Ever since my stomach started in with its tell-tale protruding, I’ve been experiencing a heightened fear of my own mortality, clinging to handrails and avoiding open sidewalk grates wherever I go.
Maybe my balance is off, what with packing on weight in strange new places. Or maybe I just have more to live for these days?
Or maybe it’s the new “we’re all going to die!” posters that recently went up around the office:
It seems my office job is trying to kill me. (Doesn’t the “Watch Your Step” headline sound menacing?)
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.
Oh my god.
More words on: all knocked up | house-ing
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.
More words on: all knocked up | house-ing
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:
More words on: all knocked up
- 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 “Congratulations!”
- 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!
“How old,” he asked incredulously, “ARE you?”
Me, shaking my head: “Pretty old!”