My short time with short term planning

Up until this point, I think most of my planning has been about the long-range goal. Sure, there have been short-term goals, too – things like ‘complete Lego Batman to 100 per cent’ and ‘make sure I cut my toe nails’ have their place on any reasonable to-do list.

But at most points in my life, there has been some overarching goal. Get good grades so I can go to university. Go to university so I can learn a lot and become a productive member of society. Get a career and rise the ranks. You know, normal stuff. And for each of those goals, there has been some translation to my day-to-day activities, like ‘study for that test’ or ‘show your face in the office.’

Now, with work done, the house essentially set up, my husband comfortably settled into his new job, and days (or, shudder, weeks) away from baby arriving, I’m in a weird, short-term limbo.

I’m a goal-oriented person. I like to have tasks. I like to feel useful. Sometimes, I even like being useful. So I don’t just want to sit around and do nothing, as the books and websites suggest I do.

“Take this time to relax – you won’t get the chance after baby comes!”

True, but I also won’t get the chance to organize that closet or touch-up the paint around that window. Wouldn’t it be better to do those things?

The result is that I’m sure people who work in the stores around town are sick of seeing me. Every day, I cook or prep one more batch of food to go in the freezer to thaw and eat after baby gets here. Sure, I could go in today and buy all the ingredients to do a meal a day for seven days, but what happens to that food if I go into labour today? That would be a waste.  And sure, I could go to the hardware store and buy the tools I need to hang that mirror and install that shelving unit and organize that closet, but if I have those things laying around and they don’t get done (because baby shows up), I’m going to feel super guilty. If, on the other hand, there is not a readily available solution, it’s probably fine the way it is for the next few months.

That’s how I’ve planned my life. Right now, each day, I have one food goal, one organizational or decorating goal, and one room-cleaning goal, none of which are really tied to anything bigger.

And that makes me uneasy.

So I’ve added an overarching goal, too: make sure the couch is broken in with frequent naps. That, I’m sure, will serve us well in the long run.

 

Pregnancy: expectations and reality

One of the first things I did after seeing those two pink lines on the pee stick was go and buy a jar of pickles. From what I understood, it would be a very necessary tool in the following several months to satisfy the hunger cravings that would inevitably come my way.

But here we are, 34 weeks later, and that jar remains unopened – and not just because I’m too weak to open it.

It turns out I'm not the only one who's made this mistake.

It turns out I’m not the only one who’s made this mistake.

Perhaps I’m a rather atypical pregnant woman, but I have actually found that a lot of the things I thought I knew about pregnancy – including some of the “What I really wants” from this amusing Venn diagram – have just been downright wrong. And at 38.5 weeks pregnant, I now feel like I’m in a place to discuss my experience with some of these expectations of pregnant ladies.

Cravings

Besides the need for pickles, I was under the impression that I, like every pregnant lady depicted in the media, would at some point wake my husband up at 3 a.m. with an outrageous demand – “Honey, I need you to find me chicken fingers and dip them in melted chocolate. And I also need a wheel of cheese. Don’t ask questions.”

But this never really happened. Sure, there have been times when, at 3 a.m., I’m suddenly desperate for food. These hunger pangs have always been satiated by something “normal,” though, and something I’m perfectly willing and able to prepare for myself.

And, to be honest, there was one time where I was desperate for ice cream. I almost cried when I didn’t get ice cream. But then I got ice cream, and everything was okay.

Trips to the bathroom

Despite everything I’ve ever seen and heard, my trips to the bathroom have not really been more frequent.

That said, I will admit that when they happen, they do seem to happen with increased urgency. So there’s that.

Uncontrollable pee

I have yet to lose bladder control while sneezing. Or in any situation, actually.

Morning sickness

I threw up three times total during my pregnancy. Twice, it was because I took my prenatal vitamins at the wrong time without food. Once also happened to be on a walk on New Year’s Day. I’m sure the neighbours drew different conclusions about why I was sick.

Hair and nails

If morning sickness has got you down, fear not, say all the baby books and websites. It’s all worth it because your hair and nails will be incredible. Your head hair will be fuller and shinier and your nails will be stronger.

To be honest, I haven’t noticed a difference on this front, either. But maybe it’s because my hair and nails were already incredible.

Yeah, I said it.

Stretch marks

Listen, pregnancy is not an easy process for the human body. The uterus’ capacity grows about 1,000 times over the course of the pregnancy, and once all of the body’s other organs have been crushed into oblivion, there’s no where else to grow but outward. It all happens pretty quickly, and most women – some information estimates about 90 per cent – get stretch marks where their skin just has a hard time keeping up with the parasite inside them.

After doing some research early on, I decided I would do nothing to try and prevent stretch marks, because science suggests that’s exactly what you can do.

Here I am, no stretch marks. Maybe I hit the genetic lottery, or maybe my skin has some secret advantage because I used to be more than 100 lbs. heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Belly button

I’ve been waiting for four months for my belly button to pop from its usual “innie” state to become an “outie.” The books all explain that probably at some point in the second trimester, my rapidly expanding uterus should have pushed my abdomen forward, causing my belly button to invert itself.

Much to my husband’s dismay, this has not happened. Although my once cavernous navel is now a bit more like a kiddie pool, I don’t think this one’s going to come to fruition, either.

Nesting

In the animal kingdom, hamsters tear up whatever they can find to build nests for their soon-to-be-born young. Humans, along a similar vein, clean. And organize. And cook.

I have a hard time commenting as to whether I have experienced full-fledged nesting.  Moving about 1,000 kilometres means you have to organize and clean an entire house. Twice. I have been rather dutiful and productive in both tasks, but I can’t say that there was an overwhelming instinct to do so. It just needed to get done.

On the cooking front, I have started my quest to cook at least one big “freezer meal” a day for post-partum consumption, but again, I feel overwhelmed by practicality, not by some primitive sense of panic.

These factors all lead to me kind of shrugging when people ask me about nesting. Not really?

There is one big “except.” I haven’t really felt a nesting instinct except when I finally got the chance to set up baby’s room. I got the painting done in a day. I built the glider and washed everything and made wall art and built a little shelving unit. And when I thought we weren’t going to get a shelving unit like the one I’d imagined, it came to tears.

So, yes really.

Crying

Speaking of tears, I cannot deny that I have had an… umm… expressive pregnancy.

To be fair, I did start from a place of tears. At my (non-pregnant) best, I still cried in response to intense emotions – good or bad. But it seems that in pregnancy, what qualifies as “intense” is a little, well, broader.

A couple weeks ago, I was in tears when we pulled up to the kennel where we were leaving our dogs for a few days. I just saw a small, fenced in area off the side of the house, and it was – horror! – uncovered. Is that really where our dogs are going to be? What if it rains? What if they get sad? We can’t leave them here Mr. B! We can’t! He convinced me that they would probably have to stay there anyway, so we went in to talk to the kennel owner, who explained that there was a large fenced area out back and that at night, the dogs all came inside and got to sleep on the furniture and even in bed with her. I nearly cried again, this time out of relief and happiness.

And a couple weeks before that, I made a home made pizza. My husband was a bit late coming home from work, so I spent a little extra time drooling over all the delightful aromas I had created. By the time he was on his way and I popped the pizza into the oven, I had built this pizza up to be the best pizza my taste buds would ever have the pleasure of rubbing against. But when I took the pizza out of the oven, I dropped it. The toppings went everywhere. And before I had even processed what happened, there were tears streaming down my face.

So yes, I can vouch that crying can become a little more routine for pregnant ladies.

Ice cream

As the Venn diagram suggests, this is the one area that is absolutely spot on. And my experience has suggested the same thing. As I described earlier, the only intense craving I ever had was for ice cream.  I have absolutely developed a sweet tooth during the course of this pregnancy, and ice cream has always hit the spot. It’s not uncommon these days to spot me with a tub and spoon in hand.

And just the other night, while my husband was working nights, I sent him an early morning text to check in and see how he was doing.

“What are you doing up?” he asked – a reasonable question at 3 a.m.

“Ice cream.” That was my entire response.

And that, friends, is the most pregnant thing I have said in the past nine months.

A burning issue

And now, a break for science.

Water has a relatively high thermal capacity, compared to air. That means it takes more energy to heat it up, and it retains its heat for longer. If you have a large body of water, like say an ocean or a Great Lake, the overall effect on the surrounding air can be pretty significant.

During warm months, land areas near a large body of water might not heat up as much as other areas that are getting a similar about of sun, because the water is actually absorbing so much energy. And in the winter, the water cools down more slowly than the air around it – it releases heat, so land around it will be less cold. And on a smaller temporal scale, this moderating effect is still in play.

What that meant for me as someone who lived five minutes from Lake Huron was that unless there was a thunderstorm, temperature changes from hour-to-hour and even day-to-day were generally pretty gradual. If it was warm enough for shorts yesterday, I’ll probably be fine wearing shorts today, too. And if I had to put on a sweater this morning, chances are, I’ll still be rocking long sleeves this afternoon.

Cochrane is not near a large lake. I mean, some of the lakes in the general area are kind of big – I wouldn’t want to try to swim across them – but they’re not quite Great, you know?

A fifteen degree swing here in a day is perfectly normal. It seems like a five degree swing in the span of an hour is not even unheard of, depending on whether there’s a cloud near the sun. Just one cloud – that’s all it takes.

So I actually have to consult a meteorological source daily to indirectly get told what I should be wearing. You know what I wore yesterday? A tank top and shorts. Today, I wore jeans and a long sleeved shirt, and I was desperate for a sweater when I was walking around town. We have only been here a month and we’ve already had days where there was frost on our cars in the morning and by lunch time, even the non-super-pregnant people were sweating.

What is this madness?

I would really like to deal with this situation in a reasonable way, but I’m not sure what the answer is. Perhaps I should never leave the house for more than an hour at a time. Maybe I should keep a suitcase in my car for all of my potential clothing needs. Better yet, I could consider investing in an entire wardrobe of tearaway pants.

Just imagine me as an attractive, non-pregnant man and this would be accurate. (From coolthings.com, of course)

Just imagine me as an attractive, non-pregnant man and this would be accurate.
(From coolthings.com, of course)

Of course, if my husband is reading this, I’m probably in hot water. I’m getting cold feet trying to finish this blog post, because Mr. B knows I’m just blowing hot air – even when the temperature was completely predictable, I was still horribly under prepared for whatever conditions we were facing. I’m sorry I pretended this issue was heating me up. That wasn’t cool.

Thoughts on a few choice words

These last few weeks of my pregnancy have been, well, pregnant with emotion.

Up until this point, I’ve had an uncanny knack for observing what was happening to me and, generally, finding it fascinating. It was interesting when my nose started bleeding and curious when my knee stopped knowing how to be a knee. I’ve met all of the changes – the big, the beautiful, and the downright gross – with about as scientific a perspective as I think any pregnant lady could be expected to muster.

But over the past week or so, I’ve noticed a change in my attitude. Differences in the way I look and feel, now, are fuelling emotions – hope, excitement, fear – rather than thoughts.

Certain words seem to linger on the tip of my tongue, as if I’ve never really considered them properly before. Some words, like ‘transitional labour’ and ‘mucous plug’ (don’t Google that) are, in fact, still pretty unfamiliar, but others are words with which I already have deep emotional associations.

Mother.

Father.

Daughter. 

I have a mother and a father. I am a daughter. And I have 27 years of experience with these words, so why do they now taste so foreign when they rest on my lips? I guess their significance was never really in the forefront of my mind before.

These words are defining. Binding. Eternal.
These words are relationships strung together with woven strands of deoxyribonucleic acid. They are bonds that – while incubated inside my body for nine months – have divided and grown more times that I can possibly fathom.
These words signify the beginning of a life and the beginning of all kinds of possibilities. These words have the power to change existing lives, too; they force us to cross that threshold between a couple and a family.
These words keep me up at night.

Well, that, and the frequent need to urinate.

As we race towards this finish line (Or is it a start line? Surely there’s some wisdom in there somewhere about every new beginning coming from some other beginning’s end), I find myself burdened with an endless list of questions. How will I cope with labour? How bad will late night feedings be? What will it be like when this Little Parasite smiles for the first time? What about the first time we can’t figure out why she’s crying? Will our dogs still feel loved? Will I ever leave the house again? Why do we need baby lotion and baby oil?

The biggest questions, though, revolve around those words. What kind of mother will I be? What kind of father will he be? What kind of daughter will she be?

And an even more philosophical question, still: What does it mean to be a mother?

I’ve been wondering about the implications of motherhood while simultaneously wondering whether I’m already in that situation. Do you become a mother when you make the decision to try for a baby? When you see a positive pregnancy test? When you hear a heart beat? When you get kicked? When baby takes her first breath?

(For the record, I think it’s the last one. If someone were to ask me today, “Are you a mother?” my answer would be, “Almost.”)

Looking at this post, I see a lot more question marks than I’d like. Periods, commas, en dashes, and the occasional colon and semi-colon – this is the world of punctuation in which I’m comfortable. But a question mark denotes uncertainty – a quality that I most definitely do not associate with mothers. How can I be a mother if I don’t know how?

(Although thanks to the prevalent “bumbling dads” stereotype, uncertainty seems a little more likely for fathers, particularly for those entering the realm of diapers.)

I thought, somehow, that when I was in a place where LP could theoretically arrive any day, I would know more. I thought that, on top of having the nursery completely set up (nope), weeks’ worth of food ready in the freezer (nope), a hospital bag packed (nope), and any kind of understanding of how a breast pump works (yeah, nope), I would have some answers to some of these other questions.

It’s taken me a few late-night cry-festivals (hormones are no joke, yo), but I’ve finally realized that somehow, whether I have answers or not, I am going to become a mother. (Upon further reflection, I don’t think the duct tape solution is going to work out.) LP will enter the world and I will be responsible for making sure she stays alive. It doesn’t matter if I know what the difference is between baby lotion and baby oil, as long as she doesn’t drown in either. She also probably shouldn’t eat them. Or get them in her eyes.

This might be tough.

Regardless, I think that’s probably the first real lesson of motherhood. I can’t plan for everything. I won’t always be prepared. As much as I’d like my children to think the opposite, I probably won’t always know the answers – especially to the big questions, the ones you can’t just Google.

And that’s okay.

As long as we’re all alive, we’ll be okay. We’ll get there. We’ll figure it out together – that’s the plan from here on out.

Any questions?