Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Leaning Tower of Pregnant

I value sleep tremendously, mainly because it's never come easily. Some of my earliest memories involve lonely insomnia - lying there, wide awake in the wee hours, wondering why mommy's sheep-counting didn't work for shit as soon as she exited the room and I was left alone in the dark.

My inability to slumber inevitably led to one of two reactions: mild mischief, or downright evil-doing. I would either sit quietly and build massive block structures until my mother wandered by, scolded gently and ushered me back to bed, or, the more exciting alternative: I would bounce joyously out from under the covers and creep silently out of my room.

There, I would cautiously peer around the corner and down the hallway to where my parents sat eating dinner and calmly discussing their respective days, no doubt relishing the few kid-free moments rarely afforded them while raising three little hellions. I would wait patiently, lurking in the darkness until the conversation had reached an appropriately pleasant lull. Then, seizing my moment, I would hop out of the shadows, leap on my Big Wheel, and go careening down the hallway at breakneck speed, all the while screaming at the top of my lungs like a towheaded banshee. On a good night, I would crash into the kitchen table with a satisfying boom.

My insomnia partially stemmed from the fact that I was TERRIFIED of the dark. As a result, I refused to sleep without the light on, and spent the majority of my childhood bathed in the reassuring glow of a 70-watt bulb streaming down on my little bed. Every so often, my mother would walk by, listen to my breathing until she was certain I was sleeping, and turn out the light. If she had misjudged and I had not yet drifted off to sleepyland, this would ellicit a series of shrill, ear-piercing shrieks until she returned and flipped the switch. Truth be told, the fear of the dark lasted for years, alleviated only by adorning my bedroom walls with countless glow-in-the-dark adhesive stars sometime in junior high.

Not content to merely be a moderate pain in the ass, I descended into true brattiness when I decided that I could no longer sleep without my Fisher Price record player playing at top volume.

I loved my record player - it was white and orange, and possessed a fascinating number of kid-friendly buttons for pressing and poking. Every night between the ages of 4 and 10 (and possibly older, though I'll never admit to it), my mother would put on my favorite record - Disney's Peter Pan soundtrack. It was one of those amazing illustrated records, with art from the movie covering every spare inch, enabling me to listen while simultaneously watching Peter and Wendy spin around and around and around until I entered a trance-like, meditative state. Once it was playing, my mother would sit with me until I was lulled to a sufficient wooziness and then creep quietly out of the room, leaving me to drift happily off to sleep under the blazing artificial lights beneath my pink-and-white flowered sheets on my big girl's daybed.

However, there was a crimp in the plan - my Fisher Price beauty was prone to skipping, so every so often there would come a jarring moment in the middle of "You Can Fly!" or some such classic when Peter would suddenly descend into lunacy and start repeating himself over and over and over. Inevitably, this would snatch me from even the deepest pre-slumber calm and send me into near hysterics as I lay there screaming "MOMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!" until she came to remedy the situation.

Looking back as an adult, I have never considered myself to have been a pampered child. However, as I write these words, I realize that I must face the truth: if I couldn't be bothered to get up, walk 18 inches and poke the needle myself, I was officially spoiled.

As I grew older and my fear of the dark dissipated, a new terror arose to take its place. One fateful night, during my parents' unwise attempt at trusting my oldest brother to babysit, I wandered into the living room where he had just popped George Romero's classic "Night of the Living Dead" into the Beta. I sat, transfixed, and watched the whole thing.

Now, if you haven't seen this fine family film, let me tell you what it can teach you (especially when you're 8):

Lesson one: In case of zombie attack, SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD. It's the only way to kill those motherfuckers.

Lesson two: In case of zombie attack, BARRICADE THE WINDOWS. It's clearly the best preventative measure, as evidenced by the tactics of the film's main characters in their creepy house out in the woods.

By the end of the film, I was sitting petrified in the middle of my living room, shrouded in blankets, too terrified to even turn my head toward our massive WALL OF WINDOWS looking out onto the forest. Somehow I managed to creep back into my bedroom, where all the lights in the world could not have saved me from the terror-inducing FLOOR TO CEILING WINDOW WALL occupying one side of my room, which, conveniently, had nary a curtain or blind to block out the legions of undead doubtlessly lurking outside. Where was a gun when I needed it??

For the next several years, it's a miracle I slept at all. Finally I saw the film again at age 11, during a Halloween party at school. It took much convincing - and the fear of being the laughingstock of the 6th grade - to brave the classroom that day. After adamantly insisting to my classmates that it was doubtlessly the most terrifying film ever made and that they were all fools who would rue the day that they had it burned onto their psyches, I sat amongst them and watched, ready to hightail it out of there at the slightest provocation.

I was certain that they'd all be horrified, that they would come to me afterward, begging forgiveness for their flippant, ignorant ways, for laughing in the face of danger, screaming to the heavens, "Why, oh WHY hadn't we listened to the brilliant, all-knowing, zombie-saavy Paige??"

Instead, in the first ten minutes of the film, I heard something bizarre - laughter. A chuckle here, a giggle there - suddenly the whole room was alive with pre-pubescent cackling. Looking at the screen, I slowly joined them - zombies my ass! Wahaha! Who did the make-up for these poor fools? Look at that one! His prosthetic flesh is peeling off!

In the blink of an eye, my greatest fear went from terror-inducing, bloodthirsty undead hellbent on taking me out to desperately underpaid overactors with questionable special effects make-up causing them to resemble strung-out trannies (still disturbing, but at least they didn't want to eat my face). From that moment on, I was a card-carrying zombie fan.

During my freshman year of college, the insomnia that had improved in high school was exacerbated anew with the advent of a snoring roommate. To this day, I cannot fathom how such a massive sound could come out of such a tiny person. After countless sleepless nights, I resorted to simply chucking pillows at her head from across the room. Not particularly effective, yet satisfying nonetheless.

Miraculously, in recent years I've slept like a baby (and not a crying, screaming one, either - a happy, well-nourished, angelic, sleeps-through-the-night infant - like I'm sure LOOL will be). Though I'm still a light sleeper, I am now free of the many hang-ups and paranoias that previously crept up to taunt me at bedtime. For the first time, I love sleeping - and I excel at it.

Until recently. If you aren't aware, a woman is not supposed to sleep on her back during pregnancy. Evidently, the weight of a pregnant woman's massive, baby-containing uterus can impair breathing and circulation, cause changes in blood pressure, and put pressure on the vena cava, restricting bloodflow between the lower body and the heart. In short - bad for both mom and baby.

I discovered this when I was about 16 weeks along, and immediately made every effort to stay off my back during the night. I knew this would prove difficult - when I am capable of sleep, I'm a bonefide back sleeper. My favorite position is lying with my arms over my head in the plie position, perhaps the one thing I retained from my two years of childhood ballet. However, with my uterus growing rounder and heavier with each passing day, I was determined to change positions.

I initially accomplished this by propping two pillows on either side of my body and wedging myself into bed on my side, at an angle that rendered it nearly impossible for me to move, let alone flop on my back. Surrounded by my fluffy friends, I could scarcely see my lovely husband sleeping next to me. Oh well, I told myself. A small price to pay for a healthy LOOL. See ya in August, honey.

Until recently, this method has worked rather well. In conjunction with the "No back! No back! No back!" mantra I repeat to myself before getting into bed, it seems to have helped me sleep soundly on my side all night long. However, in the past week or so, I've repeatedly awakened in the middle of the night flat on my back. Invariably, this causes me to immediately begin silently chastising myself for my naughty back-sleepin' ways while flopping about searching for an acceptable alternative, until I become so worked up that I'm unable to go back to sleep at all.

Last night, I decided to try something new. I had read that back sleeping is acceptable as long as you are at an incline. Somehow, this alleviates the pressure from the uterus, and all is good and fine in the world. Excellent, I thought. Grabbing an old comforter, I folded and wedged it against my headboard, then topped it off with two pillows. Lying back, I congratulated myself on what seemed like a brilliant alternative - my head and torso were a full foot above my belly! Take that, vena cava!

As I lay back and prepared to slumber, I looked down at my husband, far beneath me on one side of the bed, and the floor, very, very far below on the other side. Leaning back and forth on my tower of bedding, I realized that my grand idea was also somewhat of a precarious perch. I struggled to get comfortable as my stack o' padding listed disconcertingly to one side and then another. Eventually, I managed to fall asleep.

I awoke this morning after a fitful night, neck aching, still atop my mound yet minus one pillow that I'd evidently deemed hateful in the middle of the night and chucked angrily across the room. Now I sit typing these words, unable to turn my head easily from side to side. It appears that my new method is flawed.

Back to square one. But at least I'm zombie-free.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Although I'm admittedly very fortunate to have had a stress-free pregnancy thus far, there is one thing that has begun to annoy me tremendously. I have discovered that other people now feel they have carte blanche to freely comment on my increasing girth, like the scarlet P on my forehead prevents me from taking any offense, and instead I should simple chuckle merrily in some round, jolly, Santa-like way and gaily waddle off down the hall. Before you think I am merely being hypersensitive, let me give some examples.

There is a woman who works down the hall as some kind of file clerk/data processor hybrid. She's normally very pleasant, possessing an easy laugh and the ability to call everyone "Mama" - from the mail delivery lady to the deli counter worker - without sounding like a total whackjob. We've always had a friendly rapport, so at 12 weeks into my pregnancy, on the day that I first spread the word about little LOOL, I went by her desk to show off my ultrasound photos and share the news. Without missing a beat, she replied, "Oh, I knew it. Because you have a little belly now."

It was at that moment that our alliance turned sour.

My friends, I can honestly say that, at 12 weeks along and one pound up, there was no belly. My rational brain knew this, and yet I still regret not having the wherewithal to respond, "Well, I notice that you have a little belly too - are you expecting?"

From exactly 1 til 2 pm daily, this woman sits in the lunchroom/kitchen and holds court with a gaggle of other workers. They screech merrily as they nosh on their Lean Cuisine Chicken Piccatas and suck down their Diet Cokes. Their voices echo into the hallway, where yours truly is lucky enough to sit right outside and have every word pound straight into my skull. Everyone on the floor knows to avoid the kitchen area during this hour, lest they be exposed to the grating noise as the group extolls their shrill opinions about everything from politics ("I just don't know about this Obama guy...") to religion ("It wasn't til I found my Lord and savior that I...") to shoe-shopping ("Walmart has great flip-flops!").

Being a brave, frugal soul who brings her lunch to work, I courageously persist in infiltrating their circle on a daily basis to microwave, toast and rinse as needed. Generally, I wander quietly into the cacophony, go about my business, and leave them to their cackles, minimizing interaction where possible.

Monday was just like any other day - I entered, pulled my lunch out of the fridge (homemade organic black bean and cheese quesadilla with kale - mmm), and popped it into the microwave.

Suddenly, I heard a screech - "Oh my GAWD!"

I turn to find The Woman staring at me from across the room - or rather, staring in the general direction of my stomach. Of course, this attracted the attention of the whole herd, and suddenly the room fell silent as eight sets of intrusive eyes barreled down on me, piercing my physique.

"Lookit that BIG BELLY! I can even tell from the BACK now - you're totally straight!"

Once again, I was shocked and annoyed into silence, and found myself at a (rare) loss for words. I babbled, "Yes, well, I've kind of always looked like that from the back, but THANKS for noticing," then escaped as quickly as possible and sat kicking myself at my desk, wondering why I couldn't have come up with a snappier reply.

The same day, I was returning to my desk from another office when I heard it again: "OH MY GOD!"

I turned to face the latest culprit - an IT tech that I've always liked. Looking me over, he said "Wow! Last week you had nothing, and now - BAM! You're huge!"

Appropriate and satisfying response unfortunately not given by me: "So are you! Much like last week!"

Dear readers, I must tell you something: I am not huge. I am aware of this, although frankly, even if I were to be huge, more power to me! I'm five-and-a-half-months PREGNANT, you assholes!

So far I have gained twelve pounds, which is right on track. I embrace my new curves and I am proud of my little tummy - after all, it's where my BABY IS GROWING, you insensitive bitches! Was I just so freakishly thin before that it is somehow INCREDIBLE that I now have a little gut? Or are these people just jackasses who feel that it's some kind of compliment to freely point out the "hugeness" of another person?

Now, I am a firm believer that there are right and wrong ways to comment on a pregnant woman's changing form. Almost everyone else I know gets it right - for instance: "Aww, you're beginning to show! It's so cute!" "Hi Mommy! I love your belly! You look great!" or even "Wow! Can I touch it? You're getting round!" All of these comments are acceptable, and make me want to spontaneously embrace the individual delivering the statement.

The Woman and IT Guy evidently missed the "social etiquette during pregnancy" memo. I am hoping that they will henceforth refrain from further commentary, or at least save it for moments when I'm not holding sharp objects. I fear that they may ellicit some kind of hormone-crazed pregnancy rage, and I really can't be held responsible for my actions.

Walk softly and fear the wild-eyed pregnant lady.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Daycare Wars

I'm a planner by nature. I'm proud to say that I planned my whole wedding, from proposal to "I do," in exactly five months and five days. I enjoyed obsessing over the minutia - deciding precisely which texture of chocolate brown paper to use for the programs and placecards, what shade of red best complimented the crisp tablecloths, and exactly how to place the favor bags to ensure that they would lie properly at each place setting. When I was a little girl, I would lock myself in my bedroom and rearrange furniture when I was upset. In short - I was born organized.

In early 2008, my husband and I decided to start trying to get pregnant toward the end of the year, after we'd had a full 12 months of blissfully married domesticity. In keeping with my fastidious (some would say obsessive-compulsive) personality, I began preparing myself a full six months prior to baby-makin' time. Prenatal vitamins were popped daily. All of my (much beloved) toxic beauty products were tossed and replaced with fetus-friendly substitutes. Conventional fruits and vegetables were forgone in favor of their organic counterparts. Cloth diaper varieties were meticulously researched. Baby product reviews were read; brands were evaluated and cross-referenced for safety. Basically, I lost my mind.

At last, I emerged at the dawn of 2009, newly pregnant and ready to contentedly gestate until August, knowing that I had done all I can to prepare for LOOL's arrival. Until one day, when I realized that I had neglected one crucial question in my zealous planning - who will take care of the baby when I go back to work?

Mind you, it's not like I hadn't thought about it. Happy, nurturing Mary Poppins-esque nannies had occasionally drifted in and out of the transom of my mind, most of which was occupied contemplating BPA-free bottles, nontoxic hardwood cribs and naturally-dyed organic cotton onesies. Perhaps I assumed (stupidly) that I would simply pawn the baby off on my grandchild-eager mother-in-law when I returned to the office. Alternatively, my husband and I had discussed the possibilty of him working from home a couple of days a week - maybe I thought we would simply hire in-home help for the remaining days to supplement. Ultimately, I have no idea what the hell I was thinking, because about a month ago I recognized a crucial and terrifying fact: finding a good daycare is the Mommy Olympics.

I came to this realization when I finally pulled my head out of the foggy first-trimester fatigue in which I'd been floating for three months and began to investigate local childcare options, operating on the principle that it never hurts to have a back-up plan, should the put-mother-in-law-to-work thing fall through. I'm in the television industry, and my massive studio is generous enough to provide a children's center for its lucky employees. For a hefty monthly fee, you can rest assured that your kid is cared for by top-notch professionals and engaged in stimulating, brain-developing, Mensa-worthy play, as evidenced by a mythical live video feed they are said to provide, allowing parents to snoop freely on their child's daily activities without leaving the comfort of their offices. I'd heard of this magical place, where happy babies roam freely under the watchful eye of caring, CPR-certified teachers, and parents are strongly encouraged to visit their little puddings throughout the day, helping to both ease their yuppie guilt and remind their children that mom n' dad don't entirely drop off the face of the planet between the hours of 9 and 6pm.

Yes, the Children's Center is a beacon of good childcare - a shining pillar of responsible parenting. It also happens to have a two to three year waiting list. Hearing this, prospective mothers company-wide immediately begin to salivate with base, wanton need, much like all good Los Angelenos faced with an object of desire. A slot in the Children's Center is more exclusive than any movie premiere or sample sale, driving even the sanest women to immeasurable lengths.

At my company, it is very common for a newly pregnant woman to share the good news with two individuals - first Husband, then Children's Center Director. One woman, a friend of a friend, called the Center immediately after peeing on the stick, nabbing a spot on the holy list even before informing her husband of his impending little bundle. Yesterday I found myself cursing under my breath when I discovered that a new mother on the first floor of the building somehow had had the good fortune to have her new baby immediately placed in a coveted spot at the illustrious facility. "What the HELL?!? How did her kid get in there? She's not even six months! F___ that! Who the hell does she know?"

It's a ruthless, vicious game, one which I am not proud to play.

Pre-pregnancy, I wasn't too worried about childcare, mostly due to the fact that I was living vicariously though a good friend and co-worker of mine: she was due to give birth in February, and throughout her pregnancy, the Children's Center had repeatedly assured her that her child should be able to "get right in." Evidently, they like to take their three-month-olds at the beginning of each summer, which meant that her little one should simply waltz in and take his spot, like proverbial baby royalty.

Doesn't seem so tough to me, I thought, popping my prenatal and smearing on my organic sunblock. Ah, youthful optimism.

Turns out that my friend's baby came over six weeks early. When she called to inform the Children's Center, she was told that, unfortunately, they would no longer have a spot for him - he was now "too old" to gain a precious place in their June baby roster. This hideous declaration left my friend with a premature newborn, a fading maternity leave, and - gasp! - no back-up plan!

Hearing this horror story, my vague, lackadaisical childcare plan was blown to smithereens. This almost certainly left my August baby spurned, rejected, left to roam daycare-less through the mean streets of Burbank! I had (stupidly) harbored hopes of simply pummeling down the Children's Center's door, charming them with my passion and persistence, and shooting to the top of the list in no time. Clearly, this was not to be.

One by one, the bitter realities hit me: My mother-in-law cannot be relied upon as our sole source of baby support! We cannot remotely afford an in-home nanny! And THE CHILDREN'S CENTER IS RUN BY NAZIS!

I had to act fast. At four months pregnant, my frantic search began. I became a daycare fiend. Googling maniacally, poring over Craig's List and harassing mommy friends for referrals, all the while self-flagellating: How could I leave this to the last minute?? What kind of mommy am I? My baby must not be left in the Los Angeles lack-of-daycare cold, by damn! I must find an appropriately trustworthy human to care for my child!

But - dear god - where??

And so began my quest. Over its course, I have discovered something remarkable. In this brave new world, people do not flinch when you tell them you are looking for care eight months in advance, nor do they think you're remotely insane for putting your unborn fetus on a waiting list. If anything, I felt that - at 20 weeks pregnant - I'd waited too long. When a co-worker whose wife is due three weeks after me recently bragged about all the daycares they'd toured, about the multitude of waiting lists they were on, I had to quell the urge to rise up and claw his face.

At long last, my fanatical search culminated in two other local daycares, both with waiting lists equivalent to the evil Children's Center, and another lovely little place - a Montessori school with, amazingly, no list at all. I toured the latter, expecting to find a veritable baby ghetto, a slophouse not up to waiting list quality, an infant crackden of pestilence and disease not worthy of mommy-lust.

Instead, I was pleased to discover a clean, safe place full of happy, smiling, non-ghetto-dwelling babies. I would share the name, but other pregnant locals could be reading this, in which case: TOO BAD, SUCKAS! Every baby for itself!

Between this facility and four other small, in-home places I found, I am feeling pretty good about my options these days. My sense of organizational self-worth has been rejuvenated. LOOL will not be left to fend for him/herself in a rat-filled crackden. I can once again wear my Good Mom hat with pride.

Future Mommies, heed my advice and beware - it's a daycare jungle out there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Name Game

As soon as we found out we were pregnant, I started a list of baby names for our consideration. The names sit next to our computer, neatly printed on the top page of a tiny notepad. Over the course of five months there have been numerous additions and an equal amount of scratched-out vetoes, but so far, nothing has emerged triumphant.

I never imagined that naming a child could prove so difficult. In my wiley younger days, long before I met my husband, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about baby names – far more time than a single person in her teens and early 20s should. At age 15, I had decided that my little boy’s name would be M____ (name preserved for posterity). I have no idea where I first heard it, but once I did, my search was done. To demonstrate my commitment to this name, I showed my husband a home movie of my best friend and me making jackasses of ourselves at age 16. At one point, amidst the high-pitched shrieks and boy-crazy babblings, I turn to the camera, wave and say “Hi M____! Hi, Future Baby!” However, when I first began dating my husband, I was dismayed to discover that his longtime friend already has a little boy named M____, which – curses! - now puts a damper on my plan. Beloved though it may be, it is difficult to justify using the same name as someone so close to us.

Over the past five months, this has resulted in a mad search for a good replacement boy’s name. I have a list of many, with a few top contenders, including a favorite girl’s name, one which we miraculously agree upon as sassy, smart, and unusual without being ridiculous. However, if LOOL is a boy, there’s a good chance he’ll leave the hospital with Baby Boy Draitser on his birth certificate.

This concept wouldn’t be foreign to my family – when I was born, I was dubbed “Baby Girl Thompson” by my indecisive parents. After a week, my father returned to the hospital and altered the certificate to read “Laura Lynn Thompson.” Several days later, after it was decided that I was most certainly NOT a Laura, it was once again amended, and I was forever after Paige Lynn. Could the same multi-name fate possibly lie in store for little LOOL?

Fortunately, we have lots of help in the naming department. For instance, since the day I announced my pregnancy, my father has taken it upon himself to suggest atrocious baby names at every possible opportunity. To list just a few, these include: Aristotle, Augustus, Longfellow, and - my favorite – Wendell. Last week he called to announce that he’d gotten a haircut that day, spotted a calendar on the wall containing a picture of a “very nice-looking” supermodel, and he liked her name – Brooklyn. I asked him 1) if he wanted his granddaughter to be a hooker? and 2) am I giving birth to a baby, or a borough? Also suggested were Brendon (highly creative, considering that it happens to be exactly one letter off from my brother’s name. Unsurprisingly, this observation didn’t seem to phase him), and Trevor, which (apologies in advance to all Trevors out there) is a name that, in my opinion, should only belong to those dwelling in trailer parks and prone to shooting beer cans off fences with BB guns. Newly aware of the monstrosities that my father is capable of conjuring in his head, I realize that it’s a damn miracle that my brothers and I emerged relatively unscathed as Jason, Brandon and Paige.

My mother-in-law also tossed out her share of suggestions toward the beginning of the pregnancy, insisting that Sasha would be an excellent name for a boy or a girl – a “good Russian name” to compliment the baby’s Russian heritage, because “the baby will be half Russian, after all!” I declined to point out that the baby will also be half English/German, but that I wasn’t thinking of calling it Cecil Freidrich. I told her the two names we were considering at the time, both of which were met with a distasteful gaze and “Oh well…I’ll just make up my own name for it.” Lovely.

As time has passed and my pregnancy has trucked happily along, we have wisely stopped sharing our baby names, and the list continues to grow and shrink with each passing week. Perhaps LOOL will stick – we can tell people it’s an old family name that means “better than your kid.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Short and sweet update on recent life events:

- Had cavity filled while covered with THREE lead aprons. Was informed Dentist uses only digital x-rays, which reduces radiation by 90%. Dentist has risen in esteem from possible one-lead-apron-possessing half-brain lowlife to all-knowing magic man. LOOL is thankful; mouth is happy.

- Braved mall and purchased $100 worth of “maternity” clothing at Forever 21. Am now armed with slew of stylishly flowy, belly-accomodating tops. Thought briefly that Forever 21 should really establish proper maternity department, then realized target demographic. Should not encourage wanton adolescent breeding, a la Jamie Lynn Spears.

- Still eating in saintly, organic-veggie-munching manner. Anticipate brief respite for indulgence in delicious white chocolate chicks n' ducks sent by mother in Easter basket. Headless bird gnawing in near future.

- Still have not opened gender-possessing slip of paper. Perhaps 80% sure of sex, but not ready to relinquish remaining 20% of mystery and intrigue. Still calling baby “it.”

- Turning 30 next week. Growing better with age, much like fine cheese.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

To Open or Not to Open

On Wednesday, I had my big 20-week ultrasound. It was a detailed anatomy scan of the baby's body - we would see the chambers of the heart, the spine, the arms and legs, and of course, that beautiful little face, looking more human than ever. I'd never been more excited for anything in my life. After all, this would be the last chance to see LOOL ("Love of Our Lives" - an appropriate nickname, since my husband and I rarely call each other anything besides LOML) before its birthday.

When we first got pregnant, we decided that we didn't want to know the sex, that we wanted to be surprised. This announcement elicited various responses from friends and family, ranging from incredulity to awed appreciation of our patience to downright frustration.

The curious types insisted that the surprise would be just as great at five months in the doctor's office as it would on the birthday. Perhaps this is true, but frankly, after endless hours of huffing, puffing, godawful pain and general labor-induced delirium, I'd say that finding out the sex of my child is a worthy reward. Driving to UCLA for my five-month midwife appointment can't exactly compare, even with the worst traffic.

Others thought it very inconvenient, and wondered aloud how I could possibly feel prepared without knowing the sex - How to decorate the nursery? What color onesies to buy? How fortunate that red, yellow and green are my favorite colors.

Several friends suggested that I might feel more connected to the baby if I were to find out. Though this is doubtlessly true for some, this is my baby - I sing to it, talk to it, read to it. I can't imagine feeling more connected to it until the moment I hold him or her in my arms.

Despite our steadfast decision to choose ignorance, as the weeks crept by, we found ourselves growing increasingly curious. What was this little person that I'd been talking to for weeks? Was LOOL a he or she? Even my husband, always the more resolute party in this decision, was waffling. On the morning of the ultrasound, I awoke to find him sitting in the living room, pondering pink or blue.

We decided to find a happy medium - we would look at the ultrasound, but we wouldn't allow the tech to tell us what the baby was. That way, we'd either have to be smart enough to figure it out on our own, or we'd live in blissful ignorance for the duration of the pregnancy. When we announced this decision to the ultrasound technician, she laughed. "I've never heard that one before!"

I lay back, waiting eagerly for her to visit "the area." Shapes blurred in and out of focus on the screen in front of us. That could be an elbow...or a knee...or?? Suddenly, we heard, "Okay - I just looked. I know what you're having."

Huh? We hadn't seen anything that was remotely discernible as genitalia. At that moment, I realized that I had assumed we'd know exactly what LOOL was immediately, that there would be no doubt once we left this appointment. Not so.

"Perhaps we should revisit that area," I suggested, unable to stop myself. She complied, and once again we were staring at a maze of fuzzy body parts. Nope.

"Oh well," I said, discomfited. "That's that - guess we'll just be surprised."

"Here - let's try this." Before I knew it, she had zoomed in. The area in question was enlarged before us, yet...still nothing.

"There's one leg, and here's another..." We cocked our heads, staring blankly at the screen. Was there something visible between those skinny legs? Or...not?

"How about I write it down for you?" Err...sure! Why not?

And that is how my husband and I ended up wandering out of the hospital carrying our baby's sex in our pocket. A folded, taped-up piece of green scratch paper holds the big secret. It's been three days, and we haven't looked.

Are we masochists? Possibly. Is this torture? Definitely.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fantastic Elastic

Today I checked my calendar, and realized that I have approximately three months and three weeks left before my maternity leave begins. Mind you, I enjoy my job, and my calendar-checking was not to count the days until I can get the hell out and stay at home for five blissful months of babydom. No, I have but one pressing concern: what the hell do I wear?

Over the past few years of corporate life, I’ve accumulated a decent collection of work-wear. Never a proficient shopper, I’ve managed to assemble an assortment of pencil skirts, cardigans and button-downs that have taken me through many a workweek with at least some modicum of fashion sense. However, over the past couple of weeks in my newly expanding state, I have realized that - much to my dismay - I am no longer capable of simply trotting out all my old stand-bys.

The day starts well enough: In the small-bellied mornings, I’ll slip on, say, my classic black Banana Republic number with no problem and strut into the office feeling triumphant. Three hours, one breakfast, two glasses of water, a mid-morning snack and one crowded uterus later, I find myself gasping for breath at my cubicle, wriggling under the desk to loosen the zipper, and hoping that my shirt is long enough so that my now-exposed thong doesn’t poke out. In short: not attractive. Fortunately, my boss has yet to wander by and witness my display of round-tummied, bloat-freeing acrobatics. So far, anyway.

Yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and headed to my local Old Navy (good frugal mommy) to inspect their maternity department. Upon arriving, I was dismayed to discover from the perky salesgirl that the only Old Navy with a maternity section is in Santa Monica (in other words, not my ‘hood). Craptastic! Not to be discouraged, I quickly rounded up a slew of normal-people clothes that looked like they’d be forgiving to a growing stomach, and headed to the dressing room.

There, under harsh fluorescents and atop frigid concrete, I was confronted by the most GODAWFUL array of ill-fitting potato sack-esque cotton that I have ever had the displeasure of wriggling into. There were tent-like babydolls, under which I could have hidden an entire set of Encyclopedia Brittanica in addition to my abdomen, boxy peasant tops ideally suited for some kind of strung-out, homeless Janice Joplin costume, and frighteningly low-cut slip dresses from which my now-ginormous (and disturbingly veiny) boobs protruded, threatening to leap out and smack someone. With each new monstrosity, I became increasingly convinced of my righteousness in avoiding maternity wear altogether (and, in the future, all of Old Navy’s normal clothes as well). I left the store beaten down by fashion - yet toting a new, fabulously unnecessary ten-dollar handbag.

Lesson: maternity clothing is foul, and I am beginning to believe that the entire industry exists merely to take advantage of women when they are feeling their most susceptible – bloated, hormonal, and vaguely terrified of impending responsibility. So far, I have found only one exception to this rule, a miraculous piece of clothing handed-down from my friend Jamie (bless her sweet baby-havin’ little self): the BELLA BAND, a tube of spandex whose simple appearance belies its genius. I wriggle into it in the morning, fold it in two, and – ta dah! – my sleekest pair of previously-unbuttonable work pants fit! My pencils skirts are once again wearable – no wriggling necessary! Look at all those happy pregnant women in the picture - they are eating, drinking, and breathing freely in all their preggers, pants-wearing glory. Their co-workers have not seen their thongs. Brilliant!

I’ll reattempt the maternity shopping at some point, but until then, elastic is my friend.

Hall-Skulking Weirdos

The other day, I was sitting at my desk with a co-worker, calmly engaged in polite smalltalk about my pregnancy. Standard stuff: How am I feeling? Good, great, awesome. Do we know the sex? Nope - we love a surprise! Any cravings? Sadly, no - and I was really looking forward to that part.

Suddenly, another co-worker - a man I barely know - wandered by, turned and made a beeline for my desk. In the midst of our pleasantries, he stuck his face over my cubicle wall, looked me straight in the eye and stated "You know, I think women are sexiest when they're pregnant." Then he turned on his heel and quickly scurried off down the hall.

My office is ripe with perverts.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Gluttony and Guilt - My Love Affair With Sugar

As is apparent from earlier posts, I am – and always have been - a sugar fiend. It is known far and wide that my love of sweets far exceeds that of normal humans, that my tolerance for large quantities of sugar-laden pastries, thick layers of gooey buttercream and vast bags of sticky gummi candies rivals that of any wild-eyed eight-year-old. At work, I am the first of my co-workers to be altered if there happen to be treats about, and I can be counted on to spread the word, to rally the troops in search of dessert glory. I am unashamed to say that I possess remarkable abilities in this department: in my five-story office building, I am capable of sniffing out any rogue cookie, tracking down all errant cupcakes, and mercilessly capturing every last slice of pie.

Truth be told, I might owe my whole relationship to my love of sugar. Shortly after we began dating, my now-husband and I went to the grocery store to pick out a dessert to accompany our rental - an action-packed evening of fun. I found myself lamenting that no one in my circle of friends would share Ben and Jerry’s with me due to the fact that I inevitably eat out all the candy chunks and leave only the ice cream remaining.

Weeks passed. One night, as I lounged on his couch reading, I heard him in the kitchen. Hack-hack. Chop-chop-chop. Hmmm...an odd hour at which to make a stir-fry…I ignored it and continued with my magazine. Suddenly, to my surprise, he walked into the room bearing a container of my favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s. I opened it, only to behold a chunk-filled pint of ice cream beyond my wildest dreams. Amidst the frozen sweetness, I could make out Butterfingers, Snickers and Twix. There were bits of cookie, hunks of brownie and bites of mint. It was all mine, and it was beautiful. He beamed down at me, proud of his handiwork, and announced that he had chopped up seven candy bars and packed them in, creating a two-container chunk-filled, heavenly hodgepodge of dessert from one measly pint. At that moment, looking up at his pleased, impish grin, I knew I could never live without him. I would marry this man.

Shortly thereafter, the two of us began searching for the most delectable cupcake that Los Angeles has to offer. I’m not entirely certain how this mission was instigated, but I believe it had something to do with my utter horror that he was 1) remarkably fit, and sickeningly dedicated to regular hikes, runs, and other shameful displays of healthy living, and 2) not a sugar lover. Sure, he’d have the occasional indulgent bite now and then, but I was mostly left to own devices in the sugar-hoarding department. At first, this worked out nicely – never a good sharer, I was pleased to devour my goodies without question, judgement or fear of interruption and/or retaliation. However, after one too many date-night evenings spent cramming desserts down my throat between kisses, I realized that I had a clear responsibility. Not to cut down on the sweets – crazy talk! No, my destiny was clear: it was up to me to help this man. I must teach him the way of the sugar! He must learn to share my passion! In short - I would show him the love.

Thus began the Great Cupcake Quest of 2007. At this point, the Sex and the City-induced cupcake obsession had spread like wildfire throughout our great, obesity-prone nation. Cupcakeries were popping up on every corner, schlepping glorious confections to wide-eyed grade-schoolers, soccer moms and TV executives alike (trust me, I’ve seen it). Yes, you could scarcely toss a rock without having it land in someone’s frosting. I had my chosen favorite - a mom and pop shop just down the street from work, at which I was known for my demand for the thickest frosting possible. The teenage employees shuddered as the door swung open and in I strut, ready to point out precisely which treats I desired. “No – not that one – the one to the left. No, to the left – left! NO, not that one! Come on, you have eyes - does that LOOK like it has the most frosting?” Note: Dear reader, please know that I am prone to hyperbole, and do not, in fact, make it a habit to abuse pimply bakery workers. However, in the interest of full disclosure, it may have occurred on occasion, but only in a state of seriously low blood sugar.

Given the cupcake mania of the day, it was only natural that our journey begin with that treat. We decided that it was up to us to discover Los Angeles’s best and brightest, and so, one fine Saturday, I proudly introduced my future husband to the simple glories of Cupcake. Whether he was beguiled by my childlike enthusiasm for frosting or simply scared into submission still eludes me, but he took up the quest with great vigor and impressive dedication. Every weekend for months thereafter, we sampled different bakeries, hunting down and selecting our prospective targets throughout the week and happily stuffing ourselves each weekend. We were young, in love, and high on sugar. Anything was possible. After months of sampling, slightly rounder but no worse for wear, we arrived at our verdict – my mom n’ pop shop did indeed boast the best cupcakes in LA. Mission accomplished.

My love of sugar began as a child. My mother tells the story of a two-year-old me, bedecked in all my holiday finery and taken with my brothers to visit Santa Claus in my small-town plaza. As we approached his twinkling, festive shack, I caught sight of the jolly bearded fellow and panicked, dropping my mother’s hand and high-tailing it out of there as fast as my little legs could carry me. Legend has it that my mother called out “Paige – he has candy.” I froze in my tracks, spun around and make a beeline straight for Ole’ Saint Nick. Ah, young love.

My sugar fixation was likely the result of growing up in a mostly sugar-free household. My middle brother has Type 1 diabetes, so desserts at our place were generally low-sugar frozen yogurts with fruit, or “cookies” packed with wheat germ and applesauce. I longed for the Twinkies and Oreos in my friends’ cupboards, and shamelessly gorged myself at sleepovers, unapologetically cleaning their cupboards of desireable treats. How can so much crap fit into such a small person? their mothers wondered. Later I discovered that at least one friend’s mother had the good sense to replace her pricey Oreos with generic Hydrox when she heard I was on my way. I never knew, and frankly, wouldn’t have cared.

Though I’ve spent nearly 30 years loving sugar, I always knew that I would never, could never subject my sweet fetus to my gluttony. My addiction is mine and mine alone, and my unborn child must be spared. As a nonpregnant person in my early 20s, I silently passed judgement on the expectant moms that I witnessed overindulging, dreaming of the day when I would nourish my fetus with saint-like meals of organic kale, whole grains and lean proteins, snacking on juicy, locally-grown, nutrient-packed fruit and hormone-free, low-fat dairy. I would not be one of those women who uses pregnancy as an excuse to pack all manner of filth into their faces! The “eating for two” excuse wouldn’t jibe for me. I would do everything right! I would be the pregnancy SUPERMOM!

In my older and wiser years, I’ve realized something very simple – women simply do the best they can for their babies, and I am certainly not one to judge. Though I’m far from perfect, my love of nutrition – always in horrible conflict with my love of sugar – has won out, and I am proud to say that I have indeed eaten like a saint for 95% of my pregnancy. My favorite indulgence these days is a ripe organic orange, or perhaps a Trader Joe’s organic toaster pastry – a little piece of sweet, crunchy heaven perfect for a late-night snack. For the time being - for my baby - I’ve managed to kick the habit.

Until today. It went something like this: co-worker’s going-away party – hungry pregnant woman – massive tray of pastries. Muffins the size of soccer balls. Scones as big as my face. Willpower withering. Self-control slipping. Gluttony growing.


Sigh. You can't win 'em all.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Slowly but Surely

When my mother was pregnant with me, she was six months along before she told anyone. According to my ever-sensitive aunt, mom was dismayed to have gotten pregnant again so quickly after her two little boys (though we’re all well over two years apart) and therefore wasn’t eager to spread the word of Baby Number Three. To this day, my aunt still sounds incredulous when she recounts how, six months in, my mother looked perfectly unpregnant.

My mother and I are similar creatures in many ways. We share the same long, thin arms and legs, the lanky, delicate build of my grandfather. Though popular folklore maintains that my gazelle-like mother carried me magically tucked away under her ribs, fetus unbeknownst to all, I was always certain that I would carry like a wildebeest. After all, my mother has a long, lean torso and boyish shape, providing a baby with plenty of room to wiggle about, stealthily hiding behind organs and under various bony protrusions. Though I’ve never gained weight easily, I am slightly more compact and curvy, and therefore assumed (irrationally, some would say) that nature would play a cruel joke, causing me to blimp up to truly insane proportions during my pregnancy. Little children would stop in their tracks as I approached, running to hide behind their mother’s skirts. Grown men would gawk openly at my increasing girth. “Paige was such a pretty girl, before the baby came. What a shame.”

I wouldn’t mind, though. I would happily wander about, munching freely, with not a care in the world about my expanding ass and ballooning belly. I’m baking a baby. I’m creating life. To hell with you, fatty-haters!

So far, my pregnancy fantasy has only proven half true. I do wander, happily munching, but at just shy of five months pregnant, I remain remarkably small. Although I’ve gained a fairly impressive seven pounds so far, only in the past week or so has my belly begun to curve. I welcome the change, though I’m still in the Wow, Paige had better lay off the cupcakes… - DAMN! Lookit the beer belly on that one!! phase. To look at me, one wouldn’t immediately suspect that I am a Pregnant Person. With Child. Expecting. Knocked Up. Baby on Board. Glorious euphemisms abound for my current state, but still, it is not immediately apparent to the outside world.

I try not to mention this amongst my uncomfortably pregnant friends, those that packed it on in the first trimester and found themselves, as one expectant mother friend puts it, “covered in a layer of blubber from head to toe.” I know I should be thankful for my relatively small baby belly, but strangely, I find myself coveting the roundness of others. These women needn’t publicize their pregnancies – their tummies tell the tale for them. Their swollen abdomens shout it to the rooftops. “Is she or isn’t she?” is no longer applicable. I want this. People tell me to be patient – that soon enough I’ll grow big and round, and rue the day I aspired to weight gain. Perhaps they’re right - still, I covet the bellies.

I think about my mother, pregnant with me in ’79, when the flowing fashion of the day dictated caftans, muumuus and maxi dresses, perfect for concealing a burgeoning baby bump. Today, I live in the land of skinny jeans, sky-high heels and tank tops. Most of my pre-pregnancy clothes still fit, so I have chosen to spurn unflattering babydoll dresses and floaty, shapeless tops. My own little bump is proudly displayed to one and all.

And by month six, I’ll be good and round, with nothing to hide.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Baby Shower Culture Shock

Last weekend, I attended the baby shower of another first-time mom, the wife of one of my husband’s best friends. They are one of my favorite couples, although we see less of them than others in our immediate circle. As members of Los Angeles’s predominately Persian Baha’i community, their evenings and weekends are often occupied with events, making it difficult to get on their calendar. I was always intrigued by these mysterious gatherings - compared to their packed social schedule, my husband and I look like downright pariahs. With the arrival of this baby shower, I finally had my moment - at last, the time had come for me to infiltrate! What could I learn from this brave new world? What marvels lay in wait?

Lesson 1: Timeliness is not next to godliness. Evidently, this new world runs on Persian Time, which is in a completely different time zone than us silly Caucasians. The elegantly letterpressed “It’s a Girl!!” invitation clearly stated that festivities began at 1pm, so I arrived, eager and excited, at about eight 'til. I sat in my car on the street for exactly eight minutes, when I noticed that I hadn’t actually seen anyone arrive and enter the house. Odd. I decided to call my husband to make sure I was in the right place.

“Yes, that’s the right house, but why are you there so early?”

“What do you mean? It starts at one – I’m here right on time.”

“No – I told you, A (father-to-be) told me to tell you to get there late. He said if you got there at 1, you’d be the only one there. N (mom-to-be) isn’t getting there 'til 2pm.”

Evidently, my sweet husband was under the assumption that he had relayed this message to me. Indeed he had not. There I sat, sweltering in my car, surrounded by stately homes on a pristine Brentwood avenue, “early” for a party that somehow all other guests knew would never start on time. My husband suggested that I go wander around the neighborhood and partake of my usual favorite activities: cupcake-eating, Whole Foods-wandering, skincare-sampling. I pondered the time-killing possibilities briefly before arriving at the inevitable truth: I’m a WASP. It is simply not in my DNA to purposefully arrive late to an event.

Thus, I waited patiently in my car until 1:15pm, when I saw one solitary woman enter. Hallelujah! I seized my opportunity, grabbing my massive, bow-bedecked, rainbow-colored Infantino monkey play gym and following. The front door, a massive, rather intimidating wrought-iron creation, was slightly ajar. I gingerly poked my head in with a friendly “Helloooo?” As my eyes adjusted to my new surroundings, I immediately wanted to retreat. There, in this opulent mansion, sat two women. That’s it. Beyond the massive buffet, amidst pink “It’s a Girl!!” flourishes dangling from every spare inch of space, I could see caterers scurrying about setting up tables in the backyard and a DJ lugging equipment into the house.

The two women had been deep in conversation, and looked up at me like I was totally insane. I babbled, “Oh, am I early??” After a moment or two of silence, they seemed to realize that I was a legitimate party guest rather than, say, a wayward, toy-toting Mormon come to preach the good word. They welcomed me in, introducing themselves as N’s mom and - the woman I had followed - N’s cousin, and politely sat me down across the room. At this point, they continued chatting in rapid-fire Farsi and proceeded to totally ignore me. I imagined that part of the conversation had to entail the crazy blonde chick who had foolishly arrived on time.

I affixed a pleasant “This isn’t awkward at all” smile on my face and looked around, desperately attempting to seem engaged while studying the various paintings, sculptures, and anything else bedecking the walls which could possibly enable me to look busy and occupied.

One small eternity later, N’s sister wandered out, saw what was going on, and thankfully came over to sit and small-talk with me. At one point, she commiserated “It’s so silly how these things start so late – I’m always on time.” I knew she was totally full of shit and just trying to make me feel like less of an ass, and I loved her for it. Another ten slow minutes rolled by, during which time I saw the guest of honor, lovely and round with mommyhood, wander in through the back of the house, past the sweaty catering staff, with her HAIR IN CURLERS, as if to reiterate “What kind of moron would get here on time?” ME! I am that moron! Her husband had accompanied her, and he came over to give me a hug and kiss, asking what everyone else was doubtlessly wondering - “Why are you here so early?” Argh!

After about a half-hour (1:45pm by this time), my friend Heather - another punctual little blonde - arrived. Hooray! Come chat with me, non-Farsi speaker! Slowly but surely, by 2pm, women began to trickle in, bedazzled in all their Baha’i glory.

Lesson 2: Natural be damned. These Persian women were some of the most beautiful creatures in the world, if I could find their faces underneath the 87 pounds of eyeliner and twelve coats of lipstick. Apparently, they celebrate a completely different aesthetic of beauty than the fresh-faced American females of my acquaintance. Gazing around the room, I realized that Persian culture may be single-handedly keeping the US cosmetics industry afloat during the recession.

Lesson 3: Spare no expense. By 2:45pm, another two friends had arrived, as had about 70 more Farsi-speaking women, attired in colorful, perfectly tailored dresses and sporting a drool-inducing, envy-inspiring, Carrie Bradshaw-worthy collection of designer shoes. The DJ was pumping, the dance floor was packed with revelers, and the snacking had begun. We decided to brave the crowd and moved in a cautious little herd toward the buffet – a vast array of fresh fruits, nuts, dried things, and strange little sweets, very similar to the spread at A and N’s 350-person, 4-billion-dollar wedding in ’07.

We stuffed ourselves judiciously, and by the time the buffet-ing was done, several other friends had arrived – evidently, they have either operated in this group for long enough to know what to expect, or their husbands actually gave them the memo. Curses!

4pm: The shindig was now approximately 100 people thick, and it had become abundantly clear that this was no sit-around-and-watch-her-open-gifts kind of affair. The celebration showed no signs of slowing, and it was announced that lunch was served. ?!?! MORE food? How are these women not all morbidly obese? We dutifully lined up on the patio in the warm spring sunshine, filling our plates with salads, rice and various meaty Persian dishes. What I thought was a sautéed eggplant turned out to be stuffed with beef. Sneaky bastard.

Lesson 4: The big tease. At 5pm, my little circle had gossiped and small-talked ourselves out, and presumed that things were finally winding down. However, I had other plans. Sugar fiend that I am, I had spent most of the party eyeing the massive cake on the buffet table – baby pink, with girly little shoes, ribbons and bows carved out of enticingly thick fondant. I found myself desperately craving a big sugary slab, a reward for my timely arrival and hours of pleasant, dutiful socializing.

At their wedding, A and N had a glorious cake which I spent all evening salivating over in anticipation. However, by the time 2am rolled around (and I nearly nodded off at our table), it became apparent that their $2,000+ cake was just for show – after a ceremonial cutting and one bite each for bride and groom, the audience applauded joyfully and I watched in dismay as it was rolled back into the kitchen, never to be seen again. My husband saw the look on my face and decided that this was unacceptable – he had a cake-loving wife who needed a fix, by damn! He charged into the kitchen and demanded that the confused hotel staff cut a piece for me. My hero. To this day, I think I’m the only person who actually tasted that wedding cake.

I was determined not to repeat this torturous experience with the equally impressive baby shower cake. At that moment, a woman paraded into the main room and gleefully announced something in Farsi. I saw N sidle up behind her, whispering something about "English, too." The translation came: “And NOW we’re going to play some games!!” Games? Now? FOUR HOURS in? I couldn’t take it anymore. Almost all of my friends had left at this point (the lucky bastards managed to scurry out without having to bid farewell to N), leaving me and one other diligent, cake-loving gal sitting there expectantly. As the games were announced, I realized my mission was futile.

Lesson 5: Grab freely. At long last, we got up to leave. Turning to pick up my bag, I suddenly felt a hand paw my belly, now visibly bloated after the feasting (hey, with a baby in there, things fill up fast). I turned to face the culprit, a woman with whom I’d been idly chatting. Squeezing my rounded midsection, she gleefully inquired, “Are you PREGNANT??” I briefly considered responding “No, I’m just fat - but thanks so much!” Instead I nodded politely, then slipped quickly away amidst her congratulatory exclamations.

Lucky girl that I am, immediately N was there, her doe eyes sparkling as she inquired “Why are you leaving?” It took all my self-control and good breeding not to retort “Because I’ve been here for FOUR HOURS.” My friend and I nervously babbled something about having plans, and then we were free – blissfully liberated in the late afternoon West Side sun. But not quite: suddenly, A and his father pulled up in front of the house, decked to the nines and ready to join the party. He too demanded to know why we were leaving.

FOUR HOURS, people!!

I immediately drove to my friend Jen’s to share my tale of cakeless woe. Jen is married to a Persian man, so she felt my pain. She proceeded to tell me the story of her first Persian gathering, a wedding that started at 8pm – or so she thought. They arrived, diligently on time, only to find crickets chirping as the staff decorated the ballroom.

Lesson 6: Thou knowest no stamina like the Baha’i people. At last, it is clear to me why we rarely see A and N. After my day of revelry, their tight-knit community seems all the more magical. The simple truth is this: these people know how to party. With 12-hour events like these on their calendar, it hardly seems possible that they emerge to bathe and sleep, much less to socialize with outsiders. I am in awe at their endurance – I bow down to their fortitude. My own four-hour stint pales in comparison.

Before we all departed that day, I had promised my girlfriends that my own upcoming shower would be two hours – three, tops – and would start ON TIME.