Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cranky Pregnant Lady vs. Ol' Joe - The Truce

It should be duly noted that I have forgiven Ol' Joe his previous foot-in-mouth indiscretions. On my last day in the office, he puttered up to my desk with a large bag of children's books, salvaged from his daughter's ancient library.

"I saw on your registry that you'd accept hand-me-downs, so I thought I would save them for you. There's another present coming in the mail, too."

Now, nothing warms the cockles of a hormonal pregnant lady's heart like unexpectedly thoughtful gifts for her unborn babe. Ol' Joe, maybe you aren't so bad after all.

Maternity Leave - The Final Frontier

As I suspected during the ominous lull in the slow-like-molasses days prior, as I made final preparations to leave during my last two weeks in the office, work suddenly became total insanity. Our busy season is officially upon us (GREAT time to have a baby, Paige!!) and all the lovely downtime I had previously enjoyed quickly went the way of the dodo, leaving me with precious few moments to enjoy my beloved blogging time-waster - alas. As the days ticked on, each evening I would arrive home totally spent, unable or unwilling to do much more than stagger to the kitchen to stuff my face with something vaguely resembling dinner before curling up on the couch to gestate in front of the latest season of "24" on DVD (bless you, Jack Bauer!).

Today marks my second day of maternity leave. Initially, I had assumed it would be fairly simple to leave work in the dust as I rode off into the sunset of impending motherhood - instead I found myself surprisingly emotional. My department has undergone innumerable transitions throughout the past three years, growing significantly from back in '06 when I was first hired. Back then, it was just me and three others - the original troops, the old guard.

Earlier this week, I went into my boss's office to say goodbye. She was in there with another of the forefathers of our department, a director with whom I share a satisfyingly playful sibling-like rivalry which manifests itself in daily harassment and mockery.

As I bid my farewells, both of them were so wonderfully supportive, so genuinely excited for me - "We'll miss you! Send us pictures!" - that I left the office with my eyes full of tears. What the--?!? Three years of bitching and moaning about the various maladies befitting office politics, and now I'm a weepy mess when faced with the prospect of over four months without them?

I suppose the simple truth is that I am actually fortunate enough to work with good people, and that after spending almost one-third of my life and the majority of my waking hours with them for the past several years, they have become almost like family. Dysfunctional and chaotic family, but family nonetheless.

Thus, here I sit - two days into the Great Baby Countdown. I am due in 27 days, and full term in less than a week, meaning the baby could ostensibly come anytime after that. I have a sneaking suspicion that LOOL will actually be late, which I am basing solely on the fact that I always had a 30 or 31-day cycle, instead of the standard 28 which they use to calculate due dates. But we shall see....

Yesterday flew by rather quickly - I did dishes, swept the floors, wrote the rest of my thank-you notes (all 54 of them - we have very generous friends!) for my two showers (more on that later), washed all of the baby's clothes, went to a doctor's appointment, ate cookies and wandered aimlessly around Target.

Today I checked emails, vacuumed the floors, walked to the mall, researched vaccines to be sufficiently - nay, impressively - prepared for our initial pediatrician appointment tomorrow, washed some grown-up clothes, ate cookies and wandered aimlessly around Target.

I am a person who craves activity - I function best when confronted with a to-do list, where each thing I cross off imparts a satisfying sense of pride and accomplishment. Downtime doesn't generally suit me. Now I find myself with scads of it, and most baby-related items already checked off the list. This begs the question - what the hell am I going to do with myself for the next four (potentially) weeks? There's only so much apartment-cleaning and Target-wandering that a girl can handle.

One day at a time, I remind myself each morning. After all, if ever there was a time to feel justified in doing next-to-nothing - sleeping til 10, reading magazines on the couch, chatting endlessly to old friends - now is it.

Here goes nothing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Making of a Grandma

As you can imagine, my mother is very excited to become a grandma. Mind you, this excitement manifests itself very differently than my own.

I resemble a Jack Russell terrier when something excites me, with shrill shrieking and an overabundance of bouncing. Basically, if I had a tail to wag, it would always be going a mile a minute. This is my nature.

However, though my mother and I are similar creatures in many ways, she's generally not the most excitable sort. For instance, take her response upon learning of our pregnancy. She found out she was going to have a grandchild about two minutes after I peed on the stick, as I took the test while visiting my family for the holidays. My husband and I had our teary, joyous, private celebration, and then I called my mother into the bathroom, thrust the stick in her face and exclaimed "Merry Christmas, Grandma!" The response? "NO - what? Are you sure it's right?? NO!"

People outside the family might question this reaction, but I know my mother. I attribute her reticence to show true enthusiasm to her proper Southern upbringing, in which genteel ladies didn't bounce and shriek. Though she may not exhibit it outwardly, I know that she's silently counting the days until LOOL arrives and she can spoil him/her within an inch of his/her life. Though she's never actually verbalized this, at one point in my pregnancy I happened to catch her on the phone after a glass of wine, when she told me "Oh, I'm going to bounce that baby!! I'm going to bounce and bounce that little baby!!" I'm assuming this translates to "I can't wait to hold my grandchild," but one really can't be sure.

What I do know is that lately my mother has taken to relaying baby horror stories to me. If something dire has happened to a child and hit either the local news or the town gossip, my mom feels the need to inform me of it.

The first tale of woe came when she relayed the plight of a young East Bay couple and their months-old infant. One day the father was supposed to take the baby to daycare before work, so he tucked Baby into the car seat and off they went. Unfortunately, at some point in his commute Daddy forgot that Junior was in the backseat. He raced to make his train and off he went to work, leaving the infant to suffocate to death in the car at the train station. Horrifying, right? When my mother relayed this to me with a cluck of the tongue and a deep sigh, my no doubt hormone-induced reaction was to immediately burst into tears and demand "WHY are you telling me this??" "Just be careful," she said. Excellent. Good to see that there is so much faith in our parenting abilities.

The other day, another delightful tidbit - my mother ran into an acquaintance on the street, the mother of one of my old classmates. Apparently her daughter recently had a baby, so the two women chatted about the incredible joys of grandmahood. At one point, the other mother confessed that her daughter had neglected to wake her infant for feedings, believing that "She's just such a good baby - all she wants to do is sleep." Ultimately, the newborn was rushed to the emergency room on the brink of death, in a state of severe dehydration. The child was given an IV drip, and the young mother was sternly reprimanded by hospital staff and prohibited from leaving the hospital without a thorough tutorial on baby care.

"That baby could have DIED, Paige!" said my mother, clearly horrified at the girl's ignorance. To this I responded with a cavalier "Well, she never was the brightest bulb in the pack, even in high school."

Despite my dismissive remark, I've learned that such new baby ignorance is not restricted to C students who sleep with half the football team. My brilliant friend K has a ten-month-old, and she recently relayed her experience in the hospital immediately post-partum. A nurse came in, gazed down at K's perfect slumbering newborn and asked "And when was the last time you fed him?" K replied, "I don't know - three or four hours ago? He's been sleeping." The nurse looked horrified and quickly educated New Mommy K that evidently, not all babies will let you know by their cries and whimpers that it's time for a meal, and that she MUST wake her child to feed it regularly. Who knew?

Now, I'm an bookwormish, academic type, and there wasn't a course on this in college. Basically, were it not for these two stories, I would not know this either! While I clearly am not planning to leave my infant in my car at the train station (or bus station, or airport, or parking lot - you get the idea), I've read my share of baby books and perhaps I missed the chapter on Waking Your Sleeping Infant And Sticking Your Boob In Its Face. This begs the question - what ELSE am I missing? Am I lacking some vital baby-rearing DNA?

This paranoia crept briefly into the back of my mind and fortunately was squashed just as quickly. Despite her horror stories, I know that my mother has faith in Mommy Me, and that the scary gossip is less for "Now listen here, missy..." tutelage than for sharing some good old-fashioned "Can you BELIEVE what that bonehead did?!?" incredulity. There is definitely a learning curve to motherhood, and I'm up for the challenge. After all, my friend K is a fantastic mother, and I daresay she had just as little baby experience as I do when she first gave birth.

Sometimes I'm amazed at the sense of calm I have felt in these months and weeks leading up to delivery day. I've wondered briefly if I just might have a complete anxiety attack as my due date draws nigh...and yet I know that won't be the case. They may not teach this in school, but I know that I was simply meant to be a mother. Now bring on the baby.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Still-Working Girl

I am the second pregnant person in my department within the past year. The first, my good friend C, had her beautiful baby boy in early January. The only hitch? She wasn't actually due until late February. Her son was born six-and-a-half weeks premature but perfectly healthy. My office wasn't quite so fortunate - C was unexpectedly confined to bed-rest for a full six weeks before she was supposed to go out on maternity, leaving my bosses in a neurotic frenzy as they pictured work falling through the cracks, responsibilities neglected and deadlines kaput.

Although we ultimately functioned just fine in her unexpected absence, this traumatic experience is now burned onto the consciousness of the higher-ups. From the moment that I publicly announced my pregnancy and informed my superiors of the date that my maternity leave would begin, there have been innumerable doomsday comments, along the lines of "July 29th? If you make it that far..." or "Late July? Ha! That's what you think!" or, my favorite, a cocked head and a ominous "You're tired? Well, all that matters is that you're healthy."

As my pregnancy has progressed, my bosses seem to have employed two tactics in their interactions with me - either largely ignoring me or nervously eying the belly while cautiously asking "How ya feeling...?" Evidently my increasingly impressive bump, coupled with the Scarlet P on my forehead, has the power to scare the bejesus out of my fearless leaders, two balls-out 50-something professional women. Impressive, young one.

In the early months of my pregnancy, I repeatedly attempted to quell their fears with many annoyingly perky, hyper-positive affirmations extolling my general health and well-being. This evidently made no difference whatsoever, as their paranoia about losing me to early disability due to some ill-fated pregnancy woe won out and led them to bring in my maternity leave temp a full TWELVE WEEKS before my last day in the office. As I write this, she has now been working for us for almost ten weeks. Even better, I wasn't even informed when she was hired - one day my boss's assistant simply walked by with a random smiling woman and introduced her as my maternity leave replacement. Excellent. Just what one wants to hear in this economy - how easily replaceable they are!

That's not true, of course. I've been with the company long enough that I am confident in my necessity there, and I rest assured knowing that this girl will only be a fill-in for some of my duties, not a complete substitute. Upon her arrival I took to the task of training her with a fanatical zeal - if the muckity-mucks are foolish enough to hire someone so early, I'll certainly do my part and get the training over with. Over the course of the first two weeks or so we had covered a thorough overview of my general duties - coupled with the creation of a 16-page single-spaced document detailing everything I do, I was feeling pretty confident that I could leave my post in fairly capable hands.

Shortly thereafter, much to my annoyance I began getting emails from the bosses - "Is she trained? When is she going to start assuming your duties? We need this transition to start NOW." To assuage their fears, I responded with innumerable reassuring messages assuring them that she would indeed begin doing my job as soon as possible (!*$&@?!), but this harassment begged the question: what the hell was I supposed to do for the next TEN WEEKS if another person is doing my job?? The response from my immediate supervisor? "I guess just sit around and collect a paycheck."

Some might find this delightful - to me, it's depressing. Ten weeks of self-imposed laziness? Sitting around twiddling my thumbs? Did they just MEET me?

I've largely ignored this advice and continued doing my thing from day to day, mostly disregarding my temp. Early summer is a particularly slow time of year in my little niche of the TV industry, and I'll be damned if I'm giving up what work I do have for the time being. Thus, with two weeks left until my leave, I'm still trucking along doing my thing while Temp Girl sits there doing who-knows-what. In the past week or so I've finally begun to relinquish small tasks to her, and will continue to do so gradually in order to make my phase-out as painless as possible.

Fortunately the pestering of my bosses has dwindled, but not the paranoia - one of them scurried by the other day, casting a wary glance down to Bellyworld. I was suddenly tempted to leap to my feet (well, as much of a leap as an 8+ months pregnant person is capable of), yank my shirt up and thrust the belly at her, shouting "Is THIS what you're looking at? My FETUS-incubator?"

I decided against it, as such behavior would doubtlessly render me 1) fired and/or 2) committed to the nearest mental hospital, stat. After all, times are tough, and I have mouths to feed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Great Standoff: Cranky Pregnant Lady Vs. Ol' Joe

In keeping with the obnoxious trend of annoying people commenting freely on my increasing girth, I felt I must share this recent gem of an interaction.

About a month ago I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business. It was almost 6pm, and I was looking forward to wrapping up my long workday and journeying home to have some snacks and pore over my latest birthing book. Suddenly, just as I was shutting down my computer and grabbing my car keys, up loped good ol' Joe (name NOT changed, as should he ever read this Joe should be aware that he is, indeed, a jackass).

Now, I've always had a soft spot for Ol' Joe. He's a soft-spoken, mild-mannered little man with a college-age daughter. Our past interactions have been consistently innocuous, covering such topics as the weather, his daughter's schoolwork, and who made the best dish at the department potluck (organized by yours truly, thankyouverymuch). Yes, Joe and I were pals...until this fateful conversation:

Ol' Joe, peering over the side of my cubicle: "I must say, I'm surprised to still see you here. Aren't you due soon?"

29-Weeks-Pregnant Me (silently cursing him): "Actually, I'm not due til August 26th...but thanks!"

Him: "Oh...well, I just see that you've gotten bigger recently."

Me (thinking evil thoughts): "Yes, that'll happen. I'm actually going to get a lot bigger than this, though."

Him: "Oh, really? You're planning to get bigger?"

Me (truly loathing him): "Well, I've got a ways to go, and I'm actually carrying pretty small for almost seven-and-a-half months pregnant..."

Him (Come one, come all, and behold! The Man Who Simply Cannot Stop Talking!): "Oh. Well, are you gaining about two pounds a month?"

Me (plotting his death): "Um, no. You're supposed to gain a pound a week, so I've been gaining more like four pounds a month, actually."

Him: "Oh, really? Back when my wife was pregnant they told her two pounds a month."

What I Should Have Said: "Well, they tell obese women to gain only 15 pounds during their pregnancies. Is your wife a great big fat person?"

What I really said: "Good to know."

At this point, Ol' Joe may have realized that the friendly smile plastered to my face scarcely concealed the daggers shooting from my eyes straight into his heart, and he managed to wander off without offending me further, though truthfully, by this point everything about him was offensive - Damn your receding hairline! Damn your faded polo shirt! Damn your old man shoes!

This was certainly the kicker in the Annoying Pregnancy Commentary department, followed closely by the 19-year-old intern who persists in beaming perkily and exclaiming "You just KEEP GETTING BIGGER!" whenever she walks by me.

Loathsome creatures, all of them. Now pass the pop-tarts.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Behold the Awesomeness!

When I arrived home last night, this was waiting for me on my doorstep:

Without exaggeration, I think I can safely say that our rainbow hot air balloon is the single greatest thing ever in the history of the universe.

A month or two ago, my husband and I were perusing a fancy-schmancy baby shop when we discovered it (frugal folks that we are, we later found it online for a much better price). I spent the day rhapsodizing over its general awesomeness, then stuck it in the nursery-decor file in back of my mind.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband came home and giddily announced that he had bought our little family a present. Sure enough, my beauty arrived last night, perfect, happy and ready to hang in LOOL's room. The green is the same shade as our walls, and the bright stripes tie the whole room together (photos to come in future nursery post). The finishing touch will be the fluffy white clouds that my crafty mother is going to paint on the walls when she comes down next week.

Your room is waiting for you, little baby!!

Blissful Baby-Gender Ignorance

Next week we have an ultrasound to verify that the baby is in the optimal head-down position for birth (to encourage the baby to assume "the position," I have recently taken to chanting "Dive, baby - DIVE!" at my uterus. I'm quite sure it's helping). The prospect of another ultrasound is both exciting and unexpected, as my midwives group practices a rather hands-off approach to prenatal care in which women generally only get the two big ultrasounds - at 12 and 20 weeks. However, at my last appointment (only one week ago - I go in every two weeks at this stage, and the reassuring thwack-thwack-thwack of our baby's heartbeat on the Doppler is music to my paranoid hypochondriac ears) it was determined that the baby is most likely head down, but in the interest of certainty another ultrasound would be done.

As excited as we are to see little LOOL's face again, this new development brings with it a significant quandary - do we find out the sex??

As you may recall, at our 20-week appointment, we thought we may have seen boy parts, but refused to allow the tech to divulge the sex. Instead, she wrote it on a little green slip of paper, which was then folded up and thrust deep into no-man's-land, AKA my husband's pocket. You see, my husband insists on using one pants pocket as a wallet in which he shoves wads of bills and loose change, and the other as a pseudo recycling center/scrap paper receptacle, complete with business cards, receipts, handwritten notes, and apparently, the sex of his future offspring. When I first became aware of his method, I immediately became a nagging harpy (surprisingly, this is rare for me): Why don't you use a wallet like a normal person? How can you carry loose bills around like that? You could be pickpocketed! Money could fall out of your pants at any moment! However, he repeatedly assured me that he had NEVER lost a thing from his pockets, so I shut up.

My friends, in possibly the biggest "I told you so" of the century (we're only nine years into it, after all) the man lost our baby's sex. The little green slip of paper was wedged in the paper-pocket, hanging out with Trader Joe's receipts and various lawyer-y business cards, and - poof! - the damn thing vanished like a thief in the night. We realized this about two weeks after our 20-week ultrasound on a particularly celebratory night when we briefly considered opening the paper to reveal LOOL's gender. My husband reached into his pocket to pull it out so that we could masochistically do what we normally did during that two week period - place the paper in the middle of the table and stare at it as it silently taunted us. Yet suddenly it was nowhere to be found.

He swears that he really did lose it and that it was not deviously hidden in order to force us into patient gender-ignorance until the birth, as some friends have suggested. I believe him (I may have gone through all his pockets to be sure), and not knowing has ultimately proved not nearly as torturous as one might think. However, this could be due to the fact that we've managed to essentially convince ourselves that LOOL is male. After the great possible-boy-part-spotting on the fuzzy ultrasound at 20 weeks, we told ourselves that we were 75% sure it was a boy, yet in subsequent weeks that number has somehow shifted to near-100% certainty. While the fact remains that we still do not know the sex, it would now be the biggest shock of my life if LOOL were female.

Given our predicament, the impending advent of another ultrasound is particularly intriguing. Will we find out? Or will we close our eyes and relish our ignorance until D-day? After all, we've come this far, and at this point the prospect of finding out in the delivery room is much more romantic than flat on my back in the doctor's office. Still, part of me wants to keep my eyes open and see what there is to see. If LOOL is female, at least it would end the Great Name Debate (we have a girl's name, and the boy's list is narrowed down to four or five, but little progress has been made).

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Though I am loathe to admit it, my absence from the blogosphere over the past month or two can really only be explained by my increasing levels of utter sloth. Earlier in my pregnancy, I had Pregnant Power, which in my mind is a little like Punky Brewster's (my childhood hero - dude, have you seen her treehouse?) "Punky Power," imbuing the possessor with plucky charm and extraordinary, unflagging energy, except in the form of a 30-year-old knocked-up lady instead of a freckled, pony-tailed sprite:

I traipsed to work in four-inch heels, wobbling precariously but generally remaining upright. On my lunch break, I switched to sneakers and took half-hour power walks in the swanky residential neighborhood near my office, admiring the neatly manicured lawns and mentally redecorating the particularly palatial estates for my own future inhabitation (you know, after we rob a drug lord and can live on easy street - damn, there I go channeling "Boogie Nights" again, minus the porn and 13-inch penis...sorry, honey). I ate my saintly lunch of whole grains, lean proteins and organic veggies, warbled my hand-picked roster of soothing lullabies to the baby during my drive home, then took another stroll around my neighborhood. My evenings were spent poring over countless birthing books as I mentally armed myself with sufficient knowledge to ensure that I would surely kick labor's ass. In short, I was a lean, mean, gestation machine.

Until recently. The fact is, I've become a shamefully lazy bastard as of late. My four-inch heels have been forsaken in favor of lower varieties (still no flats, mind you - years of unabashed LA-dwelling girliness have rendered me damn near incapable of walking without some semblance of a heel involved). My lunchtime walks are a thing of the past, mainly due to the inevitably perilous outcome of scorching summer sun vs. pale, burn-prone flesh. My well-balanced, baby-friendly meals have been infiltrated by innumerable cookies, cupcakes and other delicious, tooth-rotting indulgences (I already fear the stern reprimands at my post-birth dental appointment). My evening strolls are kaput, and instead my nights have succumbed to the siren song of the couch and DVD player, as six seasons of "24" beckon from my TV stand (we briefly considered "Jack Bauer Draitser" for little LOOL).

To be fair, it's not really as pathetic as it sounds. I'm still singing to the baby. I've finished all of the birthing books that I intended to read and flagged important sections for additional review. I've even read (and yes, flagged - I love me a flag) a hefty array of babycare books and magazines to ensure that I will have at least some vague idea of how to care for the child after it's born. My husband and I practice our simulated-contraction relaxation techniques every night before bed, and I've been doing my Kegels faithfully. Even the near-total lack of exercise is perhaps more helpful than harmful, as my weight gain had slowed significantly enough to compel my midwives to encourage me to eat more (I promise you, this is less fun than it sounds when it's midnight and you're shoveling large bowls of granola into your face just to ensure adequate caloric intake for the day). We're still productive on weekends - seeing friends, decorating the nursery, going to the movies. Although I know I shouldn't be too guilty about my newfound sedentary self, I can't help feeling exactly that. Where is the high-achiever, the Type A, the go-getter? Who is this wobbly, vulnerable person who has taken her place?

I was complaining about this to a good friend recently. The mother of a ten-month-old, she quickly put it into perspective. "Listen, these are the last weeks of your life when you can do whatever you want - enjoy it. Take a three-hour nap everyday if you want to, and don't EVER feel guilty."

Wise words indeed, from someone who has been deep in the trenches of pregnancy and new motherhood and emerged to tell the tale. For the next seven(ish) weeks, my life is still my own. From then on, I'm a mother.

In celebration of this, tonight I shall watch an extra episode of "24" while bouncing on my birth ball, doing Kegels, eating granola, and researching baby carriers online.

Old habits die hard.