Sunday, May 30, 2010

Setting a higher bar

I liked children before I had kids. During my teenage years I spent a lot of time babysitting. At family functions, I was the one often playing with the little tykes. I continued to babysit one child for several years into my twenties and was quite close to her.

So it’s surprising to me that I find myself not bonding with some of my friends’ children. Friends who I care for dearly, who I like and respect and want the best for both them and their children. But playing with or interacting with their kids feels more like a chore than a joy, something to do because I feel obligated to.

I wondered whether this was an effect of becoming a mother, if no other child could quite match the affection I have for my own. But I was able to think of several children of River’s age who I do really like and who I’m happy to spend time with, as well as have River spend time with. These kids can all be labeled sweet, as well as quite kind, generous, curious and aware. Those are characteristics I see in River, so am I more drawn to kids who resemble River’s personality? Or was I just lucky to get a child with the characteristics that I tend to bond with?

What keeps me from bonding with the others? Usually a temperament that is not warm or social. Cranky, whiny, demanding, oppositional or spoiled doesn’t help. Breaking toys or damaging property does not endear me. I’m a lot less willing to endure a spit-up or a poopy pant if it’s not from my own child, especially if I don’t have a change of clothes available.

Looking back on the kids I babysat, most, at least those I cared for regularly, were well-behaved. Did I perhaps gravitate then towards caring for children I got along with? Or have current parenting styles perhaps changed how the average kid behaves?

It does make me worry how I will handle number two if it doesn’t have a warm or social personality. Will my maternal instinct kick in and find the positives in the child’s nature, or will I also fail to bond with a child who brings stress and demands without the copious amounts of sunshine?

How do your relations with other children compare with how you relate to your own? Has the way you have related to other kids changed since you had your own? If you have children with different personalities, how have you adapted?

phone home

I called home today and River seems to be doing well. He has a habit of not speaking much on the phone. Though he listens intently, if he talks at all, it’s in a barely audible whisper. He said yes when I asked if he was having fun with his grandparents and toward the end he said “Te amo,” which may have been prompted by my mom.

My mom sounded like she was still thrilled to have him there. She told me how they had taken him to the lake, to the park, to a party, and today were either heading to the beach or to McDonalds playland, depending on the weather.

Each day, I regret that he’s not here for all the things I think he would enjoy – the spectacle of hundreds of motorcycles entering a medieval plaza today, playing with two toddlers at a 3.5 hour Spanish lunch, waving to the airplanes flying into Madrid just above us. But I’m also glad that he’s having his own type of vacation – filled with activities and adventures. He’s also creating family bonds and memories, which is important as well.

That said, I look forward to seeing him again just over a week from now.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I’ve been waiting ages to get to Spain and to buy River some quality books in Spanish. The more I waited, the better sense I had of what kind of books he needed. My biggest priority was on non-fiction – books on science, pirates, castles, the universe, how things work, bugs, emotions. I got books on all those topics and more.

I got a book about a cricket by Eric Carle that ends with the sound of a cricket. I got a book about using tools that comes with several plastic tools. I got a book with 500 questions, including one River already asks about – What is the difference between a mountain and a hill? I got a book of short bedtime stories. I got a book on the origins of things. I got a huge encyclopedia of insects and bugs. I got a book about simians, with chapters on gorillas, bonobos and others. I got a book about the arrival of a new sibling, which includes a drawing of the mother in the hospital after giving birth, breastfeeding the new baby. The upper part of her breast and part of her nipple is showing.

I am SO thrilled with the books. I didn’t even look at the prices. I had waited so long, I wouldn’t have another chance for years. This wasn’t the time to be cheap. I studied the shelves and pulled off whatever I thought could be of use. The cashier looked at me in disbelief when I brought the huge stack to the register. I asked her not to tell me the price and I didn’t look as she was ringing it up.

I couldn’t help seeing it through upon signing the credit card bill. And Mark couldn’t help exclaiming at my spending over 300 euro. Thank goodness the exchange rate has moved in our favor in recent weeks.

“I hope you don’t complain when I buy River a personal computer,” Mark said

Of course it feels extravagant to spend over $400 within a half hour. That is far outside the normal for us. We have a budget of $100/month to spend on River, aside from food, childcare and education savings. I told Mark it would be several months of River’s allowance. I’ve bought him virtually no new clothes, very few new toys, and a few new books. We try to get everything possible secondhand. But I have not been able to find quality non-fiction books in Spanish secondhand. So I just had to accept the expenditure and let it go.

The fact that we have another on the way means that the books will be used to educate and entertain at least two. I can always sell them online when we are done, or donate them to the library, which would probably appreciate the addition to the Spanish language collection.

In the meantime, I’m so excited to share this new knowledge with River, and to learn the Spanish vocabulary words associated with these new subjects. I know he’ll be excited and will appreciate them. I look forward to many hours spent together reading and enjoying them. I’m already planning the next trip in a few years, to buy another set of age-appropriate books. In the meantime, our friends, seeing how very serious I was about building River’s Spanish language library, said they could save us the airfare and buy and ship books for us. Great.

48 hours

It’s been 48 hours since I left the little one, though it hardly seems that long. I leave my computer clock set to his time, so each time I turn it on, and each time I sit down to eat, I think about where he probably is and what he is doing. Right now he’s probably at my brother’s house. I hope he received his nap. He’s probably enjoying the attention of his two older cousins, he’s probably being fed copious amounts of junk food by a doting aunt, and I believe he’s going to be brought to a party this evening.

The 2.5-year-old we are staying with here in Spain just went to bed, shortly before 11 p.m. He didn’t take a nap. Part of me wishes we had brought River. He would have had such a good time with all the children and the child-friendly activities here. On the other hand, I think he would have suffered with the lack of schedule. We walked and toured the city until 3:30 this afternoon, together with a toddler and a five-month old. The kids are largely expected to adapt to the adult’s rhythm.

In the evenings, the streets were packed with families enjoying a pre-dinner stroll. The carousel was doing a brisk business, the line was long at the ice cream shop. At 7:30 p.m., I saw many, many babies and small tots outdoors with their families, enjoying the evening. I thought about how River is usually winding down and beginning his bedtime ritual at that time.

My friend says it’s due to the long evenings. As long as it’s light out, her toddler won’t accept that it’s time for bed. Even if she darkens the room, he can hear the voices of people enjoying the outdoors, and knows they are not in bed. So the Spaniards seem to enjoy the warm daylight hours, together with their children, and just deal with whatever consequences come, including tiredness, crabbiness and opposition.

This afternoon, after walking for miles, both Mark and I took a nap before the next round. The two kids didn’t. Tough tykes in Spain.

Friday, May 28, 2010

lessons in hospitality

Enroute to Spain, I made a stop to see family. I was disappointed when I arrived at 8:30 p.m., after six hours of traveling, and there was nothing to eat. Only after much scrounging was I able to come up with a hot dog and some Jello, not the “real” food I craved.

I’ve had similar experiences visiting other family members, where I need to go grocery shopping or get take out in order to not go hungry.

Then I arrive in Spain, where my husband and I are given a loft, half of the square footage of our friends’ apartment. It’s open and filled with light. I hear birds chirping. We have a private bathroom, a place to relax, a flat screen TV. Most notably, my friend filled our personal refrigerator with drinks and put some snacks on top of it. In the bathroom, she laid out all kinds of toiletries we could need and said to help ourselves.

I did, in fact, forget my shampoo. It’s great to be able to grab a snack when hungry and not have to ask, or to find a way to go out and buy something. I’m reminded of similar hospitality I’ve been offered in many countries – the kind where the hosts think of what the guests might want or need, and do their best to accommodate.

In the U.S., on the other hand, it seems common to give guests a space, and tell them to make themselves at home. But they are often on their own in terms of feeding themselves and they may even take out the hosts in thanks for the lodging. I understand that people are tired and busy and may not want to put themselves out for guests. But that extra step makes being a guest so much more enjoyable. It makes me want to repay the favor – which makes the experience better for everyone.

We don’t have great accommodations for guests – a fold out sofa in the living room. I do try to have food on hand, I try to make at least one decent meal anytime someone is visiting and I tell people to help themselves to whatever is in the kitchen. But I recognize it’s not all that comfortable to rifle through someone else’s kitchen. I also admit that with the pressures of parenthood and work, I’m often fine with just suggesting we go out to eat.

This reminds me that I should make a bit more effort. I should have toiletries easily available and ready to use. I should have some snacks available in an easy to access place. And I should make an effort to think about what my guests would like to eat or do, and try to make that happen.


Oh, the relaxed Spain of my youth. It is coming back to me.

“You’ve come to Spain to do sports?” my friend’s mother said to me, referring to the four-day bike trip we’ve planned. “You are supposed to come here to eat and relax.”

I told her my goal was to eat as much good food as I could without gaining weight, and that the biking would allow me to eat more.

“But it’s not a problem if you gain weight,” she said. “Because you’ll return to the U.S., where except for Thanksgiving, there is no good food, and you will lose it.”

I have to agree with her on the food. After a day and a half spent in airplane travel and a stopover at a house where there was almost nothing to eat that was not processed, I’m longing for quality food made from fresh ingredients even more.

We all gathered at a table outside a bar. Our group ranged in age from one month old to grandparents. The bar tables were all full. Plenty of people strolled outside. My friend said there were less people outside than usual, because on Friday evenings people head to the villages.

Eat, drink, relax. Adults entertained the children. No one talked much about work, about obligations, about anything stressful. It was just an acceptance of and enjoyment of the moment. This seems to me like a nice place to live.

It takes a village

I’ve been in Spain less than four hours and already I can see a place that puts “it takes a village into practice.” Our friends live in an apartment complex filled with small tykes. When I asked how it was possible to have so many toddlers in one building, they said it was due to the economic crisis. “There is nothing else to do,” Jose said. Or, as his mother theorized, perhaps it’s due to the storks that are prevalent in this area. One of these massive birds flew by as we sat at a table outside of a bar.

The complex has a locked outdoor patio, with a basketball court, swings and toys. “You can just let your kids run in here. Nothing can happen since it’s enclosed and there are always so many people we know here,” said Lucia. Giant roses – pink, yellow, red and fragrant – grew from small garden patches amidst the toys. “If someone needs to go and do something, someone else will watch their child.” It’s such a simple way to help the neighbors get to know each other, to interact, to help each other out, yet it’s not something I’ve seen in the United States.

From there, we went to a bar that was literally 10 feet from the front door of the building. Both adults and children congregated there. The kids could run around and play, the adults socialized and drank, everyone enjoyed themselves.

Our hosts quickly assembled a family group. Jose, his parents and his two brothers all live within a couple of buildings of each other. The three generations see each other all the time.

In the fall, 2.5 year old Jose Jr. will start preschool. It’s five days a week, located a five-minute walk from home, and can be as long as 8-3. My friend Lucia thinks it will be possible for her to find work that will allow her to pick him up by 3. The cost - $0. Public preschools are free, and education is mandatory from the age of 4.

I told them that the program we’d like to enroll River in next year costs $9,000 for four days a week, and that that is in the mid-range where we live. The cheapest programs are around $3,000, the most expensive can exceed $30,000. “$9,000 is about what we have budgeted for our child’s entire education,” Jose said.

Of course I like having a choice of programs, but I’m still mentally trying to come to terms with that price tag, and to financially prepare for it. I also think it’s wrong that some children have access to quality programs, and others don’t. I’d rather pay a bit more in taxes and allow all children the same opportunity.

Community, family, connection, support for parents and for early education for all – those are all values that I cherish. When I see them practiced elsewhere, it makes me sad that some people in my country think making each individual struggle, and the children to pay the price, is necessarily great. They may mock what they call “socialism.” But a little care for all people, and structures that support inter-reliance go a long way in terms of creating happy, secure and protected children – and adults.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

At airport, without child

Last night I arrived in this airport with a 2.5-year-old child. I can’t say he misbehaved during the 3-hour flight. He did pretty well. But he didn’t sleep and it’s hard to keep a child entertained and seated within about one square foot of space, especially when the guy in front of him threw dirty glances every time he touched the table on the back of his seat. So I certainly had no rest and spent every minute attending to him.

We had some fun. I enjoyed his excitement at watching the airport activity upon landing, and I was proud of him for drinking 2-3 cups of liquids during the flight and holding it until we reached the bathroom in the airport. But it was tiring and I arrived exhausted.

Now I’ve left him with grandma and grandpa and am off to Europe on my own, where I will meet Mark. Initially, I missed the entertainment value River offered. If nothing else, he always keeps me amused. Then I didn’t know what to do with myself. I soon figured out how to browse the shops, looking for a birthday gift for a friend, then to snag a seat next to a man playing live on a grand piano, and have some quiet writing time with beautiful background music.

Wow, freedom. Free time. Motherhood has taught me to use it well. But sometimes, I want to do nothing more than space out and enjoy the lack of responsibility.

Breaking the news

I told the family today. I should have told them before I arrived because maybe then they would have had some food on hand for my arrival.

In the car from the airport, I asked my dad if there was any food in the house. Because growing up, there wasn’t much of it. I remember sneaking white bread with mayonnaise or processed American cheese as an after dinner snack. That was about the best thing available. We weren’t poor, we just didn’t have much in the fridge.

“Oh yes, I just went grocery shopping,” he said. Cool.

So I was doubly disappointed when we got there and my choices were something like salad dressing of my choice, a strawberry and a grape tomato. The few things they did have were either heavily processed or refined white carbohydrates – yogurt full of all kinds of additives, ice cream in the form of dots. I was so craving meat – chicken, meatloaf, something cooked. Nothing.

The best I could do was a frozen brat on a white bun. When I pulled out the ketchup, something looked wrong. I felt bad as I knew I was already being a food snob. But when I looked at the date, I saw it expired in December 2006. I pulled out the second bottle and that one had expired in 2007.

I’m never more hungry than when I visit the grandparents. When my mom wants to cook, she can make some great things. But their typical diet is filled with processed foods, chemicals, additives, and happy hour bar junk food. Yuck. My husband’s parents usually have a lot of deli meat, bagels and sometimes, ice cream, on hand. But if I want anything other than that, I’m hungry. Who would have thought that trying to return to things made with natural, more simple ingredients would so remove me from the older generation?

My mom made lemon Jell-O with canned fruit. When I asked for some, she said she’d made it for River. I said he didn’t need the sugar and the artificial ingredients.

“But it has fruit in it,” my mom said.

“Then give him some fruit.” He’ll never know he’s missing Jello. I don’t think he’s even had Jello before. I don’t mind him having a treat every so often. But I feel a lot better about it if it’s a homemade treat, made with real ingredients, rather than from a package with unpronounceable components.

So anyway, my parents, my sister-in-law and my nieces are excited and I think there will be a little more food, for the fetus’s benefit at least, when I swing by again. My niece is hoping for a girl, as am I, though I’m not expecting it.

Today River met my friend’s 11-week-old. He did well. He showed some interest, seemed concerned when he cried and gave him tickles. So I’m hopeful he’ll do OK with the arrival of a sibling. I think he’ll be beyond the age where he could be legitimately angry at having attention he needs taken away from him, and be ready instead to be a role model and then playmate. At least that’s my hope.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sushi During Pregnancy

I've been dying for some sushi. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me that it's banned (for the same reason the soft cheese and peanuts don't make a lot of sense, given that other world cultures eat them frequently, including during pregnancy). But I was holding off, not wanted to be labeled an irresponsible mother.

After reading this, I may go get me some.

(Update: I did and it was good!)

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Division of Labor

This is an interesting article, and Blue Milk summarizes it so well, I don’t have to.

Women still have a way to go in getting more leisure and less work. Though I found the finding that those with the most rigid divisions of labor have the least stress interesting. Sometimes I feel we are unusual with our hour by hour division of childcare duty and our regular negotiations over household chores. These divisions are instigated by me, because I don’t particularly see why I should spend more time than my husband on drudgery, or less time on leisure.

It doesn’t quite work, as he still seems to get more leisure time than me. Part of it is due to him prioritizing leisure (while I prioritize work), part of it is due to lower standards. But we do what we can. The fact that I have a toddler, a job, and can get regular sleep and time to myself is pretty successful in my book.
How does the division of work, childcare, leisure work in your household? Do you feel satisfied with the balance?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Developing interests

Today at the art museum, I didn’t expect River to enjoy the formal artwork. But since it was free, I took him, expecting him to last a few minutes.

To my surprise, he loved it. He wandered from room to room, commenting on the paintings, the statues, even the old pottery. He seems to be fulfilling the prophecy of the his Chinese horoscope we got for him when he was two months old, trying to seek some information on what kind of person he would be. It said he will appreciate the finer things in life and that he may become an art collector.

I find it kind of incredible at the age of 2.5 to already be able to detect interests. So far, River’s include: books, art, music, dance and nature, as well as cars, trains, dinosaurs and animals. He loves long walks, but otherwise, hasn’t shown much of a propensity toward the physical.

The things I like, like books, nature, food and long walks, will be a part of his life no matter what. But I wonder what to do about the other things. As he gets closer to where he might benefit from more targeted exposures, do I give him more opportunities in art and music because he shows an interest in those things? Or do I give him more physical opportunities because he could use some more help and because an enjoyment of sports is good for a balanced, healthy life?

What do you do? Do you target your kids activities based on what they gravitate towards, what they could use for better balance, or both?

Releasing the guilt

I’m a strong type A person, both blessed and cursed with a constant need to produce and/or contribute. So when I lose my energy and don’t feel capable of doing much other than the basics of doing my job, caring for my child and myself, and then lying on the couch and watching TV, normally this would be a rough thing for me to handle. But I’ve learned my lesson from my first pregnancy and I’ve decided to not feel guilty about this.

Instead, I’m thankful that my toddler’s reliable sleep schedule, my 80% work schedule and the division of labor with Mark allows me to nap 2-3 days a week. I’m also grateful that I’m able to enjoy a good half of the day before crashing.

This morning I took River to a fantastic event at the local art museum – with dancing, music, free pizza and samosas, free entrance to the museum and all kinds of arts and crafts projects for the kids. We saw friends there and had a blast. By the time we got home, we were both exhausted. So as I soon as I put him down, I put myself down. I slept 2.5 hours, he slept 3.5. I’m still a bit tired in the evening and I don’t have enough energy to be very productive, but so be it. At some point, this will pass. Until then, it’s what my body needs.

Another thing I might typically feel guilty about is what I’ve been eating. I haven’t given up caffeine (though I don’t think that one cup of tea and one soda per day is too excessive). I have had definite cravings and they tend toward the unhealthy and high-fat refined carbohydrates. Last pregnancy, it was French fries and Snickers. This time, I’m over the Snickers, but the French fry craving is still there. Also, I have particular cravings on different days. Sometimes I’ll scan through all the food options I can think of to try to identify the single thing I want to eat. Once it was fruited jello with Cool-Whip and I made a trip to the store just for that. Another time it was berries with cool whip. This week I had a strong craving for fried chicken and mashed potatoes, which resulted in us eating chicken every night this week and my husband driving 20 minutes to get some Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was simultaneously gross (overprocessed, unhealthy) and satisfying. During a lunchtime visit to Whole Foods, I chose potato, corn and bacon soup – a fattening, carbohydrate-laden choice I would never usually make.

Because my appetite is limited, especially in the second half of the day, I’ve maintained my pre-pregnancy weight so far. So, despite the carbs and the junk, and the lack of exercise, I’m not feeling guilty. Again, this is what my body is telling me to do.

Pregnancy is a weird thing. I really feel for those who don’t have the options to eat what their body craves or to rest when their body says they need to. I’m grateful that circumstances help make this a little easier.

Friday, May 21, 2010

tenets of unschooling

I’m not into unschooling, but I am into helping children develop their curiosities and passions, and promoting learning and exploration. So I liked this list on Marvelous Kiddo.

My favorite time spent with River is when I can take him along on things that interest me (bike rides, road trips) and help him to find things that interest him (turtles, wolves, crayon factories). I hope I can continue this when he does move on to school and life becomes more busy with routines and activities.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

airport x-ray scanners and pregnancy

Did anyone hear the recent NPR report on concerns about airport x-ray scanners – the kind where you put your arms up and it takes a full shot of your body while exposing you to up to six seconds of x-ray radiation? It’s making me not want to go through them, especially when pregnant. Nor do I want my child to go through it.

The TSA says its optional and parents can choose to not have their children go through screening. However, my sense is that choosing the pat-down is not just a matter of making a choice. It comes across to me as more of a punishment – incurring either humiliation or a significant delay with an already long line.

We’ll see how the choice works soon, because I think I prefer to avoid exposure for my unborn child and my child, if not for myself. Those who say it’s safe compare it to the radiation received through flight – which is a matter of concern. But if I’m already receiving a potentially troubling amount of radiation during my flight, do I really want any more? No.

And how do they know it’s safe without long-term studies? It takes a while for chromosomes to be damaged and for cancer to occur. These machines have just appeared. It seems hard to be assured that results are not going to appear decades later for frequent travelers.

Worrying about this also makes me want to cut back on airline travel while pregnant. But so far, I have two trips to the Midwest, one to Europe and one to Africa planned. Hopefully that will be it.
Are you concerned about these machines? Why or why not? Do you plan to go through them? If you’ve opted out, how did it go?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The cost of kids

Good post. My income is $11,500/year less than it was three years ago, before my first child.

Has your income increased, decreased, stayed the same post-kids?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The heart beats

Good news, a heart exists and is beating. It’s pretty amazing to me to imagine this tiny little organ that sustains a being the size of a lima bean or grape. Yet if all goes well, will sustain an individual through many decades of life. It’s pretty mind-boggling to me.

They did both the external and the transvaginal ultrasound. I was glad they did the transvaginal, since this early on, it provides much better information.

It didn’t look like much more than a bug. The technician referred to it as a sac. I saw a little thing off to the side and asked what it was. I believe she said it was the yolk. She said it’s attached to the baby and feeds it for now, but will disappear when the placenta develops more. It’s a lot like a chicken.

I asked if she could see any indication of gender and she said no. She said the arms and legs haven’t even developed yet. There is a head and a future body and a heart. That’s about it. She said I could find out the gender at 20 weeks, which seems ridiculously late to me. I told her they were able to tell me at 10 weeks in Bolivia.

“They were probably guessing,” she said.

“But they were right.”

“This is a top of the line machine.”

Personally, I didn’t think it was a top of the line experience. I still think my experience in Bolivia was far superior, which US medical professionals hate to hear. But I think we need to recognize that it’s not all about technology.

In Bolivia I looked at the screen together with the doctor. He told me what he was seeing as he was seeing it. I felt involved, informed, and respected.

Here, I was handed a plastic card at the counter that said my family could not come in for the ultrasound until after the diagnostic parts were done. Thanks a lot, since the main reason to bring family is to have support when something is wrong, or to share the joy of positive news together. By the time the diagnostics are done, I’ve had to absorb the good or the bad by myself.

The technician was nice enough, but she turned the screen away from me and did her work without telling me what she was doing or what she was seeing. Efficient, yes. Personal, no. I felt insignificant and not respected. She eventually showed me some images and at the very end, called in Mark. Mark got to see nothing more than an image or two on the screen.

I asked her how many weeks I was and she said she wasn’t supposed to comment on those things. In Bolivia, I was told exactly how far along I was, when I was due, and how large he predicted the baby would be at birth (and he was very accurate).

I’m glad to find out it’s alive, and am hoping it’s healthy. But I’m pretty much dreading going through another round of the U.S. maternity medical system.

Mark still doesn’t want to bond with the sac/embryo/lima bean/whatever it is until the genetic tests are done. If anything is wrong, he doesn’t want it. I would need to be sure something is wrong before getting rid of it. I think it would be a horrible decision in any case. But I think it would be slightly easier not having suffered much this time around. To suffer through weeks of nausea and then say forget it, let’s try again in another round, must be a very difficult thing to do.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The big day approaches

Tomorrow is the first sonogram, at which we’ll find out whether or not there is a heartbeat, whether or not we can become excited about a potential future child.
I was looking at a week-by-week website the other day and learned that it’s the size of a lima bean. Despite that being remarkably small, somehow it made it more human for me to be able to imagine it as a lima bean. It also said that it still has webbed hands and feet and that the elbows are just now forming. When I tried to tell Mark these things, he didn’t want to hear them. “I don’t want to become attached until I know if it’s OK,” he said. I thought it was cute that it’s even possible to become attached to a lima bean growing inside someone else.

If I was in Bolivia, I’d probably be able to find out the sex tomorrow, since they use trans-vaginal ultrasounds here. I really don’t know why they don’t do so here, given that they are more accurate and not at all painful. I’ll ask tomorrow.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Yesterday, early in week 8, I popped. My formerly fairly-flat stomach suddenly had a bit of a bulge that didn’t go away no matter how much I sucked it in. Still, I felt pretty confident no one was going to notice.

Until today, when Mark commented on how he could now tell I was showing. “I wonder how long you’ll be able to hide it from work,” he said. At the time, I was sitting on the couch, which emphasizes the bulge, and wearing a little t-shirt for a bike ride – not something I’d wear to work.

But still, now that I know I’m showing and that the initial pop is an irreversible process, I’m stressing out a bit. Another week and a half until vacation. I hope I can continue to look normal for that long. I guess it doesn’t matter too much if I start to show in Spain. But neither do I really want to return to the office in June with a protruding belly.

Last time I didn’t tell my employer until 14 weeks and no one had noticed. I’m pretty sure that won’t be the case this time.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where are the parenting advice articles I need?

Heading to central Africa while pregnant reminds me once again I’m not a particularly typical mom in America. Especially when I start to wonder things like – why aren’t there more articles available on how to deal with malaria when pregnant? What about preventing food poisoning? (been there, done that, no fun) How about a list of the best and cheapest places in the world to get pre-natal care and quality ultrasounds? (Santa Cruz, Bolivia is a good one) Or how to handle international business trips when your employer doesn’t know you are pregnant?

These are the types of questions I’m thinking about these days and I don’t have many people to turn to for advice. I’m so thankful for the internet, but even there, these types of questions require some searching. I suppose I’ll be able to offer some perspective on some of these issues soon.

A book addict

I think we officially have a book addict in our house. River used to want food immediately upon waking up. Now he wants books. First books to page through himself while on the potty. Then at least one, preferably three, books read to him before he’ll even think about breakfast.

Through the day, he’ll listen to as many books as he can get people to read to him. I’d say 20 is probably a fair average. At the last Spanish story hour, he was the only child who actually listened to all the books the librarian read.

“It’s so beautiful, how he sits and pays attention,” said one caregiver of a younger child who was running all over the room. She said she wasn’t going to bring this child any more since she didn’t pay attention. I thought, I’ve got a little nerd in the making. But I like him just the way he is.

Last night I came home tired from work and he approached me with a stack of six books. “These are books for mama,” he said, indicating that they were in Spanish (as they were).

The first one he selected was the 62-page Amelia Bedelia, in Spanish. I was initially excited as I had fond memories of Amelia Bedelia and was enthusiastic to be able to reread it. But perhaps I’ve lost my child-like sense of humor, because it seemed kind of lame this time around.

He sat through the entire 62 pages. Then wanted another one immediately afterwards. Then another. He wanted to get through the whole stack, and one of them (which I managed to avoid) was even longer than Amelia Bedelia.

I finally cut him off after three, telling him I was tired, and feeling like a lame-o mom. So he asked me to bring him over to the bookshelf and lift him up. There, he pulled a stack of flashcards off the shelf, climbed up on the table and started looking through the flashcards on his own.

It’s a child in my image, a child who loves to learn and can completely lose oneself in books. I have a lot of fond memories of intensive reading as a child and I regret that not only is time a factor in preventing that these days, but my concentration level doesn’t seem to be as high as it once was. Perhaps there were times I might have benefited from more socialization or organization activities, especially of a challenging or intellectual nature. But lacking that, books were my friends.

Mark is worried that River has an addiction. He thinks it’s extreme. It’s hard for me to see any harm in a two year old losing himself in books. He learns words, ideas, concepts and stories. What else is he supposed to be doing with his time at this age? Yes, perhaps he could use a little more physical challenges and/or socialization. We’ll be working on that in the next year or so.
But for now, he’s a book boy and it makes me happy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reconciling abortion with motherhood

A thoughtful post on bluemilk.

the process moves on, or does it?

I’m still struggling to reconcile the knowledge that I’m pregnant and the fact that I’m able to go about my daily activities with relative normalcy. Yes, I have some symptoms. My breasts are larger, I need more sleep, my appetite is reduced and I sometimes feel a slight nausea. At times I feel every cell in my body is drained of energy and I can do nothing but lie on the sofa or in bed. But fortuitously, this usually doesn’t happen until the late afternoon or evening.

Perhaps I have something attached to my uterus, which is causing the symptoms, but it has stopped growing. Or perhaps I’m just lucky this time around.

I guess I’ll find out at the sonogram on Tuesday. In the meantime, life progresses, this new life hopefully develops, and it’s really no big deal. It’s possible to almost forget I’m pregnant. I haven’t gained any weight and fit easily into all my clothes. It’s hard to imagine popping, though I did purchase a few maternity items for work so I’ll be ready when it happens.

Instead of obsessing about pregnancy, I’m instead planning for a potential trip to central Africa. Seriously? Yes, I’m still trying to process that myself. I’m admittedly a bit nervous about the tradeoffs between taking malaria medications in early pregnancy (none of the options look great) or taking the risk of trying to prevent it without medications, but knowing that getting the disease would be terrible. At the same time, it’s a good professional opportunity and I’m always excited by a foreign adventure. I know there will be a break in my world travels during the latter parts of pregnancy and breastfeeding, so I may as well travel while I can. River visited four countries as an embryo/fetus, so I guess it’s only fair to give this one an equivalent chance at free travel.

I’m pretty sure my recent trip to Africa killed my chances of being able to donate cord blood. If not, this trip will do it. That’s a disappointment.

First haircut

We were able to go a whole 29 months without ever cutting River’s hair. Admittedly, I was stretching it a bit in the final months. But really, at least until age 2, there was not enough hair to warrant a cut.

So when the time finally came, I took him to a chain that specializes in kids and hoped for a good cut. Mark was opposed and suggested we give him a buzz cut ourselves, or at the cheapest place possible. Another friend offered to cut his hair for me.

Part of me didn’t want to spend a lot of money on child haircuts, and that was part of the reason for waiting so long. But once it’s time, I figured it was worth investing in a good cut. I still recall the bad cut I received as a child when my mom took me to a training center for cosmetologists.

We’re a bit lazy when it comes to fixing River’s hair or dressing him up for standard excursions out of the house. If he has a good cut, hopefully he’ll look OK, even if we fail at maximizing his personal appearance.

So we went to the salon, where the process was done quickly. River held up very well. At times he had a questioning look, as if to say, what are these people doing to me. But I think he trusts me and that my presence there helped him to acquiesce. He seemed to enjoy seeing himself in the mirror with his new do, and really loved the lollypop and the mini toy skateboard he got at the end.

He’s my little man now. The baby has been long since left behind.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The symptoms are here

OK, so now the symptoms are more clearly here. And yes, I’m very grateful for the time I didn’t have them.

For the past few days my appetite has been low. I can function moderately well during the day. But I crash around 3, when I need a nap. After lying in bed and sleeping a bit, I might get up for a little TV or to have a bit of dinner. Then I go back to the supine position for a few more hours until it’s time for bed.

It feels as though my mind is awake and alert, but that’s about it. Every other cell has been drained of energy. My hands don’t have enough energy to want to deal with the computer or to hold a book. The best I can do is watch a bit of TV, but I usually run out of recorded shows quickly. This weekend I stared out the window and took joy in watching the trees shiver in the wind.

Luckily, Mark has been great about letting me lie around from 3 p.m. until bedtime over the weekend. I’m trying to make peace with my lack of productivity. Part of me enjoyed watching the effects of the wind and the niceness of Mark caring for River, cooking me dinner and making me hot chocolate. Another part thinks that lying there motionless, without even reading a book, is a supremely useless waste of time.

I’m trying to accept that this is just the reality, remember that it won’t last forever, and that this thing (it’s still a thing) growing instead me is currently taking up all my cellular energy. But another part of me is counting ahead. Is this going to put a damper on our upcoming trip to Spain and the four-day bike ride we have planned there? Will it be done by the end of June?

The positive side is that the increased symptoms, plus the normal hormonal blood work, make me think that perhaps things are progressing normally. In nine days I’ll find out if there is a heartbeat and then will have a more definitive answer.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Good news

The doctor called. My blood work is normal. Hormones are in the right place. Progesterone is good. He said this means that a sonogram should be able to see the baby and detect a heartbeat. So I guess it’s time to schedule a sonogram appointment. The doctor told me congratulations, which kind of brought the situation more to life. Yikes.

At the same time, after gaining weight for five days straight, I’ve now lost weight for five days straight and am back to about where I started, a little over 3 pounds over my average weight. I’m not sure what to attribute this strange pattern to. I haven’t been exercising quite as much as I’d like, largely due to being tired in the mornings and evenings. But that same fatigue results in me eating less. And I’ve been making an effort to eat smaller breakfasts and to have to have at least one salad a day.

Last pregnancy I couldn’t have touched salad at this point. All I could stomach was French fries and Snickers. This time around, I think I’m over the Snickers, due to the high fructose corn syrup. But I get unreasonably excited at the prospect of French fries. Which reassures me that I’m still pregnant.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Joy in the details

The other day, when River awoke from his nap, he was repeating over and over with great excitement, “Muchas cosas! Muchas cosas! (Many things! Many things!).” I wondered what he could be talking about, entrapped as he is in his crib.

Upon entering, I found him staring at his blankie, one I hadn’t used in quite some time. “Look mama! Muchas cosas!” he said, showing me the blanket. We looked at it and identified a diaper, a bottle, a rattle, a duck, a bear, several numbers and letters, etc.

Another day, he paused before letting me take him out of the crib because, due to the bright afternoon sunlight, he noticed the dust flying through the air.

“What’s that?”

“It’s dust.”

“There is a lot of dust,” he said, and reached out to try to catch some pieces. He was so fascinated by it, in the same way he was fascinated by the variety of objects depicted on his blanket. It brings me back to the joy of the details, to the thrill of discovery, to one of the best parts of living.

Coming to grips

As far as I can tell, I’m still pregnant. But I’m no longer feeling the lovely dovey you are my baby thoughts that I experienced momentarily upon thinking I might be pregnant. I have to admit I’m afraid of miscarriage. Part of it is my prepare-for-the-worst nature. But another part is a disbelief that I could function this normally and be pregnant. An acquaintance had an easy 8 weeks, then miscarried. Now she is pregnant again and vomiting.

So I’m viewing the end of the eighth week as a certain marker. When I had a little brown spotting and was really freaking out, I composed a letter to the embryo in my head. I told it I hoped it was developing well and would join our family late this year. But that if it was having difficulty, it was be best for both of us if it left earlier rather than later. I gave it my blessing and understanding to let go.

Hearing a heartbeat will also be a marker that things are OK, which might be possible at my sonogram appointment in the next week or two.

Until then, I’m happy to hold on to a little secret. To know that I’m somehow different, even though I appear to be the same to people. I kind of plan based upon the impacts of pregnancy and a birth, but keep in mind that perhaps it won’t happen after all.

In the meantime, I view it as a seed, a rice kernel, a conglomeration of cells. It hasn’t taken on a human form to me yet. But it has already begun the process of impacting me and changing me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The question of the surname

Very interesting post on the implications of changing a surname after marriage (or not).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Study on epidurals in Saudi Arabia

I found this interesting – a study of epidurals vs. other pain medication for Saudi women during labor found no difference in the rate of c-sections. The epidural group had more use of vacuum and forceps deliveries, but the mother’s satisfaction rating was twice as high as those who had other pain medication and their pain levels were lower.

I went to a new ob practice yesterday. The doctor I met with said that in his opinion, there are three components to labor:
1. The mother’s health
2. The baby’s health
3. The quality of the experience

For me, the experience would be better with less pain. I’m hoping the second time around will be less painful. So far, the pregnancy is already substantially less painful than the first time around.

To get a doula or not the second time around?

Having continuous support during labor makes the process go faster. I’ve been wavering on whether or not to invest in a doula for the second time around. Though I admit that having someone there I know is on my side is a huge benefit, even if I have a better idea of what to expect compared to the first time.

A friend of mine says that at her hospital (in North Carolina) they have volunteer doulas available on-call at the hospital, available to everyone. My concern would be not getting to know the doula ahead of time, making it a matter of chance just like a nurse or a doctor. But at least it’s an interested and hopefully caring party available to all, willing to be at the mother’s side for as long as she needs. I do think that should be available to all.

Any thoughts – is a doula worth the investment the second time around, especially if I plan to go for pain relief (epidural) on the early side?