Monday, June 26, 2006

My Smart Little Baby

So, I've started noticing some cognitive development on the part of my fetus. The baby is starting to make movements that are feeling more deliberate. Sometimes I will get jabs in roughly the same place, at roughly the same strength, it feels much more intentional than the other random movements I feel most of the rest of the time. The baby also wallops me a good one when my stomach growls. It's happened consistenly enough to make me think it's intentional. The baby also wiggles and whaps when the baby feels "squished." When I lean against a countertop, wear a seatbelt a little too high, bend about to weed the garden or lay on my stomach, I am told, in no uncertain terms, that this is not the position of baby choice. The only complaint I have is that the baby seems to find me making noises such a "eerp," "ack," or "dwip," means that I would like the baby to make the particuarly disconcerting movement again.

In other news, I have moved up in bra size. I hadn't realized how much of the discomfort that I had been attributing to hormones was actually caused by "over constriction." However, I am now having to revert to doing up the hooks first and then twisting the feat of engineering which is now my bra into a proper position. It has left me rather hoping that if we have a girl, she will be quite well endowed. The level of lighting and dexterity required to remove the bra would at least guarantee that drunken fumbles in the backs of cars would be somewhat limited in scope. And, there is no way that one could pull off the hurried rearangements required when you hear your parents unlocking the front door or walking down the stairs. Finally, there is no wandering into the VS bra sale and picking up a cute, cheap, bra for the "full figured gal" (as I learned), ensuring that, any frilly fripperies will require a credit card and I do believe that every girl deserves cute undies but, mom will know about them, at least until age 18.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"Wasting" my education

I just read Linda Hirshman's response to the outrage her previous article telling women they should go back to work and not stay at home with their children. There were 2 comments she made that I found particuarly vexing. Although, a part of me wonders if she might not just be writing to be vexing.

First: "Worse, I said that the tasks of housekeeping and child rearing were not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings. They do not require a great intellect, they are not honored and they do not involve risks and the rewards that risk brings."

The second was basically the entire second half of the article where she classifies her critics as being from one of three camps. First, a particuarly dismissive reference to "mommy bloggers" because, if we're *just* blogging about our lives, it's obviously not important. (I have to wonder how she would view the feminist diatribe I am gearing up for.) Second, religious fundamentalists and conservatives. And, third, people who only think that they are liberal feminists (me, apparently).

Might I start by saying that I am not active in the SAHM vs. Work outside the home mom debates. I truly feel that the heart of feminism is that women get to make choices about their lives. Women should have the choice as to which child rearing decisions work for them and their families. It is societies responsibility to support and enable that choice through providing adequate family leave, helping provide affordable, quality (and that is key) day care, reproductive choice (and that is sooo not limited to abortion rights) so that women can control when they actually have these children, quality pre-natal care, and helping families be aware and able to access the services which are already being provided, among other things. It is perfectly possible for a woman to choose to work outside the home and not be neglecting her child. That decision is very valid. I thank my stars that I get a choice. I want to stay home. This does not make me a superior mother. At the same time, I don't think that I am failing to define feminism as Ms Hirshman asserts. I define feminism as allowing women choice and control over their lives. Not, that we must all make the same choices for the sake of "the cause." Men are applauded for making a decision to stay home. Why should women not be afforded the same attitude? It seems like feminism rather missed the mark if girls are locked into becoming athletes, doctors, or lawyers, even if they wanted to be housewives, teachers, or nurses simply to prove the point that they can do anything the boys do. I thought the point of it all is that we can, not that we have to.

To address the rest of her apparent assumptions about me, since I'm not bowing at her feet. I am not conservative. A friend of mine put it best, my life choices have been fairly conventional but my thinking and attitudes are far from it. I got married young. I decided to wait to have sex until marriage. I do attend church. I am heterosexual. I do enjoy traditional female roles. I like cooking. I like sewing. I like being a domestic goddess. I'm also a supporter of full acceptance of homosexuality in the church. I support choice. I was pissed when our lesbian neighbors moved to Wisconsin. I want to leave this area, in large part, because I want my children to see hispanic and black children in their daily lives. And, I think the previous statements pretty soundly count me out of the fundamentalist fold.

The first quote I cited brings to mind a comment that I have heard somewhat often. "Why are you wasting your education by staying at home." I have to say that first, I was not aware that one could waste an education. Second, my degrees all revolve around children. I have never understood how one could not waste an education by helping to raise other people's children but could waste it raising one's own. In addition to using my education whenever I interact with children, it also did a marvelous job of teaching me how to be a clandestine, counter-culture expert. I spent a good part of my career being an advocate for children who were very difficult to advocate for. I learned to soften edges, bargin, barter, and flatter, all in pursuit of my goal. I learned about protective coloring and blending in. I learned how to be a steel magnolia. I learned to plant seeds and find subtle, small victories, that lead to much larger change. I now delight in fitting right into the little old ladies at women's club and sneaking in a suggestion that we offer child care for our events or that, if we're having trouble finding a speaker, we invite one of the leading women from the Virginia legislature. When, at book club, I hear it suggested that all the kids with behavior problems belong in a special class, I can counter with asking how much French you actually learned in high school as that would be commensurate with how many social skills the kids would learn, far from their peers, with no one to model or practice with. At church council, I offer the perspective that not everyone actually has the books of the bible memorized. When college students in Sunday School argue that sex shouldn't be touched on with high schoolers at church events, even when they bring it up themselves, I ask how Christian it is to let them wander into the danger of unprotected sex. When I am at Bunko, I share that Canada is not quite as wacko as one might think with their socialized medicine and better family leave. And, when it is implied that I am a conservative fundamentalist because I happen to make some of the same choices, with no inspection of the motivation, I say something. My education is what gave me the ability to look at her statements critically, to rebut them in an organized fashion, to access the internet, and to make up my own mind. My education allows me to understand how the media can distort perception, how to learn on my own, how to look at parenting advice books critically and take what I need from them while not being paralyzed with fear from some of the more alarmist statements or become an adherent to some of the more extremist advice. My education taught me how to not get "squirted" when changing a little boy. I would say that all of these are valuable. If I am "just" a "mommy blogger," so be it. But, I am also a thinking, impassioned feminist for choice of all kind, not simply reproductive. I can't help but think that she would be better serving the cause by adding to the recognized value of "women's work" and leaving the marginalization to the other misogynists.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Holy Toledo, Batman, We're Having a Baby!

So, I suspect that this happens to many a first time pregnant woman but, in my case, I'm blaming the morning sickness. Up until the last couple of days I have known that there was a far off day in which there would be a baby joining our family. There is only so much denial possible when said baby is wailing on your intestines. However, the baby was always coming "after" something. The baby would come after we finished the bathroom remodel, finished the nursery, after the summer, and, this is where the morning sickness comes in, well AFTER the first trimester. Since I kept up with all the fun parts of the first trimester well into the second (and am still having a nodding acquaintance with them), it was only yesterday that I finally realized that I am down to my last 3 months. This came up most notably when contemplating ordering the glider which has a 12 week lead time. While I wanted to order it in March, it is now June, and we're just managing to do it. It was quite the startling moment when I realized that there was at least some possibility that the baby will beat the glider. It has begun to dawn on me that when we bring the baby home it will actually be ours, living here. There will be no one picking the baby up in 3 hours and paying me $10. When the baby cries and cries at 3 am there will be no glimmer of hope that it's parents will be home soon. It's all on me and my husband. I realize that there are fantastic parts to being a parent but, at the moment, I'm having to work a bit to see past the marathon crying sessions, 3 am feedings, and potty training, I should probably just try to go to a park today and make a point to see how may adorable smiling, sleeping, babies I can find.

To make things more exciting around here, my husband decided that if we have a boy we will not be having him circumcised. I had left this decision up to him feeling that he had better grounds to make a decision than I would. I am fine with the decision and wouldn't have left it up to him if I had had strong feelings. But, he choose to tell me about this just as the reality of the baby being ours, ALWAYS, was just sinking in. There was minor hysteria as I realized I had never even seen a "turtleneck" let alone would I be able to identify if something was wrong or how one properly cares for it. Then there was the hurdle of figuring out how to find information about the care of said appendage without winding up in porno pop-up hell. Happily, he had already scoped the issue out and the general feeling seems to be that soap, water, and leave-it-be are the best care options. Now, I just have to figure out how to explain things to those sweet home schooled girls down the block that we're planning on getting to babysit.

Finally, this weekend my parents brought down the cradle my father made for me when I was born and we also got the crib from some friends who have recently finished with their crib needing days. The cradle is in the carport as my father varnished it just before bringing it down and the crib is assembled in the living room, awaiting the painting of the nursery. Shirley, our older beagle, has been quite blase about the new furniture but Penny is quite worried by both items. The cradle is given a wide berth when coming in or out of the house and, for a time, she refused to even look out the door at it. The crib got barked at for a while and she now keeps a very close eye on it from across the room, lest it make any sudden moves. We assumed that the problem with the cradle was the smell of the varnish and (although she doesn't know it yet) expected trouble when it rocked but we have no idea what the issue with the crib is. In addition, we know from previous experience that she is afraid of strollers and suspect that she won't take the baby swing well. Desensitizing Penny is fast becoming one of our most important pre-baby tasks. I have tried to tell Penny that she will really enjoy the baby- they loose socks all the time and make delightfully stinky diapers but, thus far, this doesn't seem to be sinking in.

And now, I'm off for further contemplations of the benfits of a sling baby holder vs. the napsack sorts of baby carriers. I am having a lot of trouble getting past my irrational conviction that I'll bend over and the baby will just roll right out of the sling...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Soccer Balls

I informed my husband that my uterus is now approximately the size of a soccer ball. His response? "Way to go honey! Just in time for the World Cup!"

Monday, June 12, 2006

Busy Baby

I currently have quite the busy baby. Over the past week the baby has had hiccups, practiced walking, punched mommy hard enough to make her say "oof" several times, and discovered both mommy's bladder and lungs are excellent resting spots. There is also a mysterious thing that always makes me quite queasy. It's akin to the feeling you get on the down part of the roller coaster. I call it "swishing." My mom thinks that the baby is rolling around but I'm not sure. I usually feel an arm or head or something moving along my stomach when the baby rolls, but maybe the baby is rolling a different way or something. I suspect it may be when the baby is practicing sucking his thumb and is creating some sort or current or is maybe waving around his arms or feet, trying to find something pleasant to chew on. At any rate, I can say definatively that our baby is both smart and sensitive to other's feelings as he always seems to know exactly when I'm feeling most queasy and chooses that moment to get really nice and active.

In related news, to the list of "how much can I possibly..." we can now add pee. We are having a serious soap crisis at the moment, I am mightily lucky that there was a sale on hand soap the other week or I would be having a major problem. And, when you add the increased use of paper products from all the sneezing and peeing, I may be solely responsible for the deforestation of a smallish rain forest- it's a good thing I drive a hybrid to appease my guilt...

Finally, we are wandering into "viability" which is a huge relief. At this point, if the baby were born, they would at least have some way to care for him in the NICU. I will still feel a little better when we hit the 7 month mark but, I feel like this is a big step.

Friday, June 09, 2006


So, yesterday I had a book club meeting. This is not the club with the little old ladies that requires leg shaving and pearls. This is a group of slightly younger women who take bitterness and inability to see the bright side to new levels. An important side note: There are 2 main categories of people in our little town, particuarly among people who have moved here. The first group has fallen in love with the town, the area, and the people. They could never imagine why anyone would want to live elsewhere and would have the town's cute little babies, if only they could. The second group finds the area to be a backwoods purgatory. My husband and I fall within the miniscule 3rd category. We have no wish to make this our forever home but, have a very concrete understanding that there are, in fact, far worse places to live. We can list features of the town that aren't bad and can be appreciated as well as also note the myriad of things that we won't particuarly miss. The little old ladies are firmly in the first camp, the Newcomer's Book Club is firmly in the second camp. I always walk away from meetings of either camp feeling somewhat frustrated but my opportunities for socialization are rather limited and I do get some enjoyment and, most importantly, I can't figure out how to quit either group.

At any rate, we were discussing "Florence of Arabia." It's a fabulous book, full of dark humor that looks at a fictional attempt to bring women's liberation to a fundamentalist Muslim country. I had read the book once before but was anxious to re-read it after spending 2 months in Egypt this fall. The discussion covered many topics but there was one statement that really stood out to me. I told the other women that, in Egypt, children were generally assumed to be closely following marriage. While contraception certainly was known about and, I was told, was not forbidden on religious grounds, it was not at all uncommon to have a baby 9 months after the wedding. The people we met in Egypt often had difficulty with the concept that my husband and I could have been married for 5 years and not had a child. While it was never explicitly stated, I definitely got the impression that most people assumed that we had some sort of fertility problem. When I noted this to the book club, one of the women said "Oh, people in the US were thinking that too, they just didn't say it." I told her that I disagreed. While there was a group of people who were surprised we waited to have children, that was mainly the group that knew I had wanted to have children right away. For various reasons we didn't and they were, understandably, confused. The rest of the world didn't seem to have much of an opinion one way or the other. We got married young, on my 23rd birthday. My husband was in graduate school. The idea that we would want to wait for him to finish and get settled in a new town didn't seem odd to anyone. I'm sure that as I approached 30 (I'm currently 28) I would have been asked more frequently but, it seems like in today's society, while I am not considered a particuarly young mother, I'm not considered to be pushing the envelope either. It seems like, in the US, there is much less emphasis on how long you've been married and much more on how old you are.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Yes, I am planning on raising an illiterate axe murder.

I am on the children's council at church. The other day we were having a meeting and discussing a change (always painful) in the Bible we give to the 2nd graders. I am not clear why 2nd graders always get a Bible but, every church I've ever attended gives one to the 2nd graders. At any rate, I caused quite the ruckus!

When discussing the pros and cons of the various formats, I suggested that the new one was more accessible to parents who have less Bible knowledge, whih may be the families we would most like to target with outreach efforts. I also said that I expected to never sit and simply read to my child from the Bible (my point being that a study-ish Bible may not be a bad thing since most people do a fair amount of Bible study vs Bible reading, particuarly when the reader doesn't know most of the more colorful vocabulary of the Bible such as "smote"- a rare addition to the 2nd grade spelling list). This caused quite the hissing and the scandal.

The thing is that I just have never really viewed the Bible as being an ideal children's story book what with all the begetting, smoting, smiting, adultery, violence, and other various immoral behaviors. For the record, I also don't see myself pulling out King Lear, Pilgrim's Progress, or The Rights of Man for my 7 year old. I don't have any objection to reading biblically based children's books, watching Veggie Tales, or going over the Christmas and Easter stories. And, if my child requests that I read straight from the Bible, as I did, for unknown reasons at the age of 5, I will. However, I will note that I worried about my brother's well-being for weeks after hearing the Passover story. I also plan to take my child to church fairly regularly, although, I confess, it's more for social development reasons than a desire for the child to have a strong Christian background. I am one of those lost souls who still isn't totally clear on what exactly differentiates the actions of a "good Christian" and a "good person."

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by the committee's shocked response. I do know that my husband and I are some of the most liberal members of the congregation. I also know that this is the same committee that insists on having Sunday School lessons in the nursery which the current co-coordinator of the nursery and I conveniently neglect to tell the volunteers about... The one time I did give it a go, I was to be using a felt board to illustrate how Jesus waits in Heaven for us. These children were highly suspicious that their parents would ever be seen again, let alone this Jesus person I kept mentioning. On the whole, there was significantly more interest (and understanding) in re-acquainting their tummies with goldfish than the story. There was interest in the story from a little boy who kept gnawing on Jesus' felt head. I suggested that the lessons might be less than developmentally appropriate and that the children might be better served by having books about sharing, being good friends, and other morally upright topics readily available in the nursery. This suggestion was met with the definite opinion that these children were in church and they would be learning about Jesus, through felt, like all good Christian little children should.

I am apparently preparing to raise a godless heathen, perhaps the children's committee should plan a revival for the saving of the poor dear's soul.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

You are what you eat...

Two posts in one day! The sky must be falling!

In addition to adopting the sleep habits of a toddler, I also seem to be taking my eating cues from them as well. Toddlers tend to eat in spurts. You'll see them consume enough food to feed 5 hungry teenagers and then switch to a diet that would barely sustain a gnat. Research has shown that, in fact, over the course of a week, a toddler does actually consume enough calories that it averages out to being sufficient to their needs. I seem to be on the same eating plan. There are days where anything beyond 100 calorie packs and gingerale is far beyond my reach and others where 1 pizza just isn't enough. I am a little worried about what will happen if that glorious no more morning sickness day ever comes and I actually have to monitor what I eat. Will I just be so accustomed to eating when I can that I will manage to pack on 30 pounds in the last trimester?

I am actually finding my weight issues to be a bit of a social embarrassment. While most of the other mommies are trying to come up with ways to consume healthier calories and are how to keep their weight in check, I really need to know how I can pack in the most caloric punch. There is currently much discussion about how to stay hydrated while not packing on pounds (water, water, water) but gingerale is still my lifeline. If I cut out my gingerale (and how I long to do so), I would lose 300-400 calories a day which often means the difference between maintaining my weight and starting to loose. While I am trying hard to not worry about my weight gain (I have had some modest weight gain so, I haven't crossed the crucial line of losing weight) and continue to repeat the mantra of "if the doctor isn't worried, I don't need to worry," it would be nice to be able to find someone who has had a similar problem. I'm far from experiencing the hell that is hyperemesis gravidarum but, I'm also not in a situation of needing support to curb my cravings. I'm also lucky in that most of my cravings are relatively sensible and have a clear relationship to vitamin and nutrients my body needs. To post questions about such matters as what foods have the most "good fats" and which are most calorically dense to the pregnancy boards feels like a definite faux pau. So, does anyone have some advice beyond eating dried fruit and milk shakes?

In a related issue, something a friend said at one point in her first pregnancy has always stuck with me. She was well into her 7th month and stated that she could tell that "the baby was stealing" referring to noticing loosing fat in some areas to feed the baby. I found the comment somewhat jarring at the time but assumed it was because it was a period when I very much wanted to have a baby but health issues were preventing it and I found her pregnancy a little difficult for me all around. I assumed that should I have my own pregnancy, I would be more understanding of the sentiment. But now that I am pregnant and noticing some areas getting bony as my body supports this baby, I still find it to be a very irritating comment that has stuck with me. I consider it to be upon me to be sure that the baby gets sufficient calories and nutrition and have a great deal of difficulty seeing my failure to take in enough calories as somehow being the baby "stealing." Further, my friend didn't have nearly the difficulties eating that I have had so, for her, maintaining a balance of calories in/calories out was completely within her control. I wonder if it speaks to differences in how motherhood is perceived. I very much want to maintain my own sense of self and identity beyond "mommy," at the same time, I look at my role, for the next several years, to mainly be a mommy. The extent that that role shapes my life is within my control but my life will now be molded around the mommy role. For instance, I have a very thorough knowledge of the many advantages of breast feeding which will result in much loss of night time sleep and a very real time-limit to how long I can be away from the baby. At the same time, I have a very clear understanding of what a lack of down time or predictable sleep cycles have on my mood. If it comes to a point that the choice is breastfeeding or a sane, stable mommy, sanity wins hands down. With my friend, there was a more implicit feeling that the children were important but were expected to work around the rest of her life. While I think that is a valuable goal, particuarly as they grow older, and constant care is no longer needed, I'm not sure how much I can get behind this as a rearing strategy for infants. However, please note, this is not to say that all children should have one parent devoted to their full-time care, it is much more a matter of how you perceive your children's impact on your life. The contrast between looking at children as needing to fit into your existing life or looking at your life needing to fit around your children. I'm not even sure than one is better than the other and, as I don't actually have a child yet, it is all highly theoretical on my part. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

How Much Sleep Could I Possibly Need?

My husband has finally been able to start feeling the baby kick. This has prompted instruction in basic math for the baby. He switches back and forth between tapping my belly and proclaiming the corresponding number with telling the baby how many times it's kicked. I have tried to do my part by singing "The Subtraction Blues" one of the great Sesame Street songs of all time found on "The Count Counts" album. I have suggested that perhaps we should hold off on any more advanced instruction until the baby has mastered swallowing, sucking, and breathing.

I have discovered the wonder of the morning nap. I often wake up at about 6:30 and spend the next couple of hours dozing. However, by the time 2:00 rolls around I've had it. Suprisingly, if you don't really become active until about 10:00 (the magic morning sickness hour) and then require a 3 hour rest period starting at 2:00, your day is less than productive. I was delighted to find out that if I just suck it up and actually eat breakfast and such at 6:30 and then putter around on the computer until 8:30 and then take a morning nap, I feel like a complete lazy ass but can actually skip afternoon nap time. This has been a revelation. It completely kills all morning productivity but, starting at about 11:00, I can actually work on projects for most of the afternoon. It's fabulous! I can now feel like a productive member of society. I have managed to complete tasks that have hung over my head for weeks. While I am still completely awed by how much sleep it seems to take to produce a baby, not to mention the empty tundra which is my mind starting at about 5:30 every day, I do at least get to get things done. Yipee!