Sunday, August 31, 2008

The First Nine Months

The last year and a half has been a crazy, scary, joyful journey. Westley has been part of my life for eighteen months and it’s hard to believe he wasn't always here. My little man-person will be nine months old tomorrow, and it feels like such a milestone. He looks more and more like a little boy every day, moving out of babyhood as he works to eat, talk, and move on his own. He has been outside my body as long as he was inside it. I'm looking back and looking forward at the same time.

Six Weeks Pregnant

I leave my seat at the front desk to call the midwives' office from the small, windowless Interview Room. My hands are shaking as I talk to the woman at the office's answering service.

"How far along are you?" she asks.

"Uh, about...five and a half weeks," I say, suddenly self-conscious about having to think in Pregnancy Math, which is not like Regular Math.

Silence on the other end of the phone. I stared down at the scrap of paper I'd brought in with me. I'd written my own phone number at the top, because I always forget it when asked by someone I can't see.

Her voice came back suddenly. "Birth date?"

"I'm due November twenty-eighth, oh-seven." A number from an online generator, memorized since the afternoon the two purple lines appeared on the pee-stick.

"No, your birthday."

"Oh," I should have written that down on the scrap paper, too.

Three Months Pregnant

We have dinner with Rob's parents at the vegan pizzeria and tell them, and his mother promptly tells everyone. I'm so angry at her, and angry at Rob for not also being angry with her. She shared news that was not hers to share, and deprived him the opportunity to introduce his unborn child to the family personally! I'd imagined Rob calling his grandfather in Alaska and receiving congratulations and old-fashioned-sounding advice, whatever the baby-having equivalent of "don’t go to bed angry" is.

After saying good-bye to my in-laws that evening, I throw up. I’d been feeling sick almost constantly for weeks and in a crazy way, it's rewarding to finally have my nausea validated.

Now everything makes me feel like vomiting. Thoughts of feeding my fetus salads and whole grains and fresh things disintegrate. I get on food-jags and eat basically one thing for a week or so, until it starts to repulse me completely, and then I find something new: tomato-and-Vegenaise sandwiches, hard pretzels and lemonade, plain bagels with Tofutti cream cheese, bean burritos (from Taco Bell), soy yogurt and soy pudding, veggie burgers and fries, pounds and pounds of melon...

Four Months Pregnant

I thought I would feel pregnanter by now.

Five Months Pregnant

What is my body doing, anyway? Incubating a tiny human being. How did I get here? Being twenty-four, reasonably healthy and having lots of sex, for starters. Oh. Right.

Rob measures years in Christmases. If someone is in prison for ten years, he thinks, that's ten Christmases. When I think about Christmas, it sinks in that there will be a tiny, newborn human being in my house, and I begin to feel my future shifting. It's like the way I felt after getting married. The wedding is supposed to be The Day, and it's built up as a Happily-Ever-After with no mention of the enormous journey that follows. A couple's future as parents is similarly misshapen. So often the idea is about having children, not having a child. But that little heartbeat, that thwump-thwump-thwump underwater rave coming through the doppler, belongs to a little individual. A single new person who will make Rob a father, and me a mother.

Rob puts his hand on my belly just in time to feel three strong kicks from something round and firm, like there's a hard-boiled egg pushing on me. This is not a future-tense family. We have a child.


I'm hoisting my carry-on suitcase into the overhead bin when the woman behind me says, "Here, let me help you. I remember what that was like." I'm almost six months pregnant and it’s the first time a stranger has noticed and said anything to me. I feel sort of elated, and the baby kicks for most of the long flight.

My college girlfriends, whom I'm visiting for five days, are pissed as hell that I didn't tell them right away. We make up almost immediately, and they determine that since there are five of us and three beds, the expectant mother should get the bed by herself. They make sure I have rice milk for my cereal, and Sarah tries to listen to the baby with her stethoscope. Choosing names quickly turns from the classic and plausible to the ridiculous.

They don't care that I got pregnant kind of on purpose but mostly by accident. They like to think that I was trying, because "trying" sounds so official and grown-up. I guess I'm the grown-up in the group now.

Seven Months Pregnant

Unless I'm naked or wearing something with an empire waist, I still don't really look pregnant, and it makes me want to cry. I have belly fat rolls instead of a baby belly. I wasted too many years being fat, and worked very hard to lose weight before I got pregnant, and now, instead of looking cure and pregnant, I just look fat again.

It's fucking unfair.

Eight and a Half Months Pregnant

People at work keep asking if I'm ready. The question makes it sound like there's a disaster coming and I should be stocking up on canned goods and bottled water. Ready. The word alone suddenly has me feeling certain there's something I haven't thought of. Something pivotal. Of course, it doesn't help that we really have nothing for the baby. Not even a house.

Rob and I are moving out of our house soon. I've been hesitant to buy anything until we have a place to put it. The tiny, windowless nursery in our apartment used to be the laundry room, but things have been rewired, water has been redirected, and doors have been installed. One of the walls is painted swimming pool blue. Very serene.

There is nothing calm about my life right now. After three months of no work and waiting for a phone call, crossing fingers, and agonizing over interviews, Rob has a job. A good job. A job that is going to take care of us, make everything okay. It's both a huge sigh of relief and a question mark. A new home, a new job, a new baby.

If I'm not ready, I'd better get there fast.

Nine Months Pregnant

The sun is setting outside, but all I see is black. My eyes are closed, and I press my teeth together, feeling pain in the darkness. Pulling like a rubber band stretched taught. Contracting. Is this it? I exhale. I slowly open my eyes. I look at my husband and wait one minute. Ten minutes. Nothing.

I try to keep my mind clear and calm, try not to get excited at the prospect of labor or disappointed by another painful Braxton-Hicks contraction. I feel a heel digging into my ribcage on the right side, and picture the baby upside down, its head pressing me open from the inside. I wonder if concentration and mental toughness can make my cervix start to dilate. I wish there were more I could do. All there is to do is wait...


Saturday, August 30, 2008

The M Words

Yesterday I finally caught up to Westley on the whole "having words" thing.

While we were waiting for dinner to come out of the oven, Westley cried for "Mama." Mournful as hell, too. "Mama-aaa...Mama-aaaaa!" More of a sob than a word, but still recognizable, with real tears to go along with it, which I think he conjures up on purpose to break my heart.

I took him from Rob, and he brightened for a moment, only to start talking pitifully again. "Momomo. Mo-mo."

I racked my brain. He'd nursed recently, but I guessed it was possible he wanted some more.

"Milk?" I asked, trying to move him into position. "You want some milk?"

His face crumpled. "Waaaaah!"

Okay, no. Not milk. Apparently, when my mother was a baby learning to talk, she would cry when my grandmother guessed the wrong word. I wondered if Westley might be the same way, and decided to guess until I got it. But what was "mo" supposed to be?

"More?" I asked. "You want more-more?"

Westley stopped crying and stared at me. You got it, Mommy.

"Omigod," I turned to Rob. "He's saying 'more-more.' He wants to eat table food!"

More-more somehow joined "bye-bye" and "night-night" as one of the repeated-word-words we say to Westley on a regular basis. And it only ever comes up when he's sitting in his highchair, being spoon-fed like a little king.

We strapped him in to his highchair, and I rushed to get some things that were already pureed into little bowls.

A few bites in, it was clear Westley was getting exactly what he'd asked for. "More?" Rob would ask, offering another spoonful. "More-more?"

Westley happily guided the spoon into his mouth, swallowed, and smiled. "Ha!" he proclaimed.

I think that's baby-speak for "Yes! I rule!"


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hi, Mom!

Sixty years ago today, my mother was a tiny baby. Now, she takes care of my little guy. Crazy.

Westley and his MaMay are partners in crime, June 2008

If I have any success as a mother, it's because I learned from the best. She's patient, beyond generous, and the first person I call when anything happens, good or bad. I hope she's around for a long, long time. Considering what a tough broad she is, she's probably got another sixty years in her.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.


Monday, August 25, 2008

White and Black and Blue All Over

I didn't think I bruised easily, but I have at least seven bruises now at any given moment. As soon as one of them heals, another one just...appears.

"Omigod, what happened?!" my mom asks/exclaims, mildly horrified.

"I have no idea."

I don't remember banging into things, and I take my vitamins (most days). It's mildly creepy, and like most unusual occurrences in my life since, oh, I don't know, December of last year, I suspect motherhood has something to do with it. If having a baby can make my formerly stick-straight hair grow in curly, it can probably make me bruise more easily. Of course, since Westley became a regular hip-rider, I've been much more careful about avoiding obstacles on his side of things. But he tests the limits of his mobility every day, and wants to be carried less and less. Time will tell if my black and blue marks are actually some sort of legit post-pregnancy biological change.

Regardless, my increasingly mobile dude will have plenty of bruises of his own soon enough.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Married Life

Me: We should go to a Renaissance Faire some time for some good nerdy fun.

Husband: Whatever you say.

Me: I loved the Renaissance Faire when I was a kid.

Husband: I've never been to a Renaissance Faire.

Me: Seriously? What kind of a D&D-playing geek are you?

Husband: Uh...

Me: What kind of a D&D-playing, Lord of the Rings-watching geek are you?!

Husband: Yeah, well...

Me: What kind of a D&D-playing, Lord of the Rings-watching...

Husband: ...Shakespeare knowledge-having...

Me: Exactly! Hey!

It's impossible to really tease him. He's too willing to help.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Three Years Feels Like Ten

August 6, 2005
Three years ago, Rob and I were married. It was all very traditionally romantic and "weddingy." Victorian courtyard, harp music, pink rose bouquets. In a word, generic. I think this is a result of my trying to "get it right" with respect to our wedding, as though there were only one right way to have a wedding. As though having a "right" wedding would mask my feelings of uncertainty.

Our wedding didn't really reflect us as a couple because we weren't much of one at the time. Rob and I barely knew each other when we got married. We had met a year and a half earlier, but spent most of that time 3,000 miles apart. We'd get together for holidays and the occasional random weekend, but there was never enough time to really connect. Before we could go out to dinner together or see a movie, one of us had to get on an airplane. It was Extreme Dating.

The real "getting to know you" stuff happened after we were already an official, legally-joined couple. We had finances and cats in common, but (it seemed) not much else. I desperately wanted to be happy with my decision to move to a new city as a new bride instead of attending graduate school. So we went out to dinner together, and saw movies, and tried to connect. We had raised-voice discussions and the occasional fight as our goals and beliefs clashed. Rob seemed to embrace these points of opposition as eccentricities in our relationship, but I spent a lot of time despairing over our differences, sure that I had made a terrible mistake.

I wanted to leave. I would call my mother and just sob into the phone. "So leave," she'd say, "if that's what you really want to do." It was what I wanted to do, but it didn't feel right. Or fair. Rob hadn't done anything to deserve coming home to packed suitcases. What I really wanted was to be happy, and I couldn't be happy leaving someone who didn't deserve to be left. We went to an intensive couples' weekend workshop and learned some different ways of talking to each other. We had some hard conversations. We stuck with it.

Cozy and celebrating the wedding of friends

Right before I got pregnant, we were doing really well. We were finally in a "groove." That lovey-dovey honeymoon stage, where everything is shiny and awesome. Pregnancy threw a bunch of new tensions into the mix, which we dealt with reasonably well, until there were questions about jobs and money and who was employed and who was not and who would support our family and how.

After the baby-having dust settled, it was like Rob and I were strangers to each other again. Our priorities shifted, sometimes in different directions. And there was a third, tiny stranger living with us, pulling from our emotional resources. It was hard to remember that we'd ever liked each other. We would fight and sort of make up, and when we got in bed at night, Rob would say, "We made a baby." Part of it was just the awe of re-realizing that there was a person in the world who wasn't there before, but, more importantly, it was a reminder that we used to be a just couple. This little dude, whose sudden presence had jostled our relationship, was only here because Rob and I were together.

Parents and strangers for almost three months

So three years after being pronounced husband and wife, we find ourselves building our relationship again. Our time together is limited, and if we want to be alone, we have to make plans and figure out where and what time. For the first time in our relationship, Rob and I are dating. And it's pretty awesome.

I think he might be the one.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Too Tired to Sleep

For weeks, Westley was a crazy, cranky-ass mothersucker in the evenings. We assumed that he was too busy learning to crawl to sleep, that teething was hurting him, that he was just going through a cranky-ass phase. But apparently, he wasn't sleeping because he was tired.

Westley has been going to bed around 10:00 PM, which, it turns out, is really late. Like two and a half hours too late. Oops. I should have known this was a problem. He was waking up tired in the morning, for chrissakes. It also turns out that babies can get sleep-deprived too, which actually makes it harder for them to go to sleep at all. Oops.

Now he's in the process of getting caught up, and I'm praying he won't wake up wailing in the middle of the night, ready to party.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Look, Ma! Pre-Words?

Westley has been talking to me for a while. His sing-song babble sometimes has inflection like real speech, leading me to attempt to translate.


"Gahdablahda? You think? Maybe we should get Daddy a dog."

It's cool to think that he's trying to communicate with me, but it's crazy to think that he has any actual "words." Except that on Saturday, he woke up from his nap, looked squarely at me, and said, "Ma." Just "ma." Not "mamamamadahblahblah." My mother who was there to witness the event (Westley was napping on her) swears that he was saying "Mama."

I'm not so sure about this. In fact, I think that because my mother just happens to be a developmental psychologist who just happens to be interested in language acquisition, she might be a little too eager to hear words where there's just vocal experimenting. Westley was just a few weeks old when I decided to stop consulting Dr. Google on developmental milestones and norms, but I do seem to recall something about "pre-words" showing up around the first birthday, ten months at the earliest. Then again, my mother usually knows what she's talking about, especially where her professional field is concerned.

Honestly, I'd be more willing to write off the "Ma" thing if my mother weren't an expert in her field. On the other hand, I haven't heard him do it since that one time two days ago. My mother, however, claims that she heard two more pre-words today. At one point, Westley slithered across the floor to her, craned his neck up to see her, and said, "uh." "Uppity?" she asked him (which is what I say when I pick him up, because I like it better than plain old "up" or the gawd-awful "uppy") and put her arms out as though to pick him up, and Westley beamed. And later today, apparently he said "meh" for "milk."

I'm fully convinced that Westley is trying to communicate. He already does a pretty good job of getting his point across with his assorted cries and noises. But it seems impossible that he would actually be forming the beginnings of words. It's not possible. Is it?

I'll be keeping an ear out. A very skeptical, slightly-freaked-out-at-the-idea-of-what-if? ear.


Friday, August 1, 2008

8 Months: A Musical Tribute

Hungry All of the Time
(To "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi)

It's all the same, only the diapers change
Every day it seems I don't get my way
I've ruled this place ever since I was a noob
I'd cry all night just to get that boob

I'm a baby, in a car seat I ride
I'm hungry all of the time
All of the time

Sometimes I nap, sometimes it's not for days
I can creep and clap, and chew cat toys when I plays
Sometimes you eat purees
With the bottle that you drink
And right before your bath all you do is stink

I'm a baby, in an Ergo I ride
I'm hungry all of the time
All of the time

I crawl these streets, with a rattle in my hand
Don't use my feets, 'cause I don't know how to stand
I see everything when I'm carried tall
I've hugged a dozen shoulders, and puked on them all

I'm a baby, in a stroller I ride
I'm hungry all of the time
I'm a baby, my mama's nerves are all fried
I'm hungry all of the time
And I cry, all of the time
I still cry, all of the time
All of the time