Momma Chat: Just a Little Rosy

photo-5Things got a little crazy last week. I was laying in bed with Cy when I noticed he seemed to be running a fever. I texted Toby about it and he responded with something like, “He always sleeps hot.” But I was quite sure it was a fever. It happened to be just a couple of hours after I had started a course of meds for myself that weren’t really supposed to be taken while breastfeeding but my doctor had recommended because I’m allergic to penicillin. I was worried that Cy might be allergic to this new medicine, and Google told me I should get Cy to the doctor at signs of fever. So the next day we went to see his pediatrician, who wasn’t available until the afternoon, and I stopped taking my meds in the meantime just in case. The doctor said it was not the meds, but it might be dengue.

– Let me just interject here because this is the part where my stomach bottoms out and my face turns white because dengue is known as “break bone fever” because it makes you feel like your bones are breaking. And it can be comparatively mild in children, but if you get it again later, any subsequent infections can lead to a hemorrhagic fever. It’s passed by mosquitos. There are lots and lots of mosquitos in Thailand. –

The doctor gave us meds to treat the fever and said it was a little too early to tell. Come back in two days and we’ll test for dengue.

Those were among the more anxiety-ridden two days I have experienced in recent memory. Was it dengue? Was it wrong and still related to something I was doing (my meds, which I had resumed taking)? And what would I do if it were dengue? (Moving to another country had indeed crossed my mind.) Cy needs to run outside and play, live his life in fresh air. How can I protect Cy from every mosquito to cross his path?

We went back to do blood tests. We had to swaddle the poor boy and he watched and cried–not thrashing, or angry-complaining…just totally submitting himself to this new torture–as they inserted the needle, drew blood, switched it out for an IV, and then bandaged it on. The whole thing probably took 5 minutes, but all I could do was sit there and talk to him, stroke his hair, and wish to God there was any other way. I hate needles. I once,as a full adult in college, had a nurse give me a Daffy Duck bandaid after getting blood drawn because I hate needles so much. I hate them even more when they’re any where near my boy.

After two hours of waiting, the results for dengue came back negative. Talk about relief! But we still didn’t know what the problem was. The doctor still insisted it wasn’t my meds, and predicted we would soon see a rash.

The rash came, and thus we learned it was roseola. A common childhood disease, relatively mild, and the rash only lasted a couple of days and then it was all done.

photo-4And I still called pest control to come rid our yard of mosquitos. Because dengue.

All in all, it was probably a relatively minor episode and it’s just my mama-bear brain that blew fears out of proportion, but part of what made this experience so hard was feeling so trapped. I have already been feeling tired and run-down, and a little homesick (mostly just because I’m tired of it being so hot here all the time and tired of worrying about mosquitos when Cy wants to play outside all the time). I wanted to move home. I wanted to go back to Santa Barbara where the weather is always perfect, there’s tons of fabulous play groups Cy could join, there’s mountains he could roam, and gorgeous parks and beaches to explore.

I told Toby that if we lived in Santa Barbara, I’d take Cy to the beach all the time.

“No you wouldn’t,” he said. “You’d be at work and Cy would be in daycare and we’d spend the weekends scrambling around trying to get stuff done.”

He’s right. In Thailand, we can afford for me to take a career hiatus and focus on raising Cy with both of us at home. In the U.S., I would have to work. And while I’m battling heat and mosquitos, I can also get fantastic healthcare for Cy at $15 a visit (without insurance), have a maid come once a week, and be there for all the important and unimportant things in Cy’s life. I feel trapped. And it’s easy to view a different situation with rose-colored glasses, but the truth is, there’s lots of ways to feel trapped.

photo-8And I realize now too, that while I love being able to be home for Cy, it’s a challenge because I’ve never been a routine kind of person and children live in routine. I’ve never lived in any place longer than 4 years since I was 13 (And we’re bumping up on the 4-year mark now–we HAD said we’d come for a year, maybe two, and then we’d see. Well we’re still here.) Except for when I worked at a magazine publishing company, I’d never lived the same daily routine longer than a 10-week quarter since I graduated high school. I live by whims and caprice. I’m disciplined about getting stuff done, but on my own clock, not the one ticking on the wall.

So. This is my opportunity to grow. To realize this about myself and see how I can approach it mindfully. I can’t escape the trappings of this life, but I take advantage of its advantages and I think maybe a change of scenery will help. So we’re going to Bangkok for a week. There will be a big aquarium, and parks, a children’s playground, good food, shopping, and maybe even a boat ride or two on the Chao Praya.

Who can complain? Not I, said the spider to the fly.

Thing I Love About Cy: He loves tipping himself over backwards. When he’s on the bed, or on grass, he’ll slowly lean back with this look of great anticipation on his face, until gravity wins and he falls over and giggles like a fiend.

Little by Little



Meeting Cy

cy_sunrise

Photo by Toby Keller

They tell you the chances of your water breaking in public are really very low. Mine broke in the grocery store last Monday, while I was shopping by myself. It wasn’t so dramatic like in the movies. In fact, I wasn’t even sure that’s what had happened, or if I was just experiencing some other fun perk of pregnancy. So what did I do? I had a cart full of groceries…should I just leave it there and run to the bathroom? Continue shopping? I did the best thing I could think of: pretend like nothing was happening, get the last few items on my list, and bolt home ASAP. (Toby still thinks it’s funny that my water breaks and my response is to finish shopping.)

I went home and we called the doctor to see whether he thought it was my water breaking and find out what we should do. They told us to come in right away. So we grabbed our things, me fairly half-heartedly because I wasn’t convinced my water had broken and thinking the hospital would just send us back home. We arrived, and in a flurry of half-coherent Thai I tried to explain again what happened. Things got kicked into high gear and I was admitted into a delivery room before I’d even seen the doctor. After a while, it dawned on me that somehow the nurses had gotten the impression that I had fallen, so I had to try to make it clear I hadn’t.

Then I did meet with the doctor and he confirmed my water had broken and said he wanted to induce labor because there was a very short window before there would be risk of infection. Thus began a very long night.

We induced at 5:30ish in the evening, and I was at 2 cm dilation. Fifteen hours later, after contractions that were about 2 minutes apart and increasingly intense, I was still at 2 cm dilation. I was experiencing all the symptoms of advancing labor, but the baby was not moving down at all. At this point, the doctor said I had two choices: I could go to a c-section right away, or I could try for a maximum of 5 more hours and if nothing happened, go to a c-section. I did not think I would suddenly go from 2 cm to 10 in 5 hours if I couldn’t budge a centimeter in 15. I opted for the cesarean right away.

It all happened very quickly from there. It was a bit terrifying when they gave me the epidural and suddenly everything from the waist down went totally numb. But the whole procedure went very fast, and suddenly there was the sound of Cy’s first cries. They cleaned him up in mere minutes, and brought him to me, where I covered his face in his first kisses. Then they took him away and knocked me out to finish the surgery.

After a couple of hours in recovery, they brought me to my room, where my little man was waiting for me.

Toby meeting Cy for the first time

Toby meeting Cy for the first time

Cy was born on Tuesday and we stayed in the hospital until Friday. Those days are already a bit of a blur for me (probably thanks to the pain meds), but from start to finish, I received round-the-clock amazing care, with my every wish or need met within minutes and regular checkups on me and Cy by a team of nurses, my doctor, Cy’s pediatrician, lactation specialists, and nursery attendants. When my doctor checked on me, he told us that it was really very good that we did the cesarean because it turns out the umbilical cord was tangled up in a big knot (from all Cy’s busy activity in the womb). If we had proceeded with a vaginal delivery, it would have cut off the flow of oxygen to the baby, so we’re really very relieved at how things went.

Burpsies!

Burpsies! (Photo by Toby Keller)

Since coming home, I’ve been in a trance of utter amazement and suffusion of love for this little critter, mixed with a sense of being overwhelmed at the task of being responsible for his care, and terror that something bad might happen to him. I tell myself I just need to get past the first couple of weeks, the first month, etc. but then I think maybe this is motherhood after all: love, amazement, hugeness, and terror, and it doesn’t go away so much as one just gets more used to it.

The weekend was rough with trying to care for him while I’m still recovering from the surgery. While I could walk the day after, changing positions in any way was quite painful. But I have an amazing husband who has been cheerfully and stalwartly juggling taking care of me and taking care of Cy, and amazing parents who have been helping with food and laundry and taking care of paperwork, so that mostly I could just focus on nursing Cy and helping myself heal. Truthfully, the hardest part was not the pain so much as being unable to help Toby, relying on him so much for even things like turning over in bed. Or when the pain gets in the way of me being able to lie on my side to nurse Cy (which is both of our favorite nursing positions).

But, all that is relatively short-lived. I’m feeling much better now, and I do heal a bit more every day.

So now my focus is on the little things: like how Cy’s eyes are this dark blue-grey color and I wonder if they’ll change and how, or the tints of ash-blonde and copper in his brown hair, or the way his little mouth moves and his forehead scrunches up when he nurses. Things like how sweet and soft he smells, or how enthralled he gets when you play a little music (we’re starting him on The Beatles and Dave Matthews Band), and how after trying to poo, he takes a big yawn like wow that was hard work. Things like his whimpers and his sighs.

The little things. They’re the things that matter.

Playing the Waiting Game–in Life, Marriage, and Motherhood

Strung out on a line

Strung out on a line

When I was in college, the largely unspoken, but prevailing belief seemed to be that smart, strong women could have plenty of fun dating around, but would want to get their degree and all their career ducks in a row before settling down. For some, random hookups were the mode de jour; for others, dating was one long stream of bad men. Only a few had really long relationships. And motherhood? That was for way later, if at all. Pregnancy would practically mean the end of your life. Taking birth control was the only smart choice.

The trouble is none of us had any idea how difficult it could be to find a good partner after college. When you join the work force, you enter a pool of widely varied, but highly limited options. There’s usually a huge age range—which makes finding unmarried age-mates more difficult, and when you spend the vast majority of your life in one office, meeting people outside that milieu gets incredibly hard. If there aren’t any suitable mates among your coworkers (and let’s not even get into in all the potential trials of an office relationship), you can be hard-pressed to find the time or place to even meet anyone else new.

I remember when I was a teenager, I used to dream that I’d go to college, get a fancy career started, find an awesome apartment in a big city, and then find my future husband, whom I’d marry, preferably around the age of 28. After a couple years of marriage, we’d have our first child, probably when I was around the age of 30. Thirty sounded like a good child-bearing age. That still would give me a couple of years to have my second child at 32 or so, and be done well before that fertility drop-off at 35.

I assumed getting pregnant was easy because all you hear, when you’re young, is about the girls who got pregnant even though they only had unprotected sex “that one time.”

I don’t know if it’s by luck or by choice, but I never had a string of bad men or bad relationships. Sure, I dated a jerk or two and a few guys who, though nice, weren’t going to captivate me long-term. But those were always obvious from the start and I never was one to stick around with a losing bet (I distinctly remember one relationship that had a shelf-life of “Four Tuesdays”—my best friend from college will get this reference; there were lots of fun, crazy memories from that episode in our lives). My relationships either lasted a few weeks or a few years—the long ones, even the ones that didn’t work out, were great while they lasted, and important learning experiences in preparation for marriage.

It turns out, I met my husband in college—though neither of us was anywhere near ready for marriage at the time. But we fell in love, probably to both our surprises, and we stuck around each other, even though “not ready” was a big light flashing above both our heads. Toby took a year to travel the world after he graduated college, and in the interim, we had both grown a lot. By the time he came back, I knew I was ready to think about marriage, even if we weren’t anywhere near ready to marry each other. We loved each other; we knew that much. I probably broke a slew of dating rules by doing this, but I told him, in no uncertain terms, that if we were going to be together, it would be with an eye towards marriage. Though we both knew there were no guarantees in this trial run, I wasn’t going to waste time with someone who was only in it “just for now.”

Luckily for me, he was on the same page, more or less, and the years following were a steady learning experience in which we tried out what marriage might look like, what commitment meant, and what it would mean to devote ourselves to another. By the time he proposed to me, I was 26 and we were ready. We had grown into marriage together. We had become ready together. When we did exchange vows, I had just turned 28.

But marriage isn’t the only odyssey one embarks on—there’s also parenthood. Having just gotten married, I wasn’t in any rush to have a child. There was my doctorate to finish and a career to start. Toby was only just getting his career off the ground, and a job in the tech industry at that time seemed volatile and uncertain. We lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and had other dreams too, namely involving travel. Maybe living abroad for a while. There was still adventure to be had and a baby seemed more like a huge complication and intense responsibility than the next inevitable step in our life progression. The biological clock had started ticking, but I ignored the bell toll.

Though I had heard that fertility decreases with age, I still assumed it would be easy enough to get pregnant. I did have one friend who was trying to get pregnant and had started fertility treatments. She warned me getting pregnant could take time. I heard, but didn’t hear.

When I turned 30, I finished my doctorate and we made plans to move to Thailand. Work with The SOLD Project was already lined up; all I had to do was get to northern Thailand. We were leaving everything we knew behind. That wasn’t the time to start thinking about babies.

After we got settled in Thailand, and Toby’s work situation seemed solid, I was getting integrated at SOLD and halfway through writing a manuscript, I began to listen more carefully to that biological clock. I went off the pill slightly before entirely ready, thinking it would take a few months for the pill’s effects to clear my system, so that, fingers crossed, I might be 100% ready when it did.

Then, I didn’t get pregnant. Our jobs got even better, visitors came and went, we had grown into life in Thailand…I still didn’t get pregnant. My best friend from college was also enduring her own trial of fertility problems, and my best friend from grad school had suffered miscarriages, and another friend was going through a divorce…so by this time, I was really hearing it: Yes, it can be freaking hard to get pregnant. We traveled to Hong Kong and saw more of Asia. I still didn’t get pregnant. We spent a month in Europe, I didn’t get pregnant. We went back to the U.S. for a month…if I didn’t get pregnant soon, we’d have to think about fertility treatments. I didn’t even want to know what that cost would look like. My mother and sister had both had miscarriages before being able to carry a child to term. My cousin is 40 and still unable to get a baby to take, despite almost a decade of treatments. I knew that even if I did get pregnant, it might not work on the first try, and I had to steel myself for that possibility.

It turn out that it was only when we no longer had a stream of life and travel plans that, after more than a year and a half off the pill, I got pregnant. I’m turning 33 next week, and my dreams of having two kids are now looking more like I’ll be blessed to have one. I’m okay with that, and even saying this, I want it to be clear that I’m not complaining. I doubt I’d make different choices even if I had the chance. I love the years Toby and I have had together, and I think the stability we’ve built and the life experiences we’ve had, having had that time, will only serve our child better.

But I feel incredibly lucky. I feel like it’s only partly our choices, and mostly by chance that things have worked out for us (so far—I don’t want to jinx this!). I look at women I know who’ve been trying for years and years to get pregnant, or friends who’ve suffered miscarriages, or others who still can’t find a life partner, and I know how easily it could have gone a different way.

It’s a myth we tell ourselves when we’re young that we can somehow control life and when and how it happens to us. We make plans for what sounds like a good age to marry, and to have children…and these days, that “perfect age” is getting later and later. Instead of right after college, many push it off to their late 20s. Some women, realistic about demands certain careers make, push it off into their 30s, or even later. We don’t factor in the potential for complications. When we make our timelines, we don’t consider the possibility of divorce. We don’t consider the possibility of infertility.

Though I did get married at 28, the truth is I met the man I would marry when I was 20. It took us 8 years to get where we needed to be. If I hadn’t taken my feelings for him seriously way back then, when I still felt I had other life goals to meet first, or vice versa with him for me, who knows where either of us might be? Maybe we would have found other people to love. Maybe there is such a thing as soul mates, and we really are the only ones for each other. Who can really say? Meanwhile, people perpetuate this fear that marriage really hampers one’s freedom and independence. We’ve found this to be entirely untrue for us. Marriage has given us each a strong foundation from which we can both fly—both separately, and together. It’s made us stronger than we would have been alone.

We tell ourselves, when we’re young, that to be real strong, smart women, we have to put education and career before absolutely everything else. The truth is, life goals can exist side by side. You don’t have to put your ducks in a row…sometimes, you just kind of herd them along together. The trend now is to stave off marriage and family until you’ve lived your life first. What makes for “the right time” is an incredibly personal decision and it varies widely from person to person, but I do think we women do ourselves a disservice when we don’t make clear to each other that there are potential tradeoffs when we put off childbearing; that while you’re busy living your life, it can become increasingly harder (and harder than we think it will be) to be able to bear life. We underestimate how fragile life can be, and how uncertain fertility is. We all popped our birth control pills every day for years, each of us never knowing if we’d be the one who’d get pregnant on the first try, the one who would need years of fertility treatments, or the one who couldn’t get pregnant at all.

We can’t control when life happens to us, but we can be honest and informed about the consequences of our choices, and we can listen carefully to our inner guides about who is right for us and when we’re ready. From an employer’s perspective, there’s never a good time for a woman to get pregnant. But your life is your own. External deadlines matter little compared to the timeline we feel ticking along inside.

*   *   *

This post was inspired by this one, “26 and Already Pregnant,” by Kate from Eat The Damn Cake. If you’re interested in more fun facts about delayed marriage and child-rearing, check out this post, “The Sweet Spot for Tying the Knot,” by Susan Walsh at Hooking Up Smart.

New Territory

Via Joie De Vivre (I think - not actually sure about the original source because tumblr's horrible for tracking that.)

Via Joie De Vivre (I think. Not actually sure about the original source because tumblr’s horrible for tracking that. I’m not even convinced this is a precise quote from HH Dalai Lama.)

I came across this image pinned on Pinterest and felt instantly both happy and guilty. I felt happy because, ever since I was about 20 years old or so, I’ve made it my life’s goal to travel someplace new every year. For me, travel is an essential part of a life lived with intention: it exposes me to new sights, sounds, people, cultures…ways of thinking, ways of interacting, and ways of being, so I can be more intentional about my habits of thought and action, choosing which ones are worth keeping and which are worth sloughing away. I’m the kind of person who gravitates towards friends I admire because I love to learn from them. It’s my friends who help me be more generous, more kind, more complimentary, more willing to stand up for myself, more funny, more open, more creative, and more courageous than I would have been, if left to my own devices.

Travel does that for me too. While others might worship power, money, status, or prestige, I bow to the altars of Freedom and Experience. I choose an unfettered life in which I can continually explore and learn and grow. I chose a lifestyle that affords me opportunities to do so, even if it means being far from people we love and that I roam outside the box, fall off the corporate ladder, and don’t fit in anyone’s pigeonhole.

I couldn’t always afford travel, of course. The greatest irony, I discovered when I graduated from college and started working at a publishing company, is that the college life afforded plenty of time to travel, but no money. I started working and had plenty of money, but no time. Nevertheless, I made my resolution stick. By hook or by crook, I would see some place new every year. It didn’t have to be exotic and it didn’t have to be fancy, or even comfortable. Sure, flying off to Greece would be lovely, but there were plenty of things to explore in my vicinity.

So, sometimes that new place involved a flight overseas (my 25th birthday present to myself was a trip, all by myself, to Germany). Some years it was as exotic as South Carolina. Or it was a festival in the desert, like Burning Man. Or just a new city in my home state. And I’ve bunked on couches, camped in tents, shared rooms in hostels, and even spent nights sleeping in a car to make it possible.

When I came across that pin, I felt so happy because this one life goal has brought me so many experiences and a life that I already feel has been so enriched.

But I felt guilty too. Because this whole living life with intention thing is an ongoing process. I’ve flown halfway around the world and landed in the tropics on the other side, but that grand gesture doesn’t let me off the hook. Just because I did it once, doesn’t mean I get to be complacent. If I want to still learn and see and experience and grow, I can’t forget my life goal.

And this year, I almost had–might have entirely, if I hadn’t seen that quote. Since getting pregnant, I’ve lain low. We had talked about going to Bangkok for a shopping & eating expedition at our favorite shops and restaurants, but I mentally shoved it aside, feeling uncomfortable with too much exertion when I felt I should focus on the baby. This year we’re celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary not by jetting off like we did last year, but by staying at an uber-fancy resort right here in town. (Turns out, when you don’t have to pay for transcontinental flights, you can put that money towards some swank accommodations!) And maybe that’s okay. The Parent ‘Hood is definitely new territory for us–a whole new wealth of experience and learning that I can only begin to imagine.

Now that I’m thinking about it again, we’ll probably work in a day or weekend getaway to one of the little towns near us that we haven’t yet seen. I hear Chiang Dao is beautiful, and it’s only a few hours’ drive away. I do wonder though, whether a new place in life constitutes a new place for being and seeing. Maybe, as Proust has said, it’s about seeing things with new eyes more than it’s about just seeing new things period.

Either way, every now and again, it helps to get that reminder to stay open.

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10 Things I Do When I Can’t Do Anything Else

_TMK2921I tell people I have more energy these days than I did in the first trimester, and that’s true, but I’m still often dragging butt around the house. I’ll get energy in spurts, wherein I’ll get all the grocery shopping done, reorganize the fridge, bake a batch of cookies, and wash all the dishes. I’ll write three separate pieces in one sitting. I’ll research something I’ve always wanted to know about.

And then there are days when even a shower seems too much to ask. Deep thoughts take too much energy. I can barely make the trek from the couch to the kitchen and back. I used to read. I used to do yoga. Now those activities, which used to be my relaxation, are reserved for the days or moments when I have energy.

So what else is there? I’ve rediscovered what bored feels like–a feeling I must admit I’m not used to. So how do I fill the time? Here’s 10 things I do when everything else is asking too much:

1) Social media: I spend way more time on Facebook and Pinterest. Not commenting so much (that takes work). Just browsing.

2) Playing games. I never play computer/iPhone games. I mean, really, I don’t. There was a time in my freshman year of college where I played some old Nintendo games (Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda), but then I spilled soup on my laptop and fried my motherboard and lost my games, and thus stopped playing at all. Now I play really stupid Facebook games and a word game on my iPhone. I say stupid games because hard ones take too much energy. Simple, I need simple.

3) Re-watching old favorite movies. Say AnythingSpy Game, Princess Bride, About a Boy, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves are just some of the ones that have recently experienced revival in my house.

4) Trying to call up old favorite music to see if I can find a special song to sing to my unborn child. I want something nice, but not too sappy or cliche.

5) Downloading and compiling nursery rhymes to read to my little bean. Grimm’s fairy tales really were freaking grim, weren’t they?

6) Online window shopping for my little bean. I’m nesting, but there’s not much I can do about it since all our stuff is coming from the U.S., so I’m just gonna’ have to wait. But looking around at cute stuff at least allows me to dream about getting the house ready for the babe.

7) Yoga stretches in bed. My back has been incredibly sore and I do have issues sleeping at night. I don’t have the energy for a full yoga session these days, but doing some stretches when I wake up in the morning has helped so much in loosening up my back and hip muscles.

(Side note: I started asking around for prenatal yoga classes and I got one response: private lessons only for 1,500B for 90 mins. 1,500B!! That’s $53 with the exchange rate as crappy as it is right now. A price like that might make sense in the U.S., but not in Thailand. Certainly not when I was hoping to go at least once or twice a week.)

8) Take a nap. Sometimes, there’s just nothing else for it. A girl’s gotta’ sleep.

9) Take care of my skin and nails. I’m not talking anything serious. Just a little upkeep. A little cream here, a little trim there. Pregnancy feels better when I take care of myself, so that when people feel the need to tell me I look big for 4 months pregnant, I can at least take comfort in the fact that my skin is really soft right now.

10) Make lists of all the things I’m going to do when the energy comes back again. It’s not actual productivity, but it makes me feel organized and productive anyway.

It amazes me that just last year, I was wrapping up a week-long Computer Camp for the kids at SOLD and finishing up edits on my novel to ship off to my editor quickly before we headed to Berlin. That just last year, we were bouncing around in Kreuzberg, Krakow, Prague, and Dresden. That I traced my fingertips over the etchings of children trapped in Auschwitz. That I drove across three European countries. That I was out clubbing until dawn, and then up again for shopping in Prinzlauerberg and capped it off with Blue Man Group. And that was just May. Last year was a whirlwind of adventure, and here I am now, feeling so unproductive — until Toby reminds me I’m being totally and importantly productive: I’m creating new life.

Every year seems to bring something different. Life. It throws you for a loop.

What do you do, when you can’t fathom doing anything else?

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How My Pregnancy Changed My Dog

Dot

Little Miss Dot

Before I became pregnant, Dot had a routine of going out for at least an hour first thing in the morning to wander the neighborhood. We live in a safe, enclosed neighborhood, with plenty of houses but very few neighbors, so we felt it was all right to let her wander, get some fresh air and exercise, and come and go as she liked. She would come back and sleep near me as I worked, but her routine mostly involved alternating between hanging out with me or Toby and running outside every few hours or so. At least a few times a day, she would go into high drama mode upon spying a fellow dog outside. High-pitched shrieking and whining and general freaking-out would commence until we could get up and let her out to go sniff her compatriot’s hind end and come back inside.

Almost as soon I as found out I was pregnant, Dot’s routine changed. She no longer goes on long morning hikes. Instead, she sleeps patiently on her little bed until we get up—whether it be at 7 a.m. or 10 a.m.—at which point, we’ll let her out to go pee, but then she comes right back in, and from then on, she’s attached at my heel. If I go to work on the couch, she’ll sleep right beside me there, or lay perched to watch the outdoors for any possible miscreants. Upstairs, downstairs, there she is right behind me. When I go to the kitchen for a snack, she follows me. When I go to the kitchen to make lunch, she whines to go outside, but instead of wandering afield, she mans her guard post just outside the kitchen door until I’m done cooking, at which point she will follow me to the dining room to stand guard while I eat. When I take a shower, she stands watch outside the bathroom door, sometimes even whining until I stick my wet fingers past the curtain for her to lick and be assured that I am indeed behind the curtain and have not actually melted down the drain.

And then, at night, instead of sleeping in her little bed, she has taken to coming to my side of the bed and sleeping on the floor beside me until I fall asleep. When it’s clear I’m safe and sleeping, she moves back to her proper bed.

To say she has become protective of her pregnant mama would be an understatement.

Yesterday, I packed up the car to go to work at SOLD. Normally, this dog hates anything to do with the car because while the car often means a trip to the lake, it also potentially means a trip to the vet or to the kennel. We usually have to coax and cajole her for several minutes before she begrudgingly gets in the car with a look that clearly says to us, “FINE, but only because I love you, you know that right?” Sometimes she gets so recalcitrant we give up and force her in. Seeing as how just last week she had her annual vaccinations at the vet’s office, one would think this experience would be foremost in her little doggie mind and getting back in the car would be the last thing she’d want to do. Yet, just as I was about to step into the car myself, she popped in and made herself comfy on the front seat–only to be promptly ejected. We had to put her in the house and shut the door so I could drive away. She went into high drama mode and wouldn’t stop whining until Toby finally let her out to prove to her that I was indeed already gone. (Poor little Dottles!)

Dogs are amazing, aren’t they? We figure she must have been able to smell or somehow sense a change in my hormones or pheremones or whatever because the change was almost immediate. I don’t really know if she understands pregnancy or not. Either way, I love that her innate instinct in response was a protective one. I think it bodes well for how she’ll be when the baby comes along. Normally, she’s a little skittish around kids and we’ve had to work hard to socialize her to be at ease around a lot of kids. It’s not easy for her, and if they startle her or come at her looking like they might strike her, she will still occasionally snap so we watch her carefully. We’ll watch her carefully with our little one as well (OF COURSE), but I think as long as she recognizes the baby as a member of the family (which, actually, so far, she’s been amazingly good at figuring out who’s family when visitors come to call), she will be all love and cuddles. I’m curious to see how it plays out.

plant1

Flourishing

coffee1

This post is a day late because when I normally would have been writing it, I got caught up in work for SOLD, and then, I got a surprise call from cousins who just happened to be in town and wanted to meet for dinner.

I’m all for putting off “shoulds” and taking advantage of surprise guests. Besides, they brought me fresh fruit & flowers!

We did go to the doctor yesterday, but no, we did not find out the baby’s sex – maybe next time! However, we still got to see little fingers and toes and our baby’s face is coming into clearer view. Test results from the last visit came back, and all is well.

My doctor does keep on making a point to me that I am NOT immune to the Hep-B virus and wants me to get vaccinated after giving birth. I find this a little bizarre because…why? Hep-B is an STD acquired through unprotected sex with an infected person or by sharing needles. Since I’m not exactly the type to roam around the red light district shooting up, I’m not sure why he thinks I might be at any risk of getting it. Vaccines always make me nervous too, since the whole idea of them is that they work by injecting a tiny bit of the disease into you. But maybe it’s standard practice in Thailand to vaccinate against Hep-B? Is it standard practice in the U.S?

Anyway, we came away from the doctor’s office aglow with that happiness that seems to come every time we see our little bean on that screen. We celebrated by going to the mall, where I got an ice cream, and Toby got…a brand new camera!

This week also brought some very good news from our tax accountant, and, with some fresh new energy, I’m absorbed back into work in a way I haven’t been since getting pregnant.

It’s been a good week. Then, this morning, I read a blog post on A Kilt and a Camera, where Peg and Brian have just moved from the U.K. to Brazil and are navigating their way through setting up house in a foreign land. It reminded me so strongly of what it was like those first days and weeks here in Thailand–the whirlwind of finding a rental and getting vehicles, trying to find the grocery shops and then trying to figure out where everything was in the shops since they’re organized differently, setting up utilities, intuiting our way through social customs, making ourselves understood in a foreign language, and just generally figuring out which way was up. It was so exciting at the time, and went much more smoothly than we had thought or feared it might (primarily because Thai people are so generous and gentle and accommodating), yet now in retrospect I see just how much change we had to go through. Excitement got us through a lot of it, but so did just tackling one project at a time, stepping one foot in front of the other, until now we look back and see the miles we walked.

And now, look at us. We can welcome and entertain visitors on a moment’s notice, we’ve got our business sorted, we’re thriving at work and at play, we’ve been to 6-7 other countries in the meantime, and we have a baby on the way. It’s amazing what can happen in two and a half years. We threw caution to the wind, but little seeds were planted along the way…and now we can stand and look back, and see the burgeoning garden that is the life we’ve created together.

Nothing like seeing those first blooms.

Bigger Picture Blogs is ringing in April with the theme: PLANT. Whether we’re celebrating the arrival of spring in the evidence of plants all around us, placing something in the ground so it can grow, planting ideas, or planting ourselves, in April we will spend time ruminating on the growth of great things from small beginnings.

Live. Love. Capture. Encourage.

Share your ruminations with us! Link up at Bigger Picture Blogs!

People Tell Me

…that I should sit back and enjoy this pregnancy ride. I am, and I do, but there’s also a part of me that is largely stuck in a heightened state of anticipation: waiting to get to a “safer” stage in pregnancy, waiting for the next checkup to confirm all is well, waiting for my parents to come back, waiting for stuff to arrive, waiting to know that everything is going to be fine, waiting to show this baby I can be a good mama….

….because underneath all that is worry.

I act like once this pregnancy is over and I have that baby in my arms, I’ll know everything will be okay.

But of course that’s ridiculous, because as soon as the baby comes I’ll get a whole brand new list of things to worry about. My days of worrying are only beginning, aren’t they?

So. I should just get used to it. And sit back and enjoy.

Creating a Family Narrative

My sister, my mom, my brother, and wee little me, back in the days when we lived in a tiny apartment in Mississippi.

An article in the NY Times recently argued that the best way to instill resilience and self-confidence in children is to provide them with a strong family narrative. It’s a fascinating read. Much like other social groups, there is greater cohesion when the group shares its history – the highs as well as the lows – and forms a strong core identity in which children are helped to feel that they are part of something larger than themselves.

As I read the article, I saw how it reflected my own family. I knew where my parents grew up, I knew some of the darker skeletons in the closet, I knew the story of how my parents met and how I came to be, and my mom told me more times than I can count that blood is thicker than water; that friends may come and go, but that family – whether you want them to or not, and even if they sometimes go about it in really kooky ways – will always be there for you.

It wasn’t just words either. I saw our family banking system in action: when one member needs a boost to qualify for a home, the various relatives scramble to put it together, knowing full well one day it’ll eventually come back to them, though they’d do it regardless; when another gets married or has a baby, the older relatives pull together and set up a nest egg; when the younger members get older, they send money home to the grandfolks or even offer them a place in their own homes, and they continue the cycle of sending money down to help out the younger generations. The insurance is better than anything the FDIC can offer and it’s interest-free.

I saw unconditional love in action: no matter what was said, no matter what hurt was dealt, you could always come home. It might not be easy – justice would always be meted out – but you would never be turned away at the door.

Why does a strong narrative instill resilience? How does the family story bring strength? The article suggests it has to do with “sense-making,” identity creation, and group cohesion. Based on my own experience, I think it’s about more than that. Whenever my mom sat me down and gave me her blood is thicker than water spiel, I always took a deep amount of solace in that knowledge. I took comfort in knowing that I always had a home base, that I would never be shunned no matter what I did (I might surely have to pay the piper, but ostracism would never be the price), and that I always had a gaggle of supporters cheering me on from the sidelines.

Besides, when the family unit is strong, there’s no one better than an older, indulgent sibling, who once kissed all your boo-boos and got you that thing no one else knew you really wanted, to tell you when you’re being a schmuck. Because if you’ve gotten to the point where even they have to say something, then you know you better get your butt in gear. Crying about it is not going to make you shine any brighter in their book, so man up.

The flip side of that coin was a deep sense of duty. I’m not sure it was ever put into so many words, but because I had that comfort and the experience of seeing the family in operation, I knew I had a role to play too: that when others needed my help (whether it was asked for or not) the best way to show love was to jump in and do what was needed, that one needs to learn to be open-minded enough to see love in the kookiest of gestures and appreciate even the quirkiest of personalities, and (this was never expressly said, but if it’s true that I would never be ostracized, then the transverse must also be true) that the worst thing I could ever do would be to turn my back on family because they would never turn their back on me.

It’s part of what gave Toby & me the courage to take a leap and fly across the globe. We knew, no matter what happened or how miserably our experiment might fail, we could always have a soft spot to land at home. It’s what kept me going in the darkest, hardest parts of my most painful experiences…when I wanted to give up, when I would have simply let go if it were simply up to myself, I hung on for my family. When I couldn’t do it for me, I did it to honor the ones who never dreamed they could do it for themselves.

This NY Times article shone a light on an aspect of my family that I hadn’t put into quite the same words before. But if it’s true that a strong family narrative creates stronger children, I know what I’ll do when my child joins the fray. I’ll show them each and every day not just how I love him* and not just how my husband loves him, but all the ways all our aunts, uncles, grandmammas, grandpoppas, and cousins love him and what it means to love back. I will tell him again and again where and who we came from, and I will show him that whatever we did and no matter from how far away, we did it together.

* And by “him” I mean “him or her.” No, we don’t know the baby’s sex yet. 

For the month of March, Bigger Picture Blogs is celebrating the turn from winter toward spring with the theme: Rejuvenate! Come join us: Rejuvenate your heart, rejuvenate your soul – pick up your pen, your camera, and your spirit!

Find all the ways you can blow some fresh air into life and link it up with us at Bigger Picture Blogs!

Live. Love. Capture. Encourage.

Voluptuous

I’m getting round. While I haven’t put on much in the way of poundage, I’m definitely rounder. My breasts are fuller, my hips are widening, and my stomach in verging on rotund – especially after eating, or if I haven’t pooed in a while (It’s true! I’m short…there’s only so much space up in here.)

I can still hide my pregnancy if I wanted to (it would not be comfortable), but when I stand in front of the mirror and look at myself, there is no mistaking the development.

I am Venus.

While my body probably looks more like Botticelli’s version…

…there are plenty of days I feel more akin to the Willendorf variety.

Earlier today, I watched a BBC documentary called, When God Was A Girl, and it was about the history of religion and the important and powerful role women played, how humans used to believe in woman as the creator of life…and death…and the fertility of the earth was linked to the fertility of woman. That is, of course, until male patriarchy came into play and eradicated that train of thought.

I looked on at the statues and imagery of women, and they were all voluptuous and round. Full breasted and rotund, and even at this distance of time and space, they seemed to exude power. These were no waifs (which got me wondering whether the new societal ideal – it is relatively new, historically speaking – of the stick-figured woman is another form of patriarchy, holding up weak, undernourished women as sexy because they appear more easily dominated….but that’s a whole nother topic…). No cute little missies in history. No the powerful women of history could hold up their space.

It’s ironic that I spent the vast majority of my life obsessing over every inch and pound, wanting to get rid of several of them. And now, I run my hands down the sides of my breasts and over the fullness in my belly, and I feel vibrant. I feel alive. There is new life inside me and that is a heady feeling. My husband explores the new curves and weight and kisses where the babe grows inside. I enjoy the roundness of my body because it echoes the fullness of life, connecting me to the millennia of women before me, connecting me to Mother Earth herself.

I am woman, and that is a beautiful thing. It’s life-giving.

For the month of March, Bigger Picture Blogs is celebrating the turn from winter toward spring with the theme: Rejuvenate! Come join us: Rejuvenate your heart, rejuvenate your soul – pick up your pen, your camera, and your spirit!

Find all the ways you can blow some fresh air into life and link it up with us at Bigger Picture Blogs!

Live. LoveCapture. Encourage.

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