Thursday, December 30, 2010

So here's the list of books I have read since June, when I started keeping track and the pregnancy with Meatball slowed me down:

1. Autobiography of An Execution: For death penalty advocates and opponents. This book taught me that if you struggle with demons and spend your days mired in grisly facts involving murders and other crimes, your kids may have nightmares. I couldn't live with that. I have done my one and only death penalty case. (We won during habeas proceedings at an evidentiary hearing; the state appealed. And, so it goes.)

2. Girls From Ames. This book confirmed that I am extremely shitty at keeping in touch with highschool friends, Facebook shout outs notwithstanding. So touched I was by the bonds shared by these women who grew up together in Ames and stayed friends for decades, I reached out to my favorite friend from highschool who I still dream about twice a month. It feels good to reach out, but my heartfelt emails may be a poor substitute for having stayed in touch for these past 2 decades. I also became willing to attend my high school reunion.

3. Mennonite In A Little Black Dress. I learned what a Mennonite was from this book. It wasn't as hilarious as I thought it would be-- college professor's husband leaves her for a man named Bob. Should have been a riot, right? It was a light memoir, which did a good job of driving me to more fiction, because how many goddamned memoirs can I really read?

4. Lit. Ok, well, gratefully I did at least keep reading memoirs because Lit was amazing. I think I read it in about 2 days. From this book I learned that I am an awesome mother. I have never consumed a bottle of Jack Daniels while "keeping an eye on" Sadie. It was inspiring to see how a flat-out drunk could turn her life around and become a successful teacher and writer, but mostly, it was fun to feel sober and smug about my mothering.

5. The Help. The greatest thing I have ever bought at Costco was a copy of this book. It was extraordinary. It confirmed my love for nicknames (major protagonist named Skeeter) and it left me with a sense of power possible in female friendships. It also confirmed that I have a pretty good job since no one has ever wrongly accused me of stealing or tried to sabotage my entire existence. Another good boost for my self-image as a mother since the white mothers in there treat their children like tarnished silver. If I was having a baby girl, I might name her Mae Mobley. Good thing we are having a boy.

6. Book Thief. I learned that I could cry quietly during nap time and not wake up Sadie. Yes, this was the summer's great tear-jerker for me. It shouldn't be suprising that a Holocaust book might have some grief/sadness included, but this was so clever and well written, and the ending was so climactic, I just bawled my eyes out. I have always liked books about children and this is one of the greatest. This is up there with Olive Shreiner's The Story of An African Farm.

7. Still Alice. I bought this book at Target on the way to the gym one day and it was one of the most lackluster of the bunch. I learned that I will probably get Alzheimer's since my paternal grandfather had it. So, that was a super happy read.

8. Her Fearful Symmetry. Hated. This. Book. I also really wanted to love it. Really. Like Niffenegger's Time Traveler's Wife, there were some fun scenes set in the Chicago-land area. But, then the action transferred to England and turned too weird for me. Turns out, I do not believe in ghosts or apparitions or hanging out in cemetaries. Good to know.

9. Born Round. Holy God, I can still remember feeling nauseated while reading Bruni's account of his mother's meals. Nothing like a book full of food references during the first trimester to really leave a mark. It's an excellent book. I was impressed at how humble Bruni was throughout the story about his remarkable accomplishments. I learned that men can have savage eating disorders just like women.

10. Father of the Rain. A beautifully written story about a daughter's ties to her abusive and very sick father. I loved this book and believe I shed some tears about it along the way. The protagonist's self-sabotage was excrutiating at times, but seemed believable. I loved the ending, which signaled redemption. More good reading for feeling like a good mom and for appreciating my dad, who is nothing like the dad in this book. Thank god for that.

11. I'm Down. I have wanted to read this memoir for a few years. I finally got it and it was definitely an enjoyable read. I read it in one sitting on a flight to San Francisco. It wasn't as slap-stick funny as I was hoping. It was actually heart-wrenching to read about the protagonist's insane father and bewildering family situations. It's very difficult for me to read about children being mistreated or flat out abused. I learned that having employed parents and being an employed parent and providing for children is a giant step towards good parenting.

12. Outside the Ordinary World. Utterly forgettable. I finished this and turned it into my office's lending library. I learned that having an extra-marital affair with a new-age divorced man is a bad idea.

13. Alice Waters and Chez Panisse. This book was amazing. The part that stuck with me the most is that Alice Waters, the owner of one of the greatest restaurants in the country, ran Chez Panisse for years in the RED. I loved reading about her vision and her antics and her quirky business acumen. The author was very clear that one of Alice's greatest achievements was her ability to get support and enlist others in service of her vision. I pray for vision as clear as Alice Waters'.

15. Half-Baked. I snuck around reading this book because, given my disposition, I am pretty sure NO ONE would sign off on a pregnant Christie reading about a baby born at week 25 and the struggles through the neo-natal unit for 3 months. This book, however, really opened my eyes to perspective. The author, whose daughter Simone was born before the third trimester, was brutally frank about all the emotions and trials she endured during the months her daughter was in the NICU. At end end of the book, she talked about how she's different from other mothers now that her baby is home: When her baby wakes her up in the night, she's grateful that her baby is home and capable of screaming at the top of her lungs. She wasn't in a position to fret over sleep patterns or feeding schedules because she was just grateful her daughter made it through the surgeries and the dozens of scares during her first months of life. Even now, sometimes when Sadie is crying out, I feel thankful for her healthy lungs and for her full-term-ness, C-section or no. And, now that Meatball is 35-weeks young, I am so grateful that he is inside me growing and getting stronger. It's a privilege and this book helped me see that anew.

16. Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. This book of short stories was utterly delightful. Each story made me want to write a short story. They were crisp and face-paced and made me want more. I still think about one of the stories where a lonely cowboy fell in love with a teacher. I can picture the diner where they ate and the cold streets covered in ice and snow. From this book, I learned that less is sometimes more. You don't need 500 pages to learn about a character; sometimes 20 will do.

17. Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The other day someone told me he read this and that he hated it. He hated everything about it. I, on the other hand, really liked the story and how the author was able to weave the science with the personal interest. I learned about cells and how no one was able to grow cells until Henrietta Lacks' cancer cells were harvested (without her consent). It was painful to read about her family's saga and the ironies that while Ms. Lacks' cells contributed to some of the greatest health advances of this century, her family members cannot afford healthcare.

18. Sarah's Key. My mother-in-law gave me this book and it looked so innocent on the cover: two young children running in what looks like a European city. But, alas, this Holocaust book was more devastating than the Book Thief. I am STILL haunted by some of the images of the French round-up of Jewish families during the Vichy regime. I remember learning about this horrible chapter in French history during college, but this story made it personal and gave details that I think I will never forget. I am pretty sure if the government ever rounded me up in a similar way, I would grab my babies and jump to my death. Let's hope it never comes to that.

19. Peace Like A River. You had me at child narrator. I loved the protagonist's "voice" in this book. The writing is superb and unforgettable. I remember wishing I could write like him. Excellent children's characters and a very compelling portrait of the west. I learned that I can't get write as well as the author, but maybe someday.

20. The Corrections. With everyone going on and on about Franzen's Freedom, I decided to read his earlier work. I think this is the book that Oprah wanted to pick, but Franzen rebuffed her. (I already knew I would never have those kind of balls.) I was also waiting for my friend Krista to finish Freedom and give me a copy. I thought the Corrections was a little bit long-winded, but with hindsight, I really remember the characters and themes vividly. My boss can't say enough how much he hated Freedom, but I am going to read it in 2011 and decide for myself. Franzen is a smart guy. I wouldn't call it a page-turner, but it's a great piece of American literature.

21. Born to Run. Holy God, I should have read this when NOT pregnant. It's the most inspiring running book I have ever read. (Ok, it's the only one, but it's the literary equivalent of listening to Chariots of Fire on a Bose sound system.) When I am ready to get back into running, I am going to re-read this and next time I get an injury, I am going to consult some of the principles in this book. I learned that it's possible to hate Nike even more than I did before reading this book.

22. Pretty in Plaid. Don't judge. After reading Franzen and Holocaust literature, I needed some levity; a break. This was a good respite from the heavy literature. Lancaster is insanely sarcastic and witty and self-aware, so it's fun. It didn't change my life, but it was a fun weekend sitting around with her book and laughing at her antics.

23. The Other Side Of the Bridge. This was a weird little book about two brothers growing up in Canada during World War II. Parts of the narrative were very well done, but it didn't grab me like I was hoping it would. I learned that I am not suited for remote Canadian living.

24. Manhunt. This book taught me that I don't really know that much about Abraham Lincoln and the intensity of the Civil War. I read Cold Mountain in 2003, but this added a great deal more color and the primary resources consulted on this piece of non-fiction added some heft to the whole project. Basically, this book was a chronicle of the almost two-week hunt for John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre. One thing is for sure, as soon as my kids are told enough to pee pee in the potty, we are going to DC to see some of the sites that are so central to Americana.

25. At Nightfall. Tried to love it. I did. But, I didn't really like the characters and Manhattan art world and the angst about being at the top of one's career just didn't appeal to me in this story. I did appreciate the perspective of how stressful it is to be an art gallery owner, as I mostly know artists who have their own angst to wrestle with. Basically, I learned that owners of art galleries are people too. I guess that's a worthwhile lesson.

26. Hotel At The Corner of Bitter and Sweet. This story is more sweet than bitter and I am totally enchanted with the main character, Henry. (So much so that during this read I was sure it was my favorite name for Meatball.) It's outrageous to think about the American government rounding up innocent people-- the Japanese and Germans-- during WWII. I haven't read anything else that deals with this subject, other than some footnotes in history books. I learned that our country likes to forget its bad deeds and to stuff them away under a blanket of collective amnesia.

27. The Room. OH. MY. GOD. This book blew me away on many levels. The story is so well done and the narration, again by a 6-year old boy, was expert. When I read the review of this book months ago, I assumed that the Room was a prison of the legal or governmental variety. I didn't realize it was a prison made by a lunatic who was holding a woman and her son hostage. There are so many heartbreaking elements to this story. The most cringe-worthy aspects occurred once the hostages were liberated from the room. I could not believe how idiotic and lame the grandparents were; their selfishness stung. I will never ever forget the little boy, Jack. I learned that I would suck at being a hostage, which is not really a revelation.

28. Just Kids. Again, I read this review and thought it sounded so-so. Patti Smith....hmmm. I don't really know her music, but I have vague recollections of that song with Bruce Springsteen, "Because the night." It took a while for me to see the point of this book-- I was irritated by all the name-dropping and the coincidences: Some guy mistakes Patti for a young boy and tries to pick her up. Allen Ginsberg. Of course. Over and over some super famous person has a walk-on role in the book, which was distracting me from the core story about her intense friendship/loveship with Robert Mapplethorpe and about the creation of art and artist. I learned from this book that reading about a beloved person dying of AIDS will prompt lots of public crying if I finish the book in public.

29. Open. I am about to finish Andre Agassi's, Open. I love it. He says over and over again that he hates tennis and so far, not one person has let him just own that. Everyone seems to say to him, "but you don't really hate, HATE, tennis." I believe him. I would hate it too. His relationship to tennis is complicated and complex and it's not something he chose for himself, so I definitely believe he hates it. (Funny, no one seems to stop me from declaring that I hate the law; most people just agree.) Anyway, it's a great book about finding support, separating from a parent, becoming a physical and mental champion, self-sabotage, fame, fortune and competition-- all things I really love. I do believe that Mr. Agassi had a very smart and experience ghost writer. (Are you telling me that someone who graduated from 9th grade can organize this narrative and use phrases like "impertinent upstart"? No way.) In this book, I learned that tennis games last forever. I also learned that Roland Garros is a grand slam tournament in France; I thought he was a French artist.

FINAL NOTE: I have a little scrap of paper at my office with all my books written down. I miscounted a few days ago and thought that Open was my 30th book. OOps. I only remember ready 29 books. Unless, I finish Open tonight and read an entire book tomorrow. Maybe this is the beginning of the new me: Good bye perfectionist and hello approximation!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Biscuits

Here at 35 weeks, it's the point in my pregnancy where I crave two things pretty much 'round the clock: Biscuits (big, fluffy KFC biscuits) and chocolate. Dark chocolate. The trouble is that there is no room in my stomach. I can only comfortably eat about 10 bites at a time, which means I basically eat every hour. It's slightly annoying to have to always have a snack nearby (along with the Tums and a gallon of water), but I only have to do it for about a month longer.

Seriously, though, how come KFC hasn't come up with the chocolate-covered biscuit? There is some nasty sandwhich that uses fried chicken for the bun, so why not combine the dessert with the most delicious of all breakfast starches? I would take the hot fudge from the sundae machine at Dairy Queen and cover my biscuits and then take my 10 nibbles about 10 times a day. I think I am really on to something here. Or Magic Shell. Can you imagine a hard chocolate shell around a biscuit? I think the biscuit should be buttered before the Magic Shell goes on, but either way, that's something very special I am inventing right here and now.

When not concocting more disgusting ideas for American fast food, which, incidentally, I don't even eat, I am finishing up my goal of reading 30 books this year. I started this project with this pregnancy, when I was too sick and hot to do anything else in my first trimester. I am going to do a post where I give a brief review of the "What I learned from this book" variety tomorrow, but for now, I am currently finishing Andre Agassi's autobiography, Open, which, I think, technically, is a memoir, but either way I am learning more about tennis and hair loss than I ever thought possible. It's a captivating read, and I distinctly remember making fun of the book on Facebook 2 years ago. I guess along with my chocolate biscuits, I will have to eat my words.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Worlds Collide

This morning my nose had a giant collision with the back of Sadie's head. The blunt force trauma to my delicate nose set of a chain of reactions that I am still processing 7 hours later. It all happened so fast this morning as Sadie, Jeff and I were slowing easing into our morning. Once Sadie flung her head back at full force and happened to impact my nose, all the ease drained out of the morning. I did what any sane, sensory person would do: I started bawling my eyes out. It hurt so damn bad. Inexplicably, I grabbed my stomach, wondering if the baby was ok, even though I am pretty sure he resides many feet south of my nose.

I wasn't thinking clearly. I was just writhing and crying in pain. Through my tears I was trying to examine Sadie to be sure she was ok, but Jeff kept telling me she was fine. (I note here that one of Sadie's more enduring hobbies is to bang her head on any surface harder than a pillow, including hard wood, marble and tile. Pediatrician says it will pass. Not fast enough for me.)

So, I am sitting on the edge of the bed letting out a much-needed cry and Sadie starts to cry too, presumably because the whole thing was very upsetting for her, as well as confusing. Jeff started to take her out of the room, but I wanted her to stay with me because I didn't want her to think she was in trouble or being punished. So, we huddled up and cried and I started blubbering incomprehensible statements, such as, "I am a bad mom." It's not easy to get from an accidental nose bang to being a bad mom, but I got there. I got there very quickly, actually. No traffic on that road.

Later this morning when Jeff and I were debriefing the morning's traumas and dramas, he mentioned it was surprising to him that when my nose was hurting I came up with the idea that I am a bad mom. I suppose that was a bit of an exaggeration because it's easy for me to surmise that I am "bad" in some way, but the more I think about it, the more I see something deeper here.

It's a fact (as proven this morning) that Sadie and I will hurt each other. Sometimes it will be an accident. Probably not every time. But, if we are going to be close and part of a functional family, we will trigger each other and bump up against each other's wills and sometimes one of us may get hurt. Maybe both of us will get hurt. I really hate that I can't offer my children pain-free lives. Even knowing that having a pain-free life may not be good for anyone, I still want to give it to them. I certainly hate thinking that sometimes the pain in my children's lives will be caused by me. This morning's nose crusher incident was a giant tangle of all these intersecting wishes and beliefs that I hold very dearly. Specifically, I don't want to hurt my kids; I don't want my kids to hurt me; sometimes pain will be a part of the relationship; I don't want my hurt to upset my kids; I don't want to use pain in my children as an excuse to withdraw or be distant or withhold from them; I don't want to be afraid of intense emotions (mine or theirs), but sometimes I am; I don't want life to be messy, painful, snotty, confusing, and gnarly, but it is.

Thinking about it, I just feel very emotional. Not necessarily sad, though being out of control, which is the essence of being a parent, always makes me a little desparing. I feel awed by the power of emotion and how much it can affect me and Sadie in our young relationship. I feel very humbled by my own ugly thoughts and reactions to things and how I say all the time how much I want an intimate relationship with my family members, but when it's offered, I often times want to run for the nearest hill, which is no easy feat in the Midwest.

I also think that there is a lot of change in the air at my house. We have a nursery almost complete for Meatball. We cleaned out all of Sadie's baby clothes. The techtonic shift is underway and Sadie, no doubt, can feel it. We're headed into the last month of this pregnancy, which will preceed major change at our house. I don't know if Sadie can understand my words, but after particularly emotional exchanges (such as whenever I try to change her diaper), I tell her that it's a very emotional time and that we are all in this together. I remind her that no one is doing anything wrong, we're just experiencing a lot of emotion and intensity.

In the meantime, I have been told to ice my nose and buckle up... it may only get rougher from here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

White Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone. There is something about surviving all the stress and extras of the holidays that makes the last week of December feel like a breeze, even though I am work and there is plenty of work to do. I have an arbitration before my maternity leave and, of course, there's the whole Preparing For The Baby to undertake.
Today it's back to the routine, except that the nanny called in sick so Jeff and I are juggling our day jobs with taking care of Sadie. I won't lie. It's very stressful. It's hard to be an employer because of course we want the nanny to have sick days and stay home to take care of herself (and not infect Sadie or us) when she's ill. But, it happens about once per month and the scramble and panic that ensues for me and Jeff is just plain nuts.
But, the sun is out for the first time since Thursday and the view from my office is really beautiful. (See above.) I love seeing Millenium Park covered in snow and it's nice that there are fewer people downtown today because of the holiday.
My biggest new project is to keep things in perspective. Last night when we learned the nanny wasn't coming in, I worked on my new project. It's not the end of the world. It's a slow week. If Jeff and I divide our time, we can both get everything done. I may have to work tonight after Sadie goes to bed. Nothing tragic is transpiring. I don't have that much on my work plate and what I do have is portable so I can bring it home. I was very proud of myself for not flying into a panicky-rage and saying we have to find a new nanny and hire an au pair and also get some back up childcare because it's so scary to be in charge of a little person that I love so much. Can you imagine how psycho I will be the first time the nanny calls in sick when we have TWO children, one of whom is even littler and more vulnerable than Sadie?
And that's exactly why the newest, top priority project is KEEPING. THINGS. IN. PERSPECTIVE.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's in a Name?

Meatball, what's your real name? I am DYING to know. This morning I cut through Macy's -- not to shop, I swear-- but to keep my hands from freezing and I saw the perfect little silver necklaces with initials on them. They were 50% off. I have an "S" necklace for Sadie. I thought, "Perfect! I'll get one for Meatball." But, wait. We aren't sure what name we love yet. I looked at all the letters hoping for inspiration and reminding myself I could probably find one of these necklaces in February when the name has been chosen.

I didn't realize we were going to go all Milton about this. I remember reading Paradise Lost in college (with 500 of my closest classmates at large agri-college) and reading about how God asked Adam named the beasts in Paradise. As I recall the process this many years later (about 20, but who's counting), I remember the names emanated from the creatures and Adam realized he already knew the names even though he had never seen many of the creatures before. (Wait, should we name you Milton? My beloved judge for whom I clerked is named Milton. What about Adam? We probably can't do Adam as I have a very close friend who's 14-month old son is also named Adam. Damn. Another dead end.)

So, Baby Meatball, do you just need us to draw it out of you? May I remind you that first you have to be drawn out of me? The phrase "sprung from my loins" is suddently in my head right now, and that's not disturbing at all.

All I am saying is the tardy selection of a name is frustrating my monnogramming impulses and preventing me from buying jewelry with your initial on it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repealed

It's official! President Obama signed the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. So now gay troops will have the privilege of serving in the armed forces without having to deny their sexuality.

This is a good thing.

Other good news:

The sun is out.
The sky is blue.
About to hit a three-day weekend.
Sadie slept 12 hours last night.
I am probably going to make the goal of reading 30 books since June 2010.
I am done Christmas shopping.
I am 34 weeks pregnant today.

I would keep going but I need to do some research on the perfect pushing present from Jeff for the Meatball's birth. here I come!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So, here's a very nurturing headline I came across today on a "parenting" website:

"Pregnancy-related deaths on the rise."

Wow. That got my attention. That's definitely "gotcha" journalism. How could I not click on the link to find out why chances of dying during birth are going up? The article was tamer than the headline suggests. Basically, more at-risk and obese women are giving birth. I also noted that increased C-sections have helped the death statistics rise. Sweet.

This isn't helping me with my vow to focus on the positive, which is just flat out not my M.O.

Last night, for example, dear Sadie woke up crying about 5 times during the night. We could tell by 8:00 p.m. it was going to be one of those nights-- up a lot, wondering what is wrong with Sadie, trying to comfort her or medicate her or somehow make it easier for everyone to get some sleep. After her third cry out in her sleep, I felt the cloud of defeat wash over me. "Oh, we are screwed," I said to Jeff. My thinking was that if she was already so uncomfortable after 2 hours of sleep, it was only going to get worse. Jeff, ever my opposite, laughed because he was about to say that she would soon settle down and we'd all have a good night.

The truth was somewhere in between. I got up with Sadie at midnight and she just seemed uncomfortable, but not feverish and I didn't detect any vomit. There were a few more cries in the night, but the back half was better. I accept my often-negative spin on things, though I wish I could have a little more positive energy as my initial go-to. I just don't. I'm a fretter, a perseverator, and I really hate it when I can't tell how the sleep is going to go.

She slept until 7:00 a.m., which was a nice treat, and she seems to be suffering from nothing more serious than a common cold. For such a little person, you should see the amount of snot she can produce. I couldn't believe it. We went through about 6 tissues in the first 28 minutes of her day. I actually have no one but myself to blame for this situation. We had a playdate scheduled and other mother responsibly told me that her son was a little sniffly. Jeff and I mulled over the possibilities: stay home or chance the playdate. We went for it. The problem with that reasoning is that now Sadie has to suffer because she's the one who is under the weather. And, to tell you the truth, I was suffering a little last night hearing her cry and wondering if we could go more than 2 hours without a shrill screech from her.

Living and learing is an exhausting process.

Now, back to worrying whether this pregnancy is going to kill me.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Pregnancy Tip #540

Here's a really good one: When you are pregnant during the winter, invest in maternity tights if you plan to wear tights at all. If you could see the cutting I did to the non-maternity tights I am currently wearing and how ridiculous it looks and how wrong it feels, you would actually STOP taking advice from me. About anything. Ever.

I would post a picture, but this is a family-friendly website.

Lunar Eclipse

I am told there is a lunar eclipse tonight. Well, techinically it's at 2 a.m., and it's the first one since 1638 to coincide with the winter solstice. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what this means, though it sounds very Shakespearian to me. I suppose if I am up roaming around my house tonight, I will probably make my way to the balcony and check it out. It's got to be more interesting than re-reading Facebook status entries.

We had a wild weekend and now that I know it's the lunar eclipse, it makes sense why we were all out of line. We did get our mini-van this weekend. It's really fun. I feel like I am driving a barge down the road, but it feels safe and happy and spacious. So far I have driven it about 4 miles without incident, so I am feeling pretty confident I'll be the master of the mini-van in no time. I am a big fan of naming a car so we were trying to think of the right name for our silver Honda Odyssey. My last car was named Sadie, then we named Jeff's car Grady so my offering for this car is "M'lady." It's a long, sleek, classy ride. It can't be just some prosaic 2 syllable name. Of course I want the name to rhyme with our previous cars. I am sold on M'lady, but Jeff does get a vote.

Actually, Jeff observed recently that trading in his old car for the mini-van means we have let go of one of the last vestiges of our pre-marriage lives. He bought Grady (Grady didn't get his name until I came along) in 2005 right before starting as a full-time lawyer. He and Grady had some good times, including a long road trip down South to play in some golf tournaments. (I believe Hooters was a sponsor of one of them....also, before my time.)

So, here we go: deeper we go into Commitment Land and middle age and parenthood and a scores of things I never thought I would see, experience, smell or live through. But here we are. I think alot about that series of studies charting marital satisfaction, which shows that there is a precipitious drop in marital satisfaction upon having children that does not rebound until the first child goes to college. Today, I think Jeff and I are kicking that study in the ass and then running over it with our mini-van on the way to Costco with a screaming baby who is angry we won't let her ride in the van without a seatbelt. Sorry, Study, but it beats the hell out of zooming around to spin class and T.J. Maxx all weekend, allegedly without a care in the world.

Did I have a tighter body then? Yes.
Did I have more freedom then? In some sense, yes.
Did my freedom come with a loneliness and aimlessness that I hope to never face again? Hells yes.

Myth Busters

I really thought it was a myth. I have heard parents talk about using pajames with zippers so that their children can't get into their diapers. Naive little old me always thought, "Gee, can't kids explore their bodies? What's the big deal, Puritans?"

Here's the big deal: There may come a day when your little precious angel is crying during nap time, but you and your devoted husband think she will settle down any second. Well, the seconds will turn into about 10 minutes and you will decide the situation needs some attention.

You will enter Little Precious' room and you will swoon from the stench. You will reach out to grab your little Preciousa/o and you will see that said Angel is covered in poo because the smart, snappy little onsie you bought her was easy to unsnap, allowing for unfettered access to the diaper and all its glory.

It happened. It's not a myth. Sometimes a cry is just a cry; sometimes a cry means, "Mom, I just poo'ed and smeared it all over myself. Can you come here for a sec?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doula In Da House

The doula, Juli, has been hired. I am very excited about having this piece in place. We met Juli when Sadie was 2 weeks old and she came over to help with breastfeeding. I was so tired and out of it that I barely remember her visit. She has helped two of my friends have very positive birth experiences and I am optimtistic about how having her support can help us have a great outcome.

I am happy to report that she's very gentle and non-militant about the whole process. She wasn't thrilled that my doctor has said I should come to the hospital the minute I go into labor. Juli's theory is that if I am able to labor at home for a while and stay comfortable in an intimate environment, then I may progress more rapidly. I asked her what we can do at the hospital to try to create an atmosphere that will have the same results. She said that we can huddle up in the bathroom, where she will light special tea lights. In her experience, being in the bathroom is a way to have some privacy and intimacy and to keep the hospitalness of it all at bay.

Then, she offered this tidbit: If all else fails and the doctors and staff aren't "leaving us alone," we can have Jeff take off his shirt.

I wasn't sure I heard her correctly. Did you say Jeff should take off his shirt?

According to Juli, if Jeff takes off his shirt then the staff will leave us alone because they will have no idea what we are doing in there. Honestly, I am still not sure of the purpose of Jeff taking off his shirt, but I love the idea so much we're doing it no matter what happens. Even if I go in for a C-section, I am having Jeff spend some time without his shirt on. Maybe to join me in the very revealing and exposing process of giving birth. Maybe because I happen to enjoy the view when Jeff takes his shirt off. Who cares? It's funny as hell and we are totally doing that. That one suggestion alone is worth the $900.00 we'll pay the doula for her services.

33 Weeks

Well, today we turned 33 weeks pregnant and to celebrate I had some extra heartburn tablets. Don't say I don't know how to ring in a new week. Everything seems to be proceeding at a healthy pace. A few days ago Jeff took away my wedding/engagement ring because my swollen, sausagey fingers were being gouged by them. I tried to hide that from Jeff because I really want to keep my rings on, but he made some good points, such as how they would have to cut them off my fingers if they got stuck. Fine, fine. So now I am wearing my cheapo 15.00 ring that Jeff and I got in Greenwich Village on our babymoon before Sadie was born. It's a little big, but probably not for long. If memory serves, those last 6 weeks of pregnancy are all about swelling in places where there should be no water.

So there's that to look forward to.

In other news, the blurb about being 33 weeks pregnant says at this point, I may have trouble sleeping, breathing and sitting. Well, then, how's my tennis game going to be? I am pretty sure that all I do is sleep, breathe and sit.

Speaking of tennis, we took a very positive step for the family this weekend. We joined a tennis club, which has excellent babysitting for wee ones. I won't lie, I have never picked up a racket in my life so the tennis wasn't the draw. The babysitting? Well, that was a dealmaker for us. Jeff is going to get into tennis, which should play on all the strengths that make him a scratch golfer. (Yes, 2 years and 2 weeks into marriage and I still pretend like I know what a "scratch" golfer is. Sue me.) There's a gym attached to the club where Mommy will do her thing, which, for now, is called "walking gingerly on a treadmill." I haven't broken a sweat since October, except when I got the flu last Friday and almost fainted during group therapy. I try to keep things interesting as I spend my time breathing, walking and sleeping.

Anyway, we did our first family run to the club last Sunday. I would say we got some mixed results. I dropped Sadie off in the babysitting room. Of course I was terrified she would not want me to leave and that she would cry and protest at the top of her lungs. However, the minute she walked in to the play area she forgot all about boring old mom and went to play with the other little girl. I was so shocked that we didn't have a scene that I just backed away quietly and went to sit by the fire and read the paper. (Having just gotten over the flu, I wasn't going to visit any treadmill last weekend.)

Jeff reserved a practice lane to hit some tennis balls. When he was done, he came to find me cozily lazing by the fireplace reading the Style Section of the NYT. He looked like hell. I have never seen him so pale and glassy-eyed. What the hell do they do to you in the practice lanes, I wondered? The short ending of the story is that Jeff finally came down with the flu that Sadie and I had been battling and he christened our new tennis club with the contends of his guts.

We're so big time.

While I was waiting for Jeff to get himself together, I looked out over 4 indoor courts as people who looked like good tennis players to me lunged for balls and zigged and zagged all over the court hitting those flourescent balls. I have never given tennis much thought, but I have to hand it to the sport: they have very cute outfits for the ladies (those skirts? are you kidding me? How cute is that?) and it seems very social. As in, you can't play tennis alone. I am beginning to make space in my fantasy future for a few cute outfits and some tennis matches with ladies who will become my gym BFFs. Right now the only person woman I know who belongs to the club is literally an ace tennis player, so I have to work up to her level. I'll play with her when I am in my 60's. Til then, I will plot my maturation from solo marathon runner to congenial tennis player.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ultimate Pregnancy Tip

When you have a soul-destroying job at a BigLaw firm, it is reasonable and self-affirming to look for a new job that would give you soul a chance at thriving and soaring, instead of shriveling up each day you went to your office.

PLEASE NOTE: If you do find a job that gives your soul some room to (1) heal and (2) sing, you may want to take it on the theory that (1) you deserve a non-soul-destroying job, (2) it will lead to a better quality of life, (3) it will improve all of your relationships because you will no longer be exposed to a toxic work environment, and (4) you will be that much closer to your professional destiny.

HOWEVER, if you happen to be about 4 weeks and 2 days pregnant when you accept said new job, you should be aware that when it's time to take your maternity leave, you may have to accept that your maternity leave will be UNPAID. As in, during your leave, you will not receive any remuneration for your "services," and you will spend your entire maternity leave watching your bank account dwindle.

All this is the price for not eroding your soul day after day.

The advice? Maybe if you find yourself in this situation, you could negotiate before you take the job to have some sort of payment during maternity leave. That way you can avoid having a conversation at 32.5 weeks pregnant wherein the HR director of your office has to come in and tell you that during your maternity leave, you will receive exactly bubkus for being on "maternity leave."

It's funny, I remember going to pre-natal yoga before Sadie was born and meeting teachers who were telling me that their maternity leaves were unpaid. I thought that sounded so draconian and unjust. I also remember distinctly NOT taking a job at a federal agency because the maternity leave was unpaid. (Ok, there were like 7 other, more important reasons, but the non-paid maternity leave helped seal my rejection of that offer. We'll forget that I still sometimes pine for that job, until I think about what I would have to do as a federal regulator. Another story.)

Anyway, I think there's a good lesson here for myself and my kids and anyone else looking for a morality tale. I could have stayed at BigLaw job (presumably, though not a foregone conclusion) through this second pregnancy, but how small would my soul and my professional life be? Considering half of my former department has gone to greener pastures, I am not sure what it would even feel like to be there. Sure, I could have taken another maternity leave on their dime and gotten some pretty generous bi-weekly checks and probably a bonus. But would it be worth it? Maybe that's not even the right question, since I changed jobs and it's over and done with now.

It would be nice to continue to get paid during my maternity leave. It's not going to happen this time around. I am happier that my day-to-day life is less toxic and more fulfilling in every way. My vision is more about professional fulfillment than about those damn bi-weekly direct deposits.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

32 Weeks Pregnant

I just googled "32 weeks pregnant" to see what developmental milestones Meatball and I are reaching this week. Here's the first line I saw:

"Your baby can now produce sweat."



Why is a baby sweating in the womb, anyway? Another, apparently less headlining-grabbing feats this week is that the baby has a fully functioning digestive system, which he'll need to eat my "cooking."

As for my milestones, I am "supposed" to be gaining a pound per week and looking foward to increased constipation, shortness of breath and moodiness. Without giving the details, let's just say I am on pace for my milestones.

Little Meatball moves all the time and wakes me up at night with his jabs. I love it. The other day he jabbed me so hard when I was walking around that I lost my breath. He's lucky I am a fan of aggression.

We are meeting with a doula on Saturday to go over our birthplan, which includes trying to reach the holy grail of vaginal birth after C-section. My doctor is on board, though she did have a discussion with me about all the things that "are not in my control." She must have sensed I was hoping to exert control over the situation in ways that may not be realistic. I have no idea where she got that idea. Maybe when I told her that I was going to have a pain-free vaginal birth after pushing for approximately 47 minutes.

Oh, Dr. Gupta, you have no idea. You simply have no idea.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Baby Brother

Sadie is doing her training for being a big sister. She has fully mastered the art of hugging and kissing and being gentle. While she does not always heed our pleas to be gentle, she has proven she does know how. We have about 8 more weeks to work on her big sister training. I think I am going to get her a baby boy doll and a little mini-stroller, so she can get excited about the prospect of having a little baby around. I will try to work on teaching her the concept of FOREVER, since that's how long her baby brother will be staying with us.

Though, to be honest, the real training is for me to learn how to prepare Sadie for who's coming and how to transition from a one-child household to a two-child household. I can say without any shame that I have no idea how to do that, but I am not above asking people with close families how they do it.

This weekend holds big milestone events for our household. I believe the crib will be put together. I have done several loads of laundry for Mr. Meatball and we may pull the trigger on the mini-van. There is still a little issue of the double stroller and a few other pieces of equipment, but we are over the hump and moving fast.

Speaking of equipment, I have done some research on vaginal births after a C-section and I am working on getting my equipment in shape. I talked to a doula today with whom we will have a meeting to talk about our birth plans. I only cried 3 times during our 10 minute conversation, so I am sure she has a very good idea what kind of condition I will be in as this birth gets even closer. She really understood that the C-section was traumatic for me and said that her goal, regardless of what kind of birth I end up having this time, is for me to be safe and NOT traumatized.

I hate that word: "trauma." I hate that trauma had anything to do with my experience of birth with Sadie. I don't believe it has affected our relationship negatively, but it's a huge regret that simultaeous to meeting Sadie my guts were splayed out in an operating room, which was all followed by a panic attack. The doula I spoke to today told me about the results of two studies: In one study, they surveyed people living in Manhattan shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and found that 9.5% of experienced being traumatized. In the second study, they found that in sample of women (unrelated to the 9/11 attacks) surveyed about their birth experiences, approximately 9.7% of them reported feeling traumatized.

I feel validated by that data and happy that my there are doulas out there who understand what kind of emotions might be coming with me to the hospital when the time comes.

In other news, I pee about 3 times every hour, which means at all times, I must be wearing comfortable shoes. I saw a friend today during lunch hour and he said my shoes reminded him of the nuns from Catholic schools. Naturally, I took offense and pointed out that my very comfortable shoes (that actually do have a little wedge heel) have a darling little flower near the buckle and told him that if he could find a nun wearing a shoe was cute as mine I would return to the Catholic Church as a full tithing member this Sunday.

Don't EF with me and my shoes.

New cravings have crept in as well. Everyday this week for lunch I had at least one serving of baba ganoush. I can't seem to get enough of its eggplanty goodness. And wheat toast, pita, bagel products. Good lord, if there is something tastier than toasted doughy wheat products with butter then ship it to me C.O.D. I am hungry all the time. Meatball is on pace to gain about 3-5 lbs from here on out so it makes sense that I am going to have to do my part.

Peeing. Eating wheat bagels. Interviewing doulas. Supervising the nursey preparations.

It's a sweet, sweet life.