Pregnancy journal: accelerated updates

I meant to spread these posts out more, but I can never count on my writing/computer energy these days. So here are a bunch of recent-ish ones all at once.

November 11, 2015, ~22 weeks, right in the second trimester

Lisa with nephew Teddytyping with my nephew Teddy’s “assistance”

I realized this morning, while investigating my ever-more-rounded belly, that I have to revise something I said before I became pregnant. I used to believe that having a child destroys the mother’s body, that it is, in a very real sense, a trauma. Perhaps I will eventually discover that to be true, but so far I have been more struck by how pregnancy is a demonstration of all that my body is capable of doing. As I am neither an athlete nor a performer nor even a laborer, I haven’t had the opportunity to fully comprehend my body’s potential — but now I am starting to.

Throughout my life, I — and I imagine many other women — have wondered what I would look like if I ever became pregnant. I’ve stood in front of mirrors with my belly pooched out, holding my hands near my navel in that universal I-am-with-child stance. I didn’t appreciate, then, that the appearance of that distinctive rotund belly is actually the least interesting thing about this process. It’s like art-making in that respect, in that what the public sees is only the tiniest fraction of the journey.

I’ve been saying from the beginning that even when pregnancy isn’t particularly fun, it’s still astonishingly comfortable given the substantial feat my body is enacting. My body took a tiny entity — an egg that has lived in me my entire life, even when I was only a fetus within my mother’s body — and from it, with the help of some material from Erik, made an entirely new being, feeding and growing and protecting it while still allowing me to live a mostly normal life. It’s a ludicrously gigantic departure from my usual state of being, and yet my body copes pretty well… all things considered.

What is pregnancy, for those of us who don’t know it? Nine months of vaguely understood symptoms (nausea, food cravings, an aching back), a baby bump requiring specialty clothing, a roughly daylong ordeal mostly hidden, an announcement, an infant who’s alternatingly adorable and a nightmare. All that is true, but none of that really tells us what it feels like day-to-day. It is weird, much of the time, in both predictable and unpredictable ways. My hair grows so fast and so thickly that my hairstylist has had to re-learn how to cut it; it hangs on my head differently than it used to. Sometimes, after peeing, I’ll stand up and my lower belly will suddenly feel so heavy — as if all my internal organs (and Pudding) had shifted themselves with the emptying of my bladder — and then I do this silly slightly-hunched-over walk out of the bathroom. On some days there is a near-constant drip from certain of my orifices, which is both inconvenient and more than that (one word: chafing). I’ll experience random twinges in my abdomen — which makes perfect sense — as well as tingles and twitches elsewhere, which isn’t as intuitive. But also, quite often, I don’t feel weird, which is in its own way the strangest thing of all. Just now I finished eating a big dinner — well, “big” is relative these days — and afterward, feeling so full, I absently patted my stomach and then thought, “Whoa, it’s so stretched-out and protuberant! I must have eaten a lot!” Followed, of course, immediately by the realization that this roundness wasn’t caused by dinner alone!

I remember, when we were traveling, in every new place I experienced many moments of wonder that I, this self I’ve grown accustomed to, was unbelievably in… Iceland! Or Istanbul! Or Kyoto! Even after months and years of nomadic life, the thought never failed to stagger me; on some level, the “I” that I think of simply doesn’t register in my mind as someone who could possibly be in any of those places. And yet I was. Pregnancy feels exactly the same. Every now and then I just think: I, this very same self I’ve always known, am carrying a child within my body. It is a wonder.

Lisa and Erik at Wilder Ranch State Park, November 27on a family hike, November 27, day after Thanksgiving

Lisa recliningresting during a lab test for glucose tolerance, December 5

December 29, ~29 weeks pregnant, transitioning to third trimester

I feel myself turning inward again, as I did in the first few months, focusing on what’s to come. Sometimes it disturbs me. So many of my friends seem to be pregnant or have babies. Twice this week I’ve misinterpreted someone else’s words or my own, which has never happened before; for months my memory has been less reliable than I’m used to. Occasionally I worry that I am becoming that woman I disdained: one who cares only for her child(ren), to the exclusion of other engagement in the world. Of course, that’s nonsense, and even in my more worried moments I can see that. But it does feel, sometimes, like there’s a thick, troublesome distance between how I feel in any given moment and that free-flowing vigor and creativity that used to characterize my mental space, and it’s hard not to feel at least a little uneasy about that — to fear it’ll never go away. But I think it’ll be okay. It’s only been six months since Pudding began to germinate; what is six months in a lifetime? What is the few years it takes to raise a toddler? Things circle around. I know this.

Lisa keeping warmkeeping warm before the heater kicks in, December 26

Lisa at almost 30 weeksbelly selfie (preggie?), New Year’s Eve

Written today, January 8, ~30 weeks

Ten more weeks to go, give or take.

I was thinking last night: Pregnancy is the coolest, most empowering, most vibrant, most fascinating thing I’ve ever done. It is beautiful and tender and delightful and replete with hope.

Pregnancy is also the most miserable, awful, uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done. It either hurts or feels weird, and it makes me anxious and teary. It is hard work, 24-7.

I suppose being a parent will be much the same.

Lisa, nephew Teddy, and family catshanging out with Teddy (and Miss Darcy) on January 2

I’ve cried a lot this week — well, I’ve cried a lot over the past seven months, though as the arrival date draws nearer the crying seems to come from an even more urgent place. I cried because I watched a clip of Babies and when I saw the newborn Mongolian baby I thought maybe Pudding will look like that. I cried when I watched Obama cry in his speech about gun restrictions. I just barely did not cry at the raccoon losing its cotton candy. I cried when we watched a birth video at the first session of our childbirth preparation class (so did almost all the other women in the class). I almost cried when my mom told me about an accidental kidnapping (thieves stole a car and an infant happened to be in it), and the mother’s death as she was thrown from the moving car, which she had been clinging to, trying to get her baby back. I cried when Trevor Noah showed the clip of Obama’s crying. I lay down for a nap and then thought, what if Erik and I die before Pudding grows up and she never knows how much we love her? I’m crying again as I write this and revisit all these things that have already made me cry once. It’s not that these are stupid things to cry at, but it’s more like these hormones (and the anticipation of meeting our baby and having to care for her) bring that deep well of existential sadness so incredibly close to the surface that any remotely touching thing becomes an instant conduit to the entire well. I’m not crying because of any specific thing, I’m crying because everything.

There are still so many posts I wanted to write, about my earlier stages of pregnancy, but now I’m not sure I will get to them. I find it so hard to focus on anything these days except for feeding myself; even though I can only eat very small quantities, I can think about, research, plan, and prepare meals all day long without any loss of dedication! I don’t want to read anything except cookbooks and romance novels, and even then, I’ll sometimes download a novel and then play iPad games instead of reading, because even such straightforward reading feels somehow like too much effort. I would feel embarrassed about being such a ditz, except that I realize this is all because there is so much happening in my body that I simply don’t have the bandwidth for much else. And I am not very good at naps — which means the fact that I had two, yesterday, indicates that I really need them.

Chicken pie with heart-shaped cutouts on top crustchicken pie I baked (completely from scratch, yes) in late November

Lisa perusing cookbooksreading new cookbooks (the perfect gift!) on Christmas Day

In some ways the third trimester feels like a return to the first one, when the physical experience was just so overwhelming that it seemed to take precedence over everything else. I am again reduced to eating small meals, this time because my stomach is increasingly compressed and digestion very much slowed. Strange but true: I’ve gained only eleven pounds from the start of pregnancy, which means I’ve lost weight everywhere except where the baby needs it (amniotic fluid alone can weigh a few pounds). They say you gain the most weight in the last months, but I don’t see how that can possibly happen when I have such a hard time consuming more than a modest plate of food at a sitting. Meanwhile, our childbirth instructor says our daily water intake is supposed to be half our current weight in pounds, but in ounces. In my case that’s almost 90 ounces, which I’m afraid is never going to happen, not if I need to eat as well!

New Year's Eve breakfastmy breakfast on New Year’s Eve, along with an apple — a big meal for me, these days!

My belly feels fine some days, very heavy some days, dreadfully stretched other days, and yet I don’t look that big, comparatively. I’ve only once had a stranger comment openly on my pregnancy (the woman from whom I bought satsumas at the farmers’ market asked how I was doing, and then, smiling, asked how the baby was too), and at my past three Meetup events there has always been someone who had no idea I was pregnant at all. (Jackets go some way to obscuring the situation, not that I’m trying to.) I’m starting to get some aching in one hip and more frequent twinges elsewhere, but otherwise I have very little to complain of, except that heavy/stretched belly sensation. Every few weeks or so I will lose a couple of hours’ sleep to an intense feeling of restlessness and discomfort, but in the grand scheme, that’s nothing.

Pudding kicks constantly, leading me to speculate on what she will be like once she’s out, even though there’s not said to be any correlation between infant personality/activity and fetal movement. These days she doesn’t necessarily kick much harder than she used to but she’ll often kick several times in succession — pop pop pop! — and she also does something else that I can’t figure out, but it feels like a large undulation, like she’s turning around or doing a somersault. It isn’t exactly painful but it is very strange and sometimes I can’t help but make a startled sound: oof or whoa or hey! It always makes me think of those underwater videos of large, slow, mysterious, looming creatures emerging suddenly from the corner of the frame and then passing through, silent, beady-eyed: there in the deep, someone has disturbed the water. I don’t know if that makes any sense as a metaphor but it’s what always comes to mind.

First babies, they say, are usually late rather than early, but even so, there’s not that much time until her arrival. We still don’t have anything for her except a bunch of clothes my nephew has outgrown (and a musical toy from one of Erik’s brothers, and an outfit and a pair of socks from friends). We’ll get what she needs, of course, and she doesn’t need much, but it’s a daunting process, like starting to pack for a move that doesn’t happen for another couple of months. After all, why clutter the apartment? It doesn’t need to be done until it does… but in the meantime we should probably start, no? Probably. Soon. Tomorrow. Or next week. Sometime.

Everyone wants to know if we’re thinking about names. We are, of course, yes. Names are hard. Even for fictional characters I have a hard time, and this is infinitely more important. It has always seemed to me very arrogant that we name our children before we even know who they are. I feel that they have to bear enough of the burden of our expectations without needing to wear them in their very name. At any rate, as an artist, I know, if the work means enough to you, you don’t show it to anyone until you’re ready. So we are not telling anyone our top name choices. And we will not choose one until we meet her face-to-face. It won’t be as good as getting to know her first for up to a year (as is permitted in Iceland, if I remember right), but it’s what we can offer.

Ten weeks is still a good amount of time but I really feel that the countdown is on.