Sound Education

I mentioned before that as my belly has expanded my belly button has also increased in size. Because I often have to find a purpose in everything that happens, I surmised that the bigger belly button might also be used for feeding Baby.

My belly button used to look like this, more like a slot-shaped abyss. Things like lint and crumbs would be lost in there forever:

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Now my belly button looks closer to this, which makes it so much easier to clean:

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Here are some food items I’ve considered giving to Baby through my belly button. My first idea was a carrot, since that seemed most likely to fit:

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Then I also thought about Red Vines, since they are also a skinny food:

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I also wondered how junk food like French fries (since Red Vines aren’t really junk food) would affect Baby:

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Then I started thinking about protein and how important it is to Baby’s development. I thought about how much Baby might appreciate a steak:

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But then again, Baby might like something a little lighter:

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As you can see, my new belly button could really come in handy.

The other night I discovered another way to help Baby. It was around 2 or 3 am, and I had some trouble getting to sleep. I was getting frustrated and thinking of ways to fall asleep, and I decided to listen to some music on my Kindle. When it’s late at night and Reilly’s already sleeping, I usually plug in some earphones into the Kindle and watch Netflix or Hulu or listen to music.

Up to this moment, Baby had only listened to music from the regular speakers from a regular stereo system. And the stereo was never up close. Maybe the late hour caused some delirium, but it occurred to me that I could use my earphones so that Baby could listen to music with me. I decided to try sharing my earbuds with baby:

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I put one earbud in my ear, and the other earbud went into my belly button. Baby and I listened to music for about an hour. Of course I made sure to keep the volume low.

Baby seemed to like certain types of French music, like Carla Bruni’s “Quelqu’un m’a dit”:

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She didn’t like “Comme des infants” by Coeur de Pirate:

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And she seemed to hate “Satellite” by Indochine:

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But Baby seemed to calm down while listening to classical music, such as violin concertos performed by Hilary Hahn. And the last song I played before going to sleep was Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day,” which we both agree on:

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I can’t wait to see what else Baby likes to listen to.

The 20-Week Picture Thingy

We pull in to the parking lot about 30 minutes early. We enter the medical plaza, look at a map of the grounds, find the imaging center, and head in that direction. Reilly walks beside me on my right. We pass through a long corridor and glance into other offices. They look crowded.

This is the longest hallway in the history of the universe. I find myself tearing up a little. I switch my water bottle to my left hand and ask Reilly if he wants to hold my hand. He grabs my hand and we smile at each other and then I look forward and catch the smile of a woman walking right past us. A brief moment of eye contact. I can’t help thinking that maybe we were cute to her. And that I wouldn’t blame her.

We enter the imaging center. We walk up to the reception desk to check in. The receptionist confirms our address and insurance. Reilly hands her a credit card, which she processes, then she instructs us to sit until someone calls us, which should be in just a few minutes.

The waiting area does not have a lot of people at all. There is a youngish mom with a boy who appears 6 or 7 years old. A man in scrubs calls her soon after we sit down. I wonder if everyone there has to wear the same color scrubs.

There is an elderly couple. The man helps his wife fill out a questionnaire and I hear him say, “Speak honestly.” She looks nervous and self-conscious.

The receptionist comes out with a clipboard. She asks me to sign one of those releases or waivers that has to do with the equipment. With the form signed and dated, she heads back into the reception area.

There is an elderly man sitting to our right. I notice only two things about the man. He reads a hardcover book about Winston Churchill. He also happens to be wearing khakis whose waistband come to a place on his torso that would seem beyond fashion or even comfort.

The waiting room television plays at the perfect volume for a waiting room. One of those local news panels (that come on after the actual news) is talking about hair color. One of the ladies thinks that blonde is the most popular hair color in Utah, because she sees blonde hair all the time. But one of the men says that brunette is actually more popular. The ladies look surprised. I ask Reilly why they’re still talking about this, because they have been talking about it since we sat down. Which hasn’t even been for five minutes.

A lady in scrubs swings open a door and calls out my name. Reilly and I then walk toward this lady and follow her through the door. We follow her through another door with a plastic sign that says “Ultrasound in Progress.” After we enter she closes the door.

The lady is the ultrasound tech. She instructs us to put our things on the far counter. I put away my purse and take off my coat and cardigan. The tech dims the lights then tells me to lie down, so I step onto the stool next to the bed because there is no other way to get onto the bed without looking like a sea lion flopping her way onto shore.

I lie on the bed, which is covered in a long sheet of that hospital paper. I feel a little bit like a kindergartner during one of those activities where you draw around each other’s bodies. I rest my head on the pillow and the tech asks me questions about due date and miscarriage history and if this is my first pregnancy. At this point the tech notices that I’m looking straight up at the ceiling and asks if I need another pillow. I stack the pillows so that I can comfortably see the television screen.

Reilly sits in a chair to the left of the bed. He hasn’t talked. He watches.

The tech asks me to bare my tummy. She tucks towels above and below the bump then squeezes a generous amount of ultrasound gel on it. I smile and say that I like when the gel is warm.

The tech asks if we have any guesses. Reilly says not really. I say that friends and family have a lot of guesses, and I ask her if she’s seen more of one gender than another. She says she’s seen more boys, but there have been girls, too. That’s a weird answer, but I do not tell her this. We’re excited, either way.

Reilly notices the tech is ready to begin. He stands up and looks at the screen.

The tech gets to work and discovers the gender pretty quickly. An image appears on the screen and she asks again if we have any guesses. It takes us a bit too long to figure out what we’re looking at, so we say no. She points out three little lines, which means that Baby is a girl.

GIRL.

Tears begin to fill my eyes, but I make myself talk. I say that’s great. I look up at Reilly and say that we’re having a girl!

Heartbeat: 137 bpm.

The tech comments how strong the legs look. I often tell Reilly that my calves are strong because I’m short and I have to tippy-toe all the time. Maybe Baby inherited this.

Throughout the session we laugh, and as she takes all the necessary measurements, the tech giggles about how cute Baby Girl is: her profile, the way she moves her arms, positions her legs; her nostrils, lips, chin.

Aww.

AWW.

The tech views and points out several angles that further confirm that Baby is a girl. She laughs when Baby Girl seems to move away from the pressure of the monitor-wand thingy and puts her arms in front of her face and wants to be done with it all.

AWWWWW!!!

Reilly is going to make a wonderful father to our daughter.

GIRL! GIRL GIRL GIRL GIRL GIRL GIRL GIRL! YAY!

I coo and “aww” more in that half hour than the rest of my whole life.

On Conversation and Small Talk

“A friend of mine once said that you can never trust a person who doesn’t talk much, because how else do you know what they’re thinking? Just by the act of being willing to talk about oneself, the person is revealing something about who they are.”

— Chuck Klosterman, Eating the Dinosaur

Almost everyone I knew in high school observed two main modes of speaking from me: Snide comments and occasional insights. This did not count raising my hand if I had the correct answers to teachers’ questions. I made friends slowly at that time, and those patient enough to stick around discovered that I was also capable of thinking deeply, even though I didn’t often verbalize my thoughts.

How did I process reality back then, that version of life trapped inside a high school bubble? I listened. I observed. This is how I found out about THE shocking moment of the Crying Game during trigonometry. One of my classmates saw the movie at the theater, and she could not wait to talk about it at school the next day.

Observing is also how I found out that band members M (girl, drum major) and T (boy, trumpet player, OF COURSE) may have had a thing for each other. M was a senior and T was a junior. I was a sophomore. After school one day, the band waited for our band director to return from somewhere and start rehearsal. I was practicing my part in one of the instrument rooms. Minding my own business. Then M and T ran in, oblivious to everything. T closed the door and had M pressed against it with his body. Then they started making out.

I watched for a few seconds, and I wondered if I should keep playing my clarinet. I decided that was better than watching. When I played the first few notes, T and M stopped what they were doing. I tried not to look at them but to keep playing. After a few seconds, one of them opened the door and they both left the room.

Beyond high school and into college and the real world, I continued the habits of listening and observing. I liked talking about myself, but I would only do it when people asked me questions. But I also loved asking other people questions and getting to know them better.

This was fun to do in college and especially New York City. I found myself in several settings with complete strangers. After a few questions, some laughs, and some observations about how we ended up in New York, we discovered valuable commonalities that became the foundation for friendship.

I never liked small talk, and because of this, friendshipping in the big wide world pushed me out of my comfort zone. While I always did better if people were willing to jump into deeper subjects more quickly, I also observed that small talk was some people’s starting point for meatier conversation. In some cases, if I couldn’t stick around past small talk, bonds would only form at that level.

Not everyone was like me; not everyone would work the same way my high school friends and I did to maintain our relationship. I would have to manipulate a paradox and give interpersonal space at the same time as internalizing the world around me, bringing different perspectives within my grasp.

Over time, I practiced and became good at small talk. Because I had worked on my observation skills for so long, I could read a person, initiate a conversation and make subtle adjustments to keep the discussion going. It felt great.

More time passed and maybe I fell out of practice or took it for granted, because suddenly it seems now that I suck at talking to people. Wires crossed somewhere and created a short and my conversation skills are no longer where they used to be. Although I can still listen and observe, it’s harder for me sustain my side of the conversation with actual spoken words. I’ll occasionally interject a question or a snide remark, but while I listen I also close up. Or go back to the safe space of small talk. Which I hate. But it’s safe. Defense mechanism, definitely. But why? and how can I get past it?

Part of it is that I can sym-/empathize, but sometimes I don’t know how to express that. Or I don’t know what’s appropriate. Or that if I try to relate, I’d be saying and revealing too much about myself when the conversation isn’t about me. I think that goes beyond introverted tendencies.

Obviously, I have no trouble writing about myself.

In general, people have been so willing to let me know more about them. I need to reciprocate. I have been selfish for so long, and I have to be better.

So, how about this weather?

My People from the Land of My Birth

This morning I looked at my newsfeed and out of over 120 articles, 20 of them were about damage or relief or something about the typhoon that struck the Philippines.

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I’ve been thinking about my mom’s family who still live there. Because they’re my mom’s family, they’re also my family, even though I haven’t met very many of them. Aunts, uncles, cousins. I’ve been worrying the past few days if everyone is okay.

The LDS Church issued a statement that all its missionaries serving in the Philippines are accounted for. Definitely good news.

But I’ve been thinking more about the 10,000 or so who are missing or did not survive. This morning I called my mom and asked if she heard anything about her family. Mom lives in Florida, but she spoke with a cousin who keeps in touch more often with our relatives in the Philippines. Mom said that everyone is fine; they live in a more northwestern part and the typhoon did most of its damage in another part of the country.

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Mom said she’s sure her family got a lot of wind and rain, since the typhoon was as big as or bigger than the country itself, but she’s relieved that her family are safe. I’m relieved, too.

One of the things I found encouraging about the headlines above is the clarion call to the world to get moving and help the Filipino citizens. Times like this remind us that we know how to reach out and be good people. These times motivate us to think about humanity and nudge our hearts to beat again, three times bigger.

If I could fly over there and start separating debris and hugging people, I would. I’ll have to find another way. Find your favorite organization, and see what you can do to help.

Keep praying.

Manalangin para sa Pilipinas.

My Worst Complaints

My main complaints are not that pregnancy has cramped my style, or even that I really get very many cramps at all. Because I don’t. My experience so far would hardly register as a pregnancy. Do I even look pregnant? I feel pregnant, I guess. But why don’t I feel more so? Maybe the pregnancy fairies wait to unleash bigger symptoms on my being in the next four months.

I haven’t gotten sick. Already almost halfway through this pregnancy, and I have yet to get legitimately sick, like catch a cold. Or vomit for real. I’ve gotten a couple of headaches and occasional heartburn, but usually more water and rest make them go away. I hear about pregnant women suffering because they can’t take certain medicines while they’re sick, and since I haven’t gotten sick, I feel somewhat left out of this crowd. What do I have to do? Eat more junk food? Drink less water? Sleep less? Get more stressed out? Hang out with more sick children? There’s got to be something.

Everything still tastes delicious. Aren’t some foods supposed to taste gross by now? If I have aversions to certain foods, it’s because those foods digest weirdly and not because of their taste. For example, spicy foods are so delicious, but they make my stomach hot for hours. Like Popeye’s chicken. But at least I can say that I have cravings for salty things. And vinegary things. But those aren’t the only things Baby and I love. We still love fresh fruits and vegetables. I mean, I made this fruit salad the other day with mangoes, oranges, apples, and pomegranate. I secretly want to hate it because I feel I’m supposed to hate a lot more food than I do, but there’s nothing more delicious right now.

My hair is too shiny. And it’s thicker. What the heck? And it’s the biggest waste of time because I spend way too many minutes in front of a mirror passing a brush through my hair. With every stroke, the hair gains luster, and I keep brushing to see if it will keep getting shinier. And it does! I feel that maybe I’m developing a weird Marcia Brady obsession and Jan will appear at any second and tell me to shut up about my vanity. Thing is, even if I don’t brush my hair, it’s still shiny. My life is so hard.

My nails grow too fast. This is pretty much the same issue as my hair. Instead of trimming and filing my nails every week and a half or so, I now do this almost twice a week. I’m used to typing with shorter nails, and now the tips of my nails tap against the keys, and it feels funny. Also, now there’s heightened enjoyment from Reilly when I scratch his back. So now it seems that he wants me to scratch his back all the time. He says his back itches, and I wonder if it’s the dry weather or if he just wants to feel my nails. This burden is almost too heavy to bear.

It takes longer to get cold. Although cold itself is not a cause for illness, I believe it’s a major part of why I haven’t gotten sick yet. I’m producing extra heat from gaining weight and the energy it takes to grow Baby. The added warmth generally deprives me of a complete pregnancy experience. At night, I end up kicking off the covers while I’m sleeping. At the end of the day when I’m in the privacy of my own home, one of the first things I do is bare my tummy and fan it with cooler air. I want to be cool all the time, but I can’t. If I could bare my tummy on the train or even at the grocery store, I wouldn’t have this complaint.

My wedding ring still fits. I guess there’s still time for swelling to take over my whole body, but I had expected to have trouble sliding my ring on and off by now. It still fits as well as the day Reilly proposed to me, and I worry that when people look at my hands they won’t even know that I’m pregnant. I guess since I’m craving salty foods, I could eat more salt and retain a lot of water, and that would aid the appearance of a real pregnancy. Then I would get the all the attention I seek! Because attention is all I want, ever! And then maybe more people would try to rub my tummy.

Only two people have touched/rubbed my tummy. And they asked first. Who knew that I would feel so excluded or less pregnant because not enough complete strangers have tried to touch the baby bump? Who knew that I had such a yen to slap away unsolicited hands that came near me? This seems a pretty easy fix. I’ll just slap people’s hands regardless of their trying to touch my tummy. Or to give these strangers some context, I’ll grab their hands and bring them close to my tummy and then slap them away. Yes, that’s a much better solution.

My linea negra is crooked. The bottom half runs perfectly down the middle of my abdomen below my belly button, but the upper half is about an inch off-center to the left. This could indicate that Baby will be a rebel, a noncomformist. Baby will draw lines incongruous with society’s expectations or worse, Mommy and Daddy’s. But we will be prepared for when Baby won’t color inside the lines. Baby will be a bad driver and discourteous double-parker. If Baby takes up gymnastics, Baby will purposely land outside the lines and accumulate deductions that result in lower scores. And Baby will develop an affinity for asymmetrical hairstyles.

My belly button looks like a circle. My navel used to look like a little coin slot, and now it appears definitively wider and round. The only explanation I have for this is that Baby needs more ways to get nutrients and another passage for feeding. I will start putting food in my belly button and hope for the best.

I usually try not to complain unless I can come up with productive solutions. While it feels so much better to get these issues off my chest, I’m glad that I can take positive actions to address these very legitimate and real-life concerns that will affect the world forever. I guess the biggest thing to do is just give it time.

Recent Ritual

Reilly sits on the couch. He usually has his laptop, looking up his grades, reading for class, planning lessons, or catching up on the local news. Sometimes the television plays in the background, news or Food Network or the Jazz game.

I start walking toward him from across the room. He sets his computer aside and puts his hand up, palm facing me.

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Like a magnet, Reilly’s hand draws my tummy toward it. I can’t stop walking.

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While I walk, sometimes I say in a high pitched voice, “Da-da?” Sometimes I point to my tummy and state the obvious, “There’s a baby in here!” And as my tummy nears Reilly’s hand, there’s giddy anticipation. Energy. Electricity. The gravity of this growing ventral orb strengthens when the distance between us decreases. The world seems to stop, but Reilly and I do not take our eyes off each other.

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The palpable focus switches from Reilly’s eyes when his palm and my tummy finally make contact. I can tell that Baby knows that Daddy’s right there.

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Then Reilly and Baby spend a few moments of quality time together. I stand by and adore this interaction.

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This has easily become one of my favorite activities. I am grateful that we’re already hanging out so much.

Observations from This Month’s Visit to the Doctor

Counting and the Due Date

Apparently my 40-week due date is different than the due date determined at the ultrasound I had at 11 weeks. The doctor says that my due date is now one week later than we thought.

Funny thing is I used my ultrasound to confirm the first day of my last period, and if the doctor is counting 40 weeks from that day, shouldn’t the due dates match? Why would my ultrasound predict a due date one week earlier?

This means my 11-week ultrasound was actually at 10 weeks. And every weekly marker gets pushed back seven days.

This means that I’m at 18 weeks instead of 19, and we’ll find out Baby’s gender in two weeks instead of next week. I guess it’s no big deal, but if we were expecting to find out next week, waiting another week is going to feel like years. Seven 24-hour years.

This also seems to mean that my different healthcare providers have different numbering systems. Or they can’t count to 40. I choose option B.

I get that due dates are rather arbitrary, determined by centuries of observing birthing patterns. Forty weeks, give or take a week or two. Or more. But due dates have directed most of my life. If possible, I like to complete assignments before their due date, and I know that this particular situation is beyond my control, but I really like getting things done early.

Other Observations

Mondays seem to be incredibly busy at the doctor’s office. When we checked in, the waiting room nearly overflowed with coughing adults and snotty, restless children. We ended up waiting longer than an hour. But for our patience, the office gave us movie passes for a free movie. Awesome!

Reilly got to use the little contraption for detecting heartbeat. The machine had a little speaker and a wand whose end you put on the tummy. It’s probably a little fetal Doppler machine, but I called it a Fisher Price toy echo machine. Sort of the same concept. I took college physics.

The doctor asked me to lie back and bare my tummy. He then had Reilly put gel on my tummy just below the belly button. He gave Reilly the Fisher Price toy echo machine. He told him to turn it on and take the wand and put the end of it on the blob of gel. He said to press down about half an inch and, after the doctor advised Reilly not to be so gentle and apply more pressure, the Fisher Price toy echo machine immediately picked up my heartbeat.

Then the doctor said to push the wand at one angle then to tilt it this or that way, and we were able to hear Baby’s heartbeat, which was much higher pitched and faster than mine. A pulsing, swishy sound that the doctor said sounded really good. Then the sound went away, and the doctor explained that when Baby moves, the sound moves with it, so you have to continually move the wand to find the sound.

During past visits the doctor has used a Fisher Price toy ultrasound machine. A little bit bigger wand and a little screen. We wonder if he didn’t use that machine this time so that we wouldn’t accidentally find out Baby’s gender. Or maybe since the office was so busy, another doctor was using the machine. I choose option A.

The doctor answered our questions about:

  • prenatal vitamins
  • birthing classes
  • insurance
  • lying on my back vs. lying on my side

He gave some pretty sound advice that was reassuring and encouraged us to keep doing research and think for ourselves. He also made jokes about Barry Manilow and deciding whether to spend money on diapers or dinner or birthing classes.

At home that evening I asked Reilly if he enjoyed using the Fisher Price toy echo machine. Then appeared a sweet smile and those twinkly eyes and he said that it was cool and very exciting.

I guess a bright side to pushing everything back a week is that we get another week of anticipation, which really is fun. The more we find out the more excited we are and the more we love the wonderful and wondrous being growing inside of me. At the ultrasound in two weeks, we’ll know even more.

Do you have a vote on whether Baby is a boy or girl?