Tag Archives: pregnant

Best of 2011

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” (Annais Nin)

Happy New Years Eve! In the spirit of celebrating roads already travelled on this last day of the year here were your favourite posts of the year, my favourite posts of the year, and Mike’s favourite photos from 2011.

Your favourite posts

The most popular posts from this past year (judged by traffic) were all pregnancy related. I guess there’s a reason why so many “mommy blogs” become big deals.

  1. Ten Great Gifts for Pregnant Women and Thirty Great Gifts for Pregnant Women and New Parents
  2. Introducing Dominic McKay Wolfe
  3. Koi Maan Luuk (or “I am pregnant”)
  4. Push it: Music for labour and delivery
  5. Ten good things about boys: Attaining synthetic happiness one gender stereotype at a time

My favourite posts

Some of the posts on the list above are near and dear to my heart, as well. But here are five other favorites of mine from the past year.

  1. A Baby-Shaped Hole In My Heart: In which I write about my growing love for my unborn baby.
  2. Dear Dad, Love Dominic: In which a three week old Dominic writes a letter to Mike about how he’s sad to be apart on his first father’s day.
  3. Looking Like Love: A Letter To My Parents: In which I write a letter to my parents about how wonderful it’s been to stay with them for five months over the period of Dominic’s birth.
  4. T’is The Night Before (A Children’s Story): In which I make lemonade from lemons by turning a string of awful, sleepless nights into a rhyming children’s story.
  5. More than a brighter shade of happiness: In which I think about joy, happiness, and the fruits of motherhood.

Mike’s favourite photos

 I asked Mike to pick five favourite photos but he came back with nine – one for each, long month of pregnancy. So with no further ado, here they are:

Thanks for reading this blog and following along with my (our) story! If you blog, leave a link in the comments section to your own favourite post or two from your blog this year, or let us know how you’ll be celebrating New Years Eve. 

I hope 2011’s been a great year for you and that 2012 promises great things.

With Love from Laos,
Lisa
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Looking Like Love: A Letter To My Parents

It’s been five months since I stepped off the plane from Asia, roundly pregnant at 28 weeks, and saw you both there waiting for me and smiling. The hills here were green, the cool air smelled of wet eucalyptus and the pancakes that we stopped for on the way home were heaped with berries, tiny crimson waterfalls falling from the stack. As I unpacked in this bedroom later that morning I thought that five months seemed like an eternity. So many milestones in life had to come and go before I would depart – Mike’s arrival after ten weeks apart, the baby’s arrival, then Mike’s departure, then Mike’s return. As I hung up my shirts, I found it impossible to fathom that I would ever leave here again. But next week, now, I will.

Just before his last departure, Mike asked me over dinner what I wanted to remember about this time. The first thing that came to mind was that I wanted to remember how special it has been to come home at 35, half a lifetime after I first left, and experience so many of the good aspects of being parented again while I was in the process of becoming a parent myself. I wanted to remember the precious mundane of this time we’ve had together as well as the epic. I wanted to remember moments like these…

I’ve been home four days and I’m still nervous about driving on this side of the road again. Mum takes me to my first appointment with the obstetrician, then shopping. I try to protest that I don’t need any clothes, that the ones I salvaged from the communal stockpile of maternity clothes that get passed around among expatriates in Laos will be just fine for the next three months before the baby comes. I am overruled. As Mum is marching me into changing rooms she says I will thank her later. I am far less ruffled by this particular maternal prophecy now than I was at 14, and when I wear that grey tracksuit jacket every day for two weeks straight, when I am fifteen pounds heavier and needing clothes suitable for leaving the house, I do.

I am 31 weeks pregnant and Dad suggests a walk. I don’t really want to drag my baby bulk off the couch or circumnavigate my belly to get sneakers on, but Dad reminds me that I’ll feel better if I make the effort. Now we’re outside in that magical hour of almost evening. The golden light is skimming over the grassy fields, filtering through the gum trees, dancing on the dirt road ahead of us. We talk of work and family, and frustrations and joys – occasionally breaking new ground in this familiar conversational territory. Halfway up a hill we spy wallabies feeding in the glade below. I watch them bound away, envying their speed and grace, not to mention their birthing process.

I am 35 weeks pregnant and Dad is working in South Sudan for a month. Mum’s presence in the house prevents the quiet from feeling empty, and I am amazed at how busy life still feels even now. I am wrapping up consulting work. I am talking to Mike on skype. I am driving to doctor appointments. I am napping. I am melting dark chocolate to make elaborate biscuits with malted coconut icing. Mum says she is glad I’m around, even if I make an astounding mess in the kitchen each time I bake and by the way how do I generate that much washing up? I point out that I clean up after myself (in this area, anyway). We smile. We spend easy evenings watching crime dramas and reruns of Friends. It is the middle of winter but life has the peaceful feel of a still lake on a summer day.

I am 38 weeks pregnant and it’s the night before Mike’s arrival. The thick blue and grey wrap that I commandeered from Mum’s closet two days after I arrived keeps the cold at bay as Dad and I eat Thai food under the stars. After dinner we walk next door, into one of the happiest places on earth, and Dad spends too much money on gourmet ice cream to take home because he knows it will make me smile. Later that night I wake up at 3am to pee for the third time that night, come downstairs in the dark, and help myself to seconds. As a teenager I would have covered my tracks. Now, I leave the bowl in the sink.    

It’s 5am. I’m two days overdue and finally in labour. You’ve heard Mike stirring and come out to find out if all is well and kiss me goodbye. Already in the car, half gone on this journey into pain, I say I don’t want to be kissed, I don’t want to be touched. I know you won’t mind. Later that evening, after my life has changed forever, I will ask over the phone if you could please stop and pick up a pizza on the way to the hospital. When you arrive Dad also presents sorbet, Mum gives me prunes. “Now is not the time to get constipated,” Mum says knowingly. The idea is inconceivable – I am propped up in bed, sitting awkwardly on an hour’s worth of stitching and with the miraculous trauma of the day on replay in my mind. I tell you not to worry, that I have decided to deal with that issue by just never pooing again. No one argues with me. You beam and say that you’re so proud and that Dominic is beautiful. I look at that little bundle in your arms and wonder how on earth he happened.

These are those first days home from the hospital – a bewildering blur of baby, broken sleep, and breastfeeding woes. Dad is helping Mike dig a hole so that we can plant a tree to commemorate Dominic’s birth. Mum is making lunch, and dinner, and lunch, and dinner. Dad is building a fire to keep the living room warm and we eat in there – watching the flames fashion coals, watching Dominic asleep on a blanket on the floor. Mum witnesses our first fumbling attempts to burp our child, to bath him. She thinks we aren’t dressing him warmly enough. Demonstrating unusual delicacy she bites her tongue, wondering how much advice she should venture to dish out, but I discover an advantage to having a child so many years safely distant from my own childhood. Advice is generally welcomed rather than merely tolerated, or ignored.

Dominic is five weeks old. Mike has left again, bequeathing me the baby and a score of love notes hidden in such unlikely places that I will still be finding them three weeks after his departure. Slowly, slowly, I start to find my feet in this mothering role. I venture to think that just maybe I’ll be able to join good friends for five days at a reunion. I don’t know how many times I’ve circumnavigated the world alone now, so I am amused and mildly exasperated when Mum reminds me to start packing no fewer than four times in the days leaving up to departure. It gives me the warm fuzzies, though, on the morning that we do leave to hear her telling Dominic how she’ll miss him and to find that Dad has gathered me a pile of useful miscellaneous to take – the phone charger, sunscreen, a hiking headlamp in case I need to get up in the dark and can’t find a light, two bottles of wine to share. The car is full of petrol. “It shouldn’t need to be refilled,” Dad says, “but if it does, don’t forget that it’s diesel.”

It’s 5am and Dominic is seven weeks old. I’m getting up, fumbling for the dimmed lights, stooping to pick him up for the third time tonight. I’m too tired to sit to feed so I take him to bed and lie there beside him, satisfying his demanding little mouth with my body. He kneads my breasts with small fists and makes little mewling sighs of relief as he eats. I feel like echoing them. For I know that Mum will probably turn the handle to my bedroom sometime between 5:30 and 6am, as she’s done most mornings for the past month, carry him away, and leave me a cup of tea and the chance of some more much-needed sleep in his place.

I came alone almost five months ago, and a week from today I will leave as part of a family of three. I return to all the adventures and frustrations of Laos with new responsibilities. I return determined to think through qualities like love, joy, and peace during the year ahead. I return hopeful that I will, increasingly, embody these qualities. It is perhaps harder to define what love means than to describe what it looks like, but as I work to understand and live out love in this new family that Mike and I are creating I remain unfailingly grateful for my first family and the example that you set as parents – then and now. Thank you for, so much of the time, looking like love.

Lisa

This post is part of a series on the fruits of the spirit. The current theme is love. Where have you seen love this week? What did it look like?

Breastfeeding lessons from cows, take two

This post is an addendum to one of my favorite posts from the last year, Life lessons in pregnancy and breastfeeding from cows.

5AM this morning:

Me: “Dominic!!”

Mike: “What’s he doing?”

Me: “He’s latching on repeatedly, sucking nicely once or twice, then tossing his head from side to side before yanking backwards – still holding on, mind you – until my nipple finally pops out of his mouth. Then he opens his eyes wide in panic and lunges forward like a small, desperate, vacuum cleaner until he finds it again.”

Mike: “Do you want me to tell you what the cows on the farm did when the calves did that?”

Me: “Yes!” (After all, you can’t go past a good cow story at 5AM after you’ve had a grand total of 4 hours sleep that night)

Mike: “Well the calves would nudge under their mothers and do exactly that – yank down on their teats really hard. Or their other favorite trick was to throw their heads up hard and headbutt the mama in the stomach.”

Me: “So what did the mama cows do?”

Mike: “They kicked the calves.”

Me: “Really!”

Mike: “Yup, they’d haul off and give the calves a sharp kick and that usually stopped them.”

Me: “So by extension I could give Dominic a smack on his little bottom when he yanks on me?”

Mike: “You’d be well within your mammalian rights.”

P.S. I relayed this conversation to my own mother this morning and she’s of the opinion that Dominic is still too young to connect his nipple-yanking behaviour with any bovinesque chastisement I might dish out. I’m not so sure, though. He’s clearly old enough to understand the concept of playing with his food.

P.P.S. I relayed this conversation to the community health nurse this afternoon and she just laughed. When I followed it up by asking whether he could be doing this because he’s still hungry at the end of his feed she laughed even harder. “That little guy’s gained over 300g for the second week in a row,” she said. “He has no right to still be hungry at the end of a feed. He’s just being demanding.”

Dominic: "What? Me? Play with my food?"

Lessons learned during labour and delivery

I don’t really know where to start when writing about labour and delivery. For starters, it was such an intense experience that even now, almost two weeks later, I’m struggling to find the right words (any words) to tell the story well. And secondly, while I was pregnant I was incredibly curious about other women’s experiences of the whole process. Yet I’m not sure that hearing all those stories actually served me well.

Almost no one I talked to spoke positively about labour and delivery, and it seemed that for every woman who had experienced a relatively trouble-free birth there were two more who spoke first (with the haunted look of a trauma survivor) of how badly they tore, how intense back labour was, or how everything went wrong and they needed to have an emergency caesarian. Then there were the real horror stories, of which I heard several.

So I’m unsure of how much detail to go into. I mean, do you really want to know that at 8AM I was 5 cm dilated, throwing up, the contractions were coming one on top of the other almost without pause, and that I told the obstetrician I was dying? Maybe you do, but does knowing that actually help anyone? I’m not so sure.

So instead of giving you the blow by blow, complete with timeline, I think I’ll just talk about a couple of things that I learned or that surprised me along the way. But let me say this before I say any more – overall I had a reasonably good experience of labour and delivery. At eleven and a half hours from first contraction to delivery it maybe wasn’t quite as speedy as I had hoped for, but quicker and generally more manageable than I had feared.

Now, lessons and surprises…

I was more capable of managing the pain than I’d feared I would be: I won’t lie – the pain, especially during the last seven hours, was intense, all-consuming, and like nothing I’d ever experienced before. All that work I’d done creating birth playlists and packing movies we could watch in case of a long labour – none of it was needed. I was completely incapable of concentrating on anything except what was happening in my body.

What helped me the most during labour was keeping my eyes closed and counting my breaths during contractions. As long as I could do that I stayed focused and calm – almost as if I were in a trance. At no time was there any screaming, or swearing at Mike, or biting. Apart from the rough patch at 8AM when I said that I thought I wanted an epidural, I didn’t ask for medication again. In the end I was more afraid that my focus and self-control would completely disappear if I opened my eyes long enough to ask for pain relief than I was of continuing to endure without it. The end result? A completely natural birth.

Labouring in water was a big help: After my waters broke at 8AM I got into an inflatable tub full of warm water and stayed there for the next several hours. The warmth and being comparatively weightless when I wanted to shift position was a huge help in dealing with the contractions.

Having a doula (a birth coach) was a big help: Partly because of the risk that Mike would miss the birth, we decided to hire a doula to be with us during labour and delivery. It was a great decision. Jade was able to stay with us the entire time, whereas the hospital midwives had to keep coming and going as they attended to other patients. She massaged my back at key points, sponged off my face with cold water, gently nudged me to change positions at certain times, kept a vigilant eye on the process, and was able to reassure Mike that things were progressing normally. Left to my own devices I suspect I would have stayed curled up on the bed with my eyes closed the entire time, labour would have been longer, and I probably wouldn’t have made it without pain relief. If you’re pregnant and considering whether or not to hire a doula, hire one.

Moving on, here’s one that I could never fathom how it would be possible beforehand… The women who tell you that in the later stages of labour you will not care if you are stark naked and in the most unflattering position when three total strangers walk into the room… they are right. 

That oft-talked about magical moment when they place your newborn on your chest right after delivery? … Not so much. I was surprised how out of it I was immediately following delivery, and how long the whole after-birth process took. After he was delivered I went into shock and spent most of the next hour shaking uncontrollably while I was being stitched up and delivering the placenta. The baby was on my chest, but it was all I could do to hold him and pat him. There was no incandescent moment of mystery, connection, and wonder as I gazed into his eyes or kissed his little face (which was mostly screwed up, purple, and screaming). He pooed all over me. It was all much more earthy than magical.

Later that night though, when he was all bundled up and I was alone with him in the hospital, and he started to squirm and make unhappy guinea pig noises and wouldn’t settle down again until he was cuddled up right against my chest… that was pretty magical.

So there you have it. If you’ve had a baby or witnessed a birth, what did you learn or what surprised you about the whole process?

Introducing Dominic McKay Wolfe

Dominic McKay Wolfe

Born Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 1:14 PM

3.62 kg (8.0 pounds)

53 cm (20.9 inches)

More to follow after I get some more sleep and Mike and I figure out which way is up (so maybe you should check back in a couple of years). But in brief:

  • Mother and baby are both well.
  • After being very skeptical about whether I was capable of natural childbirth, I surprised myself by making it through the eleven and a half hours of labour and delivery without any pain relief.
  • Dominic surprised me by coming out with one hand up beside his head – a surprise that has granted me an unhappy number of stitches.
  • I still think marsupials and birds have it all over mammals in the birthing department, but my body has surprised me by what it is capable of enduring and how quickly it can transition from “incubator” to “milk factory”.
  • Mike has not surprised me – he’s been calm, supportive, enthusiastic, and capable during and after the birth. For this, and for many other things, I am extraordinarily grateful.



Midnight sorbet and 10 other good things about pregnancy

Yesterday I posted the following as my facebook status:

Good things about pregnancy #11: You feel totally justified eating enough strawberry sorbet to give your tongue frostbite at the odd hour of 1:30am.*

A truly surprising number of people liked this status. Perhaps I’m not the only person who thinks of sorbet when they wake up in the wee early hours. Or perhaps many others also enjoy feeling totally justified doing something that they suspect is not good for them.

The risks inherent with this status, however, were clear to me even when I posted it and it didn’t take long for Mike to read it, smile sweetly, and challenge me to name the other ten good things I’d discovered about pregnancy during the last nine months. Herein lay the problem, for I had given exactly no thought to what the other ten things may be. In fact, I’d first typed #3 instead of #11 on the sorbet status, before deciding that sounded too whiny even for me.

“I don’t know, you come up with them,” I said, abandoning any effort not to whine.

“OK,” Mike said. “Let’s start with all the extra attention and cuddles you’re getting.”

“That is true,” I admitted. “All the cuddles are lovely, even if some of them motivated mostly by your desire to dump more oxytocin into my bloodstream so that I go into labour and get this show on the road.”

“There you go,” Mike said, not disputing this. “That’s one. Only nine more to go.”

It’s taken more than twenty-four hours of concentrated thought to come up with those other nine but, finally, here they are: Ten good things about pregnancy.

  1. Trying to get pregnant.
  2. The minute you know you’re pregnant you have an indisputably valid reason not to drink beer or lao lao (wretched homemade whisky) during social gatherings in Laos. It’s a bit harder to get out of eating offal or pig fat, but if you’re willing to claim morning sickness and do nothing but nibble on rice you can also sidestep that particular delicacy.
  3. Pregnancy is also an indisputably valid reason to miss most of the hot season in Laos and spend it in Australia, during winter, at the McKay pregnancy resort and spa (also known as my parents’ home).
  4. And while we’re talking indisputably valid reasons…When you’re pregnant and you have lymphedema you also have a great reason to spend an extra $500.00 to buy a business class ticket with Air Asia so that you can keep your legs partly elevated during the trip from Laos to Australia at 28 weeks pregnant.
  5. Pregnancy has provided lots of extra life experiences. Despite what some might believe, I do value life experience for more than just fodder for the pen, but I can’t deny that pregnancy has also furnished me with a whole lot of new writing anecdotes.
  6. Maternity clothes are super-comfortable. Left to my own devices I’d be quite happy to spend most of my days in pajamas, so I’ve been delighted to discover that when you’re pregnant it’s not only acceptable but necessary to spend five months dressed in soft and stretchy leggings, baggy tops, and sweatshirts.
  7. Apparently it’s unwise to exercise too hard during pregnancy. This meant that I had to stop using our staircase in Laos as a step machine and doing sit ups and be content instead with doing lots of pregnancy yoga and walking. Win.
  8. As Mike pointed out, I have received a lot of extra attention, massages, foot rubs, and cuddles. Can’t go wrong there.
  9. Pregnancy pretty much functions as a blank check that you can cash in anytime you want to explain any emotion or discomfort, or to attempt to get out of doing anything you don’t feel like doing. I’m not saying I’ve been wandering around doing this, mind you, I’m just making an observation.
  10. You can ask things of your spouse with zero guilt that you would never ask of them at other times. Like, for example, whether they will come with you to see a movie called Bridesmaids at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon. And, here’s the best part, they will do it without any arguing.**

*I really think that perhaps the last three nights of solitary sorbet fests in the wee hours have given my tongue frostbite – it hurts like the dickens and I can’t think of any conceivable way to blame this on pregnancy hormones.

** Trust me, do not use this specific example as a blueprint for action – just extract the principle and then use it more wisely than I did. I ended up feeling so bad that I’d made the poor man sit through the whole thing that near the end of the movie, right around the time Wilson Philips was singing “Hold On”, I had to lean over to Mike and admit that I now owed him two hours of labour.

Over to you… What would you add to a “good things about pregnancy” list? And does anyone know whether you can, in fact, give your tongue frostbite?

Breaking news

No. The baby hasn’t come yet.

Yes, I’m grumpy about that (though not yet quite as grumpy as I still am about the fact that apparently he won’t be arriving via the international terminal at Gold Coast airport but via a significantly smaller and much less efficient terminal located closer to home – like just south of my bellybutton).

No, he’s not even technically due for another twelve days and he stayed inside as commanded until Mike arrived, so I know I have no real right to be unimpressed with his lack of interest in relocating but I am anyway. So anyone who’s tempted to leave me reasonable reminder below about how he’ll come out when he’s ready and not before… don’t.

And, yes, Mum and Dad are so thrilled to be watching this waiting game unfold up close and personal and Mike is over the moon to be sharing a continent (and a bed) with me once again. I’m sure Mum’s and Dad’s recently made plans to go up to Brisbane for a couple of nights next week and Mike’s refusal to go out on a hot date with me to Byron Bay last night in favour of sticking closer to home have nothing to do with any tropical storms of moodiness swirling around here.

This morning as we were tidying up Mike picked up a postcard announcing the arrival of a friend’s baby.

“What do you think about printed baby announcements?” Mike asked.

“No way,” I said.

“Why?” Mike asked.

“Money, for one,” I said, flopping onto the bed. “It would cost a ridiculous amount of postage to get these out to everyone who might care that we’ve just had a baby. Even more importantly, it would take a ridiculous amount of time to track down everyone’s addresses and get them in the mail. If you want to do them you are on your own, buddy.”

For an instant Mike looked at me as if being on his own was sounding quite appealing and I felt a little bad. Enough bad to make me ask him what he thought. The problem was, my question came out sounding less like a genuine query than a grudging acknowledgement that a conversation should involve the reciprocal exchange of ideas even though I had absolutely no intention of changing my mind on this issue.

Luckily for both of us, Mike doesn’t seem too attached to the notion of printed baby announcements.

This discussion/diatribe has, however, made me think again about how we’re going to get the news out about little baby McWolfe’s arrival – you know, when that actually happens in 2043.

When we got engaged, Mike was surprised and a bit appalled to discover that I felt there was an important pecking order that needed to be followed in terms of breaking the news. We should, I told him, make every effort to let our parents know first, followed by our siblings, followed by very close friends, etc. We followed a similar process with the news that I was pregnant (with the exception of the fact that the entire country of Laos knew before some of our closest friends due to the fact that near strangers on the street there were completely uninhibited about asking me if I was pregnant yet).

I don’t think we’ll be shooting for a similar, carefully-managed process with the news of the baby’s arrival.

During the last two weeks I’ve had friends ask how I’ll let them know when I go into labour, assume that I’ll share when we’re off to the hospital via facebook, and take for granted that we’ll be calling or texting people shortly after the birth with the big news. And until I started to think through the mechanics of it, I thought some of that might be happening as well.

But when I pause to project forward I suspect that when I do go into labour, as much as I adore my close friends, I won’t want to be thinking about sending emails or updating facebook. And without Australian mobile phones of our own, Mike and I also lack most of our friend’s phone numbers. Those that we do know are scattered here and there – tucked away in emails and on slips of paper.

So, upon reflection, I’ve decided on a very complicated “breaking the news of the birth” plan that goes something like this:

  1. We will call our parents after the baby is born and give them the green light to tell whomever they want whatever they want.
  2. We will send out a mass email, update facebook, and write a blog post when we can – which may not be for several days after the event.

That’s it.

If you object to this plan, feel free to ring and take it up with me. Mike would warn you to tread carefully, very carefully, should you decide to lodge a protest, but I don’t know what he’s on about really – it’s not like I’m grumpy or anything. No, I’m not even going to snap at him one little bit when he reads this and points out I have drafted a plan for breaking the news before I’ve drafted a birth plan or finished packing the bag for the hospital.

A skype date at 37 weeks pregnant

“How are you?” Mike asked me last night via skype.

“I’m grumpy,” I said.

“Why are you grumpy?” Mike said.

“I don’t know. Why are you in Laos?” I said.

Mike stops to puzzle this over for a few seconds, then decides not to engage on that front.

“Well, tell me about today,” he said.

“I talked to Jenn and Robin by skype. I lay down for a while. I read. I went to the chiropractor. I made an apple and rhubarb crumble. We had pizza for dinner. We watched TV,” I said, outlining a day most people might consider nearly perfect in its restfulness.

The problem, as I went on to explain to Mike, was that it was the third nearly perfectly restful day I’d had in a row and I was starting to get restless. It’s the first time in a year I haven’t had either consulting work or the memoir to occupy me during the day. I’m grateful for this extra mental space, but it’s making the days long. I’m at that stage where I can’t spend more than a couple of hours out and about without returning exhausted. My feet, after weeks of doing so well in the cold weather here, are swollen. Whoever the doctor was who claimed Braxton Hicks contractions are painless must have been an unmarried man. My back hurts, and I’ve even been banned from walking 2km in one go and doing all but the most gentle of yoga poses.

“The baby could come any moment,” I finished. “Or it could be five more weeks. And I hate these in-between stages.”

Mike listened to this litany of woes and, thankfully, didn’t remind me that many women manage to soldier through pregnancy while also caring for other children, or working full time, or alone, or while fleeing the latest horrible conflict or deadly famine in Africa. I know all of that, and on days like yesterday having someone else dish out some version of the “lots of other people have it worse than you do” perspective check usually doesn’t help in the moment. It just makes me even grumpier, because I end up feeling like a pathetic, complaining weakling on top of everything else.

Instead, Mike asked me how I’d been dealing with the grumps.

“Oh, really productively,” I said. “For example, I skulked about the kitchen while Mum was making dinner and complained that she’d bought the wrong type of pizza bases, that we didn’t have enough pizza sauce or the right type of trays for cooking pizza, that she’d set the temperature wrong on the oven, and that I wanted to fix my half just the way I liked it. I think she wanted to banish me to the living room. Or maybe back to Laos.”

“What’d she do?” Mike asked, possibly looking for tips on how to handle this scenario during those times I know that he wants to ban me from offering commentary in the kitchen while he’s cooking.

“Not much,” I said. “She pretty much patiently ignored me the same way she ignores Dad when he’s being unreasonably grumpy.”

At this point we managed to segue away from my grumpiness and talk for an hour about family dynamics, this article on the Harvard Grant study and happiness, the true meaning of church, and whether, when, and how we should venture opinions when people seem set on doing things that appear way less than wise because they “made a promise to God” or feel that “God told them to.”

You would think that an hour of talking with my distant beloved would have completely shifted my mood. Alas, no. This is how the conversation ended at 10pm.

“I’m going to let you go so that you can take your yawning self to bed,” Mike said.

“I don’t want to go and go to bed,” I whined, somehow instantly transformed back into a petulant five year-old. “I want a cuddle.”

“Well, even if I were there I’m not sure you’d be getting one from me. I might be telling you to go sort yourself out. In bed,” Mike said.

“If you were here I’d bite you,” I said.

“I know.” Mike smiled the smile of someone who was safely out of biting range. “I love you.”

P.S. If you followed that link on the current food crises in Somalia and Kenya and are wondering how to help, here are some more links to World Vision and Oxfam.

P.P.S. Since my parents were mentioned, I ran this past one of them before publishing it. Mum laughed and said maybe Dad should be vetting it instead of her. She suggested that I include the fact that Dad is not often unreasonably grumpy, but I said that such a caveat would spoil the punchiness of the line. Then she suggested I maybe could include the fact that Dad has been massaging my swollen feet for me many nights. I pointed out that, while true, that fact is a narrative tangent irrelevant to this tale. Sorry Dad, maybe next time.

What is nesting, anyway?

Last week I found myself wandering around the cute shops in Bangalow. This little town is smack in the middle of eucalypt forests and green fields filled with cows, yet the stores are crammed with vintage wicker furniture, porcelain tea sets, handmade jewelry, expensive clothes made out of hemp, and giant wooden Buddhas going for $600. Even after my seven years in LA, Bangalow is way too trendy for me.

I managed to resist the giant wooden Buddhas and the hemp clothes, but I did almost buy a cookbook of chocolate recipes. This cookbook was a work of art. There were luscious pictures of brownie bites topped with cheesecake and raspberries, and mini chocolate cakes stuffed with cherries, and chocolate pancakes topped with cinnamon-glazed pears… I was utterly entranced. The book had three strikes against it, however. It was heavy. It cost $45.00. And we have no oven in Laos.

I put it back with a sigh but cheerfully reported on my near miss to Mike that night via skype, heartened by the thought that I had been enticed by something so very domestic as baking.

“I’m nesting,” I concluded triumphantly at the conclusion of the tale about the cookbook that nearly was.

“Um, I think nesting is when you find yourself doing things for the baby,” Mike replied, “not for yourself.”

There were a couple of easy answers to this disparaging nay-saying. The first was that a happy mother makes a happy baby and so, by extension, anything I do for myself (or that anyone else does for me, come to think of it) is indirectly being done for the baby. The second was that I am quite sure the baby would have been wildly appreciative of raspberry cheesecake brownie bites. You know, if we lived somewhere we had an oven, we could get decent chocolate and raspberries, and I could actually make them for him.

But all this cross-equatorial flippancy has had me thinking about nesting more seriously this last week.

It seems that most women experience nesting by going on marathon cleaning sprees, washing and organizing all the baby clothes, preparing the baby’s room, cooking meals to freeze, fretting about school districts, and packing their labor bag. So, let’s take a look at these.

Cleaning? Well, not exactly. Mum found mould growing in my shower yesterday and was deeply disturbed.

“Didn’t you see that there?” she asked, confused, after she’d taken it upon herself to spray it with mould killer and warn me not to go in there for several hours.

“Oh, I saw it,” I said, looking up from my desk and shrugging. “But it’s no big deal. It gets much worse in Laos.”

Baby clothes? Well, with the exception of a giant trash bag full of second-hand clothes that has now been sitting on the floor of my bedroom for 11 days, I’ve washed and sorted the baby clothes we’ve been given. Well, OK, Mum washed at least half of them (after informing me that baby clothes should be washed with baby detergent and not regular detergent… who knew??) but I sorted them. That sorting, that was definitely all me.

Preparing the baby’s room? For the first eight weeks of his life the baby will be sleeping in a crib that my grandfather made for my mother. This crib is very cute, but doesn’t have a mattress. Having a custom-fitted mattress made would cost a pretty penny, so Mum and I recently bought one of those change mats with the raised edges that we thought would fit well inside the crib. However someone (not me) measured the top of the crib rather than the bottom when we went shopping, so when we got the mat home it was too big for the crib by several inches.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “Dad can just use his circular saw to cut some off of the edges and then it’ll fit fine.”

Mum didn’t look convinced by this. Neither did Dad.

“Cutting the edges off that foam will render it structurally unstable,” Dad said.

“And I think it’s too soft,” Mum said.

I rolled my eyes.

“He’s only going to be sleeping in there for seven weeks,” I said. “And it’s not like he’ll be wiggling very far. It’ll be perfectly safe.”

(Here I would like to pause and point out that a decade ago I spent six months working on a baby-death review team. That job scarred me for life and I don’t take baby safety casually. I really do think this mat would be perfectly adequate, but I’ve been overruled. Apparently we’ll be procuring a new mattress.)

And what of the rest of the nesting signs? Well, there has been exactly no cooking of meals to freeze (though I have baked chocolate malt-dipped cookies, slices, and a number of rhubarb and apple crumbles). On the other hand there has been a little fretting about school districts (or, more accurately, the fact that there are no suitable schools for this little one where we currently live). I have not packed my labor bag.

So using the traditional yardsticks I’m not scoring too well on the nesting front.

But.

The whole point of nesting is preparing the environment for the baby’s arrival, right? Well, in a world where most babies are born into environments devoid of fancy cribs and closets full of clothes I’m less concerned about this baby’s immediate physical environment (which is already way more than adequate to meet his needs) than I am about my mental environment and what that will mean for this baby.

On that front I think I’ve been making good progress in clearing the decks and getting things organized so that I can give him my attention. I’ve sent manuscripts and book outlines to agents, I’ve wrapped up all my consulting commitments and invoiced clients, I’ve submitted articles to magazines, I’ve got things squared away with the psych registration board and the tax office, I’ve filed insurance paperwork and I’m making slow progress on answering email. A shrinking work-and-life-admin to-do list may not look much like traditional nesting. But this, more than anything else, is making me feel a little more prepared for this baby to actually arrive on the scene sometime in the next month or so.

Gulp.

Yes, OK, I’ll think about moving “pack the labor” bag up that list in terms of priority, and maybe deal with the remaining baby clothes. Right after I answer some email and bake brownie bites.

Any thoughts or stories about nesting? I’d love to hear them.

The belly is growing, the brain shrinking

If you’ve emailed or otherwise tried to communicate with me during the last ten days and I haven’t gotten back to you, my sincere apologies. If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one. Just in the last 24 hours, three of my friends have had to hassle me to furnish them with needed information. It seems that my brain and mental bandwidth is shrinking in inverse proportion to my still-expanding belly. And if you’re wondering how big that belly might be now (and, consequently, how small my brain)… an octogenarian with a walking stick offered to get up off a public bench today so that I could sit down. It would appear that I am beginning to look as uncomfortable as I am feeling.

Disclaimer: Everyone who is harboring serious concerns about my lack of maternal instincts skip everything below until you see a line like this ****. (Bobbie, this means you.)

Speaking of being uncomfortable – yesterday was a shocker. Not only was I in significant pain most of the day, but I was hanging out with family friends who have children and was repeatedly confronted with concrete evidence of just how much work children are. Not just the babies, but the toddlers, little kids, big kids, and teenagers too… All of a sudden it just seemed like too much, and when my brother rang later that night to check in I asked him whether he’d like my baby. You know, to have. Permanently.

In addition to asking me whether I’d cleared this proposal with Mike (uh, no) my brother and sister-in-law politely declined this offer. When I asked why, they said that when they consider this baby’s lineage they are forced to conclude that the little guy will probably be too active for them to handle comfortably.

“But you might get a little boy with Mike’s sweet and sunny extraversion and my less active temperament,” I argued.

“Yeah, but…” my brother said. He didn’t need to finish. I knew what he was thinking – that they might get a little boy with my “less sweet and sunny and much more obstinate” personality and Mike’s energizer bunny temperament.

“Fine,” I said crossly. “I don’t think that’s very family-minded of you. I expected more, frankly, but if you’re not going to take the baby can you at least help me fix my latest computer problem?”

****

Today, however, things are feeling much better. I even saw a tiny baby in a stroller in Target (where I was actually shopping for baby things!) and had an “aww isn’t that baby just so adorable, I wonder what our baby will look like?” inner-gooey moment. I suspect we’ll keep our little guy after all. After all, it would be a shame to waste all the natural aptitude Mike and I display for caring for baby mammals.

Woops. How did the dog get hold of the baby goat's bottle?

Woops. Who knew that baby goats liked kisses?

So, if I haven’t been answering emails and returning phone calls, what have I been doing during the last week? In no particular order: hanging out with a good friend who was up here visiting, toasting marshmallows over an evening fire, filing insurance paperwork, drafting an essay I plan to submit to the New York Times, napping, talking to Mike on skype, learning about stage 3 labour and breastfeeding in childbirth classes, sitting in my obstetrician’s waiting room, reading, and generally trying to stay away from email for a while. All in all, it’s been high on the “lovely and relaxing” end of the scale.

However, in the midst of my inability to engage with all things internet last week I also missed more than a couple of emails I needed to answer… I missed writing about the anniversary of my arrival with Mike in Laos on June 28th. And Mike had even reminded me about it a couple of days previously.

“We’re coming up on one year since we arrived in Laos together,” Mike said, smiling over skype. “Remember how you wanted to drown yourself in the Mekong that first day?”

“Oh, I remember,” I said.

“I’m glad you didn’t drown yourself in the Mekong,” Mike said fondly.

“All things considered, me too,” I said.

What a year it’s been – one of ups and downs, of incredible adventures and some hardships. Tomorrow or the next day I’ll celebrate that year on the blog by taking a look back at some of my favorite posts and moments. And in the meantime, I might even answer some of my emails. I hope you’ve all had a great start to the week.

Thanks for dropping by.