
Number of legitimate barfing spells: 2
Number of times I’ve eyed someone’s glass of red wine longingly: 3
Number of secret naps under my desk at work: 3
Number of sleepless nights spent freaking out about the future: 3.5
So by my calculations, I should be around 7 weeks deep, which is over a month shy of Legitimately Knocked Up. And yet! I’ve already managed to pack in all kinds of clichéd (if perhaps psychosomatic) pregnant-lady behavior, including:
Feeling like barfing
No longer feeling like barfing
Worrying that no longer feeling like barfing is a sign that something terrible has happened (i.e., Dead Baby)
Smelling smells that only dogs and other animals with keen sniffers can or want to smell
Bursting into tears when the Compton Clovers managed to raise enough money to get to nationals in Bring It On
So after feeling like I was going to get my period (sore rack, tender nethers) for about three solid weeks, it finally dawned on me that maybe something else was going on here. So on Thursday, Thanksgiving, I peed on some sticks, and lo!
Marco and I are hugely terrified and a small glimmering little bit of excited too. But for two people who only just recently evolved from balancing dinner on our knees in front of the television to to buying an actual dining table, this feels like a pretty big leap.
We haven’t told any parents yet, since I don’t want to get them all charged up until we make it past the traditional 3 month point — what with me being 38 and this being my first time, it seems this is all probably still pretty touch and go, statistically speaking?
But in the meantime, we’re both sort of walking around in a daze, wondering if this really happening or not, and if we’re really ready or not. For instance the very first day we knew we were pregnant, it turns out I did at least five different terrible and wrong things that the internet has since told me are going to melt the baby, including:
Fondling uncooked poultry (in the form of a 20-pound turkey, thanks thanksgiving!)
Emptying the litterbox
Luxuriating in a a hot bath
Advil-ing it up
Coffee, coffee, coffee!
Not to mention the booze I sipped earlier in the month, back when I was young and fancy free.
I’m not so sure I’m going to be so good at this? Eek?
I’ll tell you one thing, though, the television embargo is OFF. If I’m not allowed to sip wine or beer or White Russians, then the television is going to be my only mind-numbing respite. Thanks, Top Chef, Samantha Who? and How I Met Your Mother (all of which I binged upon last night) for soothing this new adult’s churning, worrying brains!
When we went to New York a few weeks ago, we scored ourselves a housesit at a friend’s apartment in Greenwich Village, a cozy little place on the top floor of a lovely building with a strapping young elevator, yay! It wasn’t until we got there that we realized it was one of those puzzling apartments you sometimes find in San Francisco and New York, and some parts of Oregon, apartments that for some reason do not have a television? Question mark, exclamation point?
Luckily since we were New York, we were so busy with the eating of doughnuts and street nuts and dumplings and porkchops that we hardly ever had a down moment to miss said television. But every once in awhile, I’d find myself sighing wistfully over the lack of a warm, glowing box to come home to. And by the end of the trip, the wistfulness had deepened into a longing not unlike the itch amputees feel for a phantom limb.
When we got back to California, the first thing I did was race up and French lick our television, clocking five solid hours of DVRed catch-up viewing our first night back. And then the election thing happened and we all of course had our faces smashed to the television for about five days straight, watching the map turn from red to blue, watching fellow Americans frantically wave their little flags, watching the Oprah mist.
Look what my can do can did!
The next day, in an attempt to keep the Obama high flying, I programmed the DVR to record every single West Wing that ever was. Which I think was about when I truly lost my mind. Marco started working nights sometime around then, and without a witness on hand to trigger my shame reflex, I started watching four, five…eight WW episodes a night. And maybe even one or two in the morning before work. Just you know to relax?
I think that was when I slapped bottom. Watching television at night, everybody does that. But tuning in before noon, that’s when you know you’re no longer in the captain’s seat.
Which is why, last night after staggering to bed at twenty-something AM after a another marathon binge, I finally decided I was done. For 30 days, at least. One month, that’s a respectable length of time for a cleanse, right? Something to be proud of?
So that means from today until December 20, I will not be watching any television. Wow, I wonder what ever will I do with myself? Besides become horrendously self-righteous, I mean?
Do you live in Missouri? Do you know anyone who lives in Missouri? Do you suspect someone secretly lives in Missouri?
If yes, please tell yourself or your secretive friend to head over to the Missouri rosters at Project Vote (the love-child site of my big-brained, tender-hearted, and well-groomed friend Who Shall Remain Nameless) to make sure your/their name isn’t on the list of peoples who may think they’re registered to vote and yet who might not actually be registered to vote. (Due to problems, accidents, or general sinistery with applications, some people’s registration never went through!)
If you find a familiar name on the list, good news: There’s still a few hours to fix the problem! But you have to hop to it—the deadline for Missouri is the end of day today, October 8, so now’s your chance!
The other night I rewatched Lost in Translation and was struck anew with my love for Sophia’s way with the little things. This time, it was something that Scarlett said in the middle of a relationship freakout in a call home to a friend. So she’s tearfully unloading about how she’d gone to see some chanting monks and was all disturbed because the experience didn’t make her feeling anything. Then, onto her bonfire of complaints, she tosses in this tiny camel-breaking straw about how her husband has “started wearing hair products.” I just love that! It’s such a weird whatever kind of non-issue, but it’s the exact sort of small fact that would trigger a realization that the person you’re with is different than what you’d imagined or hoped or planned on.
Recently I spent some high-quality time with a friend who’s going through a not so awesome divorce, and I asked her if and when she first knew that it wasn’t going to work out between her and her husband. She told me that there was no big, horrible event or battle to blame, more it was a series of small misses and faulty communications over a long stretch of time that caused the unraveling. And that maybe if they’d stopped and nipped things in the beginning, when the issues were small and ridiculous, they’d still be together. But since they let the little things build and accumulate, they’d snowballed together into an impossible impasse.
I trotted out my favorite analogy about how long-term couples are like garden gates, where over time weather warps the wood and causes the frame and door to swell in different directions. And as the door loses the ability to swing clean, you either have to force your way through with a kick or a shoulder-shove, or make room by shaving off some wood. Otherwise the door freezes and you have to just let it go and maybe find a new way to get into the back yard. Etcetera.
Then I started ruminating on what the small schisms might be that would cause Marco and me to swell in different directions—because if we stay together as long as I hope we do, the law of averages and human nature dictate that inevitably there will be real hurdles and growing-aparts that we will have to clear.
Then my friend said, “Whatever it is, it’s probably happened already and you didn’t even notice.” I gasped, and then we laughed and laughed, because she and I both know how worrier me so loves to dig my teeth into paranoid thoughts just like that. Oh, we do have fun!
When I got home, the first thing I did when I walked in the door was corner Marco to tell him what my friend had said and then ask him what relationship-ending seed he thought might already be growing between the two of us. Marco, without even pausing for a beat: “Oh. Your worrying. Clearly.” Bam! Ha ha! Wait.