Monday, January 30, 2006

You won't C me

A moment of silence, please, for my keyboard's letter "C," which finally disappeared yesterday afternoon.

Also in danger of extinction: S, D, V, B, N, and M. (The "D" is in particular peril, having dwindled down to a desperate dot.) Is anyone else looking at blank keys on their laptops? I've only had this machine since May, so I'm wondering if I should have sprung for one of those keyboard "skins" for iBooks. Certainly, that would help with the cat hair. Rumor has it, though, that skins mess up the screens. True?

And since I'm asking questions, let me pose another random one: There is a cinema term that means "frame within a frame," and refers to the movie screen appearing to fragment into many smaller screens, each with its own discrete action going on. Can anyone out there jog my memory as to what this term might be?

Parts of my memory lately are as coy and elusive as the letter C.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Scariest birth film ever

John Lithgow is probably a really nice guy. He's certainly talented, and he was pretty funny in Third Rock from the Sun. But John Lithgow has also played a lot of scary, creepy villains (Raising Cain, anyone?) and, for this reason, should never have been allowed to narrate a childbirth video.

See what I mean?

This PBS video is seven minutes long. But you only have to watch the first two minutes to hear Lithgow's sinister pronunciation of the word "baby." Watch for the footage of the woman in her prenatal yoga class and listen for the menacing sound effects under this horror-flick narration:

"Late in pregnancy, the baby's need for fat becomes so great the mother can't keep up. If it stays inside, the baby will begin to starve. Somehow... it's got to get out."

Lithgow goes on to warn about how impractically designed are humans for childbirth and how very many women used to die in the pre-surgical era. Birth may be considered one of the most powerful experiences, but, Lithgow reminds us, it's also "the most painful." (Is that a note of sadistic glee I detect in your voice, John? Why are you going all Vincent Price on us?)

What does it mean...

... when you feel suddenly mute before your keyboard?

It's like approaching a piano with a melody in mind and then having to acknowledge that these fingers can't get it to play.

It's like my dreams last night, in which I was working on an unlikely gamble. In which I was tacking together screen doors and replacing the paper towels in a building destined to sink into the mud.

The strange subtext of that last dream was the strangers' universal relief that I was there to save the day. I alternately despaired their passivity and cursed my proclivity for lost causes.

What does it mean that my subconscious seems to have changed frequencies? to have lost a channel of anxious chatter to a dense and probing silence?

And what to make of these uncharacteristic, self-aggrandizing visions of myself as a mensch mistaken for a hero?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Not sure if this means anything...

... but, according to the midwife, I'm fifty percent effaced. "Do you feel as if you have a baseball sitting on your bladder?" she wanted to know. Actually, yes. Yes, I do.

Cervix is only about a centimeter, though. And I completely forgot to ask anything about the baby's station in the uterus. Guess I was too shocked by the midwife's shock at how very low he is. "I'm touching his head," she said.

Midwife is wise, and necessarily circumspect. In her musings after the exam, she was a confounding oracle: "All can I predict for certain is that your baby will get here sometime in the next six weeks. [Six?!] If he wanted to come this week [week 36], we wouldn't stop him. But it would be extra nice if he could wait just one more week before making his appearance. One day soon, you won't make it to your weekly appointment, because you'll have delivered." think birth is imminent. All my mom's pregnancies went slightly late. And, if this kid is anything like me—and, to a lesser extent, like Adam—he's bound to be a major procrastinator.

Either way, I'd best get this body off to work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Performance review

Yesterday was one of those rare and fortunate days when I felt on top of everything. Had an excellent morning at my new job, if I do say so myself. Had a very productive and comfortable chat with my new manuscript editor in the afternoon. And, by evening, I secured a fab commentator for a conference panel proposal that was really coming down to the wire.

Today is yesterday's antipode. I'm in a completely lackadaisical mood, probably because sleep was so evasive last night. Instead of doing work this morning, I instead ran around town doing petty errands. Then I dozed on the couch. And then I contemplated, but could not find energy to clean, our messy house.

My procrastination was rewarded when I further put off work by driving Adam to the dentist's office. He was having a couple of teeth drilled, and so I said I would sit and read in the waiting room for moral support. Ours is one of those awesome dentists who offer hand massages and paraffin dips before a treatment. Because Adam declined his, the dentist's assistant insisted on doing my hands instead. (How unfair is that? While Adam was getting shots in the gums, I was being pampered by a very nice lady who shared many amusing stories about her son.)

So now it's closing in on 4 p.m., and my soft, sweet-smelling hands have yet to do anything much today aside apart from petting the cats and writing this blog entry. I think the baby may be having a more active day than I. Incidentally, he seems to have dropped a little lower since yesterday...

Sunday, January 22, 2006


When Adam and I walk around the neighborhood, strangers smile and nod meaningfully toward the front of my winter coat. Either they've figured out that I'm pregnant, or they are struck by my resemblance to President Taft.

This post should be called "reset button," as I've been working all weekend to revive the productivity habits initiated a few weeks ago. This time, I'm experimenting with a new system, in which I set only three manageable goals a day. Then give myself fewer hours in which to accomplish all three, because, otherwise, I tend to let the first task on my list expand to fill many more hours than it should. I am juggling SIX discrete academic projects right now, not counting the new duties attached to my new job. By next Monday, I hope to have that list whittled down to four. By Feburary 15th, it should (must!) be further reduced to three. So that will mean just three projects to balance with a new baby. Oy vey.

In the evenings, when my energy is extremely low, I've been working on my domestic to-do list: vacuuming the car, installing the car seat, setting up the baby's room, and washing/ironing/sorting baby clothes. (You can tell this is my mother's first grandchild, as she already has sent him enought clothes to keep him outfitted thorugh the second grade.) All that remains is to write up the birth plan and and attend a breastfeeding class this week. And Adam needs to decide soon if he is, indeed, going to forfeit our security deposit by painting the baby's room a lovely, pale green...

Had I reported this earlier, it would have been a rant: My mother-in-law asked if she could come out for a visit for a week after the birth. I said "of course," not least because I know that any child of Adam's is going to be very important to her. (She has a few other grandchildren but, for complicated reasons, was not really a part of their lives until recently.) Somehow, though, by the time my MIL purchased her airline tickets, the one-week visit had morphed into a TWO-WEEK stay. I said nothing about what felt like a bait-and-switch, even though I dread the thought of her living with us in our tiny house for that long. Adam is not exactly backing me up on this one, insisting that she only means to be helpful and that we definitely won't have to entertain her as we would if this were a regular visit. He also says that I can feel free to speak candidly to her when I need alone-time or just need her to back off a bit and let me do things my own way. Intellectually, I know this is true. My MIL really is a lovely person. But I still can feel my blood pressure start to rise when I think about all that unbroken togetherness. Bleh. Am trying to summon resources to be patient and not to let my inner poutiness about this visit detract from what could be a wonderful bonding opportunity.

At my most paranoid, I worry that my MIL will judge me and my choices. Some judgment is inevitable. She has extremely strong opinions on childrearing and also on choices around diet, popular culture, and anything that smacks of material comfort. (She's a committed ascetic in the latter three categories.) On the other hand, she and I have plenty of values in common. So I should stop worrying. Or, rather, I should just refuse to worry. Inevitably, she won't approve of all of my choices, but agonizing over that is a waste of energy and only serves to make me wary and resentful.

The other impulse I really need to let go is the secret, selfish hope that my family will be more important to the baby. My family is geographically closer (although not by much) and this seems to have made my MIL a little bit jealous of my parents. I need to read this jealousy more generously, and try not to feel put upon when MIL and, God help me, FIL, are already talking about yet another week's stay with us this summer. They really couldn't have known that the week they announced as theirs happens to overlap with the week of my extended family's annual summer reunion. But that's a negotiation for another day...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sync into sleep

Sleep is more and more elusive these days. Between the constant bathroom trips and the lovely sensation that my stomach is lodged in my throat, I'm waking up three or four times a night.

I've always had vivid dreams, but now the volume on those dreams is turned up extra high. I swear I can hear the mental chatter rev up again each time I wriggle back into the pregnancy pillow. It's not exactly hearing voices. It's more like tapping into a river of scolding opinions, whingy anxieties, and absurdist commands. I pick up my feet and yield to the current, hurtling downstream.

Last night, the chattering river tossed me on some nasty beach, where I found myself battling some evil thing. It was one of those nightmares from which I wanted an exit, but just couldn't find it.

That's when the baby intervened, with nine forceful kicks. Delivered like rapid-fire, rhythmic triplets, the kicks yanked me to instant wakefulness.

I thanked the baby, and stroked the right side of my belly to coax us back into sleep. What sleep did come was dark, silent, and delicious.

And I didn't wake up again until morning.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Unlucky spider

Oh dear. I think I just killed a spider with my face.

Am back at work today, where this time I c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y moved several more piles of library books from the car to my office. The research center is locked tight, so I had to swipe my i.d. card to enter the building each time I entered.

The card reader box rejected my i.d. once, squawking and blinking its red light. So I swiped the i.d. more slowly, and noticed a fat spider sitting just next to the card slot. On second pass, the i.d. worked and the door unlocked.

I ran a quick errand and then hurried back to my building, this time inspecting the outside of the card reader before I got near. Call me prissy, but I didn't want to risk a brush with that spider. Relieved that he had moved on, I confidently swiped my i.d...

...right into the spider, who apparently had taken refuge in the card slot. The spider's crumpled body descended —slowly, dramatically— on a stream of filiment. I stared at him a few seconds, willing his legs to unfurl, hoping he might soon recover and scuttle off.

He didn't.

I looked down at my i.d. card and found traces of the spider on my photograph.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Unlucky morning

Today I woke up pleased and amused that it was Friday the 13th. Adam was born on a Friday the 13th. In fact, he turned 13 on a Friday the 13th, so we tend to be fond of the day. (I know. Kind of stupid. But what's life without such silly little pleasures?)

The day is unseasonably warm and bright. I was feeling motivated to get back to my intensive writing schedule.

And then, on my way to my office, I managed to walk over the only patch of black ice in the parking lot.

"Wipe out" is an understatement for what happened next. I had been carrying a stuffed satchel on one shoulder and my laptop computer on the other. In my arms, I had balanced many accordian files and a tower of library books. The computer went flying and landed with a sickening "crack," despite its padded case. The satchel puked its contents (and my lunch) all over the pavement.

The library books scattered like so many dead birds. At least they and the fat accordian files prevented my belly from hitting the ground. I landed, frog-style, on one hand and both knees. I watched the soup I'd packed for lunch go trickling by. And I thought, "Oh, good. At least I didn't hurt the baby."

Then I felt the stabbing pain in my knee and thigh bones and started to cry.

And this is how my colleague found me. Sobbing face down among my books in the parking lot. It was not my most dignified professional moment. Luckily, this colleague is a friend. She helped me limp into work, insisting on carrying most of my stuff. A few minutes later, I called Adam, who said sweet, comforting things.

The casing of my computer is bent and cracked. I am about to initiate a major back-up before taking it in for a diagnostic and repair.

I have one dark purple knee and one bloody red. But, hey, it really could be a whole lot worse.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hey, thanks

Thanks for all the good wishes. You guys make me so happy. Let me say again how much I appreciated the insights and advice in response to my earlier angsting about the job interview. That encouragement made me so, so much more confident than I would have been otherwise. So... I'm really in your debt.

Today's my first day on the job. My predecessor is going to show me the proverbial ropes. And then I sit down with my boss to hammer out the details of the maternity leave. (Which should maybe be called the maternity start, in my case.)

Confession of a procrastinator (and bad mommy): On Tuesday, I never went to bed. Which is to say that I stayed up all night finishing the writing sample, which had to go out yesterday. I haven't been physically capable of a true all-nighter since the middle of graduate school, and that's been just fine, as I'm not proud of having to pull them. But insomnia comes easily these days, so I just sat and wrote and wrote until the paper was finished at 6 a.m. (It was an adapted version of a recent conference paper, so it's not like I was starting from scratch.) Luckily, I had Adam to proofread my work in the morning. After dozing from 6-8 a.m., I got up, fiddled with the writing until noon, and sent it off.

The minute I hit "send," total fatigue set in, and I was mentally impaired for the rest of the day. But also unable to sleep. (And, no, I hadn't drunk any coffee or caffeine.) Adam and I made the loooong drive to Babies R Us, which is a bizarre place to be when you're coming down from an adrenaline rush, let me tell you. Picked up a car seat, crib mattress, breast pump, and diaper-changing pad, so now we're pretty much all set. And then—baby-centric day that it was—we had to go to our final childbirth class, which was allegedly dedicated to "infant care," but which instead focused on all the ways that we could count on our lives (and careers, and bodies, and general quality of life) to SUCK once the kid is here. Seems to me that this is the class they should have offered to us before we ever had sex. Exhaustion can make everything seem either funny or especially dire. By the time the instructor told us that nursing mothers should expect our brains to go to mush for at least eight weeks, I was tipping toward the latter, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears. (Somebody please confirm for me that the whole "milk brain"/oxytocin thing is a vicious, vile lie.) Fortunately, we spent the last 30 minutes of class learning to hold and swaddle little rubber dolls. And the sight of Adam awkwardly cuddling his squidgy little infant made the whole evening okay again.

As did the prospect of sleep.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Got. The. Job.

Hired! My interviewer just called to make the offer. If our conversation just now was any indication, she is going to be a darling person for/with whom to work. I am so pleased. I'm also kind of proud — of me and of the university that hired me — for having landed this gig while so obviously preggers.

My boss-to-be was more than accommodating re: my necessary maternity leave. She also indicated that the post could eventually go full-time, if I wanted it to. And she suggested that we tweak the job title a bit to signal that I'm still active in academia. I sign an official contract in a couple of days, after we've worked out the final details.

Thanks again for all the helpful advice so many of you sent my way. Your words and insights really made the difference.

And now I must get back to that writing sample, which is due all too soon. Eep!

Monday, January 09, 2006

May Be

The interview went very well, I think. Contrary to her reputation, the interviewer was not "prickly" at all. In fact, I quite liked her and found it very easy to talk with her.

At the end of the interview, I went ahead and brought up the pregnancy. This caused my interviewer to smile nervously. "I did notice that," she said. "But you know there are laws against me saying anything." I said that I was inviting her to talk about it if she wanted to, and then told her truthfully about arrangements my partner and I have made for balancing work and baby in the spring. (He's teaching but one course next term.) She asked me my due date and suggested that the timing would be okay. She then further mused that "you will be the only person in the office with a child."

It wasn't clear if, by that statement, she was saying that I had the job... or that she considered me ill-suited to the job. Guess I'll find out soon enough.

Even if I don't get offered this job, I'm glad I did the interview. If nothing else, it helps eradicate the lingering remorse I was still feeling from my one horrible job interview this past summer.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jabba Interview

The career counselors at my husband's university spent all fall pushing me toward jobs in insurance. This had me baffled. And also worried. Were they clearer than I about my prospects as an academic?

Well, now these same career counselors have alerted me to an as-yet unadvertised, part-time, arts-and-humanities-based writing job. And, shock of shocks, it happens to be at a nearby university that I know and love.

My confidence is crap right now, but I went ahead and made a call. Five minutes later, the director and I had set a time for next week's job interview.

Better call it my Jabba Interview. Because I've ceased to fit into many of my pregnancy tops. And the only bottoms I own are my stretched-tight yoga pants and one pair of maternity jeans. (Such are the perks of not having to teach this year.)What, oh what, am I going to wear?

Good Lord. How am I supposed to land a job in this body? I know employers technically can't ask about personal matters, but, at eight-months pregnant, there's no hiding the fact that I'm about to be a mommy. I'm not sure, but I think this is a position that would start right away. Should I therefore find an appropriate moment to talk directly about the pregnancy—particularly in relation to the job's duties and deadlines? That might be weird. And yet it seems weirder still to never mention it at all.

Here's some more weirdness: One of the schools to which I applied for a post-doc just phoned to ask for a writing sample. It’s due the same day as my jabba interview.

Am feeling underprepared and overencumbered. Over-extended and under-qualified.

Then I start to loathe myself for loathing myself. C'mon, Cello. Summon your resilience. And how about some self-regard, too? Consider this a funny fork in the road, and toss your best effort in both directions.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Giant New Year

At bedtime, I am literally embedded in my puffy, horseshoe-shaped pregnancy pillow. So Adam and I sleep with a wall of stuffing between us. After the alarm goes off, I sometimes drag the pregnancy pillow out of bed and then slip back under the covers for a few minutes of cuddling with A. Other times, A. gallantly throws an arm over the pillow wall to initiate a sort of long-distance hug. If I happen to be facing him, he'll put a hand on my belly to feel for baby kicks.

I wasn't sure whether I should laugh or cry this morning when a groggy Adam reached out to feel the baby. "Guess the kid's sleeping in today," he mumbled. "Cause I can't feel any movement right now. Can you?"

I didn't have the heart to tell Adam that his hand was not on my pregnant stomach, but on my sizable, pregnant ass.