Friday, February 3, 2012

Growing Faith, Growing Life

For the past year I have been attending a biweekly covenant group at my church.  It's a small group of women of all ages--a couple of us are young moms, a few have school-aged children, a couple have college-aged children, one is middle-aged and childless, and one is a grandmother--and we come together to talk about faith and nurturing our spiritual growth.  If you'd asked the me from five years ago whether I thought I'd ever belong to a church again, much less be an active member of a woman's group AND director of the Christmas pageant I would have laughed in your face.  But I have to say, I really enjoy participating in the church and especially in this group. I finally found a good fit for me.  Right now the group is putting together a devotional for Lent. Each day a different church member has contributed an essay or a poem reflecting on a particular Bible verse. I was planning to just work on the project as an editor, but once I started editing the devotions I realized that I could probably write one, so I took the plunge and volunteered when I realized we still had a few open spaces.  I wrote on Hebrews 11:1, and I figured I might as well post my reflection here.  (Don't worry, this is probably the only evangelizing I'll ever do here. I'm just pleased with how this turned out and felt the need to share it.)    
Recently, I received an e-mail from an acquaintance that contained an image of twins in a womb. Below the picture was a caption that read like a conversation between the two babies: “Hey brother, do you think there’s a life after birth? Do you believe in Mom?” “Nah, I don’t believe these things, I’m an atheist.  I mean, have you ever seen Mom?”

I typically pay little attention to these types of forwarded e-mails when they make the rounds.  But while I reflected on Hebrews 11 that e-mail sprang back into my mind as I thought about my own ongoing challenge to have faith. Oh, for the ability to always be “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”! I have great admiration for those people who appear to have an unshakable faith in God. As for me, I admit that I cannot yet claim that level of conviction and certainty.  I want to have that constant faith that I perceive in others.  How badly I want to be able to say that I never doubt or question.  Instead, all I can say is that through prayer and reflection and joining a faith community, I am trying. And, little by little, God is blessing me. He is answering my questions and overcoming my doubts and fears.  I can feel my faith growing.

As I write these words, I am eight months pregnant with my first child. I hope that my baby does not share the thoughts of those babies in that e-mailed image.  I hope that he has faith that he has a loving mother, even though he can’t yet see me. I hope that he hears my words and finds them comforting. I hope that he feels safe and secure and knows that I am doing everything in my power to protect him and bring him safely and joyfully into this world he has yet to experience. I hope he is already sure of how much I love him.

As I hope all of these things for my baby during the Lenten season, I also hope them for myself and for all of us.  I pray that we will all be able to hear God speaking to us and find strength and comfort in his words.  I pray that we will all be sure that we have a loving Father.  I hope that we will be certain of God’s presence in our lives every day, even though we cannot see him and must, for now, rely on faith.       

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Little Knucklehead

This morning I was sitting at the dining table working on my dissertation and I distinctly felt my baby's little coconut head pushing up underneath the right side of my rib cage. I reached down and rested my hand on his head and could feel it moving gently under my palm. Even though he is still in my womb I can already cup his tiny little head in my hand, and it's a perfect fit.  A few minutes later he got the hiccups and I could feel the rhythmic "hic, hic, hic" coming from his head as his little feet kicked in time.  Sometimes pregnancy absolutely blows my mind.
I am 33 weeks and 3 days pregnant today. There are, at most, 8 weeks to go until he is here in our world.  He could be here as soon as 4 weeks from now and be considered full term.  The first half of this pregnancy felt agonizingly slow. I spent every week counting the days, praying that everything would go well and that the baby would stay put until he reached the age of viability. Since then I have felt more and more excited and hopeful that we may actually have a baby in the house soon.  Penn and I named him and call him by name whenever we're alone (we are keeping the name a secret from family and friends until he arrives, and it has been such a challenge not to let the name slip, but I'm so glad we decided to wait). The house is gradually filling up with baby gear. Last weekend we put together all of his nursery furniture and set it up in what used to be our guest room. He has a crib, a dresser/changing table, a bookshelf and toy storage unit, and a glider.  He also has a carseat, a stroller, a pack-n-play, two swings, a jumperoo, a couple of playmats, piles of books, dozens of outfits, a ridiculous amount of tiny baby socks, and at least a month's worth of diapers.  Some of those things are gifts from excited grandmothers and aunts and uncles to be, but many of them are hand-me-downs and purchases from generous friends.  I'm amazed when I realize how much we DON'T have to buy for this baby, and I haven't even had my shower yet!  Everyone was right, people really do step up to take care of you when you have your first baby (it helps immensely that this little guy has a cousin nearby who is ten months older than him; many of the hand-me-downs came from my cousin). I've been picky about taking hand-me-downs, keeping only the items that are in really good shape or fit in with the nursery decor I've picked out, and even then we've ended up with all of this stuff. We're so lucky! For a long time I had it all stuffed in a closet, afraid to put it out for fear of jinxing things. But now my need to nest is outweighing my fear that this baby will be taken from me if I get too cocky in thinking that his healthy birth is guaranteed. I set up his pack-n-play in the dining room and a few of his toys downstairs and at least once a day I do a double take when I realize this house with all the baby stuff in it is my house.  I'm going to be somebody's mother.  Words can't describe how unreal that feels, even having meticulously planned this pregnancy, even having spent years waiting to make sure we were properly emotionally and financially prepared for this step, even feeling those little feet kick at my bladder as I write this.
I can't wait to meet him. I wonder what he looks like, I wonder what his voice sounds like, I wonder what he smells like.  [Penn's answer to all of these queries is, "Probably like a baby." Clearly, he takes a more practical and less romanticized view of this whole "parenting" thing.] It's such a weird position to be in because I know that this is going to happen, I know that I'm going to have a baby, and yet there's absolutely no way to wrap my mind around it and really prepare. It's all just such a big unknown, and I feel this need to be ready for this while at the same time knowing logically that there is no way I could ever be ready for such a life-altering change.
The pregnancy is going well, although the baby is still breech. Apparently the majority of babies permanently turn head-down sometime between 28 and 32 weeks, so my son is being stubborn and waiting until the last minute. We are getting to the point where medical professionals have begun to hint around that the baby turning at this point is becoming increasingly unlikely without some intervention.  I can't say that I'm surprised this baby is stubborn (he takes after his father, clearly!), but it is causing me a bit of anxiety because I am hoping to do everything possible to avoid a c-section and if this little guy stays breech a c-section is guaranteed since my doctor won't deliver breech babies. And, frankly, despite all the reassuring things I've read online, I'm not going to bother to find a doctor or midwife who will attempt a vaginal breech birth. I could never forgive myself if something went devastatingly wrong. While I'm less than thrilled at the risks associated with a c-section, I know that my doctor is right when she tells me that a c-section is a safe way to have a baby.  Still, it's not what I want, so I've been doing everything I possibly can to encourage my baby to flip.  I lie upside down on an ironing board propped against the couch several times a day. I do pelvic tilts. I make Penn talk to my lower belly to encourage the baby to turn his head toward his dad's voice. I put a flashlight by the baby's feet, hoping he'd be attracted to the light and turn head-down. Then, when the baby's movements made me wonder if the flashlight was annoying him more than pleasing him, I put the flashlight by his head instead. I put a bag of frozen peas on his head once or twice a day in the hopes he'll flip to get away from the cold (it clearly bugs him, but not enough that he feels compelled to somersault to get away from it). I use my birth hypnosis CDs--the ones that I am hoping will let me relax through labor so I can go unmedicated as long as possible--to relax and send soothing messages to the baby to encourage him to get into a favorable position for delivery. Tonight we went to the indoor pool and I did flips and handstands in the water to try to disorient him into turning over.  Monday I have an appointment with a chiropractor to try an adjustment that is apparently pretty successful at turning breech babies. The following Monday I have an appointment to try acupuncture. I have never done either of these things before--I get more and more "urban hippie" by the day but I'm still a pretty big believer in western medicine--but if I do end up having a c-section I at least want to be able to tell myself that I tried every single thing possible to get him to change positions. My doctor told me that babies are smart and sometimes they are breech for a reason. If he doesn't end up moving I'll just have to trust that he knows something I don't, and I'll chalk this up as just one of many, many times in my life that I won't be able to control what my child does. But in the meantime I still have five or six weeks to treat turning this baby like it's my job.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year in Review

[I have no idea why the formatting on this post is so weird. I've tried to fix it, but I give up.]

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?

I got married and I got pregnant (in that order!) Those were two major life-changing events that I had never done before.  By virtue of those two events alone, 2011 was the most significant year of my life so far. Honestly, it's going to be difficult for any future year to ever top this one in terms of momentous occasions. I also honeymooned in three countries I had never visited before and spent part of my honeymoon traveling by RV.  I took yoga classes regularly. I went all urban-pioneer and grew my own herbs and heated my house with a woodburning stove rather than a furnace. I took a show to the Edinburgh Fringe.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions and will you make more for next year?
Last year I resolved to "see everything through to fruition,"  by which I meant I wanted to get married and I wanted to finish my dissertation. Well, I accomplished one and a half of my resolutions. The marriage happened without a hitch. I am currently halfway through writing the dissertation--more than halfway finished with it if you consider that the research is basically finished and I am just "writing up" now.
In 2012 I resolve to be the best mother I can be to my son.  I know that 2012 is going to be hectic beyond belief as Penn and I juggle the needs of learning to be parents with my desire to finally finish my PhD once and for all. However, I hope to always keep in mind that my family is my number one priority now and that I chose to become a parent specifically because I want to fully have the experience of mothering someone with all of the ups and downs it will inevitably entail. My goal for the next year is to remember that this baby only gets to be a baby once and that I owe it to him to be available and do the best I can. I will not allow myself to feel (too) guilty over all of the projects I will inevitably not be able to finish in 2012 while I have an infant in the house, and I will remind myself that for the next 20 years raising a good man is the most important project I can do. There will be time for everything time. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Two of my cousins had babies (one of them had a 12-pounder!!), two of my best friends from high school had babies, a friend from my book club had a baby, and about half a dozen friends I now keep in contact with primarily through Facebook had babies this year. And it seems like everyone who didn't have a baby in 2011 got pregnant in 2011 and is expecting babies in 2012. Two of my friends in my department are currently pregnant and due right after me, one of my best friends from college is going to have a baby any day now, and one of my friends from my MA days is due at the end of January. Another good friend can't have biological children but has started the adoption process.  By May of 2012 I'll have at least a dozen friends with babies under a year old.  I only wish we all lived in the same place so I could get everyone together!
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Back in March we had a terrifyingly close call when Penn's sister had a brain aneurysm, but she pulled through and her health seems good now. Still, that was a really scary month or two as we waited to see how everything would turn out.  Penn's grandma died in September of this year, and although I didn't know her long enough to become truly close to her I know he misses her a lot and it was a big loss for the family.
5. What countries did you visit?
For our honeymoon we went to New Zealand and Fiji, and we also got to spend a day in Sydney, Australia. It was the best vacation I have ever had, and not just because it was my honeymoon and it lasted a glorious three weeks.  I fell in love with New Zealand. That trip happened almost a year ago and Penn and I still talk at least once a month about how much we miss New Zealand and how much we want to go back someday. It was so beautiful, the people were so friendly and fun, the food was delicious, there were so many crazy activities to participate in but also plenty of peaceful, natural space to just relax.  I can't imagine ever enjoying another vacation quite as much as I enjoyed my time in New Zealand, but that doesn't mean I won't keep traveling the world just to see if it can be topped. :-) [ETA: I completely forgot that I also went to Scotland this year. Whoops!]
6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
All I really want is a healthy baby in my arms.  Everything else is so extremely secondary to that wish that it barely matters.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
January 8th, obviously, since that's the day I married my husband. I know it is a cliche to say so, but it really was the best day of my life. If I only had one day left on earth I would want part of it to be a repeat of our wedding reception: everyone I love in one big room happy and celebrating together. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had that experience.  I hope to also always vividly remember the three weeks of our honeymoon since they were so enjoyable. And I'll always remember July 1st, 2011, the day I peed on a stick in my bathroom at 5 in the morning and then let out a yelp of excitement when I saw two pink lines and realized I was on my way to being someone's mother.
8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?
Penn and I have (almost) made it through the first year of marriage and I think we have settled into wedded life really, really nicely. Every day that goes by makes me realize how well-matched we are for one another. It honestly hasn't felt like work at all so far!  It's so natural and easy being together, running our home, making decisions big and small, and just generally working together to get through life.  I know we are about to hit what will probably be the biggest challenge of our married lives--the years of having young children in the house--but our first successful year of marriage has me more convinced than ever that as long as we both live we will be supporting each other.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I do wish I had managed to finish my dissertation this year, just because I didn't want to juggle it with the first year of my baby's life. But I have been working on it consistently and I know it is going to get finished eventually, so I wouldn't really call it a failure, just a disappointing delay.  

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had a really rotten cold in October, on top of the cough that lasted two months. It was so bad that one night I was sitting in my steamy bathroom at 3 AM drinking tea that Penn made me and crying because I felt so miserable and nothing was helping.  There was also the Great Mystery Disease of February 2011. When Penn and I got back from the Pacific, we both had the same symptoms: our entire bodies were itchy and burning, especially when they got cold. Standing barefoot on a tile floor, the soles of my feet would feel like they were on fire. Running my hands under cold water was torture.  We never did figure out what caused the symptoms. They were obnoxious, but not so terrible that we couldn't deal with them. We asked our friends and relatives  who work as medical professionals and none of them had the answer. Right about the time that we got completely fed up, the burning and itching sensations just disappeared.   I still wonder what that was all about.  Overall, though, it has been a pretty healthy year for me.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our second basset hound!  Having a second dog has brought so much joy to my life. We got him from a rescue organization but did have to make a donation to get him since he was neutered and vetted. Best $200 I have ever spent!  I just love having two hound dogs lumbering around the house together, and this second dog is so loving and loyal.  I don't know what we did without him!  The second best thing this year is a tie between our woodstove insert for the fireplace and our Nissan.  Both are practical rather than fun purchases, but both definitely improved our quality of life and have been really useful.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My husband's behavior merits celebration. I have friends in great relationships but I also have friends and acquaintances in really terrible relationships, and I feel like I read so many stories online about husbands who are cheaters or emotional abusers or just plain deadbeats who can't (or won't) hold down a job and I can't help but feel really lucky that I chose a good man and he chose me back. Sorry for being sappy, but I just realize how fortunate I am to have a husband who is excited about becoming a father, who works full-time to help to support our growing family, who works out to keep himself healthy, and who spends at least part of every day working on some sort of project that makes our home a better place to live or makes our lives more fun. I'm not saying that I NEVER have those moments when I feel like I'm the one doing all the work (I'm a female, I think it's just in our nature to sometimes have those instances where we feel like we're keeping all the balls in the air while our mates watch Simpsons DVDs and eat cereal on the couch). However, I know that in the rare moments I have that thought it is irrational. I'm married to a hard-working man who loves and respects me and is my equal partner in every way, and I'm well aware of how good I have it. (Especially when I read all these posts online about women and their lame "baby daddies." Gawd. So depressing that people are actually in "relationships" like that!)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Hmmmm...everyone involved in the Penn State scandal. And, to a lesser extent, everyone who is running for the GOP nomination (with the possible exception of Mitt Romney; I am reserving judgment on that one).
14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage and car payment. Most of our fun money was spent on eating out and concerts. And our honeymoon was a good amount of money, but we were able to use some of our wedding gift money for that, which was awesome.

15. What did you get really, really excited about?
Getting married (obviously), going on our honeymoon (obviously), and finding out I was pregnant (OBVIOUSLY).
16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Honestly, I paid zero attention to music this year. I suppose some of the songs I remember dancing to at my wedding reception will remind me of this year (and, honestly, that is mostly party music by the Black Eyed Peas and Jump Around by House of Pain). There are really no major music-related memories that come to mind. Maybe breaking down in tears at the Black Keys concert because they were out of nachos and I was three months pregnant and irrational.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
A. Happier or sadder?
The same. Very happy and looking forward to the changes to come in the new year!
B. Thinner or fatter?
Much, MUCH fatter, but only because I am currently hefting a 3 pound fetus around in my abdomen.
C. Richer or poorer?
About the same. We're not "ballers," as my husband would say, but we've had a comfortable year financially.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Once again, I wish I'd somehow found more time to work on my dissertation so that I wasn't feeling so behind the ball right now.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
I wish I'd spent less time sleeping during the summer, but since I was in my first trimester of pregnancy I couldn't help it. Still, I feel like I lost a lot of potentially productive time. (I know, I know, a PERSON was busy growing a heart and limbs and a brain inside me. I should probably cut myself some slack.)
20. How did you spend Christmas?
We spent Christmas with my family in my hometown. It was a very nice trip home. I basically just stuffed myself full of good food (from restaurants and my parents' kitchen) for eight days straight.
21. How will you be spending New Years?
We are having a low key evening at home. Since I can't drink it didn't make a lot of sense to go out to a crowded, expensive party. So I made a strawberry delight dessert and we bought a bottle of champagne (I plan to treat myself to one glass, better notify the Pregnancy Police!). Penn is enjoying the scotch I brought him back from Scotland that he has been saving for a special occasion, and I suppose we'll watch the ball drop on one of the networks at midnight. Penn is also bound and determined that we will be having sex at the stroke of midnight, something he keeps telling all of our friends when they ask what we're doing for New Year's Eve--much to my embarrassment--so I guess I might as well share it with you as well. Happy New Year!
22. Did you fall in love in 2011?
I fell even more in love with my husband. It has been so great watching him prepare to be a dad.
23. How many one-night stands?
I had a one-night stand with Sydney, Australia since we were only able to spend a single night there. Har har.
24. What was your favorite TV program(s)?
The Colbert Report (I got to be a part of the studio audience at a taping of the show this year, which was awesome!). Other than that, the two shows I was dedicated to watching this year were Breaking Bad and Modern Family.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate at this time last year?
Nope, I have met nobody that inspired my ire this year.
26. What was the best book that you've read?
My favorite read this year was The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I have to say, though, that my most exciting find was Herve Tullet's series of incredibly creative children's books. I have bought three of them for the baby already and he's not even born yet!
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Remember up above where I said I haven't paid any attention to music this year? Yeah. Through Penn's influence I did manage to discover  Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and I like them a lot, and I am also digging El Camino, the new Black Keys album (but who isn't?).
28. What did you want that you also ended up getting?
I now have that marriage certificate with my name and Penn's name on it, and we got doubly lucky and got our positive pregnancy test this year as well. Those were the two major wants that I am so happy were fulfilled. I also got the second dog I have been wanting for quite a while.

29. What did you want that you did not end up getting?
A finished dissertation. Sigh.
30. What was your favorite film of this year?
I'm racking my brain to remember if I even saw any movies in the theater this year other than The Muppet Movie. Since I can't remember anything off the top of my head besides that one, I guess that was my favorite film this year. Oh, wait, I think we saw The King's Speech at the beginning of this year. If so, that one was my favorite.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 29 and Penn gave me a wonderful day. I got a prenatal massage (soooooo gooooood) and then we went to see a play and then we went to dinner at a fine dining restaurant we have been driving past for years but had never had the chance to try before. All of it was a surprise.  I have no idea how I'm going to make his birthday nearly that special since we'll have a newborn baby on his birthday this year, but I'm going to have to try to do something spectacular!
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
My year was incredibly satisfying just as it was. I couldn't ask for more.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Maternity clothes! And, actually, my maternity clothes are surprisingly dressy since they are mostly hand-me-downs from my cousin who has a corporate job, so it's possible that my maternity wardrobe is actually nicer than my regular clothing.
34. What kept you sane?
Prenatal yoga and my hypnobirthing meditation CDs, my husband, my snuggly pets, my covenant group at church, and reminding myself of two things whenever life got hectic:
In five years, will this particular thing matter?
"And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span?" (Matthew 6:27)
35. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Seeing Steven Colbert live was pretty damn cool, but I wouldn't say I "fancy" any public figure these days.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Marriage equality and the Occupy Movement (which, honestly, annoyed me. All those people protesting without a cohesive goal. Ugh. That whole movement could have accomplished so much more than it did.)
37. Who did you miss?
I always miss my parents and siblings. I wish I could force them all to move up here.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
The women in my covenant group and the women in my book club. I have made friends in both groups and am looking forward to getting to know them even better in 2012.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Remember to be thankful every day and don't worry about the future. Surely life will not always be so good, but you can enjoy it while the good times last and stockpile good memories to get through the hard times that will inevitably come.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:It's hard to find something that sums up the entire year since so much has happened, but here is something that has been resonating with me during the second half of the year:
"And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand"-Mumford and Sons

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Actual Conversation With a Manager at Transportation Services

I don't have a campus parking permit this year. They cost something like $200 a semester and since I am only on campus two days a week it's cheaper to just pay for parking each time I'm on campus than it is to buy the permit.  Plus I only use the parking garage on days when it is raining or I am running late. The rest of the time I park at a golf course across the street from campus and walk to my building from there since parking at the golf course is free and apparently there's a touch of cheapskate in me when it comes to paying for parking.
Here's the problem: every single time I park in the parking garage, I use the university's pay-by-phone parking system to pay for the 2-3 hours of parking that I need. And about 75% of the time, when I return to the garage after my class I have a parking ticket for an expired meter.  It's INFURIATING. I then have to take the time to get the ticket dismissed, either through Transportation Service's appeals website or by just driving down to the Transportation Services office and talking to someone there.  This is what I did yesterday, when I had the following conversation:

Me: I got this ticket in the parking garage even though I had paid for an hour and a half of parking.
Manager: [Looks something up on the computer, sees that I did, in fact, pay, says she will dismiss the ticket.]
Me: I get a ticket almost every time I use the pay-by-phone system in that garage. This is the fifth or sixth ticket I've gotten this semester.
Manager: Have you tried just using your debit card at the pay station outside the garage?
Me: I have used it in the past, but the whole point of the pay-by-phone system is that it saves me time. I can pay as I'm walking into my class rather than spending two or three minutes waiting for the pay station to process my payment.
Manager: But it really doesn't save you any time if you keep having to come down here to dispute tickets.
Me: [inwardly seething and trying to talk myself out of going all hormonal pregnant bitch on her] Right, it doesn't. That's exactly the problem.  You really need to have the pay-by-phone system fixed so that it actually does what it is supposed to do.
Manager: You should just use the pay station.
Me: Thank god this semester is over next week.

I realize that she has a point, which is probably why the whole interaction made me so irrationally angry. Why do I keep futilely using the pay-by-phone system when I know that more than half of the time it's going to result in a parking ticket that I'm going to have to take time in person or over the internet to dispute?  I suppose it's because I JUST WANT THE DAMN THING TO ACTUALLY WORK CORRECTLY AND DO WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO DO. That, and, as I said above, I only park in the garage when it is raining or when I am running late to the class I teach, and in neither of those cases do I want to spend 2 or 3 minutes standing at a parking kiosk outside. I'd much rather just dial the automated system and pay as I walk into my building.  [And yes, it really does take 2 to 3 minutes for payments to process at the kiosk. The whole electronic parking meter system on campus is as slow as molasses.] Sadly, in the moment it always seems like a better decision to spend 20 minutes disputing the parking ticket after class than it does to make myself late to my own class by using the pay station meter.  Could I leave my house 5 minutes earlier and avoid the whole dilemma? Yes, but that would be rational and me+rational don't go hand-in-hand these days.

Back to the dissertation. Actually, back to class prep. I'm finishing up everything for my class today so that all I have to do for the next week is grade their final exams.  I've enjoyed my class this semester but I can't wait for January's glorious fellowship and my ability to just grow this baby and dissertate for a couple of months.  Incidentally, it's looking more and more likely that the dissertation will not be finished before the baby arrives, but that's a dilemma for another post another time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I completed a dissertation chapter today!

I use the term "completed" loosely. By "completed" I mean that I wrote what I feel is a complete chapter. I covered all of the information I outlined to cover in the chapter, I formatted it according to the university's requirements, I footnoted all of my sources.  The next step is to give it to my advisor to get feedback.  I'm afraid he'll tear it to shreds and I'll have to do significant rewrites or, worse, scrap the whole thing. Still, for now I feel good to have one chapter out of the way. The crazy thing is I completed the chapter in just a week once I actually sat down to write it!  It took significantly longer than that to collect all of the info I needed to write the chapter--months of research--but still, the actual writing went pretty quickly.
If only I could keep up this writing pace I could be finished with the dissertation by Christmas. Unfortunately, that won't happen. Other chapters are going to be more challenging to write because I've laid less groundwork and will probably have to do more reading as I go along to flesh out my arguments.  Still, I'm finally making some tangible progress.  I feel like I've been conducting interviews and reading sources and taking and organizing notes for ages and yet none of those things ever make me feel like I'm making serious progress. Having a completed chapter makes me feel like there's a chance I may actually finish this thing someday.  I plan to have a second chapter completed by the end of this month, which seems feasible.

Plan A is to complete the dissertation in late January, give it to my advisor, get feedback, do (minor, hopefully) rewrites, get it to my committee, and defend it during the last full week of February.  Obviously, this plan is contingent on many factors: the cooperation of my advisor in getting me prompt feedback through the winter, my ability to stick to a pretty grueling writing pace, and, oh yeah, the baby staying put in my uterus until my mid-March due date.  "They" say first babies come late, but I was my mom's first and I was born three weeks early, so it may be asking too much for him to actually wait until March to make his debut.

Plan B is to complete the dissertation by late February, let my advisor and committee read it while I'm busy with a newborn, then do any necessary rewrites and the defense in April at basically the last possible moment I can defend and still graduate in May.  I don't like this plan as much as Plan A because it involves preparing for a defense when I'll have a 4 or 5 week old baby. I have no idea how I would even do that, honestly, but I keep it on the table as an option because...maybe?

Plan C involves finishing up the bulk of the writing by late February, then picking up the project again and finishing it for real when the baby is about 6 weeks old and defending it right before the faculty go off contract at the end of May, when the baby will be 2 1/2 months old.  This seems slightly more feasible than Plan B, although it would mean that technically I wouldn't graduate until August and I would have to pay tuition for one summer session in order to graduate.

Plan D involves paying for the fall semester out-of-pocket and not graduating until December.  Obviously, this is the least appealing option since I'd still have an infant to contend with AND I'd have to pay money to the university.

Note that all of the plans involve finishing eventually, one way or another.  So I have to soldier through and get this project done. I'm just hoping that this second trimester boost of energy lasts a little bit longer.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

So, it's now November and I STILL have a cough. The good news is I feel substantially better than the last time I posted and the cough is just a slight annoyance at this point. The bad news is that I am growing more and more certain that the cough is a pregnancy symptom and won't go away completely until I give birth in March.  Apparently I am a sufferer of pregnancy rhinitis. I can't complain, though. I'd much rather have a slightly stuffy nose and a cough than hyperemesis gravidarum or any number of pregnancy complications that are so much worse than just a slight annoyance.  I'm fortunate that all is going well so far, and I know it.
The baby and therefore my belly are growing at a rapid pace now.  I'm wearing maternity pants exclusively these days and I look obviously pregnant enough at this point that strangers feel comfortable asking me when I'm due or offering me seats on the subway.  It's fun to finally have a belly, actually.  I always thought I'd probably be the sort of woman who enjoyed my own pregnant body, and I do.  Frankly, I find it sort of amazing and completely alien all at once.  It's amazing for the obvious reason that my body is nurturing another person, and it's amazing because I have all of these new curves.  I find myself subconsciously resting my hands on my abdomen often these days. I explained it to a friend the other night by saying, "You know when you get dental work done and then for a few days afterward your tongue can't stop messing with the new filling or sealant or whatever because you're just not used to it being there and it feels so strange? Having a pregnant belly is like that, you just can't stop touching it because it's so different."  It's also a completely alien feeling, though, to look into the mirror and not really recognize my own body, and to feel heavier than I have ever felt before and to feel the sensation of flesh resting on flesh in a way it usually does not (and by that I mean, dude, I suddenly have C-cup boobs and I have no idea what to do with these things.  I suppose I will use them to feed an infant, since they are apparently getting all geared up to do that job).
The baby's flutters are beginning to turn into actual kicks. Penn still hasn't had much luck feeling the baby move--only once so far, and only for a second--but I think pretty soon the kicks won't be just between me and the baby anymore.  He's getting much stronger.  He's also starting to develop a somewhat consistent movement pattern. I can usually count on feeling him kick for a good half hour or so after I eat breakfast in the morning and again around dinner time. Sometimes he does calisthenics at bedtime, too.  I feel so reassured by his kicking, and it's so wonderful to feel him more and more easily all the time.
He is a he, by the way!  We had our 20 week anatomy scan two weeks ago. As I was getting situated on the exam table the ultrasound tech asked if we wanted to know the sex of the baby if she could see it. We said that we did. I expected it would take her a little while to figure it out since she made it sound like she wasn't going to look for sex organs deliberately, but less than one minute after she put the ultrasound probe on my belly she said, "Your baby is a boy." I said, "Are you sure?" not because I was surprised but because I really didn't want to be told the wrong thing. She said, "Yes, I'm certain, look." To be honest, I had a hard time figuring out what exactly I was looking at (I mean, I assumed a tiny penis, but it wasn't exactly apparent to me). Penn said he definitely saw it, though.  After the scan was over the doctor came in to do a quick scan of his own and to go over the measurements and information that the tech had collected, and he said, "Do you know what you're having?" and I said, "She said it was a boy..." and the doctor said, "Yes, it's a boy, there's no mistaking it."  So I feel pretty confident that there is indeed a little guy in there! And according to the doctor he is growing on track and appears to be healthy so far. I'm thrilled to be having a boy. I would have been equally excited to have a girl, but it's funny how the instant she said it was a boy I couldn't possibly imagine having a baby girl.  I keep thinking about how fun it's going to be to have a boy and I am getting so attached to the idea of a mini-Penn toddling around here in a couple of years.  I just can't wait to meet him. I want to see who he looks like, I want to find out his strange personality quirks and discover his favorite things.  I mostly just want to hold him in my arms where I can actually see him and know that he is okay.  
Now that we're just a couple of weeks from the age of viability, I'm allowing myself to make some real preparations because it's looking more and more likely that we'll actually be bringing a baby home in March. I picked out all of the decorations and bedding for his nursery the other day and put them on a registry to be purchased after Christmas (or maybe provided as baby shower gifts). We already have a closet full of hand-me-down items from my cousin and one of Penn's coworkers. We have a fancy big swing, a small portable swing (so I guess we'll have one for each level of the house), a high chair, some baby gates, a breast pump, an umbrella stroller, some unbelievably tiny outfits, and enough baby socks that I think he'll be able to wear a different pair every day for the first two months of his life. People have already given this little guy the sweetest gifts: a children's Bible, his first teddy bear, and a tiny blue pillow handmade by my grandmother that says, "Baby of Mine."  Penn and I start a birth prep class next week.  At the very most I'll only be pregnant for another 20 weeks (that's if I'm two weeks overdue) so it's time to start seriously preparing, even though this late in the game I'm still a little afraid I'll jinx things.

In non-baby news, I turned 29 years old yesterday and had the best birthday ever. Penn planned the most delightful surprises for me. First he got me a prenatal massage. It was heavenly. I felt so relaxed afterward that I felt like a new person.  Then we went to see a clever and funny show. The finale of the day was dinner at a really nice restaurant that I'd been wanting to try for ages.  In other words, it was basically my ideal day!  I feel so blessed as I head into my 30th year of life.  I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness yesterday. I don't know whether to thank myself for making good choices, or God for giving me good luck; probably it has been a bit of both. But when I think back 10 years and recall where 19-year-old me wanted to be by 29, I think past me would be happy with present me. I have a wonderful husband, a nice home in an interesting place, snuggly pets, a good job, a combined income with my husband that allows us to take some fun trips and do some damn cool things, a supportive family, and a healthy baby on the way. I feel overwhelmed sometimes by just how fortunate I have been so far. I pray that Penn and I make good choices and that luck continues to be on our side.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I have had a cough since August 28th. I know this for a fact because I first started to feel the cough coming on when I was on the plane on my way home from Scotland 7 weeks ago. SEVEN WEEKS AGO. I have had some variation of a cough for almost 2 months now.  I know I got the original cough from one of my traveling companions. It was annoying for a week or two, and then I thought I was getting better, except that the cough never did quite go away completely. A couple of weeks ago it began picking up again. I blame the cough's resurgence on the rain. September was a straight month of drizzle. Our entire backyard turned into a mushroom field and according to the news the area experienced record-breaking mold levels. I never knew I had an issue with mold (having spent most of my life living in an arid climate, how could I know?), but apparently high mold counts don't agree with my lungs, so the hacking picked up again. The past week brought lovely, sunny fall weather that cleared out all the mushrooms and mold, but it also brought in-laws to town--in-laws who were pleasant company, but who brought a cold virus along with them [perhaps it was revenge for my getting everyone sick at my wedding? :-)]  Penn picked up the virus from his sister, and even though he and I slept in separate beds all week to try to keep me healthy our efforts were in vain. I now have the worst cough I've had so far, accompanied by chest and head congestion. I woke up at 7 this morning and couldn't figure out why since I was clearly still tired. Then I realized that my body had obviously woken me up because I could barely breathe! I spent half an hour in a steaming hot bathroom this morning, which helped a bit, but I still feel like I'm breathing at about 30% capacity.  And the drugs I'm allowed to take during pregnancy are almost completely ineffective (as evidenced by the fact that I have been coughing for 7 weeks). The most basic type of Robitussin is okay, and my doctor said I could take Sudafed, but neither do much for me. Plus I really hate putting meds into my body right now. I took nothing at all during the first trimester except Claritin once for a bad allergy attack. I feel like it's safer now, and I feel like my ability to breathe and get oxygen into my blood for the baby obviously outweighs the minor risk posed by taking cold medicine, but the point is that the cold medicine I am allowed to take is pretty much useless anyway. I've spent far too much time googling the effects of excessive coughing on a fetus. Dr. Google assures me that all of this coughing can't hurt my baby, but I still feel bad for the poor little papaya* being jostled around in there. Plus I am afraid that if this seal coughing keeps up the baby will get the mistaken impression that s/he is a marine mammal rather than a human being.  I have a doctor appointment a week from tomorrow, so if I'm still feeling lousy then I may see if there's anything else I can do to get some relief. Perhaps he will suggest that I convalesce in a sunny, arid climate for the winter.  I could go for that.

I intended to work on my dissertation all weekend. Instead, I fought this virus in my body (and lost miserably) and fought a virus in my computer (and ultimately won, but only after a complete reboot to the factory settings, THANK GOD I BACK UP MY FILES).  Sometimes things just don't go according to plan at all.  I really hope everything gets back on track this week.

*BabyCenter provides these weekly e-mail updates on "How Your Baby is Developing This Week" and for some reason they always compare the size of  the baby to a type of fruit. Last week the baby was apparently the size of a papaya. I had to Google images of a papaya to remind myself exactly what one looks like. I mean, really. A papaya?!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fun with Hormones!

I've had the kickiest baby for the past couple of days. It is awesome! I suppose "kicky" isn't really the right word because it still doesn't feel like a kick, exactly, more like a flutter, but the flutters are definitely getting more intense and consistent. I think Penn should be able to feel him/her from the outside any day now. If I'm alone when I feel the flutters I always use the sensation as an excuse to talk to the baby for a bit. I feel a little ridiculous talking to my stomach, but the baby's hearing is beginning to develop and I know it is good for him/her to hear my voice talking in "baby" tones and it's good for me to start getting used to narrating my day to a little person.  At this point I mostly just tell him/her how much fun we're going to have together if s/he will just stay put until March. Penn mostly tells him/her about how terrible the Eagles are playing right now but how they'll be much better in the future.

I just found out that one of my friends in the department is pregnant. I noticed she was drinking Sprite with dinner tonight and returned a pizza when the chef put blue cheese on it, so of course my pregnancy police radar went off immediately. I texted her afterwards and asked if she was pregnant, admitting that I knew how nosy and obnoxious I was being and telling her to just ignore me if she wanted to, but she called me back right away to say that yes, she's pregnant.  She's due exactly 2 months after I am. I'm excited to have a local mom friend! (I actually have a lot of mom friends, but the ones with babies are all long distance and with the exception of my cousin all of my mom friends here have kids that are at least 3 already.) I really, really hope her pregnancy goes well. She and her husband struggled to get pregnant. They had already been trying for over a year when I got pregnant, and she was very gracious when I announced my pregnancy but I felt bad because I knew it probably hurt her to hear my news. She was going to start fertility treatments this month but she got pregnant on her own just as she began to arrange the treatment. I'm happy for her and keeping my fingers crossed, both because I just want her to have the baby I know she so badly wants and because selfishly I'd like someone nearby who is going through the same infant parenting stages that I am. Also selfishly, I'm glad that I was the one who got pregnant first. I like this woman and she means well, but she can be a bit of a know-it-all at times and I feel like she's less likely to spout off the unwanted advice if I'm the one with more experience (9 whole weeks more experience but, you know, good enough).

On another pregnancy-related note, pregnancy hormones are wacky. Most days I feel like my normal self, but sometimes it's very apparent that there are some pretty intense hormones at work. Like the time I burst into tears at a music festival because I'd waited in line for food for an hour and the concession stand was out of nacho cheese (and when I say "tears" I mean gulping, heaving sobs; people were staring, it was humiliating), or the time Penn was making fun of a magazine I was reading and I was trying to defend myself and I was getting annoyed except that the mocking things he was saying were actually really funny so I ended up crying and laughing at the same time. On more than one occasion in this pregnancy poor Penn has looked at me in utter confusion and said, "Wait, are you crying? Why are you crying? I don't understand, what happened?" After the second or third time this happened he just put his hand on my knee and calmly said, "I guess sometimes you just need to cry, huh?" Exactly.  So, yeah, 95% of the time I feel normal and 3% of the time I just need to cry about nothing for a quick second. The other 2% of the time I'm full of righteous anger at all of the women who post on my internet birth board about how getting the flu vaccine will give you the flu or how the only way to be a good mother is to give birth to your baby in a kiddie pool in your kitchen, let your husband sever the umbilical cord with his teeth, and then fry and eat the placenta.  I can get on board with a lot of hippie nonsense (ask my husband, he calls me a hippie almost daily!) but it infuriates me how ill-educated some of these women are and how they spout off these nonsensical conspiracy theories about doctors and hospitals and modern medicine. [Incidentally, I am not against home births. A home birth is decidedly NOT for me--I actually find the routine and security of a hospital soothing and want to at least have the option of an anesthesiologist with an epidural nearby--but I respect that it is the best choice for some people. But the people who act like it is the be-all-end-all-only-path-to-a-fulfilling-motherhood-experience piss me off to no end. I hold back and don't actually respond to the crazy posts--other sane people do that for me--but it really makes me angry.]
So, yeah, anyway, today my pregnancy hormones manifested themselves in the oddest way yet. I happened upon a song I hadn't heard in years, Sujan Stevens "For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" and I got kind of emotional listening to it, and then I decided I wanted to listen to Mumford and Sons' "Timshel" for the dozenth time this week, which has been making me tear up ever since I first heard it. And then I was like, "Hey, listening to these sad songs is kind of cathartic and nice, I should make a playlist of songs that are good to cry to!" and then I was like, "What in the world is wrong with you, what kind of person purposely makes a playlist of songs that make her feel weepy?" And then I went back to writing my dissertation, which was what I was supposed to be doing at the time, but ever since this afternoon I've been thinking of songs that I would put on my hypothetical "I Need a Good Cry" playlist. Here's what I've come up with so far in addition to the two songs listed above:
1. Hallelujah by just about anybody who has ever covered it. That one is a good downer.
2.  Love Lockdown by Kanye West
3. Hurt, Johnny Cash's version
4.  What Goes Around Comes Around by Justin Timberlake
5. One by U2
6. By Your Side by Sade (I don't know why this one makes me teary, but it does)
7.  Jerusalem, the hymn (only certain arrangements, and I have no idea why, and I realize this is effectively the British national anthem so anyone from the UK will find this particularly bizarre)

Anyway, I know there are some other really good ones that I am forgetting. Give me suggestions, because my next step is a perusal of all of the soundtracks from the various seasons of the OC. That show was amazing at coming up with the most melodramatic sappy indie music.

So, nobody else ever does this sort of thing out of the blue during what has been a normal, happy week, do they? I can definitely chalk this one up to wacky pregnancy hormones, right? [Also, please don't worry about my sanity, I promise it really has been a normal, happy week (month, year). I'll take curative action if listening to weepy music becomes more than a fun recreational pastime.]

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I'm not sure how I'm ever going to finish my dissertation. I didn't get to work on it at all this week. I had a ton of editing to do for my assistantship (I am the assistant editor on an academic journal) so that took up all of the time this week when I wasn't teaching my university course or tutoring SAT students. I suppose I could have worked on it for an hour or two every day but then I wouldn't have had a single "me" second in my entire day, and that just seems crazy, especially right now when I know that for the sake of my health and my baby's I need to be sure I get a little bit of downtime and exercise every day.
I really have been prioritizing the dissertation lately. I make an effort to work on it for a few hours every day and aim for 20 hours a week, but in a week like this one, it just wasn't possible. I hope to have my first two chapters completed--at least in draft form--by the 15th and then I need to basically complete a chapter every four weeks after that if I want to be done before the baby arrives. I keep telling myself it will be worth all the hard work right now to be able to enjoy my baby without the dissertation hanging over my head, but I get so overwhelmed sometimes that I can't imagine the work will ever get done in time. I am determined to finish this degree. I didn't spend 4 years of my life working toward this to give up on it now. Yet I resent the amount of my interests and quality time with friends and family that I am having to temporarily give up to finish this project. I know that's what it's going to take, though. I once read or heard someone say that s/he finished the dissertation six months after deciding it was the most important thing in his/her life, but it's only now really hitting me that I am seriously going to have to sacrifice a lot to get this done.
I also need to work past my fear of writing and just get stuff down on paper. It doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't even have to be good. I just need to get pages in to my advisor so I can start getting feedback. I don't enjoy writing in the same way I enjoy reading and researching, but it's time to bite the bullet and make myself write every single day.
I keep trying to think ahead to the spring when I will no longer have this project hanging over my head. I know the sense of accomplishment will feel fantastic, and I know as I raise my family and continue down my career path I'll feel a sense of fulfillment and pride that I earned my PhD. I just wish that dream of the future was as consistently motivating as I would like it to be.

On another note, I had a doctor appointment yesterday. The baby seems to be doing great. I laid down on the exam table and the doctor said, "Let's listen to the baby...It's a little early for you to be feeling movement." I said, "Actually, I think I have been feeling movement for a couple of weeks, I feel little flutters sometimes." She said, "Well, maybe that's the baby," and then she put the doppler on my stomach and the instant she did, I mean the very second, she heard the baby's heartbeat loud and clear. She looked surprised and said, "Oh, your baby is right there!" Apparently s/he is floating around toward the front of my body, high and far forward in my uterus, which explains why I've been able to feel her/him for three weeks now. Lucky me! I feel the flutters several times a day now, usually for several minutes at a time. S/he still isn't strong enough to be felt from the outside, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm feeling my little one (in fact s/he is fluttering away in there right now!). The doctor said I can call the perinatologist and make the appointment for my anatomy scan for three weeks from now. Penn and I can't wait for that appointment, mostly because we should be able to tell if the baby is a boy or girl if s/he cooperates and is in a good position. I can't believe I'm already almost halfway through this pregnancy. We have so much to do to prepare!

The dissertation is the main thing I need to do to prepare, though. I need to tell myself that if the baby sleeps in a dresser drawer for the first few weeks that's okay as long as his/her mom is finished with the big project and has time to devote to baby care. I really need to make myself finish this work.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm Pregnant!!

Yes, I said it, and it's true! I'm pregnant! I suppose I could have thought up a clever post in which I gradually built up to the announcement that I'm pregnant, but after almost twelve weeks of knowing about my pregnancy and thinking about it constantly but not wanting to say anything here, I think I can be forgiven for just blurting it out now that I am into the second trimester.
Truthfully, this is the last place I've shared the news, and I can't imagine I'm sharing it with many who didn't already know from my Facebook announcement last week or from personal interactions anyway, but there it is. If all goes well I'll be having a baby in March. Well, hopefully in March. My due date is early enough in the month that there's a possibility that it could be a February baby, but I've already had many conversations with the fetus about how s/he needs to stay in there until his/her due date because I have a dissertation to finish and defend before I give birth.
I think I've been having all of the normal reactions. I'm 80% thrilled and excited and happy as can be. This was a very planned pregnancy, so I can't say that I'm shocked or surprised. Since it's a planned pregnancy, Penn and I talked a lot about parenting before we even started trying to conceive, and I feel like I got a lot of fears and worries out of my system before I went off the Pill, which is a very good thing since there is a distinct feeling that there is no turning back now! I am about 15% worried that something could still go wrong with the pregnancy or the baby and 5% anxious about all of the changes that I know are coming our way, but mostly I'm just really, really happy. I have wanted to be a mother for such a long time, and I'm grateful to be having this experience.

Pregnancy has already been such an adventure, and I'm only 15 weeks into the trip. Here are some things that they (meaning everyone I know who has ever experienced a pregnancy) did not make clear enough about pregnancy, and therefore I learned for myself only after I got pregnant:

1) That phrase "a bun in the oven" is not just figurative. I feel like I am literally baking this baby. I learned from charting my basal body temperature while trying to get pregnant that my normal body temperature upon waking is in the reptilian 96.8-97.2 degree range. During the second half of the cycle when my progesterone is up, it's around 97.6. Now that I'm pregnant, it's not unusual for me to wake up with a temperature of 98.4 freaking degrees (and yes, I'm supposed to stop temping now that I'm pregnant and I mostly have, but it was kind of addictive for me). A temperature rise of a degree and a half may not seem like much, but let me tell you, it is noticeable. It is noticeable to me, it is noticeable to my poor husband as I thrash around in bed all night and flail my arms around trying to cool off, and it is noticeable to the cat, who has now decided he prefers my chest to Penn's. I'm just grateful that it's the early part of my pregnancy that coincided with summer heat waves, because I can't imagine how unbearable summer+increased body temperature+30 extra pounds would be.

2) Morning sickness is not just a morning thing, which, to be fair, I did know before getting pregnant, but why do we as a culture persist in referring to it as morning sickness when that is so inaccurate? Yes, I wake up queasy some mornings, but the worst time for me is almost always the afternoon and sometimes late at night. And there's sort of a general icky feeling that persists all day. I'm one of the lucky ones and haven't actually thrown up yet*, but my body has now developed a pleasant habit: one minute I'm standing in the kitchen pulling out some eggs to hard boil and the next I'm dry heaving my way into our pink bathroom. The sensation that I am going to vomit comes out of nowhere, is what I'm saying. I'm used to having several minutes of, "Oh god, this is going to be bad," and plenty of time to find a bathroom or pull over or whatever before I actually start retching, but not in pregnancy. Now its like, "Let me just hit send on this e-mail OH LORD WAIT, GONNA YACK." I hope this stays as dry heaving and not actual puking, or I am going to be in trouble.**
*Not true anymore. I started a draft of this post during week 6. Week 6 I was queasy all the damn time. Week 7 I felt awesome, barely even remembered that I was pregnant. Week 8 the queasiness returned with a vengeance and I actually threw up twice. Penn was proud that our embryo is strong enough to make me sick. I told him that was not the proper reaction.
**And then things changed again. Sometime during my 10th week the not-so-morning sickness went away pretty much entirely and I've been feeling great ever since. Lucky me!

3) It's entirely possible, even likely, that you will want to take a nap at 1:00 in the afternoon, even if you didn't get out of bed until 9:30. I'm not quite as tired now that I'm into the second trimester, but I still need a nap a few times a week.

4) One of the things the body does the instant it becomes pregnant is slow down the digestive works. Apparently my body now wants food to sit in my intestines for as long as possible in order to suck out every single nutrient to benefit the little parasite in my uterus. All that food just sitting there (GROSS) develops a lot of gas. This means that for the first time ever in my life I can burp! Seriously, I was never much of a burper before, and if I did manage to eke one out it was all tiny and pathetic. But now I can practically out-belch my husband! This is the one pregnancy symptom I actually enjoy, because for years now Penn has been leaning in toward my ear and whispering, "Guess what?" and then belching loudly, and I was never able to reciprocate. But now I can! Muahahahahahaha.

5) Feeling the baby begin to move is almost indescribable and utterly amazing. I wasn't expecting to be able to feel movement until 18-20 weeks because everything I read in my pregnancy books and online said first time moms don't usually recognize the fetal movements until they start to get obvious. But last week at the end of my 13th week I was lying in bed reading and I felt a tiny "pop." It felt a bit like a popcorn kernel popping in my abdomen: brief, tiny, over as soon as I noticed it. From then on I felt that popcorn feeling once or twice a day. After several days of this I stopped thinking that I was crazy and told Penn that I thought I was feeling the baby. A few nights ago we tried an experiment. I read that the baby can "hear" in a primitive way right now by sensing vibrations, so Penn decided to play his drums to see if he could get a reaction. He sat down and started playing and I stood in the room with him, and as he played I felt the baby flutter several times very distinctly. That's when I became positive I really was feeling the baby. Now that I know what I'm looking for, the movement is becoming obvious. I feel him/her several times a day now, sometimes for just a split second, sometimes for a few minutes at a time. Earlier this evening there was a ten minute period during which I felt the tiny ripples almost constantly. It tickles! I can't wait until the ripples and pops begin to feel like actual kicks and I can have that daily reassurance that s/he is okay. I really want Penn to be able to feel the baby move, too.

6) Watching your own baby on an ultrasound is the most fascinating thing in the world. There is just nothing like it. Every little movement you see is fascinating. At my first ultrasound the baby was just a tiny flickering heartbeat and I couldn't really see much, just enough to know that the baby was alive and in the right place. At the second ultrasound, though, my baby looked like an actual baby and was upside down slowly waving his/her little arms. The doctor said, "Oh, the baby is waving at you. Hi mom!" and I suddenly teared up and couldn't do anything but smile. The third ultrasound was the big first trimester screening and it was a glorious half hour at a special facility with a big flat screen TV mounted on the wall above the exam table so I could easily watch the baby fist pumping and arching his/her back and curling away from the ultrasound probe. I suddenly understand why people want to talk about their kids 24/7. As it turns out, it's apparently human nature to be completely obsessed with your own offspring. I know my baby isn't doing anything particularly remarkable or fascinating, but it feels that way to me. I'm still scared to get completely attached to this little one, but s/he is starting to feel very real.

I've always been curious about what it would feel like to be pregnant. So far, it is even more intense and exciting than I imagined it would be, and yet more natural than I ever thought it could feel, too. I can only hope that I will be lucky enough to sustain this pregnancy until it results in a healthy baby to bring home, and that parenting will feel just as intense and natural.