Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Nice to know someone else with spew-strewn hair

Last week we started antenatal classes, an invaluable resource for clueless kid-less folk like Mr Green and me. I am especially keen to hook up with some local moms since in a few short months, when I am at home tearing out my spew-strewn hair, it'll be nice to know someone else with spew-strewn hair is only down the road.

We're about eight couples in total, hailing from nearby villages and all stricken with first-timerly nerves. The course is run by a very nice lady who reminds me of a Brownie leader I might once have had - Tawny Owl? Come to think of it, the format is very Brownie-like too: use of silly props to demonstrate a point about pregnancy or labour, eg. we spent a good part of the first session blowing bubbles in order to practice drawing out our 'out' breaths to help us relax in the throes of labour.

Surprisingly, Mr Green is thus far enjoying the classes, as there have been no John Carpenter-type videos (yet) and there is ample opportunity for double entendre and repartee among the other blokes. Jaffa cake anyone? Somehow I doubt he'll still be smirking at the next session, though. Labour: the final stage. It does have a ring to it. Maybe John Carpenter should attend in Mr Green's place. I bet he'd learn a thing or two...

My playdough baby

This week saw some pretty major developments on the baby front. On Monday Mr Green and I came face to face (okay, face to screen) with our son for the very first time and in 3D/4D to boot. Initially visibility was obscured on account of his face being smooshed against the placenta. I was therefore sent away to drink more and walk around in the hope that filling my bladder and moving about would alter his position enough to get a clear view. It took the better part of a morning but we finally got to see him "live" in utero. So strange to witness the little guy moving around in there quite contentedly, crossing his legs, smiling occasionally (must've been an inside joke) and sucking on his own arm (common apparently). Yum! Well, compared to amniotic fluid laced with his own wee, that is...

Anyway, I'd just like to say God bless modern technology for making such a viewing possible. And whilst he still looked somewhat like a clay model, he did at least look and act like a human baby, which is greatly reassuring and is more than can be said of the early scans. Of course Mr Green was quick to lay claims that junior resembled him and while it is difficult to say with any certainty at this stage, that nose most definitely isn't mine!

Only trouble is, now that we've seen him we are even more excited to meet the little critter in the flesh. It has made the two and something months till D-day seem that much longer...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sperm whale beached in Provence

Enough doom and pre-baby gloom already. Upon the sound advice of elders and generally Those Who Know, Mr Green and I recently escaped London and environs for a week in sunny Provence. And sunny it was, hitting mid to high 30s every day while Marseilles airport registered 41C on the afternoon of our departure. A bit too much so for my Irish-skinned husband and for junior, who let me know in no uncertain terms when the amniotic fluid reached boiling point by thrashing around in his very own mosh pit. Still, our 'babymoon' location, in the countryside just north of Salon-en-Provence, proved nothing short of idyllic with its lavender bushes thrumming with bumble bees. And for the first few days at least we had total monopoly over the luscious inground pool at our B&B/villa. Only the crew of an Apollo shuttle could understand my giddy delirium at the sudden feeling of weightlessness. In the bath I may have been a sperm whale stranded in an estuary, but in the pool I was Willy freed! At one point I even managed to hitch a ride on Mr Green's back without crippling him, thereby vowing to find the nearest watering hole back in Kent so I can repeat the experience until a dorsal fin grows out of my skin (hey, at this rate of change, I wouldn't bat an eyelid.)

I was so taken by my newfound aquatic prowess that I accidentally ordered the coquilles St Jacques -- okay, so I confess to being a little taken by the name -- which the waitress merely described as 'white fish, very good'. Much to my dismay, out came a plate of scallops with the roes and all. Dismay, because all the scaremongers keep insisting that shellfish is one of a long list of foods which you must avoid like the plague whilst pregnant. Most cheeses feature on said list, as do pates, peanuts, cured hams, smoked fish, etc... But I needn't have panicked. Even though the waitress looked like she hadn't cleaned under her fingernails since 1986, my dismay quickly evaporated. What the coquilles lacked in freshness they more than made up for in cooking time. Hours passed and by some miracle I wasn't sick. Which made me wonder, as I tucked into lots of lovely warm goats cheese salads with impunity, whether the French aren't more laidback for a reason. Because life is too short maybe and the risks too slim to warrant such scare tactics? I'm not sure of the reason exactly but I relished their philosophie all the same. Then licked my fingers.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The skinny on pregnancy weight gain

As soon as you fall pregnant, suddenly everyone is an expert extolling advice, whether you want it or not. Whole bookstore shelves are jam packed with "manuals" telling you what to do and what not to do when you're expecting. One such "commandment" recommends a 25-35lbs weight gain during pregnancy, regardless of your starting weight and general body shape. Unfortunately, like most one-size-fits-all guides, this approach fails to consider the individual woman. And even more unfortunately, it encourages pregnant women to obsess about the numbers on the scale at a time when they should be focusing on being healthy and happy.

As someone who has always had something of an issue with weight, pregnancy was always going to pose a challenge for me. In fact, most of the teasing I endured in the playground stayed there; it was my own family who carried on the torch, relentlessly commenting on how fat this or that person was, and quietly monitoring everything that did -- or didn't -- cross my lips. A stark reminder that you can pick your friends, but not your family. While I never had an eating disorder per se, I came perilously close one summer, close enough to scare myself back into eating well.

However, just when I thought I'd put those demons to rest, and mortised the cellar door, back they came the minute I fell pregnant. Even the most innocuous maternity fashion depicts a six-foot-something model with twigs for arms, bean spouts for legs, and the most infinitesimal bump (more kumquat than watermelon). Far from being in proportion, she hasn't gained an ounce of flab elsewhere on her body the way real life pregnant women do. In short, she looks as alien as the average catwalk model does in correlation to the average non-pregnant woman. Fortunately I take this media ploy for what it is, savvy and grateful that I am no longer quite so impressionable. But insecurities die hard, it seems. Having my mother recently delight at the width of my rear end, and repeatedly remind me to make sure the midwife checks on my weight, well, I snapped.

The truth of the matter is, my midwife has never taken any interest whatsoever in my weight gain. In fact, not once has she made me set foot on a scale. And provided her ample experience tells her she has no bona fide medical reason for concern, I think rightly so. As long as I am eating healthily, and not consuming an excessive amount of Haagen Dazs; as long as I feel well (or, as well as a woman in her final trimester can), let the scale gather dust! My aunt gained a whopping 80lbs with each of her pregnancies, and then lost the weight. Not that I'm advocating an all-out binge fest, but surely pregnancy is the one time we as women can, and should, relax in our (stretching) skin.

For the first time in my life, ironically, I love my shape and feel confident enough to parade around in a bikini. I believe my husband when he tells me I look beautiful, because I really do feel beautiful. The female form is amazingly resilient. Through the transformative powers of pregnancy, I am developing a new found respect and admiration for my body -- even the extra 50lbs of it. My eyes no longer appraise it as harshly as they once did. With any luck, some of that esteem will linger into the years beyond my child's birth, when no doubt I'll have more important things to worry about, like loving my son...