Cooking up a Choosy Baby
There are very few things about our life that Mike and I haven’t shared on Choosy Beggars, and we like it that way. After all, when something is going on we want to tell you about it….be it good or bad, hilarious or delicious. Or, in this case, a growing fetus.
Yup. This probably isn’t news if you already follow us on Facebook or Twitter, but for anybody else, it seemed like high time for us to make the official announcement that there was another kind of bun in our oven, and talk a little bit about the last few months. These have been some strange times for us, and it is fair to say that I am only recently -and reluctantly – starting to get used to this whole idea of impending motherhood.
When Mike and I discussed our future together, we always agreed that we wanted to start a family together. One day. One distant, far away day when we we would be independently wealthy, have reached pinnacles of success in our respective careers and have traveled the world twice over. You know, ‘the future’, right? Not RIGHT NOW, or anything. Definitely not right now, pfft, that would be crazy, who even TALKS like that, and can you please pass me the bottle because my wine glass is looking a little bit dry….
After celebrating our first wedding anniversary in Chicago, we arrived back home to the ordinary chaos that we have become accustomed to over the years. I was working strange and unseemly hours at work, our beloved first cat passed away, Mike fell off the roof and broke himself; it was pretty much same old, same old. Sure, I also had some concerns about my health and had been to see my doctor just a few days previous for a blood test, but being pregnant was the last thing on my mind.
As evidence, here I am at a PR event and launch for Anna Olson’s new book (Back to Baking, and it is fabulous) heartily enjoying myself with sugary snacks and ‘a few’ glasses of white wine. Cheers! Glad that I enjoyed the evening, because the next night my niggling doubts got the better of me.
It is worth noting that the thought of pregnancy has always kind of terrified me, and I took my first *three* pregnancy tests while I was still a virgin. Yes, folks. I was THAT girl. (What, you mean shared toilet seats are SAFE all of a sudden?) To that end, I had taken a ‘just in case’ pregnancy test only two weeks previous and it came back as negative as the other 2,358,974 that I have used over the years. Insert the usual big sigh of relief.
But just in case…..
After all, it never hurts to confirm and confirm again, right? Lets waste another $18 and just pee on the blessed stick to feel better, shall we?
Except that this time the test came back positive. Good thing I invested in the two-pack.
“Mike!”, I hollered downstairs. “MIKE, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!!!” He very quietly listened to my hysterics as I brandished a “Clearly flawed and inaccurate!” test in each hand, and then we drove together back out to the drugstore where I purchased yet another two-pack of Clear Blue, as well as a First Response…just in case.
Five goddamn tests later and I still didn’t believe it, despite the proof positive in the bottom of the trash can.
So I went to see my doctor. For sure, she would put this whole hormonal silliness to bed with an explanation about how I had a far less serious condition, such as stomach cancer or bubonic plague. Walking through the very busy waiting room, I sidled up to the receptionist’s desk and said that I was hoping to catch Dr.K as a walk-in. Without looking up she asked me what it was about, and I shyly and haltingly explained that there was a possibility that maybe I was pregnant but I didn’t really think so, it’s just that I had taken these five tests and they came back positive, but surely there was a mistake or something and…she interrupted me with a sharp look and said loudly, “What’s your name? Oh yes, here you are. Your blood tests came back. Yes, whoa, you’re REALLY pregnant! Congratulations!”
And with that I burst in to tears. In the middle of the busy waiting room.
The receptionist appeared a bit taken aback and stared at me with stony eyes. “You know,” she said, “A lot of people have great difficulty getting pregnant. Many people can’t have babies at all. My daughter struggled for years and just finally had her first baby in September. This is a gift, you know. You should be GRATEFUL.”
I was confused and overwhelmed; I was not feeling grateful. I gulped a few times and mopped up my face, filing that aside as a reason to log on to Rate My MD in the near future with a few choice words about the quality of the office support personnel.
I knew that technically she was right, and I was lucky. I had witnessed the struggles of close friends and knew how heart rending and consuming it could be to struggle unsuccessfully with starting a family, and we should be thanking the powers that be that it came this quickly and easily for us. But it was no use, and trying to win myself over with the mantra of parents everywhere about how this would be the brightest part of my future and the best thing to happen in my life just wasn’t working. All that I saw were opportunities literally closing down in front of me. No more sun and booze filled vacations across Europe. No more lazy Sunday mornings where we lie in bed with our laptops and novels until 2 pm, only getting up for food and bathroom breaks. Goodbye, promotions at work, I will be too busy taking time off work to care for sick children to even notice the stagnation of my career. Farewell, fancy restaurants and evenings of debauchery, I loved you so. For some people, getting pregnant is the best thing to happen in their life. For me, it felt more like a life sentence.
I spent the next several days wandering through the liquor store and taking pictures on my iPhone of things that I wanted to drink but couldn’t. Oddly, I think that actually helped.
By the end of the first Week of Knowing, the nausea began in earnest. It still seemed odd and incongruous to picture myself as a preggo, but at least I was starting to feel like one, for what that’s worth. I know that my misery during weeks 5-11 was still far better than what some unlucky women have to endure. Other than the nausea and crippling exhaustion, comical blood sugar spikes and falls, and periodic bouts of depressive brooding, that is.
Looking back on our posts, you may notice that there was a lot less cooking being done between November and February. The smell of food – most food, really – was abhorrent. Mike was forced into a vegetarian diet, because misery likes company and the only things I could stomach were fruit, water, mild dairy and tasteless carbohydrates. Flavor and aroma were my enemies, and sadly, anything that I managed to eat one day was as appealing as rotten fish entrails when leftover for the next day’s lunch. There were some highlights which came out of the frugivore phase, however, such as eating so many clementines that I have probably cured myself indefinitely of any potential scurvy risk factors, and I learned that it is possible to thrive on a diet of baked potato and raw mango for three days straight. Good to know.
The inertia of those first months did have some advantages. For example, since I had no interest in cooking, socializing, writing, cleaning (ha! sorry, that last one had NOTHING to do with the pregnancy) or pretty much anything that required a modicum of physical or mental effort, I had all the time in the world to read the Terrifying Pregnancy Books that were multiplying faster than rabbits on my bedside table.
Oh, what gems those are for an uncertain first time mother-to-be! The Terrifying Pregnancy Books are full of (often contradictory and seemingly irrational) information that lays out in no uncertain terms that everything you did up to this point was wrong and has caused irreparable damage to your unborn child. How you stand, sleep, eat and exercise are all wrong. It doesn’t matter if you already changed your unintentionally irresponsible ways based on TPB #1, because by the time that you get to TPB #4 you’ll read that TPB #1 was full of bullshit and should never be trusted. So you gave up coffee when you got pregnant and switched instead to herbal tea? Look forward to the chapter about how herbal teas are dangerous and will cause everything from neural tube defects to pulmonary issues in your wee little scrapper.
I took to referring to our growing baby as “Flipper”.
Sifting through all the conflicting information, I came to another startling truth: every decision that you make is wrong to somebody, and they will want to tell you why. In long, arduous, judgmental detail. There will be somebody who thinks that your choices are ignorant and cavalier, and somebody who thinks that the same choice is obnoxiously rigid, paranoid and uptight.
I spent the first 6 weeks nervously avoiding alcohol, sushi, canned tuna, a variety of supposedly high-mercury containing fish, soft cheese, undercooked eggs, deli meat, well, actually any meat that wasn’t cooked until it was shoe-leather gray, moderating my caffeine, and so on. It wasn’t so bad when I had no appetite, but when the will to eat returned, I was not impressed with these new and diverse restrictions. Then it all fell apart when I had a celebratory work dinner to attend at Harbour Sixty. There was no way that I could go to one of Toronto’s penultimate steak houses and order the chicken, if you know what I mean. More to the point, I think it would have been much more psychologically damaging for me to order that gorgeous dry aged USDA prime cut of tenderloin and ask for it to be “well-done”. I probably would have physically perished with those two sad little words. So I did it, and TPBs and Judging Judys be damned. I ordered my steak – rare – along with the crab legs to start, and enjoyed a scoop of every side dish on the table. And you know what? Not only do I feel guiltless about feasting on my undercooked (albeit exceptionally high quality) red meat, but later that night was actually also the first time that I felt Flipper move. Looks like s/he was just holding out for a high end meal before rewarding us with a stretch.
By the way, I also had the make-your-own s’mores for dessert. A caloric orgy of sugar, chocolate and fat, which is basically a trifecta from the ‘limit or avoid’ food list. It was delicious.
I still wasn’t warming to the idea of parenthood, but as my appetite came back and I got a spring in my step again, I tried a new strategy: action. When all else fails, the act of doing (anything, really) always helps me accept and come to terms with an issue. I signed up for prenatal classes. I booked all of my genetic screening and ultrasound appointments. I researched and interviewed a variety of health care personnel options before selecting my midwife team. I started shopping for maternity clothes and planning a registry (in the face of doubt, never underestimate the power of retail therapy), and I started painting a jungle themed mural on the wall of our spare room, which will now be the baby’s nursery.
Gradually, and reluctantly, I have started to warm to the idea.
You guys, we’re having a baby.
I am growing a life inside of me right now. In a bit over 3 months there will hopefully be another fully functional, living, breathing human being in this world, and s/he will be part of us, but all his/her own.
Now, I lie in bed and rub circles on my tummy, feeling Flipper kick and cavort, and I speculate whether s/he will be bold and brassy or pensive and sweet, brave and strong or shy and retreating. I wonder if s/he is going to want to take piano lessons or soccer, and then I panic about becoming a mini-van driving, pony-tailed, sweat pant wearing Hockey Mom with a Tim Horton’s cup in my hand at all times and a resigned acceptance of 5 am practices in frigid arenas. But really, all I want is to be a good Mom, and for this little baby to feel special and loved.
So I flip back onto my left side and take a deep breath, because right now I just need to think about right now. I want to focus on keeping this baby inside me healthy and enjoying the limbo as we enter into yet another exciting new chapter of our lives. And you guys, when we get there, I can’t WAIT to introduce you to the Choosy Baby.