Weight for it…

I hear that the ‘touching’ and ‘comments’ get worse as your belly gets bigger. So far I’ve heard nothing but excited comments that my bump is now ‘showing’. I was a body skimming, baggier clothes person previously, so I could hide the less round stage at the start, but now, it’s out in full force.

So, what do you do when people say things like:

Oh my God! You are SO big!

I noticed this on the baby blogs and there are many women who hear this from total strangers. I agree with other commenters; pregnant bodies are amazing. People need to learn some manners, or at least be prepared for a less than sweet response to this blunt ‘observation.’

You’re making a human life!

I haven’t had people tell me I look bigger or smaller than ‘they expect’ but really… none of these people are experts or doctors, so what do they even know? I hear that it gets worse as people start to offer you advice on how to parent, feed, nurse, etc.  Maybe they need a dose of their own medicine, like if these moms just zoom in on some aspect of the commenter’s appearance and wait for the ‘wow, you’re big’ comment, so they can offer them some offhand comment in exchange for their

“Wow, are you sure you’re not having twins!?” …

Some mildly passive-aggressive to downright aggressive options, to respond to these unwanted belly-commenters:

“Yes, I’m enormous. And so is your mouth…”

“Thanks…And I hate your t-shirt/shoes/haircut”

“Hmmmm. I was just about to tell you how tired and rundown you were looking, but I’m trying this thing where I don’t offer unsolicited comments on other people’s appearances”.

These are the things I’d say in my head, but if someone really makes a shitty comment I probably won’t hold back from saying,

“That’s an interesting observation; what kind of response do you expect from me when you comment on my size?”

“That’s actually kind of hurtful, given how sensitive pregnant women are about their changing bodies.”

“Are you a physician? Are you accepting new patients? I would love to come by your office for an official consultation!”

—————–

So, what does this new bod actually feel like and look like? A few updates:

9 Weeks: I am 5’10, 170 pre-pregnancy, and I’m getting a little tummy. I just wear floaty, loose tops and dresses that skim. Highlighting the parts that are still toned and distracting from the newly puffy areas seems to help. 🙂

I’m saying yes to everything I want. I just keep the portions small so I don’t feel queasy.

I’m always hungry but feel a bit nauseous. I eat often and avoid spice! Carbs and fresh fruit have been sitting well. Also boiled broccoli and green beans are things I’m craving.

20 Weeks:  I have gained 13 lb. But my boobs, which were small B cups are now a very plentiful C. Am I gaining it everywhere or just in certain areas? My belly is popping. I learned that you don’t just gain ‘weight’, in pregnancy there are many changes occuring; it’s increased blood volume, muscle around your uterus, water weight, and … boobs (in my case). Surprisingly, my skin has been the ‘good’ kind of pregnant. Mostly blemish free and even. I’m wearing SO much sunscreen. Moisturizing the belly and torso every night to minimize the stretch marks (if they come).

25 Weeks:  I have gained 17 lb. My lower back is starting to hurt. The belly isn’t low or high. In the middle and pretty round. My ribs feel like they have to start spreading and by the end of the day my lower abs are exhausted. It feels very tight. My hips are really sore (icepacks and heat packs) in the morning and end of day. Heartburn is CONSTANT. It’s better when I don’t drink water with my food, leaving about an hour before or after meals to drink liquids; otherwise I risk throwing up as the water sits on top of the food and my gag reflex is as much a pain as the acid reflux. Ranitadine tablets are helping, but I only take half of one at midday. Nothing pressing against my stomach, please. I am wearing things below or pulled up and over the bump. Very dry skin on my limbs (the babe is sucking all the nutrients and moisture out of me!).

I have my Gestational Diabetes test this coming week. How are your pregnancies and TTC been going?!

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Don’t worry, Don’t panic

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(Image from Greatest)
I feel panic often (usually not about the baby, but about other things… which I think are really about the baby if I’m being honest). It would be weird NOT to be apprehensive. It’s a major responsibility and huge life change.
I am excited, but also scared… because it’s really important that I do a good job with this – it’s a lot of pressure and I always try, in those moments, to remember why I wanted this in the first place and keep my mind on that.
All the hormones and unpredictability make this time exciting, but also scary. People who don’t normally have anxiety often develop it in pregnancy – so for those who have it already, it can feel constant… and overwhelming.
I have been trying a few things to keep it in check:
1) watching tv and movies that don’t ramp up those feelings (so, no more insidious, back-stabby dramas)
2) using meditation tracks nightly before bed and a sound machine to lull me to sleep
3) baths, not too hot
4) diffuser in the bedroom, with baby-safe scents
5) saying ‘hi’ to anxiety. Naming it and acknowledging it when it pops up. Talking to my wife about how I’m feeling and what I was thinking about at the time
6) yoga – not doing enough of that right now, but that will change (promise!) when school’s out
7) focus on positive things: I got an amazing email from a 15 year-old boy in my class (terribly typed and punctuated, but really sincere and sweet) talking about how I inspire him, how confident he felt in my class and how he respects that I teach about treating all people kindly and being into ‘equity’
8) spending time with people who make me happy and confident. At pride this weekend, I ran into a former coworker from my gay-bar-server days. She was so sweet and had the kindest things to say about our time working together. I need to remember that for every ex-I’d-rather-not-see there are so many people that put a huge smile on my face and vice versa.
9) recognize a spiral as it’s happening. When I start to perseverate and think of all the conversations I want to have, how I’d handle X if Y happens… thinking of the worst-case scenarios… I need to take a breath. Sometimes the spiral starts because something bad has actually happened. I have lots going on (we all do) that can make me feel like bad things are lurking… like the twerp student who outed me on social media and suggested that people ‘come for me’ if they aren’t happy about rainbow flags flying at our school (yes, this really happened, but it’s a long story). On one hand, this kid thinks I’m mighty powerful if, at 5 months pregnant, I shimmied up the flagpole to personally affix the rainbow banner. And somehow made it to all the schools in our board. This personal attack felt shitty. But… the outcome involves an upturn: my colleagues and my students were amazing. Outraged, they stood strong beside me. In the end, it reminded me we have work to do, but we also have an army of people who know right from wrong. Admittedly, I felt really down about this incident, but I did what I could, and tried to recognize what I couldn’t control: that crappy person may never change their mind, and letting myself be dragged down by that one aspect of the situation would put more emphasis on the crap and not enough on the wonderful reaction from my community. Change the thinking!
10) Invest in myself: from new maternity jeans, to ice cream when I want it, from cooking yummy meals to buying books about anxiety and mindfulness… I am feeling really positive about framing my actions and thoughts around happiness.
These things don’t always make it go away RIGHT AWAY… but it makes living in the present and celebrating all the good stuff MORE of the focus. There is so much to be grateful for, which  – when I consider where anxiety comes from – is exactly why anxiety is powerful. I love my life, family, job, … and the idea of that all falling apart is scary. It is a mirror to how much I value those things. But – I’m stealing joy from myself if I let the worry and negative thoughts impede the enjoyment of all the things I worry might be taken away. I’m alive. I’m employed. I’m loved. Baby is good. Could things go wrong? Yes. Can I handle it? Probably. Is it bad/unmanageable? Not yet. Not now. What’s the worst that could happen? I lose the job I love? Sure. But then… I’m still alive. If I’m alive, it’s not as bad as it could get. This is some pretty basic, facile logic, but it really does put it into perspective (once I’ve talked myself down).
So… mantra to myself:
I’m alive and that is the goal. I’m putting out good into the world and doing my best. There is no reason why your world, more than anyone else’s, will come crashing down. You are strong and resilient. And if you need help, you have people who will help pick you up and dust you off.
It’s okay to be happy.
What are your worries? How do you cope? Do you have a nice, one-line mantra?

 

Twenty-Two Weeks

This dude keeps kicking me in the stomach and the heart burn is the worst. But I have to say that aside from being the most ultimate weirdness … I’m loving the belly.

Anatomy scan shows that all is well. They are keeping an eye on his kidneys, but we are thrilled with the good news. I’ve gained 15 lb and I’m craving steak.

Xo

Will she be ‘pretty’? And other ridiculous questions

More from the blogosphere: these thoughts were inspired by a post by a woman whose mother in law is constantly making comments about how she hopes her unborn-female-grandchild is as ‘beautiful and perfect’ as the one that is already born (and 3 years old). The commenter is feeling stressed that this constant, ‘will she be as pretty and perfect’ discussion is making her feel worried about her future baby, even though she realizes comparisons are impractical an futile.

First though: of course we hope our children are nice looking. Lookism is real.  It’s the same reason my mom, wonderful though her reaction was to my gayness, said “I just don’t want your life to be harder,’ when I came out at 16. No parent wants their child to have a difficult life, and in this culture, being attractive is a logical, undeniable advantage. So, superficial as it might be, I do want my child to veer more on the side of ‘cute little bundle of joy’ than Quazimodo. But I cannot imagine feeling that my child’s value was somehow connected to how ‘gorgeous’ they are. There is an inherent gamble in reproduction (as many of us know first–hand). I just want a healthy baby.

 

In direct response to this mom-to-be and her Toddler’s in Tiaras, Looks Obsessed Mother In Law, here are my thoughts – I’d love to hear yours!

————–

“I’ll just be frank, your MIL sounds like a nitwit. What I have to say is, of course, just my opinion, but it sounds like you’re putting up with a lot of negative, stress-provoking comments.

MIL, from what you say, is so obsessed with the appearance of this unborn baby that it sounds like all she cares about is whether her next grand baby will be ‘attractive’. You, on the other hand, seem to have a great head on your shoulders and know that each little one is unique and that comparing two children is both pointless and unfair.

My impulse would be to subtly start dropping hints that you really prioritize your child being ‘healthy,’ and that all of your great nurture and parenting will be the real factor that results in your future baby being kind, thoughtful, generous, sweet and courageous (or whatever traits you hope to pass on to her). I’d also be annoyed that this woman seems to think the value a girl-child brings to the world is a pretty face. That’s a pretty low bar to set for women. Just be decorative? Is that the message grandma hopes that her little granddaughters learn? And … be ‘no trouble?’ It sounds super sexist to me and putting that pressure on you to not only be a new mom, but to have a ‘perfect’ baby is really unfair.

Have you tried telling her that these constant conversations make you anxious and put pressure on you? You have no control over what kind of child you get. But what will make a difference is the way you raise her and speak in front of your child. Hearing that being beautiful and perfect is what is expected is a dangerous message for little girls to hear, and it’s heard too often in the media. I’d put a gag order on my MIL if all she talks about in front of her current granddaughter is how pretty and perfect she is; that’s not flattery – it’s the makings of a narcissistic, fragile kid who thinks she is perfect, which can really make kids brittle in the face of challenges (and intolerant of others if they think that perfection is 1) possible and 2) something you’re ‘born with.’ ) Being a great human being takes work, it’s not about luck. Also, being an easy baby doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way.

Sorry for being so blunt, but I think you’re a saint for putting up with this woman’s skewed and constant badgering. You have enough to deal with and I’m sorry you have to go through this.”

At any rate, every parent thinks their own child is beautiful… no?

Please weigh in!

Weight Gain and Stretch Marks In Pregnancy

Another post inspired by questions and discussion threads in mommy-blog land.

Tiger Stripes. Zebra Stripes.

What about those stretch marks? Can I prevent them? Are they horrible and inevitable? Do you have them?  It seems that many women who are expecting are concerned that their growing bump will leave a lasting impact on their skin.

My answer: 

I haven’t noticed any new ones, yet, but I have them from before pregnancy. I will probably get more. I’m moisturizing and trying to eat well, often and with lots of balance. I’m really just trying to prepare for all the realities.

Just to share a bit… I was a model as a teen and had some pretty rough body image issues.  Try being 16, happy with your body, and having some 45 year-old woman with frizzy orange hair tell you that if you want to seriously improve your chances of getting work, there are hip operations where they’ll shave down your actual bones to achieve a narrower physique…and that all those sports and ballet were making you too muscular.

Now, as an adult, I am prouder and more confident about my body, even though I’m 40 lb heavier than when my body was ‘perfect’ according to that ridiculous industry standard. Honestly, few people at my height reach 5’10 without any growth spurts and the telltale marks to prove it. Few of the people in the magazines or glossy images we see have the ‘perfect’ bodies that the industry they are working in deem ‘appropriate’. Photoshop is the industry norm. Now everyone from celebrities to tweens has access to Facetune, so even our ‘real’ images… aren’t.

I had to stop listening to that racket and listen to how I feel. The way I’ve approached pregnancy (hard though it can be) is that the most important thing now is baby; never again (if I can help it) will I listen to a voice in my own head that tells me the natural, incredible body I have is not ‘perfect’. I know my baby and my partner will see the body that brings this kid into the world as a miracle. I have to look at myself through that lens.

I want to be resilient and strong, so that my child, boy or girl will grow up seeing a mom who loves her body and all that it is capable of. It will be hard to keep that voice consistent and clear, but I’m sure going to try.

What fears and struggles around body and self-image do you experience? I find hearing other people’s stories really inspiring. Please share!

Four Years

I can hardly believe that four years have passed since the day I married my wife. It feels like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened.

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This accidental magic captures how I feel with you. Photo: Sweetheart Empire (Kate O’Connor)

For our fourth Anniversary, aside from the silk/satin motif (silk screened pregnancy announcement tees, and silk pajamas), Allia made us a wedding video. Watching it takes me back to exactly how I felt in those moments. It perfectly encapsulates the magic of our day.

Why do I care about that? Partly because it feels momentous and nostalgic to look back at happiness that still feels tangible and vivid, partly because there are people who told me this would never happen.

Allia and Alison’s Wedding (for the video follow this link)

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When I first came out, it was six years before gay marriage was legalized in Canada (2005). I was a teenager, but I remember one of my mom’s friends saying, sympathetically, ‘It’s so sad that Alison won’t have a wedding and you’ll never have grandkids.’ Politely, my mom replied, ‘Fuck that.’

Not quite in those words, but with the same rebellious denial of that assumption. I am my mother’s daughter (and my father’s) and neither raised me to believe that anything I truly wanted was out of reach. They are the biggest advocates, even before I came out, they raised me to see every possibility and to feel entitled to happiness, love and acceptance. Maybe this is why I work so fiercely, at work and at play, to try to make others believe that we all deserve love, dignity and acceptance.

When people asked questions like, “will you ever get married?” “which one of you will wear a suit?” “so, you don’t want to ever have kids?” or made statements like “that must have been so hard for your parents” – I responded to it as a challenge.

We had exactly the wedding I envisioned, a reflection of our relationship, two people – full of laughter, dancing, old traditions and quirky, personal touches. I come from a theatre background and although I wasn’t a Disney princess sort of little girl, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t have a dreamy wedding fit for a fairytale. We themed it like a performance, a show, a circus, with several acts and lots of spectacle. It was a romance and a comedy. And I have never felt more at ease, so relaxed and so happy, in front of my loved ones, looking into the eyes of the woman I love.

I hope we can raise a little one who feels that swell of love and support, and will see that look in our eyes, four years, ten, twenty… fifty years from now.

Happy anniversary, my love. Cheers to many, many more.

Things I Will Never Consider

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I feel (again) like I should stop following the comment section on BabyCentre and just read What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Today I read a post from a mom desperately seeking advice:

“I am having another boy… and I’m so disappointed that I’m considering an abortion.”

One person responded that this seems like a bad April Fool’s joke. The reply to that was ‘be sensitive and support this mom, this is supposed to be a safe space.’

Trying to be balanced, while also staying real, I replied:

“I agree that this should be a safe, supportive place.

And it should also be safe for those who have had losses or struggled to get pregnant. It can be very difficult to hear that someone is considering aborting a pregnancy due to the gender/sex of their child (which is illegal in Canada I believe). I have no judgement for this mom and her struggle, nor for the other mother who is pointing out that this post could be triggering for some; having hopes and fears related to the life you see for yourself and your future child is normal, but I think it’s possible to see multiple sides of this issue with sensitivity and compassion. People’s advice to get support from a doctor and seek some relief from the depression she is experiencing is the most helpful and likely to help the initial poster to feel she is able to make a decision.”

What I didn’t say was: I have some questions – Do you consider how you will feel if you do keep this child and know that you publicly professed that you considered terminating the pregnancy? I would never advocate bottling up your feelings and not exploring your true emotions, but I also can’t help but project myself into the future and think ‘what will I do when I look at my child and consider these thoughts?’  When I say, I have no judgment, I mean: I don’t think you are a bad person. I will not tell another person what to do with their own body. But I do think there are some underlying questions and assumptions that need to be asked. It’s also really hard to post something so polarizing and expect only supportive, affirming replies.

There is a part of me that wants to ask: should you be having more kids, if the reason you want them depends on something so tied to fate and chance? When you get pregnant you KNOW it’s a fifty-fifty shot you will get one gender or the other (not considering intersex children). And you DON’T want another boy enough that you’d end a pregnancy to avoid that outcome? I can’t say that I understand that. It seems to imply that you believe there is something so inherent about what is between a child’s legs that their whole life and experience will be shaped by the assumptions around what gender means. All boys and all girls are different. Vastly. You could get any kind of ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ and your child, raised according to whatever gender you believe fits them, could transition as they grow up. Will your love hinge on their ability to fulfill a gender role you have built for them? Does your conception of having a ‘girl’ have such rigid expectations that you feel a boy-child could not fill the space you’ve built in your mind for them? What is it about having a girl that you think will be absent in your current situation? Other than a body part? Is your plan for her so wildly different that you will not experience joy in parenting the other? I would assume (I know the danger here) that you plan to raise a child who is loved, building their confidence, laughing and crying through the joy and struggles of their discovering and as they stumble. None of what I envision is prescribed by what colour or sports society thinks they should enjoy. I know enough people to KNOW that there are as many types of men and women as there are stars in the sky. I don’t know what I will get, but I hope that, starlike, they are bright and that they will fill me with wonder.

I do have preferences.  Obviously. I am attracted to women. I married a woman. And I hope for a little girl, and a boy, too, maybe one day. But if I found out I was having a healthy baby that would trump any fear or trepidation that I have about raising a child. I think my desire to have a girl is more about my own comfort. I know I can raise a strong, independent, feminist daughter. I am less sure that I will be able to impart the wisdom I have to share to a male child… but I will sure try. I think it’s harder to raise a good man, in many ways, than it is to raise a woman; it is hard to be a woman. But the bar for ‘goodness’ in men is embarrassingly low right now and my standards are high. My comfort and confidence are tied to my own preconceptions about gender and what it will mean for my offspring.

First and foremost, I don’t want it to be the most important thing about them. I want a child who is thoughtful, kind, critical, brave, empathetic and who trusts their intuition. My love will not be gender-dependent. I have to at least offer myself the same compassion that I will afford my child, as they learn and grown, knowing that we will not be perfect. I will also not be doing this alone.

I am so interested in your thoughts about your (future) child’s sex and your future hopes. Please share and also, please know that my passion may seem judgement-laden, heavy and convinced, but it’s more about the doubts I have experienced (that I will be good enough at this) that bristle when I see and hear other people who don’t seem to consider, as they question of ‘if they should have child X’ that maybe there are other questions they could ask: like why do I want to have this child? And what do I really believe about gender that makes me think one experience will be so different that I would forgo it altogether, rather than embrace a healthy child, irrespective of the chromosomes they happen to bear?
I have deliberately left out details of this mom’s story, to maintain privacy. Thank you for respecting that.