30 May 2012


Still no baby. I'm ridiculously large, extremely uncomfortable, and there's a week to go until the due date.

As I write, I can feel the baby breathing (or "breathing," since it's amniotic fluid), which is a rather wild sensation, one that I don't remember from before. At least, I assume that's what it is: a quick, regular but gentle feeling of expansion and contraction coming from the baby in the lower left quadrant of my belly, which is where the back of his chest is curled against me.

I can wrap my arms around the bottom of my belly and jounce the baby almost as if he were on the outside. He complains, of course, when I do this, kicking mightily and turning his head from side to side, the latter of which movements is not very pleasant for me, since he's head-down and well engaged. So I leave him alone.

Now that I'm almost finished with this pregnancy, I can safely say that compared to Baby 1, I had an easier first trimester, a similar second trimester, and a much, much worse third trimester. I was much larger much sooner, and in a lot more pain. This pelvic issue has been tough, and is still getting worse, although fortunately there's an end in sight. I am physically limited in ways that I never was carrying Gabriel, and it's very frustrating to have to leave so much to the Mister, from cleaning to child care to...really anything involving bending over.

My last Dutch exam (in a series of four) is tomorrow, so I'll be relieved to have made it through that milestone (it always was a gamble to take a course with exams so close to the due date). Then, the next step is to make it until Sunday when my mom arrives and we have someone to take care of Gabriel when the baby makes his appearance. After that, it will be all about encouraging him to arrive! So far, I don't feel any signs of imminent labor. I've had a few scattered contractions, but that was last week. I get the sense that he'll take his time and be at least a few days "late" (but really, right on time, since only he and the inner workings of my body will dictate that right moment).

I'm looking forward to that right moment: both because I'll find out what *this* labor/delivery will be like, and because, of course, we get to meet the next member of our family, the next little resident of our nest. Meanwhile, he breathes, I breathe....waiting.

24 May 2012

All delight unclouded

Suddenly, Belgium has decided that spring-into-summer is here, and we've had a few days of sunny, even muggy weather in the upper 70s, without any rain (even though rain was predicted). This is, of course, a welcome change and one that makes me more energetic and ready to have this baby! I've discovered that I have exactly four short-sleeve or sleeveless maternity shirts, which should be enough to get me by--although this will be annoying in the short term (especially since even these shirts barely cover my belly any more), it makes me glad that I didn't go out and buy more spring maternity wear, since it's really not worth it for just a couple of weeks.

Gabriel comes home from daycare sweaty and simply coated in sand from head to toe, since they spend the days outside and there's a large sand pit to play in. But he's cheerful and giggling and growing and every day saying new words and sentences--especially adding more verbs into the mix. "Is" is actually pretty new, and I adore how he pauses before and after saying it, giving the "s" a nice long hiss. "Dat...issss...broken, mama!" He came inside from the yard the other day proudly bearing a scraggly bouquet of dandelions minus their seeds, and gave them to us. Candles! he said, because we blow on them. He's also potty training basically on his own, since I had kind of assumed it wouldn't happen before the baby and we were just following his pace. Even a few weeks have made a big difference, and now we have the dilemma of whether to put him in underwear or continue with diapers to get us through the newborn stage.

This week and next I'm studying for my Dutch exams, and there is an awful lot of material to cover. I thought, going into this and knowing that the term would end just before my due date, that Dutch would help distract me from pregnancy/baby thoughts, but the reverse is true. I'm not exactly a dedicated student right now and I kind of figure that I'll do as well as I'll do on the exams (if I even make it to the last one!).

Meanwhile, I'm still having poetry discussion group and book club meetings and doing other fun things. We happen to be discussing Rukeyser again this week, and since I'm waiting for our baby, I especially enjoyed "Nine Poems for the Unborn Child." Here are a couple of sections that I liked...

Nine Poems for the Unborn Child
by Muriel Rukeyser

There is a place.    There is a miracle.
I know the nightmare, the black and bone piano,
The statues in the kitchen, a house dissolving in air.
I know the lilac-turreted cathedral
Taking its roots from willows that changed before my eyes
When all became real, real as the sound of bells.
We earthly are aware of transformation;
Miraculously, life, from the old despair.

The wave of smooth water approaches on the sea-
Surface, a live wave individual
Linking, massing its color.     Moving, is struck by wind,
Ribbed, steepened, until the slope and ridge begin;
Comes nearer, brightens.      Now curls, its vanishing
Hollows darken and disappear;     now high above
Me, the scroll, froth, foam of the overfall.

Child who within me gives me dreams and sleep,
Your sleep, your dreams;     you hold me in your flesh
Including me where nothing has included
Until I said    :     I will include, will wish
And in my belly be a birth, will keep
All delicacy, all delight unclouded.
Dreams of an unborn child move through my dreams,
The sun is not alone in making fire and wave
Find meeting-place, for flesh and future meet,
The seal in the green wave like you in me,
Child.     My blood at night full of your dreams,
Sleep coming by day as strong as sun on me,
Coming with sun-dreams where leaves and rivers meet,
And I at last alive sunlight and wave.

17 May 2012

Late pregnancy ramblings

Today we're at the start of a four-day weekend here in Belgium, but we don't have any plans because, well, you don't really make plans for a long weekend when you'll be 37 weeks pregnant. We are now officially full term, which is exciting because the baby is allowed to come when he's ready without any worries about being "too early." I don't *think* he's likely to come until the due date, but this being a second baby, all bets are off.

I'm in a state of total contradiction: feeling all sorts of urgency about crib setup and hospital bags (to name only the fun things on the list), but treading water in exhaustion and the feeling that there's still plenty of time. Excited about this birth and meeting our son, but utterly unable to imagine what life will be like in a few weeks. Staying still and resting because I should and because I really need to, chasing after Gabriel and getting on with life.

Earlier this week I submitted an academic essay that I've been working on for a while, and because of which I was putting off all sorts of other things. So finishing it was a good and satisfying milestone, freeing me up to focus on other to-dos. And what did I do with my new-found freedom yesterday? I took a three-hour nap and had a prenatal massage, a birthday gift from my parents. See what I mean? Stuff to do! Oof, I need a nap!

(Gabriel made up for it last night...he was awake constantly with his itchy eczema bothering him, poor guy, and ended up in our bed from 4am on, pulling my hair, kicking, attempting to lay on top of me, and asking for breakfast. He finally slept from 6-7am, after which M. took him downstairs while I slept from 7-9, then M. slept from 9-11 while I watched the kiddo. At least it's a holiday today! And fortunately this is not typical for him.)

I've been having weekly physiotherapy appointments because of the pelvic pain, and that has definitely helped realign things as much as possible. While it is mostly manageable pain that happens with certain movements, I had a bout the other day of severe, sharp pain that didn't go away and that left me pretty immobile. It went away after a few hours of rest and stretches, but I'm worried about it happening again. As my physiotherapist said, a little too cheerfully, it probably will! Another reason for baby to come sooner rather than later, but also another reason I'm worried about labor (or specifically, about delivery).

Our final ultrasound is tomorrow morning, and I will get to meet our OB for only the second time before we have the baby. I hope to have a good conversation about our birth plan and aforementioned pelvic girdle concerns, and I'm looking forward to making sure everything looks good with our Junebug (or Maybug?).

From the outside, he looks like an acrobat, making increasingly insane-looking lurches outside of the normal ovaloid outline of my belly. He's almost constantly on the move, especially when I'm seated, and everyone from friends to my physiotherapist have been very amused by his antics. Last week I attended a doctoral defense of a friend here (very cool to see--extremely formal, involving men wearing funny academic hats and gowns filing into towering wood podiums from which they grilled the candidate) and the friends sitting next to me couldn't help practically squealing when they were distracted by baby's contortions from the serious philosophical intonations up front.

It continues to rain and barely get into the 60s, so I will be packing warm clothes for baby to wear at the hospital. When I found out we were having a June baby I was kind of thinking warm-weather baby, that his wardrobe would be the opposite of Gabriel, a February baby. But fortunately I didn't go out and buy summer rompers or anything, and he'll be able to wear all of Gabriel's early clothes. As I wash and fold them they look so tiny! I'm pretty sure this one will be a big baby, but even big newborns are tiny, and holding itty bitty onesies has me excited to hold an actual baby of that size. Brand-new size.

12 May 2012

Say my name

Before Gabriel was born, we talked about what we would like to be called as parents. Most parents probably have an obvious answer to this question, or don't even think about it, but since we were working with two languages, and we both had some opinions about parental nicknames, there were a few things to discuss.

In Catalan, most parents we know use mama/papa, but M. grew up using mare/pare (pronounced mar-uh and par-uh), which literally mean mother and father but sound, in terms of formality, closer to mom and dad. As per his experience, he preferred, then, using mare and pare--or at least preferred the latter to the "papa" option.

Meanwhile, I didn't particularly like mommy/daddy, although I'm not sure why, since that's what I called my parents when I was a child. Maybe it didn't seem to suit us or seemed too American for our little international family. I liked mama and papa, but if M. didn't like papa, I thought we should just go with mom and dad from the beginning. So, our plan was that we would be--and refer to each other when speaking to our baby as--mom (or maybe mama) and dad in English, or mare and pare in Catalan.

As I'm sure you've guessed by now, the best laid plans regarding unborn children are always likely to alter radically in the face of actual children and their actual quick little minds.

When Gabriel started speaking, he called us "mama" and "dada" and honestly, I have no idea how that came about. I suppose we started out by referring to one another as mom and dad and he baby-fied the terms until we ourselves were soon using those names. I don't know why we didn't even think about "dada" ahead of time, but I rather love it, as it's not as grown-up sounding as "dad" and not as twangy as "daddy."

I loved hearing Gabriel say our names, even if he was crying--and in the very beginning, that's when he'd say them. A wail that could be identified as a name, the long vowels letting us know he needed us. It seems he made the choice, in the end, about what to call us.

But it doesn't end there, because as he's grown he's adapted to saying various versions our names, as well. "Mommy" seemed to appear somewhat spontaneously, and he still calls me mommy from time to time, especially when yelling for me. Of course, I don't mind as much as I thought I would. I think in part this came about because for many months his pronunciation of "grandma," his name for my mother, sounded nearly identical to "mama." So "mommy" was a way to distinguish the two.

Meanwhile, our families kept referring to us as "mommy and daddy" or "mama and papa"--both sides are still getting used to "mama and dada." So Gabriel would hear others refer to me as "mommy" and it didn't take much for that to sink in. Even recently, when M.'s family was here, Gabriel referred to him as "papa" because he heard others use it. Children are such mimics. (Every once in a while, and this I find hilarious, Gabriel will also call us by our first names because he hears us yelling for each other.)

As for mare and pare, since I refer to M. as "dada" even if I'm speaking Catalan, "pare" hasn't caught on. But M refers to me as "mare," and of late Gabriel has taken to that, especially now that M. is doing the daycare pickup in the evening and talks to him about coming home to me. Every day I can hear Gabriel's little voice from down the street and as they come in the front door, excitedly clamoring, "mare! mare! mare!" He runs to me, giggling and happy, flings his arms around my neck, and I am so proud to be his "mare" as well as his mama, or mommy, for that matter.

I'm sure that some day we'll phase into the more grown-up titles of mom and dad, and mare and pare, depending on the language we're speaking, some day when he knows we're just fallible human beings. In the meantime I love and savor every utterance of his childhood names for us. Because when he calls me mama, or some variation thereof, I am everything that word encompasses: powerful and wise, beautiful and calm, able to soothe every worry, every fever, every tear. Even if I know I'm not those things, he believes that I am.

Mama: a beautiful name. I love it for being universal, uniting me to a world of amazing women who have shared the crazy and wonderful experience of motherhood. But I mostly love it for the person I am when my particular child says it to mean his particular mother. To be sure, it's not my only name, nor my only identity, but it's my newest name, the one that I treasure for my child's faith in who I am and always will be.

09 May 2012

34 years, 36 weeks, 34 pills

I turned 34 yesterday, a birthday which was hardly on my radar at all, due to all of my energy and focus being geared toward getting a complaining, tired body through the end of this pregnancy. Probably because of my lowered or nonexistent expectations, I had the most wonderful day. The Mister surprised me with thoughtful and awesome presents throughout the day, including a bouquet that little Gabriel handed to me exclaiming, Fowers! Fowers!, when they got home.

I took myself to a bookstore and browsed quietly, picked out frilly pastries at the bakery to share with a friend, had a satisfying nap, skyped with our families, and ate dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant with my guys. The temperature almost got up to 70 degrees (even if it was gray and rainy, as per usual). Plus, Dutch class, a physiotherapy appointment, and a movie rental watched while eating chocolate ice cream. All in all, pretty perfect and low-key and cheered me up immensely.

Also cheering me up: today, we reached the 36-week mark, which means a month to go (and only one week until the baby is full term!). I counted out my Zantac today, and there were 34 pills, just enough to stave off heartburn for a couple of days past the due date. I really hope I won't need to ask the doctor for a prescription for whatever the equivalent is here (she was very surprised that I could get Zantac over the counter in the US). Thanks to the physiotherapist I saw yesterday, I now have some new tools at my disposal when experiencing pelvic pain (it's ramped up lately, even though I'm resting more, walking less, and hardly carrying anything) (besides a gigantic baby). I also have a better idea of what positions and movements are better and worse for the problem, some of which were a bit counterintuitive. Plus, I think I'm finally starting to get over this cold and congestion that's been plaguing me for weeks.

All the big changes are so so close, and I know these last weeks will go by in the blink of an eye, even if it seems like time is dragging now. Just looking at those 34 pills made the days more tangible: I could hold them all in the palm of my hand.

04 May 2012

Home stretch

It is finally May, which means I'm having a baby next month (or this month!), which makes me both relieved and nervous. We're only five weeks away from the due date, and while I would love to have the baby sooner rather than later in order to relieve all of this discomfort (and meet our new son), I really don't want to have a baby without my mom here. She arrives June 2. So I guess we'll wait, then (as if it were up to me)! There are also a crib still to put together, baby laundry to wash, and hospital bags to pack.

The Mister has juggled his work schedule in order to be able to do the daycare pickup and dropoff, and we finally found a store that will deliver groceries. So the main obstacles that we were facing last week have been solved, although it's quite a schlep every day for M. to get from home to daycare to the train station to Brussels to work, and vice versa. We're getting ready quickly in the morning so that he can hustle Gabriel out the door. Fortunately, Gabriel has been a complete doll this week, sleeping well every night until 7am, and behaving so beautifully in the mornings and evenings.

Over the holiday weekend we had nine people in the house, all of M's family--his parents, sister, brother-in-law, and our nieces. They took over the shopping, cooking, and Gabriel-watching duties, and I stayed at home while they went on trips to museums and parks. This was fantastic in so many ways, since I really needed the rest and am still getting over this horrible cold-congestion-cough thing. But hard for me in other ways, since it's not easy to sit back and just let it all happen when it's your own house. Just letting go. Plus, everything was topsy turvy and busy and noisy and extra muddy (due to our street construction, which seems to consist of digging holes and more holes, continuing in the rain). We did have a couple of kind of springy days where we could even go without jackets, and I sat and read in the garden for the first time this year. (Of course, after that it was back to pouring cats and dogs.)

I'm going to Dutch class and making short little errands but otherwise sticking close to home and taking long naps. I am sleeping poorly at night, since everything throbs or itches or aches or or cramps or burns or is congested, so naps suck me into their deep vortex reliably every day. There is work to do but my brain is too foggy to do it well. Hardly any of my maternity clothes fit any more, since my belly has taken on proportions that it only reached just days before Gabriel was born, and my hips seem to be widening so that even formerly comfortable yoga pants cut into my waist.

I take great comfort in knowing this will all change drastically very soon, and five weeks--a month!--seems much closer than six or seven weeks did. I have no idea how everything will go when we become a family of four, but I'm looking forward to challenges that are different than this slow achy wait.