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.

  • Anne Miller

    Yay! I’m glad you have found the balance. And for the baby, but I’m biased, I love babies. 
    As for the books….shudder. I went to school to be a nanny, was one for 5 years, and have two girls of my own. Oh, and 3 younger sibs and way too many hours of babysitting all ages of kids.  I can only say, listen to your body. Moderation in all things, including moderation. And sleep as much as you want/can. 

    Congratulations, happy baby!

  • Niki Kristolaitis

    If it makes you feel any better, I drank margaritas like they were going out of style the first month of my pregnancy with our oldest.  It could explain quite a bit about him.

  • Alison

    That was so moving and honest; a compelling read. Few people would be brave enough to admit to those conflicted feelings, but I bet many experience them. I’m so happy for you both, and I’m sure Flipper will be the best foodie baby possible. S/he is blessed with great parents, anyway, and that’s a great starting point.

  • Sarah

    I loved this!

  • Kristiecia

    Awww, my favorite sweet Canadians.  I loved this post.  Could have written it myself.  And I tried for six months to get pregnant!  Even after trying for so long, I felt pangs of regret and horror that the baby was going to ruin everything good about life. After all, he’d already ruined my palate.  I reacted by only restricting the foods that made me pukey.  I still ate rare beef, once I could stomach it again, and drank the occasional wine and the (daily) red bull.  Emmett turned out great!  And he HAS changed life.  We can’t go gallavanting around at a moment’s notice.  But, as you noticed in Chicago, as long as there are grandparents on scene, you can still travel and enjoy yourselves sans baby.  It doesn’t make you a bad parent to leave them periodically for a weekend of food and debauchery.

    The only thing I will say, that may or may not apply to you whatsoever, is that it’s ALSO okay not to be instantaneously in love with your baby when they’re born.  Like, when E came out I felt fiercely protective of him, and definitely chemically obsessed with him, but I didn’t love him in the traditional way until a few weeks in.  Not doing things the way other mothers do, and not feeling them in the correct order, doesn’t make you a bad mom.  Neither does having days where you look at your child and think “OMG you are the world’s biggest inconvenience!!”  You and Mike are going to be awesome parents.  Just have realistic expectations for yourself, and don’t force any feelings through guilt.  In the end, you’ll get the excitement and the love, and it’ll be fabulous.

  • Tara

    Congratulations you guys – it’s awesome to hear!

  • Hebby

    I love this post, and I’m amazed you didn’t utterly lose it on the receptionist, because:

    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.”

    Seriously? That’s just such an incredibly inappropriate thing for her to say.  Even if she knew because you’d explicitly told her just that second that you were trying for a baby, she still doesn’t get to police your reaction! And when she doesn’t even know you…

  • Mary Sunshine

    that receptionist deserves a punch in the taco.

    you are definitely not the first to feel this way, and you won’t be the last!

  • Mia

    I agree with Hebby–I really, REALLY feel like biting someone when they decide without one’s invitation that one’s body and choices are a public space to be commented on. I will refrain from launching into a rambling, ill-composed grumpfest, but blah. 

    It sounds like you’re excited! Here’s to you and Mike and Flipper.

  • Marbenais

    You know, even if you HAD been trying desperately for years to get pregnant and this was the news you’d waited your entire adult life to hear, bursting into tears in a crowded waiting room is quite a normal reaction. How on earth did she think she knew exactly what you felt? And how is it legal for a receptionist to give test results?

    Anyway, congratulations at not punching her. And, you know, for the little one. May you not encounter too many idiots in the future!

  • Lauren

    Awwwww, what a lovely post!  I’m am still sooooo excited for you!!! 

  • Marcel Caballero

    Think of all the 3rd world peasants toiling away in rice fields, surviving on casaba roots and limited to out of print 1st edition “What to expect when youre expecting” books. Those people are having babies like it’s going out of style so you guys will be just fine.
    BTW all the hockey arenas in your neck of the woods are sparkling brand new mega iceplexes so you will be sipping lattes in heated comfort with the other “Real Housewives of Markham”


    I was cracking up about your pictures of the alcohol! I am very early and my husband and I have not yet told anyone. I keep getting funny looks for turning down the alcohol with no specific reason. Also the do not eat list is driving me nuts! All I want is booze, sushi and raw oysters.
    Good luck and hang in there!

  • Slauditory S

    Congratulations, you guys!

  • Ilona

    I am amazed! 🙂 Wow! I just woke up my boyfriend just to tell him about you guys having a baby! 🙂 Awesome!
    Big kisses for the both – ahem! – the three of you from your fan in The Netherlands! 🙂

    I’ll be cooking a recipe from this blog today in honor of the Choosy Baby! 🙂 
    Now, which one..

  • Bitternerd

    I can only say YAY!!!!

    I am so excited for you two; you guys give me hope. 🙂

  • Hebby

    Before I forget, because it may be relevant to your interests, I have two mocktail recipes that do function well as cocktails– they fill different cocktail niches, but, you know.  No booze.

    Kris Kringle – this has a nice kick and burn to it from the maple syrup and the ginger.

    Muddle 1tsp freshly grated ginger, 2tbsp maple syrup, one sprig fresh rosemary (save another for garnish), one orange wedge, and two lemon wedges, in the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass. Add ice and top with 50ml apple juice.

    Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon and the remaining rosemary sprig.

    We ran out of fresh rosemary so used a pinch of dried, and it was fine.

    The other is this from Lustrous Musings:

    Which has a good rich feel– different niche to the kris kringle (it replaces rich, smooth, boozy cocktails rather than short, feel the burn, boozy cocktails), but they both have enough intensity and complication that they’re not just, you know.  Fruit punch.

    • choosybeggarmike

      Permit me to say: thank you and you are my new hero.

  • Tina

    I just want to say a big, heartfelt, warm and sincere THANK YOU to all of you for your comments, support, words of wisdom and inspirational mocktails 🙂   Thank you, and again…thank you.

  • t s


    TS of eatingclub vancouver

  • Donna Mehta

    Congratulations! Your reaction sounds like mine the first time I found out I was pregnant.  I took 5 pregnancy tests and then called my best friend to ask her if they could all be wrong.  I really didn’t believe it.  And I was honestly confused by all the people telling me “congratulations!” during the first month of knowing, mostly because I told so few people and the people I did tell (like an HR person via email) seemed overly enthusiastic in congratulating a person they barely knew.

  • Pregnancy Books

    If it makes you really feel any better, I drank margaritas like they had been going out of favor the primary month of my being pregnant with our oldest. It might clarify fairly a bit about him