Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Our New Garden

Last month we moved to a new house. It was a daunting proposition with a 3 year old and a 2 month old, but somehow we managed it (even if I haven’t unpacked all of my clothes yet). Shroomi is very pleased with her new digs, and Puggle just seems a bit confused about the whole thing, so I’m willing to call it a success.

In our new home we now have an abundance of space; we’ve gone from a granny flat to a full house with gardens. I didn’t imagine this would be possible a year ago before we got our finances under control and paid off all of our debts, so now we are reaping the rewards of what was realistically not much hard work at all. There are obviously some adjustment pains along the way (“Scissors! What happened to the scissors?”) but overall everyone in our family is calmer and happier here.

The next thing that we plan to reap is our first crop from our new vegetable garden. One thing I have missed over the past few years is a connection to the land. There is something soothing about working the earth, nurturing plants, and finally killing them so I can eat them. We are experimenting with home schooling, so hauling Shroomi out into the garden with me has been an important lesson for us both. The first thing we learned is that we don’t haul Puggle out there with us, but I think she’ll come around in a few months.

Until I started teaching my daughter how to work in the garden, I had no idea how many distinct skills are involved. She now knows how to walk carefully in a garden bed so that she doesn’t stand on anything important, she can distinguish between weeds and plants that we want to keep, she can plant things and repot them, she can shovel dirt and identify debris that shouldn’t be in the garden beds, and now she is working on identifying the differences between seeds and how to space them while planting them. We’re even having some success watering things with the hose without squirting interesting things such as Mummy or the washing.

Our first lettuces are a week or two away from harvesting, and Shroomi is gleefully looking forward to eating the seedlings that she patted into the soil with declarations of “I love you, baby plant”. She understands the connection between the garden and the table, and that she will take her harvests to her father so that they can continue the skill development in the kitchen with home grown instead of shop bought.

When I first took Shroomi out with me, I wasn’t hoping for much beyond keeping her out of mischief and perhaps entertaining her at the same time. What I didn’t expect was the increase in pride and self confidence that she would experience. She is now an active participant in the creation of her new home, and she happily chatters about her work and success. Eating freshly grown produce is rewarding, but watching my daughter flourish is the greater reward.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Good Things Happen Too

The past month has taught me something about myself: I struggle to share the positive things in my life. There are a lot of toxic people around me, the sort of people who twist my words and use them to hurt me, and to protect myself I keep a lot of secrets. This habit spills into most of my relationships, but instead of feeling safe I just feel isolated and lonely.

I need to work on this.

In the spirit of getting started, I wanted to share some of the good stuff that has been going on.

Shroomi turned two a few months ago. She’s big, strong and healthy. She can count to 20 in both English and German, and read the corresponding numbers. We’re struggling a bit with the alphabet, but that’s mostly because she doesn’t understand why some of the capital letters don’t look anything like the lower case letters. She is turning into a charming, polite, thoughtful little girl, and I’m absurdly proud of her.

I finally got around to learning French. Once I found a method that worked for me things became much simpler. There is still a lot of work to do with vocabulary, and my pronunciation is probably terrible, but I feel confident to try talking with the natives.

The website that I’ve been building for more than a year is online at www.languagelearning.ninja/. There is an incredible amount of work that still needs to be done on it, but I faced my fear and put part of it up. Users can register, play some of the games, and work with 6 different languages. Originally I was going to work on the language and content side of the project while a programmer I know did the code, and we were talking about bringing a designer on. Working with other people fell through for various reasons, but I still managed to launch by the original date, and with more languages than we originally discussed.

Following on from the previous point, 18 months ago I only knew how to write basic HTML and CSS. Now I can program in multiple languages and I do full stack development on an almost daily basis. I’ve nearly finished two IT units through Open Universities Australia, and for my programming unit I’m currently sitting on a 100% mark. A bit of external validation was just what I needed.

I found a great physiotherapist who specialises in women’s health. Thanks to her I can now go a full week without needing to see a chiropractor for intense pain, and that’s a week full of activity including running, jumping, climbing and baby wearing. My strength is improving daily, and I don’t have to be careful every time I want to do a basic movement. The relief from constant pain has been exhilarating.

We’ve decided to do a bit more travelling. Shroomi and I will spend a month travelling together through Europe before her father joins us for a few more weeks. This trip is going to be a blending of all the success I currently have in my life: my relationship with my beautiful little girl, my increasing health, my passion for language and finding ways to work remotely.

We pay for the tickets tomorrow.

Leave a comment »

Don’t Mess With Mum

One month ago I started a new job. This is the first time in almost five years that I have been employed by someone else, and it represented a massive step for me. Returning to full time paid employment meant leaving Shroomi for most of the day. It meant putting her into crèche for a few hours each week. It meant restricting the amount of time we could spend breastfeeding together. It meant completely redefining the roles in my family. And it meant seeing if my body could handle the demands of a normal office.

The past month has been intense. Not only did I learn that there are tiny muscles between the vertebrae, I learned that they can become swollen. Yes, it is as painful as it sounds. I learned that Shroomi wasn’t delighted to have her day time feeds restricted to my half hour lunch break. My partner learned that being at home all day with a toddler is fairly exhausting. I could have told him that, but it was funnier to watch him learn it for himself.

Despite the problems we all faced, I also learned that we are resilient and able to cope with a lot of obstacles. Towards the end of the fourth week I thought that we might have found our groove when things started working for everyone. Shroomi began to understand that she would see Mummy soon, my partner’s stamina improved, and I found a myotherapy schedule that was keeping the pain under control.

Friday is when things got…interesting.

I was alone on my lunch break when my female supervisor came into the break room. She had just spoken with our male manager, who wanted me to stop breastfeeding during my lunch break. He was giving me three weeks, at which point I had to wean Shroomi, who would no longer be allowed on the premises.

I heard myself resign before my fork hit my plate.

The conversation became fairly awkward at that point. She didn’t want to lose me, but she was at a loss to think of a solution that would work for me, my child and our manager. We discussed a few possibilities and agreed that none of them would work. She begged me to think about it over the weekend, which I agreed to do.

Boy, did I think about it over the weekend. Then I read some legislation. I read a lot of legislation.

I have to give it to Boss Man; he was smart. He didn’t say anything to me directly, which meant that he could claim that it was all Supervisor’s doing. Any formal protest that I might make has to include the conversation with Supervisor, and any allegations I want to make against Boss Man would be hearsay at best. He could defend himself by saying it was all a big misunderstanding, that he hadn’t expected her to say whatever I was upset about in particular, and that it was nothing to do with him.

His method for preventing me from breastfeeding Shroomi was also technically within the bounds of the law. As the person responsible for the safety of the site, he can prevent anyone from coming on site that he wants to.

Yesterday I gave him my resignation letter. He was surprised to receive it. He was so surprised that I found myself wondering if he’s never had an employee quit on principle before. Suddenly he was so keen to be friendly and accommodating. And I had guessed correctly: it was all a big misunderstanding. Fancy that. He hadn’t meant to upset me because he loves working through “problems” with his employees. He was sure we could come to some sort of arrangement that would work for everyone.

I sat there silent for long stretches of the conversation while he refused to respect me. The garbage he came out with left me so amazed that I lost my anger. At a few points I cut him off and said that we would have to agree to disagree, because he was hanging himself so badly that it was embarrassing to watch. There were, however, a few points that we were able to agree on:

  1. I am an excellent employee who has been punctual, diligent, and I have responded positively and respectfully to every criticism given to me during training.
  2. Breastfeeding Shroomi during my lunch breaks has not interfered in any way with my ability to do my job, and I have taken no extra time away from my work to feed her.
  3. Shroomi has not been disruptive while she was on site with me. After all, she and I have been do discreet that he didn’t even realise I was still feeding her until Friday when it was mentioned to him in passing by Supervisor. That passing comment was what triggered the whole fiasco.
  4. Resigning from a job is a big step that has implications on me, my family, my finances and the company that I work for.
  5. It’s difficult to hire people like me for positions like this one.

Since Boss Man said Work Safe would have an issue with my baby being on site if the company was ever audited, I decided to take a break from our discussion to go and chat with them. The guy at Work Safe said that yes, my boss is legally entitled to ban Shroomi from the site, but when I told him only a fraction of what had gone on he suggested that I ring the Human Rights Commission to get their opinion on sexual discrimination law. I don’t need to call them for their opinion, because I copied the relevant part of their website into my resignation letter.

There was no way I was going to let Boss Man talk me out of resigning so flippantly. He might have said the company is like his family, and how he wants all of his employees to be happy, but the truth of his actions is that he doesn’t want to have anyone disagree with him. I certainly don’t treat my family the way he treated me. He didn’t offer any apologies for his behaviour, and indirectly tried to explain why I should be the one to do the apologising. He actually thought it was reasonable to tell me that I’d have to come into his office every three weeks and tell him how the weaning process was going.

One does not leave for oneself, one leaves for the next person. Now he has to find someone to replace me, hire them, train them on a system that typically takes two months to learn (although I learned it in two weeks, so I’ve got no idea what he’s talking about there either), and pay for all the expenses involved in that. I could complain to the Human Rights Commission and see if they can force him to apologise to me, but for what? I don’t want to work with him, and I wouldn’t believe him even if he did say he was sorry.

As I walked out the door he told me that I am a strong woman. I had to smile at that. At least, in the end, we found another point that we could agree on.

1 Comment »

Old Environment New Pace

The past three months have gone so quickly that it has been difficult to keep up. We left Canberra at the end of June and moved to Melbourne. For me it was just going home, but for my partner and daughter it marked the start of a new chapter in their lives.

Before we had a chance to settle in we were on a plane bound for Germany. Shroomi was seven months old when we landed, and she learned to sit up by herself on the flight. Before we knew it she was crawling and pulling herself up to stand. Two more teeth made an appearance, and a third began emerging when we were in Frankfurt preparing to go home again seven weeks later. She met most of her extended family, attended her first wedding, attended her first funeral, and learned how to form friendships on the streets of France, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria and Denmark.

My partner and I broke the paleo diet more often than we could count, and each instance reinforced our decision to begin it in the first place. I was on a rollercoaster of health symptoms that came and vanished as we switched between meals we could control and meals we could not. One day I could run up a flight of stairs while carrying Shroomi and 20kg of luggage, the next I could barely walk along a flat street without puffing.

Our attention turned towards career while we were away, and we began to ask ourselves what type of life we wanted to live and provide for our daughter. Which country did we want to live in? What type of work did we want to pursue? Would particular opportunities be open or closed to us with different choices? How important is extended family when making these decisions?

We came home in August, exhausted from our holiday, and immediately caught a series of nasty winter colds. After a few rough weeks of looking after a sick baby while we weren’t feeling so good ourselves, we began settling down to life in Melbourne. Job applications were written and sent, employers were called, and business plans were written. Shroomi has developed strong bonds with her grandparents and our days are now filled with a different energy to what we knew in Canberra. For the first time as parents we have genuine support, and we are able to turn our attention to things that are much more satisfying than just making it through the day.

It is difficult to comprehend how much has changed. Memories of Canberra are fading quickly and losing their emotional power. So many of our questions have been answered that we can start asking deeper ones. We are once again able to be more than just parents. We have been in Melbourne for a month, and there is a strong feeling of having arrived. There is so much left to do, but for now I am content to rediscover who I am when I don’t have to spend each day worried about the future.

Leave a comment »

Back In The Kitchen

Things hadn’t been going well between us, so I decided that Thursday would be a perfect time to extend a peace offering. It was my day off work so that I could go to uni, and I decided that instead of spending my afternoon studying I would spend it in the kitchen. I was in there for quite some time, blending fresh ingredients and spices to create a new taste for dinner. The table was set, an atmosphere had been created, and I was determined that this would be an evening where we could set aside our petty differences and focus on the good parts of our marriage.

When my husband came home from work, he seemed oblivious to the scene I had created. He went straight past the table, where dinner was waiting for him, sat down on the couch and turned on the Wii. After grinding my teeth for a few seconds I decided to be an adult, so I picked up our meals and put them on the coffee table. I sat beside him on the couch and watched him play his game for a little while. Eventually I asked if he was going to eat his dinner.

“I don’t like it,” he said.

“How do you know that?” I asked. “You haven’t eaten any.”

“I could smell it from the front door.”

“Could you at least try it?”

He took a single forkful. His eyes never left the television as he chewed. “Still don’t like it,” he said when he swallowed it. Then he got up, went into the kitchen, and made himself a milkshake.

In that moment, my desire to put in effort took a beating. I had spent more than a year listening to criticism after complaint after whinge about my cooking. If it didn’t come from a packet, he didn’t want to eat it. The hours I had spent tirelessly sourcing fresh and healthy foods, the hours I spent in the kitchen while he was relaxing, and the towers of dishes that he wouldn’t help me with finally took their toll.

Several years have gone by since that moment with my husband. I gave up on my marriage. I gave up on trying hard in the kitchen. I finally believed that I had no cooking talent, natural or otherwise, and that I was better off not exposing myself to the constant ridicule that I expected to receive. Other people reinforced this negative belief by telling new partners that I was incapable of cooking anything, and it didn’t help when those stories came back to me. Ever error was magnified beyond sense or reason, held up as further proof of my inadequacy.

My current partner has never known me as someone who spends time in the kitchen. He has always been the cook in our relationship. Contributions from me have consisted of a single, highly complicated recipe that I came up with before the incident with my husband, and things that could be made straight from the packet. It was easier to contribute to the relationship in other ways than to open myself up to the same, tired old insults that my husband would happily supply.

For the first time in a very long time, I am finally back in the kitchen of my own volition. I have once again abandoned the safety of my cookbooks and my packet foods. I am blending things, tasting as I go, and hoping for the best.

Cooking new things has been a confronting experience. Each time I tell my partner that I have made something it feels as if I am exposing myself to a significant emotional threat. Despite all the stress, my fears have been unfounded. He loves my cooking. He makes a point of telling me that I need to write down my recipes before I forget them. He asks me to cook things as soon as the previous batch has run out. Snacks where I think I don’t quite have the balance right are devoured as soon as I stop guarding them. I might not be convinced of their quality, but he certainly is.

I am sad about all the years that I spent telling myself that I was a lost cause, that it was better to give up before more people knew how useless I was. I am sad that I let the vicious words of one person shape my opinion about my worth. All of the times when I could have enjoyed the kitchen with other people have been lost to negative experiences where I withdrew and hid from their potential cruelty.

So far my adventures in the kitchen have included soups, cookies and ice creams. There is a long list of things that I would like to try once I find the right ingredients. Every success is a new shield against my old belief. I just need to keep this momentum up, until I either change my belief or I can no longer fit into my pants.

Leave a comment »

The Best Time In My Life

Before Shroomi was born, I read somewhere that the rate of postnatal depression is now estimated to be 1 in 4 women. I have no idea how true this statement is and, while I hope that it is an extreme exaggeration, I suspect it might not be that far from reality. Depression is rife in this country, so there is no reason our new mothers should be exempt from it.

Looking after a baby means you have a lot of time to consider things. One of the thoughts that occupies my mind is the question of why so many new mothers are falling into mental holes that they can’t climb out of. Babies are adorable, and their happy smiles and squealing laughter should be enough to keep all of us safe from mental harm. So why aren’t we riding the emotional high of love and new life?

In the last few weeks I have felt an intense emotional pressure. My thoughts have been gravitating towards death and hopelessness with a frequency that I find alarming. I am constantly asking myself if this is a sign of postnatal depression, if I am about to become the woman who holds up the statistics, and if I am already that woman and just haven’t admitted it to myself. I look at myself in the mirror at times and see an exhausted woman staring back at me, and I recognise myself in the posters for postnatal depression awareness.

When I step back from these thoughts and examine them, I find them decidedly odd. I’m not depressed, but I am exhibiting so many symptoms of depression that you could not pay me to go near a medical professional right now. On one hand I know I am perfectly fine, and on the other hand I resemble someone who is about to go off the deep end in a spectacular way. Either I’ve lost the plot, or something external is going on here.

During a quiet moment while the baby was sleeping, I decided to analyse my behaviour. Was there something that I am exposed to that triggers these dark thoughts? It took less than a second to come up with the answer: yes.

When a woman is standing somewhere with a new baby, so many people want to congratulate her. Friends, family and strangers all want to talk about the baby, want to share in those happy baby smiles and squeals, to ask for cuddles at any opportunity. The conversation is fairly predictable:

Other Person: Your baby is lovely! How old is she?

Mother: She’s three months old.

Other Person: Oh, that’s such a wonderful age. I remember when my children were that small. It goes so quickly, and it will be over before you know it. This is the best time in your life. Enjoy it while it lasts.

It doesn’t take a genius to continue that train of thought; enjoy it while it lasts, because it’s all downhill from here. Horror stories often come next about the time when your baby will be a toddler, systematically ransacking the house, before becoming a teenager and systematically ransacking the wine rack. It seems as if your child will go from a delightful little person who loves and needs you to someone who only calls on your birthday to ask for money.

Ouch.

Mothers take these stories of woe and horror, and then they go home to sit with their little person who loves them more than anyone in the world. We sit there, contemplating the day when our little person won’t need us anymore, and that quickly leads to thoughts of the day when maybe they won’t love us anymore. We feel the rejection before it happens, our baby picks up on our emotional shift, and the symbiotic relationship between mother and child means our baby is now in distress.

As we sit there, rocking our little person who has been crying for an hour, we notice that there is dry vomit in our hair. Our emotions are frayed from the warnings we have received, and we begin to think of all the things we have sacrificed for the baby. We think of abandoned careers, broken sleep, and suddenly all the incomplete projects that we are too lazy to do become the fault of this little person. Resentment builds, and all we can think of are the haunting reminders that this is supposed to be the best time in our lives. If this misery is as good as it’s going to get, we might as well give up now.

My midwife once made the passing remark that “if they can’t get you while you’re pregnant, they’ll get you once the baby is born.” Thinking of all the advice that I have been given since we welcomed our daughter into the world, I can see that she was right. Women are systematically taught to fear birth, and we are systematically taught to have postnatal depression.

This time while Shroomi is an infant might be the best time in our relationship, but it probably isn’t. She becomes funnier every day as her sense of humour develops. Our games are more entertaining as she learns new concepts. The conversations we have can become deeper when she goes from babbling to using real words. There will be so many incredible memories in our future, since every time she leaves behind a developmental stage it is because she has reached a new one.

My life does not need to reduce as my daughter’s expands. I will not become obsolete just because I grow old. No one will ever love her the way that I do, because no one else has given her life, and no matter what happens she will always need that certainty. Loving her doesn’t mean I am stuck in that armchair when she climbs off my lap to explore the world. Pursuing my own adventures will not invalidate this intense time as a mother.

I love my daughter, not because she is a baby but because she is herself. Being a baby is a time in her life, not a time in mine. This time in my life is while I am a mother, and that time will last until the day I die. So yes, I should enjoy it while it lasts, because it had better last for another 60 or 70 years.

Leave a comment »

To Know Only Love

As I write this, my tiny daughter is asleep on my lap. She was three weeks old on Monday, but it feels as if she has been with us far longer than that. Dreams bring smiles to her face, accompanied by the occasional giggle. Her body is soft and relaxed, and she portrays the essence of contentment.

My daughter has never known many of the emotional experiences that I take for granted as part of life in this culture. She has only felt the arms of people who care for her. Every interaction that she has with another person begins with a smile of welcome for her. Everywhere her father and I go includes her.

While she is very familiar with frustration – the life of a tiny baby is impossibly irritating – she has never known what it is like to face the emotional storm of another person. She has never experienced rejection, rage, jealousy or hate. Her father and I constantly tell her that she can do things, that we believe in her, that we know she is capable of doing well. She has never been told that she is not good enough.

I wonder if this is what life was like, back when we kept to our tribes and everyone stayed because they wanted to. Unconditional acceptance and love feel right with her. I wish that this peaceful existence of hers was normal, that it would never have to change to something less tranquil.

Unfortunately, I am only one mummy who loves her. I cannot hope to change the world or all the people in it who will teach her the darker side of human existence. The best I can hope for is to show her that she always has a safe place to retreat to, and to teach her how to show understanding and compassion to everyone she comes across.

Somehow, that seems like the perfect job description for any mummy.

Leave a comment »

Pregnancy Horror Stories

I am almost 39 weeks into my pregnancy. In simple terms, this means that I could potentially have the baby today (although Shroomi seems rather comfortable in there, so probably not). In practical terms this means that, unless something changes, my plans are set and all systems should be good to go.

We have planned to have a home birth. To do this as safely as possible, we have done a lot of reading on things that help and hinder a birthing mother. We have hired an independent midwife to come to our home, and she will bring with her a student midwife who has years of experience as a doula. We have practiced relaxation techniques, and have discussed every possibility we could think of to ensure we are on the same page before something comes up. Our backup plan is fairly solid, and we have a backup plan for the backup plan. Even our birth plan is less like a list of preferences and more like a flowchart that my partner and I can follow if we need to.

Yes, it is possible I have OCD. I would have made a great boy scout with all of this preparation.

In a social sense, we are also at the point of pregnancy where people are realising that I’m fairly serious about this home birth nonsense. We’ve bought a birth pool, we’ve stocked up on supplies. Our money has been put where our mouths are.

Loved ones are falling into two categories: those who are willing to support our decision because it is well researched and thoroughly planned, and those who are horrified that I am wilfully choosing to suicide while inadvertently murdering my unborn baby.

The supportive group are fantastic. My parents fall into this group, and I’ve been able to share with them cool birth videos that I have found online. Dad has found interesting studies on the benefits and drawbacks of home birth to share with me. Mum has started sharing stories from other women about their home birth experiences. Random strangers in the community have told me how much they wish they’d had the option to do what I am doing. With this group, I anticipate a beautiful experience where our baby is gently welcomed with love and kindness.

Then there is the second group. A few people who are close to us fall into this category. They are so terrified of birth – and equally terrified by our lack of fear – that they have launched a crusade to show us how dangerous birthing can be. Every conversation involves a new way for the baby or I to die in excruciatingly unnecessary agony. The stories are new and interesting each time, but they can be collated into the following metastory:

A pregnant woman arrives at the hospital. She labours for hours before exhaustion overcomes her. Medical dramas occur, and the doctors work valiantly to save her. The only option is an emergency caesarean section, where she bleeds so heavily that the only way to stop the flow is a hysterectomy. Despite the best efforts of the doctors, the baby has terrible complications and doesn’t survive.

For my partner and I, there is an interesting link between all of these horror stories: a pregnant woman arrives at the hospital. To the irritation of some and the amusement of others, I now add in the phrase “where the baby promptly catches leprosy”.

Hospitals are fabulous places for people who need them. The only home birth horror stories I have come across are ones where the mother refused to transfer or there were underlying health problems that had not been disclosed to her medical support team. Having spent months listening to traumatic stories about hospital errors and hospital policies killing mothers and babies, I am finally able to understand why women are refusing to go. Hospitals are also utterly terrifying.

In my rational moments, I appreciate that I am told these horror stories because they are so unusual that they draw attention. In my emotional, primitive moments, I am simply a mother who wants to protect her baby, and going to a place where babies die because hospital staff aren’t using simple midwifery solutions fires my adrenal response. Shroomi is precious to me, and each horror story from a hospital setting simply convinces me that the hospital system is not always to be trusted with these tiny jazz hands.

We aren’t sure how to tell the horror story mongers that they are creating that which they fear. They see these stories from a perspective of “imagine how bad it would have been if the mother had been at home”. We see these stories from a perspective of “imagine how much better it would have been if this chain of poor decisions hadn’t been made”. There is a conceptual gap between us that we will not be able to bridge during this pregnancy, and probably not for the ones that follow.

I would be happy to finish my pregnancy without another horror story designed to manipulate me, but unless I give birth soon I don’t fancy my chances. There are just too many stories and too little trust in Shroomi and I to do what women were able to do for millions of years without a hospital nearby. Ultimately, the stories will be irrelevant; either I will birth Shroomi at home without issues, or I will transfer to a hospital in spite of – not because of – those stories. Regardless of the outcome, I am going into the labour with the confidence that I have genuinely done as much as I can to ensure the safety of my baby, and that will always mean more to me than the fears of other people.

1 Comment »

I’m So Fat

I am currently 24 weeks pregnant. I weigh more than I ever have in my life, my belly is the first thing my partner sees when I enter the room, and my wardrobe has evolved to consist almost entirely of stretchy fabrics that have a lot of expansion room.

I’m so fat.

I love it.

My belly has become the centre of my body image. Every morning I wake up and run my hand over it. I feel the wriggly lump that is my baby, and I marvel at how much it seems to have grown overnight. Each glance in the bathroom mirror is a surprise, and I preen and pose as I admire the roundness that I have grown.

Feminism might try teaching me that I am more than my reproductive capacity. At this point in my pregnancy, I couldn’t give two hoots about all the other things I am ‘supposed’ to be and do. I’m in the middle of growing a baby, and I don’t see too many men able to do what I’m rocking at.

This is the fat club; no boys allowed. Sorry.

A few friends have tried to rob me of my fatness. They come up with statements that are intended to be supportive, to bolster my self-esteem. I am surrounded by an anxious litany of “you’re not fat” and “don’t say things like that about yourself”.  It’s ok, and I understand; they’re just jealous that I get to be so super fat, and they don’t.

Being fat is fabulous. I get a thrill out of measuring my waist. It’s a bit of a challenge to measure anything lower than that, because I can’t see the tape anymore, so I have to make do with just the upper half of my torso. But that’s ok, because I can still see how much progress I am making in growing my baby. I don’t need a full body set of measurements to chortle to myself. I doubt there are many body builders who can keep up with the numbers I’m building on my baby’s body.

Tucked away in my baby bubble, I get to sing to my belly about how fat we are. Sometimes this happens while dancing around the kitchen preparing to eat something. The baby seems to enjoy it, and will happily kick along. I don’t have to feel any guilt about how much food I eat, because guilt doesn’t get membership to this fat club.

It would be easy to write thousands of words about a hypothetical woman’s self-esteem during pregnancy, how her perception of herself has been shaped by the cultural norms that dictate a woman must be thin. It would be easy to buy into the discourse that a woman will be automatically distressed by the changes in her body, and to use this as a basis for rising above cultural conditioning to learn to embrace this temporary reality. I could discuss my decision to embrace every element of this pregnancy, and explain it through technical psychological language.

Or… I could go and dance to She Bangs while jiggling my belly and giggling to myself as I imagine that song being dedicated to all the pregnant girls out there.

Hmm. Looks like Ricky Martin is going to win this time. Again.

5 Comments »

Kicks For Daddy

My boyfriend booked a three week trip to Germany and Finland early in my pregnancy. We then counted the weeks, and joked that the first kick would happen while he was away.

Who says babies don’t have timing?

He was on the flight from Hong Kong to Frankfurt when I felt the first kicks. It was incredible, exhilarating, and he was out of reach for sharing. That flight felt painfully slow as I sat alone at home, wanting to tell the world but also wanting to tell him first. I kept an eye on the clock, mentally tracking his progress through customs, various train connections, and the obligatory reunion with family before he could call me on Skype and tell me he had arrived safely.

The stunned expression on his face when I told him that the baby had begun kicking made the wait worthwhile. Disappointment lost to amusement, and we laughed that our baby had been so perfectly predictable.

While he was away the kicks became stronger. I began feeling tiny flutters against my hand as the baby grew. It was easy for me to detect the movements, because I also had the internal sensations to guide me.

He arrived home the day before his birthday. We spent the better part of his birthday trying to coax the baby to kick or wriggle, anything so that he could share the experience. Each time our precious bundle of predictability would stop as soon as there was a hand on my belly, and start again as soon as the hand was removed.

Eventually midnight rolled around, and we decided to leave the baby alone. Not to be deterred, we tried again for hours the following day. My boyfriend changed tactics, and rested his cheek against my belly. Presumably intrigued by the new type of pressure, the baby responded with a good, solid kick to the face.

When the moment was over and the baby had lost interest, we quickly checked what time it was in various parts of the world. The international date line was still moving over America, so we had 20 spare minutes of his birthday. I decided that was good enough, because tiny babies can’t be expected to understand about time zones. It might be a technicality, but Daddy got kicks for his birthday.

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: