Thursday, October 28, 2010

Babies and Old Wives

When my husband and I went to the 18-week ultrasound, we knew we wanted to know the sex of our firstborn. I'm the kind of person who can't stand not knowing things, and my husband, well, just wants everyone to know. The fact that I've set up a baby pool on Facebook and at work, allowing people to guess the sex and date of birth (and in the case of my workplace, the birth weight), annoys him. "You're turning our baby into a circus!" he says, somewhat accusingly. But I think it's fun.

I have told people I don't know personally, like the dentist and the opthamologist. But keeping it a secret from my friends and family is HARD. Now that we know what Jellyfish is, it has become increasingly difficult not to use personal pronouns when talking about, er, the baby (see what I almost did there?) to other people. This is doubly difficult in French, where nouns have genders, so "le bébé" is masculine. I've had people jump on the fact that I have referred to the baby as "il" (he) to mean that the baby is a boy. Which may or may not be true.

I have slipped up on occasion (including when talking once to my dad, who just said nonchalantly, "I didn't hear anything," which may or may not have been true), but instead of hurriedly using the alternate pronoun, which is a dead giveaway, I just try my best to keep talking normally.

This is more difficult than it sounds.

Also, the fact that I have mentioned that "it was clear from the ultrasound what the sex is" to naturally mean that there was a giant penis on the screen waving around and saying hello. People, the absence of something is also definitive, you know! Which is not to mean that I'm saying it's a girl.

Boy, am I sly!

One coworker believes it's a boy, because we had a discussion where I asked her about boy names. All the baby name lists I've created over the years - and there have been many - are predominantly filled with girl names. Girl names are easy! I've always had trouble finding boy names I've liked. And generally, there is a delicate balance to finding a baby name that is:
  • kind of traditional (no Moonshifter, Ziggy, Lafawndah, or Kodi);
  • not too common or popular (no David, Ethan, Emma, or Olivia);
  • not impossible to spell or pronounce (e.g. Niamh, pronounced NEEV);
  • preferably has a French equivalent or pronunciation that is not too far off the English version (Henry/Henri, Bridget/Brigitte);
  • is not sexually ambiguous in English (e.g. Kerry, Madison, Jamie, Ashley);
  • is not sexually ambiguous in French (e.g. Michel/Michelle, Gabriel/Gabrielle);
  • not too long (e.g. Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles; read here for the reference);
  • doesn't rhyme with MacDonald (Ronald, Donald);
  • and last but not least, doesn't have the distinction of being the same name as someone in our past that we disliked (examples omitted to protect ourselves)

So when this girl said she had a whole host of good boy names, I naturally was curious and pumped her for information. Leading to assumptions which may or may not be correct.

I've been finding it hilarious to hear people determine what the sex is based on old wives' tales, like the position of the baby or my shape or how pretty I am. It's even funnier when one person says it's a boy and another says it's a girl, and they each give me the same reason for their theory. Or, conversely, when I've known the opposite reason to be true.

e.g. "You're having a boy because your belly is all forward." To which I reply that this is how my mother carried me - at seven months she stuck straight out and people walking behind her didn't know she was pregnant until she turned around.

e.g. "You're having a girl because you're a little rounder than you were before." I chortle to myself and say that my mother was round all over when carrying my brother Scott.

One of the funnier determinants I've heard is the pretty-ugly factor, which I have heard used for both sexes. I had a nice table all set up, but I can't figure out how to insert it here, so I'll just have to write it out.

Theory #1: If you're pretty, it's a boy!
Reason: If you're pretty, it's because a boy is taking your ugliness.

Theory #2: If you're ugly, it's a boy!
Reason: If you're ugly, it's because a boy is passing his "ugliness" (masculinity?) onto you.

Theory #3: If you're pretty, it's a girl!
Reason: If you're pretty, it's because a girl is enhancing your pre-existing prettiness.

Theory #4: If you're ugly, it's a girl!
Reason: If you're ugly, it's because a girl is taking all your prettiness for herself.

There is a funny quiz online to figure out your gender odds based solely on old wives' tales. Here are my answers, for your edification on my current state of gravidas, and your temporary amusement.
  1. My hair is shiny and full-bodied.
  2. The hair on my legs growing just as fast as before. (Where did THIS theory come from?)
  3. My nails are growing faster and stronger.
  4. I have had morning sickness.
  5. I generally crave sour or salty things, as opposed to sweets.
  6. My tush is not growing abnormally large.
  7. My feet are no colder than they were before.
  8. Fetal heart rate is generally below 139 bpm.
  9. I'm not craving orange juice.
  10. Baby's resting low.
  11. My belly is watermelon-shaped, not beach-ball shaped.
  12. Baby's kicking mostly to the right.
  13. Baby's kicking mostly low.
  14. The dad's not gaining sympathy weight.
  15. I can't see the weight gain in my face.

According to these answers, there's a 60% chance it's a boy, and a 40% chance it's a girl.

I'd love to hear any other old wives' tales you've heard to predict gender!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Mezzo preggo

I'm a little more than halfway through my first real pregnancy. And I have to admit, at this point, I still don't feel that physically different. Though, here are some of the types of things my brain has been saying to me over the past few months to explain the ways my body has changed.
  • You didn't have morning sickness. You had all-day food poisoning. For eight weeks.

  • You didn't have to diet because you lost 10 pounds from, er, food poisoning. Yay you!

  • You're gaining the belly fat back. It's just firm belly fat now.

  • You have trouble cutting your toenails, puting on your socks, and tying your shoes because of your poor flexibility. It has nothing to do with the new, firm belly fat.

  • You only slept 16 hours a day for seven weeks because it was a hot, hot summer.

  • Your boobs got massive for no apparent reason, and for the first time you so dazzled a waiter with them that he forgot your order. Score one for the new awesome rack!

  • You had gas because you kept drinking pop, and eating the gigantic runner beans growing through the chain-link fence of the school near your work.

  • You're only craving pasta because pasta is delicious.

  • You're only craving oatmeal cookies because oatmeal cookies are delicious.

  • You're only craving gravy because gravy is delicious (and you don't know how to make it).

At least, my brain was saying all these things until about two weeks ago. Then came The Nudge.

When my husband and I went to the 18-week ultrasound, it was astounding how much Jellyfish, as we'd been calling the creature inside me, was moving around. From the moment the technician put the wand to my belly, we could see Jellyfish was kicking, arching its back, moving its arms, and turning around, generally looking very different from the tiny blob we'd seen in the first, 8-week ultrasound. The strangest part was seeing all this glorious movement on the screen, and not feeling a whit of it inside me. I'd been having tons of gas (hooray for pregnancy hormones messing up digestion), so it was impossible for me to say whether I'd been feeling just gas bubbles, or if there was fetal movement mixed in with the abdominal shenanigans.

This lack of feeling was explained my the technician as being caused by having an "anterior placenta", meaning the placenta had attached itself to the front of my uterus instead of the customary position in the back. This basically means I have a cushion of liquid at the front of my belly, and the baby would usually be behind it, kicking the placenta instead of my uterus. She said I "probably wouldn't feel anything until week 22, at the earliest." A little disappointed at the delay in this next step in parent-baby bonding, but happy to see that Jellyfish seemed to have all the relevant bits (heart, brain, liver, limbs, etc), we left.

The day that week 21 started, I was writing a long e-mail to a friend who is teaching overseas (and who is rather disappointed that she's missing all the babyhood that's happening in the meantime). I was explaining about the whole anterior placenta thing to her, complaining bitterly that I wouldn't feel anything for a while. I stopped typing in mid-sentence to scratch my belly, looking down at my gradually flattening navel, when all of a sudden...


My whole belly just... twitched, about a half centimeter to the right. I froze.

I had joked with my midwife about the difference between gas and fetal movements ("If it makes a sound, it's probably not the baby"), and how it was really neat that when I lay quietly I could feel, and sometimes even see, my pulse beating faintly near my navel. This felt very different.

When you have gas, your intestines perform an astounding array of digestive orchestration, from low rumbles, to mid-tone pops, to bizarre squeaks, all accompanied by the various sensations of abdominal tightness, travelling gas pockets, and finally the ever-relieving fart.

This was most assuredly a nudge. There was no sound apart from my sudden intake of breath, none of the slight relief caused by the sudden, mysterious dissolution of gas that oddly, does not require a fart. This was a definite push outward by something that was certainly not my guts.

I gently put a hand on my belly, and then there it was again, fainter, but not at all Me. It was truly It. I pushed inwards a bit, hoping to get a response, and then again, fainter still - a flutter instead of a nudge - but still not Me.

Naturally, I rushed to type this to my friend, and then called my husband to gush about it to him, and then called my mother to gush about it to her. Then I sent the e-mail, and immediately went to lie down and try to commune with Jellyfish some more, but after several pokes and prods I guess the wee thing had had enough excitement for one day.

It's been two weeks since then, and the movement has become so much more defined! It's definitely focused on the right side, and I (pardon the pun) get such a kick out of actually seeing my belly move faintly. Jelly moves around a bit when my husband reads aloud at night, and it's tremendously satisfying. I'd love to share the movement with some of my co-workers, but generally speaking the nudges are too low for physical contact that is not indecent.

I find myself softly talking to my belly at work, when no one's around. Like most pregnant women, I'm stroking my belly constantly, partly for comfort, partly to feel when Jellyfish is moving, partly for support. I'm not that big yet, but I'm definitely noticing a change in my posture and where I feel tension in the skin of my belly.

One thing I have not enjoyed too much is when Jellyfish decides to step-dance on my cervix. It is truly the most bizarre and uncomfortable feeling. (Except for that thing where you lie on your front on the ground and someone lifts up your arms and holds them up for 30 seconds and then s-l-o-w-l-y lowers them and it feels like your elbows are going to go through the floor. Okay, that actually feels kind of cool.)

Men, there's really no way I can describe this in a way you can understand. Ladies, it feels like you have to pee and fart out of your vagina at the same time. There's just this unrelievable, and sometimes painful, pressure. When it happens I try to change position (seated to standing, or standing to laying down), or do leg raises to try to move the wee dancer out of there, but Jellyfish goes quiet for a few minutes and then stomps up a storm again, as if to say, "Oh, YEAH?!??"

Doesn't bode well for post-natal discipline, I tell you what...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Driving me crazy

People sometimes give me strange looks when I tell them I only have my beginner's license. "You're how old?" I explain that my parents always said they'd never teach my brothers and I (father too impatient, mother hates driving) and that if we wanted to learn we had to pay for it. On top of that, from the age of 16 onwars I always lived in a city that had decent public transit (Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa).

But my husband and I have been trying to expand our little family of two for some time. I figure it would be rather practical to be able to drive on my own with a future little one without Andrew having to be in the car with me. (As a beginning driver, I must have someone in the car with me at all times who has a full licence and at least 4 years of driving experience.) So I signed up for Driver's Ed with one of the cheaper organizations in the city. Well, you get what you pay for.

In my four days of in-class sessions, I learned the following things:
  • the teacher once lost his teaching license for two years for too many speeding tickets
  • if you take a Canadian penny and slip it in between the treads of a tire, Queen's head down, and you can see her crown, your tires need to be replaced
  • the teacher "practically invented road rage"
  • a pair of pantyhose can temporarily replace your serpentine belt
  • the teacher got thrown into alcoholic detox at the age of 15
  • parallel parking is "the easiest thing in the world"
  • the teacher once made his daughter pay $400 to fix a dent he put in his bumper because she didn't notice it when she borrowed his car (always do a circle check!)
  • a car has four blind spots
  • the teacher has had four heart attacks
  • older people don't check, or aren't aware of, their blind spots
  • the teacher once had mescalin put in his beer without his knowledge and it took him seven hours to get home
  • if your tires squeal during your driving test, you fail
  • the teacher currently has 3 demerits on his license; one more and he loses his teaching license permanently

As you can tell, I don't feel I learned a whole lot about driving during class. Also, the teacher is rather fond of cursing, which I can only hope is a scheme to grab the attention of sleeping teenagers, but which feel is actually his personality coming through.

On the plus side, my in-car instructor is very different. He is very talky. Rather more professional than the class teacher. I've had my first lesson already, and he said at the end that I'm a very calm and confident driver (good thing he didn't see me nitpick at everyone else's bad habits), but that he's going to hammer at my weak spots (checking my blind spots, among other things) until I hate him. I won't hate him, but I may strongly dislike him.

Overall, I think my first lesson went well. We stopped only once to go over the rules of a yield sign - specifically, DO NOT STOP UNLESS YOU HAVE TO (or you fail the test) - and he only touched his brakes twice. It's a little disconcerting to have the brake pedal disappear under your foot while you're driving. I think the best part is that the car (I'm hoping it'll be the same one) is a Sunfire, practically the same car as our Cavalier, so I don't need to fiddle about looking for various signals and things.

I have to find my Rules of the Road book. I need to finish my homework before my last lesson. My first homework in ten years. It's odd.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rumble in the Capital

As a girl growing up on Air Force bases across Canada, I quickly developed a healthy respect for the awesome power of airplanes. Particularly since I was about six, when a friend of the family lost her husband in a flying accident, I have had an even healthier fear of airplanes crashing. (I mention this only as an indicator that I have had this fear since well before 9/11, when most sane people developed similar fears.)

As a base brat I became attuned to the various sounds of flying. I could tell the difference between takeoff and landing without looking, and during one particular summer could actually differentiate between the sounds of an F-14 and an F-18. I can't do either anymore, but I still peer suspiciously at the sky when I hear an aircraft which seems to be flying unusually low over a civilian area, while I look for smoke trails or a brighter light signalling a fire and not the wingtip lights. Just in case, y'know.

As I was playing a video game on the computer yesterday, on the upstairs level of our house, I was in the midst of a battle scene when this faint rumble began. For two seconds, my brain thought,"Cool, I'm really getting into the game." Then the rumble got much louder and the house started to shake. I swear on everything I hold dear I truly thought it was a plane coming down. I stood up and peeked out the curtains for about half a second, to assess where the noise was coming from and in which direction I should run to avoid having my head removed by an errant wingtip ripping through my roof. It was so loud!!

I didn't see anything in that split second, so I ran out of the office just in time to hear and see the mirror in the guest bathroom, which was never attached to the wall, fall forward and hit the faucet, sink, toilet and floor in quick sequence, shattering into a million pieces. Ash bolted downstairs and hid under the dining room table. I ran past him into the living room, where our touch lamp was flickering on and off, to see if I could spot contrails from the patio door. Nothing there. As I ran to the front door I spotted Juno diving under the living room chair. I still saw nothing, and by then the rumbling had stopped. It was only about 30 seconds. Not the longest 30 seconds of my life, but maybe in the top ten.

I hurriedly threw on some clothes (hey, it was my day off) and ran outside. A few neighbors were out there (including, I kid you not, a woman on her knees with her hands up in the air, praying). I called across the street to two women, "What WAS that?" A couple of shrugs. I ran back inside to grab the cat carriers in case I needed to get the cats out, wrinkling my nose in distaste at the state of them (what? they're not used that often, and basements are dusty). Went on a cat hunt and found Juno immediately, but I couldn't find Ash. He had fled from the dining room table, and it took ten minutes before he finally came up from the basement. Lots of good hiding places there. Figuring the worst of whatever it was was over, I ran upstairs and picked up the phone - no signal. I remembered that the computer was still on. Internet? Check. Immediately jumped on Facebook, where there was already a deluge of posts.

So, as all of Canada knows by now, it was actually an earthquake that hit the Quebec-Ottawa region (and not, as I had feared, a large airplane), measuring approximately 5.0 on the Richter scale. There are reports of minor damage in Ottawa, such as broken windows and fallen chimneys, with more serious damage in areas of Bowman, QC, the worst being a collapsed causeway and a damaged church roof. The quake was felt as far south as New York City, as far west as Thunder Bay.

So I made it through my first real earthquake and lived to tell the tale. The only casualty in my house was the mirror and the cats' nerves. Well, mine too. Took an hour for my fingers to stop shaking. But now I know what an earthquake feels like, so I'll hopefully be less panicked next time it happens.

(And just so we're clear, I'm not actually afraid to fly. I'm afraid to crash. On one memorable flight home to Halifax during my university years, I sat in the window seat right next to the propeller... during a snowstorm. I have a vivid imagination, and so the mental image of the propeller, a black silhouette against a backdrop of blowing snow and a bright winglight, rotating right off its casing, slicing through the cabin, and removing my legs below the knee, still stays with me.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mild, mild March

Today marks the first day I enjoy my yard work in 2010. It seems all my preparation in the fall of 2009 paid off: barely two bags of yard waste, and a delicious pile of compost just waiting to be spread. It actually worked! I'm truly surprised, since the last time I saw the inside of the compost heap it still had most of an undegraded lemon in it, among other things. Oddly enough, the grass clippings I dumped in mid-October are still uncomposted. Oh, well. Soon enough!

I found less cat poop than I expected. Last year there was a cat who would crap in my vegetable garden at least once a week. (The vegetables stopped growing.)

A pile of firewood is ready, and now the yard is pretty much set for a wonderful Easter Egg hunt this Sunday. We're supposed to have gorgeous above-seasonal temperatures this weekend (even today did not feel like the advertised 15°C - I was sleeveless all afternoon), which is perfect.

What did I get rid of? I bit the bullet and cut down some raspberry canes that were in the way of other plants. Some. I never remember which ones are the new canes and which are the older ones. Most of the canes fruit for two years.

I mostly got rid of dead leaves on the hostas and lilies and irises. Later, when it's a bit warmer, I'll be digging up the pampas grass. It's overwhelming the plants by the southern fence, and so bye-bye it will go.

I cut down another big branch on Anna Willow that was leaning over the fence into the neighbor's yard. Beth Willow will require some serious pruning later on too. And the Forsythia had a few long branches removed, but not nearly enough.

So what's growing so far? Tulips, irises, sedum, hyacinth, miniature daffodils, daylilies (they're behind the canoe stand, though, and they never seem to make it to blooming, but we'll see). I spotted buds on some of the raspberry canes, and some of the mystery trees I uncovered last fall. It'll be fun to finally find out what they are!

I wasn't the only one to enjoy the sunshine though. Ash the Cat submitted to being harnessed and put on a leash. He nearly escaped when I wouldn't move from the composter and he freaked out, thrashing like a rabid animal. I put the body harness back on (the collar was still around his neck) and tried an experiment. I unhooked him from the leash, covered the only bolt-hole I could find, and let him explore on his own. Then I heard Juno the Cat meowing at the patio door. Normally she doesn't like Outside, but she seemed curious, so I opened the screen door and let her out. Of the two, she is microchipped, so I'd worry less about her than Ash. (Don't worry, he's getting chipped soon.)

When Ash is outside, he becomes totally wild. He doesn't hear his name, totally ignores me, and doesn't make a sound. He tends to stick to the edges of the yard, rarely walking straight across it. He also tries to eat all the long grass he can find. Ash hates being brought back inside (he actually hissed at me today - a first), but once back in the house he is quick to have the harness removed.

This was Juno's first time Outside, and she behaved rather differently from Ash. She meows in acknowledgement of her name being called, but doesn't come back like she usually does. She tended to wander all over, not really smelling much, just trotting around.

There was a pretty hilarious moment when the two of them spotted each other from opposite sides of the yard, and approached each other so slowly, their tails puffing up and their bodies slinking low to the ground, until they got a good sniff and the puffiness abated. Then the garbage truck came by and Juno took off back to the patio.

I think their outing was good for them. I know cats sleep a lot, but they've been passed out for about an hour each. I could use a nap myself. It's probably more sun than I get in a week!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Resolve... for real

At this time of year, as many well-meaning people do, I have made a New Year's resolution. It seems fitting that at the close of a year, one reflects on the past twelve months and wonders, "How can I do better?"

The common resolutions I hear others make are, "Lose (the holiday) weight" or a fitness variation thereof, and "Save more money," no doubt a wish made by those who feel the post-season financial crunch.

It took some thinking to figure out how I wanted to improve my life. "Lose the holiday weight": sure, I can do that using our new Nintendo Wii and eating less extravagantly than I did in December. But with a bit of work the eight pounds I gained in as many days (!) will be gone in a few weeks. So what then?

"Save more money." Well, my credit card is hurting a bit, but I'm working extra shifts for the next few months and have no gifts to buy for a while, so with luck that should be paid off by Valentine's Day. Then what? Ten months of gluttony and merciless spending so I can make the same resolutions next year and feel, for two months, that I have accomplished something? Not for me.

It's tough for many folks to make resolutions, whether New Years'-induced or not, stick. I read something once that said if you want to change a bad habit to a good one, or adopt a new habit, you need to do it every day for 21 days. By the time the 21 days are up, it should be so incorporated into your routine by then that you don't think of it as something new.

I found that to be true when I went on my weight-loss diet this past summer. It was really hard for a few weeks -I felt constantly hungry - and then, it just sort of... stopped. I still eat less junk food in general now (with the obvious "Except in December" caveat), and we cook more food at home instead of eating out 3-4 times a week.

Well, the emphasis on that sentence should be cooking... not necessarily eating.

My resolution for this year is to throw away less food.

My husband and I have a really bad habit of cooking a big pot of something (soup, spaghetti sauce, stew), eating it for a couple of days, then letting the rest rot in the fridge. It's really appalling the amount of food we throw away. I'm slightly relieved by the green bin program our city has just begun, since this means we can rest assured that our blue and black leftovers (and kitty litter!!!!! ?Zounds!!!!!) will wind up in a composter instead of a dump, but I'd like to really focus on reducing the amount of food we throw away, period.

We bought a whiteboard and a handful of colorful pens for the kitchen, and have started to write the week's dinner plans on it. It being the first week, there was naturally some leeway with it. It started with:

Sunday: Yummy delicious stew
Monday: Yummy delicious stew leftovers
Tuesday: Chili
Wednesday: Stir-fry
Thursday: Chili leftovers
Friday: Dambergerts (see the new Pink Panther movie for the reference)
Saturday: [insert hand-drawn logo for East Side Mario's here]

Today is Friday, and this is what actually happened this week:

Sunday: Yummy delicious stew
Monday: Yummy delicious stew leftovers
Tuesday: Yummy delicious stew leftovers
Wednesday: Dambergerts
Thursday: Subway (oops)
Friday: Whatever I make, since hubby is going to a hockey game and won't be home for dinner
Saturday: Something home-cooked, since my friend is coming over for dinner

As you can see, it's something of a work-in progress. On the plus side, the subs were free, since I had enough points on my Subway card to pay for them both.

On the whiteboard is also the shopping list, and today I aim to inventory both the fridge and the freezer, since knowing what food I have to cook with in the first place is half the battle. My hope is that all this cooking of massive meals may lead to the later acquisition of a small deep-freeze.

However, hubby is more opposed to this idea, arguing that the garage is cold enough in winter to keep frozen things frozen, and he shouldn't have to pay for electricity to make a box cold in a cold garage. I argued back that there is always a pool of water under the car, hence it is at least above freezing. He said that it was kept liquid by the salt coming off the car. We tested this idea with ice cubes in an open container on a shelf in the garage. After two days, they were still solid and hadn't at all melted into each other, and neither had the water on the floor really solidified. Okay, he won that one.

Now the debate is how to store food without critters getting into it, since I know from experience that little rodents can and will eat through thin plastic to get at food they like. So Rubbermaid containers are out. I don't know that a cooler would work if there are no cooling packs inside it.

I'm soliciting any advice on how to store frozen food, electricity-free, without critters getting in. Does a freezer stay cold in the winter if you don't plug it in? Let me know, and wish me luck on my resolution!