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...