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Archive for May, 2013

In case you’re curious (like I was, before being pregnant), here is a description of what it’s been like for me:

From weeks 6 to 18, I felt nauseated all.the.time.  It never stopped.  It was worse if I didn’t eat, so I tried to snack every 2 hours religiously, but even snacking only reduced my nausea.  I would get up in the middle of the night to throw up, which felt unfair because of course I couldn’t eat while I was sleeping.  My body didn’t seem to care about how unreasonable that demand was. My doctor finally prescribed anti-nausea medicine to take at night, and the nurses at the clinic made me feel like shit for taking it, because of course pregnant women should not take any medicine – I should just be stronger.  And get out of bed at night to vomit, and somehow be able to drive my sleep-deprived self to work on the highway without any caffeine in the morning five days a week.

I had a very poignant image during that time period of some kind of hunt being chased by fey or faeries.  I saw myself as the hapless human with these merciless, beautiful people riding me down in the woods like a fox.  I was running and stumbling and knew I couldn’t stop or they would get me, but knowing I could run to death and they would not stop pursuing me.  Pregnancy was like that – this supernatural phenomenon that was beautiful and cruel and chasing me down, and there was no escape.  Sometimes I would daydream about how much money I would pay people not to feel like vomiting for a few minutes.  I was so tired and the nausea just wouldn’t stop.

My skin looked awful, and the worst part was that people would make mean comments to me.  At work, people would ask me all the time why my skin was so bad – was that because of the pregnancy?  They had never seen my face so broken out.  (Gee, thanks.)  My mother-in-law and the other Peruvian women around us kept telling me to go to the doctor and get medicine because there was something wrong with me – my face was not normal and I should be given drugs.  I had talked to my doctor, and was trying so hard not to use prescriptions if I didn’t have to.  Have PCOS means that your acne is pretty much always bad, unless you taking strong drugs for it – drugs that are bad for fetuses.  I got tired of explaining this to well-meaning people, and just internalized the feeling that I was unacceptably ugly.

I felt bad at being pregnant, like I was a failure.  Other women loved pregnancy, and for me it was like trying to love the most unremitting flu I had ever had.  I agonized that my baby would be able to feel this unhappiness in me, and that she would feel unwelcome.  Maybe I would have a miscarriage because the baby would think I didn’t want her and it would be my fault.

The way my anxiety manifests itself, I like to be able to exert control over my life.  If I can just get things in order, and control the small details, everything will be okay.  But everything happening to my body was very out of my control.  I was gaining weight and break out and vomiting, and I couldn’t stop any of it.  Most people didn’t understand, and I didn’t want to say anything to them because they would think I didn’t want my baby (which we had tried so hard to have), and they would think there was something wrong with me.

I remember one night being awake after my husband had fallen asleep and sitting out in the dark at the dining room table and just weeping.  I called my mom – the one who I always have such a tumultuous relationship with – and miraculously, she was there for me as a mother should be there for her daughter that night.  She confessed to me that she had never been as unhappy as she was while pregnant, and that I wasn’t broken or a failure, and that I would still love my baby, and that she was sorry she had never told me.

The truth is that I was doing something really hard.  I was pregnant while having chronic fatigue syndrome, and still working 5 days a week without missing work and without the benefit of caffeine.  I was pregnant while having depression and anxiety, but having no medicine to help me through it.

The first trimester was the hardest part, but I still struggle a lot with being fat and pregnant, and seeming to have the worst acne ever.  I felt the baby move for the first time at 16 weeks, and my nausea stopped at 18 weeks.   That first movement felt like a little tap, and came while we were watching the Walking Dead (true story).  As the baby got bigger, I could feel her movements more easily until people could feel them from the outside as well.  Now that I’m 8 months pregnant, it’s fun because it’s almost like I can interact with her.  She startles at loud noises and if I jiggle my belly up and down, or press where she is, she’ll kick.  It’s amazing to realize that in some way, I’m playing with her even though she hasn’t been born.  She hears my voice and my husband’s voice, and seems to have preferences.  (She hates when I lie on my back even for just a minute or so – she kicks a lot.  I think it squishes her.)

Once she started moving, she became more real to me.  It helped that I wasn’t vomiting anymore.  Now the hardest thing for me to fathom is actually meeting her in a few weeks.  I can’t wrap my mind around the idea of how irrevocably our life is going to change.  We will no longer be just 2 people – we will be a family of 3 people.  I know everything will be different, but it doesn’t seem real to me exactly how different it will be.

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I got into a nice groove of working on my blog again, and then I got really preoccupied with other things.  One of the big things taking up my time has been a job offer I got last week.  I was pretty surprised because I’m in my third trimester, and who the hell offers a job to a woman who is so heavily pregnant?  It’s a sweet offer, in that it’s working for the government which to me means more flexible work schedules and less working overtime than in the private industry.  However, switching insurance so late in a pregnancy is a nightmare, especially because it would take 2 pay periods for my new insurance to go into effect, and I’m not guaranteed FMLA.  The timing for this could not be worse.

When I told my bosses at my current job, I was surprised when they counter-offered and told me they would let me work part-time.  That made my decision a lot more complicated, because while the government has more flexible work schedules, I may need to work a certain period of time before they let me start working from home or working part-time.  If I stay at my current company, I could have those benefits right away.

There are pro’s and cons for each job.  The commute at my current job is better (=less time away from my baby), but I would accrue more sick leave at the government.  The research at the government is more interesting, but I have more autonomy at my current job.  My salary would grow more slowly at the government job, but the work-life balance would be easier to maintain.

I’ve been praying and reading my bible.  Two verses I’ve been thinking about a lot are Ecclesiastes 3:22 and 4:6:

22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?

Better one handful with tranquility
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.

I’ve tried to get wise counsel.  I’ve talked to someone working part-time at my company and someone working part-time in that government division.  I’m waiting to hear the final offer from my current boss tomorrow, and then I will call my potential new boss to see what she says. Can she tell me I can work part-time right away?  I keep changing my mind about which is the better offer, and the dithering back and forth is causing me a lot of anxiety.

How would you decide which job to take? I really want to know.

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I’m about to turn 27, and so I’ve been reflecting on things I learned this year:

-You teach people how you want to be treated.

-Being pregnant is not as magical as it looks.

-If you hesitate while you wonder whether you will regret not speaking up, you will regret not speaking up.  Say something.

-Be kind to yourself.  If you would cut someone else slack for the same issue, why not show that same kindness to yourself?

-Dream bigger.  Ask for more.  Don’t settle.

It’s comforting to think that nothing is a surprise to God.  This year sure shocked the hell out of me.

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Lots of people have had good reactions to me telling them I was pregnant, but I didn’t feel angsty about those reactions so I didn’t write about them.  However, now that I got those awkward comments off my chest, I want to tell you my favorite story thus far.  While at my mother-in-law’s daycare, a four year old girl came up to me and poked my belly.

Girl: What’s in there?!

Me: I’m actually going to have a baby.  There’s a baby in there.

Girl: [incredulously] Are you sure?

Sometimes I think it’s pretty unbelievable as well.  In retrospect, her parents probably had a lot of explaining to do that night…

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Since writing my post on the “rules” that some families use to decide which language to speak to their child, I’ve been thinking more about how my husband and I switch back and forth between Spanish and English.   It’s not a process that I’m normally consciously aware of, but after reflecting on it, I think we do have “norms”:

(1) When we are speaking casually, we seem to use whichever word comes to mind first.  Thus, it would be typical for me to say to him, “Me puedes pasar un napkin por fa?” [Could you hand me a napkin please?]  If I paused and thought, I would know to ask for “una servieta” instead of “un napkin,” but I usually just say whatever word comes out first.  It makes it very relaxing to talk to him.  When I am at work and I speak to Spanish-speaking respondents, I have to focus on staying “in” Spanish all the time.  Or when I speak to my parents, I can’t use a convenient expression in Spanish that would better express what I mean.  However, when I’m with him, or one of my few other bilingual friends, I can speak in a much more stream of consciousness manner that is dictated by the words on the tip of my tongue.

(2) When we speak casually, we might deliberately choose to use a word in the opposite language that better expresses what we mean.  For instance, the word “upset” in English is a bit more ambiguous than the possible translations for it in Spanish.  In Spanish, you have to commit more to whether you mean upset-angry, or upset-sad, or upset-agitated, without being able to leave it open to interpretation what kind of upset you are.

(3) When arguing, we each tend to use the language of the other.  I just noticed this last night.  In the midst of an argument, I realized that I was speaking in careful Spanish and my husband was speaking in careful English.  I think this is because we are more consciously invested in making sure the other person is hearing and understanding what we are saying.  However, when I reach a certain level of frustration in an argument, I’ve noticed that I switch into English.  In fact, I use a level of vocabulary that I’m often sure my husband isn’t familiar with, and I don’t care.  So you can actually gauge how upset I am by whether I’m arguing in Spanish or in English.

(4) When we are engaged in normal conversation, we will switch languages if the other person doesn’t understand us.  I might say something to my husband in Spanish and he will say, “huh?”  So when I repeat the sentence, I will say it in English.  It’s interesting to me that we switch repetitions of a sentence to the opposite language, even if the opposite language is not the native language of the person listening.  We have a running joke that being in a bilingual marriage means not understanding 20% of what the other person is saying.  That’s probably an exaggeration, but there’s a kernel of truth to that.  I would guess that we have a lot more “Huh?” interactions than most married couples.

(5) When watching TV or movies, we watch the show in the language it was recorded in.  This is mostly because I’m annoyed by dubbing.  I think the only exception to this is the Discovery Channel, which my husband loves to watch in Spanish and which I tolerate.

(6) When in public, we speak the language that the people around us speak, unless we are deliberately trying to say something private (usually because we are arguing about something).  That probably makes it obvious to people that we are arguing, but at least they don’t have to listen to the gory details.

(7) When I talk on the phone to him, I usually use Spanish or Spanglish, even if I’m around English speakers. So I guess my rule of sticking to the language that people around me speak in front of them really only applies if my husband is also present.

My husband and I have been together for 7 years and married for 3 and a half, so it seems unreasonable and artificial to me that with the birth of our first child, we would suddenly switch to a more ordered system in which we speak only English or Spanish to each other, I speak English to her and he speaks Spanish to her.  I think it will be very interesting to observe what “norms” we each adopt when speaking to her.

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I think the title of this post is somewhat ironic, because the majority of nations throughout the world are multilingual, and the US’s predominant monolingualism and angst over establishing English as the official language is truly a peculiarity of our country.  I don’t think parents in Africa are saying to themselves, how do I encourage my child to be bilingual?  Most people around the world grow up bi- or multilingual by default, but even parents raising children in a multilingual country can worry that their child will learn and retain a minority language that is not common in their country.  By “minority language,” I mean the language not commonly spoken in the country or taught in school.  So for instance, in my marriage English would be the majority language because I live in the US, and Spanish (my husband’s native language) would be the minority language because it is not taught to young school children or spoken in most situations.

My background is in sociolinguistics, so I had actually done some reading and studying on this topic before even becoming pregnant, but it’s obviously gained a new saliency for me.  I’ve started collecting books on this topic again, mostly because while I had learned about child language acquisition and bilingualism in grad school, no one had ever taught me about biliteracy.  I realized I had no idea how to raise a child that is not only verbally proficient but also able to read and write in another language.

Currently, it’s become trendy to support the “one parent one language” model, in which each parent speaks exclusively in one of the two languages you are trying to teach your child.  It’s thought it will make it easier for children to learn to separate the languages.  However, this method shows less success if the parent who works the most (often the father) is the speaker of the minority language and thus not available as often to provide as much input in that language. (That would be our family situation.)

It’s common for researchers to suggest that you have a regular “system” set up for when you speak the language with rules, such that perhaps you always speak the minority language at home but switch to the majority language in public, or perhaps even in public you always use the minority language.  Maybe the parents use the majority language with each other, one parents use the minority language with the child, and the other parent uses the majority language with the child.  Their emphasis is on these interactions being rule-governed.

I tend to think this theory is crap.  My husband and I don’t have a rigid system for what language we speak with each other.  We both speak both English and Spanish very fluently, and while there are certain situations when we tend to use one language rather than another, the majority of our conversations are characterized by code-switching (switching back and forth between languages within the same conversation, or even the same sentence).

I definitely want my husband to speak in Spanish to our daughter (and he plans to) so we can maximize the amount of native speaker input that she has in the minority language.  However, I don’t think it will hurt our daughter if I speak to her in a combination of English and Spanish, or if her dad uses English sometimes when he talks to her.  Children who grow up in multilingual countries sort those languages out into distinct languages that are appropriate to use in certain contexts, and I believe that she will be able to do the same.  After all, she will interact with her monolingual grandparents on both sides.  She will probably go to day-care with my mother-in-law, where Spanish will be the appropriate language, and to preschool, where English will be the appropriate language.  These will be opportunities for her to learn how to speak in only one language with certain people, and I don’t think we need to start enforcing that at home before she’s even in school.

My greatest worry is not that she will be confused, but that some day she will decide that because her friends don’t speak Spanish, she doesn’t want to either.

 

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As I mentioned in my last post, I told my immediate family and some close friends within a day of finding out I was pregnant, when I was about “4 weeks” along according to how doctor’s calculate due dates.  I did not want to tell my husband’s 8 year old brother that soon because I didn’t feel comfortable explaining a miscarriage to him, and I knew I would be the one who would have to explain it if it happened.  My “rule” was that I would tell anyone that I felt comfortable also discussing a miscarriage with, and if someone did not fall into that category, then it was too soon for them to know.

When I told my in-laws, we sent his little brother upstairs to get something so he would be out of the way.  I quickly explained that I was pregnant (yay!), that it was early, and that there was a greater risk of miscarriage until 12 weeks.   We asked them not to say anything to his little brother, they promised, and then his little brother came back downstairs.  I did not explain that I was actually at a higher risk of miscarriage than most women because of having polycystic ovarian syndrome.  I superstitiously didn’t want people thinking negative thoughts, and I figured that every woman is at risk during that same time anyway, so there was no reason to point me out as a special case.

I didn’t realize that there’s no commonly accepted “3 month” rule in Peru.  When my husband and I quickly moved from our little 1 bedroom apartment to a small house, my in-laws came over to help with the move.  They talked about my pregnancy in front of my husband’s little brother, and when my husband called them on it, they casually explained that they had told him a while before while they were shopping for baby things.  I was crushed, and had to go to the back bedroom to pull myself together.  I’m really close to my husband’s little brother, and have been in his life since he was 1.  I had been reading a lot about how to tell him so that he would still feel special and not assume that he would no longer be such a big part of our lives.  I also felt like I missed out on the chance to tell him in the special way that I was planning, and I had no idea how many people they had already told that I would not want to discuss a miscarriage with.  It felt like a huge betrayal, because we had explained how important it was to us, and they had promised, and then they had just as casually gone back on their word.  I was only 7 weeks along and still far away from the safe point.  I told my husband that the next time I get pregnant, we are not telling them until it’s safe and we don’t mind everyone knowing, because they clearly can’t respect our wishes and keep their mouths shut.

The next choice I had to make was when to tell the people I work with.  I actually told management at my office very early (at 9 weeks), because they were setting up staffing for a major project that was going to come to a head right at my due date, and they wanted to put me in a lead role.  If I waited until I was 3 months along, it would have been a huge problem to replace me, so I chose to proactively let management know much sooner than I told the rest of my office.  For most people, I would not recommend that you do that, but in my case, I think it made me look like a good employee and was actually to my benefit.

I told the rest of the people at my office at 3 months, when the risk of miscarriage dropped dramatically.  I’ve already posted a lot of tidbits from the strange things my coworkers said to me when they found out I was pregnant.  Overall, I found the experience of telling people to be mostly embarrassing or frustrating.  It was fun to tell a few of my friends, who didn’t say awkward things and who acted excited from the start.  Telling other people involved a lot more reservations on their part, or awkward comments, office politics, or out and out betrayals and fighting.  It made me consider just not telling people whenever we have our second child.  Somewhere around the 6th month they will all surely figure it out, or just assume I have a stomach tumor, right?

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I like to collect data.  I heard once that you track what’s important to you, and I think this is really true.  When people are on an exercise kick, they usually have a record somewhere of which days they’ve exercised, or how far they’ve run, etc.  It seemed like the natural progression for me to track my efforts to get pregnant.  Additionally, I had to take  a natural family planning class when we got married in the Catholic church that traumatized me.  I had a lot of material on natural family planning and a lot of knowledge about taking my temperature and tracking other symptoms of fertility that would probably gross most people out, so I decided I might as well get my money’s worth out of that.

I think the fertility awareness education that I had undertaken (under duress) helped me become pregnant more quickly than I normally would have, especially considering that I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome not that long ago.   I was especially interested in becoming pregnant quickly because I had to stop taking medication like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicine months before even trying to become pregnant, with the knowledge that becoming pregnant could take months, and then being pregnant would take (at least) 9 months.  I was anticipating at least a year of having no access to better-living-through-chemistry, at a minimum, so you can imagine I was very invested in getting off of my medication, waiting the required amount of time, and then getting pregnant as quickly as possible.

The morning that I took my pregnancy test, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t pregnant.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw a faint line on the pregnancy test.  I hadn’t even taken the test when my husband was home!  And I wasn’t going to see him until about 12 hours later, so I had to wait an entire day knowing I was pregnant without telling anyone so I could tell him first.  That just about killed me because I’m terrible at keeping secrets.

It was a little disappointing when I did tell him, because the line was faint.  He wasn’t sure if it really meant I was pregnant.  I patiently explained that false positives are incredibly rare – in fact, when you test early you usually get a false negative.  I also explained that any line is not normal – any line at all means it’s detecting a hormone produced during pregnancy.  However, his reaction was pretty contained.  He didn’t want me getting excited before we were sure, and he didn’t want me telling lots of people either.  I was sure, especially looking in retrospect at symptoms I had been tracking.

The next day, I was adamant that I was going to tell my parents and a few of my close friends.  My philosophy was that even though it was early, I wasn’t going to tell anyone that I would be unwilling to discuss having a miscarriage with.  For me, I knew if I had a miscarriage I would want to be able to talk to my family and a few close friends, so I felt comfortable telling them.  When I told 2 of my best girlfriends, they were thrilled, and yelled, and looked at the picture of the pregnancy test and agreed I was definitely pregnant.  Predictably, they were knowledgeable about pregnancy tests and believed me.

When I told my family, they wanted me to go to the doctor for a blood test to confirm that I was pregnant, and they had the same contained and doubting reaction that my husband had.  Going to the doctor made me feel stupid.  The doctor asked me if I had had multiple positive pregnancy tests.  When I confirmed that I had, and that based on the other symptoms I was tracking I was pregnant, he told me to go home and that I was pregnant.  When I insisted on having the unnecessary blood test, it confirmed that I was pregnant…like I had already known.  At least my family finally believed me, even if the doctor thought I was an idiot.

Then my family exclaimed about how early I knew (the same week I missed my period).  How amazing modern technology is!  Apparently pregnancy tests have changed a lot since when my parents used them.

Heres’s a fun fact about pregnancy in the American medical system:  Doctors start counting a pregnancy from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period.  However, most women don’t ovulate until somewhere around halfway through their cycle, and the egg doesn’t implant until a few days after that.  This means that doctors are counting women as pregnant a full 2 weeks before the average woman has even released an egg to become a blastocyst, which is cray-cray.  This boils down to the fact that by the time a woman with a normal cycle misses her period, she is “4 weeks” pregnant to doctors in America.  But the egg probably implanted a few days ago.

None of this math works if you have irregular cycles because of a condition like polycystic ovarian syndrome.  But when I told my family I was pregnant, I was “4 weeks” along according to the way doctors count pregnancy.  (And I could tell you the exact day I conceived because of the natural family planning class I took.)

The next hurdle I encountered in telling people I was pregnant was scheduling my first visit to the OBGYN.  When I called, the receptionist asked me in a bored tone when I had my last menstrual period.  Because of the polyscystic ovarian syndrome, that’s not a good indicator of how far along I was.  The way the receptionist did the math, she thought I was more than 3 months along, and terribly irresponsible for not coming in sooner.  When I protested that I hadn’t actually gotten pregnant until much later than that, she ignored me and set up an urgent visit for me.  The nurses during that visit did the same thing, until they did an ultrasound that confirmed the due date that I had given myself.

Overall, telling the first group of people that I was pregnant was mostly frustrating.  I knew early on and with precision because of the charting that I was doing, but people didn’t believe me, and then when I tried to give the doctors the information I had carefully collected about my cycle, they ignored me.  I hate when people condescend to me, so it was a fairly unpleasant experience.  The next hurdle I had to overcome was when to tell people outside of that immediate circle of family and friends, like my boss and my husband’s little brother (who I didn’t want to upset if I had a miscarriage).

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