Week 13: Belly Up to the (Salad) Bar

I’ve started to notice that in virtually all pregnancy books and magazines, the size of your growing baby is compared to produce. At week seven, my embryo was likened to a small raspberry. At nine weeks, it became a medium green olive. (Why not a black or kalamata olive, I have no idea.) By then, my uterus was allegedly the size of a grapefruit. Sometimes the descriptions veer into the condiment category, especially early on when the embryo is compared to a grain of salt or a peppercorn. (One book called it a “BB pellet,” but that was the only deviation from the food theme. Maybe that one was written by a guy.)

Since I’ve always had more of a preference for sweets than produce, despite the fact that I’m a vegetarian, I prefer to think of my baby-to-be in terms of candy. The first few weeks, he or she was no bigger than a speck of sugar from a Pixie stick. Gradually, the embryo grew to the size of a gummy bear, then a jelly bean (the regular supermarket variety, not the tiny gourmet ones). Now I reckon it’s about the size of a Circus Peanut.

Of course, after a certain time – say, following the Chunky-bar stage – I’m going to run out of candy big enough to describe the baby-to-be. Sure, I can claim it’s the size of a giant Hershey’s Kiss – the 2-lb. kind you see at Christmastime – but that’s sort of cheating. I suppose I’ll have to move on to snack pastries. She/he will grow from a cupcake to a Hostess Apple Pie. Next it will become a Cinnabon, and then I guess I’ll have to go with a pound cake. Eventually, the kid will end up as a family-sized carrot cake like you see at discount warehouse stores. Or maybe one of those gigantic lemon pies topped with a towering cloud of meringue displayed in the dessert case in old-fashioned diners. Sounds a little less scary than a watermelon, anyway.

So you might be wondering why, in all my first-trimester entries, I haven’t brought up the issue of morning sickness. After all, lots of women suffer from nausea and aversions to certain foods or smells. One friend of mine could only bring herself to suck weakly on sour hard candies throughout most of her pregnancy. But I’m happy to say I got off easy on this one. Aside from a mild distaste of the smell of coffee and hamburgers cooking, my stomach has been pretty calm. I like to think it’s because the universe owes me.

When I was a baby, my grandmother dubbed me “Vesuvius” since I was always erupting like that volatile volcano that buried Pompeii. As a kid, I had the world’s weakest stomach. The tiniest thing — a bumpy car ride, setting foot on an airplane, a 3-D movie, the anticipation of my birthday, eating too much, eating too little — could set off my sensitive tummy and send me running for the nearest bathroom. It didn’t help that my parents were big travelers. I’ve hung my head over toilets in Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Greenland, Mexico, Scotland, Spain, and most states in America. OK, I’m exaggerating – I didn’t always make it to the bathroom.

Anyway, with all the stomach troubles I’ve had in my lifetime, I think it’s only fair that I get through pregnancy nausea-free. And as for food cravings, I can’t say I’ve had any strong ones. Sure, I’ve developed a taste for reduced-fat sour cream and onion Pringles, Orangina, and cinnamon candies, but I don’t send my husband out at 3 a.m. to fetch them. Though I have been known to get a little cranky if he dips into my stash. I tell him to lay off my chips and go make a fruit salad or something. I think this week we’re on to peaches.


Week 12: Starting to Show … Somewhere

At week 12, I’m finally starting to look a little pregnant. No, my belly’s not expanding – but my butt is. Normally I don’t spend too much time worrying about the size of my rear-end. After all, I don’t have to look at it. I can’t even see it unless I’m strategically positioned in front of a three-way mirror in a dressing room under harsh fluorescent lighting. And that’s when I try to avoid looking back there at all costs. No one needs that level of detail.

Anyway, I’ve always been pretty happy with my heinie. It fills out a pair of jeans, it’s comfortable to sit on for the duration of most domestic flights, and usually, it’s fairly toned from a regular regimen of squats and lunges. Not that I’d ever go strutting down a beach in a thong or anything – or even walk around my bedroom in broad daylight in front of the dog – but for the most part, I am at peace with my posterior. That is, until it started growing at a faster rate than any of my other pregnant body parts.

I guess I was so distracted by my newfound cleavage that I didn’t pay attention to other parts of my anatomy. I mean, sure, I’ve been checking my stomach for signs of growth, but that’s a given. (Nothing happening yet. I thought for awhile that my belly was beginning to pop, but it turns out I was just bloated.)

Then I saw a picture of myself in snug workout gear. It was my idea to have C. take a picture of me at the same time each month, in the same place, wearing the same outfit, to document my pregnancy. I thought it would be cute to look back and see how I’d grown. But I didn’t bank on my butt filling half the frame. Sure enough, I looked just about the same from my neck to my waist, but below the belt there was an unmistakable swelling in my Spandex.

Just to be sure, I asked C. what he thought. I KNOW, I broke the cardinal rule of coupledom: never, ever ask your man if your butt looks big. Except, I’m pregnant. It’s not like I’ve been hitting the Twinkies hard for no good reason. Everyone knows I’m going to gain weight; it’s what pregnant women do. Anyway, I just wanted his confirmation that my eyes weren’t in fact deceiving me. Maybe it was just a bad camera angle.

After an uncomfortable couple of minutes, C. reluctantly agreed with my initial hypothesis. “I guess now that you mention it, yes, it does look a little bigger. But you’re still not fat,” he rushed to add. “I probably wouldn’t even have noticed if you hadn’t drawn my attention to it.” But the damage was done.

I now had a witness to the fact that my ass had indeed begun to grow to gigantic proportions. Worse, I have photographic proof. And I’m only three months along! I shudder to think of the size my rump might reach by my third trimester. But you can bet your bottom dollar I’m staying away from three-way mirrors.


Week 11: Doctors Can Call in Sick?

So after gearing up for weeks for my first doctor’s appointment – with a brand-new OB/GYN, no less – her office called that morning to say she was out sick. Huh? What ever happened to “physician heal thyself”? Since it was a rainy Friday, I have my suspicions. I bet she just felt like lounging around at home in her PJs watching “Regis & Kelly.” I know I did. But I had already gotten up, showered, dressed, and put on makeup. (I didn’t want her thinking I’m a slob.)

Anyway, the next available appointment was the following Wednesday with a different doctor. I tried not to stress too much, since they do recommend that you see all the doctors in the practice at some point, so whoever’s on call the day you deliver won’t be a stranger. Still, I couldn’t believe I had to wait SIX MORE DAYS to confirm that I’m actually having a baby.

I know, you’d think the missed period, sore breasts, fatigue, ravenous hunger, and two positive pregnancy tests would be good enough, right? But somehow, I just wouldn’t believe it until a genuine medical professional was saying the words to me in person: “You’re pregnant.” Better yet, I hoped I’d get to hear the heartbeat or maybe even get a sonogram as some of my friends had.

So I show up early to my next appointment. My first appointment, that is. I’m ready, eager, and willing to flip through last month’s Glamour as I wait. (Please, I’m so not ready for Parenting yet.) I try to tune out the Jerry Springer show in the background. How is people shrieking about their torrid family dramas in the waiting room relaxing for first-time moms-to-be?

Soon, my name is called by the nurse. She leads me back to an exam room where she takes my blood pressure and weighs me. I’ve gained three pounds already! No wonder, as I’ve been consuming calories like a starving person at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Then I undress, slip into a lovely backless gown, and wait for the doctor. I avert my eyes from the posters charting the growth of the fetus and the inner workings of the womb. There’s such a thing as too much information.

I’m contemplating my socks, relieved that they match and are free from holes, when the doctor breezes in and introduces herself. She’s young, businesslike, and brisk. I ask her a couple of questions and she answers promptly. She does not engage me in conversation. She kneads my sore breasts and attacks my abdomen like she’s molding a nativity scene out of Play-Doh. She apologizes when I moan in pain, but I don’t think she really means it.

After all that, I overhear her say to the nurse, “I’m going to do the ultrasound.” My ears perk up. Then I see her wheel over a machine that’s attached to a device that would look at home in an adult toy catalog. You’re going to put that WHERE? Oh. Sure. I hold my breath and close my eyes until she says, “There it is.” I look up at the screen and see a blurry black and white image. “What’s that? And that?” I ask, jabbing at the screen. “Just a minute, please,” says the doctor, intent on wedging the device even further into my innards. Finally she gestures at a lighter spot on the blurry screen. “That’s your baby.”

I’m having a beautiful baby … lima bean? Honestly, I can barely make out a head or rump, though the nurse swears they’re there. The thing looks like a fuzzy peanut. However, one thing is unmistakable – there’s a tiny little pulsing light in the center of it. The heartbeat! I laugh. I’m having a Mexican jumping bean. The doctor pushes a button and hands me a tiny square of paper. “For your scrapbook.” It’s a picture of my lima bean. (It looks even blurrier on paper.)

I leave, happy and relieved. And also, shocked – I really AM pregnant! Oh my god. That bean’s going to turn into a watermelon before it’s done. I try not to think about it, concentrating instead on my baby-to-be’s first photo. When C. sees it, he says it looks like him already. “Just look at the size of that head!”


Week 10: To Tell or Not to Tell

The thing about being pregnant is that sooner or later, you’ve got to tell people. I mean, who was Jennifer Garner fooling when she suddenly started walking around in flowy shirts that covered her normally taut – and exposed – midriff? Sooner or later, it’s gonna come out. (The news, and also the baby. But let’s not think about that part just yet.)

Now I realize there are legitimate reasons to wait until you’re out of your first trimester to tell people. The possibility of miscarriage drops, and you’re feeling better all around. Plus, it’s probably taken you that long just to wrap your addled little brain around the fact that you’re really, actually, genuinely “with child.”

There were plenty of days in the first couple months when I still didn’t believe it – despite two positive home pregnancy tests, a blood test, and a sonogram. I had a sneaking suspicion it was all just an elaborate prank being pulled on me by the rest of the world. At any minute, I half-expected Ashton Kutcher to jump out from under the exam table and declare I’d been “punk’d.” (I should mention my husband is a huge fan of practical jokes.) After all, there were plenty of other reasons why I might feel ravenous, irritable, exhausted, and constipated all the time, right? Well, aside from PMS, which I’d ruled out by this point, probably not.

Of course, there are other people who can’t wait to spread the good news of their pregnancy to their families, friends, coworkers, grocer, mailman, and the guy who waits on them at Blockbuster. I wasn’t one of those people. I soon learned that who to tell and when is a slippery issue.

The first person I told was my friend S. Mostly, because she’s the mother of two small children and very knowledgeable about procreation. Second, because I’d recently been over at her house complaining that my boobs hurt and wouldn’t it be hysterical if I were actually pregnant? I mean, the chances were so slim in my mind that I was slightly embarrassed to even voice this thought aloud. Everyone knows it can take women over 30 a long time to get pregnant, right? Apparently not always.

So now I felt compelled to tell S. that, guess what, the joke’s on me. I also thought that she, with her maternal wisdom, might reassure me that I was nuts. Instead, she said that while she’d heard of false negatives with home pregnancy tests, she thought a false positive was pretty rare. Gulp.

I saw the double line the night before I was setting off for a weekend trip with some girlfriends to visit a friend who’d recently moved to the West Coast. C. and I debated whether to keep the news a secret or not. Surely I could explain away my avoidance of alcohol by saying I was on antibiotics for a recent illness. Except one of my friends was a nurse and might ask, “What kind of antibiotics?” And the only old prescription bottles we had lying around the house had C.’s name on them. My friends aren’t that dumb.

I decided I’d just play it by ear. Who knew? Maybe the alcohol issue wouldn’t even come up. Yeah, right. I realize that it may sound ridiculous – and possibly as if my friends and I should be checking ourselves into the Betty Ford clinic – if someone’s choice of beverage at dinner is the first tip-off that she might be pregnant. But what can I say? My friends enjoy their wine. And beer. And Cosmopolitans.

So we had barely arrived at my friend E.’s apartment when she rattled off the itinerary for the weekend: we’d start with a coffee tasting at a local beanery (I could no longer stomach even the smell of coffee, let alone the caffeine), then we’d have dinner at her favorite microbrewery. The next day, we’d tour a winery and one of the only places in the U.S. that makes sake. I was screwed. So I told my friends the big news, and they were thrilled. The rest of the weekend passed with numerous discussions about baby names and growing bellies. I drank a lot of lemonade.

Back home, though, I felt guilty about telling some of my friends but not the rest. At least I should wait until after my first doctor’s appointment in two weeks, I figured. Then my husband started in with, “If you can tell your friends, why can’t I tell mine?” Grasping for a reason, I said, “I had to tell my friends. We’re not telling anybody else until our families know.” I mean, I had to at least tell my mom next, right?

I called my parents to share the news. They squealed with delight – their first grandchild, at last! “It’s your news, so I won’t tell anyone until you tell me it’s OK,” said my mom, before adding, “I do wish you would call your grandfather, though. He’s having such a tough time these days, the news would just warm his heart. And of course you have to tell Aunt Ann. And you know, your Aunt Dee is recovering from a neck operation and this might be just the thing to cheer her up.” My dad chimed in, “Of course you’re going to tell your brother, right?”

Two days later, my brother and his wife were coming to dinner, so yes, I had planned to tell them. Although C. was still griping at me about how unreasonable it was that I could tell my family but not his family. “Can you just wait one more friggin’ week until I have my doctor’s appointment?” I said through gritted teeth. I even considered holding off on telling my brother. But that plan was shattered when my sister-in-law (SIL) announced that her best friend was expecting a baby. “She’s my first close friend to have a baby,” SIL said excitedly, “so in a way, it’s like I’ll have my own baby.” OK, how was I going to let that pass?

“Well…” I began, while frantically trying to catch C.’s eye to get the silent OK. He was too ensconced in the football game to notice. In the span of that meaningful glance, SIL caught on. I swear, women have some kind of radar for these things. “You?! You’re not … Oh, my god!” she squealed, as she teared up and ran over to give me a hug. My brother looked up from the game, confused. “Wha…? What’d I miss?” he asked. SIL filled him in. “Really? Wow,” he said, eyes widening. Then he turned back to the TV.

At that point, everything started to snowball. We told my in-laws, C.’s four siblings, his five best friends, and the rest of my friends. I told my grandfather, who told my aunt. I started getting congratulatory e-mails from my friends’ coworkers. I began to feel guilty about all those who had to hear it through the grapevine and would pout about why they weren’t on the first-to-know list. But I still hadn’t had my damn doctor’s appointment!

What if the stupid plastic stick was wrong? What if I showed up and the doctor said, “Pregnant? Hardly. You just have indigestion. Have you been drinking a lot of lemonade lately?” Until I see my waistline expand – or at least an image on the sonogram that doesn’t look like a fuzzy lima bean – I will believe nothing. But that hasn’t stopped me from telling my UPS guy.

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