Thursday, December 24, 2009

All we wanted for Christmas

This morning when we opened the door to his cage, Chickens stood up and walked out.

He may have wobbled like a drunken sailor, and after two steps he promptly fell down. But this is still huge, huge progress. Three or four weeks ago, he couldn't stand on four legs even with our help - we'd prop him up and he'd flop down like a rag doll. But this time, ever so briefly, we had dog who stood up and walked all by himself.

Now, there's still much ground to cover and many problems to solve. For instance, how to get the husband off the couch, where he has slept every night for three weeks because that's the only thing that keeps the caged dog from barking and waking up the baby. Or how to get Chickens to learn how to pee without his beloved lifting of the rear leg. But for today we're just going to be grateful for his Christmas gift to us.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chickens on the mend

As we enter the fourth week of Chickenbone's recovery from emergency spinal surgery, I have a few hopeful things to report.

Last week after giving him a bath in the kitchen sink, I sat down on the living room floor to finish toweling him off. For one split second I relaxed my grip on his body, and before I knew it the HALF-PARALYZED DOG skittered on his front legs across the floor and flung himself headfirst into his old dog bed. The one that has sat empty for three weeks while he has lived in his crate. It was the most unbelievable thing - the little rascal was just so damned FAST. And when he hit that cushion, he began wriggling around joyously and wrapping himself up in his little blankets. You could almost imagine that he had been eyeing that bed from behind bars every single day, just waiting for the opportunity to make his great escape. After so many unhappy days, it was thrilling to see him act like his old self again. Here is the triumphant Chickens relaxing in his bed:

The other cool thing is REALLY cool: Sal's parents, who are two of Chickenbone's favorite people in the world, came over for a visit this weekend. And when they walked in the front door, that freaking dog wagged his tail.


Now, it was the sorriest, most pathetic wag you ever saw. Especially if you knew how he wagged it before, when his tail was a springy little curl that popped up above his back. This new wag was fairly limp, and the curl is mostly gone, but who cares? It wagged, man. And wagging was not even within the realm of possibility two weeks ago.

I was really bummed that Sal didn't see this (and a bit fearful that I imagined it) but Chickens wagged it again today when we visited the vet for a post-op checkup. We got a pretty good report, all things considered. No miracles yet - he still can't walk, and he still needs help going to the bathroom. But in addition to the wagging tail, the vet also detected some small movement in his back left leg. So small we could barely see it, but it's there.

It may not seem like a lot to get excited about, but very slow progress was something we were warned about from the start. Chickens isn't even halfway through his two-month initial recovery period, so we still have lots of time for more improvement. Now, since he is in no pain and his surgery wounds have healed up, our focus is less on crate confinement (though he still needs to stay in there most of the time) and more on rehabilitation. Each day we will continue doing range-of-motion exercises, as well as sling-walking him in the back yard, encouraging him to pee on his own, and even doing water therapy in the bathtub.

So, pretty good news, no? Let's see how the next four weeks go. Even if improvements continue at this exact rate, we'll be overjoyed. And hey, maybe Chickens and Mia will learn how to walk together! AWWWW!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Colic or not, it's all so easily forgotten when your baby learns how to do this:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The C-word

Introducing the most annoying question since "So, have you had that baby yet?":

"Do you think it's colic?"

Oh my, does this question make me crazy. It's just so pointless. I mean, whether it IS or IS NOT colic, how exactly is this label going to help? Let's say it is colic. Does that mean I get to go out and buy the special colic pills that make it all go away? Will we get a visit from the colic fairy, who will sprinkle my baby with the magic cure? No! So spending even one precious sliver of time trying to decide if my baby is colicky - which isn't even an official diagnosis ANYWAY - seems completely stupid. So don't ask me if it's colic, and especially don't ask me if I happen to be in the third or fourth hour of wildly swinging, shushing, bouncing and rocking my wailing daughter.

If I sound a bit edgy, it's because I live in the house of horrific noises. It's a vicious cycle that includes one pissed-off dog in a cage who whines and barks to get out, which wakes the sleeping baby, who howls and screams at being woke up, which gets the dog all agitated, causing him to whine and bark. And I don't mean to lay all the blame on the dog - sometimes it's Mia who gets the show started with her fussing, which wakes the dog and gets him riled up all over again. Once in awhile, the cacophony grows so unbearable that we take Chickens out and hold him for a little while, just to stop the madness. But we can't just go plucking the dog out of the cage all the time, because (a) he's supposed to be RESTING IN THERE, DUDE, and (b) acknowledging his barking in any way just exacerbates the problem by teaching him that barking works. In an ideal world, we'd ignore him until he stopped. But ideal worlds definitely do not contain sleeping infants.

So, yes. We've had a lot of fussy baby around here lately. But there have also been many things that are wonderful and not ear-splitting at all, and if I hadn't been so busy with the paralyzed dog, I would have been sure to write about stuff I don't want to forget about Mia's first six weeks:

- When we came home from the hospital, there was a banner hanging in our living room welcoming us home. It was from Chickens, who probably had a little help from his dad.

- Mia was born with the little tufts of dark hair on the edges of her ears. I'm told this is temporary, but at the moment I find it to be the most adorable thing ever. I call them her werewolf ears!

- She seems to like a little singing name game I play with her, involving variations of rhymes with her name. Mia Tortilla is my favorite, but we also do Mia Taqueria, Mia Mantequilla, Mia Flotilla, Mia Carpenteria, Mia BobbyBonilla, and so on.

- Sometimes when we have tried every trick in the book to calm Mia down, we have to bring out the big guns: Switching on the CD player so dad can belt out some Sinatra. It is already such a treasured memory, watching him in her room dancing and singing her to sleep - although if you know my husband, you know he does a MEAN Sinatra, so even more often than she falls asleep, she stays wide awake and stares up at him in wonder.

- After her umbilical stump fell off (a ridiculous FIVE WEEKS after her birth) we were finally able to give her a real bath. We just plopped her into the tub with me - so much easier than fiddling with keeping her upright an infant tub - and she loved it so much. Her eyes get wide as saucers, like you've just told her the most shocking secret ever. Also, it is surprisingly hard to get her entirely clean, particularly between the folds of chub on her arms, legs and neck. One time I counted the arm chubs - there were six! ON EACH ARM! Scrumptious little thing. Oh, and after a bath, her hair sticks up all over. I call her Porcupine Head.

OK, my time has run out! I hear the familiar sounds of a hungry baby coming from the bedroom, and if I tend to her quickly, we may be able to avoid this morning's "concert." An update on the furry patient coming soon!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A little bit of peace

The baby is asleep in her swing, the dog is asleep in his kennel, and the husband is at the gym. I should be taking this opportunity to nap myself, but I'm just so thrilled about all the blessed silence in this house that can't bear the thought of falling asleep and missing it!

So at least one of our suspicions regarding Chickens was correct - that big surgery collar was making him miserable. After the vet removed 12 industrial-sized staples from his back incision yesterday, we were finally able to take the damned thing off. And when we got home, Chickens promptly curled up and slept for three hours. Without drugs. We couldn't stop staring incredulously at that quiet little heap under the blankets. It seemed miraculous that the dog who kept us awake for a week with his crying could sleep like such an angel.

No other updates on his paralysis - his back end is floppy and limp. But the good news is that his spirits are getting higher by the day. Yesterday when the vet set him down, Chickens bolted across the floor like a little seal, "walking" with his front legs and dragging his back behind him. He went straight to his dad for a kiss and a cuddle. A few minutes ago when I opened the door of his cage, he skittered toward me and out onto the floor. When I gave him a treat, he started whining with it in his mouth (he does that when it's a REALLY good treat) and then he dragged himself back into the cage to bury the treasure inside his blankets. And about 15 minutes ago, he even growled at his mortal enemy, the mailman! So his back end aside, he is more and more our old Chickens every day.

Now we wait. It could be weeks or even months before we know whether he'll ever walk again, but there's still plenty of room to hope for the best. We just have to be vigilant about his care. Several times per day, we have a session of P.T. in which we extend and retract each of his back legs 30 times. We also have to help him go to the bathroom. Poops come out on their own, but pee only comes with some help, so four times a day we have to manually express his bladder onto one of those doggie pee pads. You guys, I am an EXPERT manual-canine-bladder-expresser. It was really difficult at first, because I was so nervous - you have to push kind of hard, with your hands all over his back end where the surgery happened. Plus, well, it's just not easy to locate a dog's bladder with your hands and squeeze it in just the right way that makes pee comes out. The nurse who taught us how to do it was like, "Oh, don't worry - it's just like milking a cow!" Ah, yes. Very helpful. I'll just fall back on all of those cow-milking talents I picked up in college.

Later today we're going to take him to the back yard and let him sniff around. See if we can help get his brain and his bladder talking again. We're also very excited about giving him his first bath, now that the staples are gone. I mean, during those first dozen or so potty breaks, let's just say the farmer had a tough time aiming the teat at the bucket. The vet also said we could let him out of his cage for short, supervised periods. Let him scoot around and feel like he's part of the world again.

Life with a dog who requires this much attention, plus an adorable 5-week-old baby who is even more demanding, is hard. But when I start to feel like I'm losing it, I try to think back to where we were even five days ago, and I realize we have already come a very long way through this storm. And I'm hoping that five days from now, and five days from then, life will settle back into something that - even if it isn't - will feel kind of normal.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey day, Chicken nights

Hi. So remember how I ended my last post with "See you guys later, I'm going to get some sleep now!"

AHAHAHAHAHA. No. That is not what happened. Chickens did, in fact, quiet down long enough for me to snuggle into the chair in Mia's room and drift off for approximately four seconds. Then the crying started again, and then it got louder, and then it turned into crying mixed with barks, yelps and howls. By the time he had reached five and a half hours of this suffering, I couldn't take it anymore. I called the ER vet, who said we should bring him in. We didn't know whether he was in pain or just really pissed off about being in a cage and, you know, paralyzed. But regardless of the reason, healing requires rest, and he was clearly not getting that.

So for the second time in a week, we packed up the baby and the dog in the middle of the night and drove to the hospital. We arrived at around 4 a.m., and they said they'd like to admit him until the following afternoon. They wanted to monitor him, run some tests, and shoot him full of potent drugs. They told us to go home and go to bed. Of course, the moment I closed my eyes, the baby was wide awake and demanding her breakfast. Sal managed a couple hours of sleep before waking up to run the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, where Mia and I watched him cross the finish line of his first 10K.

After Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws' house, we returned to the hospital to get Chickens. They still weren't sure whether his distress was because of pain or sadness and frustration, but likely it was a great deal of both. So they replaced the pain-medication patch on his skin (which had worn off the day before) and injected him with some kind of super-painkiller. He was pretty well stoned out of his gourd. They also sent us home with a bottle of sedatives to keep him calm inside his cage.

It was a really good night. He was feeling so free of pain that he even showed a few brief flashes of his old, lovable Chickenbone personality. When we put some dry dog food in his cage, for the first time since all this began he gobbled it down. (Though the drug patch gives him the munchies when first administered - seriously.) And did I ever tell you how one of his favorite things is to get himself all wrapped up in a blanket from head to toe, like a little burrito? Well, even with his useless back legs flopping around behind him, he started nudging the blankets in his cage with his nose and teeth, and we watched incredulously as he somehow pulled one over his body. It was unbelievable. It was like seeing OUR Chickens again.

Then we all collapsed into bed and had an incredibly peaceful, uneventful night. And how I wish we could have strung two such nights together, but last night the crying began again after my 2 a.m. date with Mia. It wasn't as shrill as it was on The Very Bad Night, but it was enough to tear my heart into pieces as we laid there listening to him. (Luckily, I didn't break down crying myself because I'M TOO TIRED TO CRY! Silver linings, you guys. Silver linings.)

The crying went on for about 10 minutes before we got up to give him more pain medicine, but even that is an ordeal because his appetite is crap. He doesn't want treats, and he ESPECIALLY doesn't want treats with pills in them. Sometimes it can take more than an hour to coax him into eating something. But even after we got him to take his meds, he cried for an hour. This is an hour we spend busting our brains trying to troubleshoot the problem. Does the ticking clock above his cage in the bedroom irritate him? Is he cold? Does the fan bother him? Is he lonely? Our minds race trying to figure out how to help him. One thing we realized is that he rarely cries like this during the day, when his cage and his family are in the living room. So at 4 a.m., we got up and dragged the cage back out. We turned on the TV and hit the couches with blankets and pillows. He quieted down, and we all slept for about an hour before Mia woke up for a feeding. (I would whine more about not sleeping if I wasn't so relieved to finally be in the daytime again. Daytime is so, so much better than those endless nights.)

We just have to get to Monday. On Monday we get the staples taken out, and Chickens can stop wearing the big collar. He HATES the collar. Check out how he glares at us when we put it on him!

Scary Chickens! Anyway. Let's end this on a positive note. I'm afraid to think about this too much, because I don't want to get my hopes up, and I'm trying to brace for the worst. But when we were at the ER on Thursday morning, the vet did a little diagnostic test by propping up Chickenbone's back end so he'd stand on all fours. When they did this a week ago, his legs flopped down like a rag doll. But this time, he stood on his own for maybe 10 seconds. Which is AN ETERNITY in paralyzed-dog-land. It means he is getting a little bit of tone back in his muscles. Sal and I also wonder if his increased pain in the past few days doesn't mean he's regaining some sensation back there. Maybe we're just kidding ourselves, but sometimes for sanity's sake, we just need to indulge in a minute or two of hoping.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Better late than never

I started this post about Mia's first few weeks at home awhile ago, but then I got sidetracked. Gee, wonder why! Might as well finish it now, while I'm sitting here in the dark listening to the dog sob in his cage. It has been a very, very long night. Chickenbone's crying - the most mournful, soul-wrenching weeping I have ever heard in my life - has been going on for almost two hours nonstop. Why can't the little guy just go to sleep, pleasepleaseplease?!

I think Sal finally fell asleep after I gave him some earplugs - he is running his first 10K in the morning and needs rest. I can't enjoy the same solution since I need to hear Mia when she wakes up for her feeding. I tried to sleep in the chair in her room, but I can still hear Chickens crying, and it's so upsetting. I'm wide awake right now. You know how everyone is always warning new parents about that moment when they are so sleep-deprived they could die, and the baby won't stop howling, and they can actually feel their mind coming apart into little tiny pieces? I think I'm experiencing that feeling right now. And my daughter is sound asleep. God.

But anyway. Let's cheer up for a moment and look at some pictures.

Mia had a touch of jaundice when she was born, so they sent us home from the hospital with something called a "Bili blanket," which isn't nearly as cute as it sounds. In fact, it's not even a blanket. It's a flat piece of plastic connected to a big heavy hose and a loud machine that lights up the plastic and helps get rid of the bilirubins in Mia's blood. She had to lay on it 24-7 without clothes on for the first four days at home. I personally would have screamed bloody murder, but she was a trooper.

This is Mia yawning. She is a champion yawner - each one lasts like a full minute, start to finish. They are endlessly entertaining.

Chickenbone and Mia get along famously. He was a little bit WTF when we first brought her home, and he spent that whole first night following us around barking incredulously. But the novelty of it wore off. He loves giving her big kisses on her face and hands, and he likes to snuggle with her and mom or dad on the couch.

Mia's first bath! I was sad to wash her because I was afraid that scrumptious baby scent would go away. Turns out it grows right back.

Mia and her dad, who adored each other from the start. I love this picture so much I can barely stand to look at it right now. I can't believe it was taken a mere two weeks ago. WHEN LIFE WITH A NEWBORN WAS SO EASY!

OK, I just gave Chickens another pain pill, and I sat by his cage and scratched his ears until it started to kick in. I don't hear him anymore, and it has been a good five minutes or so, so maybe he finally fell asleep. I'll take advantage and try to close my eyes for a few minutes, since Mia will be awake and hungry in an hour or two. Hope I don't fall asleep into my turkey dinner tomorrow, but if I do, I hope my face lands somewhere near the gravy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unhappy pup

Well, Chickens came home yesterday from the hospital where he had emergency back surgery. But things are tough. He's extremely sad, pissed off and afraid. And who can blame him? He's locked in a cage, he's wearing one of those giant collars, he can't feel his legs, and he has a long gash in his back that has been stapled shut. We spent much of last night with one baby or the other bawling their face off, often both at once. Today's goal is for mom and dad to remain as positive as possible, even if we have to fake it. I think our stress is noticeable by both Mia and Chickenbone, and we'll all have a better time of it if we can somehow put on a smile and pretend this isn't the most difficult thing our little family has ever been through.

Things will be a bit better, we think, when the staples are removed in a week and he can lose the giant collar. Until then, we're taking it one hour at a time.

Thanks so very much for the kind thoughts and prayers. Chickens is such a loveable little guy and it makes us feel better to know that he has friends out there rooting him on.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pulling for Chickens

I have a terrible thing to report. On Saturday morning at around 4 a.m., we had to take our little Chickenbone to the animal ER with a back injury. A serious one.

This problem actually began a couple weeks ago when we noticed him acting sluggish and sad. We suspected he was feeling depressed about the baby, but when he yelped at being touched on his back or being held, we knew it was a medical problem. We took him to the vet, and an X-ray revealed a compressed disc in his spine. This is evidently a common problem with dogs shaped like Chickens - he has a long dachshund spinal column, but a stubby, thick torso that probably comes from his pug background. Chihuahuas are also known for having this problem, and he's a little of that, too. Genetics were not on his side. The vet gave us muscle relaxers and pain medication and sent him home.

He appeared to improve over the next week, even though he couldn't break one habit that surely made the whole situation worse: Chickens loves to jump off things. The sofa. The bed. The stairs in the back yard. Making matters worse, we have had dozens and dozens of friends and relatives here over the past month. People make Chickens absolutely giddy, so when visitors come, he climbs onto the couch arm to greet them - getting higher up, you see, improves his chances of getting a nice pat on the head. And then of course he leaps gleefully into the air like a little reindeer, before landing with a plunk on the ground.

Well, two nights ago I got up to feed Mia at around 2:30 a.m., and when I came into her room, Chickens was just standing there in the dark. One look at him and I knew something was wrong. While I changed Mia's diaper, I tried to get him to wag his tail at me by talking to him, but he just stood there. So I woke up Sal. Soon we realized that Chickens wasn't moving his back left leg. He was trembling, and he was arching his back and sticking his nose in the air. His eyes were wide, and he looked completely freaked out. We drove him to the ER where they told us his leg was paralyzed, and that the situation could get much worse unless he has a surgical procedure to remove the bad disc. An expensive and invasive spinal surgery seemed like it should be the last resort to us, and the vet said we could also just admit him and see if confinement and medicine could help his back improve on its own. We went that route, but when I returned yesterday morning at around 11, I could tell he was getting worse. The vet said he was now paralyzed in both back legs. He wasn't urinating on his own, and his poops were just falling out because he had lost bowel control. We gave the green light on the surgery, which happened yesterday afternoon.

The surgeon said there is a 50 percent chance Chickens will remain paralyzed in his back legs for the rest of his life. We simply won't know for many, many weeks. The surgery went OK, though we still have a couple more days before we are out of the woods on severe complications from that. We should be able to bring him home tomorrow, where he will begin a very long recovery period.

We are pretty devastated here today. Even though there are three of us here, the house feels empty without his little nails clicking on the hardwood floors and his slobbery kisses waking us up in the morning. Walking or not, we just want him to come home.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The rest of the story

Um, you guys? I am at a coffee shop. For the first time in two and a half weeks, I am ALONE. With a computer, a piece of carrot cake, a steamed milk and a lovely view. Time to pick up where I left off.

You'll recall that I spent the day before Mia was born trying to get my labor started, using acupuncture, an herbal labor tincture, lots of walking, and a deep-dish pizza loaded with pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, Canadian bacon and linguica. I wolfed down quite a bit of that spicy pie, enough that when my stomach began to hurt at around 10 p.m., I figured I had too much to eat. I told Sal I was going to lay down. During the next two hours, my "gas pains" kept waking me up, but I was so tired I drifted back to sleep every time.

But at around midnight, it had grown too painful to ignore, so I got out of bed. Sal woke up and asked what I was doing. I told him I couldn't sleep, but not to worry about me! No sirree! I said was just going to read for a little bit and then I'd go back to sleep.

Then I went into the baby's room and sat on my birthing ball. A birthing ball is essentially just a big exercise ball, and I had been sitting one one for weeks while watching TV. It was more comfortable than hefting my big ol' body on and off the couch, but more important, it alleviates back pain and supposedly helps your pelvic joints widen, allowing the baby to descend more easily into the birth canal. I'm not entirely sure that worked for me, but I was 2 centimeters dilated the day before my due date, so who knows?

Anyway, so I was on the ball and trying to read a book. Only the "gas pains" kept disrupting my train of thought. I decided to start timing them. My logic was that if they came at a regular pace, it MIGHT be contractions. If not ... gas!

Well, somewhere in the next hour or so I grew frustrated because I couldn't keep track of the clock and the pain at the same time. The cramps were coming two to five minutes apart, and they didn't seem regular at all. I figured I must be doing something wrong. So at 2 a.m., I woke up Sal. Told him I needed him to come time the pain, because I couldn't figure out what was going on. I dragged my ball out to the living room, and Sal plopped down on the couch with a watch. He also put on a DVD of "The West Wing." I'm not sure why I need to mention that, maybe because it's my last vivid memory for awhile.

So Sal started trying to figure out the timing, only this also goes terribly, because I kept forgetting to tell him when the pain began. Or when it ended. Or anything useful whatsoever. I believe there were maybe two times I remembered to say something, and both times the duration was around two minutes. So we called the hospital, which basically said, "Uh, yeah, you are IN LABOR, dumbass. So you might think about popping in for a visit tonight."

At this point things get a little frantic. For Sal. Who realized well before I did that This Is It. He began running around the house collecting the various things we would need to take to the hospital. We had our bags packed already, but he needed to grab stuff like cell phone chargers, the laptop and camera, birthing ball, etc. Me, I jumped into the shower because it seemed very, very important that I shave my armpits before having a baby. By this time I knew I was having real contractions, because a few times in the shower I had to stop what I was doing and cling to the wall to get through them. After I got dressed I sat on the ball again until we were ready to get in the car. We arrived at the hospital at 3:30 a.m.

I don't really remember the ride to the hospital, where I arrived dizzy with pain. But I definitely remember the woman who greeted us in the ER. As she pushed my wheelchair toward the elevator, she chirped, "Don't worry, honey! Once you get the epidural, you'll be JUST FINE!" I was not capable of responding, but Sal, who knew I would burn with fury at such a comment, said, "Actually, we are hoping to do this without the medication." Nurse goes, "Oh. Well. Good luck with that!"

She was one in a series of hospital folk who would royally piss me off in the next hour or two. Like the sing-songy receptionist at Labor and Delivery, who heard me gasp at Sal to give me a water bottle. She clucked her tongue and said, "Now, you aren't supposed to be having waa-terrrr!" God, I would have loved to see her try to take it away from me. And for the record, the nurses let me have as much water and juice as I wanted, so maybe the freaking secretary ought to button it up with the medical advice, hmm? Then, because all the L&D rooms were occupied or being cleaned, we were put into a small, stuffy observation room. And in came this timid little med student who fired off a hundred pointless questions, including this gem as I huffed through a particularly nasty contraction: "So, um ... Are you in any pain tonight?" I don't even remember my response, but I hope it knocked him a good one in the nuts.

Two more things happened in that horrid little room. One, a doctor came in to check me, and I was already 5 centimeters dilated. Cool. Halfway there! Two, we learned that, evidently, when Amy Pizarro is in labor, she prefers that her body remain UNTOUCHED BY EVEN THE TINIEST STITCH OF CLOTHING. The only reason I can even admit this is now is that it felt so out of my hands. I mean, it's not like I sat there thinking, "Gee, this hospital gown is a real bummer. I shall decide to remove it from my person!" No, I simply was covered up one minute, and the next, whoosh! I was naked. Naked as a jaybird. Except for the stupid fetal monitors strapped across my belly, but hooooo boy, guess what happened next! The crazed pregnant lady ripped those off, too! With a flourish! I was just so incredibly hot and uncomfortable that this was simply the only way things could be.

Also around this time, Kathy, my doula, had arrived. Which was really good for poor Sal, who learned that Amy in labor also does not care for people touching her, or talking to her, or anything else we had practiced in our birthing prep class. He'd try to touch my shoulder, and I'd shrug him off. He did my breathing with me - something that was so sweet and helpful in class - and I told him to stop. I had no idea I'd be so distracted by that, and I think it was freaking him out to see me in such awful pain AND to realize how little he could do to help me.

I'm not sure when we got moved to an actual L&D room, I think maybe it was close to 5 a.m. (They did convince me to wear a gown between rooms, but DON'T EVEN think I wouldn't have strolled right down that hallway in my birthday suit.) I immediately took off the gown and got into the shower, where Kathy began spraying me down with warm water. Meanwhile, Sal went to move the car from the holy-shit-please-help-us spot by the ER front doors to a real parking space, and to get my birthing ball. When he came back, I rested my legs by sitting on the ball in the shower. The sound and feel of the water were soothing to me, so this is how I spent most of the next hour. In the shower, being coached by Kathy to moan low and loud through each contraction.

A note about the low moan: This is something we practiced in my prenatal yoga class, and we all felt ridiculous doing it. It's embarrassing. We sounded like farm animals. But the reality is, the low moan for me was the very best way to work though the worst of the pain. The ha-hee-ha-hee breathing did help during the early parts, but that breathing doesn't work for shit when things get ugly. You need something far more powerful for your mind and body to focus on during the bad contractions, and for me that was moaning.

The next part is blurriest for me, but here's what I remember. At around 6, Kathy said I needed to move around a little more, so I got out of the shower. She and Sal dried me off, and we went to the bed, which I leaned on for awhile. At this point, I was in the very worst of the worst part of labor, known as "transition." I remember this funny diagram they showed us at our birthing class, with cartoon faces of a woman in each phase of labor. The transition face was crumpled up like a person who might be thinking, "Ow! That kind of hurts!" But real transition? Man. The truth is, it was the most terrifying pain I have ever felt in my life. The contractions rocked me. And they were piled one on top of the other, no break in the pain whatsoever. I was petrified. It felt like I was trying to outrun a monster, and every single time I thought I'd escaped, I'd feel it tapping me on the shoulder. Over and over again.

But do you want to know the weird thing? As much as it hurt, the pain wasn't the hardest part. The hardest part was trying not to totally lose my shit. The panic was so close, OH SO VERY CLOSE, and I knew if I lost my balance even a little, I'd nosedive into a sobbing, pleading, screeching hysteria. And I think keeping my senses focused on staying calm made the pain, which I couldn't do anything about anyway, somewhat of a secondary issue. I focused my mind and ears on the moan. I opened my eyes and tried to find Sal's face (which was 12 inches from mine, but it still took me forever to spot him). I clutched his hands. I moaned, and I moaned, and I moaned.

And then there was one contraction that ended differently than the others - I heard my moan turn into a strange, teeth-clenching grunt. Kathy whipped around and said, "Amy, are you pushing?" I couldn't answer. But with the next contraction I heard a bigger grunt, and Kathy told Sal to get someone to check me. They helped me onto the bed, and then I heard someone say I was 9 centimeters. Kathy helped me get back up and said one more really good contraction would probably get me that last centimeter, so she and Sal held me up and I clung to them both while I fought through another one. Then I was back on the bed, and another check put me at 10.

Next I remember a flurry of commotion. With transition behind me, things were becoming a bit clearer, and I was able to open my eyes and realize what was going on. There were cheerful people in masks, a light coming down from the ceiling, noisy stuff being wheeled in, and someone telling me not to push. This is funny, because the thing I discovered about pushing is, it's not really something you DO. You can certainly participate, but in my experience, pushing happens TO you. It's an urge that is out of your control and nearly impossible to rein in. So I ignored them and pushed anyway, but they got a bit more insistent - later I found out they were waiting for the doctor to arrive. So I huffed and puffed through one contraction without pushing, and then the doctor was there and I was given permission to push away. Sal was on my right, holding up my leg and foot, and Kathy did the same on the left. During each contraction, they held me by the shoulders, helping me curl up my body. The cheering and yells of "PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH!" were so loud, and the lights blazed down all of us, and it was such awesome, scary chaos.

A nurse asked me if I wanted to touch the baby's head. My birth plan specifically said I did not want to do such a thing. But at this point in my labor, especially with the worst of the pain behind me, I was fascinated by everything that was going on. So I said yes, and they helped me reached down and HOLY SHIT THAT IS A HEAD. Then they asked if I wanted to see it in a mirror. Again, I said yes. I'm glad I did. It was so encouraging to see how close we were - even though they were telling me that my pushing was moving the baby out, it was hard for me to feel the progress. Then there were a couple more pushes, and I felt the baby slide out. Sal's beaming face leaned over close to mine, and he told me that we had a little girl.

The big moment!

Under that blanket is a slippery, bony little body wriggling on my stomach. I kept trying to see her face, but all I could see was the top of her tiny head, which was covered in dark wet hair.

They let Mia stay with me for more than an hour before taking her to be weighed, measured and washed off. Here we are after dad cut the umbilical cord, allowing me to pull her up to my chest.

After she was cleaned up, a nurse took two little hospital hats and cleverly cut and folded them into one hat with a pretty bow.

Our first family portrait!

Here we are on our way from the L&D room to our recovery room. It was so cool to be wheeled down the hallway while holding my new baby - everyone kept stopping to grin and say congratulations. We were like our very own parade!

And that was that! And as for natural childbirth, I'm just so happy I went for it, despite the overwhelming feeling that everyone thought I was crazy. I'm glad I trusted my body to figure this out without a medical tangle of drugs, tubes and monitors. Yes, it hurt like holy hell. But the bad parts were over SO fast. From our hospital arrival to baby, it took a little more than three hours. I pushed for 20 minutes. And about an hour after getting a few stitches for a small tear I never felt, I was up and about like the whole thing had never happened. I walked around. I took a shower. I devoured a huge pancake breakfast.

While I know an epidural woudn't necessarily have made any of this impossible, I firmly believe that a birth this fast and relatively easy would have been far less likely if I had gone the modern-medicine route. And now I'm just so incredibly grateful. It must be among the rarest experiences a person can have, trudging through the most excruciating pain I could imagine, and then watching that suffering become the most joyful memory of my life.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A grand entrance

So! We had a baby. Let me tell you about that.

Mia didn't make her way into the world until Sunday morning, October 25. But the story actually began the Friday before, two days beyond my due date. While Sal and I were on a morning walk to Japantown - a walk during which we joked about what we'd do if my water broke - my water broke. And even though we were 45 minutes from home, on foot, with the dog, we didn't panic. We began to laugh.

I ducked into a coffee shop restroom to check out the situation, and I was surprised to see that there wasn't nearly as much fluid as I expected. It was more like I had mildly peed my pants, and it hadn't even touched my clothing. We decided to make our way home, where I picked up the phone to call my doula.

Now's probably a good time to mention that I was pretty determined to have a natural childbirth - no epidural or other pain medication, no pitocin to induce labor, none of the so-called "medical interventions" that are quite common in today's labor and delivery rooms. Lots of people think going natural is insane, especially for a first-time mom. In fact, it wasn't long before I stopped talking about it because I was tired of the chuckles or pats on the head from women who were like, "Mm-hmm, you give that a try, honey. We'll see how that goes." An epidural has just become part of the process, something most women don't even stop to think about, because why WOULDN'T you want one?

But the thing is, the epidural scared the shit out of me WAY, WAY more than contractions. Let's recall for a moment the last time someone jammed a needle into my spine. (If you don't feel like reading all that, a recap: I went to the ER with food poisoning, and the crackpot doctor decided he had to rule out spinal meningitis. Even though I KNEW it was food poisoning, I let him bully me into having a spinal tap. The consequence of not trusting my own judgment: I was knocked flat by a crippling weeklong headache, because the needle hole didn't heal properly and I didn't have enough spinal fluid to keep my brain from banging around in my skull. No joke. Oh, and it SO WAS NOT meningitis. Asshole.)

My point is, I could fly into a hyperventilating panic at the thought of dealing with such a side effect while having my newborn in my arms. Relatively speaking, contractions did not seem like that big a deal. And furthermore, do you know all the shit you have to be hooked up to if you have an epidural? Fetal monitors for the baby, who may or may not be distressed by the drugs; an IV for fluids; and a catheter since you can't go to the bathroom by yourself. Being tethered to a hospital bed like that sounds like pure torture to me.

I knew, though, that having a natural childbirth would require some additional effort on my part. So here's what I did to prepare:

- I hired a doula. If you don't know what a doula is - a lot of people don't - she is a birth coach, a woman who has a great big bag o' tricks to help you bring your baby into the world. She is there at the hospital just for you and your husband, as opposed to labor nurses who are tending to several patients at a time. Now that I have been through this experience, I think it's wrong that so many labor prep classes try to paint a picture where the husband is a qualified coach. I'm sorry, but I just don't believe a husband should be saddled with that kind of title. He should be there for support and love and ice chips and anything else his wife needs, but I don't think he should be expected to think clearly when his spouse is doubled over in writhing pain. Especially if he's never done this before, either. A doula is the clear head in the room who has done this hundreds of times before and is equipped with knowledge and experience and techniques that make the birthing process smoother for everyone.

- I did my homework. After reading this post by Heather Armstrong of Dooce, I picked up a copy of a book she read called "Your Best Birth," by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Reading it made me even more set on having a natural childbirth. The statistics regarding the "medicalization" of childbirth were stunning, and the scenario that particularly got to me was this: A woman is past her due date and the doctor wants to induce. Mom gets pitocin, which gets contractions rolling. But the drugs make the contractions far more powerful than they would be if they came on their own, so she is more likely to opt for the epidural. Only the epidural can slow the labor process, counteracting the pitocin. And too often this tug of war between the drugs leads to an unnecessary (but quite common) C-section. The book describes these things as a "cascade of interventions." I describe it as my worst nightmare.

- I took a six-week prenatal yoga class, where we spent a lot of time discussing a woman's options regarding childbirth. It amazed me that most of the women in my class didn't even know you COULD have a baby without medicine. So we spent a lot of time talking about options. About the fear of pain, and mental and physical coping techniques. Our instructor had given birth naturally to several babies, which gave me a lot of hope that I could do it, too. I could find so few real-life examples like this.

One more thing on this topic, just for the record: I don't feel judgmental of people who DO opt for the epidural. I know lots of women who had very rewarding, happy birthing experiences using pain medication. I just knew I wanted something different.

So anyway, I called my doula, Kathy, and told her I think my water broke but that it seemed like only a small amount. I said I was afraid to go to the hospital because I knew they would want to induce since I wasn't having contractions. She agreed. She said it sounded like I just had a leak, but that I needed to get myself into labor as quickly as possible. And as long as I could feel the baby move, this was something I could do at home.

Kathy suggested two things: acupuncture and an herbal labor tincture. I was skeptical but desperate, so I made an appointment for labor-inducing acupuncture on Saturday. Then we went and bought the labor tincture, a tiny bottle of rotten-smelling liquid that tastes like a cocktail of Jagermeister and motor oil. Awful, awful stuff. But every 30 minutes, as we spent Saturday walking around, seeing a movie, walking around some more, I dutifully closed my eyes and squeezed an eyedropperful into my mouth. We ended this long day by picking up a giant spicy, meaty pizza from Pizz'a Chicago. Spicy food - the granddaddy of labor-inducing old wives' tales.

And now I must tell you that it took me four and a half freaking days to write this post. I guess that's what happens when you only have five-minute bursts of time between this diaper and that diaper, this boob and that boob. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So for now I'll pause the story, because my husband and daughter are all snuggled up on the couch and I'm missing out!

Amy is a moron who devotes an entire day to witchy labor-inducing home remedies, but later that evening firmly believes she just has a bad case of gas.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Introducing Mia

Everyone, this is our daughter!

Mia Elisabeth Pizarro was born Sunday, October 25, at 6:50 a.m. She weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces, and she was 20 inches long. I have so much I want to write about the past five days that it feels like my head could burst. But if I don't squeeze in a nap this afternoon, I'm in for a scolding from my husband. So for now I'll just say we're home, we're tired, and we are having a ball with this little girl.

p.s. Mia is already making headlines ... check out her dad's last column before his paternity leave!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Losing it? Perhaps just a bit.

Realization: "Nesting" just means that a pregnant woman HAS NOTHING LEFT TO DO. When the crib, the clothes, the car seat are all ready, well ... guess I might as well organize the goddamn spice cabinet!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy week 40!

Check out that belly, wouldya? And I'm even sucking in!

So since we found out we were pregnant in mid-February, every Wednesday morning before I even get out of bed, I have marked the new weekly milestone by chirping at a sleeping Sal, "Happy week 11!" "Happy week 25!" And so on, and so forth. And no, I'm sure that did not get annoying to him AT. ALL.

So to hear myself say "40" this morning was, um, crazy and unbelievable. But here we are, at the due date. Evidently this kid doesn't realize it comes from a family who makes deadline.

I saw the doctor yesterday, and she said I'm 2 centimeters dilated and that she could feel the baby's head. Hooray! There's a head!

I celebrated my due date today by splurging on a prenatal massage. It's been months since I have spent 60 whole minutes feeling THAT comfortable in my own body. It was bliss. Of course, I have also been having contractions all afternoon (not the real deal) (at least, I don't think it's the real deal) (I'm new at this) so half the massage was spent fretting that my water might break all over the fancy table. At least they had lots of towels!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Presents for everyone!

Is there anything more fun than random, unexpected surprises being delivered to your front door? I DON'T THINK SO! I mean, it's completely awesome to get a package you ordered yourself. And then followed breathlessly via online tracking from New Jersey to Utah to Sacramento to San Jose to right there to your very own house - oh boy, do I get giddy about packages. But when a treat drops onto your doorstep from out of the blue?! EEEEEEE!

This has happened to me twice recently. For instance, just now a FedEx guy delivered a surprise package from my first college roommate, Paige. Well, correction: My FIRST college roommate was an angry girl named Michelle who sulked a lot and refused to decorate her side of the room. One of the first things she said to me was, "The thing about me is, when someone's a bitch to me, I'm all 'BITCH, you better step OFF.' " It's lovely to meet you, too, Michelle! A few weeks later I moved in with Paige, who was a thousand times more pleasant, and not just because she was a candyholic who kept troves of milk duds and peanut butter cups on hand. Paige and I also decorated our room by dangling empty beer cans from the ceiling. Oh, college. You make me smile.

Anyway, so the surprise package. It contained a gift for the baby - a soft, snuggly blanket decorated with dots. Red, brown, blue and orange DOTS! I am loving me some dots, you guys. And she bought it awhile ago, so she didn't even know I had dots in the baby's room already. A delicious coincidence!

Wrapped in the blanket was a book for mom and dad called "How to con your kid." It's full of inventive ways of getting your child to do stuff it doesn't want to do. My favorite idea so far is about getting your kid to eat veggies by giving those foods cooler names. Carrots become "orange suns." Broccoli is "baby trees." Love it.

But there was a third present in the package, this one for good ol' Chickenbone, who has been woefully left out of this whole baby-gift thing. And don't even THINK he hasn't noticed.

See that pink thing? It's called a "candy ball" from PetCandy. It's the perfect treat for dogs like Chickens who love to chase after tennis balls but can't quite get their little jaws around them. He's already nuts for this toy. Check out this glare, which means "I dare you to try to take this away, suckah":

Sorry for the crappy quality of these photos, but I had to take them with my BlackBerry because my good camera is in the car. IN THE LABOR BAG OMG. Anyway, thank you so much, Paige - especially from Chickens!

OK, the other gift I got was from my crazy-talented friend Robyn. Merely because I left a comment on this post. I'm telling you, I should have had to do far more to earn treats this neat.

The cool thing is that I had already fallen in love with her little kitchen towel embroidery projects, which she had written about earlier. So I went to pieces to have one of my very own. Also in the package were these adorable sushi potholders.

Robyn said she had to fight the urge to add some blood to the end of that chopped-off hand on the left. While I personally would have appreciated that, I suppose she made the right call since I won't have to hide these for company. Thanks, Robyn!

Monday, October 12, 2009

OK, kid, ready when you are.

For most of my pregnancy, I haven't been prone to those teary emotional spells that come over new mommies as they prepare to welcome their baby into the world. Of course, I'm beyond excited about everything, and I've had a blast getting the room and house ready for our new son or daughter, but I've kept the waterworks to a minimum.

But a few weeks ago, I rounded up all the baby clothes we've received at showers and from friends and relatives and threw them into the washer with, naturally, a cupful of Dreft. And when I opened up that dryer and caught a whiff of that OMGTHISSMELLSLIKEBABY soap, and when I saw this little green sock sticking out from the mound of clothes, I nearly swooned from the WOW of it all. And folding up all those impossibly tiny socks and jammies did, in fact, get me quite choked up.

I'm so happy to finally have a few minutes to sit down and post these pictures I have been taking for months. My maternity leave began last week, two weeks before my due date, and it has been so nice to have a some time to mentally prepare and to rest. I'm still feeling mostly OK, but I do have one major complaint that has finally pushed me into god-let's-get-this-over-with territory: My hands are a disaster. Evidently carpal tunnel syndrome is a common ailment in late pregnancy - it's a circulation thing. It's not my wrists, but my hands themselves. And while they are pretty stiff and achy all day, at night they hurt so much I can't even clutch the covers to pull them up. Last night I even woke up to find that one finger on my right hand was curled up and would not uncurl! I'm told this problem will vanish practically the moment I have the baby, so I shouldn't have to suffer too much longer. Stupid useless appendages!

But anyway, OK, on to the baby's room. Which used to be a guest room/office. Here's what it looked like before:

This summer, I spent my two-week vacation painting the ceiling and walls a color called Plastic Pear. For days as I painted, I couldn't decide if the color was crisp and bright and fun, or if it looked like urine.

Luckily all that blue tape was casting quite a strange tint over everything, so when I finally yanked all that crap off, I was pleased.

My most prized possession in the room is the big huge reclining armchair. I must have sat in three dozen rocking chairs at at least four stores, and this is the only one that could even remotely be described as comfortable. The regular rockers were too hard or jabby, and they didn't go up high enough so you could lean your head back. This chair, it feels like heaven. I've already taken four naps in it. And do you see the little red table next to the chair? Found it on clearance on Target. That's where mommy's cocktail goes!

Here's a picture of the crib and the polka-dot bedding set I fell in love with. I like how it's not a THEME, it's just cute and fun and colorful. The soft little lamb cuddler thinger was a shower gift from the best man in our wedding and his wife.

A closer look at the bedding, which is from Land of Nod. I love the brown dotted crib sheet! It also came with a solid yellow one.

Here's the top of the chifferobe, which is a somewhat unusual piece of furniture but it was perfect for our purposes. This room conveniently has NO CLOSET so we needed something with a little bit of hanging space. However we didn't want a gigantic armoir, because we also need lots of drawer room. The chifferobe is the best of both worlds, with one half devoted to hanging space and shelves and the other a tall stack of deep drawers. Anyhow, sitting on top are all the cool children's books we've received, as well as a cute lamp and my birthday gift from Sal, a radio/CD/iPod player that has already been used one million times.

The very first things I bought for this room, before I knew the paint color or anything, were these adorable prints from an Etsy shop called barkingbirdart. It was so hard to pick just a few!

A treasured gift from my girlfriend Amy, whose talented friend used a sewing machine and some fabric to make these burpcloths so much more adorable than spit rags have any right to be. And look! Polka dots!

Here's the other dresser/changing table. Between the chifferobe and this, I think we might have secured enough room to put away all of baby's things. And holy crap, does this kid already have a ton of things. But wait! What's that on top of the dresser?!

Why, thank you for asking. Those would be the favorite childhood toys of mom and dad. The green monkey was Sal's when he was a little boy. It was the mascot of this old San Jose amusement park called Frontier Village. The brown bear was a gift my mom's friend gave me when I was a baby. It used to have really cute brown eyes, but my dog Max was fond of chewing the bear's face off, which always sent me into HYSTERICS. My mom performed "surgery" each time this happened and was able to save the eyes a couple of times, but one time I guess they were goners, so she sewed on these red buttons. My point is, it didn't always look so scary. I halfway feel like I should go out and find some freaky little stuffed animal for our baby - the ones we have now are way too normal-looking to join this bunch.

So, that's the baby's room! And about an hour ago, our first batch of cloth diapers was delivered, meaning I get to use the "R" word now - ready. I have a good friend who likes to point out that you're never READY to have a baby, and I can buy that. But my great big 1,000-things-long list of things that must be done before the birth is now entirely crossed off. So maybe I'll just say I'm ready in all the ways I know how to be.

Oh, and also, the baby and I were under strict orders not to get this show under way until after Sal and I saw "Star Wars in Concert," which we did last night!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

A very pregnant birthday

Well, this is me, 33 years old and 35 weeks (plus one day) pregnant. Hoo boy! Some women comment that I look small, and then I comment that their eyes are probably broken. I feel a lot of things right now, but small ain't one of them.

So far it has been a spectacular day. My little brother who is stationed in Saudi Arabia called me to wish me a happy birthday, and it was the first time I have been able to hear his voice in months. And this morning my darling husband made me French toast for breakfast. And tonight? TONIGHT! Sal and I are retreating to the couch with a huge and delicious pizza for the season premiere of Survivor. We are practically the only people we know who are still faithful followers of Jeff Probst and his merry band of castaways, but this is a tradition Sal and I have had going for a LONG TIME. Years and years. Before we got married. Before we lived together. Heck, we had pizza-and-Survivor-premiere parties way back when we were "just friends" who sat around trying very, very hard not to flirt with each other. So! A happy birthday it shall be.

UPDATE! The day got even better! Check out what two of my colleagues just brought me. A dish full of dainty desserts, plus a mocktail! Which I'm drinking! As a religion class is being taught in the room across from my office! God, it feels good to hold a cocktail glass again.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oh, for pete's sake

Somehow I have it in my head that to recover from a long spell of not blogging I need to have something truly profound to say that will distract you from the absence. Well, if that's so, today is not your lucky day. Because I'm merely here to complain.

Turns out that at 32 weeks, the easy parts of being pregnant might be over. And today I have two completely whiny complaints that I haven't read about anywhere else, but they are happening to me now, and I am hot and cranky and need to vent about them!

First of all, did you know that when you are pregnant, sneezing hurts a lot more? Holy mackerel! Now when I feel a sneeze coming on, not only do I have to concentrate on squeezing my baby-bumped bladder closed tight, but I have to brace for the smack of pain in my chest, right above my belly. I suspect maybe my because my lungs are so squished up, the power of a sneeze just knocks the hell out of them. Is that possible? Nobody writes about this. Probably because, what on earth are you going to do about it.

Second of all, the skin on my stomach is stretched so tight that it feels like it could burst open at any moment and send my baby hurtling across the room. And WOW, did that feeling come on suddenly! I notice that I subconsciously suck in all the time, presumably because it feels a bit more comfortable (or is it because that's how I spent, oh, I dunno, ALL OF MY 20s?) And when I focus on relaxing my stomach muscles, I swear you can actually hear the uncomfortable stretching sound, like that wincy-sounding rubber noise a balloon makes when you twist it. It is so, so, so tight. And then five minutes later I forget and accidentally start sucking in again. What on earth do I do? Do I take a bath? Lotion? A bath in lotion?

That is all for now. Blogging dry spell over. Again. Yay!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Week 26: "Bump" may be an understatement

I sort of can't believe I am posting such a horrid, grainy dressing-room self-portrait. BUT WOULD YOU GET A LOAD OF THAT BELLY?!

The heat is starting to get to me, so last night I went to the mall in search of some cool summer dresses. And I remembered way back when I was 8 or 9 weeks pregnant, I practically had a breakdown in the Old Navy dressing room. I was already starting to feel uncomfortable in my regular clothes, so I set out to see what maternity wear would look like. Turns out, it looked ridiculous. I was like a chubby ragamuffin with all that material sagging over my not-yet-fat-enough belly. And I couldn't tell which was worse: feeling fat and constricted or feeling thin and dumpy. So I decided the best thing would be to cry.

When I pulled this dress over my head yesterday, though, I couldn't believe the difference. It's like a basketball shoved under there! This takes me by such surprise, because I don't really FEEL like that. I'd say 90 percent of the time, I feel like my normal, pre-pregnancy self, with the same old body and same old everything. So it's a shocker to look in the mirror and see this crazy pregnant lady. I did a happy jump-up-and-down dance right there in the Baby Gap dressing room. And then I took this picture. Wheeee!

Monday, July 6, 2009


I love presents! One for me, one for you! My friend Robyn did a cool thing on her blog that I am going to copy, because I want a free present. And if you are among the first five people to leave a comment on this post, then you will also get a present, made with love and smooches by me. But you have to do the same thing on your blog, and make something for five other people.

The details are as follows, and if you want to play, copy the following onto your blog and leave me a comment:

1. I make no guarantees that you will like what I make. Whatcha get is whatcha get.
2. What I create will be just for you.
3. It’ll be done this year (2009).
4. I will not give you any clue what it’s going to be. It will be something made in the real world and not something cyber. It may be weird or beautiful. Or it may be monstrous and annoying. Heck, I might bake something for you and mail it to you. Who knows? Not you, that’s for sure!
5. I reserve the right to do something strange.
6. In return, all you need to do is post this text on your blog and make five things for the first five to respond to your blog post.
7. Send your mailing address - after I contact you.

Hop to it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Feeling a little ranty

About halfway through my body pump weightlifting class earlier this week, the instructor chirped that we had just finished what was voted "most challenging squats track of the year." Yay, us! But I was also reminded, for about the millionth time, that I'm still pissed off at Vicki Iovine, author of "Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy."

I discovered this book years ago in the waiting room of my OB/GYN office. I'd often pick it up and thumb through a few pages, feeling sorta guilty for peeking ahead but being unable to resist reading about this most mysterious topic. So when I became pregnant myself, I was excited to have an legitimate reason to read it.

The book claims to explain what REALLY happens during pregnancy, stuff your doctor won't tell you but your girlfriends will. A lot of it is fine, I suppose, but when I got to the chapter on exercise, the entire book was pretty much ruined for me. In this chapter, Vicki offers up eight reasons pregnant women shouldn't bother to exercise. And now I am going to share that list with you, along with my own personal opinion about why each and every item is total bullshit.

1. You will be too tired.
During my first trimester, the exhaustion was absolutely crippling, and it was indeed tougher to drag my ass out of bed in the morning. And nausea kept me off the elliptical a few times. But even during those morning (...noon, night...) sickness weeks, I tried to get out for a walk or two. And when I got back to regular workouts, I realized I had far more energy (aka fewer midafternoon naps at my desk) when I was getting regular exercise. For me, activity = energy.

2. You won’t like yourself in harsh gym mirrors.
Oh, right. I forgot how the most important thing at the gym is to look gorgeous! I seriously can't believe a woman wrote this. Vicki says she would prefer to "sulk and stop exercising" before becoming one of those "die-hard" pregnant exercisers who wear their husband's T-shirts "to camouflage things." She also warns that regular gym clothes "take on a whole new identity when stuffed with pregnant bellies, pregnant thighs and pregnant knees, and topped off by pregnant arms." I guess I am supposed to be ashamed of this? Well, I'm not. Look, I'm quite aware that the giant-T-shirt-over-a-beach-ball look isn't sexy, and that I'm likely plumping out all over right now. But I still feel a little proud when I look in the gym mirror. Watching my body doing lunges or shoulder presses is cool, like I'm still a strong and motivated person despite the increasing physical limitations of pregnancy. And guess what? If I wasn't at the gym, I'd probably be staring in the mirror at home, feeling depressed about the weight gain Vicki thinks I should do nothing to control. Fun!

3. You will get fat anyway.
No shit. Hey, Vicki, nobody thinks you can exercise away a pregnant belly. But just because weight gain is inevitable doesn't mean I should let the flab just wash over me. My doctor said I should gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy, and so far I'm within the ballpark. If I wasn't working out several times per week - especially considering the volumes of food I'm eating - I don't think I'd stand a chance at achieving this perfectly reasonable goal.

4. Exercise will not help you during labor and delivery in any way.
I am going to go out on a limb here, since this is an area in which I have no experience. But I'm pretty sure I'm right that LABOR IS HARD. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Vicki explains that exercise won't make your vagina more delivery-friendly or your contractions less painful or more productive (did anybody really think that anyway?) But I believe the mental endurance and focus I have learned through exercise - particularly with running, yoga and weight training - may indeed come in handy one day in October. Another book I read suggested that you get lots of sleep as your due date nears, since you never know when you'll have to get up and perform the gynecological equivalent of running a marathon. For 18 hours. So to me, it seems that, in the months leading up to this feat, a little activity for the ol' ticker and the rest of your muscles MIGHT not be such a bad idea.

5. You might endanger the pregnancy.
I know there are situations in which exercise is a bad idea for pregnant ladies. But those ladies have received those instructions from their doctor, and it's just silly of this writer to alarm the pregnant population at large. This might be a good time to mention the benefits exercise can bring to your pregnancy, including alleviating constipation, making your back feel better, and helping you sleep at night.

6. Even if you don’t, and something goes wrong, you will forever wonder if your exercising caused it.
Well, I wasn't GOING to wonder that, but maybe I will now. Thanks a lot, "girlfriend."

7. It’s nine months up and nine down no matter what you do.
It's stupid to make a blanket decree like this. Some women drop the weight in a couple of months. Others take a year or more. In fact, pretty much all advice about pregnancy can in some ways seem worthless, since every complaint, every body change, every labor and delivery story, is different for every single woman.

8. Our compulsion to exercise when we are pregnant is a reflection of our inability to surrender and let nature run its course.
This is when I had to put the book down and laugh. Guess what. I surrendered the moment I saw that positive pregnancy test in February. And nature? Well, from the look and feel of things, it's running its course just fine, not hindered whatsoever - and perhaps even helped - by my dedication to working out.

And let me share my favorite part about working out while pregnant: When I go to the gym these days, I am heaped in admiration. My locker-room pals marvel at the fact that I'm still working out at nearly 6 months. They pat me on the back. They tell me I look great. And believe me, when a person is getting fatter, zittier, crankier, sweatier, and ever more uncomfortable living in their own skin, there is no quicker way to feel like a million bucks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Spaghetti squash and a Subaru

Lots of big news and fun updates from the past couple of weeks, which has been a flurry of budgeting, buying, selling, list-making, fixing and organizing. The goal, I believe, is to be "ready" for the baby by the beginning of September, giving us a month or so of just-in-case time before we hit the real home stretch. So let's just say I'm feeling some pressure right now. But the good news is, I really dig shit like this. Diving headfirst into seven projects at once - especially when they have nothing to do with actual work! - is about my favorite thing. So here's what's been going on.

First of all, we realized several months ago to that to change our second bedroom from office/guestroom to nursery, we had to get our act together in two or three other rooms to find places to put all that stuff. We started with Sal's office, getting rid of some junky furniture on Craigslist and buying several large bookcases to organize our 1.8 trillion books. We also made one of Sal's lifelong manly dreams come true, buying him a cool leather chair. (And he totally tested out the baby-holding allowability of this model at Cost Plus, using a squishy long pillow from a nearby patio set. See? Manly!)

We also began the rather terrifying process of figuring out what we want in things like a stroller, car seat, crib. To do this, we took the advice of many and drove all the way up to Lullaby Lane in San Bruno. Everyone who tells you this is the ONLY place to do major baby shopping in the Bay Area is, I'm sure, 100 percent correct. We dealt with three salespeople about three different products and all of them were friendly, spectacularly knowledgeable and low-pressure. But this is not to say that the day was easy, so around noontime, we took a halftime break here:

We didn't make any purchases that day (we'll do that next week) as this was just to test the waters. But as we drove back to San Jose, we began to feel kinda bad about the idea of spending our money in another city. So just to play fair, we also visited San Jose's Babyland, which is famously located next to the Pink Poodle adult theater. Well, nobody talked to us, the selection wasn't nearly as good, and the whole 20 minutes we spent there just felt deflating. So we head back out to the car. And as I'm opening my door, Sal goes, "Want to know another reason we're not buying at Babyland? Because at Lullaby Lane, you don't find THIS in the parking lot."

Don't miss the fine print on that bad boy! Ahem. OK, so moving on, last week we sold my little green VW Beetle to a lovely young college student who answered my Craigslist ad. This was the first time I have ever sold a car privately (probably because it's the first time I was ever not selling a total hunk of crap) and I must say it was overall quite a pleasant experience. I LOVED that car, and I bawled as I turned the keys over. But this young woman was so sweet and barely acted scared of me at all. And a few days ago, she even sent me a photo of her and my car on a road trip to Napa. She wrote that she is in love with the car already and promises to take very good care of it. Adorable.

Then it was time to find the new, baby-friendly car. So on Tuesday night we went to the local Subaru dealership to look for a Forester, which we love because it's a teensy bit tall and a teensy bit wide, but it's not a big honking SUV. (Bonus: It's the 2009 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year!) I saw a color I immediately loved in the exact trim I wanted, we took a test drive, and it was perfect. So we headed into The Scary Room with our salesman, who said the price they could give us was a hefty chunk off the sticker price, plus we qualified for an outstanding finance rate.

At this point, it had been a good 20 minutes since my last meal, and I was starving. So I told the guy we were heading out to get dinner and we'd be back. He paled, then offered to send someone to buy us dinner. Er, no. We're leaving. So he tosses us the keys and insists that we take the car. DAMN, that's a good trick. We drove it over to the nearest Round Table, since in this family, all important decisions and discussions are required to unfold over pizza.

Seriously! We had pizza twice when buying our home (once to discuss what kind of offer to make on our house, once when meeting with our financing guy) and we had pizza after the first time we saw our baby in the ultrasound. These are but three of many, many examples. We also have lots of pizza for non-important reasons, but that's not my point right now. Anyway, what we had to discuss was this: How to bargain with this guy when (a) we knew their offer was actually pretty good, (b) there's nothing more I want or need regarding the car, (c) we have a down payment, so there's no trade-in to haggle about, and (d) oh yeah, we've never done this before and are kind of clueless.

So I decided to be honest. We went back and I told the guy, "Look. The truth is, I love this car. I want this car, and I want to buy it from you. And I know you are offering a fair price. But the thing is, only a moron would walk into a car dealership and pay the very first thing the dealer offered. And I just can't be that person." And he's like, "So, you NEED something." Yes, I need something. So he went to his boss, got me a few somethings, and we shook hands. Could we have done better? Probably, but I feel pretty good about this considering it was our first time out. (Plus, don't tell Phil or whatever his name was, but we would totally have paid that first price.)

I would have posed in that picture with the car, but I didn't want to obstruct the view. HA! Jokes. But I have popped out a little bit. My helpful weekly BabyCenter e-mail tells me that the Appleseed is now the size of a spaghetti squash, hence the title of this blog post that probably should have been explained 18 paragraphs ago. Anyhow. Here's the grainy BlackBerry self-portrait taken of me and my baby at week 22!