Not finding out the baby’s sex
This is of course an easy question for people to ask someone expecting… I do the same thing. And it’s especially fun when someone asks about the baby’s gender and then I always have to bite my tongue and refrain from some obnoxious response like “well that’s between Junior and his or her therapist”.
It is almost impossible for me to describe how perfect and exciting it feels to leave our baby’s sex as a surprise. There are thousands of little moments where one of us is talking to my belly or dreaming about the future out loud and there I say a quiet thank you, again, that we don’t know yet. For me, it makes everything infinitely more magical. Our baby at this point is an idea of love and joy, little kicks to my ribs and swimming under the touch of its grandfather’s hand. It is an amniotic fluid drinker and yawner, a recent eye-opener and it definitely likes dessert. It can make a fist, see bright light and sometimes as if on demand will give a little punch for its daddy. It harbors space in my round belly and fills out only the cutest of maternity clothes perfectly. The baby has grandparents and family up and down both U.S. coasts anxiously awaiting its arrival, it already owns more clothes than me, and it doesn’t mind the hours and hours I spend touching my belly and loving it fiercely. This baby is a lot of things and a lot of possibility and we’re not ready yet to decide it should wear pink or blue once it’s born. It feels like plenty just to think it might laugh and smile and hold our hands.
So I guess that brings me to the next most popular question (after, “How are you feeling?”) which is whether we have chosen a name. We’re working on it. The name will be Hebrew and will incorporate a beloved relative who has passed on. A Jewish tradition passed on from my parents.
A friend sent me this site where people can actually share and rate what it’s like to go through life with a certain name. It will shock you to know my name is not on there.
If you can figure this out, than you are a better human being than me. I actually have no idea if my child can also get British citizenship. I am sure there are 500 people in 75 chat rooms that would love to tell me the answer, but I am way too busy having long detailed discussions with Bryan about how Friday Night Lights is not just a tv show, it is one of the best things that ever happened to us. And then we ask each other if that’s weird. And then we say no, no, not at all.
Women who plan to get pregnant sometimes fantasize about maternity clothes- usually following sight of some adorable and tiny celebrity who looks so cute in a dress with her bump. I have found that aspect of the clothes to be a little bit fun, but I am not 5’10” weighing 90 lbs. Maternity clothes are practical and finally somewhat affordable (thanks to places like Target and H&M and Topshop). And I have yet to meet a pregnant woman who doesn’t fantasize about taking her elastic-waist jeans into her post-baby life. Men should try them too. Imagine a pull-on, pull-off system. It’s ingenious! Why are we letting the elderly people corner this market?? But it is still insane to me that you would have to amass an entirely new wardrobe just for a few months of your life. Which is why my sister-in-law and friends have been godsends.
Sisterhood of mamas
When Lindsay, my sister-in-law, offered to lend me maternity clothes, I should have had an inkling as to what would come. She is a renowned shopaholic (at least to us) and a deep and abiding mall-lover, as passed on by her mother before her. These are people who go to the mall for no specific purpose, which is still such a foreign concept to me. I always seem to be there under emergency conditions: must.find.adorable.dress.for.tonight’s.event.NOW. At Lindsay’s home last November, she pulled out four industrial-size crates overflowing with maternity clothes, half still had the tags on. I thought of my own mother who I am pretty sure made it through three births owning only 3 pieces of maternity clothing and then said a silent thank-you to the addiction of Bryan’s family. Every day I wear something of Lindsay’s I am thanking her.
What has overwhelmed me the past six months is the generosity of my “mommy friends”. They have written tome-length emails about products to buy, given crucial advice and loved on me and us in ways I couldn’t have imagined. This is something that it appears every disparate culture shares in common: the startling and fierce sisterhood of women in moments like this. And my friends not yet on this journey have been the same rock and cheering section. If I can say something this absurd: it makes me thankful to be a woman. In all our complicatedness, we rise highest on these occasions.
A house full of baby things and toys
That won’t be us. For the obvious reasons of the dimensions of our flat, the fact that we are mere renters and the conclusion I reached long ago that babies don’t remember what their nurseries looked like or what onesie they wore on their 6 month birthday that they pooped all over. In fact, every time I hang out with babies and toddlers, they are always trying to grab for a spoon or cardboard box or balloon or remote control or my cell phone or digital camera with the same wide-eyed craziness of a strung-out crack addict looking for his next score. So I am pretty sure we will save some money on toys. If everyone could just give us cardboard boxes, that would be great.
(I love the below pic of our nephew Aidan. He definitely wins the prize for Most Toys.)
Care and lingo in the UK
It’s everything you have heard. Midwife led, more women-centric, more acceptance of home births and natural births… I have noticed it in small ways and large. It says a lot that the biggest antenatal organization and classes in the UK has a very distinct philosophy on things. I am in the minority in that I have an ob/gyn and private health insurance. So I can’t speak to the exeriences within NHS. But I think it says a lot that those women really only see midwives.
And as far as the lingo, I now struggle to remember the American English terms for things. It always takes me hours just to remember the phrase “postpartum depression” since here it is postnatal depression. Everything I am learning and experiencing now is “antenatal” not “prenatal”. Lots of words have extra or different letters like oestrogen and fertilise and all baby things need to be translated.
I just don’t know how I feel about the word “mummy”. I want to think it’s cute, especially when preceded by “yummy” but I can’t help but think of a creepy, throwback Halloween costume.
It feels ridiculous to have any when I should just be holding my breath for good luck to continue. So I will ignore all the little things and just say that perhaps my least favorite thing is trying to force myself to sleep on my left-hand side. I sort of hate it and I add it to the list of things I wish I had known.
My second least favorite thing is all the food I am not supposed to eat, but eat anyway, so that I am constantly plagued with terrible guilt. I have not completely weened from brie, raw eggs (hello cookie dough, creme brulee and bibimbap), sprouts, salami, shovel-loads of peanut butter and probably twenty other things on America’s current OCD List of Outlawed Foods to Pregnant Women. Bryan’s friend from college, who is smart enough to write for The Washington Post, chronicled her own food frustrations.
Maybe I won’t write about all this again and maybe I’ll look back after three more months and laugh because I didn’t know anything. Or maybe not. Maybe baby.