25 April 2012


This morning I went to see my doctor to get all the pain I'm experiencing looked at, and to get a prescription for iron pills, because I was pretty sure that lack of iron is one of the reasons (aside from just, you know, being pregnant) why I'm getting dizzy and feel so exhausted.

It turns out that along with the cold and cough and backaches and dizziness (and I was right about the iron), I have something called SPD, symphysis pubis dysfunction, which is why my lower abdomen, lower back, and pelvic bone hurt so much, why standing up from the couch or bed is painful, and why I simply can't lift my legs separately at all.

The ligaments holding the two sides of the pelvic bone are stretched out more than normal due to the hormone relaxin and due to carrying excess weight: the baby, but also groceries, the stroller, Gabriel, and so on! I don't seem to have a super extreme case, but I'm still supposed to go see a physical therapist and learn how to manage it, to prevent it from getting worse.

More importantly, I'm not supposed to walk as far or as much as I've been walking, and certainly not carrying weight. Which presents a problem in terms of the two hours I spend each day bringing and picking Gabriel up from daycare (and, most days, loading up the stroller with groceries). My doctor said a car or even a bike would be better than walking to daycare, but unfortunately we don't have a bike (I should have gotten one early in this pregnancy, like I wanted to!) or a car. She didn't exactly prohibit me from going, but said I should reduce the distance I walk by as much as possible. So we're going to have to figure something out. And here I thought the one good thing I was doing, exercise wise, was walking to and from daycare!

The grocery thing has been a problem, even before I was pregnant, because I'm always loading up my trusty cloth bags with as much as I can carry (or more than I should carry), and I still end up going every day or every other day! Just the basics--bananas (which we go through like water), milk, cereal, yogurt, canned beans, rice and pasta, fruit and vegetables--end up being super heavy, no matter how choosy I try to be. And none of the shops are exactly around the corner. We've looked into delivery, but all of the supermarket chains here only offer "online shopping" that involves you choosing the items, them boxing them up for you, and you picking them up. Which clearly does not resolve the issue of carrying them home when one doesn't have a car. Argh.

Anyway, it feels good just to have a "reason" for this pain instead of feeling like I'm just out of shape or weaker or older with this pregnancy. But there are still six-plus weeks to go, and things were already hard enough without the added complication of additional rest and restrictions on walking too much. Argh again. Still puzzling this out in my head and trying to think what we'll do. The good news is, the Mister's family arrives tomorrow, so at least for a long weekend we'll have help.

23 April 2012

Carrying on

This is going to be a complaining-type post, but I realized that I was holding off on posting at all because I didn't want to complain, which is not necessarily a good reason not to post. I had such a good bloggy momentum going last month but this month it's hard to find the time and energy to write!

We still have six or more weeks to go before this baby's due date, but we're struggling to keep our heads above water. I'm feeling increasingly wiped out and limited by the aches of pregnancy, all compounded by the past three days or so of a cold (fortunately this is the first time I've gotten sick since October). The cold has brought a sore throat that joined forces with burning heartburn to set my entire esophagus on fire, achy joints to join lower back pain and upper back pain and abdominal pain, and a throbbing head to add to the fun. Between Saturday and Sunday I developed a knot in my back so painful that I could only cry or lay down by the end of the day.

Yet, life must still happen: daycare pickups and dropoffs in the rain, lugging groceries home, dragging the stroller through our muddy, rocky street and hoisting it up to the front door, feeding the family, making beds, carrying laundry up and down narrow stairs, keeping up with Gabriel and the messes he leaves in his wake. Plus, I have an academic essay due in a few weeks for which I need to do some serious work. I had my book club here on Friday night, something I had been looking forward to, but that meant cleaning the entire house, which meant that the Mister cleaned the entire house, because I am simply unable to sweep and mop right now. Or load the dishwasher. Or pick up legos from the floor. Or...

M. left work early to pick up Gabriel and go to the grocery store the day I got sick, while I lay down in a guilty funk. The same day that he mopped and swept everything. Meanwhile, he's trying to write his thesis in any extra time he has. He had to go to Paris for a meeting related to his dissertation, and we didn't realize it coincided with my book club day. So he changed his entire schedule, stayed in Paris for barely two hours, and made it home in time to take care of Gabriel for the evening (bearing Parisian macarons, no less!). We had guests over for lunch yesterday, and I made the food but once again he did everything else, and found time to work on his dissertation in addition to massaging my aching back and putting Gabriel to bed and...and...

I guess what I'm saying is: I might be carrying this baby, but he is carrying me. I really don't know how I could do this without the Mister. Which is not to overlook the fact that this is hard on him, too. As you can imagine, things are very stressful right now: he's exhausted, and it's not exactly fun to rush home from work (an hour-long commute from Brussels) just so he can juggle everything at home as well. I at least have my days open, go to Dutch class, take naps (whether I want to or not...they happen). We don't go to bed early enough, so we don't get enough sleep at night (and the quality of my sleep is pretty abysmal lately) and Gabriel has been waking at 6:30...guess who gets up with him to let the other parent sleep an extra hour?

We have managed to fit in some fun things, still. Since today is Sant Jordi, the day of the rose and the book in Catalonia, we spent good chunks of Saturday in the library and bookstores, picking out books for one another. There's time with friends (the reason I didn't cancel book club or our lunch guests even though I didn't feel very well). Gabriel is a real treat these days. And we have our family from Barcelona coming for a visit over the holiday weekend starting on Thursday. That of course presents its own logistical challenges--four extra adults and two children staying here for four days requires some air-mattress purchases, plus bedroom rearrangements, and more cleaning, shopping, etc.--but it will be lovely to have some help and spend time with them. Plus! I had another ultrasound last week and the baby is looking fantastic, and rather *huge*--no wonder he's putting me through my paces. Aside from the aches and pains, I'm healthy too, all tests perfectly normal.

So. Six weeks to go when I already am feeling so miserable sounds impossible but somehow we'll make it. Then there will be an entirely different kind of not-sleeping, messy, hormonal chaos, but at least we'll have a break from regular life for a little while...five days in the hospital, paternity leave, help from family, and so forth. And finally, a few weeks after that, I should be able to stand up without some part of my body protesting loudly. Something I'm really looking forward to!

I told you this would be a complainy post, but it feels good to write it all out, anyway.

12 April 2012

Easter break

We're back from our two-week trip to Catalonia, and I'm so thankful to be home, and thankful that I don't have to get on an airplane again before we have this baby. Even apart from the baby belly and baby aches, I really love coming home again after a trip, getting to sleep in our own bed and getting back to our cozy life. I'm a homebody with a travel bug, so as much as I love going places, I love coming home again just as much.

Gabriel did very well, by and large, on all of the flights. Our most difficult moment came when we boarded the 6:45 am flight back to Brussels and realized that the check-in person had given us separate seats. With the Mister across the aisle and stuck in the middle seat, no one wanted to change with him, because the aisle seat guys had, as they legitimately pointed out, *paid* for an aisle seat. So we grinned and bore it, until the dude next to me finally relented after Gabriel realized he wasn't M. and started screaming "Dada, dada!!!" and lunging over our laps. (Good job, Gabriel!)

We had a perfectly lovely stay on the Costa Brava, in the tiny apartment that the Mister's parents own. It rained almost every day of our week-long visit, but actually that was just fine with us, since the Mister had to work on his dissertation for a few hours every morning and a few hours every afternoon. We settled into a nice rhythm of breakfasting together, then M. working while Gabriel indulged in cartoons and I indulged in reading (as well as, once he had watched a couple of shows, epic sessions of reading books, coloring, stickers, etc.), then a short walk if it was clear, then lunch and naps (I had a nap every single day, lucky me!).

The afternoons were much the same, working/tv/reading/coloring and another walk before dinner unless it was raining. Gabriel went to bed without protest nearly every night, sleeping through the night in his own little room, which made our evenings that much more relaxing--we mostly spent them watching documentaries or doing more reading. (I know, we like to live on the edge.) No internet meant we truly were able to disconnect from everything. We went out for a meal just once, to a pizza place as soon as it opened at 7pm (all the other restaurants open at 8 or 8:30, well past Gabriel's bedtime), with no one else in the place but us. (One thing about the Iberian lifestyle that I can't get over now that I have a kid is how late children go to bed, in part due to late mealtimes!)

During our trip I read four and a half books, only one of which I really loved: Jennifer Eagan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. I also read two short story collections, and I was reminded why I love short stories but not short story collections: each story should be read on its own and savored, instead of jammed shoulder-to-shoulder with others. Plus, especially for vacation reading, I really miss the momentum of a novel's plot, the kind that drives you forward and makes you lose track of time as you devour masses of pages. One of the collections was a Don Barthelme set, and his books of stories have been on my wish list for ages, which made me anticipate them greatly and then be disappointed greatly (plus, it was prefaced by maybe the most glowing introduction I have ever read, by Dave Eggars, and set me up for even more disappointment when I wasn't a fan). Finally, I read John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River, which was all right plot- and character-wise, but which I found repetitive and relied overmuch on that temporal overlay writerly crutch: "Later, so-and-so would remember how the..."; or "When he thought back on that night as an old man, he saw..."; etc.

We actually did have a few sunny mornings, including Palm Sunday and Good Friday, during which there were delightful events. Palm Sunday, all the children carry elaborately woven palm branches to the church and wear their best new spring clothes (see my description from a couple of years ago here)--since this was a family town, the area in front of the church was jam-packed with kids, strollers, and families taking pictures. On Good Friday, the same plaza held a wonderful market of artisanal cheeses, breads, and pastries, including Eastertide confections, bunyols, which are sweet anise-flavored fritters, fried dough formed into small donuts or triangular shapes and rolled in sugar. We bought samples of all of the above. Plus, there were espectacles or shows for children, and Gabriel got to watch clowns and dance very charmingly with other little tots.

We were back to my in-laws' for Easter, and Easter morning we attended church in the city, but I was badly disappointed by the service, with its lugubrious synthesized organ renditions of what should be joyful Easter hymns, and a complete lack of flowers/trumpets/choir or other signs of Easter festivity. It's the day of the year, I realized as I spent half the service in quiet tears, that I am most homesick for the US and the traditions of our family and churches past. Plus, there was no nursery as advertised, and Gabriel fell right away while clambering over the pews, so M. had to take him out of the sanctuary while he screamed his head off for half the service. (He was literally the only child in the room, which is often the case at the churches we attend in Catalonia.)

Things got a little more Easter-like (in a secular fashion) once we returned home and staged an Easter-egg hunt for Gabriel, his cousins, and friends of theirs visiting from France (where egg-hunts are also a tradition, although they are not in Spain). The five kids loved scouring the courtyard for chocolate and hard-boiled eggs, and each carrying his or her own little homemade paper basket. On Easter Monday we did the Spanish Easter tradition, which is the mona, a cake for each child topped with large chocolate eggs or other shapes, candies, and colored feathers or other decor. Traditionally, each child receives his or her cake from the godmother, but in our family we just make them for the kids. As we discovered, five cakes is an awful lot of cake!

As usual, we came back to a very rainy and quite chilly Belgium, but the flowers are bursting and it still feels like spring. (Ironically, I often feel colder in the spring because the temperatures are still low but I've abandoned the idea of mittens and parkas and wool hats.) Our street is a vast mud pit, which I have great difficulty getting the stroller through, since the wheels get stuck in the mud, and I can't or shouldn't lift it out. I've had to ask for help from strangers, or abandon the stroller, take Gabriel to our door, and go back for the stroller. None too fun. Our shoes are permanently coated with clayey orange mud. But again: it's spring. We walk past adorable parades of ducklings every morning on our way to daycare, and the sun does peek out every once in a while, promising nicer things to come. It's good to be home.