Thursday, October 09, 2014

Pregnant at 38


a commercial ran constantly during the World Cup games that showed nurses standing in a nursery full of screaming newborns asking, “what happened nine months ago?” then came a quick cut to tense soccer matches and excitable couples watching them in their living rooms before looking at each other and making out furiously.

Warren and i were one of those couples. and now we are having our very own cliched World Cup baby. team Costa Rica did great this year, dominating its group and eliminating fan favorites like Italy, England and Spain. naturally, this excited Costa Ricans all over the world, and i’m sure Warren was not the only tico eager to score a goal of his own. being that i was/am in my late thirties, jewish and desirous of a baby, i made sure to bench my goalie and install flashing, neon arrows pointing toward my ovaries so his kickers could score easily.

we weren’t so much trying for a baby as we were not trying to prevent it that one night. this is not to suggest this was an accident as i had been needling Warren about making a baby together for several months, always in a joking fashion. he insisted he was sterile, also in a joking fashion, so i insisted we test his theory. and on the night we did, our son was conceived.

when i received news of a positive pregnancy test i was at my doctor’s office. i had come in for a routine physical, letting my doctor know that “i plan to pressure my boyfriend into having a baby this year so i want to make sure everything with my body is kosher. but first, can i get a pregnancy test? my period is a day late but i feel like i’m about to start it so seeing a negative pregnancy test will help move things along because i’m having a major headtrip about this one time two weeks ago, but i’m sure it didn’t do anything, forget i mentioned it, so can i just get the test?”

five minutes later, i was lying down and trying not to pass out as nurses stood around me asking if i needed smelling salt. an hour later, i was at home telling Warren, who screamed “gooooooaaaaaaaallllll” and then hugged me as i sobbed happy tears against his shoulder. phone calls to our immediate families followed, with both our fathers telling us to get married immediately, as did a dreamlike day of euphoria that i was sure i would wake from at any moment. that was in mid-July. we expect our boy to arrive in late march 2015.

welcome to my uterus! here’s a visually arresting photo of a potato (8 weeks).

so how am i feeling, right? (that seems to be the first question people ask). honestly, i’m feeling pretty good. and in a statement that will make me even less popular with already and aspiring preggos than admitting i got pregnant my first time up at bat, i’ve had very little morning sickness and have never once vomited. there has been queasiness, sure, but it usually passes out as quickly as it comes in, resulting in only a handful of days when i felt like total muck and wanted bedrest.

i did have the famous sensitivity to smell that i heard so much about, but thankfully (or perhaps unfortunately), none of it involved food aversions as i’ve been eating like i have a tapeworm, with every imaginable dish looking and smelling delicious. the smells i find most repulsive involve cars: hot pavement, exhaust, fuel, rubber, etc. i’ve also been made instantly nauseous by Windex.

cravings have also been minimal. the truth is i’m mostly craving alcohol (and have allowed myself the occasional half glass of red wine since i’m european by birth), but there has been nothing too notable beyond a hankering for smoothies those first few weeks, which may have been due more to LA’s ridiculously hot summer than the kid i have cooking.

9 weeks and my belly begins protruding ahead of my boobs for the first time.

this is not to suggest that pregnancy has been a total breeze for me, as plenty of networks in my body have gone haywire, namely my digestion (hello, prunes), libido (where are you?) and skin (yay, full-body eczema outbreak). plus, there was a bladder infection in the 8th week that required antibiotics, a recent sinus infection that i was able to kick naturally and the lovely anxiety that characterized virtually all of the first trimester, when every odd bodily sensation convinced me i was on the verge of miscarrying.

plus, there were those geriatric mother tests and that mocking box titled Advanced Maternal Age that required them. they involved a blood test that separated my DNA from the baby’s and an ultrasound at the end of the first trimester to check for genetic abnormalities like Down Syndrome (outlook good, phew). but the waiting and agonizing over the waiting were not that good. 

the blood test also identified gender, though i knew i was having a boy since the day i found out about the pregnancy with a certainty i have had very few times in my life. i’m glad i’m right because i’ve always wanted a (mama’s) boy and i didn’t want to fail at my first attempt of mother’s intuition. my second flash of intuition is predicting that my child will look more like Warren than me and i will be pissed about it. as of today, our boy remains unnamed and we’ve decided to hold off on that discussion (aka argument) until the last trimester.

11 weeks and starting to get strange looks from co-workers who surely wonder whether i’ve been hitting the buffet too hard (which i have).

while i’m excited about the pregnancy and eager to meet my son in march, i’m glad i have six months to prepare because i need every single day. not only is there much stuff to get and a new world of parenting to understand, there is an emotional readiness that i need to build. this baby came at me like a torpedo, leaving me in an initial state of bewilderment that is finally starting to melt into happy anticipation.

Warren seemed concerned those first few months as i moved through the days “looking like a space cadet,” with him constantly asking me, “are you OK? are you happy?” of course, i was and am happy — that’s the easy part — but happiness is just one of many emotions washing over me currently. having a child, especially a first child, involves a thousand considerations ranging from the horrors of labor to the details of daycare to the cost of college.

plus, there is this phenomenon that has been developing lately as more friends, family and even strangers find out about my pregnancy where they start presenting themselves as doctors and child experts. i had been warned i would receive unsolicited advice, but i didn’t expect it to be so constant, so detailed, so self-righteous and so annoying.

it doesn’t help that i have issues being told what to do and strong opinions on pretty much everything, making it hard to contain the “oh, shut the hell up” that wants to escape from my mouth each time i hear another person advise me to take my prenatal vitamins and sleep when the baby sleeps or question me about my daily cup of — gasp — caffeinated coffee.

like everything else in my life, i will be doing pregnancy and parenting my own way. as of today, i’m not yet positive what that means, but i’m fairly sure it won’t take into consideration other mothers’ painstaking research on co-sleeping (nope) and IQ-raising special strollers (what?). i’m not ashamed to admit i’ve broken half the rules on the “do not eat while pregnant” sheet i have up on my fridge without a twinge of guilt (or consequences).

i consider how women around the world handle pregnancy — guessing that japanese women don’t stop eating sushi any more than french women stop eating unpasteurized cheeses or soviet women like my own mother stop eating smoked fish — and feel more firm in my decision to not become obsessive over every detail. as long as i minimize stress and use common sense, i think i’ll be fine.

my boy at 13 weeks looking like an old man reading a book, which is how i hope he'll be in real life.

my favorite moments of my pregnancy so far, aside from the private ones i’ve shared with Warren, center around the ultrasound. those days have felt like christmas, or what i imagine christmas excitement feels like if i celebrated that silly little pagan holiday, which i’m going to have to do now that i’m having a child with a latino. (not going to mass, though.)

but truly, hearing my son’s heartbeat for the first time at 8 weeks, which sounded like rolling thunder, moved me to instant tears. it was a game-changer, making the pregnancy feel far less abstract and doing much to snap me out of my space cadet bewilderment. i walked out of the office repeating to Warren, “holy shit, we’re having a baby, we’re having a baby.” he seemed happy that i finally realized this. 

the second time at 13 weeks, our boy bounced around, with arms and legs flailing (“moving to a latin beat,” Warren said). the moment we made out his hand, he waved to us. when we saw his feet, he kicked them. i watched the monitor mesmerized, trying not to blink as the tears streamed down my face. the moment it ended, i asked about the next appointment. i wish i could watch him every day.


14 weeks and “carrying like a boy” (or a mullet) with business in the front and party in the back.

needless to say, Warren and i have been having a multitude of parenting talks in addition to the marriage talks. in general, we’re on the same page about raising our son “immigrant style,” like our parents raised us, without succumbing to the “special snowflake syndrome” that seems to characterize much of modern parenting these days. my parents did me a favor by letting me know i was not the center of the universe, and i plan to do the same for my son. of course, he’ll receive plenty of love, affection and support, but he’ll also know chores, consequences and the meaning of the word “no,”

i’m sure he’ll teach us plenty of lessons as well, not all of them pleasant. as Warren and i discuss our best intentions as parents-to-be, my mind often returns to the refrain: “i was the perfect parent before i had kids.” i know better than to aim for perfection as a parent (or a pregnant woman), so i’m already accepting now that i’ll make mistakes, especially as a first-time mother. i’m also accepting that there will be triumphs among the missteps and that the best approach for me to take is to keep the faith, seek counsel from those i trust and navigate my new role as best as i can.


15 weeks and rocking more lumps, curves and bumps than i’ve ever had in my new maternity dress.

i think this is when being a mother of Advanced Maternal Age will help. at 38, i feel far less neurotic and anxious than i ever have before. though i’ll admit i’m struggling a bit, too, as embracing the finality of marriage and entering the culture of parenthood mean letting go of the person i’ve been. i realize that neither role will require me to sacrifice my personality and become some foreign version of myself, which i’m incapable of doing anyway, but there is a loss with this gain.

that loss involves stripping away the very part of myself that i’ve used to define myself for so many years. it’s the loss of the independent girl — the-always-alone-but-never-lonely girl who calls the shots in her life and does things her own way. that girl is incompatible with the responsibilities that come with being a wife and a mother. as i’m making peace with putting her to bed for the final time, i can’t deny that i’ll miss her and the adventures we’ve shared.

but the bigger truth is that i’m happier than i’ve ever been before and am looking forward to being a wife and a mother in a way that i never thought i would before. the timing is finally right. my partner is finally right. and my mind is finally right, thanks to that independent girl who spent most of her adult life figuring out the world and her place in it.

so as i stand at the precipice of my new life, i feel gratitude above all else. i’m grateful for every experience that has propelled me here. i’m grateful for friends and family and the cushion of love and support they have offered my own budding family. i’m grateful for that dumb magic chicken for bringing me Warren, whom i’m sure will be a extraordinary father and provide our son with a fine example of not only what it means to be a decent man, but also a decent human being. 

and of course, i’m grateful to my unborn son for reasons obvious and unknown, but mostly for ushering me toward what’s sure to be my life’s greatest adventure. thanks, kiddo. i can’t wait to meet you.