The factory is silent. Its assembly line stands motionless. Somewhere off in the darkness, a buzzer sounds. One by one, lights begin to flicker and illuminate on long-unmanned diagnostic panels, giving a sense of enormity and complexity and scale to the machinery. The low hum of power supplies warming up comes next, followed by the higher and louder whine of turbines and electric motors. A whistle sounds, and one by one, employees begin to file in and take their places at the controls. Purposed for a single task, whose time has now come, the factory slowly comes to life...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cub chub

I'm one of the very few women I know who hates clothes shopping.

I've always had a difficult body to fit off the rack. My top half has (almost) never been less than a DD, except pre-puberty, and a brief period 10 years ago where I was going to the gym two hours a day, every day, and not eating much, and I managed to squeeze into a big C or a D. Until very recently, the only people accommodated in the DD sizes and larger seemed to be strippers (no thank you) and old ladies (boxy clothing, again, no thank you.)

My bottom half is always about one to two sizes smaller than my top half. Not a terrible problem. Unless one would like to buy a dress off the rack. I also have a 33 inch inseam. Average (about 32" or less, in some) is too short. Tall is sometimes good enough, but usually too long. Hemming is my friend.

But for the first time in my life, my top and bottom halves are starting to even out! Whee!

Last Friday, I put on a usual pair of jeans and was shocked. Just a couple of weeks before, I could at least leave them most of the way open and wear a Bella Band... I could no longer do that because now they were far too uncomfortable, even unzipped! I've always had the lower tummy "pooch" but now it had gotten firmer and rounded out to something entirely different. It had also started to push all the other things normally in there up and out of place into a poochy upper tum. I've been affectionately referring to my new shape as my "cub chub."

I broke the news of my imminent need for pants to Craig, who had other plans of what he wanted to do during the weekend, but he decided to be my support system and come to the mall with me. I was armed with a list of stores where I had heard other people similar to my size had found suitable maternity clothing: JC Penney, Sears, and my usual fall-back, Lane Bryant.

Our first stop was Sears. Why do they always put the maternity clothes next to the plus size clothing?? Is it so you don't have to walk through the skinny-minnie junior's department on the way to buy the bloat-wear? Is it so the thin-but-now-"fat"-because-pregnant women will look over at plus size and feel better about themselves? Or is it just laziness on the part of store designers and stock people? We'll never know.

I felt this was going to be a bust because I've always had issues with Sears's clothing. It's cheaply made, typically fades quickly, and won't last very long. But I thought... how long does one really wear maternity clothes? It may do the trick.

However, I sorted through the very small section of racks to no avail. Horizontal stripes? Clingy jersey knits? Outrageous polyester patterns? this one actually see-through? When a youngish girl and her (I assume for lack of wedding rings) boyfriend started pawing through the racks with me, I decided to split. I didn't even want to be seen with this stuff, let alone wear it.

Our next stop was Penney's. We made a wrong turn and I DID have to walk through the junior's department, and the mannequins alone made me cringe. Not for any issues I have or don't about myself, but because no wonder 8 year old girls now think they need to be on a diet! Way to reinforce terrible body images in young ladies, department stores! (For the record, I actually have a really good body image, because other than some extra fat stores, which don't bother me too much, I'm healthy! And, even more so now that I'm pregnant, negativity about my body is strictly verboten!)

There were two other women in the maternity racks in Penney's, and one woman seemed to be helping the other with clothing selection. This immediately annoyed me because there were only about 6 racks of maternity stuffed in the back of the plus-size women's section, and these two chicks were chaotic about circling around them and pulling things out and yapping about them. I couldn't hear myself think. Craig wisely just stood out of the way with his arms folded.

Once again, the selection was god-awful. I'm not sure what designer decided that pregnant women suddenly needed to wear loud prints and clown pants, or worse, skinny jeans with full stretch panels, but there they all were! I couldn't even find anything I wanted to try on. I made a desperate glance at the women's department, hoping maybe I could get away with just plus size, only to see things that would look more appropriate on, let's say, a "mature" woman. Now I was tired, my back was starting to hurt, my feet hurt, and I had been to two stores without even finding anything remotely promising.

I said to Craig, "Let's go" and we macheted our way out of the rack jungle. When we were back on the path, Craig asked me where to next, I said, "I think I'm just going to go home and cry now." And he goes, "Why?...Because you can't find any clothes?" And I said yeah, and I started trying to figure out how I could make my stretch pants last the next 6 months.

Then Craig said, "It's not a big deal." Meanwhile, I'm thinking I'm just going to be walking around in my underwear for the rest of the pregnancy, or possibly wearing a bath towel. As I'm spiraling into thoughts of wearing my bathrobe to work meetings, and "Oh no, I'm going to have to make my own clothes out of curtains!" we walked out into the mall, Craig asked me a question I don't remember, and I burst into tears.

Something in Craig's face changed in that moment, as it always does when he sees I've reached my limit. I'm normally calm and rational for the most part, but when I get utterly frustrated and hit my breaking point, I lose it. Pregnancy hormones do not help this. Tears were running down my cheeks and I'm trying to avoid making a scene as we're in public, and Craig immediately sprung into, "What can I do for you?!" mode.

He put his arm around me and held me close and said, "We can go anywhere you want. Don't worry, we'll find something for you. Don't they make places that only have maternity clothes? We can go there if you want. Where does everyone else buy clothes?" He comforted me and led me to a place where we could sit down for a few minutes until I felt better. He dried my tears and said we could go wherever I wanted, and he would buy me whatever I needed.

I started to feel better just sitting down (and realizing I had the world's most awesome and sympathetic husband.) I had been holding on to the exclusively-maternity stores as a last resort because I knew that they can be pricey for "temporary" clothing. I decided we should go take a detour and look at shoes because I've never had a problem with Payless size 9.5 wide. On the way there I managed to mostly hold it together, except for the fact that I felt so insanely in love with my husband at that moment for being so kind to me, that it made me all choked up again. I tried to focus and look at shoes, but it didn't work so well.

I decided we could also give it one more shot in the Lane Bryant clearance racks, as at least that was where I had previously found the three pairs of stretch pants I've been wearing around for the last 4 or 5 weeks. Usually Craig doesn't follow me in there because it will be boring, but being that he was now on a mission to make me feel better, he didn't leave my side. He actually made me laugh a few times while we were in there, which greatly improved my mood, and I was starting to think it wouldn't be so bad...

We went out to the car, and when we got in, Craig said we could go to the other stores today if I wanted, or anywhere else I wanted to go. But I was too tired and just worn out at that point. He said we could spend Sunday looking too if I wanted to, and I got all teary again just because he was being so good to me. I know it was probably the last way he would have liked to spend his weekend, but he was thinking only of me and what I needed right then. I just felt so lucky to have someone who loves me so much, right there at my side, that (also being full of exhausted, petulant hormones) I lost it again.

We sat in the car for a few minutes, Craig with his arms around me, while I let it out. He asked if I wanted him to drive home (because who hasn't tried to drive while crying and snotty, yikes?) but I pulled it together, and we split.

When we got home, I considered my ace-in-the-hole, Old Navy. I've probably not shopped there in 7 or 8 years, because the last things I bought there, while inexpensive, were just...okay. You know, generic style, sorta cheap, but just okay. But at this point I thought maybe that's what I really needed. Something to make me feel "normal." It wasn't too far from home, and Craig agreed that's where we could go on Sunday.

Sure enough, the next day we went, and bee-lined right to the maternity section, where I instantly found about 6 or 8 things to try on. I didn't think the shirts would fit me (see paragraph 1) but I was so inspired I tried those on too.

In the dressing room, I discovered the wonder that is maternity pants! Fake buttons and zippers! Stretchy panels to hold your pants up because you don't have a waist/hips any more! Comfortable stretch fabrics! Heaven!

The first thing I tried on was a pair of brown cords. I don't remember the last time I wore corduroys, but...they looked great! I was so excited I had to call Craig into the dressing room. He came over and agreed they looked super-cute, and he could tell I was in a 1000% better mood than the previous day. Hooray, I had found at least one pair of pants!

The other things to try on went similarly, except that I again remembered why I have to try on EVERY piece of clothing I so much as touch in a store before I buy it. Not all size-whatevers are made equal! Ever. Even if you're in a store that has a store-brand, apparently.

I ended up with 2 pairs of jeans (one for right now, and one that will last me a while because it's got extra stretch!) and the cords, which will now nicely end my stretch-pant-wearing marathon. (The shirts didn't fit.) The last thing I will need to find are some decent black dress pants for work, but I decided not to press my luck that day, and wait for another opportunity...

(I have also since discovered that I cannot be alone in this. An online search at multiple venues for maternity clothing (including those selling only maternity-wear) has revealed that: everyone who is pregnant right now is apparently my size! That can be the only thing that explains why everywhere I go online is SOLD OUT in my size! It also seems that these stores refuse to replenish their online stock, because it's been that way for a while, unless I just keep missing the minuscule opportunity when they do restock. Infuriating! What are all the other people my size wearing???)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Historic Day

When something as big as your first child is on the way, sometimes it's easy to think that the world stands still, holding its breath in anticipation. For better or worse, though, time marches on. January 20th, and with it the inauguration of our nation's first African-American (first non-white, even!) President felt like I imagine the fall of 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, must have felt to some. At nine years old, I don't think I was able to grasp at the time the historical significance of what I was seeing on TV. But I'm old enough now, to know radical change when I see it. And I do believe it's change for the better.

Some day, I hope to sit my child down and tell him or her about Barack Obama, the son of an immigrant who rose to our nation's highest office even as we were waiting for our own child to be born. If he did that, I'll say, there's no reason you can't do whatever you set your mind to.

Here's to the long road to economic, political, and moral recovery, and making this country back into a place where we can be proud to raise our children. With the help of our new president, I'm sure we'll be able to do it.

Yes, we can.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

50% of all Kids are Raised by Amateurs

At least that's what my Dad says. Having absolutely no experience with baby care, I'm inclined to agree with him. My sisters and I were all born within about 4 years of each other, so I was still pretty useless myself when they were babies. As a toddler, I didn't pick up a lot of baby care tips.

Fortunately, as is usually the case, our hospital has taken this into account and offers several birth, safety and childcare classes for modest fees (and in some cases, no fee at all).

I called to get us registered today, as the nurse at Monday's appointment told us that the classes fill up fast. The lady who answered the phone asked me which class I called to sign up for. I told her that, being new at this whole baby thing, we'd like everything on the menu.

So we are now signed up for the following classes, which will occupy about a quarter of our free weeknights in April and May:

- A 9 week childbirth preparation class.
- An infant CPR and safety class.
- A breastfeeding class.
- An epidural class.
- A car seat safety class.

And I will be calling shortly to sign up for a "New Dad Boot Camp" class. I assume they call it Boot Camp to make it seem more masculine. Also, no one would sign up for a class called "Practice Cleaning Someone Else's Baby's Diaper".

I'd like to think we will be pros after all of this, but as everything in my life to this point has taught me, education is no substitute for experience.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Week 16...avocado! Mmm...

Sorry for the lapse. Work and other obligations have been stretching me a little thin lately...

My older sister came over the other day and said I look like I finally have a "baby shape!" Which of course is a nice way of saying my lower gut is sticking out a little more than usual, mentioned by someone who sees me often enough to notice a difference. Sure enough, I've been feeling "fuller" there. If I lie on my stomach, it feels like there's about a grapefruit-sized knot in there (and I immediately want to move off of it!) Craig says he can feel the difference when he hugs me, or when he goes to kiss the cub goodnight and I'm lying on my back. It happened very suddenly too -- like one day it wasn't there, and the next day it was! Pop!

My regular pants are really not comfortable any more, so I went and bought a lightweight Bella Band from Target (it's called "Be" which I find a little odd, but okay.) I took it for a test drive the other day and it was GREAT. I had a pair of stretchy sweatpants that were too big, and it held them up wonderfully (usually I'm hiking them up all day!) I tried it with my jeans unbuttoned and halfway unzipped when we went out to the bookstore and to the movies the other night, and made it through the evening without any embarrassing pants-dropping incident! The one I have is black, but they also make a white one which I may be picking up for variety under lighter colored clothing...

We went for a checkup yesterday and everything was just fine. The nurse measured the baby's heartbeat in the high 140's but the little one kept moving around in there (which is great!) I think it's because I had a Carnation Instant Breakfast before I left the house, and he/she was all sugared up! (Bad mom!) She also put the Doppler higher up this time, midway between the top of my pubic bone and my bellybutton. The heartbeat was LOUD. And it was awesome. Wub wub wub!

We scheduled "The Big Ultrasound" for Feb. 2nd, so we only have to wait three weeks this time! (They scheduled me 4.5 weeks out for this appointment, so I guess I was ahead some in wait time.) They will hopefully tell us the gender, (if the baby chooses to cooperate, of course!) and they will do all sorts of measurements, and give us an update on the estimated due date.

We also opted for some of the genetic blood test screenings. For example, it would be helpful to know for the future if I have any genetic markers for cystic fibrosis. It requires one from each parent to put the child at risk, and even then there is only a 25% chance of the child being born with it, but it's a test they only have to do once in your lifetime. Why not know, and have some information to give to our children about our medical history?

I can't express how cheesed-off I still am that there's no way we'll ever know Craig's medical history because of the frigging sealed adoption records. We don't give a shit who his birth parents are, we'd just like to know if there is any existing condition in his history that may affect our children. Is that so much to ask? Apparently, to the State of Illinois it is, but we all know by now what a bunch of a-holes their government turned out to be.

Sorry for the tangent, but it irks the crap out of me.

We decided we don't want an amnio or CVS because they're invasive, and after last time, why in the world would I want to increase odds of a miscarriage at all, especially at this stage, just to find out something we'd eventually know anyway?? But non-invasive blood tests that give us an idea of our risk factor are okay with me. They can't give you a "positive/negative" result, only an idea of risk. So at a minimum, it will give us an idea if we have anything else to consider in raising our child. (Or something completely new for me to obsess over, but that remains to be seen.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Be Prepared (or "finally... a decent baby book for men!")

Those of you who've been following us since the beginning may remember this little gem from last June.

I've been banging my head against the wall trying to find a book for new or expectant dads that doesn't just regurgitate the same stuff they write for expectant moms, find/replacing the word "you" with "your partner".

Our good friends recently told us about this book, which Kathy was nice enough to give me for Christmas.

It's called Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads, and it's by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden, whose other writing credits include the Pop Up Book of Phobias.

It's awesome, and worth a read even if you're NOT expecting a kid. One of the first pages shows a picture of an "idealized" baby vs. what your baby will actually look like when it emerges. Since your partner will be taking her cues from your face, it warns, you'd better know what to expect so as not to give her a heart attack from your horrified expression.

Other highlights include "pretending to hurt yourself for baby's amusement" and "how to get other people to entertain your kid for you on an airplaine". New or expecting dads, take heart: someone does actually get it.

On the actual baby front, we're headed back to the doctor on Monday. More news as it develops.