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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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paranoia

The bicycle pump

I have Momastery on my Google reader, as she’s one of the few blog writers out there who has the power to make me weep like a hormonal teenager. Today was such a day. I got home after mother’s group, nuked my very late lunch, read her latest post about her heartbreak and healing over the adoption process… and then blubbered like a goon.

Tony and I had been trying for a baby since 2007, and we were getting to the stage where we were tossing up the possibility of adopting. And I’ll be very honest – I wasn’t ready to adopt. I was petrified. Until I fell pregnant, I never thought I had it in me to truly love children. I’m not talking about playing piggy-went-to-market and babysitting. I’m talking about Real Love. And yes, the idea of turning my life upside down and bestowing a perfect stranger unconditional, gut-wrenching, I’ll-die-for-you love was very hard to fathom.

I didn’t feel the love. I was petrified I’d never feel the love. That I just wasn’t wired that way.

Before Tony and I got married, we had talked about adopting and it was an intellectual exercise. Of course we’d adopt, I said. But as the years passed and the children didn’t come (yes, we planned to have more than one), the idea of going out and “getting one from the pound” made me nervous. Ill, even. I already have enough trouble caring for pets and plants. I had a Tamagotchi once, and it died 5 times in a week. Bringing up a baby – essentially someone else’s baby – was starting to look waaaay outside my range of competencies.

And again – what if I never grow to love that kid? How devastating for me, for Tony, for Fictitious Adopted Kid. Special place in hell, etc etc.

I had a friend once – and we don’t talk anymore, because I think we were incapable of being lovely to each other. I had a friend who, when I once admitted I scored a paid writing gig for a children’s television program (looooog story), looked me straight in the eye and drawled, “Really? But you HATE kids.”

Shock. “I don’t hate kids!”

“Oh please. You hate kids. You’re lousy with them. You can’t stand them.”

And that, I tell you, has stayed with me. Since that day, I’d think of myself as a mother and cringe. There’s a voice in our heads that Cuz and I used to call The I-Am-Fat. Everyone knows that voice. I-Am-Fat gives you a running commentary of your worst faults and insecurities. And for years, I-Am-Fat told me that I was incapable of being a great mum because I’m awkward around children and so obviously, I secretly hate them. I am a baby-hater.

But then I had Arddun. And to borrow a great line from Sal’s blog, I never knew love this deep existed inside me.

So fast-forward to this afternoon, and my reading Momastery’s post on adoption, and blubbering like an idiot on Oprah. And I want to document that moment because I want to remember that a part of me has arrived. I want to tell myself this: that Arddun came into my world, blew it right open, and brought along the teeniest bicycle pump that managed to inflate my heart just that little bit bigger so it now has room for others.

Because now, I can finally see myself loving another baby fiercely – blood or no. And I can finally kiss that sorry I-Am-Fat goodbye.

Occupational health and safety

About 10 days ago, I put my back out.

And while I could dedicate an entire post to how wimpy that sounds (“Her baby weighs 11 pounds and she puts her back out! Pffft!”), I’d like to talk about how terrifying it all was for the millisecond I realised I couldn’t be there for my baby.

By “there”, I mean functioning 100%. You need your back to take the pram in and out of the car. To twist and negotiate the baby capsule in and out of its pod without flinging its contents (i.e. baby and blanket) onto the backseat or oncoming traffic. To carry baby out of the cot and to NOT drop your baby to sleep quite literally.

The day I put my back out, Arddun’s sleeping and eating patterns took a turn for the funny. Mostly because as soon as she was near dropping off to la-la-land, I’d try and lower her back in her cot or any flat surface and end up dropping her instead.

I’d like to say it was funny har-har. But no one was laughing that day.

Here’s the rub: while I have, in the last 7 years, a heightened measure of self-preservation because I’m now answerable to myself AND a man who loves me, having Arddun has completely upped the ante. Because no mommy = no honey. For once in my life, I have someone who really needs me. Who literally cannot stand up without my help. And that means that I need to think seriously about how I take care of myself.

Where once I’d turned a half-deaf ear to all the safety training on box-lifting at work, I’m now paying attention. I’m eating a little better. I’m praying more fervently. I’m driving a little less like a stereotypical Asian woman (heh!). Where once I had scoffed at fuel-guzzling soccer-mum cars, I now see the huge appeal. HUGE being very much the operative word. Between my car and another in a road accident, I’d like us to emerge with not so much as a scratch on our foreheads. If the turning circle didn’t take after the moon, if it came in prettier colours AND if it wasn’t such a doozy to park in Canberra Centre, the Manic Mommy in me would like to get a humvee, thankyouverymuch. Anything that could secure our safety just that little bit more.

There’s a scene in Steel Magnolias where Dylan McDermott’s character comes home from work to find his infant son screaming blue murder and his Julia Roberts wife sprawled on the back porch, unconscious. That scene terrifies me now. It’s the reason I don’t climb ladders alone in the house, for fear of losing my balance (the klutz that I am) and either landing on Arddun or bashing my head on the carpet and Tony only realising this when he walks through the back door at the day’s end. Paranoia. I think we’re all allowed some kind of neurosis now and then. This one’s mine.

I think I’m starting to understand what it feels like to live for someone else. Whoa!

Pregnancy mythbusters

I was having lunch with a colleague who, like me, hails from Southeast Asia and thus has the happy conundrum of being saddled with two versions of everything. And when it comes to pregnancy superstition and “do-this-or-else…”, the East has always excelled in scaring the daylights out of poor hapless n00b moms… but the West can hold their own in this department, too.

There are heaps, HEAPS out there and I’m sure it depends on generation and upbringing, but here’s a choice pick from both my worlds.

1. Avoid soft cheeses because of the risk of listeria

Two things seem to be linked to the harbouring of listeria in soft cheeses: pasteurisation and how the cheese is ripened. White mould cheese, such as brie and camembert (yum), are surface ripened, and their near neutral PH value and high moisture content make them that extra conducive for the listeria bacteria to grow.

The thing is, Australian law likes its milk and cheese pasteurised. And listeria, like love, is all around us anyway. We are already exposed to the bacteria whether we like it or not because it’s in the environment. Yes, pregnant women are at risk – but the risk is low, especially in Australia. In 2006, only 61 cases of listeriosis were registered with the Department of Health and only 8 were cases where a mother and baby were infected. And we don’t know that soft cheese was the culprit either, since there are many ways you can get exposed to listeria

BTW, if you’re suffering from leg cramps (especially with your calf muscles), it’s likely due to a lack of calcium. And that’s far more common a symptom in pregnant women than listeria.

So get some perspective, and if you’re still wiggy about it, nuke the little buggers by having your soft cheese piping hot and runny. Yummm… 

2. Don’t bathe or wash your hair during your confinement

The logic goes that if you bathe or wash your hair during confinement, ‘wind’ will enter your body and you can get rheumatism, among other ills.

You have GOT to grow up in a Chinese household to understand the concept of “heat”, “cool” and “wind” to not look at me like I’m talking about breathing in someone else’s farts.

BTW, I’m not talking a couple of days after the birth, or even a week. Some households have the no-hairwash limit at 12 days, and the no-bath limit at 40!

Fact: if you want to be a yummy mummy, then smell like one. And let’s not even get into stating the obvious, like good personal hygiene and the reduced risk of skin and wound infection.

3. If you eat sushi, you are basically a baby killer

Okay, first of all, sushi ≠sashimi. And fat, happy, pregnant Japanese women still have sashimi because man, the fish oil is great for baby. If you believe Dr Phil, Omega 3 fats

enhance the development of the baby’s brain, improve the baby’s IQ, make the baby a better sleeper after birth, prevent premature contractions and premature labor, prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy, and act as an anti-inflammatory that prevent infection.

But yes, we also have to think about mercury levels and other contaminants. So do a bit of sleuthing and figure out which fish is safer. The rule of thumb seems to be young, fresh white fish and canned light tuna. Basically, young white fish good, big old sea-going fish bad.

As for me, because I can’t attest to the refrigeration standards of soi disant local sushi chefs, I’ve decided to avoid the raw anything – mostly because it’d be horrible to deal with pregnancy AND salmonella at the same time. But I miss it like a fat kid misses cake.

4. Don’t watch scary movies when you’re pregnant

Another Eastern gem. Basically, stay clear of horror flicks as you might scare the baby witless.

And just to prove how deeply embedded this superstition is among certain folks, apparently some Chinese horror flicks place the following disclaimer before running:

Important to NOTE: this movie is not suitable for expecting mothers.

I think the myth speaks for itself, but I just had to add this one in because the movie bit was priceless. I say this with much affection for Chinese ghost stories. They are usually funnier than they are scary. Except for Ring. That was just insiduously freaky. But then again, it was Japanese.  

BTW, Tony and I have been completely blowing this one as we’ve been catching up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the last 3 weeks. It’s our stay-home dinner date and I wouldn’t miss the excuse to snuggle up with him even for Blob.

5. Don’t eat spicy foods as you will induce premature childbirth

Pffft. My comeback to that: India and China’s populations. ‘Nuff said.

6. Ginger and liquor keep the body’s vigour

Again with the wind. And please don’t take this as evidence of my knocking the “wind” theory in Asia. It does sometimes work and besides – the food that forms part of the remedy can be SO yum.

Basically, Singapore Chinese confinement foods include lots of ginger and sesame oil to deal with excess gas, and alcohol to promote better blood circulation. I’ve actually tasted confinement food, and some of it is just sublime. Possibly because some dishes are fattening beyond belief. But I digress.

However, the bit about the liquor especially flies in the fact of Western thinking and I have to agree with my Western counterparts on this one. If you’re breastfeeding, then getting liquored up isn’t great for bub. Then again, alcohol burns up when heated in foods, so I’m not sure cooking with it is so terrible after all.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Heaps more to talk about of course, but I’ll stop here. I’m not a nutritionist or some pregnancy guru, so check these out for yourself and form your own opinion. I wanted to do this exercise so that I could know my own mind. After this, whether I choose to comply with the myths “just in case”, or to keep the peace with the older generation for my own sanity, remains a subject entirely separate.

Belly, belly, quite contrary

So I’m starting to feel a wee bit self-conscious about the belly, because I am STICKING OUT. And I’m only 15 weeks and 2 days, really. But I’ve been sticking out since last week. And I have 173 days to go.

Checked the pregnancy weight gain chart, and I’m actually a little below average. So it’s not about those butterscotch biscuits I seem to enjoy now and then. (My “‘dairy intake”. )Or perhaps it is, because it sure isn’t muscle that I’m gaining. I still have skinny legs and arms, and today I wore a pair of burgundy Nine Wests that I usually pair off with this dress from Cue I love (because it’s SO EASY to iron, and I can wear it still…).

Except, of course, the heels were typically Nine West stilts. So instead of looking short and pregnant, I looked ridiculous. Like a purple flamingo. Long neck, big cuddly middle, chopstick legs.

What is it about the size of the bump that makes bump-carriers so insecure? I’ve heard that one of the most surprisingly cruel things to say to a pregnant woman is either, “You’re so big!” or “You’re so tiny!” because her immediate reaction is “I’m getting TOO big because I’m larding up!” or “I’m starving my runt to deeeeeaaath!” In both cases, you can bet some 3rd world country’s GDP that she’s wondering – if only for a split second – if she’s the worst mother ever.

And the baby’s not even out yet.

Read a forum, where someone who was also 15 weeks pregnant was agonising whether she was normal to be showing that much. She sounded a lot like me – dress size 8, didn’t have much of a belly pre-pregnant, but now ballooning and feeling all rather self-conscious. My favourite pick was the one who typed back,

You’re just bloated, hun. I’m 29 weeks and JUST started showing!

So much for sweet comfort of the sisterhood.

“It’s a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll…”

So it’s Week Seven, Day 1, and I am apparently in the throes of creating lots and lots of internal organs, and more limbs. And I am schleepy, and tired, and now understand what it must feel like to sport a ladylike beer gut. And honey, there ain’t nothin’ sexy about a beer gut.

Yesterday, I ate my weight in carbohydrates (or just about), and then trotted off to bed at 8.30pm and slept until quarter to eight this morning.  Hugely piggy. Eating lots meant I didn’t get a visit from Dame Nausea yesterday, which also ironically brought on the paranoia. I’ve heard about women who get nausea daily, only for it to screech to a halt as soon as their body starts to miscarry the baby. So naturally, Not Feeling Pukey felt emotionally worse than Always Feeling Pukey, and I snuck a peek at some online articles about miscarriages today until about 4.oopm, when I started to feel rather green again.

And then I felt great.

Blurted out the fact that I’m Preggers to the Big Kahuna yesterday, partly because we were starting to talk about project deliverables for the next calendar year – but mostly because it “felt right” and I was feeling like I wanted to share. He was rather surprised, but seemed pleased. Then I over-compensated, and practically apologised for not planning things better so that bub didn’t come a month AFTER we went live with my year-long project. What is it with women and apologising for nothing! Anyhoo… Told him it was early days, and then we left it as that. So three people at work know now – and I’ve told each of them for varying reasons.

Funnily, I haven’t felt like telling any close friends yet. I’m not quite sure why. I think I want to surprise them all, for kicks. And perhaps it feels easier not telling people closer to me, just in case Blob decides he or she’s had it, and is going splitsville come Week 8. I think I’d find it easier to tell people I work with – especially men – that it didn’t work out, but it’d be really hard to avoid the emotional mumble-jumble if it came to the sisterhood.

Tony wonders why I keep thinking about miscarriages. I’m not sure I can explain it. I guess I’ve always gotten carried away by hope in the past, and sometimes gotten sorely disappointed. And in this instance, my survival instinct is telling me to hope for the best, but absolutely prepare for the worst. Sometimes, I wonder if such an attitude smacks of smug self-reliance and the inability to trust that God can comfort and work all things out for the best.

Former colleague emailed a bunch of us today to announce the impending arrival of her Number Two. And there was much squealing and rejoicing in the office. “I knew these announcements come in threes!” said one colleague sagely. “And true enough – it has!” And I’m just standing there grinning, because I’m about to blow her theory out the water. But yeah – this is the fourth pregnancy I’ve learnt about, and they’re all due in May. All I can say is… there must have been one really cold fortnight in August this year that was super-conducive for cuddling.

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