Tag: Pregnancy


What to Expect When Comacizing

I have vague, fuzzy recollections of a tiny newborn Natalie sleeping through her first few weeks of life like a narcoleptic while I slept… well, slightly less than before. So now I’m convinced: My memory is on crack.

This baby does not sleep, at all, ever. She amuses herself 23-1/2 hours a day by sticking her feet up my esophagus and inventing new versions of the Irish jig. The other 1/2-hour, she practices tap-dancing on my spleen. I, meanwhile, am entering a special new stage of life that I like to call “comatose.” Remind me, how do they expect absurdly pregnant women to go through labor when said women can’t summon enough energy to end this sentence with a witty and entertaining metaphor?

As much as pregnancy is miraculous and beautiful and so on and so forth, I’m a little concerned about where my missing body parts have gone. Stomach? Hip bones? Inner ears, or whatever the heck it is that keeps you from falling over when you attempt certain acrobatic moves (standing, for instance)? Oh, and brain should probably be on the list considering my recent habit of accidentally throwing away valuable objects and crying because my own shorts offended me and forgetting everything I’ve learned since high school first grade.

Plus, I would prefer no longer hosting a dance troupe in my spleen/throat.

So, when is Offspring #2 making her grand arrival, you ask? Good question. I hear that contractions are the key. Simple. Except that if you feel contractions before 36 weeks, you should immediately panic because it means you are having the baby right now, but if you have contractions after 36 weeks, don’t call the doctor because they are not real contractions and have nothing to do with your baby’s birth, except when they are real, and the way you know the difference is that the practice ones don’t hurt, except when they do hurt, and if you start having contractions after 40 weeks, they are definitely not real because your baby has obviously decided to inhabit your body forever or until you give in and take horrible drugs to produce contractions on par with a bulldozer.

At least it’s easy to tell when you’re having contractions. They either feel like a body massage or indigestion or slight cramping or a medieval torture session or having your stomach put through a juicer or being run over repeatedly by a Mack truck. Or possibly something else, because NO ONE ACTUALLY KNOWS.

I’m just glad this isn’t my first pregnancy, so other women no longer feel obligated to tell me why medieval torture sessions would be preferable to their own childbirth experiences. (“And after my 427th hour of excruciating back labor, the doctor had to pry the baby from me using a pick-ax and rusty nail clippers…”) (Or, from the helpful friend who heard I was going to have a C-section: “My best friend had a C-section, and the anesthetic didn’t work, so she felt everything, and then they gave her mind-altering drugs to make her forget the whole thing, and then she didn’t remember she had even been pregnant.”) Note to any of my readers who think they are helping/bonding with/putting calm and reassuring thoughts in the minds of pregnant women by sharing similar horror stories: You’re not.

So here’s to my little tap-dancing, coma-inducing miracle: I love you, medieval torture and all. Also, may you be born soon and with anesthetic galore. Cheers!


Wet Leaf + Rusty Violin = Decapitation

I know what Objectivity would remind me if I asked its opinion:
– My body is both carrying around a tiny giant of a baby and giving up its best nutrients for her; exhaustion is guaranteed.
– Natalie is understandably stir-crazy from having her two-year-old self shut up in the house with a fatigued mom all day.
– Soon, Dan will be back, and we’ll all find ourselves enjoying sanity once again.

But, of course, I don’t have enough energy to listen to Objectivity. I couldn’t even read Dr. Seuss aloud for 10 minutes this morning without getting winded. And I certainly couldn’t find my reserve of parental patience when Natalie started into her rusty violin voice… which, unfortunately, was the moment she woke up. For example,

Rusty violin: “I want helllllp!”
Me: “To pick up your doll that you just put on the floor? I’m pretty sure you can do that.” (Plus, Mommy is currently as flexible as a refrigerator and has adopted the belief system of “What falls on the floor stays on the floor.”)
Rusty violin: “Nooooooooo! I want HELLLLPP!”
Rusty violin, in higher octave: “I want HELLLLPP!”
Rusty violin, in sound range reserved for fingernailed chalkboards: “I WANT HELLLLLPPPPPP!”
Me: ::Unable to find reserve of parental patience::

I know parenting used to feel less like having my serenity poked repeatedly with a very sharp stick. I know Natalie has brought measureless laughter and warm fuzziness to my life. Today, however, my mind developed a screechy non-music of its own: “Who is this little alien who needs SO MUCH? Why does she think that I, who have all the vigor of a wet leaf, can take care of her? Does she know that if she starts one more sentence whining, ‘I want,’ I will have to pluck my head off and cast it from me?”

I would love this to be one of those blog entries that ends with a happy realization, maybe something about the value of togetherness or Natalie’s naptime transformation into an adult. But the facts remain: She is still two-years-old, I am still exhausted, and one of us needs to find my cast-off head before it rolls out the door in search of a less-screechy family.

Edit: Naptime is where they keep parental patience. Now I know.


Unstuck From the Molasses Swamp

I woke up this morning already wading two feet through the floor. Between yesterday’s toddler overdose, the callerless phone calls at 1 a.m., and the overnight transference of all my remaining brain cells to the baby, I started today with the mental acuteness of molasses. (IQ in 2002: 130. IQ this morning: Ooooze.) If I had been capable of conscious thought, it would have sounded something like this: The dishes are piled around the sink, the floors are sticky, the refrigerator is empty, my daughter is needy, my husband is gone, and if I get out of bed today, I will surely die.

Right on cue, the phone rang. I choked on the momentary bout of panic I experience every time I realize I will have to communicate solely in Italian but answered it anyway. And the cheery voice of Help replied.

Now, I am the kind of gal you often see lying semiconscious on the floor with a fractured hip, flames bursting out of the stove, and a tornado tearing off the roof in the next room who will not ask for help because she doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone. Plus, she is sure she can fix it all herself, even though she is neither a surgeon, nor a fireman, nor Zeus. Nor, apparently, capable of dragging her 8-month-pregnant self through a day of banal household duties alone.

So I didn’t exactly call for help, but I allowed myself to be the damsel in distress that I unquestionably was today. Graziella flew in first, like Superman, rescuing me from the drafty ledge of grocery shopping and taking poor, cabin-feverish Natalie to the playground for an hour. Then Mari showed up for a chatty lunch so that my aura could shift from beached whale to “Sex in the City.” She and Graziella put their superpowers to work doing the dishes and sweeping the floor, while I lounged back wanting to cry from relief. Heike sent me a heartwarming package stuffed with enough chocolate to make me swoon and a soccer ball to be Natalie’s bosom companion for the next few hours. Vanet and Maria bounced by to mop the floors, clean the bathroom, and bestow on us a stuffed duck and a dazzling array of cookies. Then another Maria called to apologize for not coming by and promise an outing with Natalie tomorrow.

Though I’m still ending the day fatigued and straining to breathe through the crushing weight of my abdomen, I feel full rather than drained. I feel the familiar pang of guilt too, as if gratefulness were a vice, as if I’ve wrongfully indebted myself to others. But it’s not debt; it’s a gift. And as I watch Natalie play delightedly with her new soccer ball and duck, I realize it’s not so bad to be on the receiving end of people’s generous hearts.

I want to say something more eloquent and profound, to give proper homage to the beautiful souls who have lifted my day out of swampy futility, but I’m already typing like this,

Sleepy Bethany

and do keep in mind that my brain resembles this,


so I’ll do us all a favor and stop


The Slightly-Less-Cowardly Lion Emerges

So far, Sundays have been the lines on the ruler measuring my adjustment to Italian life. During the week, I run errands and take walks, and we’ll have dinner with friends at least one night, but I stay relatively cocooned in our little apartment… especially now, with Daughter #2’s gravity pulling me in to a constant center of fatigue. Sundays, however, combine church, lunch, and occasional game nights into what feels like Italian inundation, and I get plenty of opportunity to find out just how well I’m functioning in our new life.

I’m grateful for the steady measurement. I’m often tempted to feel like nothing has changed in the past seven weeks… But then I remember our first Sunday here when I sat in church trying not to 1) cry, or 2) make eye contact with anyone who might speak to me in Italian (which would be… well, anyone). And then I measure it against today, when I plunged into a 5-1/2 hour marathon of church and lunch without a husband to translate or help carry my conversations. I feel like I climbed a mountain.

In reality, the mountain was not so much talking with people as it was finding the courage to venture out. Once I surmounted my introvert tendencies, my perpetual worries, and that stubborn little fear of making mistakes, communicating in a foreign language was a breeze. I know I will still struggle to find my bravery, but maybe next time I can remember this glow, like a bear hug enveloping my self esteem, and maybe resolve will start to feel a little more like a friend.


Operation Visa

Up this morning at 5 a.m. to bid farewell to my hero of a husband, off to Operation Visa. Or, as I like to think of it, Operation Please God Help The Female Hitler Who Works In The Consulate To Temporarily Get Over Her Chronic PMS And Give Us The Visa Before I Have This Baby Or Teleport Myself Across The Ocean To Her Cubicle To Break The Sixth Commandment, Whichever Comes First. We have gathered every official-looking document within a 20-mile radius and have only refrained from including Dan’s first-grade report cards because The Womanazi would tell us they need to be signed in triplicate by the king of Libya. Only if our names were Dan & Bethany bin Laden would I understand the efforts this lady has put forth to not help us.*

Exaggeration aside, I truly am worried about this trip. Roundtrip airfare to the States seems an enormous price to pay for the chance to get a stamp in my husband’s passport. Yes, he’s been approved and authorized and affirmed by every necessary Italian office, and yes, he’s taking literally every document one could possibly show to get a Visa (and then some!)… It’s just that we’ve already tried so many times, and after nine months of waiting, my sense of realism feels a lot more like pessimism.

Plus, there’s the little person inside me kicking in Morse code, “I’m coming out soon!” Which she’d better, considering that her 33-week ultrasound showed she was already 6 lbs, 3 oz. If she goes to full-term, the doctor says she’ll be 10 lbs. So, ahem, she’d better come out soon. Just not next-week soon. That would result in a 1991-style comedy caper of Dan running through the airport to catch the next flight to Italy while I gracefully hyperventilate at the whole childbirth-in-a-foreign-country-without-my-husband concept. Which I would rather avoid.

And then, reasonable fears or not, I just miss my hubby when he’s gone. Quite a lot, in fact. Sure, Natalie and I will stay busy, and life will go on, but we’ll feel the empty space at every meal and during every long evening and when we go to bed every night. Our world just doesn’t rock anymore with him gone.

So now that it’s almost a reasonable hour to wake up, I’m going to curl back up in my big, empty bed and console myself with the knowledge that at least life is never boring.


* Yes, I used a split-infinitive… ON PURPOSE. Oh, how daring I am!



I’ve been a bit lost the last few days…

This is the same week of pregnancy that I was hospitalized with pre-term labor last time. I expected everything to be different this time around–after all, no complications had presented themselves yet–but then I woke up Sunday night with the familiar tightening across my belly.

So I’m waiting it out in a haze of fatigue and worry, relieved at the permission (a.k.a. order) to stay in bed all day but disheartened at the sight of Natalie wandering the house listlessly. I wish I could do bright and exciting things with her. I wish I could be productive. I wish I could fully relax. But my mind is too fragmented to focus on any one thing; it’s skipping recklessly from anxiety to anxiety, leaving no time for perspective.

Looking up stories on Italian hospital procedures isn’t helping. Everything sounds so different, and while I can get used to different transportation systems and different business hours, I can’t welcome the idea of a different birthing environment… at least not the kind I’m told to expect. This, plus looking up pictures of a dear friend’s wedding we couldn’t attend, and I’m spectacularly homesick for the first time since we moved here.

Is it OK for me to just be a little bit hormonal and emotional and possibly even irrational tonight?


Going Hoarse

Apparently, a week away from writing was too much. Or maybe late-pregnancy unmanageability has finally settled in my brain. Maybe I just haven’t gotten out enough lately to refill my stockpile of words. At any rate, I’ve had a dry week.

Writing the last few days has consisted of me sitting at my desk in a pool of afternoon sunlight, feeling the baby fidget, staring into space as I try to corral my creativity. I’ve typed an average of one word a minute, and reading back, it sounds so forced. I explain to Dan that it just isn’t clicking, as if my brain and the blank page were puzzle pieces, temporarily mismatched.

I want my voice back, soon, while I still have the opportunity to use it. I’m apprehensive about losing my spare moments or my motivation (or both) once the baby comes; I feel like the next month is all the time I have left in the world. Irrational, I know. But once I have two little girls here, I don’t know how I’ll manage even grocery shopping, much less building a schedule that includes time just for me.

Dr. Phil would probably say that anxiety about the upcoming birth is stifling my creative process. Oprah would probably tell me that I’m not in-tune enough with my own spirit. Jerry Springer would… I don’t know, but it would probably involve getting hit by a chair. Which might be exactly what I need. Who knows?

What I do know is that making next to no progress on my writing project this week has turned me into a grouch. Grumpy, frustrated, unsatisfied, disappointed. My mind feels like a movie kept on pause for far too long–spinning in aimless circles, leaving the rest of the story unplayed. I also feel guilty that my blog entries haven’t been the happy, waltz-y, sunshine-with-a-balloon-on-top variety. I guess I’ve gone most of my life putting on a good face no matter what, and it feels intrinsically wrong to admit ugly, gritty, human things like frustration.

I’ll keep trying to write, just to prove that I can. I’m very, very good at beginning projects, and very, very bad at finishing them; it’s my version of smoking, and I want to kick the habit. I only have one question… Am I desperate enough to actually conquer myself this time?

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