Side splitter

In pregnancy literature, there’s a well-worn truism that “every pregnancy is different.” However, one symptom I vividly recall from all three of my kids’ pregnancies is this horrifying sensation reminiscent of having one’s ribs retracted without the benefit of anesthesia. Thing is, I remember having that feeling at 27 weeks — not 14 weeks. I guess there really is something to that other old truism that “your body remembers what to do,” because the last week or so, my ribcage has felt like one of those little gel capsules that contains a dehydrated foam toy. You know, the kind that — when exposed to water — expands to 100 times its original size and bursts forth from said capsule, obliterating it in the process.

That’s me: the human Magic Cap. And, just because I decided to tempt fate and birth myself an entire curling team, I now get to enjoy not one but two trimesters of this miracle of nature.

Technically, my ribs probably aren’t spreading yet. But the rib that Maddux used to use as her personal in-utero park bench is apparently very sensitive to relaxin and has decided to break free of the others at every possible opportunity.

Feel like rolling over in bed? Out goes a rib. Time to unload the dishwasher? Why no. Actually, it’s time to throw that rib out again. Sometimes I’m just sitting there reading an e-book and when I press the page-forward button on my Kindle, the exertion is simply too much for my ultra-relaxed spine. Sprooooiinnggggg! What are we doing for dinner? Heck if I know, but I do have the tenderest ribs this side of Kansas City.

The only thing that fixes my back and rib problems is a vigorous 30+ minute cardio session, followed by the unglamorous spectacle of a pregnant woman using the pec fly machine at the gym to crack her spine back into alignment. (Well, I suppose there is also the chiropractor, but that would involve appointment-setting, and also losing my phobia of arterial dissection.)

And so it has come to pass that I have been at the gym at 6:30 on many mornings, getting in that all-important workout before the kids start running around destroying things. I suppose it’s not such a very bad thing to be working out when one is pregnant, especially if one has gained 10 pounds in the first trimester from subsisting on a diet that places Campbell’s chicken noodle at the bottom of the food pyramid, with crackers in the middle and buttered toast at the top. (OK, OK, there are some Nanaimo bars in there, too. For the baby.)

But all is not doom and gloom. With the nausea and vomiting gone, I’ve been able to eat what I want. And what I want lately is to not gain any more weight for awhile, so there have been a lot of strawberries, blueberries and grapes. Hooray for in-season fruit! This would be a pretty expensive habit were it, say, February.

Another expensive habit in pregnancy is clothing oneself. It has recently come to my attention that my favorite place to buy maternity clothes, The Bay, no longer sells maternity clothes (at least not in our town). So I am left with our mall’s lone maternity store, which marks up cheaply-made garments to prices you’d only pay if you were guaranteed the item would survive more than one wash cycle, and only puts things on clearance when nobody has decided to buy that XXS or XXL gingham-and-lace maternity bustier after 10 years of full retail price.

So now I am stuck driving two hours to buy shirts that I can sweat in without the underarm areas immediately losing all traces of pigment.

That little road trip should be fun for my ribs.

And here I am, hoping my camera smile doesn’t dislocate that rib, at 14 weeks pregnant:

I’ll sleepover when I’m dead

When you’re a teen-age girl, slumber parties are all makeovers and junk food, Tiger Beat perusing and MASH-playing, giggling and crank-calling boys. There is no down side to any of this. When you’re the mom of the slumber-party thrower, however, sleepovers are all down side.

We’re not quite sure where Maddux picked up her fixation with slumber parties (as always, I will happily lay the blame at the feet of the princess-industrial complex), but at some point when she was 4, she began begging for a sleepover with James. Having shared many a hotel bed with my children, I wisely declined, but Chris blithely suggested to our daughter that James and I would both sleep in her room on Christmas Eve. (Never mind that Santa cannot deliver presents if he is wedged underneath a slobbering, sweaty 3-year-old who stayed up talking gibberish until he passed out, mid-sentence, at 12:30 a.m.)

Since then, there have been two mom-sanctioned sleepovers — and countless other instances in which, upon hearing giggling and heavy footsteps three hours past bedtime, we have discovered the children throwing themselves a rollicking impromptu slumber party. But, for Maddux, too much is never enough.

This past January, I picked my wee kindergartner up at school one afternoon and was not so much asked as informed, “Mommy, I’m having six girls over for a sleepover tonight.”

Oh, really?  I quickly disabused my daughter of the notion that she could throw spur-of-the-moment overnight parties in what, that afternoon, happened to be a pigsty nearing “Hoarders” proportions. Her six friends were very disappointed, as they had already received their invitations, but I figured their mothers would appreciate their not acquiring tetanus staying up late on a school night.

Instead, I promised that she would get to throw a non-overnight pajama party on a weekend (TBD) as a reward for meeting her reading goals. The weeks flew by, and “TBD” went from February to March to April to “sometime before school lets out.” Then it was time for school to let out.  With one day left in the school year, Chris and I worked out a date when Nana could take the boys overnight so the wave of giggly, whispery, Disney-brand femininity invading our house would not be assailed by the usual horde of short-circuiting robots, brakeless tank engines and hungry tyrannosaurs. Instead of six girls, I made her invite eight so as not to exclude anyone in her class.  Luckily, only five could make it.

On Friday, the long-awaited girlfest finally happened. According to the little girls’ PJ-party postmortem, it was all pillows and stuffed kittens and pizza and cupcakes and swooning over the hero from “Tangled,” who was roundly deemed “nice and handsome.” In reality, the girls spent approximately 15 minutes playing happily in Maddux’ room, 10 minutes watching the movie and consuming popcorn, 5 minutes getting manicures and promptly threatening the white couches with dripping Technicolor nails, 5 minutes eating pizza, 30 seconds decorating and eating cupcakes, and two hours, 29 minutes and 30 seconds engaged in school-age girl-on-girl emotional warfare.

Actual quotes from the party:

“Give me your unicorn —  or I swear I will never speak to you again.

“You can’t just boss people around.” (Said in bossiest voice possible.)

“Just because she’s being horrible doesn’t mean you should be horrible back.”

“It’s not fair for you to have two glowsticks!” (Said as someone picked up a stray glowstick while holding her own glowstick.)

“Seriously. If you don’t give me that unicorn, you will not exist to me.”

And just like that, the usual horde of berserk tyrannosaurs didn’t seem so bad.  I swigged back some Coke, mediated disputes over fairy wings, magic wands and stuffed unicorns, and agonizingly waited for the hours and minutes to tick by. (A note: Never, under any circumstances, schedule a children’s party to last longer than two hours. Three and a half hours, just FYI, not only will drive you insane, but is an amount of time only an already-insane person would consider when planning a party for 6-year-old girls. Lesson learned.)

After the unicorn-related emotional blackmail, bossiness and condescending judgment of others’ behavior on the part of all six girls, I was worried that the gang of friends who entered the house three-and-a-half hours earlier would leave the party sworn enemies. But that’s the thing about girls. We are eternal optimists. We let kids drown us in saliva on Christmas Eve. We plan overlong parties. And when we have overly dramatic disputes with our BFFs, all we remember afterward is the cupcakes and unicorns and our mutual appreciation for the handsome cinematic hero.

To my undying shock, not only did Maddux pronounce this gong show from the bowels of Hades “the best night ever,” but apparently all her friends went home and chattered happily away about the party all weekend, leaving out entirely any and all tales of unicorn rustling or glowstick misappropriation.

And then, as I laid in bed afterward — thoroughly exhausted both physically and emotionally — and looked back on my childhood sleepovers with fresh Mom eyes, I remembered that it wasn’t all MASH and makeovers. There were disputes over how some girlfriends treated other girlfriends. There were arguments over clothes, boys and whether to play Truth or Dare or be a stupid weenie and go to sleep. And, of course, there was the fateful sleepover when I was 7 and had to alert my parents to the existence of a clothing fire.

Yes, come to think of it, I believe we’ll be doing these daytime pajama things for quite awhile longer.

Get a move on

Some moms love everything about pregnancy. These glowing Earth mamas rhapsodize about how being pregnant makes them feel fabulous and womanly, and boast about how beautiful their blossoming bodies are. They describe how painless — nay, transcendent! — their home water births will be.

And then, there’s the other team.  We grouse about our teen-age skin and our varicose veins and the fact that our ribcages feel as if they’re slowly being pried asunder like unready oyster shells. We whinily express our desires that an epidural port be placed in our backs around the sixth month owing to the horrendous aches and pains of pregnancy, which by the way is completely unnatural. (Can’t babies be grown to full-term in labs yet?!)

However, both camps can generally agree on one thing about pregnancy — the fact that feeling baby movements for the first time is pretty darn cool.

This is the time in the pregnancy when those among us who live in constant paranoia about having a missed miscarriage  — or, if we’ve heard a heartbeat recently, the equally alarming spectre of an armless, legless vegetable baby — can finally breathe a sigh of relief.  There is something alive in there, and it probably has limbs. Hurrah!

With both my boys, I felt movement around the 11.5-week mark, so I must confess that I was more than a little worried about miscarriages and limbless fetuses when the 12th week of pregnancy came and went, and I found myself halfway through Week 13 with no indications (other than Pam Anderson’s boobs and Tom Arnold’s belly) that anything was going on inside my body.

But, at long last, we have signs of life. Chris and I threw a Canada Day party at our house July 1, and — in order to keep up with the demanding hostessing duties of keeping soft-drink cans on ice and looking pretty — I consumed three (OK, maybe four) of my highly addictive refreshing Coke Zeros. As I sat in our neighborhood’s prime fireworks-watching lot at 10:30 or so, I felt what could only be baby somersaults. On my arrival home, I decided I needed to verify that they were, indeed, fetal movements rather than, say, a Nanaimo bar that had sprouted limbs and commenced a flamenco-dancing session in my innards. So I ate more Nanaimo bars. (You know, for the baby.)

Hours later, with fetus still fluttering at 1:20 a.m., I decided nighttime Nanaimo bars might not have been the best idea.

Daytime Nanaimo bars, however, are fair game — as are strawberries, cheesecake, jelly beans, Easter candy, mango juice and Coffee Crisp. All week, I’ve been force-feeding my fetus a cavalcade of carbohydrates, all in the name of kick-counting. Hey, I have chin acne, debilitating fatigue, and back spasms, and until last week, I could vomit on command. I know for a fact that I’m not going to be having a glorious and spiritual labor experience, despite my copious hypnobirthing practice. This is the one part of pregnancy I enjoy — so I’m optimizing the experience!

And here I am, with what could either be a bona fide burgeoning baby belly or simply a bad case of Nanaimo gut, at 13 weeks pregnant: