Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Month Six: More Bonus Material!

Stroller Search, Part I: The Dithering
I like to think of myself as sensible about money. I trained myself pretty well in the lean years during and after college, and I still hesitate and consider before spending money. Well, hello Humbling Experience. Here comes The Stroller Decision.

As I have learned in my endless baby-gear googling, there are two kinds of strollers for infants: the suburban strollers and the city strollers. A suburban stroller looks like an SUV (huge, lots of molded plastic, cupholders for everyone), and assumes you have an SUV to carry it around in (it's huge even when it's folded, and it's heavy). They come upholstered with cute fabrics that look like nothing I would ever wear or buy (wow, look at that. I can't figure out how to say that without sounding like a real bitch. True Self revealed, I guess). And they cost around $200.

The city strollers, on the other hand, are like high-end camping gear: lots of metal tubes and technical-looking fabric, in colors like orange and red and black, and generally lighter weight and more compact than the suburban strollers. And they're in the neighborhood of $900. Yes, nine. Nine hundred dollars. And you can spend even more without breaking a sweat.

There are a few differences in ease-of-use between the two kinds, but it's mostly a matter of cost and aesthetics. And there's no way around it: $700 is a ridiculous amount of money to spend just to look cool. On the other hand, I can easily imagine just how grouchy I'd be pushing a frilly SUV around the neighborhood for the next few years, and a part of my frugality has always been to not spend money on the cheaper thing that will make you so crazy (or be such bad quality) that you end up ditching it for the more expensive thing in the end. Of course, I'm usually applying that philosophy to decisions like measuring cups and underwear, where the difference is in the five dollar range.

The less decisive I feel about this, the more research I do online, and the more ridiculous things I learn about adjustable handles, degree of recline, solid vs. inflatable wheels, harness adjustability, and who has the rare, sought-after "sunset" color in stock.

I'm tempted to go to Home Depot and check out the wheels and pipes and hardware, just to see if we could make our own. Of course, it would end up weighing as much as an actual SUV, and either wouldn't be foldable or would be a deathtrap for our beloved firstborn, but it would be so cool...

So, circles. I'm going around in them (tight turning radius, smooth ride, solid rubber wheels).

Stroller Search, Part II: The End?
We spent a day test-driving strollers, at both the suburban big box and the upscale neighborhood yuppie-baby-mart. I was hoping to have some kind of breakthrough; to learn something in the real world that had escaped me online. I would have been equally happy with either, "This one's not that bad! And only $170!" or, "This one is clearly worth the extra hundreds of dollars. Why, we could all live in it!" But alas, no. I was left with the same two feelings: "They're just so ugly" on the one hand and "HOW much money?" on the other.

The helpful shop assistant had just wrapped up her third stroller-spiel in the fancy store when a passing mom said, "Can I give you some advice?" She had 6-month-old twins in a stroller and a look of sympathy on her face. The three of us turned to her politely, expecting a real-life endorsement of one of the candidates in question, but she said, "Don't get any of them." The shop assistant's face fell a bit (although she recovered with impressive speed), but the two of us suddenly became much more interested in what she had to say. She explained that she'd been through three or four different strollers already, and the most useful thing was none of them, but the simple, cheap, wheeled frame that the babies' car seats just snapped into. By the time our baby has outgrown the infant car seat, she said, we'd have a better idea of what stroller features are important to us and we'd be able to test drive strollers with the actual kid. In the meantime the frame (called, snappily, the snap'n'go) is lightweight, cheap, and compact. We could have kissed her. Instead, we thanked her and the shop assistant and skipped out of the store with wallets and marital harmony intact. Snap'n'go, here we come. And a year from now, maybe there'll be an attractive, lightweight, compact stroller for less than $300. Or maybe, through a haze of spit-up and sleeplessness, I just won't care quite as much.

Month Six: Deleted Scenes!

I have two images living in my mind lately: number one is a pregnant woman in heels and a (maternity) business suit, working at a high powered Office Job, taking good care of her family on evenings and weekends. Image number two is that damn woman in the rice paddy that I keep hearing about: one kid strapped to her back, pausing for 10 minutes to give birth to her next kid before getting back to work. These images tend to pop up just as I lie down for yet another little rest.

I had a big deadline last Friday (which, for procrastinators like me means a lot of work in a little time), hosted a book club meeting Friday, taught a class Saturday, hosted a dinner Sunday, and was back at work Monday morning. In planning for this crazy week, I knew that if I pushed myself as hard as I could, I'd just work myself into a worthless lump, so I made a Plan. I'd work a few hours every morning, take a long siesta midday, work a few more hours in the afternoon or evening, and maybe achieve a balance of health and productivity that way. Well, I did make it through the week, met my deadline, taught the class, and had a nice time at the social events, but it's now Wednesday and I'm still feeling crappy. So crappy, I decided it was worth the ten bucks and the loss of quality in produce to get groceries delivered. So crappy, I decided to take the day completely off. What the hell is wrong with me?

Well, to be perfectly honest, it's not a complete mystery. My pregnant body obviously has more serious needs for food, water, and rest than it used to, but at the same time it's somehow gotten a lot less demanding about those needs. My hungry/thirsty/tired cues are way more subtle than they used to be. If I'm focusing on something else and don't notice the tiny shift in sensation that (it turns out) means,"Fooooood! Foodfoodfoodfood nowwwwwww!" then the little twinge goes away and does not return. The same for thirsty and tired. So I carry on, feeling fine, eating/drinking/resting only as it occurs to me to do so and the chickens don't come home to roost until days later, when suddenly, I'm too tired to be hungry, too thirsty to eat, and too hungry to fall asleep.

Which I guess is why I do the best when I'm just farting around, being unproductive, with plenty of mental space to register those twinges. If I want to be a high-powered rice paddy executive, it looks like I have to be more proactive in the whole keeping-body-and-soul-together department. Crap.

So, I'm spending the day in bed, blogging. Lucky you.

Month Six

When the baby moves, it feels a lot like a muscle spasm—kind of a flippy twitch. And she shifts around a lot, so sometimes I feel the muscle-spasmy feeling on the right, sometimes the left, sometimes high, sometimes low. I love feeling her move. But the other day, my brain said, "Hello baby!" before I realized that no, no matter how smart and strong she's getting, that's not the baby kicking me three inches above my right knee.

I've been feeling and seeing the baby move for a while now, but today was the first day that I really realized I could feel her when she wasn't moving too. She gave a big jump, and then settled down. I was watching my belly, and noticed that one side was sticking out a little more than the other. I put my hand there, and there was definite resistance—more than on the other side. So I took the opportunity to give her a little back rub. Or... butt rub? head rub? Who's to say?

Now that we know that she's (probably) a girl, I'm much more tempted to look at baby clothes. Our plan has always been to only buy the basics before she's born (diapers, union suits), because parent friends of ours have all warned us about the onslaught of tiny adorable outfits and toys that will arrive. But it's hard to resist shopping. I'm a pregnant American woman, with nurture and nature pushing me from both directions to stock up! Nest! Prepare! Shop! So I spend a little time every week looking at tiny adorable outfits online, I admit.

But today I found a good way to talk myself down from the ledge of internet shopping. I was all ready to click away twenty two hard-earned dollars, when I looked down and asked my belly if she needed some socks. It instantly became clear to me that not only has she not attained full person-hood yet, not only is she no bigger than a blind kitten, she's not even coming out until July, when her feet will be plenty warm until at least September. I have months and months before she'll need socks.

Although, thankfully, since that last ultrasound, I have been able to turn off the morbid voice inside me that had been keeping me from buying socks by saying, "But what if she doesn't have two healthy feet? What then? Don't tempt fate! No limb-dependent purchases!"

Weird Little Thing About Pregnancy #476:
Imagine a non-inflated puffer fish (jalapeno-shaped, non-protruding spikes). Now imagine what happens to those spikes when the puffer fish puffs: they go from flat against the skin to sticking straight out, right? Now apply that principle to the fine hairs on a pregnant woman's belly. With each growth spurt, I develop perpendicular belly hairs. Within a day or so, everything adjusts to the new size, and they relax again. And over and over. Navel gazing? Me? Why, yes, now that you mention it. Quite a lot.

Month Five

I found a great quote on another blog, referring to newborn care, "Buck up, cookie. Whatever it is, it's probably not your fault." I'm seriously considering learning how to cross-stitch so I can make a dopey little pillow for the baby's room, to gaze at as I try to calm a tiny squalling tomato-faced infant.

These days, if I'm lying back on the couch at around 8pm, the baby has a little dance party. Strongest kicks all day. My favorite thing to do is just lie there and watch my belly jump.

I'm kind of blown away by how little energy I have these days. I thought the middle trimester was supposed to be all about full speed ahead energy. It did come into my head that since babies need a lot of sleep just after they're born, they probably need a lot of rest before they're born too, and I was feeling better about all my loafing. And then I remembered that, of course, before they're born, just like after, babies can sleep while their mothers climb mountains. At least in theory. Crap. Will that realization make me get up off the couch? No. Will it make me feel useless? I'm afraid so.

Ultrasound: it's (probably) a girl! "She" was sitting with her legs and feet all tucked up under her as the ultrasound tech was trying to invade her privacy, so we're not completely sure. But most importantly, all her limbs and organs look fine! Hooray! And we have to go back for another ultrasound in May, so maybe she'll be less shy then, and we can get some confirmation. We weren't planning on a lot of pink lace and ruffles anyway, and we don't want to commit to a name before we meet her, so it's mainly just for our own curiosity.

Earlier today, I was having a lot of painless contractions (my belly kept going from water-balloony to bowling-bally), and neither lying down nor taking a warm bath stopped them, so I called the midwife's office. She wasn't in, but they got me in to see an obstetrician right away. And let me put it this way: if I had made it through this whole pregnancy without hearing a medical professional say, "Perhaps you're being a little hyper-vigilant," it just wouldn't be me. I love hearing people with stethoscopes around their necks say, "Everything looks just fine."