A Note on Raising a Boy

Let me start by saying again that never in my life picturing raising a boy doesn’t make it a regrettable reality. It’s simply the truth. I never imagined being a journalist in Palestine, either, or marrying a Turk after I spent so many years learning Arabic. 😉 Life unfolds in its own way, and I’ve learned to roll with it.

In fact, it’s precisely when things don’t pan out like you imagined that some of the most intense learning and growing can happen. I have no doubt this will be similar.

Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking, for better or worse, since learning the news:

I was all set and ready to raise a strong, confident girl. She could wear “girl” clothes or “boy” clothes, do “boy” things or “girl” things, whatever she wanted. I’d teach her to stand up for herself and go after her dreams, never doubting she could do anything she set her mind to.

When I found out it was a boy? I kind of felt at a loss. Society already teaches boys to be strong and confident. Almost too much sometimes. So what is there for me to do?

It’s a silly question, of course, and the fact that it even occurred to me attests to the degree of brainwashing I still have to deal with. Because it’s actually harder in a way to raise a good man than to raise a good woman.

Society craps on women less and less as time goes by for doing “boy” things, after all. I mean, there’s still sexual harassment and assault everywhere, and an entire male-centric history of the world that tells women they are marginal players at best. Virtually all the “great” explorers, scientists, philosophers, leaders, and authors? If you look at almost any educational curriculum, it’s men, men, men, men, and men.

A few “also rans” are mentioned occasionally, like Marie Curie — exceptions to prove the rule. I remember as a kid thinking of myself as an “honorary man” because I wanted to do something “great” with my life. It took me many, many years to stop hating my femininity for the weakness and smallness it supposedly represented.

But there are still many important things withheld from men, and withheld almost absolutely. I could have done “boy things” with a girl pretty easily. It’s not so “acceptable” to do “girl things” with a boy. Many people cringe visibly if you talk about a boy wearing a pretty dress or dancing silly and graceful and free or accessing his deepest emotions. Even me sometimes, ever so slightly, before I catch myself. Name almost any stereotypically “girl” thing, and it’s hard not to think, “What use does a boy have for that?” Not to mention, I’m not stereotypically ‘girly’ in a lot of ways. I’m still dealing with my own internalized misogyny, and I’m supposed to be teaching a boy how to value the feminine?

And does all this mean I don’t want to be stuck in the role of teaching “girl” stuff to a boy because I still believe “girl” things are inherently less valuable than “boy” things? (A more charitable interpretation would be that I’ve generally been drawn more to “boy” things, and teaching my interests to a boy will be less subversive than teaching them to a girl.)

And I know what society does to sensitive boys and men, and it’s not like society does particularly nice things to boys and men in general. Demanding “confidence” without teaching or expecting access to deeper emotions, the results can actually be quite brittle—and extremely dangerous. “Strength” without intelligent sensitivity is a rather blunt instrument.

Some men take all these “lessons” and end up clueless and entitled, a toxic mix of false bravado and brute force, just taking what they want, what they feel they deserve, and letting the emotional shrapnel fall where it may. Or the blows or the bullets.

But I can’t imagine that’s a very satisfying life. Is Harvey Weinstein a happy person? Donald Trump? Anyone so closed off from empathy, he classifies the entire world as either conquests or enemies?

As a friend of mine who is not raising any boys recently said: “I imagine the hard part is raising him to reject the privileges he’s offered.”

(EDIT: With all the chatter I’ve been seeing / participating in on Facebook these days about teaching boys — and girls — about consent, that aspect of raising a child just seemed to go without saying, but it’s definitely worth mentioning, and incredibly important.)

I’m speaking in very broad strokes here. But as hard as it is to demonstrate to girls that they have just as much value, talent, and potential as boys, it may be even harder in this society to teach boys that they don’t have to be hypermasculine to be worthwhile. They can be a good, solid, happy, sensitive person without being in any way less than the jock down the street. They don’t have to objectify women—or anyone—to feel secure and like they belong in the world.

A friend who’s a high school teacher posted about how she overhears teenage boys talking about sex (and girls) in crude ways. But then she gets comments in her anonymous questions box in which boys seem desperate for real connections. This is so sad to me, but also hopeful. Aggressive and arrogant is not the “natural” state for boys, necessarily. Even raised in this society they end up hungry for more.

Other people wrote on the same thread:

Talking about emotions and desire for connection requires vulnerability, which requires confidence and trust in your milieu, both of which are in short supply in high schools. Othering to establish an ingroup by talking about sex without regard to emotional connection (thus objectifying the female involved) is a way of feeling less vulnerable.

Toxic masculinity means you’re only allowed to talk about [sex crudely], and that’s not something you’re going to put into an anonymous questions box because it’s already a constant topic of discussion.

The hormones are intense and will make you want to f**k anything. But it’s also when a lot of things in your life become unmoored, and you’re desperate for validation and to figure out love outside of family. It’s only manly to talk about the first one in public, though.

It seems like a sad way to live, and it’s incredibly pervasive. Incredibly hard to escape, especially in Lord of the Flies scenarios like high school. (Or worse, middle school — years I barely think about other than remembering lying in bed fantasizing about killing myself.) What on earth can I do for a tender, playful little boy in the face of all that? It’s one of the many frightening aspects of raising a boy I just never thought about.

(A part of me genuinely wants to get the kids walking and talking and then move to some jungle village in Costa Rica.)

Of course, if I’d had a daughter, those pre-conceived notions of mine might have been way off. It might actually be better to come into this with a blanker slate. I also feel like it’ll fundamentally change the way I think about and relate to men. To see how they get their start, how they grow, from their very first precious, helpless, desperately cute moments. I know what it’s like to grow up a girl. I have no idea what it’s like to grow up a boy.

My same friend mentioned above (who’s not raising any boys) says people at her daughter’s fairly progressive school are more and more relaxed about boys doing “girl” stuff. Boys come to school with painted nails and stuff, and no one cares, though it’s pretty hard to escape gender-norming anywhere. She said, “There’s a lot of ‘Yes, I know so and so said that’s just for boys/girls but they’re wrong.'”

In the end it’s up to him what he’s into. So I’ll give him options and see what lights up his eyes. And if anyone doesn’t like any of it, they can take it up with me.

I’ll model respectful communication and female strength and worth as well as I can, and my husband will model his own genuine dignity, strength, and worth.

We obviously won’t be his only influences, though, so there will be a significant degree of struggling against harmful social indoctrination.

It will be an adventure, that’s for sure.

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Okie Meditation Retreat 2017

I did this same retreat back in 2014, when I was just starting to grasp that our journey to parenthood might be a long and excruciating one. The retreat is held in silence (no icebreakers, no introductions, no small talk — just humans) and solidly scheduled from 7am until 9pm with two yoga sessions and four meditation sessions every day plus meals, meetings, workshops, and some breaks to let us walk meditatively around in the lovely fall scenery of the rural setting.

The meetings can get intense. They always start with beautiful music and readings from history’s great mystics to nourish the soul, then the organizers speak for some time, then we break up for art therapy or journaling. Then, if we choose, we all share what’s coming up for us with each topic and assignment.

It was always fascinating and respectful; even the longest meetings seemed to fly by.

It was a deeply important experience to me, because it helped me get a handle on my constant directionless fear and anxiety at the time:

“I named [my fear] Fred and pictured him as a lonely guy in a huge fire station randomly pulling at bells and alarms because no one had trained him properly and he didn’t know what else to do. I explained to him that I needed him alert and watchful, not making meaningless noises all the time. I told him he was valuable, and he would be even more valuable… if he stayed rested up in case there was a real emergency. After quite a bit of back-and-forth, he seemed to believe that made sense.

Now when I feel anxiety gnawing away at me, I try to remember to say, “Fred? Is there a problem?” Usually he says, “Uh, no, sorry. Old habits,” and he shrugs apologetically and I smile, and I feel much better. It’s just Fred knocking around. There’s really nothing wrong at this particular moment.”

I did something similar with my ego at the time. Instead of trying to push it away or deny it, I made friends with it and gave it some guidance and training about boundaries and appropriate behavior. When the ego knows you respect it — and you have its number — it’s less likely to act out in harmful ways. Believe me, it’ll still get you sometimes, but little by little the inmates can get to know their asylum and their place in it a little better, and you start to find more harmony and fewer noisy wars within yourself.

Then, of course, three very tough years passed, and finally now things are actually pretty good (knock wood), but I’ve been trained in the past three years to always expect the worst. It’s become very hard to enjoy this life even when it’s good.

My confidence has also taken a lot of hits. For example, I’ve spent far too much time in the Google research rabbit hole and on Facebook in the past few years trying to avoid or deny problems that felt all-consuming, including the fertility hell itself plus the fact that all that denial was robbing me of a chance to work hard at work worth doing. (I could have written four books by now instead of just two if I didn’t waste so much precious time.) And the whole thing would make me feel bad about myself and unworthy to write anything worth anything.

It was a tight little self-defeating spiral, and every time I tried to claw out of it, I’d find the old patterns reasserting themselves before I knew what was happening, and I’d have that much less confidence I could ever get out of it.

I know it sounds ridiculous, and I feel ridiculous writing it. But I have addictive / compulsive tendencies in my DNA, and while I managed to stay away from drinking or gambling or running up huge credit card bills I couldn’t pay, Facebook and internet research became my drugs of choice. Addiction is “a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences.” And I’d say wasting half your life on things that make you miserable counts as adverse consequences.

But it seems like such a “silly and harmless” addiction, it’s that much easier to be in denial about it, even as you sit down determined to finish Chapter 9 only to “just check your Facebook messages” and then look up and realize four hours have passed and you’ve written off the day. Again.

When your addiction is just a tab away from your work, it’s that much easier to indulge and feel like it’s no big deal. Like an alcoholic bartender.

Facebook is not inherently bad, of course, any more than drinking or gambling or credit cards are inherently bad. But when it becomes a compulsion that eats away at your life and work, something needs to change.

So this retreat was about looking myself in the face and making this change happen by whatever means necessary. (I didn’t take my computer and don’t have a smart phone, so it was a nice four-day “detox.”) Addiction, feeling unworthy, and feeling uneasy even in good times — these seemed to be my main issues, and it was time to deal with them square-on.

We started this year by talking about how our animal minds have a bias toward paying attention to and accentuating negativity but how we can consciously train ourselves away from this default behavior. Yes, our minds come with “factory settings,” which have helped us survive and become an incredibly resilient species. And growing up without secure attachments in a culture that has its priorities incredibly screwed up can mess with you even more. (They said about half of Americans grow up not even securely attached to their own parents or caregivers. Yikes.)

But miraculously, our minds also have something called “neuroplasticity,” which means our brain patterns can be changed with practice. Our incredible brains can actually rewire themselves! (Let that sink in for a minute. It’s pretty damned gobsmacking.)

So we started by listing all the things we loved in the world, and it was so easy to let this list flow. My God, there are so many good things in the world. So many lovely people. We can forget that with the daily barrage of awful news. It was kind of jarring to compare this long, lovely list with the way we tend to go about our days complaining about everything.

We talked about some of the ways our brains adapt to seemingly overwhelming stimuli, e.g., through avoidance (addiction can fill this role), denial, dissociation (numbness), intellectualization (processing life through concepts, not direct experience), and somatization (storing emotions in our body).

Instead of berating ourselves for these mechanisms, the organizers encouraged us to meet them with mercy. To talk to them and make friends with them. And then maybe gently suggest that they’ve run their course, and we’ve got this now.

Being a little bit kind to yourself — even the parts that you hate — can be so counterintuitive to hyper-competitive Americans. We feel like we have to beat ourselves into submission. And that just doesn’t work very well. It’s certainly not sustainable. And I was shocked at how hard it was to be kind to myself. It felt very foreign and made me squirm. Seeing my screw-ups and allowing them as part of being human sometimes — this was hard. But it also felt amazing. And it also started, finally, to feel like transformation was really possible. Just looking yourself in the eye and choosing to neither hate nor flinch — this can really change things.

It’s also OK that my life is good, my husband is supportive, my son is on the way, and I’m about to finish a novel that means so much to me (even if it never means much to anyone else). I don’t have to flinch from that, either, or feel like I’m unworthy or everything will go to crap at any moment. It is actually an option to relax and enjoy this. I’ve had some bad luck and I’ve had a lot of good luck, and the bad luck usually passes eventually (one way or another) and the good luck should be savored and cherished.

And sometimes, out of the most impenetrable muck, a beautiful lotus blooms. No muck, no lotus. So maybe it’s really all good luck if we look at it the right way.

The most heady assignment was probably imagining living to a ripe old age and writing our ideal obituary. It was pretty effective in focusing us in on what’s truly most important to us. None of us wrote that the most important things to us were money or status, that’s for sure. My summing-up paragraph at the end:

“What mattered most to Pamela was a healthy, happy family, making life better for others, and seeking the truth no matter where it led, with unshakeable faith that the universe was worth knowing, and so was every jot and being within it. She wanted others to know and love the universe as much as she did, and more.”

And that’s really the take away message of the retreat: You have to make friends with all of it. You have to make peace with all of it. If you reject any part of the universe — or yourself — you are fragmented from yourself and the universe, at war with what is. Even if there’s something about the world you want to change, you first have to truly meet that thing and accept that it is what is right now.

But coincidence or kismet, I was reading The Darkness of the Light Chasers at the time of the retreat, and during the retreat I read the part about how the author took different aspects of her personality — including the ones she could hardly bear to look at — and met them as distinct individuals within her psyche, all clamoring to be known and respected.

After all, we are all lazy and hard-working, ugly and beautiful, fit and slobby, judgy and accepting, kind and cruel, graceful and awkward, arrogant and insecure, confident and humble, easygoing and repressed, paragons of integrity and flaming hypocrites.

We ALL have all of these traits within us and countless more. If there’s a trait we strongly deny in ourselves, that’s where we most need to go. That’s whom we most need to meet. Because denying or disrespecting parts of ourselves makes that part wild and grumpy, and to try to get us to pay attention to them, they act out and cause us to behave in inappropriate ways.

It makes sense I guess. I mean, I know children desperately want that: to be seen, known, respected, not dismissed or downplayed. Why should I be surprised that the ‘children’ within me want the same? This universe longs to know itself. It longs to be known.

So in a number of meditations I waited to see which part of myself wanted attention, and then I approached them, humbly and respectfully, and asked them who they were and what they wanted from me. I recoiled from some of them initially, but I put that reaction aside and approached each with total kindness and patience. And to my shock, they all had something wise and valuable to share. They were all people I ended up liking. Even Lazy Lina and Unworthy Ula. Hell, even Facebook Fanny turned out to be a hoot. But now she’s calmed down and isn’t in the driver’s seat anymore.

What was actually harder for me was approaching the aspects of myself that are supposedly positive, like Brave Beverly or Industrious Isabelle. I was afraid they’d be full of themselves and fooling themselves, or just uptight and boring. But they were pretty cool as well, once you got to know them, and pretty down-to-earth.

I introduced Industrious Isabelle to Lazy Lina, and at first they hated each other. But they talked for a while and eventually made friends. There is space for both of them in my psyche. Sometimes I’m lazy, sometimes I work hard. And now I know both of them, and neither is scary or out of control, nor are they at war with each other.

It may all sound a bit schizophrenic, but it’s working for me. I’m feeling better than I have in years. It’s really strange and sometimes disconcerting being kind and curious about myself. It’s so much easier and more natural to beat myself up. But I am, after all, a reflection of the universe that created me, and I love the universe. So maybe it’s not so crazy to love myself, too.

I came home and had my husband disable Facebook on my browser during working hours except for the lunch hour + ten minutes to use whenever I choose. So far it’s working wonderfully, and I don’t feel nearly as compulsive as I did before the retreat. I feel more free and open. I’m also working on instituting daily rituals of yoga, meditation, and journaling to keep things on track and expand on the work I did at the retreat. (I still have a lot of aspects of myself to meet and befriend, after all.)

Life can be really good if you let it be, and I’m taking steps to let it be. It feels like a big leap forward after many years of stagnation. Like a huge breath of fresh air.

P.S. I still have the preggo munchies, and I ate like a beast when I was there. So much good food. People were saying my bump was visibly larger by the end, and he’s also started moving more and more. I love it every time. It’s like the clock starts again — the clock on him being OK. I was twenty weeks on Sunday. Halfway there!!

Announcing…

So… it’s officially official now. My OB today looked at the report and said everything looks “excellent.” I’ll take it. (I’ve also gained ten pounds, right on track, yay!)

Scary but so exciting to be so public all of a sudden. Felt like this time would never get here!

Our announcement:

After four long years, our first child is due to arrive planet-side in March 2018. We can’t wait to meet him ❤

Honestly never knew if we’d see this day 😀

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Think I’m Gonna Have a Son

I’ve always loved that song — Danny’s Song:

People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one
And we’ve only just begun
Think I’m gonna have a son
He will be like she and me, as free as a dove
Conceived in love
Sun is gonna shine above

And even though we ain’t got money
I’m so in love with you, honey
And everything will bring a chain of love
And in the morning, when I rise
You bring a tear of joy to my eyes
And tell me everything is gonna be alright

So our firstborn is gonna be a son! He looked great on the ultrasound (to me anyway — the ultrasound tech couldn’t tell me anything but gender and a few measurements), and I’ll go to the doctor tomorrow to get the final word. The tech couldn’t get any foot pics because he was kicking around so much. We said he’s practicing his soccer skills already.

To be honest, I’ve always envisioned having a daughter. I never really thought much about having a son. But since I’ve been pregnant, and kind of assuming it would be a girl out of habit (just a vision that started in childhood of having a daughter and handing down my precious garnet birthstone ring), every now and then I would remind myself, “It may be a boy, you know.” And every time, I’d feel a warm glow in my chest. The same warmth I felt when Ahmed asked me to marry him.

I guess my mother’s intuition isn’t as bad as my sense of direction 🙂

We didn’t get any really great, clear profile shots because the kid was either moving around or kind of bunched up most of the time. (He flipped all the way from head down to head up during the course of the scan.) I think this was the best one.

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Baby facepalm?

The heart rate was 136 (it’s been averaging about that lately on the home doppler), and he was measuring at 19w1d length-wise, which is exactly what he is, and ten ounces (though weight measurements — or rather, approximations — via ultrasound are notoriously unreliable; not sure why they bother).

I’m not going to post any junk shots. I think we all know what a baby penis looks like 😉

Not gonna lie. It will be an adjustment. I’ve always pictured a girl so clearly in my mind, and I had some awesome girl names picked out that I was really excited about. We also already have six grandsons (and zero granddaughters) on my side of the family, so “another boy” isn’t nearly as exciting and novel as a girl would be.

I also don’t know what the heck to get a boy that will incorporate his birth stone, aquamarine. Plus I have three little girl figurines, holding a golden 1, 2, and 3, to mark the first three birthdays. (I got 2 and 3 when I was a baby and found 1 at a flea market when I was in California for my embryo transfer for this little one.) I’m not sure if that will mean anything to a boy. (Of course, it may not mean much to a girl, either, if she doesn’t care about figurines the way I did when I was little.)

At least my stuffed animals are firmly unisex. 🙂 And my garnet ring was stolen by my brother’s friend’s unattended toddler a while ago (eaten? thrown out of a car window? buried? I’ll never know) when she toddled into my room and found it in my jewely box. By the time I realized it was gone, the whole family was on the road, and the ring was never seen again. I still have my engagement ring to hand down, etc., but I may yet have a daughter (or daughter-in-law) for that kind of thing.

It’s weird to me that I’m hung up on gender whatsoever. (By “gender” I mean “sex” here, but “hung up on sex” sounds like something else, so I’ll just use “gender” for clarity.) Gender doesn’t necessarily tell you much about a person at all. And it’s not like I’m going to suddenly change any major color schemes. I’ll choose colors based on what I like, or what looks good with the baby’s skin, not what gender the baby is. And a boy may like sparkly things as much as I do. (I’m a raccoon, basically.) And of course the kid would have had a built-in same-sex soccer role model either way.

And it’s not like I liked frilly dresses as a kid, though now I think little girls prancing around in dresses are so cute. I guess boys can prance around in dresses, too, if they wanna. Or not — up to them. 🙂

Just goes to show — life has a way of not coming out exactly like the pictures in your head. And that’s part of what’s wonderful about it. How many more surprises are still to come?

So yeah, it’ll be an adjustment, but I don’t think it’ll take me very long to adjust, and I know this little guy will steal my heart in no time. I’m alternating between calling him Cassini Dean and Julian Ali in my mind. (These are the only two names I’ve come up with so far for a boy, just offhand-like, and neither will probably work in the end, since it would be nice to have a name that works well in Turkey, too.) There will only be nicknames until the child is born, because the name has to fit the child, and we won’t know what fits until we see him.

Him. So that’s it. No more flipping pronouns back and forth. No more “it.” He. Our son. 😀

Crazy how much more real it seems all of a sudden…

Target Run!

I should cool it with the exclamation points, I know. I’m just excited lately.

And I realize pretty much no one but me is going to care about posts like this, but what the heck. It’s my blog. 😉

So I keep resisting buying anything “maternity” because (a) it’s kind of jinxy, (b) I’m not really far along enough to need it per se, except for my mammaries, and (c) I was kind of hoping I could make it the whole way without needing it at all — just wear baggy stuff and call it good.

But I finally got fed up with wearing sports bras that don’t fit anymore (and I pretty much refuse to deal with underwires right now), so I headed to Target to see what I could find.

And I may have gone just a little overboard. I just kept finding cute or practical things for really nice prices, and I ended up with two bras (one for going out, no wire, one for lounging that fits beautifully and is crazy comfy) and four shirts. Luckily it only cost a total of $85.

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This one I can wear even after I give birth, and it’s insanely soft.

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You gotta have at least one shirt that shamelessly shows off the bump. I can wear this with some cute flannel shirts for a layered look.

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If we end up going to a nice restaurant or something.

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Sooooo warm and comfy. Perfect for wearing around the house when it’s too cool for a t-shirt but not cold enough for a fuzzy robe. I can also wear it out of the house for an extra warm layer.

I am generally not someone who shops a lot, and certainly not someone who enjoys it. (I still have a lot of the clothes I wore in college. I’m known for spending all day in a mall, miserable, and coming out with, like, a pair of socks. Or some shirt I never end up wearing.) So four shirts (and two bras!) that I really love in one day — all for well under $100 — feels like a massive victory.

I guess all I needed was a pot belly for inspiration?

Movement!

OK, now there’s no doubt about it. I was feeling weird that I kept feeling the baby moving against my hand but wasn’t feeling anything internally. (Or at least it was so faint as to be much less certain than the movement against my hand.) The movement hasn’t been rhythmic like a heartbeat nor anything like gas moving. (There shouldn’t be any gas in my uterus anyway.)

But it was still fairly faint — and just possible to deny — until last night, at 18 and a half weeks, when I felt either a little head or a little butt press up against my hand three or four times in exactly the way you see fetuses stretch up in ultrasound videos. (Yes, I’ve watched more than one 20 week ultrasound video to see what to expect.)

And then today it was like a switch flipped. And suddenly I can feel something like a little fishing wiggling around in my belly. It’s marvelous, and so reassuring. Of course my worry-mind occasionally thinks, “Oh no, maybe it’s in distress. Maybe it’s drowning and trying to get out!” And then my neocortex kicks in and rolls its eyes pretty hard. But even my rational mind is a bit anxious about Monday’s ultrasound. It is, of course, possible for things to go terribly wrong at this stage or shortly after.

But it’s more likely to go right, and I’ll do my best to enjoy the new sensations and the coming weekend.

I met with my doula for tea last night. For some reason I thought she lived up town, so I picked a place up town for us to meet, but we both live closer to 71st St (south Tulsa), so we both schlepped a long way for no good reason. (Well, not that long — a 15 minute drive at most. Tulsa’s a pretty compact place.) But we talked non-stop for more than an hour, and we have a tremendous amount in common, and I’m just feeling good and excited about the whole thing.

Among other things, she said most women who opt for natural childbirth give birth completely nude, even in the hospital. Which is a relief, as this makes the most sense to me and seems like it’d be the most comfortable. I’ll probably wear a sports bra for a good long while, just to keep things reined in, and a gown of some kind until things get really intense (just to make walking / dancing around the room less awkward), but Amy said the clothes come off pretty quick when you’re really in the zone, and at that point, modesty is the furthest thing from your mind.

It will be so nice to have someone in the room who sees childbirth as routine, natural, and healthy and not “a medical problem waiting to happen.” If a medical problem does happen — hey, that’s why I’ll be in a hospital. But it’ll be nice to have at least someone who’ll just be shepherding the process that my body will be going through (and that women’s bodies have successfully accomplished from time immemorial), not merely looking for something to poke, prod, or cut. (I’m sure it’ll be a mix of both.)

Way back in 2014, when I was just starting to realize we might have a long fertility “journey” ahead of us, I attended a four-day silent meditation retreat in rural Oklahoma. I wasn’t in the best place then, and it really helped me. I’m in a much better place now (and will continue to be if Monday’s ultrasound goes well), but there’s still so much to work on. I’m so grateful I’ll have the opportunity to do it again next week. It’s such a spiritual breath of fresh air. I hope it’ll set me up to really revel in the rest of this pregnancy and what comes after.

P.S. The baby was super active that night, and I put Ahmed’s hands on my abdomen. I could even feel it through Ahmed’s hand! He was amazed. It’s still so crazy to think about a living thing squirming around in my abdomen!

Happy 89th, Grandma

This weekend was Grandma’s big 89th birthday shindig in my home town of Stigler (pop. 2500), and 2 of 3 of her living children and 6 of 11 grandkids and their spouses and kids showed up, plus friends and a neighbor kid, and it was quite a crowd. About a dozen kids in all, and it was a gorgeous day so they (we) spent a lot of time playing outside, riding bikes (with and without training wheels) and Hot Wheels and playing basketball and throwing a small football around. Not an electronic screen in sight. It really reminded me of my childhood, and I was happy to see it carrying on into the next generation.

There was only one girl in the entire crowd (other than my cousin Andrea’s tiny baby girl — and it was great to finally meet her!), and she just joined in with the rest of them and even briefly organized a game she made up herself (Sneaky Sneaky Fox), even though it was really just Red Light Green Light with a different name. She also really wanted to be able to go out into the road on the bike she was riding (it had training wheels and was a bit too big for her), but she insisted I push her both because it was a bit hard to get traction on some of the gravelly parts and because “I’m afraid I’ll fall over and bonk my head.” She was too cute.

My grandmother — whom everyone says is my doppelganger — is reasonably mobile these days, but not speedy by any means, and she was content to preside over the proceedings from comfortably indoors. Mom got her a great big white sheet cake with whipped cream frosting, and we all had cake and ice cream after a huge lunch of slow-cooked beef and pork, potatoes au gratin, and some kind of maple bacon green beans that have been nicknamed “crack green beans” (because they’re super addictive) by the cooks who make them at E’s Hideaway (the nice restaurant in town — a couple of the dishes were catered). There was so much food we took two big cartons home and made a couple more meals out of it, and there’s still enough for Mom and Bill to probably eat all week.

grandma
This was at my wedding in 2013, but we all still look the same!

The cake was surprisingly good for a supermarket sheet cake. Tasted like something from a fine bakery, to be honest. Kudos to the chefs at the supermarket formerly known as Shelton’s.

Most people already knew I was expecting (I RSVP’d on Facebook “Plus one and a half”), and it was nice to be congratulated and also to see a few people light up when they heard the news. My brother’s youngest was born two Marches ago, Andrea’s girl was born last March, and my little is right in line to be next. There are still a couple of cousins who haven’t procreated yet, so mine may or may not end up being the very youngest of the great-grandkids. (My brother’s excited that his six boys will finally have a cousin of their own! Well, I guess they have cousins from my (half-)brother’s other half-siblings, but a cousin on this side of his family.)

The only real pregnancy news I have (other than the top of my uterus getting super close to my belly botton, and finally starting to show a bit, though in my usual baggy clothes no one would be able to tell — I still mostly just look a bit thick around the middle) is that I heard the baby kicking today on the doppler for the first time. I still can’t really feel anything, and it’s frustrating, but it was fun listening to the little wiggle worm bop around. Those kicks are surprisngly loud. Like (very) loud staticky record scratches, much louder than the heart beat. Hurts the ears, really. It does seem a bit odd that this is the first time I’ve ever heard them, but maybe I tend to check in while she’s sleeping?

Just six days until the Big Ultrasound. Can’t pretend I’m not nervous. Wouldn’t it be a kick in the teeth to finally get this far only to… But I’m trying not to go there. Being busy and hearing the heart beat on a semi-regular basis has gotten me this far. Just six more days, and hopefully it’ll be reassuring news. And hopefully I can finally stop having to say “he or she” all the time and can settle on some kind of vision in my head.

Right now it just keeps flipping between a cute little brown eyed girl and a cute little olive-skinned boy. The sex shouldn’t matter that much — all kids are awesome, and having a kid of a certain sex doesn’t necessarily mean anything about preferred hair length, hobbies and interests, what they’ll wear, or how big and sweet their eyes are. But it’s interesting how hard it is for me to picture a kid without knowing the sex.

Mainly I just want this little one to be healthy. Keep on kicking, hun. We’re almost halfway there.

IMG_1075Another random wedding pic 🙂