Third Eye

The bump is elusive. So far, the bump is solitary. No matter how hard I try to take a good photo, the bump sees me coming and moves so that I miss the shot. I can’t capture the bump in context, because the bump knows I’m there. I shift, the bump shifts. I spin, and the bump spins in the same direction, like a shadow. When I run, the bump seems to glide at the same time and the same speed. I’ve tried to figure out the strategy: the bump doesn’t know my next step, but the bump knows each step as I’m taking it. So, even if I decide to change course, the bump knows exactly when to change course, too. It’s almost like we have the same mind or are in the same body. Completely synchronized.

I try to sneak up from behind, and I see the bump surfacing. A decent moment. Probably the best picture I’ll get on this assignment.

Toe peeks

I try to catch the bump sleeping, unawares. The bump turns toward me as I click the camera, catching me off guard. Foiled again, all I get is another obscured shot. All you can see is a curve, convex, unclear. At least the purple blur is evidence of motion, of life lurking contently in the shadows, as a shadow, breathing, rolling, trying to nudge things out of the way.

Jack O'Lantern contrast

Whenever the bump sleeps, somebody stands guard. The bump is aware of admirers, those eager to see photographic proof of existence, but the bump also values privacy and a certain amount of control over the bump’s own life. The bump wants to establish on the bump’s own terms when would be a good time to shine for the masses.

Periscope

The bump senses and greatly appreciates the excitement of friends, but can the bump meet their demands and expectations? When they ask for pictures — NOW — is that a request that the bump feels totally comfortable with? The bump loves love, has a certain affinity for attention and knows how to love in return, but the bump also wants to enjoy quiet moments to ponder life with Mommy and Daddy and develop the love the bump knows everyone deserves. Baby is a part of the bump, after all.

I know many people live far away and can’t see the bump as often as they’d like. Know that I miss you guys so much, but the bump just isn’t ready right now. I will try taking pictures again in two weeks — that’s week 20, the halfway point. Something tells me that the bump and Baby will be ready by then. Thanks for your patience.

This Past Month’s Showing

Two weeks ago:

  1. I talked with another pregnant woman at church about whether she found a doctor. We chatted a little bit about appointments and how we’re feeling. She said, “You look cute. You can’t even tell you’re showing.” I’m like, “What? Really? Oh, you’re so nice.” If I wasn’t showing, I certainly didn’t feel it because none of my clothes fit anymore.
  2. The same Sunday an hour later at church, another lady sidled up to me and quietly said in a sing-songy way, “You’re starting to show.” We both laughed. And though I felt her perception is closer to how I feel, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to hear about my bump from another person.

This past Sunday:

  1. I asked a friend a church when she’s moving. She’s a massage therapist, and she said that they’re moving very soon and close to where she works. I asked if where she works offers pregnancy massage. She said yes. Then I said I might need one of those one of these days. Her eyes got big, and she she asked if I’m pregnant. I put my hand on my tummy and told her I was four months along. She said that was really exciting but she couldn’t even tell.
  2. Reilly recounted a short conversation where another woman at church asked him if I am pregnant. He said yes, and she said she thought so even I’m little and am not showing in a big way. She then said congratulations.

Oh. You want pictures, you say? You’ve been waiting for pictures? Patience, dear Grasshoppers.

My showing is not a problem or a complaint at all; it’s only slightly jarring the first time hearing about my bump from another person, especially if you’re as vain as I am. Or as aware of how small I am. It’s pretty simple: Pregnant –> tummy grows. Not only have I accepted that fact, I’m mondo excited about it.

The first time I really felt my bump start to protrude, I showed Reilly. I stood up, pulled my shirt over the bump and turned to the side so he could see my profile. He put his hand on my belly and asked if I was poking out on purpose. Well, the baby’s growing inside me because we planned it and you were there, but if you’re asking if I’m sticking out my tummy — filling it with air or pushing it out farther than it should be — I am not. I inhaled to let my belly expand not much farther beyond its resting position just to show I wasn’t poking out “on purpose.”

Reilly then smiled his cutest smile and got the twinkliest sparkle in his eye and said, “You’re showing!” and gave me a big hug.

As I’m writing this tears fill my eyes with the thought of our combined joy and excitement.

What’s That Smell?

Nowadays, that’s the first question I ask myself whenever I go anywhere.  It’s like a little guessing game, where most of the odors that make my nose perk are pretty recognizable, only they’re about 47 trabillion times stronger than usual.

It came pretty early, within the first month. We’d drive around town, and the restaurants, the traffic, and Pleasant Grove would attack my nose. Most of the odors before pregnancy were relatively mild. I mean, driving past Pleasant Grove never disappoints if I crave the smell of sewage or rotten vegetables, but whenever we pass the unPleasant Gross exit now, it’s almost unbearable. No offense to anyone who lives there; you probably live away from the smell, which seems to lurk along the freeway.

There’s also some farmspace near the corner of 400 South and Geneva Road that smells like the land of fire and brimstone for about 5 seconds. Whenever we’re driving this corner, Reilly and I always accuse each other of farting.

When we drive closer to downtown Salt Lake City, around 500 South, along the freeway, it smells like nachos. Like nacho cheese. Not like sharp cheese, but definitely more mild and with jalapeno peppers. It’s not a smell I mind very much at all but look forward to whenever we get to that part of town.

I walk into church, and I can smell everyone. I can smell that woman’s lotion and that man’s aftershave and that baby’s spit-up. I can smell cooking oil on your skin and your greasy fast food breakfast from the other day.  I can smell somebody’s minty gum and that kid’s fruity shampoo and don’t even ask me what the speakers are even talking about because all the smells are speaking way more loudly and with more appeal (or repulsion) than the speakers. I mean, I do have to focus, because it’s church. And church is more important than my hypersensitive nose. We’ll just have to keep that in mind.

Not every smell bothers me. Lots of aromas are wonderful, and I’d love to spin around in fragrant air all day, but the fact is that there are also bad odors. And when they’re bad, they’re really bad.

There’s a women’s restroom in the Wilkinson Center on the second floor, close to the memorial room and ballroom. I’m sure you know which one I mean. The other day I went to campus to wait for Reilly to get out of class. I needed to go to the bathroom because that’s a pretty consistent condition these days, and when I opened the door, I felt my face scrunch and my eyes roll to the back of my head. I braced myself inside the door frame. Then I considered holding my pee to go to the bathroom downstairs by the bowling alley or to the other bathroom just down the hall. But I have more or less trained myself to go whenever I need to go, so I forged ahead into the fecal fog.

Undoubtedly, it’s a busy bathroom. The Wilkinson Center is a major campus hub, and I should have known that the bathroom would be stinky, but this complete ambush on my nosehairs convinced me that no one knows how to courtesy-flush or disinfect/deodorize. And this bathroom is a place where a lot of mothers change piles of poopy diapers. Because there are a lot of young mothers who go to BYU, y’all. There seems to be no ventilation, and when I entered that bathroom at 8:30 that one evening, all the quadrillions of microscopic, feculent particles had amassed during the day not only to form a humid, boggy marsh around the stalls, but something, somewhere that felt like another dimension. It felt like I had crossed over into an ethereal, methanous space of utter grossness, where I wasn’t stepping in it but walking through it. Think about it. (Or not.) And to think I’m growing another human that will soon contribute to the world’s sewage (who, technically, already is). I mean, there are sacrifices, and there are sacrifices. I mean, I have to do the noble thing.

Next time, I’ll just find a different bathroom.

And whatever that smell is, I probably know, but for the most part, I’d rather not.

Last Thursday My Appetite Decides to Go Berserk

Yesterday during my monthly doctor’s appointment, I was acting like a first-trimesterite: small-stomached yet gassy; low-energy; surprise peeing. Now it’s 3am on Thursday, October 3, 2013: I have to pee, I’m wide awake, and I’m starving.

I’m used to waking up around this time, having a snack, drinking a glass of water, lying in bed unable to sleep, reading my Kindle (lately it’s David Sedaris) until 5am, dozing off to half-consciousness until it’s time to kiss Reilly goodbye for work, use the bathroom, have another snack and drink, then sleep for real until around 8am.

Today, I slip from my bed into the stillness of the wee (I’m leaving the pun: deal with it) hours. I use the bathroom and shuffle to the kitchen for a drink of water. I take out the peanut butter and smear it onto a slice of soft whole wheat bread. I like this bread; it’s like white Wonder bread in its texture but offers necessary fiber and nutrients. And I like this peanut butter. It’s the generic kind from a local store, but it’s chunky. Somehow chunky peanut butter saves me the impossible effort of using my tongue to scrape plain creamy peanut butter from the roof of my mouth. These kinds of things are important to me.

I chew my little sandwich slowly, appreciating the textures of the bread and peanut butter. I think about putting honey on the sandwich, but I decide against it this time. I finish my glass of water and head back to bed. I turn on my Kindle and make sure the brightness is on the lowest setting. I do a crossword puzzle then turn to a collection of David Sedaris’s early essays called Naked. I read and giggle to myself until my eyelids get heavy. I go online and check out a pregnancy website that tells me at 14 weeks, Baby is the size of a lemon (3.4 inches, 1.5 ounces), producing urine, sucking a thumb and wiggling toes, and growing lanugo. I keep Lanugo in mind as a possible baby name. Lanny for short. Or possibly Nugo. Names are so versatile these days.

For about 15 minutes I close my eyes until Reilly’s alarm clock goes off. I shift to my left side and resume sleep until the alarm sounds again 20 minutes later. Reilly asks how I slept, and I say, “No.” And Reilly says, “Aww, I’m sorry.” Then I go back to sleep while Reilly gets ready for work. He leaves around 6am, and this morning my stomach actually feels empty. Like a hollow space. Not filled with air, but a true void. It has probably been at least 14 weeks since I’ve felt like this.

I drag myself out of bed around 7am and make a bowl of oatmeal. Reilly does not like oatmeal, something about sliminess. But I love the stuff. I don’t like cooking it to absolute mush; if it’s possible to cook the oats just past al dente, that’s the way I like it. Then there’s milk and sugar or brown sugar and cinnamon and fruit. Sometimes nuts. And it’s steaming hot and the way it slides down into my stomach comforts me, like a good hug or a well-written paper. It’s filling and delicious and nutritious and delicious and just oh-so-delicious. After I finish the bowl of oatmeal I slump onto the couch and smile as my tummy thanks me. The pleasure is all mine, tummy.

But my mind kicks into high gear just after a few minutes: What’s the next thing to eat today? I cut up an apple and leave the slices out so I can snack on them throughout the morning. I make another peanut butter sandwich. I put the wheat crackers on the counter just in case I want them, too. I boil an egg. And I grab a handful of trail mix and munch on it while I try to plan the day’s menu.

DANG, Baby. You be making some demands. I mean, Baby’s growing, so it makes sense that Baby’s hungry.

I thought I had a pretty solid plan for eating. During the first trimester, my stomach moved food so slowly, and I got full more quickly. So I figured that I could eat a smallish meal every three hours or so. This morning I have an inexplicable and unstoppable urge to cram all the food into my mouth all the time. That leaves the previous plan null and void.

Bottom line: eat more. MORE! FOOD! NOM NOM NOM NOM! I’m so much hungrier now, and I need to listen to that. And this is how I listened today:

  • cheese quesadilla with salsa
  • baked chicken, vegetables, with leftover rice
  • pasta with alfredo sauce and vegetables
  • orange juice
  • trail mix throughout the day
  • ice cream
  • cereal and milk
  • turkey sandwich and fries
  • about three quarts of water

What’s sort of surreal is that my wee-hours book last week was Portia de Rossi’s memoir about how she overcame eating disorders, Unbearable Lightness. It’s a very honest and raw account of her experience with food and how she withered away to 82 pounds. Ms. de Rossi invites readers inside her head during those very obsessed and miserable years of her life. And it’s not like her head got inside my head, because I wasn’t counting calories the way she was. But I found a certain degree of comfort in the discipline of eating at the same times every day. And then Baby requires a lot more food quite suddenly, and I find myself being thrown from this daze of discipline. And I have to find new awareness. And the thing about awareness is meta-awareness: I have to know that I have to be constantly conscious of this other little human inside me. And this constant consciousness translates to nurturing, protecting; it becomes real motherhood.

As of last week’s appointment, I have crossed into triple-digit land, and I think I’m here to stay for the duration.

Am I always going to try to end these blog posts with a little depth and cheesiness? Looks like it. But I like depth. And I really like cheese, so maybe I’m going to tend my motherly duties and make a sandwich.

Sharing News

One of my favorite things in the world is to be happy for other people. I love to hear of your good news. If I’ve been to your wedding, my overwhelming happiness for you spills through abundant tears. If you’ve told me about a promotion, a new pet, good grades, a book deal or publication, I’ve cheered for you. I will listen to you all day about your process, your goals, the roller coaster of emotions as you worked hard. I will hold your new baby or see your name in print or go to your concerts and be excited for your life and proud to be your friend. I will do my best to imagine myself in your situation, to understand your delight, your elation. Mostly I will be happy for you simply because you are so happy.

On the other hand, I’ve also been a sym/empath for many of your sadnesses and struggles. I have friends who still wait for the right person to marry. A woman in my ward has experienced eight miscarriages. Others who are dear to me experience difficult trials of infertility and have even faced devastating challenges within the adoption system. These are friends who have lived well and achieved much; friends with kind hearts and truly righteous desires. It’s hard not to ask, “What gives?”

I have wept for friends who have lost pets and loved ones. On my honeymoon, I received a text that a friend’s rabbit had died. Not long after, I received another text saying that a friend’s little dog had to be put to sleep. Most recently, a friend whose dog I had known for ten years also had to be put down. I cried for them all.

Sometimes people my misinterpret my crying. Once I was at a friend’s wedding where the couple gave hugs to the attendants after the ceremony. I was single in my 30s at the time, which is nothing to be ashamed of. When it was my turn to hug the couple, the new wife looked at me after I congratulated her and told her how happy I was for her and told me that I would find someone. While it was nice of her to think outside of her happiness in that moment, I sensed the assumption that I was not happy as a single person. It felt like they felt that I was miserable, which wasn’t the case at all.

Within the past decade, I observed a situation where a friend was telling another friend about her first truly viable pregnancy. She had experienced several miscarriages and was excited that her most recent pregnancy had gotten past the point of her previous miscarriages. The friend with whom she shared this news was having trouble getting pregnant, and she felt hurt that this friend would dangle the good news of a pregnancy in her painful void.

People are definitely entitled to their space to grieve. They need time to process, and one of the greatest efforts I’ve made in my life is to understand the sadness and sorrow of friends, family, and people in general. Because I respect and deeply love them, I want to show my support in the best way. I have observed people (myself among them) offering condescending advice and platitudes that, while well-intentioned, do not help.

Do I offer perfect advice all the time? Hardly. Have I been insensitive to others’ situations? Often. Too many times I’ve commented on pregnancy or adoption or marriage or other touchy topics to friends, and those friends have gotten quiet, and I’ve realized too late that I said an immensely stupid thing. And then I try to apologize and they continue to withdraw and I don’t know what else to do or say. Maybe the timing was bad; maybe healing wasn’t complete. Maybe certain adversity is just hard, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t fully understand or make it better or say the right thing.

There are tons of people who aren’t married, or can’t have children, or have had other horrible things happen to them. Do we tell them to get over it already? We need to see that our experiences are unique to us, and there seems to be a fine line between offering advice that could apply to general, unknown masses, lessening the significance of the situation and encouraging the individual soul you deeply love. There also seems to be a balance between overcoddling and trusting in a friend’s faith and resilience.

A couple months ago, a friend’s family shared some wonderful news on Facebook. The love and support poured in from this family’s community, and the anticipation that came with this news thrilled everyone.

In the past month, this same family’s good news took a turn and became sad news. The same love and support rushed in and flooded this family’s life. It was truly touching but hardly a surprise. When these people commit to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” they go whole hog. It’s one of the greatest blessings walking the earth with the rest of humanity.

So when I shared my good news this past Tuesday, I was especially grateful to those of you who took a moment from their adversity to show their support for me. Reilly and I are very excited for this new journey, and I debated for a while when would be a good time to make the announcement. Your examples of strength and faith have reminded me how to count blessings and find happiness amid even the darkest circumstances. You believe this; you live it. You share it. That means more than I can say.

The First Trimester

You guys.

I’m pregnant. There is a baby in my tummy.

As of today, I’m 14 weeks, one day along. That means about 26 weeks to go. Of course I’m counting weeks. And counting weeks is sort of like waiting for water to boil. Or watching grass grow. It sort of makes the weeks drag, but the days themselves pass quickly. How weird: being pregnant is being in a kind of time dichotomy.

Part of what makes time slow down is how excited we are to grow our little family! Sometime in the middle of March I got the chance to hold a baby who was born a month premature. She was so little, and as I held her, those urges emerged more strongly than usual. I went home that day and talked to Reilly and the conversation went like this:

Me, “I think it’s time for us to have a baby.”

Reilly, “Okay, let’s have a baby.”

And that was that.

As a part of having things to report to my doctor every month, I’ve been noting observations each week of my pregnancy. The following chronology includes a few highlights.

Week 1: My period happens.

Week 2: Magic.

Week 3: Continued magic. And then we make a zygote!

Week 4: I start to experience lower abdominal weirdness that I call “hot stomach.”

Week 5: I miss my period and suspect I’m pregnant. I also start waking up around midnight every night. One night after lying awake for about two hours, I decide to take a home pregnancy test, and this happened:

That IS a second line.

A faint line is STILL a line, right? I wake up Reilly. We talk and laugh and become giddy. I go back to sleep. Later that morning, we make an appointment for a blood draw the next week.

Week 6: I have a blood test to confirm pregnancy. During a lunch break at work, I call the doctor’s office two days later for the results. From my workspace, everyone in the room can hear everything I say, so I use vaguespeak such as:

  • “I had some blood drawn, and I’m calling about the results.”
  • “Hmm, I think it’s actually closer to 7.”
  • “So, do I need to schedule a follow-up?”

Week 7: Bloating plus my pants do not make a balanced or very comfortable equation.

Reilly smells my forehead and tells me it smells like a baby.

I have begun to pee my pants in very small trickles. This is the most wonderful experience of my pregnancy so far.

I must have orange juice! I go buy a carton and have a drink, and it is the most delicious thing I have ever tasted.

I want Thai food! Reilly takes me to a Thai place, and it’s the most delicious thing I have ever tasted.

Week 8: I want chocolate chip cookies! We pick up ingredients for cookies and bake them. They are the most delicious thing I have ever tasted.

Week 9: Oh, hello, nausea. You do realize I’m trying to sleep, right? It’s 1 and then 2 and then 3 and sometimes 4 in the morning. I grab a snack and sip of water and often fall asleep in time to wake up. This probably is the most wonderful pregnancy experience I’ve had so far.

And it really would be awesome if I could just stop peeing my pants.

Week 10: I haven’t vomited yet, even though nausea keeps nagging me. But I have started dry heaving, which I guess is better than kneeling at the toilet, blowing chunks.

Reilly is glad that someone is around who now farts more than he does.

I want a Taco Bell quesadilla! Reilly brings one home, and it is the most delicious thing I have ever tasted.

Reilly comes with me to my first official OB appointment. I pee in a cup, which is no problem whatsoever because I am now at least a sporadic trickle-fountain of pee. The doctor examines me; his nurse takes three vials of blood for testing from my arm. THREE! VIALS! That seems like a lot of red from someone who still doesn’t quite weigh 100 pounds. I imagine all that blood is for baby vampires. My contribution to society. The doctor gives me a book, which is super nice of him. When we get home, I flip through the book, and then I immediately hand the book over to Baby so that everyone’s prepared (FYI, the photo is actually from the next week where I have an official ultrasound, but i wanted to feature the book here):

Of COURSE Baby reads!

The day after the appointment, I Gchat to some friends the beginning lyrics of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” I wonder how someone can make the enormous logical jump from me singing, “I believe the children are our future; teach them well, and let them lead the way” to thinking I’m pregnant. Someone who thinks laterally, most likely. If you happened to ask me directly the day after this appointment about my pregnancy, you would have caught me in an especially vulnerable and happy-truth accepting mood, and I would have told you the happy truth.

Week 11: The nausea starts to subside a little, but I’m still dry heaving. Chewing minty gum lessens the nausea, but chewing it too long triggers my gag reflex. It’s annoying.

You’ve figured it out: everything I crave is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever tasted.

One night, I lie in bed, trying to sleep, and Reilly is up doing his homework. He hears me dry heaving and brings me my water bottle full of cold water (which Baby loves), kisses me on the forehead, and asks if I’m okay. And that? Seriously, one of the best experiences of my pregnancy so far. My husband rocks.

We’re not yet ready to announce the pregnancy, so we outright lie to Reilly’s parents so that we can borrow a car for me to go to an ultrasound appointment. Since Reilly can’t be there, I get a little DVD made during the ultrasound so he can see what happened. Under Baby’s direction, I cut five minutes from the original DVD and added a few titles to show you how adorably Baby moves:

Week 12: We tell our families the news. Everyone is excited and congratulates us. I text the announcement and the due date to my brother, and he responds. You probably don’t need me to tell you that the word I smudged begins with an F:

Bro's response

Week 13: This week is the cusp of the first and second trimester.  Baby loves fresh foods like salad and homemade meals, but sometimes Wendy’s chicken sandwiches, and ice cream and cream puffs. From the way my stomach feels after I eat, I can tell that Baby does not like onions, broccoli, and olives.

We are grateful for the opportunity to bring life into this world. The prospect of being parents is quite exciting, but I also imagine it to be pretty overwhelming. I wonder once Baby is born, after looking around or even just breathing the air, if Baby’s first cries would sound like, “What the HELL, Mom and Dad?” And then Reilly and I would look at each other with simultaneous worry and assurance and explain that it’s all right, little one. We’re here. We’ll guide you through this mess and teach you to see beauty and goodness.  You’ll learn the power of kindness and sympathy and understanding, and you will find joy in this life as we find joy in you. We’ve been praying every night to be prepared to be good parents to you, and we’ve been blessed with tremendous support from the best family and friends in the world. Together, we’ve got this. We’ve got you. We’re so happy you’re here now, though it feels like we’ve already loved you for so long, and we know we can love you beyond forever. Our moments together will pass in a blur and through a slurry, often at the same time. Hang on tight.

26 weeks to go.