Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Amendment Re: World's Finest Baby

Notice: I erred in my previous statement re: Arlo Lutzenberger being the sole finest baby in the land. Please strike that statement and amend it to include the other finest baby in the land, one Madeleine Brouillard of the glorious and currently chilly state of Washington, beloved and cherubic rosy-cheeked child of my favorite cousin Liza Ragan and my favorite eventual-cousin-in-law Robert Brouillard. Madeleine's current favorite activity, according to her Grandma, one Nancy Murray of Faixfax, CA, winner of the gold medal in Grandmothering (previously held by one Mary E. Murray of Pleasant Hill, CA; soon to be contested by one Barbara Jean Schatz of San Jose, CA) is hiding behind a couch and then jumping up to gleefully surprise people. Miss Madeleine is also an excellent eater and sleeper, and has an adorable habit of resting her clasped hands on her belly in quiet contemplation.

Please allow this amendment to clear uo any misunderstandings regarding the finest baby(ies) in the land.

Note: All bets are off once my baby is born.

Monday, January 26, 2009

On Being Pregnant and Calm

For many of my dear, dear friends, I am the first to be on the baby-having train (who woulda thunk it, huh?!). Thus, many of them are understandably incredibly curious about how this whole pregnancy thing works. What happens to your body? What does it feel like? One thing that strikes me about being a woman is how little we tend to actually know about this insane and amazing thing that can happen to us. Sure, we know the Hollywood version of pregnancy (puke, eat, get fat, water breaks, rush to hospital, scream, grunt, doctor, birth, yay), but unless we've witnessed the pregnancies and births of friends or family members, we actually know very little about the mysterious phenomenon, no matter how righteous and conscious and aware we are about our bodies and vaginas and cycles and selves. I know that I was amazed and awed to witness the pregnancy of my friend Jenn and the birth of her son Arlo, the world's finest baby; I learned so much from Jenn, from the birth class that we took together, from the doctor visits, from her 4-day-long early labor, and from that incredible day when he finally decided to emerge. Right before my eyes.

I've always been a big fan of knowing a lot about women's health. I'm a go-to person when it comes to advice on UTIs, yeast infections, and all that jazz. I like learning about and understanding the potential miracles and miseries inherent in our systems, and I like informing others about it all too. (I once abandoned my lesson plan when I was teaching Women's Studies upon realizing that my class had little to no knowledge of female anatomy. I had them all draw the female reproductive system; then I drew it on the board and asked them to label parts. It was amazing how little they knew, and how excited (albeit initially shy) they were to learn.) So know that I know some things about pregnancy (at least, the first 19 weeks of it) I will share.

Of course, one of the reasons that we tend to not know much about how it all goes down may be that it's so incredibly different for every woman. It's strange: pregnancy is this totally universal, yet utterly personal and subjective experience. There's an incredibly strong sense of connection to other pregnant women and mothers, but also a kind of protective, "this is my unique experience" thing too. Similarly, there's great relief in learning that the pain or sensation or thing that you're feeling is normal and shared by other women, but many of the pregnancy books annoy me with their didactic accounts of what you are and are not experiencing. All of this is to say that in sharing my experience with pregnancy to date, I recognize that it is completely my own, and no better or worse or more magical or pure or easy or hard than any other woman. It is true that, thus far, my pregnancy has been easy and delightful. I know that this could change at any moment, any day, and I know that all kinds of unforeseen circumstances and occurrences and sensations await. I am incredibly lucky to have many things in place that enable a great pregnancy experience (family, friends, partner, love, time, enough money, dog, cats, home, health, etc) and I am so grateful for these privileges, and for the up-to-this-point ease of my experience. I say all of this because it's important for me to be conscious of the singularity of my situation as I relate it to other women, and to not seem braggy or cocky or naive. (I also don't want to tempt the Evil Eye that Brooke has warned me about. Can I tie a red string around a blog?)


Of all the physical and emotional things I've felt thus far in my pregnancy, the most intense and notable thing (aside from really sore boobs) is an incredible and fairly unprecedented sense of calm. I do believe that America has made pregnancy into a fear-based experience and industry (that's another post, entirely), and even that crappy stalwart What To Expect When You're Expecting devotes the vast majority of its pages to cataloging every possible thing that might go wrong and feel bad during your pregnancy. Don't get me wrong---pregnancy is fucking scary, and childbirth is ohmigod scary! But it doesn't have to be as nerve-wracking and terrifying as the books and medical estblishment might like us to believe. So I am especially grateful for this calm. Not that I'm usually an anxious mess (only sometimes), but ever since I found out, I've been very relaxed about these epic life changes, about my body, about my health and the baby's health, about my relationship, about the future, about birth—most everything. (Granted, the positive preg test came right before Obama's victory, so there's definitely been a good vibe hanging over everything, but this is sometime quite deep and wonderful and hard to explain.) I tend to be a worrier about health in general (last year I went through a pretty health-anxious phase during which I was gut-wrenchingly and irrationally convinced that a tiny swollen lymph node on my neck was deadly lymphoma) and am a total moron sucker for looking up symptoms on the internet and then convincing myself that I'm dying. But during this, the most unknown and unfamiliar experience ever, where I am actually growing a tiny person that I cannot see, I have just felt weirdly not-worried.

Part of our cultural anxiety around pregnancy has to do with the whole process of trying to avoid getting knocked up when you don't want to/aren't ready/can't do it. I definitely didn't know I was 'ready' until I was actually pregnant. Like most women, I've had my share of pregnancy scares and late periods; even after Jason and I were well established and committed and agreed upon the future having of children, I still breathed a massive sigh of relief when my period came. He often made it clear that he was ready to have a baby yesterday; I often hedged and demurred and said "Yes, in the future, but not quite now." But in the weeks following our wedding, when I started to suspect that I was pregnant---unusually sore boobs a few weeks before my period was due, a general weird bloating feeling, one brief instance of spotting ('implantation bleeding' said the internet), and then the tell-tale absent period---I felt totally calm. I even stopped hoping to find my period everytime I went pee, and started feeling relieved when there was no blood. When the two blue lines did appear on the preg test stick, yes, my heart totally pounded and I was stunned and shocked and Jason and I stared at each other in disbelief---and when that initial moment of stunning realization was past, I just felt incredibly calm and happy.

Not that there haven't been---and aren't still---moments of major or minor worry and concern. It's just that this thing happens where, at the point during the worrying where I would previously spin off into anxious worry freak-out-obsession, I now somehow just come back to a rational place, and feel ok. I think I have a strong sense of how little control I have over this process: I eat well, think positive, get enough rest, exercise, and avoid dangerous activities, foods, and drugs. Apart from that, there's really not much I can do to ensure that this all turns out ok; that is at once scary and very comforting. A close friend suffered a miscarriage right before I found out I was pregnant, and that possibility was definitely with me for the first trimester; I sometimes felt freaked out about it, but again, I knew there was nothing I could do. Currently, I'm waiting to feel this thing move. I'm 19 weeks pregnant today, and most women tend to feel it between 16 and 22 weeks. So I'm fine, right in the normal range, and many women apparently don't know that they're feeling it for some time anyway, because the movements are very faint at first. So this concern is with me a little, but I don't feel that worried. I'm looking forward to Wednesday, when we meet with our midwife for the first prenatal visit. We get to listen for he heartbeat, which is my favorite thing.

In writing this, I'm realizing that I have a helluva lot to say about all this. Probably best to break it up into sections, no? Maybe the next post will be about how, aside from this calmness, which is quite mild and not at all an actual sensation, I don't feel much. I don't feel pregnant, really. I mean, my belly feels bigger, but it's still so abstract...Next week is our ultrasound, and we'll hopefully find out what it is and see how freaking big it is. That, combined with this impending feeling-it-move business, will perhaps move this from the realm of the abstract to the realm of The Real.



Friday, January 23, 2009

It Is Ok For Me To Do Nothing But Read, Eat, Write, and Nap Today

The post title is an affirmation of sorts. I'm tired. I've been traveling. I can't spell traveling. We went to the inauguration. It was amazing. I don't feel like writing about it right now, nor do I feel like doing any of the other many things I could/should do. What I want to do is lay down and get in touch with my baby. Say hi, sing it a song. See if I can feel it move. I haven't felt it move yet, and though I'm in the normal range for not-having-felt-baby-move-yet, I'm still starting to have anxiety dreams about it. My big thing to do today was to meet with Amrit, the midwife, but she rescheduled because she's spent her past 50 hours at a birth. A 50-hour birth. Times like this I manage to realize I will soon be doing this too.

So I am going to make a kale salad, set up some snacks, grab a book (and, yes, the remote) and get on the couch. Guilt-free. I am growing a person. So there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Now Featuring Stuff About Pregnancy and Baby-Having!

Over the past 4 months I have turned 30, gotten married, gotten pregnant, and watched Barack Obama get elected. I also finished teaching for an unspecified amount of time, went to Hawaii for a belated honeymoon, spent epic quality time with my dear friend Rachel, set intentions for 2009, and decided to seriously investigate having a home birth. Holy f**king sh*t (see, look, already becoming a mom! Less swearing in '09!), batman! Life is changing in awesome and miraculous ways and I do want to document it. I am learning so much about pregnancy and birth everyday and am kind of roiling with thoughts about it all---being pregnant, getting pregnant (well, that part was pretty freakin simple), what to do, what not to do, what to ignore (most books), what to pay attention to (your instincts!). I am by no remote means an expert on any of us, and I don't believe that anyone really is. It's such a personal, yet public experience, completely individual yet totally universal.

Rather than start a pregnancy blog with a dorky name, I figured I'd just carry on here...cuz Experimental Soup Making is just a metaphor anyway. For the experiments I/we carry out daily, the recipe-less living, the trusting your sense of how much salt goes in, how much onion, lots of garlic, yum. The best soups I've ever made have been almost entirely made-up; maybe inspired by a recipe, but primarily made from the gut (and the nose and the palate) and from experience, trial and error. Which is not to say that I'm bumbling my way through pregnancy, and there's not too much room for error here. But it all just feels like an incredible experiment that I get to participate in everyday: the experiment of love and partnership, of creating a new being, of thinking about how to be a parent (helllooo, trial and error!), of observing and enjoying my everyday-a-little-new-body.

Anyway. I am, as usual, rife with opinions and thoughts. Stay tuned.