Thursday, March 25, 2010


I promised my sister I would renew my blogging efforts over vacation, and even though I was mistaken about the availability of a wireless connection, true to my word I am writing this from Guadeloupe! This vacation was my dream, my “I-want-a-fantasy-vacation-before-this-baby-comes” wish, which John gracefully granted. And, for the most part it is everything I hoped it would be. Even more beautiful than I dreamed. Fascinating and exciting to be in a tropical paradise where making small talk, ordering food, and even checking in to the suites is an adventure in language. It is Thursday, early evening, about 75° F with a slight breeze, and I am sitting at the table in our outdoor kitchenette. All should be well. Yet it is definitely not.

The kitchenette is adorable. The kitchenette, and the availability of barbeque grills, is what made me choose this particular place. The kitchenette, with its nearly empty fridge and cabinets, is also a manifestation of my distress, and the cause of increasingly frequent tantrums and episodes of sulking. Where is the food?!

Beginning about three weeks ago I have been subject to a nearly constant state of gnawing hunger. Yes, I have been waking up hungry in the middle of the night since very early in this pregnancy. But now—I am an insatiable beast! I would like nothing better than to have a little snack in front of me all day long. And one beside my bed at night as well. At home, no sooner will I finish eating one meal, than I must begin preparing the next.

Sometimes I feel a strong desire for one food in particular—and the disappointment should it be unavailable is nearly intolerable! More often, I have a sort of generalized hunger. I just want to eat something. Anything. And I can barely focus on anything else until I am masticating once more.

Luckily, I have always been a rather healthy eater as an individual. (By that I mean I usually made healthy choices, even if regularity was not a strong suit.) Now that I eat for two, I am even more conscientious. Only the best for my baby! Besides a hefty 2.5lb jump in one week at the beginning of this trimester (which my midwife says is entirely normal and common,) my constant nibbling has not led to rapid weight gains. I remain only slightly behind the curve on track to gain about 20 to 25 lbs. My gains have been slow and steady since the first weeks of the second trimester.

But that is in my own kitchen. Being away on vacation is something else entirely. Which is why I insisted on the kitchenette.

It took us 13 hours from the time we arrived at Philadelphia International until we arrived in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Yes, an entire day of crappy airport food. Yet, throughout I consoled myself with the thought that this was just one day. Tomorrow, I thought, I will feast on tropical fruits. I will make bean salad to snack on during the days. We will grill fresh fish and plantains in the evenings. Ah, it will be glorious!

We had planned on renting a car at the airport. (And I had carefully rehearsed what to say in French to make this happen.) But, our flight from San Juan to Pointe-a-Pitre was delayed. And delayed again. And since it was a late flight to begin with, we arrived at an airport that was all but completely closed for the night. We had been warned that taxis would be an expensive way to travel; indeed, our trip to our residences cost more than 80 euros. We could have rented a car for two days for less than that!

Yesterday morning we spoke with a very nice man in the reception office about renting a car. He told us that it would be possible through a connection the hotel has with a rental agency, but nothing was available until tomorrow. “Could we possibly walk to the market today?” we asked. Alas, the market was to far to walk and the hotel restaurant was closed on Wednesdays, but there was gas station/general store just 30 or 40 meters down the road where we could buy some small things.

So, J and I walked to the gas station. They did have some useful items: juice, eggs, cheese, potatoes, onions, and garlic. We also bought a loaf of bread, a tub of butter, ketchup and hotdogs. There were some rather sad looking kiwi and not-quite-ripe Clementines; I bought two kiwis and the only orange Clementine I could find.

Upon our return we feasted on home fries with onion and garlic, hotdogs, and buttered bread. It was a good lunch. Partly because I knew I needed only get through this day, and tomorrow’s breakfast. Then it would be off to the market and all the delights attendant!

For dinner, (and woman was I hungry again by the time that rolled around!) we walked about a mile to a tiny little home-cooking Creole joint. We were offered poisson oรน crevettes. We recognized fish of course, but what was “crevettes”? The man brought out a small toy lobster, or so I thought. J and I both took the second option. Crevettes, as it turns out, are prawns. I was only slightly disappointed, because they were cooked in some kind of fabulous jerk-like sauce which I sucked off every shell, in part because it was so delicious, and in part because it had been so long since my last meal; and because I knew there would no snacking, only long hungry hours, until breakfast.

It was a large plate. The prawns were served with white rice and tiny bits of unidentifiable vegetables baked in a thick cheese sauce. I ate every morsel. Well, almost. J (who claimed not to be hungry before we left for the restaurant) suddenly rediscovered his own appetite and gobbled his portion down in record time. He stole a bite of cheesy vegetables (or rather baked cheese with vegetable bits) from my plate. I scolded him, then felt bad and very reluctantly gave him a few more bites of mine.

I was very full after dinner. However, that feeling did not last long. By the time we got back to the suite I was wishing we had something to snack on. Most especially something green, red, orange, or yellow. It was beginning to feel like I hadn’t had any vegetables in days. Mostly because I hadn’t. And it was really starting to turn into a serious craving.

I woke in the night from a bad dream with slight hunger pains. I am prone to night worries, and last night I worried about the effect my new beige and brown diet with its (what felt like) interminable fasts was having on my baby. I worried for about an hour and then decided to read the next chapter in my book “Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth.” Naturally, it was about nutrition. As Chopra extolled the virtues of a balanced diet, eating from all six tastes and all seven colors of the rainbow, I grew ever more hungry, agitated, and ashamed. I put down the book and tried to listen to an episode of “This American Life” I had on my laptop. I fell asleep about an hour later, just as the sun was coming up.

When I woke again a couple hours later I felt miserable. I was hungry. Very hungry. And stiff from sleeping poorly. And irritable. I meditated until the hunger dissipated and I felt calm. Then I practiced yoga until I heard J begin to stir. By now I had been up about an hour, and had been thinking about food again for the last 20 or 30 minutes.

I began to cut up the last of our potato and onion but started to get faint and feel that nausea that comes from waiting too long between meals. J cooked the potatoes and scrambled our eggs with cheese. I was grateful that he took over, but my mood had already begun to spin out of control. He made the eggs in two batches so that they would better fit the pan. Big mistake. He served up mine first, but when I saw the heap that went on his plate I lost it. “You got way more eggs than I! Why do you think your nutritional needs are greater than mine? Can’t you see I’m starving?”

J has been very good about dealing with my irrationalities and sensitivities these last few months. He quickly offered me some of his eggs, but it was too late. No, I didn’t want his eggs. Clearly he was not sensitive to my needs. And what about last night when he ate some of my dinner? He doesn’t understand what I am going through, and he doesn’t understand it because he is not trying hard enough to understand.

I pouted all the way through breakfast and clean up.

Once the food hit my brain I was repentant. Somewhat. We made up, dressed, and went down to the reception office, French grocery list in hand, to inquire about our car. Bad news, the car hadn’t been returned yet. No worries, it was due back today, so check back in a few hours.

Unworried, we went to the beach.

Four hours later, hot, tired, and need I say it, hungry, we returned to the reception office. “Sorry, we couldn’t get you the cheapest model, but the next one up. Do you still want it today?” Umm, yeah, we still want it today. The hotel owner said he would call and inquire about drop off and then come to our rooms to notify us as to whether it would be brought over now or tomorrow.

Now, I was worried. We had eaten all our food except some cheese, the now slightly stale bread, and the hotdogs. I was weak and dizzy and slightly nauseated again. I drank my last juice but still felt so ill J had to prepare my cheese and bread plate, and I had to eat it mostly reclined in bed. After about an hour I dragged myself back to the reception office for the bad news: “So sorry, the car can not be brought over until tomorrow.”

I dragged myself back to our rooms trying my best to be strong and not cry so as not to upset the baby. When I related what happened to J I couldn’t hold my tears back any longer. He kindly offered me more buttered bread and cheese. That only made me cry harder out of sheer self-pity. I have never really cared much for bread, or really been a big eater of cheese for that matter. And I felt like I had eaten nothing but bread for days. And the cheese was not even cheddar!

We will be going out to dinner again tonight. The restaurant here at the residences is open and I recognized a carrot and coconut soup on the menu. I have never been so eager for a carrot in all my days! But my anxiety continues. Even with a good meal tonight, there is only so much that I can comfortably eat at one sitting (without awakening that old demon heartburn). And I know I may be hungry again before I get to sleep, and most certainly will be hungry when I wake in the night. And then there is tomorrow morning…

Please, oh benevolent Goddess of Pregnancy, send me a car!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

(More Tired Old) Holiday News- Part Three New Year, New Me

J & I had a fabulous New Year. On the eve we had a couple over to celebrate our engagement with us. They brought champagne and a gorgeous handmade ceramic vase as engagement gifts.We took pictures and laughed and hugged, and everything felt just perfect.

After a while we all went to another friend’s house for a house warming/ New Year’s Eve party. I wore a skintight dress my sister had given me ten years or more ago to show off my new shape.
I think I have only ever worn this dress once before; (although I adore it and try it on a few times a year.) But it is a funny thing—ever since I became pregnant I have felt so free! I wear pretty much anything I feel like wearing these days. And I feel fabulously beautiful in it all!
I wore a feather boa out to a birthday dinner for a friend at a Japanese steakhouse a couple weeks ago. Other people wore nice things—it was a celebration after all— but I was by far the most flamboyantly dressed. One woman remarked that she loved boas but never thought about wearing them except as dress-up, like on Halloween. I said, “I just didn’t feel like wearing a sweater tonight, and when I put this on it just felt right, so I went with it.”
I’ve been “just going with” other things too. Scarves around my head, around my waist, around my neck. More vibrant colors like oranges, yellows, and reds. I experiment with new ways of wearing make-up. I let my hair be more wild. I feel so natural, relaxed, and confident. I love it!
So I got dressed for this party in a dress that I have felt too fat in when I still had a waist, silver shoes I haven’t worn since I was twenty-three, and in a homemade necklace of sequins that I made on the spur of the moment. Why not? I didn’t agonize over how my body looked, or whether my necklace was silly. I felt voluptuous. And glittery. And ready to put in my best effort to stay up past midnight!
And stay up I did. I ate sausage hoagies and cookies for hours without the slightest worry that my belly might bulge. (What freedom!) I danced with abandon. I drank cranberry juice with tonic and didn’t miss boozing my friends even the slightest bit. Friends and strangers alike remarked how good I looked. And some of them didn’t even know I was pregnant!
Why did I deny myself this freedom for so long? Why did it take pregnancy to liberate me from self-consciousness, shyness, and self-doubt? Does it even matter now? Will this new attitude last? Will I be fearless and self-confident as a mother too? Or will the courage I have newly discovered slip out of me with the birth of my child?
I say a little prayer that it does not.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Long Overdue Holiday News- Part Deux Family Feuds

{A note to my readers: I began writing this entry shortly after posting Holiday News Part One, but found the issues it brought up so difficult to deal with that I simply could not finish. Now that I have a little more space from the turmoil that these thoughts brought up I have managed to finish it. Your comments on this subject would be GREATLY appreciated as I already feel anxiety over the Christmas after next when we will again be with J’s parents, but will have a 19-month-old child with us.}

I love being pregnant! I really do. What an adventure this has been already! And how much more of adventure is it sure to become! But to get down to business here is a quick recap of the holiday happenings that were not covered in my last entry and the thorny issues that have arisen…

J & I spent Christmas with the Curtises in his childhood home in New Jersey this year. This is not the first Christmas I’ve spent with them, but it was by far and away the most comfortable. Usually, holidays with them involve an assortment of extended family: aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, etc. While I am not one to pooh-pooh a large family gathering, these sorts of get-togethers do very little to bring me closer to J’s immediate family. His mother is often so harried that she never manages to join the rest of us at the table for the meal. His father’s quiet personality is overshadowed by the more outgoing affects of his brothers. I find myself spending the majority of my time moving along the outskirts of this crowd, occasionally exchanging pleasantries with some aunt whose name I am embarrassed to reveal that I can’t recall, or quite pleasantly passing my time snuggled into the couch cushions in the presence of his grandmother and his great aunt Betty. Yup, just us three old ladies chillin’ on the sofa.

This year was just the four of us—J’s parents, J, and myself—plus my dear friend O, (who found herself without other plans and became a most welcome last minute addition) on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day J’s sister, her husband, and their two young children joined us. How different this was! J’s father was open and funny. His mother seemed unruffled and relaxed. We shared our engagement, and I believe I could see their faces visibly lighten with relief. And there was ample time to discuss our childbirth plans. These were met with mild interest and calm acceptance by J’s father, and something bordering on horror and disbelief by J’s sister and mother. I remained unperturbed; these reactions were not beyond what I had anticipated.

We returned to Philly late on Christmas Day, and all in all I can report that I had a very pleasant time with my new family. But here is where I must broach a topic of some delicacy. As I mentioned before, J’s sister and her two young children had joined us on Christmas Day. I adore J’s sister. She is beautiful and has a charming grace. She is funny and welcoming. Altogether, she has a delightful way of putting people at ease that I admire and of which, as a newcomer to this clan, am deeply appreciative. Her husband is equally likeable and easy, and their two children have sweet temperaments and charming features. I have no problems with any of the personalities present, and indeed feel blessed to be marrying into such a nice family.

However, childcare as practiced in my new family is worlds away from childcare as practiced in my family of origin, and Christmas Day as experienced in my new family is of an entirely different nature than Christmas Day as experienced in my family of origin. It was these comparisons that kept me from completely relaxing and simply enjoying the event. Now that the arrival of children in our own family, the one that J and I are creating, is imminent, I cannot help but wonder how these differences will be resolved. How will I navigate such treacherous waters without insulting or alienating or seeming altogether like a Grinch? Because that is how I fear I will be viewed when I try to introduce the customs I grew up with, and hold quite dear, to my new in-laws.

Already I believe J’s mother sees me as a rather severe sort. Honestly, I think it is not too inaccurate. Although my sense of humor can be described as silly, and I adore laughing and do so much heartier and more frequently than the Curtises, I absolutely believe in a more rigid sort of set of structures under which children should be raised (and indeed we should live our lives as adults) than they do as well. I don’t even know if I am explaining this correctly.

My family is boisterous at times, very affectionate—both verbally and physically—and we tend to be plain spoken and open with one another, regarding everything from our hopes and dreams to our feelings about anything under the sun to our less than polite bodily functions. J’s family is by contrast much more reserved. There is less of an open show of emotion, less touching, less passionate debate, and certainly no talk of how things might be coming along in the bathroom. I don’t have any problem with this; I sometimes really enjoy the sort of reserved civility that characterizes interactions within this family unit. (Although, I must say holidays are especially difficult to spend away from my family of origin because I miss the playfulness and affection of my siblings the most at those times.)

However, on the other hand all the openness and playfulness of my family developed within a rather structured and somewhat restrictive environment. We were all very well behaved children. We were expected to be. We could run and yell and play however we liked outside, but inside we used “inside voices” and kept the roughhousing to a minimum. When it was suppertime we sat at the table until we were excused. Supper was a time of quiet conversation. The TV was not part of our suppertime; in fact television was not a big part of our lives in any respect. The shows we did watch were treats approved by our mother. We did not eat fast food or drink soda. Cooperation, camaraderie, and respect for each other were emphasized, and our Christmas rituals (of opening stockings and gifts one at a time while the rest of the family shared in our joy) reinforced these values.

I fully intend to raise my own children in much the same way I was raised. I hold these traditions, rituals, and values as sacred, growth enhancing, and vital. J is on board. He respects and appreciates the way I was raised, and he sees the value in raising our own children similarly. So, what if my children’s grandparents see no value in restricting children’s exposure to television? What if they see drinking sodas and eating chips as harmless habits to form? What if they see asking children to patiently wait their turn to open their own Christmas present until after a sibling, or parent, or cousin, has fully experienced their own gift as senseless and perhaps even cruel?

I would never, ever dream of restricting my children’s access to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or any other loving family member. Certainly not over any offense as minor as these that concern me now. If anything could be said to be lacking from my own childhood, it was the presence of a loving extended family. It is a constant source of joy to think that my own children will have so much family to love and to be loved by.

What I fear is how I will even broach these issues with them. How will I, how can I, make my own rules (I mean J’s and my rules) THE rules by which I expect my children to be raised? Can I even do that and still share my beloveds with others? Am I being too much of a control freak? Am I worrying too much before it is time? When does one start to discuss these sorts of things? Should I hope it will just unfold naturally over the coming years? Should J take the lead in expressing to his parents how we will raise our family? What if neither of those things happen (natural unfolding or J’s lead), does that mean I have to just give up and give in? Or will I continue to struggle with this indefinitely? So many questions are raised in the meshing of two families—how does one navigate treacherous waters without sinking the ship?