Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I Probably Think This Post is About Me

I wasn't going to write about this. Because it's stupid. Because I knew what I was getting myself into. Pregnancy plays all kinds of mischief with the body, and I was totally prepared to accept it, and perhaps even enjoy it. Sure, the changes aren't fun necessarily, but in becoming a human condominium (an "incubatrix," as my husband puts it) I would also become a walking Science Fair project on human growth and development. And that's pretty cool, right?

Yeah. I just wish I looked prettier.

Recent developments might lead a person to believe that I'm feeling pretty good about my pregnant self. For the most part, I am--in an abstract sort of way. I'm growing a human being, I remind myself. So what if my areolae are the size of salad plates? Pregnancy is no time for vanity.

Except that I was prepared for the breast changes. I was prepared for lots of things. My mother warned me about growing a monster bush. Not that she used the phrase "monster bush." My mother is an elegant lady in her fifties, and would never utter the phrase "monster bush" unless she were retelling Where the Wild Things Are as political satire.

Fortunately, I don't think I could grow a monster bush if I wanted to. Really. (Shut up!)

No Monster Bush here!

I have, however, grown two bellies: one above my waist, and one below. It's true: I'm in my third trimester, and I still have a waist. Sort of. It's now 9 inches bigger than it was before I got pregnant, but there's still a noticeable recess in my midsection.

No one warned me that this was a possibility. Pregnant women grow pregnant-woman bellies. Or so I thought. Thank heaven for bloggers! Jen at Fertility Now wrote about the bellies way back in December...of 2005. I can't believe that no one has discussed the phenomenon since then, but Jen's description sums up my appearance perfectly:

Viewed from the side, there is a distinct indentation between the bulge going from my ribcage to my belly button, and the other bulge protruding up from my abdomen. If you filled in the indentation, there would be one recognizable belly, and perhaps I would [look] less lumpy, and more pregnant. As it stands, however, the two distinct bellies give me a slightly overfed look--like a double chin, in belly form.
When I got pregnant, I was just starting to feel okay about my appearance. Not "good," but there were times when I'd accidentally catch a glimpse of myself in store window and think, "pretty hot." After years of being overweight (sometimes grossly so), I was getting used to the idea that I could now fit into a clothing size that most stores were likely to stock. And I was so ready to watch my belly expand from more-or-less flat, post-weight-loss mushiness into a firm, round pregnancy basketball watermelon.

No such luck. The only times that I look truly, unmistakably pregnant are when I do the obnoxious celebrity "pregnancy pose," and first thing in the morning...when I'm stark naked. From most angles in most outfits, I still look more fat than anything else. Maternity clothes don't help much with this. Maternity pants, in fact, make it worse, giving me a sort of "pregnancy muffin top." Very attractive. And when I sit down? Any "baby" quality my midsection may have had disappears, and is replaced by a series of suspiciously fat-like rolls. And it makes me want to cry a little.

I hate feeling this way about my appearance. I don't want to be so vain. I know that my self-consciousness over my pregnant shape (such as it is) is just a by-product of the same oppressive nonsense that tells women that if we're vain enough--to the point of possessing the right clothes, the right hair, the right body--we'll be rewarded with true happiness. More importantly, I realize that I'm incredibly lucky that my pregnancy worries can even stoop to include vanity. I'm healthy, and very thankful to be so.

And yet, when I see a woman rocking a little basketball-sized pregnant belly (neatly accessorized with a perfect outie bellybutton) like it was this season's must-have fashion item, I think, Why not me?

Perhaps, since pregnancy hasn't knocked the vanity clean out of me, motherhood will.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Good luck with that, dude!

So I'm standing on a corner in downtown Seattle, waiting for the light to change when:

"Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"

I look over. A 30-something sk8erboiman with a neck tattoo and a soul patch is eyeing my belly.

"Uh, we don't know yet," I say, too startled to rattle off my standard "I'm pretty sure it's one or the other."

Sk8erfellow gets a stoned dreamy look on his face. "Wow," he says. "I've wanted to be a father since I was like...eight."

The light turns green and he takes off on his skateboard before I have a chance to say anything. Of course, what do you say to that?


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Where do baby names come from?

Rob's parents "just knew" that he was going to be a boy and named him after his grandfathers, both of whom are Roberts. My parents gave me the one girl's name they could agree on. In fact, the more people I talk to about names, the more I hear that no one had any problems in the name department. These people are either very lucky, or lying. They have to be. Because if this is how the naming thing is done, Rob and I are screwed.

Specifically, we're screwed on the boy's names front. We have a couple of girl's names that we like (and we're not sharing, much to the frustration of our friends and families). But boy's names? Nothing. It's becoming a problem. Everything that Rob suggests just sounds wrong to me. For whatever reason, even names that I like the sound of don't sound like names I'd give my son. And unfortunately, the one boy's name I truly love has been flat-out rejected by my husband:


I frickin' love this name. I love the way it looks and the way it sounds, I love the stone, I love that it's unusual but not made up...but my husband hates it, and thinks we are way too Caucasian to name a baby Jasper. I don't know what he's talking about. While we definitely couldn't use the other boy's name that I completely adore (try to imagine a blond-haired, blue-eyed, English-speaking child named Carlos), Jasper is a stuffy old British man's name (another reason I like it, actually). But Rob has put his foot down on this one. Rob, who spent the better part of my first two trimesters suggesting we name our son Jefferson Starship. You see what I have to work with, here.

So we continue our negotiations on the issue. Since everything sounds wrong to me at this point, I have come up with some naming criteria to help keep me afloat in the sea of options:

1) Nothing too common.
This was never a problem for me, growing up. In my twenty-four years on the planet, I think I've met three other Noelles. Rob, on the other hand, was blessed with a name that has been in the Top 50 for over 100 years. A gathering of his friends and acquaintances sometimes sounds like a gym class, with all of the Robs being called by their last names.

2) Family names are right out.
Nothing against our families, here. We just don't have many options. Our grandfathers are Robert, Robert, Robert and Manfred. (Or Bob, Bob, Bob and Pete, as they would have it.) My brother has already claimed the one family name I that I might consider for his own future son: Axel. How great is that?

3) It has to sound good with our last name.
This should be a no-brainer, but it's becoming a bigger challenge than we thought it would be. Our last name rhymes with "pirate." Really. This means that most names with long "i" sounds in them don't work. Holy assonance, Batman! We can never have a son named Elijah, Ivan, or Silas. (On the girl's name front, Rob was a little heartbroken when he realized that Violet would never work, as it practically rhymes with our last name. I quickly gave up on the idea of having an Iris.)

4) No "-ayden" names.
The Aiden/Jayden/Brayden thing is getting out of hand.

5) Nothing with an unfortunate nickname.
Again, this has never been an issue for me, though I do get lots of teasing around Christmas, especially from idiots who think they're the first people ever to ask me if I'm "the first Noelle" har-har-har. My brother only recently discovered "Noellzeebub," which I think is awesomely clever. Of course, I realize that children are cruel, cruel creatures, and even the macho-est of macho names won't keep my son from being teased. That's not the point. This criterion is much more for my benefit than his. The biggest problem I have with Jefferson? I'd end up being "Jeff's mom." No.

Strangely, everyone seems to think the baby is girl. Maybe this boy's name thing will never be an issue. But I know that if I decide that my parents, my girlfriends, my co-workers, the cashier at Macy's, and all of the old wives' tales are correct and the baby is a girl, Rob and I will abandon the boy's name project completely...until we're face-to-face with a squalling, nameless Baby Boy Pirate.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

12 Weeks

I am in the home stretch. About 12 weeks of pregnancy left to go, and somehow, it still doesn't feel real.

It seems like just recently that I was looking at the calendar, counting backwards and confirming that I was 12 weeks pregnant. Sighing a little we-made-it-through-the-first-12-weeks sigh of relief. Getting ready to share the news with my boss, and being angry at Rob's mother for telling his family before he had the chance to.

On Mother's Day, Rob nudged me to go forward and stand among the throng of women who had filed up to the altar at Mass to receive a flower and a blessing. "Congratulations," Father said, smiling and handing me a white carnation.

It seems like I just found out I was pregnant and started this ridiculousness of measuring time in weeks. But Mother's Day was an eternity ago. I have been pregnant forever. I will be pregnant for the next 30 years. There's not really going to be a baby, is there?

Twelve weeks. It's entirely possible that twelve weeks from today I will be holding a tiny person in my arms. A tiny person who is currently kicking the ribcage. How did you get all the way up there, baby? And yet, it doesn't feel real. All of the signs are there, and intellectually I know that there's going to be a baby, but emotionally? I don't really believe it. It doesn't seem possible.

I wonder if it will start to seem more real 12 weeks from now. Or 12 weeks from 12 weeks from now, when I have to go back to work. Will I spend all of my time at home after the birth just looking up at Rob or my dad with a furrowed brow, marveling, "There's really a baby"? Will I have some "mom moment" between now and then that will solidify it for me?

With 12 weeks to go, I can't believe that I don't believe it yet.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Still Life with Depression

My world has become very quiet lately, and my writing self has been especially effected. It's not as though there is a lack of noteworthy activity in my life: after wearing glasses for most of his life, Rob had laser surgery to correct his vision; my father is single-handedly transforming a cement basement into a warm, welcoming two-bedroom apartment (where his first grandchild will probably be born); my brother is moving to Maryland for at least a year...and then to New York...and then...

And yet I feel silent, and listless. Empty most of the day, every day.

I know exactly what this is, and have been approaching it with a sort of cool detachment. "Ah yes," I think. "Depression." I wear my past experience with it like a suit of armor against this familiar monster. I know what you are, and I won't let you hurt me again.

For months, I maintained that I was simply experiencing the low, non-glowy side of pregnancy. The extreme irritability, trouble sleeping, never-ending fatigue and desire to eat only refined carbohydrates all seemed like common enough pregnancy complaints that I dismissed them as such. But I know better.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression and perscribed medication at sixteen. Five years later, I weaned myself off of the medication, because I didn't want pills to be the long-term solution to my problem. But the pills helped. They helped a lot. Not taking them means I have to be more involved in managing my mood. I have to eat well, sleep well, exercise regularly, and--if nothing else--remind myself that my feelings of worthlessness have more to do with my brain chemistry than my personhood. Of course, pregnancy throws a monkey wrench into the mental machinery.

Depression during prenancy ushers in doubt. Because somehow, it seems so acceptable to judge our aptitude for mothering on our level of happiness during pregnancy. I feel guilty for not basking in the miraculousness of my own body and its ability to create another human being. My mother loooovved being pregnant, and I fully expected to love it, too. But I feel sad and empty, and not at all Earth-Mother-like. And frankly, I feel cheated. I feel cheated out of what my culture maintains is supposed to be beautiful, joy-filled, life-affirming experience. And because I can't be happily glowing, I find myself face-to-face with doubt in its worst form: If I can't even enjoy pregnancy, I will never enjoy being a mother.

And it sucks. Depression sucks, and depression during pregnancy really sucks. It's lonely and painful, and no matter how many times you tell your rational, intellectual self that this is just a feeling, your emotional self does. not. care. But that doesn't make the emotional self right.

I know what you are, and I won't let you hurt me again.

Not loving every minute of pregnancy has nothing to do with how much I'll love my child. Being a depressed pregnant woman doesn't mean I'll be a bad mother; it just means that I'm a depressed pregnant woman. That's life. And for now, that will have to be okay.