Onward and upward

It seems like but a few short weeks since the busy adventurer we call Henry learned to walk … oh, wait, it has been only a few short weeks. Sigh.

Dear, sweet, adorable little Henry is making up for lost time, it would seem. And this should probably be no surprise. After all, his first project upon achieving upright status this past winter was determining how our doorknobs worked. Had he realized how useful mobility is to aspiring hooligans, I’m sure he would have commenced walking months sooner!

Henry took his first steps in the middle of May and began walking in earnest on June 6 — as if on cue while I was videotaping, no less, because as every child of the 21st century knows, photo or it didn’t happen. You know he’s got spunk when the fourth child manages to score a family “first.”

He’s already an accomplished stairway mountaineer, and like any adventurer, he’s always looking for the next challenge. Having conquered all the easier climbs in our house (steps, kid chairs, train table), he apparently set a personal goal to beat the clock and summit everything in our house (and yard) before he hit 18 months. So, in the past few weeks, I’ve been retrieving him from beds, couches and tabletops.

About a week and a half ago, he scaled the plastic “rock wall” on our Little Tikes climber to much fanfare. Perhaps too much fanfare.

The next day, I heard the door to the boys’ room slam shut. Both James and Thomas were accounted for, so I went into their room to retrieve Henry and save him from choking on Lego and tiny plastic dinosaurs. But where was Henry?

He wasn’t rummaging through the Lego bin. The dinosaur habitat lay desolate. He wasn’t around the corner of the bunk bed, pulling stuffed animals out of the giant stuffie container. I must be going senile, I thought. Surely Henry couldn’t have scaled the ladder to the top bunk — in 30 seconds, no less.

As a matter of fact, he could have. And did. There was our adorable, 17-month-old baby (in the third growth percentile, no less), bouncing happily on his knees in his brother’s bed, shaking a stuffed kitten by the neck.

Those of you who have been reading this blog since the Reign of Madness Maddux may recall that we are not strangers to babies with superior climbing skills. Henry is merely carrying on the grand tradition. He quickly graduated from the bunk bed ladder to the more challenging treehouse ladder xo6bduv. He also has the upper-body strength of a monkey and the toes of a gecko, enabling him to climb the stove by using the front handle as a chin-up bar and wedging his toes against various cabinetry and stove appendages. Oddly, he has never attempted an escape from his crib, nor is he scaling change tables … yet. But I am sure this is simply because he enjoys chewing on his crib so much that he has no reason ever to leave that valuable source of splintery, stomach-satisfying hardwood. As soon as he gnaws his way through his furniture, Henry will doubtless be unstoppable.

Soon enough, he’ll be playing “crack the egg” on the trampoline, gamboling about like a mountain goat on building ledges, dangling off the top of the swingset and clambering about on the (forbidden) exterior of the tube slide like the rest of them. We’ll look back and think, “It seems like just a few weeks ago when he was first climbing up the ladder into the treehouse.”

And perhaps it will be.



High aspirations

Express Delivery

For weeks, we’ve been expecting to have our little guy any day. First, at a day shy of 36 weeks, I went into Labour & Delivery with crampy feelings in my abdomen measuring about five minutes apart. Turns out that the flu can also give a person painful abdominal cramps. Oops.

Then, the Thursday before Christmas, I began contracting regularly at 10-minute intervals. The contractions were uncomfortable, but not particularly painful. I went to bed, figuring the contractions would stop. They didn’t. And they were just strong enough to wake me up every 10 minutes for the entire night.

The minute my obstetrician took out his wheel and gave me a January 9th due date, I joked, “See you Christmas Eve.” And now it looked as if my prediction was going to be borne out.

But apparently, for some fetuses, making people bite their nails in anticipation of your arrival is more fun than arriving at an incredibly inconvenient time, and Henry is clearly one of those babies. Christmas Eve came and went with plenty of regular contractions, but no progress. Ditto for Christmas Day, despite my prediction that the wee one would make his entrance once the turkey was in the oven.

Back in the summertime, during an early appointment when my OB went over my labor history, the topic of my rather early and precipitous labors came up. James came at 35 weeks after an hour of labor. Thomas came at 38 weeks after four hours. Since Henry was to be a winter baby and we live on a mountain, our doctor suggested planning an induction for 38 weeks, and I happily agreed. The last thing I want to do is deliver in the car on the side of a snowy road. Without an epidural.

Boxing Day (Dec. 26, for non-Canadians) was the 38-week mark, but as my pregnancy progressed and I hit 34 weeks with no dilation — completely usual for me — my OB backpedaled on induction.

“You know, every pregnancy is different,” he told me at my 35-week checkup. “I think you may go overdue on this one.”

I delivered Maddux, my first and latest baby, three days before her due date. I was totally going to have this kid in a snowbank on the shoulder of Summit Road.

But by my 37-week appointment, my doc had flipped again. This time, I was 1 cm dilated, soft and with the baby very low. I was also Strep B positive, which means that, ideally, four hours of antibiotics need to be administered before baby is born to prevent complications like encephalitis. So now an induction assessment was scheduled for 8 a.m. the day after Christmas.

I made it to the appointment with baby still in utero and a labor bag packed. Two hours later, we were home with no baby. L&D was chock-a-block full of people with serious medical issues that needed immediate attention and if I had gone into labor that day, I would have been in another ward without delivery beds.

“Call later today,” my OB said. “L&D has a very fast turnover rate. Maybe you can still get your induction this afternoon.”

No such luck. Another assessment was set for the 27th. And at that assessment, everything was exactly the same as it had been the day before. Because I wasn’t “making progress,” I went home. Again.

“If you start having regular contractions closer together than 10 minutes apart, go into Labour & Delivery,” my doc told me. I nearly cried. My still-regular contractions progressed nightly to 8 minutes apart while I tried to sleep, so that would mean hiring a babysitter every night until delivery. I mentally replaced the “10” with a “5.”

On Wednesday the 28th, my contractions changed shortly after I put the kids to bed (of course). They were now four minutes apart and breathtaking. We threw the still-pajama-clad kids in the car and Chris dropped me at the hospital on his way to pick up the babysitter (yes, the only babysitter available that night was the carless one! Surely I was about to deliver!).

But after an hour of walking, there was no progress. Since I had been contracting for seven full days and was only getting sleep between contractions, I was sent home with some sleeping pills. Overnight, the contractions spread back out again.

Clearly, Henry was waiting for New Year’s Eve so he could be an anniversary baby. And I didn’t even care.

The 29th passed with no event (other than the unremitting contractions). I went to the gym, thinking a nice block of cardio would bounce the baby out, or at least effect cervical change before my next OB appointment on Jan. 2. Nada. The contractions remained like a constant background noise, not really interfering with day-to-day life (other than sleeping) but impossible to ignore.

Finally, yesterday, the contractions began to grow a bit stronger and more painful. As I put the children to bed, they remained 10 minutes apart. I washed the dishes. Still 10 minutes apart. Watched some “Project Runway.” Still 10 minutes apart.

Giving up on my contractions ever amounting to anything, I propped my enormously pregnant self on a mountain of pillows and practiced my hypnobirthing, still hitting the contraction timer on my iPhone with each “surge” (oddly, surges don’t feel any nicer or more natural than contractions — sorry, hypnobirthing inventors).

By the end of my hypno session, around 12:30 a.m., the contractions were six minutes apart and painful. I paged Chris on the intercom.

“Hey, honey, my contractions are six minutes apart and they’re really uncomfortable. I think we should go into the hospital now,” I said. Then another one hit. I tapped my phone and realized this one was closer to 4 and a half minutes and hurt like a beast.

“All right, but I’m going to drive down the hill and pick up the babysitter first,” Chris said, clearly forgetting that one time I went from not being in labor to popping out a baby in an hour’s span. I tried to say, “The hell you are,” but unfortunately for me it came out sounding like this: “AAAAGHHHHHHHHHithurtsithurtsithurtsAGGHHHH!” so off he went.

Luckily, Chris has some epic teleportation abilities and made it there and back in 18 minutes (or five horrendous contractions, by my clock). By this time, they were closer to two minutes apart and Chris had to pretty much carry me up the stairs and heave me into the car.

Despite my theoretical awesomeness at hypnobirthing in the comfort of my own room while not in labor, I’m better at hypno than at birthing. I’m pretty sure Chris’ ears were not functional after the ensuing car ride. Luckily, Chris made it to the hospital in three contractions. I don’t ever want him to tell me how fast he was driving. Some things are best left alone.

As he wheeled me into L&D, I distinctly remember yelling, “If anyone tells me I’m still at a 2 I’m gonna strangle some people!”

The nurse checked me and told me I was at a 2/3 (throwing the 3 in there purely to mollify me, I’m sure).

“Are you (beep) kidding me?” I screamed, but she was safely out of my strangling radius.

The contractions continued at 2 minutes apart for what seemed like two hours but what apparently was actually only 15 minutes. I begged her to check me again so I could get an epidural, but she refused and said she would check in an hour. All the while, her neck remained utterly elusive.

Finally, some scream or another came from my mouth about incredible pressure in my tailbone — and that, ladies who labor quickly, is apparently the magic phrase. She begrudgingly checked me 45 minutes ahead of schedule and I was at a 5 (15 minutes after being a 2 and therefore not in “true labor”). They then hooked up the IV antibiotics (apparently the nonstop screaming did not convince them that I was in “true labor” until the rapid dilation I predicted did, indeed, occur) and wheeled me into a delivery room, where a wonderful anesthetist jammed a needle in my spine, for which I thanked him profusely.

I’m pretty fuzzy on the time, but I think we rolled into the hospital around 1:20 and I got my much-desired epidural around 2-something. For a while — in a Phillips delivery first — I was actually able to rest and have a rational conversation with my husband (although perhaps “rational” is a stretch, as I’d been given a shot of Demerol after measuring at 2 cm in a smart defensive move by the potential strangle-ee, and I don’t handle narcotics very well).

Sometime after 3, the numbing effect of the epidural failed to cover the intense feelings of pressure one tends to get before a baby blasts forth into the world. My doctor had told me to let the nurses know when I started feeling pressure, so let them know I did. Probably — although I don’t recollect thanks to the Demerol — by yelling things about strangling. (So much for my peaceful hypnobirth, right?)

Now, ordinarily, the pushing stage is when I completely destroy my larynx. But hooray for epidurals and fourth babies.

In all of two contractions, we went from “Let’s try to push now” to “Now stop pushing,” some squeaky baby sounds, and a “Look down!”

And just like that, there was Henry — my sweet little bundle of last-baby goodness!

Let it be noted that, in the middle of my very short pushing phase, the OB said something to the effect of, “Oh, he’s occiput posterior.”

Once you’ve heard those words in labor once (or two other times, in my case), you won’t forget them, because they mean they mean your baby is facing outward rather than in and that you are probably experiencing back labor, a super-special fun kind of labor wherein the baby’s spine grinds against your spine, causing you unbearable, crippling pain such as you have never known. (Most people feel labor in their backs at some point, but I can assure you based on Thomas’ birth that back pain in labor is nowhere near the same thing as back labor. I did that entire birth without pain meds or talk of manually asphyxiating passersby.)

I’m going to use the back labor to justify any strangling-related statements that may have been made before I was given pain medication.

Anyhow, the doctor easily turned Henry around before I finished pushing, and he entered the world at 3:32 a.m., all pink and wiggly and adorable and measuring in at 19 inches long and a diminutive 7 pounds, 1 ounce (but gaining weight after birth instead of losing it). He spent his first day eating, filling diapers and trying to remove every shred of skin from his face with overgrown talons a sideshow act would envy. (I’m working on filing them down surreptitiously as I feed him.)

He’s not terribly fussy, is easy to feed, snuggly and soft, and is generally making up pretty well for the excruciating back labor, the eight days and nights of nonstop contractions, the insanity of my non-induction and subsequent moving-violation-necessitating, almost-epidural-missing three-hour labor and delivery, and most annoyingly, making his schedule-conscious mommy wait, and wait, and wait, and stress, and wait some more.

And in the end, our anniversary — or New Year’s Eve, or whatever you want to call it — is not a terribly inconvenient birthday. We’re just happy that our little Henry is finally here!


Waiting game

So far, all three of our kids have come out taking after Chris more than they take after me. Over time, Maddux has transformed from a purple coneheaded alien (obviously something she got from her Daddy’s side, my purple-themed given name notwithstanding) into a stunning blue-eyed beauty, which she clearly inherited from yours truly. But the boys are still all Chris, from Thomas’ greenish eyes and sturdy build to James’ entire head and seriously weird OCD issues. And Maddux’ predilection toward early-morning craft projects involving butter pawprints on the hardwood and toothpaste in the toilet tank are certainly not a trait she inherited from moi. (For one thing, I don’t dig early-morning anything.)

And Henry is apparently following in his father’s footsteps as well. As of Monday, we’ve officially passed the 38-week mark, meaning my little oven-bun has both his big brothers’ gestational times beat and is fast-approaching his sister’s 39 and 4. And, although 38 weeks is not technically late, your 38 is my 40, so it’s certainly not punctual, either. Thus, I’m going to have to assume Henry got his internal clock from his daddy.  (Have you heard of island time? Well, there’s a similar thing I like to call “Chris time.” Take however many minutes he estimates he’s going to be and triple it. It’s kind of the same concept as “Chris dollars.”)

I went in on Monday for a 38-week induction assessment. Unfortunately, it was the day after Christmas and apparently quite a lot of other women had ignored complications over the holiday, so L&D was full to bursting and my doctor sent me home. Now, even though he suggested the induction way back in the summertime, he keeps forgetting that it was his own suggestion and backpedaling on it, so I was surprised when he said, “Call back this afternoon and see if some beds have cleared out. We may be able to induce you then.”

Well, the beds had not cleared out, so I went in Tuesday morning, at least partially if not fully expecting (my slight skepticism based on this doctor’s history of flip-flopping) that I’d be induced.

This is where I should mention that I’ve been having contractions about 10-15 minutes apart since last Thursday night. Crampy, tight, un-sleep-through-able contractions that make me feel like whatever I ate earlier is going to come out one way or another. So not only was I really freaking out about having a baby on an icy mountaintop, I was also delirious from having slept in 8-minute increments for five nights in a row. In fact, I actually got completely disoriented trying to find my way to the elevators in the same hospital where, over the last several years, I’ve spent a week on bedrest, delivered two children, and taken three children for croup attacks, RSV, well-preemie visits and a broken wrist.

Imagine my disappointment when my OB — in complete contrast to the day before, when he was ready to induce but for the lack of beds — told me that since I was only 1 cm dilated, he was not comfortable inducing because if the baby wasn’t ready, I might end up with a C-section. Apparently, he had forgotten about the day before, when he told me he thought I would be one of those women who never got beyond 1 cm until active labor (you know, like I’ve been telling him for the past nine months based on all three of my other deliveries). So home I went, and last night either the contractions stopped while I slept or I was just so utterly exhausted that I managed to sleep through them. I guess six solid days and nights of false labor will do that to a person.

After last night, I’m pretty positive this kid is going to take after Chris. All the stars and planets had aligned perfectly for a stereotypically inconvenient and chaotic Phillips-baby birth. I’d been contracting for the better part of a week and sent home from not one but two induction assessments. My membranes had been swept. We live on a mountaintop. And the sky was dumping several inches of snow on our mountain’s steep, windy road (which never seems to be plowed when we need desperately to get someplace quickly). Did I mention James’ labor took one hour and Thomas’ took four? And that, because this time I have the added bonus of being Strep B positive, I will ideally need six hours of antibiotics before the baby is born? And that there are no babysitters in town except the one who doesn’t have a car?

If Henry had wanted to follow James’ precedent of making Daddy miss the delivery, or Thomas’ benchmark of being too late arriving at L&D for even so much as a bag of IV meds, he would most certainly have come last night (unless there’s some impending 7.5 earthquake or missile attack to which only my child is privy). And yet, he did not.

Clearly, we have yet another kid who is all Daddy.

P.S. If you see a crazy pregnant lady jumping on a trampoline in the snow tonight, equipped with a beer helmet full of castor oil and a plate of habaneros, don’t judge.

Under Pressure

There’s so much pressure this week! First off, now that we are 35 weeks along, it is impossible to dance around the fact that the baby could come any day (although, given my current level of agility and immense girth, it’s highly unlikely that I’m capable of dancing around anything). Currently, the bambino has been baking for about 60 hours longer than his brother James did. So yeah. The clock is ticking.

Because I am still holding out for a pair of skid-proof socks that do NOT prominently feature hot-pink cows on the toes, my hospital bag is not yet entirely packed. Also, there is the issue of baby clothes, which are currently housed in the back of our storage room somewhere. (Did I mention that our storage room is wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling random crap? And that I have all the agility of a beached manatee?) Also not ready: Single stroller, swing, bottles, pump and place to keep the baby clothes once I’ve successfully hurled my big self over the mountain of junk to retrieve them.

But I’m off subject here. I’m talking about pressure today. And if you think that being behind on baby preparations is pressure, you clearly don’t have a giant baby head pressing down like a friggin’ jackhammer on your pelvic floor right now.

Yes, it is definitely the third trimester. And almost certainly the last few weeks, if previous experience is anything to go on.  Which is OK by me, because waking up to intense pelvic pressure caused by huge contractions doesn’t make me feel all natural and beautiful and womanly like people tell you pregnancy will be.  Also, if I feel the urgent — nay, excruciating — need to visit the toilet, the payoff for waddling all the way to the bathroom on my near-disintegrated hips should be a good, long pee, not a false alarm. (Seriously, kiddo, bladder pranks are not that amusing.)

I’m assuming that the baby hasn’t dropped, since I’m still carrying high and my babies don’t drop until I’m nearly in labor (uh-oh …), but it sure feels like there’s a toddler sitting on my tailbone and squeezing my bladder for giggles. Add to that some really wicked Braxton-Hicks contractions (not the kind that feel like a blood pressure cuff, but rather the kind that feel rather like live disembowelment), and I’m definitely not seeing the baby come after New Year. As if we ever thought he would!

So, I guess I’d better work on those hospital socks and baby clothes.

And here are my 35-week belly pics. Yes, those are obliques on a 35-weeks-pregnant mom of three. I am as shocked as you are, and also highly recommend Keith at World Gym!

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:

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:



Pop tops

I blame it on my proclamation that I would not begin wearing maternity clothes until I was about 16 weeks along. The belly has popped, and this week — almost a month ahead of schedule — I found myself suddenly wearing the five maternity shirts which are neither stained nor bought in tentlike sizes to accommodate Thomas’ gargantuan summer pregnancy.

And I’m really annoyed, because I hate maternity clothes.

This wasn’t always the case. When I became pregnant with Maddux, it wasn’t more than a week or two before I decided it was absolutely necessary to buy all sorts of not-very-fashionable “transition pants” and accouter myself in an array of tops that accentuated the tiny hint of belly. First-time moms are so cute that way.

The transition pants (and subsequent hideous-yet-much-more-comfortable full-panel Jeans of Shame) were fun for all of about 10 weeks. Then, once I was decidedly too big to squeeze back into them, I began yearning for pants that actually came in numerical sizes and, you know, fit properly. The maternity tops were fun for awhile longer, but around the middle of the third trimester, I began hating them as well. The capacious empire-waist tops — invariably just a tad more cutesy than what I would normally wear — reminded me that I was still heavily and uncomfortably pregnant. As soon as Maddux got her Vitamin K shot, I happily packed away all the florid gestational tent-clothing and squeezed my postpartum jiggle into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe (to what I’m positive was the great dismay of those people who had to be seen with me).

When I got pregnant the next two times, I swore that I would wear my pre-pregnancy clothing until I burst out of it. When my waistline expanded, rather than caving in to comfortable panels, I pulled out my old “fat jeans.” When my belly began to round out underneath my body-conscious tops, I bought new things with ruching and draping and empire waists. But not from the maternity section. Oh, no. Not until sometime in the mid-second-trimester did I cave in and set foot in a maternity section. Somewhere in the family archives, there is a picture of me at 16 weeks pregnant with Thomas — improbably shoehorned into skinny jeans. Hey, you do crazy things when you spend half of a four-year period cooking oven-buns.

And then came this baby. Maybe it was the 10-pound first-trimester weight gain. Perhaps a fourth baby was simply more than my threadbare abdominal muscles could contain. It could be that my recently acquired pancake-flat mom butt makes capacious shirts look sloppy instead of sexy. Whatever the reason, I discovered this week that almost all of my most forgiving  shirts — ruched, baggy, or otherwise — were beginning to make me look like a Weeble.

So it is that I have reluctantly rotated a few maternity tops into my wardrobe. I am already sick of them, but they make me look pregnant instead of enticing small children to try their hand at knocking me down. (Not that that stops my children. They haven’t even heard of Weebles; they just enjoy running head-on into people’s legs.)

In happier news, the baby’s heartbeat has been clocked at a perfectly healthy 150 beats per minute. Also, I have stopped barfing. It is a great feeling, being hungry for things other than chicken noodle soup. And now I got me some eatin’ shirts!

Here I am, for your viewing pleasure and in super-chic “transition jeans” as usual, at 12 weeks pregnant.

Chicken soup for the bowl

I’ve often said I wished it were possible to install a Plexiglass porthole in one’s abdomen so  one could observe every stage of fetal development (and, if one is a crazy person like yours truly, check obsessively for vital signs). The next best thing to a window on the womb, I suppose, is morning sickness. And let me tell you, it is a far, far second.

For the first seven weeks of pregnancy, the only indications I was with child were an unshakable lethargy and near-constant hair-trigger irritability (Why didn’t my children leap immediately into bed when I  tried to put them down a half-hour early so I could be in bed before 8? Why is the neighbor doing yard work at 2 in the afternoon? Why is my husband taking so long to cook me my dinner?!!!)

Naturally, being the paranoid mama that I am, I was convinced that my utter sloth and irrational rage were not signs enough that all was well within my unreliable uterus. So I was overjoyed when, at 8 weeks pregnant, my stomach violently ejected a bowlful of oatmeal between breakfast and school drop-offs. Now that I had conclusive evidence that there was still something in there, I could go on with my life.

That lasted about a week.

At nine weeks, I started hurling like Roy Halladay at a double-header. Some of my hurls could have been clocked at 90 mph. Some were just … sliders. Luckily for everyone who uses our powder room, they all made it into the strike zone.

Oatmeal was the first food stricken from the lineup. Next came Cheerios, and soon, toast and sandwiches. Any red-meat-based entrees have had to be benched.

Meanwhile, spicy tuna — on a nine-month suspension — kept yelling, “Put me in, coach!”  Oh, spicy tuna roll! Would that I could.

By this point, my menu is as follows:

Campbell’s chicken noodle soup




Mango spritzers

I even had to retire my vanilla teas this week and have rotated my trusty Coke Zero back into the starting lineup. Is it gross to drink cola for breakfast? Yes. Yes it is. But not as gross as vanilla-flavored stomach juices.

Because a bowl of fruit is hard-pressed to provide 100 calories, I have been eating chicken noodle soup two meals a day. It’s not a varied menu, but it’s one that my stomach can handle. Chris hit upon the ingenious innovation of presenting my soup in a giant mug with a handle, so I can eat it in bed like an invalid while watching Real Housewives, beginning 10 minutes after the kids are tucked in their beds.  Except for the vomiting part, this is the life!

Of course, there is the slight issue of Campbell’s chicken noodle being 95 percent salt, along with that fact that salt increases bloating, and also that pregnancy in general increases bloating. These are things I’ll worry about when I’m no longer racing to hug the porcelain, driven to spasmodic dry-heaving by the overwhelming aroma of Honey Nut Cheerios.

In the meantime, I will comfort myself with the knowledge that this is almost like having a window into my pregnancy.

And here I am, between heaves, at 11 weeks pregnant, with either the beginnings of a baby belly or a lot of soup-related edema.

Back in the stirrups again

Every once in awhile, James and Maddux persuade me to let them have a “sleepover.” I know I shouldn’t even entertain the idea of any kind of co-sleeping arrangement, and that it will end horribly in the wee hours of the morning, but I allow it anyway — and vow afterward that it will never happen again.

My philosophy regarding childbirth is very similar to my policy on sleepovers. After Thomas, I was certain I was done having kids (and that was only partly because I missed the window for any kind of medication whatsoever).  I was confident in my decision to limit the hooligan squad to three — until March of last year, when, if we’d planned a fourth from the beginning, I would have been due to give birth. It was that month that my birth control failed and I found myself very unhappily pregnant. I cried for a week, and then began planning the nursery, the minivan purchase, the baby blog. A month later, however, I was sitting in the emergency room, learning that the pregnancy had never progressed beyond five weeks. I’d already made an emotional branch on our family tree for Baby No. 4, and now it sat empty. The news was a raw reminder of the three miscarriages that preceded the birth of my little Maddux. My heart was broken, and our family no longer felt complete.

There was another miscarriage in December, and more crying. Chris and I agreed that we would try for a fourth until July (whereupon my chart would be marked “advanced maternal age” despite my obvious youth and hotness).

And here we are, squeaking in three months before the deadline. It started with my gaining two pounds while trying to blast off my subcutaneous fat on the South Beach diet. I grumbled to Chris that low-carb diets were inherently flawed (and only partly because I subsist almost entirely on carbohydrates) and vowed to increase my cardio minutes. Then, because we were planning to drink at the kids’ school fundraiser, I took a pregnancy test just so I could enjoy my cocktails with a clear conscience. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the real reason behind my South Beach weight gain. Because of the two miscarriages last year, I refused to blog until I was convinced the baby was going to remain safely in utero for longer than a fortnight or two. And happily, at my second ultrasound, the technician pointed out an 8-week bean (which my obstetrician later identified as a 7-week 2-day bean) and a strong heartbeat. Based on careful calculation of medical data, my obstetrician gave me an official due date of January 9, and based on careful calculation using my history of early babies and bad timing, I have given myself an unofficial due date of December 24.

I happily quit the South Beach diet, which apparently doesn’t work if you’re pregnant, anyway, and immediately gained another several pounds. No ripped abs for me this summer. I’ve gone off my morning cup of coffee in favor of horrible-tasting but harmless vanilla tea, traded workouts for naps, and gagged down one daily prenatal vitamin and twice-daily doses of synthetic progesterone, which — because pregnancy isn’t tiring enough as it is — bears a heavy-machinery warning on its label.

It’s going to suck, will probably end painfully in the wee hours of the morning, and — thanks to a urology appointment for Chris in the near future — will definitely never happen again. As for the sleepovers, it’s been a few months, so I guess the kids are due. Sigh.

And, because I know you skipped over all the boring writing so you could view the construction of the baby apartment, here are the 10-week belly pics. (No, there are none from before my 8-pound weight gain, because such hubris would have killed the baby immediately.)