Friday, November 28, 2008

Holy Moley

It's that time again, time for reading all about my latest weird pregnancy symptoms!

Trickle down urination---I have to confess to being one of those callous jerks that laughed throughout the Flomax commercials before I understood the shame that is light flow during urination. At that time, the horrible sounding side effects of the medication didn't seem worth it to achieve the thunderous gushes of urine flow that the commercials promised. But now I get it.

Picture it if you will, you're at work and you know you've got to go to the bathroom. But you keep putting it off and promising your bladder to relieve it after you just finish this one last thing...okay one more thing...just finish that one last task and you swear you will go to the bathroom. (Seriously, am I the only weirdo that refuses to pee until I'm on the brink of peeing my pants?) Anyway, when you can put it off no longer and your bladder is on the verge of explosion, you finally give in. And just as the sweet sound of relief is heard below, you realize it is not as sweet sounding as it once was. What should be torrents of water flowing out of you, inspiring you to think about the possibility of a bathroom-grade hydroelectric power plant, is barely a trickle. The amount of waste water that should be barely containable by the porcelain bowl beneath, in actuality could only fill the most delicate and tiny tea cup. It's sad folks. Peeing has become boring and anticlimactic. No wonder I put off doing it.

Spontaneous moles---This particular pregnancy symptom is probably the scariest to me for both valid health reasons and superficial vanity reasons as well.

First a quick memory that has nothing to do with anything really. Back when I was in school, there were two different substitute teachers that were cursed with some very protruding facial moles (I'm not talking the Cindy Crawford well-placed tiny mole here either). While these particular substitutes were not the nicest of ladies, I always secretly felt sad for them. At that age, I had all kinds of delightfully horrible skin to deal with, but at least acne is temporary (or so I was told by lying liars) and I could attempt to conceal it. So I knew all too well the havoc that facial skin flaws could wreak on a person's self esteem. Speaking of which, that magical clear complexion transformation I always expected on my eighteenth birthday never happened. What up skin? And why did you lie to me like that lying liars that lied and told me my bad skin was a phase? Anyway, my point is, even as a selfish teenager, I felt an odd kinship with these substitute teachers. We were both wearing our human flaws all over our faces for all to see and judge. At that point, it became a fear of mine that later in life i would develop protruding facial moles.

Spring forward sixteen years later to when I get pregnant and I realize moles really do just spontaneously appear (although only on my body so far). I understand that some of them go away after pregnancy, which I hope is the case. But it's a little freaky, especially given my fear of skin cancer from many years stupidly spent not wearing sunscreen and baking in the sun. Have you ever googled "skin cancer symptoms"? Yeah don't. I give in to the google demon a couple of times a year when I notice some new mark or dry patch and this spontaneous appearance of moles is not helping my phobia in the least. One thing is certain though. My kid will be bathed in sunscreen and will have a sun visor surgically attached at the head. Also if burkas come in infant sizes I may pick up one or two.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

33 is a double magic number

I was so wrong to say that getting out of bed yesterday would be a painful experience. It was much easier than I anticipated. We showered, threw on some warm layers, poured some hot tea in our cups, put the finishing touches on the huge vat of spaghetti we made for lunch for all the workers and packed up the Element. We arrived to find men already up on the roof of the house scraping off the decaying shingles and met Lynn, the kind soul that is organizing the effort to fix up this house for the elderly gentleman, Mr. Horton.

From what I understand, Mr. Horton recently suffered a heart attack, which led to the discovery of the living conditions he had been enduring for the last twelve years. Lynn was called in by the state to clean the house and since that time, she has made it her mission to make sure he returns to more livable circumstances.

Judging from the solid brick exterior, the house didn't seem to be that bad off. But once Lynn took us inside for a tour, it became very clear just how sad this story really is. A tree fell into the rear section of the house where two bedrooms and a bathroom are located. Because Mr. Horton inherited the house from his father and had no insurance, he had no way to pay for the necessary repairs. So in the last twelve years, the elements have slowly finished off the rest of the damage---from black mold covering the walls, to rust on the already ancient non-working appliances. The cast iron tub in the bathroom, the only slightly operable water source in the house, opened to the dirt ground beneath. And the toilet sitting nearby was precariously balanced on a pipe that connects it to the structure. Thinking back to it now, i have to remind myself that we toured the house after Lynn and her cleaning crew had already been through it with their brooms and detergents. I can only imagine what she saw the first day she arrived to clean it.

After the tour, Dave and I dug into work. We started demolition work on a caved-in carport structure beside the house with a small group of other volunteers. In three hours, we sorted through all of the old appliances and trash which went to the volunteered dumpster and separated the wood, which was thrown onto a burn pile. A couple of the brutes brought the carport walls down while the rest of us scavenged the ground for more trash and wood. Meanwhile, shingles rained down from the guys on the roof above. While there were not as many people as I had hoped, the eleven people or so that were there worked as a very efficient team. They really are a great group of people and I would gladly go work with them again. Next time, I just wish they would eat more spaghetti, because Dave and I are going to be eating the rest of this pasta for the next week. Here is a link to some pictures from the weekend. By the way, if anyone is still interested in donating either time or funds (or both!) to this project, it will be ongoing for some weeks. Please just send me an email and I'll happy pass along all pertinent info.

Today is the one year anniversary of us living in our new happy home. Our life really has changed in the last year. I can say for sure that I am a happier person now that we found the perfect house that pleases us both. I take actual pleasure in sweeping the leaves off the back deck while I enjoy the view. We now have neighbors that wave at us as we drive by, greet us as we take a walk and sometimes even drop by to bring us barbecue. I look forward to introducing our newest family member to this house and neighborhood next year. I'm sure it will be a wonderful place to build so many new memories.

Today is also my 33rd birthday, which is much less scary and depressing than I ever thought it would be when I was a teenager. Thanks to both mom and dad for bringing me into this world and not following up on their repeated threats to take me out of it. I have a good feeling about this new year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Counting blessings

This morning I opened my eyes and the first thing I saw was the snow that had fallen on the skylights above our bed. Seven years ago, I moved south in an effort to avoid as much of this snow phenomenon as possible, so I was surprised that I welcomed the sight of it this morning. Looking at those frozen ice crystals made me hunker down deeper into the soft sheets and appreciate the warmth and calm surrounding me. Slowly, a hand crept over my belly and laid down over my belly button attempting to cop a feel of the baby kicking inside. The hand was Dave's and I have a sneaking suspicion it will become a new accessory for my belly to wear over the next five months. 

Last night was the first time Dave was able to feel the thump thump thumping of the banana-sized person that lives in my bump.  I've only been sure of the kicking for about a week now, but each time Dave would assume the hand-on-belly position, the kicking would stop.  So I had no choice but to feed the kicking monster leftover Halloween candy to trigger those little feet.   

Now that the kicking is happening, it feels exactly like I expected it would.  I had heard people say it felt like popcorn popping in your belly or like the 80's candy Pop Rocks exploding in your abdomen. But no, it doesn't feel like that at all. Rather, it feels exactly like a baby kicking. Say there was a soft thing that is trapped inside of you and occasionally kicks you from inside of yourself. That is the most accurate description of what it feels like. No need to bring snack food into this, it is what it is. If you quickly poke yourself lightly on the stomach with your finger, it feels like that, except from the inside. Maybe try swallowing your hand first and try it again?

So as the mercury continues to drop and the baby continues to amaze us, getting out of bed each morning is only getting harder.  Tomorrow will be a true test of grit.  We're getting up early on a Saturday (!) and it's expected to be in the 20s outside.  We're going to spend the morning and afternoon helping to demo and rebuild a local elderly man's roof.  His house was badly damaged back in 1996 during Hurricane Fran and was never repaired.  It has since come to the attention of some local folks and tomorrow is the start of the process of fixing the damage.  I have a feeling it will be one of the most gratifying days to be involved with this project, because we will be repairing the roof damage and starting to seal the structure from the elements.  Considering the early onset of freezing temperatures this year, our timing couldn't be soon enough.  My motivation to get out of my yummy warm bed tomorrow morning will be thinking about a man that does not have that luxury.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Halfway Point

So we've made it to 20 weeks and all is well. That's five months for anyone at home keeping track of my days on the sobriety wagon. Granted, I've had some sips of wine and beer here and there, but nothing I'm concerned about. The challenge in the early days of pregnancy was getting over the ritual of my nightly glass(es) of wine. I have yet to come across any decent non-alcoholic wine alternative, so if anyone wants an idea that would surely make millions, there it is. There are a ton of wino women out there that have recently been knocked up and are undergoing withdrawal symptoms after having to give up alcohol cold turkey. Currently, their best alternative is non-alcoholic beer, and even that still has a small percentage of alcohol in it.

I'm reminded of our first appointment with the doctor when Dave asked him specifically about non-alcoholic beer and whether or not it was safe for me to drink with the low alcohol content (I believe it is 0.5%). The doctor, of course, gave the safe answer that doctors have to give to avoid senseless litigation later on. No, absolutely not. I could not have any non-alcoholic beer. I should not even make eye contact with mouthwash for that matter. And if i so much as smell alcohol on anyone's breath, I may as well have submerged my unborn child in bathtub gin. Okay, I'm embellishing a bit from memory. But the doctor's words felt so strict and foreboding and we were only asking him about non-alcoholic beer. Didn't he realize this was progress for me?

Fortunately, I lost my taste for both beer and wine in time. Every now and then, I'll pour myself a few tablespoons to sip on with dinner. But Dave regularly has to finish it for me. Same thing with coffee, the taste for it disappeared thankfully. I'm still amazed at the body's ability to protect itself from harmful substances when it needs to, as it is my opinion that these changes in my tastes are a baby defense mechanism of some sort. And in that sense, I hope this is a temporary change. Celebrating with fruit juice or water just isn't quite the same. Nonetheless, I'll raise my glass to the kid behind the belly button and toast the halfway point with a swig of milk.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today's post is brought to you by the number one

The bean is not so much the size of a bean anymore. There is a tiny human the size of an heirloom tomato or a can of red bull chilling out in my uterus. Although I’ve never had an heirloom tomato sit directly on top of my bladder before, I imagine it would feel a lot like this. Except my heirloom tomato has tiny feet that think my bladder is a soccer ball.

Apparently, the kid has a functioning bladder of it's own now and is actively peeing inside of me. That's kind of a strange thing to think about. I mean it would upset me a great deal if a person on the outside of my body peed on me (other than a child I should say, not that I encourage children to pee on me, but you know what I mean). But already I've given this kid a license to pee INSIDE of me! Wow, unconditional love is so real to me now. From what the doctor told me, they just pee right into the amniotic fluid they are surrounded in. I suppose it's a lot like peeing in a pool in that way. You would think that peeing in a pool would be a more acceptable practice considering we all begin life submerged in our own pee.

Along with being able to urinate, the bean can hear loud noises like my voice now too. And I can feel this little tot too. Not so much kicks yet, but I can feel the weight of it.

Perhaps we can all finally agree that life really starts when a fetus starts peeing and hearing. What I mean is, I don't think "life" starts as early as when two cells unite and not as late as when the pregnancy becomes viable around 6 months (per Roe v. Wade). See how I put life in quotes like that, pretty tricky huh? By life I don't just mean something that exists, but something that thinks, feels, hears and pees. Just a thought, but if we could all agree that life starts when an unborn child begins interacting with its in utero environment, we could probably save the world a whole lot of strife. I guess it's really just meeting half way between the two conflicting schools of thought on this. Who would have thought a compromise would be the answer and it would involve peeing! Wow, that was one hell of a segue---from pee to right-to-life issues.

Just a little disclaimer, I'm certainly not trying to express a well thought out opinion either way, as you may have noticed with my inclusion of pee to the discussion. Really, I just feel slightly ripped off that I will have carried this kid inside me for about nine months when it pops out, and then it's only 1 day old? Huh? Who did the math on that? Obviously, this mathematician was not a mother. I feel like this child should get credit for good behavior and time served---even if it's just half the time spent in womb.

Still sort of on the subject of ol' number one, I have to take a urine test every time I go to the doc. So as soon as I arrive, I sign in and immediately stand in line to wait my turn for the bathroom. For the record, I am a master urine test taker. If you've ever been ahead of me in line for a urine test, I want you to know that I am timing you with my mind when it's your turn. So no pressure. But you always take way too long. What are you doing in there anyway? Just to prove to you how long you took, I enjoy marveling everyone with my speed and efficiency of writing my name on and peeing in a cup as fast as womanly possible. In my mind, when everyone hears that door latch click open as I emerge from my test victorious, they all turn their heads and think, "that woman is the fastest urine test taker mine eyes have ever seen!" Actually, they probably question whether I have really washed my hands because how could I have done all of that in a mere minute? I know. It's amazing really. Any talent requires practice---years of grueling training, some tears and a lot of spare urine of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gender fender bender

Remember when I said that we were going to find out the baby's gender today?  Yeah, I lied about that unintentionally, of course. Apparently, I do not possess the mind control ability I thought I did. Our appointment was just for a general check-up, not a sonogram. No matter how cutesy I tried to be with the doctor, he was not persuaded by my lacking charms.  He explained that we needed to have a good reason to warrant him performing another ultrasound. Because research suggests they are not exactly good for the baby, doctors do not like to "throw them around" as the doc put it.  Thinking back to the lessons of Sarah Palin, I mustered all of my cuteness energy and gave him the only reason I could think of, "we need another ultrasound so we can tell our friends and family the gender?" Yeah, not so much a good medical reason.  Although the doctor kind of chuckled at my weak attempt to win his sympathy, he was not swayed.

So we can try again in the beginning of December when we rotate through to a different doctor at the OB practice.  That appointment will be a general check up as well, with no ultrasound. So odds are not exactly on our side for finding out the sex then either.  But fear not!  I have been thinking up some much better medical-sounding reasons why the new doctor will need to check the baby with a sonogram specifically:  1) I pooped out what appears to be a baby arm, but flushed before I could confirm it.  I think it is wise that we look at the baby through your magical baby box machine to confirm all the limbs are present.  2) I swallowed my cat last week and while I'm familiar enough with anatomy to know that my stomach and my uterus are separate.  I think we should confirm that the cat hasn't clawed her way into my womb.  She gets lonely.  

Otherwise, I may have to call up Tom Cruise.  I seem to recall he bought an ultrasound machine when Katie Holmes was pregnant.  I don't know, maybe he rents it out or something?  I'm open to any other suggestions.  

Otherwise, looks like we'll just have to old-school it, which is exciting right?  The silver lining is that Dave and I have more of a unisex style going on anyway, so this won't slow us down in getting the nursery ready or purchasing baby gear.  Although I was annoyed earlier today about not finding out, that had more to do with not being able to share the news with everyone.  Tonight, I feel fine not knowing until birth. Maybe I'm just getting better at brainwashing myself.  But for now, I'm just happy that I've got a healthy bean living in my belly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Start wearing purple

I'm not sure if anyone has heard, but there was an election yesterday and the new president elect of the United States is Barack Obama. Of course, like the rest of the country we stayed up last night tracking the results on the TV and computer. I was happy to see my home state of Pennsylvania turn blue. Especially after I saw some footage of about 300 students lined up at my Alma Mater, Penn State, first thing in the morning to vote. I'm hoping those students see the power of their vote and will feel encouraged to use their voice again in the next election. I am likewise tickled to see such a tight race here in North Carolina. While we may not be blue yet, I am thrilled with purple. And it's not about anybody "winning" that makes me happy. I think of the history of slavery and the fight for civil rights in North Carolina and I am humbled that this state is even close to overcoming those past transgressions. The fact that North Carolina is even purple proves to me that the tide has turned and anyone really can be president if they work hard enough. So if anyone is looking for a candidate in 2012, I'll be 35 by then...

John McCain impressed me last night. While I was sad for him, I appreciated his stoicism. He became the old John McCain I always liked. I have to wonder if there was a part of him that was relieved to be able to get back to who he really is. Maybe that sounds weird, but I saw a different man last night. And the only explanation I can think of for this change in him is that he was again following his own gut instead of some campaign strategist's gut. I think if John McCain had been John McCain throughout this two year campaign we would have seen some different numbers last night. During his speech, he struck me as sincere, respectful, humble and strong.

Less impressive were McCain's supporters present at his concession speech. I've only watched 2 other concession speeches for my candidates in 2000 and 2004, but I don't recall any booing from the crowd. Sure I recall a depressed mood and sullen faces, but I just don't remember any booing or yelling or chanting taking place during the speech. I was sad for those people that were booing; they were obviously not raised properly. Of course, I don't expect anyone that voted for McCain to be farting rainbows over the fact that Obama got elected. But at least try to be graceful over the defeat. We've all been defeated and you know what, we'll all be defeated again. Kind of like death and taxes, a little bit of defeat is something we can all count on.

I don't think Obama is going to save the world. I haven't "drank the kool-aid" as I've heard so many dismissive jackasses use the phrase. But I'm reading his book and this is a man I respect. This is a smart and thoughtful man that was raised properly. This is a man who could have easily pursued a high paying law job, but instead chose to serve his country---yes Rudy Giuliani, even in a "community organizer" capacity. This is a man who has time and time again chosen a road of sacrifice to do what he thinks is right, even if it is not the most profitable. John McCain has lots of these same qualities, in spades even. I can see that. A big difference between their campaigns though is that Obama inspires a sense of community rather than division. He would rather try to heal the country than wound it further with hate. He doesn't want to scare us into submission, he would rather give us some hope. Maybe it is only hope that he offers. And if that's the case, I need some of that right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Give pee a chance

Well, it looks like the baby doesn't want to reveal its gender just yet. No dice during the ultrasound. Although the ultrasound tech did say that when the bean was shifting around, she saw something that would indicate a boy. I believe medically it is referred to as a pee pee. But she couldn't get the kid to move position when she went in for a closer look. The baby was sitting on its legs and no pee pee could be seen either way. I should also mention that during the two minutes the doctor spent with us that he gave his two cents as well. He said , "well if I had to guess, I'd say it's a girl." If I had to guess? What? No one is asking you to guess. Geez man, I hope you never have to diagnose anything more serious than the gender of a child. I can just hear it now, "well, if I had to guess you have a terminal disease and you'd best get started on your bucket list, like right now." We go back to the regular OB next Thursday and hopefully he won't just give us his best 50/50 hypothesis. If that doesn't work, maybe I'll just go to a psychic.

But more importantly, the real reason for the Level 2 Sonogram was to look for any physical Down syndrome markers. According to the doctor, everything looked good and they didn't detect any abnormalities with the baby. While we are of course overjoyed at this news, I do wish the tech and doctor would have been more verbal with us during this process. I would have liked for them to tell us more specifically which marker they were looking for and what they found. The ultrasound tech just told us she was doing an anatomy scan and I didn't even realize she was looking for the Down syndrome markers at all. She kept saying that she wasn't going to do the measurements unless the doctor told her to (meanwhile, I thought the measurements were the markers, as many of them are measurements). Anyway, when the doctor then came in and told us everything was fine, I had to wonder if something had been miscommunicated between them. I mean this is the same doctor that "guessed" the baby was a girl. Of course I'm happy with the outcome, I just wish I felt more convinced of its validity. So I'm hoping that my regular doctor can better communicate exactly which markers the Duke doctors looked at and that will help to prove it to my brain.

In other news, Dave and I voted early this morning. We thought we would be smart and arrive to the polls right when they opened to avoid a line. Apparently, everyone else in the Triangle area had the same plan. We arrived at the community center down the road and there was already a line wrapped around the parking lot. All in all, it took us two hours to vote. And while that sounds like a long time, it was the best voting experience I've ever had. It was a beautiful morning and we stood in line with some good natured people and sipped our tea. Some of the local candidates or their spouses were on hand attempting to win some last minute support. Other volunteers from both sides walked up the lines handing out literature and voter help guides as well. The grassroots organization of this election has been outstanding. And no matter how this election turns out, it's refreshing to see such an impressive turnout. We heard today that 40% of registered North Carolinians have already voted. I'm interested in comparing that number of early votes to the total turnout from previous elections. Change is in the air, that's for sure.

Hmm, what else happened today? Oh yes, I peed myself earlier this evening. That's not something people admit to often I bet. Dave and I were folding baby clothes and diapers we've bought so far, when I sneezed. I was prepared for this to happen eventually, but I thought (hoped) it would hold off until later in my pregnancy. Of course, as luck would have it, I was wearing thin green stretch pants that immediately darkened. There's really no hiding it when you've peed yourself.

"Uhh, I just peed a little. It seems to happen when I sneeze every now and then, " I admitted.

"Nu uh!" Dave said. Why he thought I would lie about wetting myself I do not yet understand.

"No really," I clarified while turning around and pointing at the wet spot.

Dave fell to the ground laughing. Ahh, pregnancy is a never ending delight. After I stuffed the clothes, blankets and diapers into the newly painted dresser, I walked back into the soon-to-be nursery where we are storing all the items we've bought so far. I caught a whiff of something that made me think the kitty had possibly started marking her territory. Maybe with all of these new baby scents, the jig is up and she has been peeing in the room to claim it, I thought to myself. "Oh wait a second, that's just me."