Happy accidents

As our baby grows ever larger and her birth rapidly nears, I find myself thinking toward her future. Recently I realized that one day, perhaps in 10 or 12 years, our little daughter will want to know whether she was the result of planning or an “accident.” The answer for a lot of children is obvious, but not for little Pele. While we certainly wanted a child, we were operating on the assumption that I would need fertility treatments in order to bear one. Thus, her conception was a complete surprise to all, especially me. I wouldn’t say she was unplanned. We just planned on having her a little later.

But some of the best things in life have been results of plans that turned out a little differently than their creators expected.

A researcher at a London hospital was working on staph cultures in 1928 when he noticed some mold had contaminated one of the cultures. On further examination, he noticed that the mold was very effectively killing off the bacteria. The mold that contaminated his slides was penicillin.

In 1958, Dr. William Greatbatch was working on a way to record the sound of a heartbeat when he inadvertently used the wrong transistor. Instead of recording a heartbeat, the device he was working on emitted a pulse that mimicked the rhythm of the human heart. Thus was the implantable cardiac pacemaker born.

And, much to the delight of Bob Dole, researchers studying the effects of a medication called sildenafil, which was intended to treat pulmonary hypertension, noticed a curious side effect. That drug never made it big as a heart treatment, but has enjoyed immense success as the impotence pill Viagra.

We’re all familiar with the story of Columbus, who traveled across the Atlantic in hopes of making it to the Far East, but instead stumbled upon the Western Hemisphere.

Discoveries such as these can’t well be called accidents — they’re more like fortuitous changes of plan.

I had planned to finish taking my med school prerequisites. We had planned to get married. We had also planned to go to a fertility specialist. But, plans aside, we are incredibly lucky that our daughter decided to enter our lives when she did. I couldn’t imagine discovering my reproductive system was OK in a more delightful way.

When our daughter is old enough to ask whether she was planned or an accident, I will tell her about the world-altering inventions and discoveries that were accomplished during the pursuit of something different entirely, and how the best-laid plans were adapted to accommodate the even-better unexpected results.

Just as the rest of the world has known boundless benefits thanks to penicillin and the internal pacemaker, so Chris and I have already reaped boundless rewards from the unintentional invention of our little girl.

Belly of the beast

This week, someone asked me how far along I am. Up until Christmastime, people were afraid to ask because my baby belly could be mistaken for Krispy Kreme belly or a bad case of PMS bloat. Now, when I tell people I’m six and a half months pregnant, they look at me incredulously and say helpful, ego-boosting things such as “Oh my! You look much bigger.”

Now, people say stupid stuff to pregnant women all the time, and I’m sure a lot of them have forgotten how truly huge you can get when you are carrying a family of large, rabid badgers in your abdomen. But every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded that my belly is, indeed, very very very big. It doesn’t help when I try on maternity tops and a size small gapes between the buttons, even while being entirely too long and having sleeve holes that expose my ribs. “If you were a size 6 before, you will be a size 6 in our maternity clothing,” my butt!

As if this were not bad enough, one afternoon a while back, I was watching one of those birth specials on TV. A full-term preggo was having her baby, and I realized with horror that I was already huger than she.

Yes, I have an enormous belly. You would think I was smuggling Shamu out of Sea World rather than incubating a teensy three-pound, 16-inch fetus.

The giant belly and increasingly big baby have changed the way I do things these days — everyday things, such as getting out of bed and rising from a sitting position. Now, I don’t leap out of bed — I roll. More embarrassing still, assistance has occasionally been required. Rising from the couch almost always requires a hand. If no one is there to help me, you can expect me to flail about for five minutes before I find something to use as leverage to hoist myself up. Heaven forbid I should inspect something on a bottom shelf at Wal-Mart and have to get up from a squatting position!

A few months ago, I had also vowed that I would never waddle like a duck. Lately, however, I have come to the realization that I must either waddle gracelessly about or be conveyed everywhere on a litter. Since I do not have indentured servants, I can now be mistaken for a very fat penguin wandering the aisles of the local grocery store.

We can just forget about me bending over, by the way. If it was merely an issue of fat, it would be different, but my fluid-filled uterus and sizable baby do not exactly bend with me. This makes for some interesting shoe-tying methods.

Of course, having the world’s biggest belly (and a not-too-small baby) is not all about embarrassment and immobility. As little Pele has gotten bigger and turned head-down, it gets easier every day to tell where all her wee body parts are. And since, no matter where I am looking, my bulging abdomen is always visible out of the corner of my eyes — one benefit of being absolutely massive — I can easily see my belly move when the baby kicks.

Playing with the baby provides me with hours of amusement. Since she never sits still, my hands are permanently affixed to my belly. Most of the time, I can feel her moving about like a busy little carpenter. I imagine she is making constant renovations to her home. It certainly feels like she is using power tools at times! On the rare occasions when she’s not crashing about in there, I can usually find a limb or a baby butt and poke her awake. (I will have to quit doing this when she is born, I suppose!)

Every few weeks since I got pregnant, I have been looking online at pictures of embryos and fetuses at whatever stage ours happens to be. At first, I tracked Pele’s development from a seahorse to a space alien to something that resembled an out-of-proportion baby. Later, I would look to see whether her skin was still translucent, how much hair she might have, how those little fingernails looked. Last month, I noticed that some babies had their eyes open while others’ were closed.

This month, I couldn’t find any pictures of 30-week fetuses, so I Googled preemies. Not only were there a lot of them (unlike the preemies I Googled at 24 weeks), they were huge. Chubby faces, healthier outcomes, diapers that actually fit — it dawned on me that our baby most likely would spend only a month or two in hospital if she came today.

Of course, I hope she stays in there for a few more months. After all, I still have to set up that nursery! But it certainly brought home the fact that this baby is not too far at all from making her grand debut. And when you consider that I’m only 5’2″, it explains why I look like I’m going to drop the baby on the floor any minute.

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On the decorating front: I finally made that French memory board. In a mad fit of nesting instinct-fueled activity, I acquired the materials, realized I had forgotten a needle, bought a needle, and whipped that puppy up in no time. It is far too fussy to display in, say, my living room, but baby girls are a great excuse to break out the frills and froufrou. In a stroke of luck, I found pink-and-white gingham ribbon, so the board is lavender satin trimmed in gingham instead of the other way around. I must say it’s adorable! And you wouldn’t believe how one little craft project can make my self-rating as a mom go from zero to 10.

Coming soon: Week 30 belly shots. Yes, you read that right — only 10 weeks to go!

The mother of all fears

The farther I travel along the home stretch of my pregnancy journey, the more I begin to feel like a mother. But not the sweet, patient, nurturing mother of Disney movies (you know, the one that gets shot by hunters or dies before the story even begins). No, more like the scary, neurotic mothers of TV sitcoms, who tell their grown children to put on sweaters because it’s cold, and who have meltdowns when their offspring major in philosophy or psychology rather than something that will get them a “real job.”

In addition to the usual worrying about the progress of the nursery (the bad news is we are still going with the Rubbermaid bins; the good news is that instead of being lined with newspaper, said bins shall be lined with this adorable, girlie bedding), I now have myriad reasons to fret.

For instance, while it is quite unlikely that the baby will come on time, let alone 11 weeks early, I am in a panic because not only have I not packed a hospital bag; I have not even purchased — nay, have not even chosen — a diaper bag for the wee one. Let us not even begin to speak of the difficulty of finding one that both Chris and I will agree to carry. The bags he has pointed out look as if they are meant to carry computer hardware, sports equipment or perhaps are outfitted for smuggling plutonium, machine guns and maybe even body parts. The bags I have pointed out, bags I thought were relatively gender-neutral, were shot down cruelly with phrases such as “Men don’t carry things with piping on them” and “That looks like a purse!” The only thing we can agree on is that we will not be carrying anything plastered in sweet pastel teddy bears.

Then, of course, there is the carseat. The one we have chosen is, naturellement, the most difficult car seat in the world to find available for sale. Our local supplier of kiddie accoutrements has our infant seat, but not at a price we’re willing to pay. So we are left to hope for a good eBay action or a closeout at an online baby store. Unfortunately, the seat is not carried by many retailers, because unlike the others, it is not covered in ugly gender-neutral plaid (which, as a trip to the local Toys R Us will tell you, is the telltale pastel teddy bear theme for a new generation of babies). Of course, we still have nine weeks before the baby is remotely likely to emerge from her cocoon. However, that does not prevent me from tossing and turning at night, worried that the baby will come early and I’ll have to send Chris on an emergency trip to Wal-Mart, where the lousy selection will ensure the purchase of a pastel-teddy-bear-bedecked nightmare. Can you see that I am becoming just a tad neurotic?

The mother of all pregnancy freak-outs, though, is the chance that I will go into labor early without having taken a single prenatal class. This is, of course, extremely unlikely, since the baby is not likely to pop out at 32 weeks. However, this class has been a long time coming. I had planned to take the class in January. When I decided to go to California with Chris, however, we planned instead to take it this month. Who knew we were going to stay in California so long? Now I feel I will be just about ready to pop when I finally make it to class in mid-March. This will probably not affect little Pele’s college entrance exam scores or choice of boyfriends, but you never know.

In addition to all the other reasons for freaking out, there is also the nagging knowledge that I have not even begun the baby’s French memo board. It is to be pink gingham with purple satin ribbon (to match her adorable crib bedding), will cost next to nothing and take almost no time to staple together. Yet, bad mother that I am, I have not even purchased the single yard of fabric its manufacture requires. Then there is the fact that I have neither the materials nor the expertise to recover the glider as I had hoped. When our little princess calls us from the drunk tank at 15 asking for bail money, I will look back and pinpoint all her troubles to this incredible failure on my part to customize her nursery with handmade decorations.

These aren’t the only issues. I have read tons of stuff on pregnancy but next to nothing on postpartum care, breastfeeding or caring for an actual baby. The baby has Onesies and precious wee frocks, but nowhere to put them. She has towels and washcloths, but no baby bath. She has a bottle rack, but no bottles. She has wipes, but no diapers. She has a top-of-the-line stroller that big sister Kaija used just a few times, but no swing or bouncy seat. There are, as yet, no burp cloths, no Boppy, and no mobile to play soothing classical music in her (nonexistent) crib.

All this stuff I haven’t taken care of yet begs the question: Will I be just as negligent after she is born?

Will she die from some preventable childhood illness because I delayed getting her vaccinated? Will my constant lack of preparation result in all the spots in the best preschool being filled before I even start thinking about her education? Will she go into her first hockey match without a mask and lose her brand-new permanent front teeth because Mommy can’t get it together?

And more importantly, when I ask her why she felt she had to share that dirty needle with Tommy Lee when she has all that money from her job in that all-girl revue, will she answer, “Because you never recovered that forest-green glider to go with my pink-and-purple room”?

Yep, that’s what happens when your baby goes to an inferior preschool and her no-good guidance counselor encourages her to major in psychology.

And here, for your viewing enjoyment, are the Week 29 belly shots. When little Pele burns your house down with you in it, please remember her like this — safely separated from civilized society by my abdominal muscles. Isn’t she sweet when she’s not working out her frustration at not having a lovely French memo board?

Better late than never, Part III

Yes, they are eight days late. Sometimes, when you are traveling, media readers get lost. Sometimes, when you are pregnant, you look in the laptop bag and fail to find the media reader, only for someone else to find it there a week later. I blame it on the vision changes.

Here are the Week 28 belly pics, which I promise were taken the very night Week 28 began, even if they were posted during Week 29.

What to expect when you tempt fate

Last night Chris and I returned home from a 19-day road trip to California. I left Canada as an energetic, fairly comfortable second-trimester preggie. I came back a whiny, aching, miserable, third-trimester beluga.

Before the trip, I made sure it was OK to travel this far. All the literature I read said that it was fine as long as I made sure to get out and stretch frequently so as to avoid blood clots in my legs.

The first night, we traveled for five hours. I was a little road weary afterward, but none the worse for wear. The second day, during which we drove A LOT more than five hours, my back started aching. Then it started screaming in protest. After a nice lukewarm Jacuzzi bath and a back rub that evening, I felt fine.

The third day of our trip, which was a mere five hours or so, the back pain came back. Maybe it was because I tried to shift the pressure off my back, or maybe it’s because I weigh five pounds more than I did during the infamous semester in which the only place I had time to eat was McDonald’s, but my butt started aching too.

The day after that, we drove from San Jose to L.A., and it was all I could do to keep from flinging myself out of the car in an attempt to end it all. In L.A., I cracked open one of my pregnancy books, whose title shall remain anonymous. If you’ve read this book, you may recall that the index is practically worthless and that the book is split up into nine months, with certain topics placed seemingly at random in various months.

Having a bit of spare time, I read not only the chapter for month seven, but also the ones for months eight and nine. In one of these chapters, I happened upon the author’s take on travel during pregnancy. Like other literature, this book said travel is OK in the third trimester if approved by your doctor and if you make frequent stops. However, it might have been nice of the author to warn readers before month eight that longer car trips (lasting “more than one hour”) may be “uncomfortable” in later pregnancy. This might have been helpful in oh, say, month six, when people are making their late-pregnancy travel plans!

I blame most of my newfound third-trimester agony, however, on the fact that I’ve been tempting fate.

I would never have gone on a long car trip if I hadn’t been so healthy and comfortable. Other than requiring the help a winch to get myself out of bed, I was feeling great — and what better idea when you’re feeling great than to subject your body to torture?

The car wasn’t the only punishment my back has experienced. Thanks to a series of hotel beds, the pain didn’t get better when I wasn’t on the road. And pressure points caused my arms to go numb up to 10 times a night while I was sleeping. Oh, how silly I was to leave my comfy foam mattress, which only causes numbness once or twice in a given night!

You may remember reading last week of my new back-support belt. This, too, is the result of my spitting in the eye of the pregnancy gods. There is possibly nothing worse for a pregnant woman’s back than the resolution that, because you are a stylish and attractive pregnant woman, nobody is going to see you in full-panel pants or maternity underwear no matter HOW big you get. Hence the lovely elastic-and-velcro contraption I now wear when I’m going to be on my feet. Now that’s what I call stylish and attractive!

Thanks to a bit of nutritional hubris on the road, when I asked myself how just a little fast food ever hurt anyone, I now have yet another wonderful hallmark of pregnancy to enjoy. As the elderly heroine in “The Ladykillers” said, “World’s got two kinds of folks — them that’s got piles and them that’s gonna get ’em.” That, on top of the Gaviscon I have to pop after (and often in between) meals. Thank you, Taco Bell.

And then there is the issue of the shoes. I’m not really sure what I did wrong, other than owning lots of gorgeous shoes and proclaiming once, early on, that the shoe store was the one place in the mall where I could still shop. Now, that statement only holds true if the shoe store we’re talking about sells orthopedic footwear.

Between gaining a half-size and turning into plump, juicy sausages, my feet are now only happy when they’re in a pair of rather unattractive Aerosoles with a square toe and one-inch heels. No flats. No two-inch heels. No toes that are rounded or angled or in any way divergent from the widest part of the shoe. This means not only that I am no longer the footwear fashion plate I once fancied myself. It also means I cannot make fun of my chiropractor, Germans, or stringy-haired, tie-dye-wearing vegan activists. (Now that I think of it, perhaps it was mocking chiropractors that did me in. These people are very helpful when you have five pounds of boobs and 10 pounds of belly pulling on your lower back and have spent seven of the last 19 days in an SUV.)

The only thing I have not YET experienced is the thing I’ve been expecting — a belly covered in stretch marks. I’ve been so certain this would happen that I’ve been hosing myself down, post-shower, in Vitamin E oil. Of course, if I cease this daily ritual, I will wake up looking like the star of “Racing Stripes II,” in which a hideously stretch-marked pregnant woman proves to the world that while she is the slowest thing on feet, she can certainly eat as much as a racehorse. I am fully convinced that the only reason I don’t have stretch marks yet is because I was so sure that I would. I am sure that, even yet, my skin is plotting to strike the moment I let my guard down.

So here I sit, awaiting tomorrow’s chiropractic appointment, ruing the day I planned a three-week car trip and wondering what act of overconfidence I will be punished for next.

Coming soon: Week 28 belly shots.

Baby bottom

The wee one wasn’t her usual temperamental self this week, but she still managed to be a pain in the butt. Literally.

Over the past month and a half, I’ve become accustomed to her battling for space with my bladder — usually with a well-placed kick to that rather sensitive organ. But this week, I’ve experienced nary a near-accident. This is because our little girl has finally flipped into the vertex position, where we hope she will stay until it’s time for her grand entrance.

However, turning head-down does not mean more comfort for me. Although it is nice to no longer double over suddenly in Blockbuster and then have to check to be sure I didn’t wet myself, a vertex baby is not the bed of roses one might think it to be.

Our little princess has found herself a most comfortable position, her dear tiny head nestled firmly against my coccyx. This new position allows her the occasional bladder punch, but more importantly, it reminds me constantly of her presence. This is because, with her head where it is, my tailbone hurts when I am in any position other than reclining, and if I happen to be standing, I also feel like the contents of my uterus are going to fall out at any minute. I must also add that since I have become rather large, not only have I not seen my toes in a good while; I also must be hauled out of bed and forklifted from chairs.

Being a short person, there is also the issue of my ribs aching constantly because there is nowhere for this baby to go. And we will not speak of the fact that the back pain this week forced me into an unholy alliance with a frightening support garment known as a pregnancy belt. Or of the even more horrifying fact that, while walking into a grocery store, I often gaze longingly at the little motorized scooters available for disabled shoppers.

Consequently, not only have I been wishing for those old bladder kicks, I’ve also — just occasionally — been wishing for sweet death. And since this is the very first day of the third trimester, I have at least three more months to go, barring the unlikely event that Chris heeds my wishes and harpoons me.

However, all the aches and pains are worth it on days such as Friday. Thanks to her new bottom-up position and the relatively cramped quarters in my low pelvis, the contortionist-in-training wasn’t able to pull her feet over her face like she’d done the week before. Tissues were required as Chris and I finally were allowed to gaze at the face of our little girl.

It’s a bizarre thing to look at an ultrasound and recognize someone’s face, but that’s what happened. In shots from our 17-week ultrasound, I insisted the baby looked like Chris does when he’s sleeping. Everyone else commented that the baby looked more like a space alien. With this ultrasound, there’s no doubt who the baby looks like.

And if it’s not spooky enough that the two-thirds-baked bun looks like a tiny clone of Chris, check out a side-by-side comparison of the wee one and big sister, Kaija, with whom she shares only one parent. Daddy has some very strong genes, indeed!

I am delighted that the baby has her daddy’s pretty mouth, and if she’s really lucky, perhaps she’ll get his beautiful green eyes, too. Whatever traits she gets from either parent, it’s obvious already that she’s a cutie pie! (Of course, we’re the parents and therefore our impression of the baby’s cuteness is not to be trusted.)

I suspect she will continue to be a pain in my butt for the remainder of the pregnancy. In fact, since she’s got five or six more pounds to gain, I suspect her gestation may culminate in the invention of the first-ever tailbone-support garment, which will horrify fashionable pregnant women everywhere until they try it and realize how comfy it is and how nice it is to know there is something keeping their insides from falling out.

But she’s my pain in the butt, and I wouldn’t trade her for all the comfort and mobility in the world.

Although I am considering adding a Hoveround to my baby registry.

And here are the Week 27 belly pics, NOT a week late this time despite the best efforts of our hotel to thwart our Internet-accessing efforts: