Week 35: Still Going Strong

I was relieved to weigh in at my Friday prenatal appointment at a robust 153.6, up from 147 two weeks before that (and 148 two weeks before that). Net weight gain so far is a healthy 28.6 pounds. I love watching those numbers go up, knowing it means my boy is growing and my body is growing to accommodate him.

In some of my Facebook groups, a lot of women seem to freak out as they watch the numbers climb, which makes me sad. Even if I measured health or well being by a single number, I don’t think of the number on the scale as “my” weight. I think of it as me + baby + fluids + placenta + expanded uterus + expanded blood supply + a bit of temporary extra padding here and there to help nourish and support a new human being. I carry it as a badge of honor.

No protein in my urine, either (there was a trace amount last time), blood pressure is still good, uterus measured 33cm (within margin of error), and babe still moves all the time but tends to hang out with his back to the left side of my belly, head down, which is ideal.

The best part is, my midwife is willing to deliver the baby once he reaches 36 weeks, so by my next prenatal appointment — February 23 — I’ll be only two days away from that milestone. I’ve been so terrified of preterm labor and all the risks and costs that go along with it, and every day I breathe such a sigh of relief that he’s still hanging around in there and seems to be doing just fine.

I did have my first birth anxiety dream last night, though. I wasn’t anxious about the birth itself (like, perhaps naively, I am not anxious about giving birth in real life — I figure if most women can do it, so can I, and if anything goes wrong, I’ll be taken to the hospital and be in great hands). To be honest, I’m really excited about birth. It seems like an adventure. And I generally have good tolerance for pain / discomfort as long as I know it’s (a) temporary and (b) not actually injuring me. And especially when it’s (c) for such a beautiful cause.

In the dream I just couldn’t seem to get in touch with my doula or midwife when I was in labor. I kept trying to look up the midwife’s phone number, but the numbers and letters confused me, and finally someone said she was away at another birth, and I was left on my own. The birth still ended up being fine — even easier than expected — but there was just this sense of frustration and wrongness that I couldn’t get in touch with anyone.


As far as parenting books, so far I’ve read Bringing up Bébé (about French parenting) and How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk. Both resonated quite a bit.

The first is about staying calm, slowing down, and paying close attention to baby’s cues as opposed to freaking out every time they whimper. Sometimes they’re just fussing on their way to going back to sleep, and if you pick them up and say, “What’s wrong? Are you hungry? Are you wet?” you interrupt their sleep and turn no problem into an actual problem. Apparently, French babies regularly sleep through the night at three or four months, without any “sleep training” or prolonged, torturous “cry it out” nonsense. (Seems like nonsense to me, anyway, but given that I have zero experience, feel free to take that with a big grain of salt.)

French parents also don’t feed their kids bland mush from the moment they start eating and then wonder why they’re picky eaters. French kids eat the same things grown-ups eat, almost from the very beginning, as soon as they’re ready for solid foods. That makes intuitive sense to me, too.

The How to Talk… book was truly a revelation. I don’t think I can adequately summarize it, but it has to do with respecting children as small and emotionally under-developed but very real humans, and not blaming or shaming them when they screw up. Instead, when things go wrong, teaching them how to fix the problem (as opposed to sit in their room and feel crappy about it) is much more empowering.

It’s also about acknowleding and sitting with kids’ feelings, no matter how “irrational” they may seem. How many times do we grown-ups have irrational feelings? When we do, do we want someone with authority over us to come and say, “That emotion is not valid, and here’s why”? No. We do not. Neither do kids. Like us, they want empathy before they want advice. And if they can be included in the decision-making process about how to solve the impasse (even if they understand the parent ultimately retains veto power), they’re on their way to feeling like their thoughts and feelings actually matter. Which (at least in my experience) makes it so much easier to work through “irrational” emotions and ultimately come back to the rational mind and come up with creative solutions.

There’s so much more to it, but all I can say is, I highly, highly recommend it. It’s incredibly counterintuitive at first, given the way most of us were raised. But then it clicks into place, and it’s like, “Yes! That’s exactly how I wish I had been treated as a kid…”

The book I’m reading now is called The Diaper Free Baby. It’s about elimination communication, the idea that babies don’t actually like to soil themselves (see: every trope about babies peeing as soon as the diaper is off) and are able to communicate subtle signals when they need to go. It may sound wacky, but in most cultures around the world, and through most of history, giant disposable diapers that can hold three pees and a poo haven’t really been a thing. I saw small kids with split-crotch pants in China all the time, and happily potty-trained 18-month-olds are not exactly rare on planet earth.

It’s mostly just the recent Western world that’s decided to train kids to use their pants as a toilet, only to turn around and battle to train them back out of it after the kid has spent a lifetime learning to mess in their pants.

Now, again, I’ve never been a parent, and this may not be something I can even hope to get off the ground. But I figure it’s worth a try (especially since I don’t want to send so many disposables into the landfill, or even mess with cloth diapers any longer than I have to), and I’m enjoying the book a lot. And it just seems to make sense to try to potty train a kid when he’s in the agreeable, imitative phase rather than during the strong-willed “terrible twos” and threes. And “train” isn’t even the right word. Ideally, it’s more a matter of working with your kids’ instincts instead of against them. Or so the philosophy goes. We’ll see.

The Informed Parent is next (general evidence-based best practices), and I went ahead and ordered a used copy of What to Expect in the First Year, for better or worse. I like to read those if nothing else as a kind of touchstone of where our culture is. It’s anthropologically interesting and hopefully occasionally useful as well.

And I just impulse-bought Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason since the paperback was only five bucks. The title itself speaks deeply to me. Again, we’ll see if I can actually apply some of it to a tiny human. God knows I want it to be true — I want love and reason to be the basis of every human interaction I have. Life doesn’t always work that way, but what can we do but our best?

Raising a kid will be such a fascinating case study in so many things.

Here’s a list of other books I’m thinking about. As soon as the kid is here, I’m sure my reading time will go way down, if not be extinguished altogether for a while, so I’m trying to cram in what I can before then. The next book I’ll get will probably be The Whole-Brain Child. I’ll be doing good to finished that and the books I’ve already ordered, but I’m heading to a big consignment sale soon and can maybe pick up a few titles there as well. Anything else I should probably just grab from the library.

Always happy to hear suggestions about what books have been most helpful to you. In general my instinct is to do my best to learn my baby as an individual, treat him as I would want to be treated, and not get too super intensive into nitty-gritty parenting books until after I’ve gotten into some kind of rhythm with my little guy and attempted to see where my insticts take me.

The books I’ve read so far have helped me get rid of some “conventional wisdom” baggage and social conditioning, and I’ve found that very helpful and refreshing.

But we’ll see how it all works in real life…


Baby Shower

It was such fun and such an honor to have so many people help us welcome our little guy into the community and the world! The theme was world travel, and the main organizer was Anjanette, with help from my cousin Lisa, her daughter Brooke, and my best-friend-since-second-grade Holly, who made a fantasic emcee. It took place in the Annex of our pretty little stone Methodist church in Stigler, Oklahoma. I was especially honored by people who drove an hour or two in cold weather to make it down!

The favors — there were 50 all together, no two alike. My nephews helped put the beads and tassels with each Van Gogh print bookmark. White Jordan almonds and baby blue berry butter taffy inside 🙂
The spread. Turkish / Circassian chicken salad bites in phyllo dough, mini quiches, cake, and divine cookies.
The table decorations/favors. Thanks to Anjanette for finding so many globes!
Overwhelmed by generosity!
Rubber duckies in the punch bowl. So cute!
Playing the “match the Turkish and English baby words” game with my nephew Luke. We may have had a slight advantage… (and took ourselves out of the running for the prize, a glass Turkish evil eye charm)
Ah, family…
MC Holly
The kids’ area, with candy grab bags and inflatable globe beach balls. They had a blast!
Playing the “Was it Pamela or Ahmed?” game. Turns out my favorite cartoon was the Ninja Turtles and his favorite food is burgers… I was in Turkey during an attempted military coup, and Ahmed once burned an art project at school to protest unfair grades.

Boring :)

They say the best pregnancy is a boring pregnancy, and that’s pretty much where I’m at. Just keepin’ on. He’s getting a little bigger, kicking a little harder, my back’s aching a little bit more. I have to put folded-up leggings under my hip and a wedge pillow under my bump and another pillow between my knees to sleep without waking up with my back in agony. Turning from one side to the other is quite a production! Obviously I get up at least three times a night to pee (sometimes six). And my cervix is apparently friable and decides to spot now and then. Stressy, but now that it’s done it a few times and nothing bad has happened, I’m feeling calmer.

All in all feeling good, getting ready for my baby shower this weekend, loving every move my four-pound chunk makes (that’s how big he is — and maybe 18 inches long — according to What to Expect…), and so excited to meet him in four to ten weeks, or whenever he decides to make his move!

I’m also quite close to finishing my novel. I’m editing someone else’s novel at the same time, so that’s a distraction. But a more certain source of income, that’s for sure 😉 Really hoping to get a solid draft of my own novel finished before bub gets here.

And now we have two names on our list instead of just one:

Ali Julian
Emre River

Emre means “big brother” (yay!) or “friend.” It’s also the surname of Turkey’s equivalent of Shakespeare (Yunus Emre). Ali means “high” or “elevated” (or “lofty” or “sublime”) and Julian comes from a root meaning “youthful.”

Plus a couple of second-string names to consider: Naim (“peaceful”) or Ozan (“bard” or “poet” — he’d go by Ozzie, probably)

All depends on what he’s like once we meet him. Each name brings to mind a totally different kind of person. Will he be sublime and youthful, like a golden Buddha? Will he be wild yet steadfast, sensitive and strong? Totally chilled out? A surfer poet?

Or he could end up being totally different from any names on our list…

Ahmed prefers a Turkish first name, and I’m happy with that. All the names above are normal in Turkey. A lot of Turkish names can definitely be “interesting” to the non-Turkish ear, so that narrowed our list down quite a bit. (I vetoed Ufuk, for example.) There’s actually a town in Turkey called Batman (pronounced “bot-MON”), and I joke that we should consider that as a name. He’d definitely be the coolest kid in kindergarten!

I get to pick the middle name, and while there’s no one in particular I want to name our son after, I adore names like Julian (it works in almost any romance language, and it’s similar to my middle name Jane) and River (it’s hard to go wrong with the flowing blue veins of planet earth). Emre Julian would be pretty, too. He could go by EJ if he wanted.

I visited the midwife today and was mildly dismayed to learn I had actually lost one pound since two weeks ago. I went from 148 to 147 (up from a baseline of 125). I asked if maybe there was a problem with too little fluid or something, but she felt around and said the fluid level seemed perfectly fine. And he’s the right size and kicking like Pelé, so no cause for alarm.

(I was pretty jealous, though. She said she could feel his hand at one point and said he was kind of playing with her. I’m his mom and can literally barely tell his ass from his elbow. And she’s playing with his sweet little hand? How is that fair??)

My uterus also measured 30.5cm after measuring 31.5 two weeks ago, but that could just have been because he was in a weird position. (Sunny side up — or “stargazing” as my midwife put it — while he usually hangs out with his back to my belly.) He was moving all around, and that can stretch and warp the uterine shape. There was also a trace amount of protein in my urine, but she said not enough to worry about, especially with my blood pressure good and no swelling. (My wedding ring and shoes still fit fine.)

So, I’m deferring to her expertise but glad I’m going in again in 9 days. I’m making it my mission to gain at least a few pounds by then! A baby shower (and maybe the Superbowl, if we’re not on the road in the middle of it) can hopefully help. (My home town, where the baby shower will be, is an hour and a half from where we live.) I’ll make sure to load up on cake, mini quiches, and Circassian chicken salad in phyllo cups. And taffy and Jordan almonds.

I was actually born just after the 1980 Superbowl (Pittsburgh Steelers won), so it seems fitting to have our son’s baby shower on Superbowl Sunday 🙂

P.S. I had my first night of several Braxton Hicks contractions last night, where my uterus scrunched itself up and became hard as a basketball. Not painful but very mildly annoying. Baby kept moving and seemed fine. My midwife says this is a good thing, toning the uterus for labor. It definitely feels today like my ute just got done with a nice workout!

Best Birthday Ever

Nothing super special about the day itself (Sunday, January 21). I got up and made our standard weekend breakfast of eggs, toast, and chicken sage sausage, watched Mr. Robot while we ate it, went to a restorative yoga class (more positional stretching than any kind of workout), felt the usual bounty of Facebook love (gosh, by now I know so many more amazing people than I can ever keep up with…), and received the digital proofs from my maternity photo shoot (and went over them with Ahmed and picked out our faves).

Our only “fancy” plan was to get all dressed up to go out to a nice restaurant nearby and get duck and steak and goat cheese scalloped potatoes and chi chi desserts… only to find out they aren’t open Sunday nights. (Yeah, should have called ahead. Ah well.)

The restaurant was in a hotel, so we just went to the little bar/lounge, and I got a chicken salad sandwich and Ahmed got a reuben. Both came huge and served with fries. We assumed we’d take half of each sandwich home, but before we knew it they were gone and I was ordering dessert. (I also ordered a glass of moscato that we split — I took a sip of it at intervals. The taste is just so magical.)

Dessert was a small but ambrosiacal peach cobbler with thin, buttery, cakey “crust” similar to what my grandma used to make. Just divine. There was an NFL conference championship game on the television, and we watched the Eagles run away with it. Then we came home and watched a very sad and sweet movie called Lion on Amazon Prime, about a boy adopted from India who wasn’t actually an orphan but who just got massively lost and couldn’t find his way back home. Until more than two decades later.

Ahmed and I don’t really exchange “gifts on demand” anymore. If we need something, we discuss it and get it together, and we aren’t fans of buying things just to buy things. So the only gift I got this year was a lovely stainless steel garbage can for our kitchen that I picked out on a trip to Costco with my parents to replace the short plastic one we’ve had for four years. It even opens without having to touch it via motion sensor. I’m as excited about it as I was excited about my socks for Christmas, which is to say, genuinely excited. 🙂

So, just a nice, chill day and a new place to put trash. So why is it my best birthday ever? I think we all know the answer to that 🙂 My birthday marked the end of week 31. He’s getting more and more aggressive lately. If he’s as active on the outside as he is on the inside, we will have our hands full!

Here’s a preview of my maternity photos. Not great quality, just screen grabs, but gives some idea. I wish I had smiled in more of the photos, but I thought some of them turned out pretty well. Hoping to do a second, DIY session when I get a bit bigger (these were taken at 30 weeks, just to be safe!), and I’ll try to smile more in those.

Cuz I really feel like smiling these days.

Screen Shot 2018-01-21 at 3.59.09 PMScreen Shot 2018-01-21 at 3.59.55 PM


Last night I was laughing about calling my son Digger because sometimes at night it feels like he’s trying to claw his way out, digging around at my sides.

Ahmed said, “Maybe he’ll be a traveler like you.”

Immediately I thought, “Noooo! He can’t leave us!” And I felt this rush of empathy for what my mom must have gone through when I was traveling all over the place, including to conflict zones in the Middle East. Tears actually came to my eyes.

Good grief. I really have no idea what I’m getting into… A brand new roller coaster awaits. I’m all in for it, but… wow. Already tearing up thinking of this boy leaving us. He hasn’t even gotten here yet!

P.S. I weighed in at the birth center today — 148, or 23 pounds up from baseline. Still right on track. Ten more weeks and about ten more pounds to go! My uterus was measuring 31.5 cm (at 30.5 weeks). So a little ahead there, but I’ll take it. 🙂 Baby boy seems to like to hang out head down with his back to the front left, which I understand is right where he should be for easiest delivery.

I also interviewed two pediatricians today, one on the third floor of a clinic affiliated with a major hospital, the other a free-standing facility that has its own building and is a bit more laid-back but seems very friendly and professional. It also seems like it’d be easier to get quick appointments with the second place, and it’s closer to our home. I have one more pediatrician to interview in two weeks, but it’s nice to know we already have a great option close at hand.

Thankfully neither office was crawling with kids who looked fluey — everyone looked healthy, probably just there for well visits — so that was a relief. The flu going around these days is crazy.

Happy Happy 2018!

There was a lot of pressure on 2017 to be a good year since 17 is my lucky number (haha). And for us it was. Sure, it started with a miscarriage and the inauguration of one of the most pathetic humans on the planet as president of my country — which didn’t bode particularly well — but we ended the year with my husband a US citizen and my belly 28 weeks pregnant. Whatever’s happening in the world at large, our little corner of it feels happy and blessed.

2018 comes with no particular expectations, which is relaxing to be honest. It can just unfold how it will. The shock of having a Toddler in Chief has worn down to a dull resignation (though I still contribute how I can, from supporting to ACLU to voting religiously, even in small local elections, attending town hall meetings, and contacting my representatives). No offense to toddlers, whom I’m told can actually be lovely with the right kind of parenting 😉

I’m reading Bringing up Bébé right now, about the more laid-back yet respectful style of French parenting. It really shines a spotlight on how neurotic American parents tend to be — and I’m right there with them, even in pregnancy. Trying to cut back.

Meanwhile, according to this website’s guidelines, I’ve passed my home glucose monitoring challenge, which is a relief. Always nice to see when something is working just fine. It involves a lot of finger pricks, but it’s a fascinating peek into how my body handles food. Each of three days starts with a blood glucose test before I even get out of bed, then tests after various meals:

• Day1: FASTING: 78
2 hours after breakfast: 89
(pear, cream of wheat, 4 dried apricot pieces, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, cinnamon)

• Day2: FASTING: 86
1.5 hours after lunch: 92
(eggs, toast, sausage, avocado, feta, clementine)
(I had to go to a yoga class, so didn’t wait 2 hours)

• Day3: FASTING: 76
2 hours after dinner: 102
3 hours after dinner: 80
(huge meal of roasted cauliflower and sauteed spinach with toasted bread crumbs and lemon butter dressing, baked sweet potato fries, steak. Elderberry zinc lozenge after meal. Had a snack of chicken fingers and chips before cooking)

Today I’ll make cinnamon rolls as a kind of “sweet start to the New Year” treat, and because I think Ahmed is feeling a bit deprived since I’ve been avoiding sugar so carefully since the UTI. We’ll see what that does to my blood glucose. I am curious how I handle those (fairly) rare indulgences.

[UPDATE: Ugh. It’s good to remind myself now and then why I don’t go for empty carbs too often. It’s not a good feeling. My blood sugar was about 130 an hour (hour and a half?) after having two large cinnamon rolls. Then I had another half a cinnamon roll for no good reason. Just because it was there. Those first few bites are great, though. I should just stick to those, but 5 cinnamon rolls come in the can…]

My cold is almost gone, though with lingering minor cough and plenty of blowing my nose (the latter of which is par for the course during cold weather in general for me; though my ancestry is Irish and Swedish, I’m pretty sure my soul is Equatorial). Baby boy is still kicking like a champ. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I can feel his back pressing against my belly, though I still can’t tell top from bottom.

Yesterday I finished the book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, and at one point the author asked, “What would you change in your life if you could?”

I realized that there’s really not much I would change. I mean, sure, if I could snap my fingers and make things appear, I’d get prenatal massages twice a week, we’d have a second car, I’d get a top-of-the-line stainless steel pan set (though ours is totally adequate), I’d get our cat a bigger cat condo (though he seems to enjoy the one he has now), and I’d be more likely to get an ultrasound on a paranoid whim.

But in broad strokes? I wouldn’t rather be in any other place, with any other people, in any other condition. I love our fuel-efficient, safe, reliable little Toyota Corolla. Even our apartment, while small, is in the perfect location by the river, and we don’t really need (much) more space — certainly not enough to pay the money and carbon footprint for heating and cooling a bigger space.

I told Ahmed, “If there’s one thing I’d like more of, it’s a bit more storage space.” So we spent a couple hours cleaning out our coat closet and bedroom closet, stashing what we could under the bed, et voilà, now both closets seem tidy and spacious instead of cramped and disorganized. (No bets on how long that’ll last once the bébé gets here. We’ll see how that all works out, space-wise. Already we’re storing quite a stash of baby stuff, but there’s no shortage of more to come. I really hate moving, though, so I hope we can manage to stay here ’til the kid gets to be about one and a half.)

I do, finally, feel a little more secure in the third trimester. At 28 weeks, there’s already a 90% chance of survival. I feel like the worst that’s likely to happen now is expense and hassle rather than heartbreak. It’s a good place to be.

My resolution for the year is to complain less, worry less, and generally focus less on what’s going “wrong” or what could go wrong. I don’t mean to become a mindless rose-colored zombie, but to look around and notice the gifts.

Did I spill coffee all over the couch? Well, it was a $50 couch anyway (from a rich family’s garage sale), it’s served us well, we have a washer and dryer a few feet away to take care of the cushion covers, and guess what? I have a husband who was willing to drive out into the cold night to get me coffee just because I said I had a headache. And the reason I’m insanely, maddeningly clumsy these days is because I’m pregnant — which is exactly what I want to be. On balance, that’s a lot more to be grateful for than pissed off about.

Did the cat get into the cabinet again and rub his wet little nose against clean dishes? Well, he’s safe and sound, not lost in the grasslands, and I have all the dishes I need and good food to cook any time I want it and hot water and soap to wash dishes whenever I need to. Those are all miracles, not to be taken for granted.

Somehow, when it comes to car accidents where no one was hurt, I’ve mastered this skill. Because I was in a bad car accident several years ago in which I could easily have been killed or paralyzed. There were moments when I was keenly aware that my life could change profoundly — or end — in the next few seconds. (I wasn’t driving, I was in the passenger seat.) When the car was “only” flipped up on its side and totalled, our plans for the night (and those of people counting on us) “just” ruined, all I could feel was profound gratitude. Because I was alive and only very minorly injured. And it could easily have gone the other way.

The two accidents we’ve had with our new car? (A deer running in front of us when we were going 65 miles per hour, and some probably drunk idiot with no insurance smashing off the left half of our rear fender and running off.) Both times I felt inexplicably giddy. Calm and happy. Just glad to be alive. (Though admittedly not so giddy handing over a credit card to pay the thousand dollar deductible each time.)

I should cultivate that more. Even when I spill coffee all over the couch.

Love and light to all!


Our New Year’s Eve Scrabble game

Bump 28w4d IMG_1135

January 4, 2018
28 weeks 4 days

Christmas Cold but Warm Feet

Dodgy holiday eating (especially of dairy, which inflames and en-phlegms my throat) mixed with arctic temperatures inside my parents’ house (I’m always surrounded by people who like it five degrees colder than I do during the holidays) plus the fluid in my ears did develop into a winter cold that cemented my sinuses shut, makes sleep difficult, and occasionally causes a bout of painful hacking cough.

I’m slowly getting over it using the nasal steroids plus my special “sick tea”* a friend from India taught me how to make (and a concoction of lemon juice, pressed ginger, jalapeno juice, and oregano oil I got at the health food store). So far I’ve managed to resist taking Sudafed (which is probably safe, but I thought I’d try a more natural route first).

I got lovely frames for my parents with ultrasound pics in them that they can swap in for baby pics once he’s here. I thought they were really cute. Can’t wait to fill them in with his sweet face.

The adults in my family have mostly stopped exchanging gifts in any kind of big way. We’re just happy to see each other, and most of us either have whatever we need or just get what we need when we need it. Getting random “stuff” we don’t really need has become more of a burden than a joy. We’ll still grab something if we’re sure the person will like it or if it’s really meaningful or useful, but all in all — except for making sure the kids have enough stuff to open to keep them happy — we’re quite content not to make it a festival of consumerism.

My most exciting gift this year was super snazzy ankle socks. I’ve been using drug store socks for about 25 years, so it’s exciting to finally upgrade. Combine that with my silky Kindred Bravely under-the-bump underwear and I feel like the Queen of Sheba! (The underwear runs small, so order a size or two up. I was a size 6-8 before being pregnant, and the Large fits me perfectly.)

Bras are the missing element, since the girls grew three sizes overnight (like the Grinch’s heart), and God knows what they’ll do once the milk comes in. I’m patching it together with sports bras and $15 bras from Target. In general, I’ll try to avoid spending a fortune on nursing bras. I’ll just try to keep ’em contained without being too miserable. If all goes well and I have a second kid in a couple of years, it’ll be a good four or five years before I can start thinking about a more stable bra situation. (And if I’m really honest, a part of me dreams of an elective double mastectomy.) Oh well! 😀

* Sick tea recipe: Steep one sliced clove of garlic, sliced fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about 7 cloves for ten minutes in boiling water. Add honey and a squeeze of lemon. Sounds weird but tastes like a delicious Asian broth. And works wonders!