Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Letter

I'm not as clever as David Sedaris yet I still have urge to write a Christmas Letter. Unfortunately you're not as likely to laugh reading mine.

So 2010 was quite a year. As most know, I was pretty blue at the start of it. The wind still knocked out of me from brother Warren's unexpected suicide in Nov 2009. But I did have a highlight the first week of 2010 when I got to meet baby niece Lilly-Mac (we are hoping she'll be eligible for government bail-outs later in life). Lillian McNamara Delano appeared Dec 2009 and has been growing ever since. Little Brother Brendan & awesome sister-in-law Kate tend to her whims at their house in Greenbrae.

While I was happy for them, I was even happier for myself - Marc & I conceived in early January. Unfortunately God smacks down the smug and I miscarried in March. Just to smite me, I learned about the death of two friends about that time as well. Could it get any worse? Yes! I had blabbed about the pregnancy to everyone at Warren's memorial only to miscarry a few weeks later. Nothing like being asked repeatedly for the due date when the baby was only a memory.

Yet, not to be dismayed, I took a job change. However the job wasn't a good fit and by April I had landed myself in the therapist's office. I have since learned that I am not quite equipped to handle two deaths in the family, a miscarriage, two deaths among my friends and an unhappy job change. Make note for future stressful times. I do not know how I would have managed had I not had Marc with me through this rough patch.

Life kept coming and, like a well written play, comic relief injected it self over the summer. Our first laugh came from David & Ashley's wedding in Kansas City, MO. Marc & I journeyed with Dad, Aunt Sally, Uncle Richard, Cousin Dania & her husband Chris to Mid-Continent International airport. We enjoyed the family time at Aunt Nancy's house before & after the wedding. The day of the wedding we were in town with the Cousin Nathan, Cousin Dania & Hubby Chris. Dania & Chris offered to let Cousin Nathan, Marc & I use their suite to get dressed for the wedding, as they were staying closer. When Marc when to change, he realized that I had left his pants at our hotel room. Whoops! A quick trip to the local Brooks Brothers and we were again on our way. Even with the store run, we were early to the wedding. We made the logical decision to not spend the extra 45 minutes waiting in the Church, but to find the closest Bar and get liquored up. We all found the service much more fun than the rest of the family.

Barely a month later the family again gathered, this time in Port Huron, MI. Mom & I traveled together to attend Grandmother Polly's internment. Thankfully we had brought our passports as I took wrong exit and we crossed a bridge over a canal to find ourselves in Canada. Whoops! After much begging and pleading one of the boarder guards gave in and stamped my passport. I did need proof of our trip! Other highlights on the trip was meeting Cousin Alie, meeting Luisa, Cousin David's now wife and taking a ride in the Cris Craft that impressed on my father the coolness of wooden boats.

Other summer highlights included a visit from Marc's mother & brother. Later Marc's Aunt Christine, husband Pete and cousins Livy & Alex showed up. Their visits resulted in multiple trips to Yosemite and even a mule ride. Great to get to know my future family better, even if they called eggplant aubergine.

Late in the summer our luck changed for the better. There was a shuffle in the teams at the office which almost moved me to DC. However instead, they made me a sweet offer to get me back in my old role. After a week of deliberation, I came to the conclusion that I'd rather be happy with what I'm doing than be doing a job that could be better for my career.

Not long after the job reversion, Marc & I got the house situation resolved. The house is ours and at actual market value. Yippee! That finalized while we were enjoying a weekend in Massachusetts. The other Cousin David was marrying his beautiful German bride, Luisa, on Cape Cod. Lovely service and very enjoyable wedding! This time we got liquored up at the wedding instead of before. We took a side trip on the way there to visit my Alma Mater, Smith. Boy has the campus changed! The students looked the same. The town was slightly larger yet still full of restaurants and shops geared to the college crowd.

Another stroke of luck came with getting pregnant and making it successfully through the first trimester. We finally had a due date we could share - May 15th. With the pregnancy and the house was settled, we were able to plan our wedding!

Thanksgiving arrived and we got Marc's mum to come back to attend, as we weren't going to be able to get to England for Christmas... or so we said. Once she arrived, we revealed the real plans: To get married at Dad's on Thanksgiving and fly off to Fiji for a two week honeymoon. The wedding went off beautifully. The sun cooperated and we were married on Dad's deck in Sausalito. Dad did the ceremony, Brendan held the rings & took photos, Kate was Matron of Honor and dog watcher, Mom & Mum were witnesses and Cathy did a reading. The service was short and perfect. I had always felt that Dad's deck was the perfect place to get married and it was. The meal was perfect - Turkey and all the trimmings.

Two weeks in Fiji with lots of sun & snorkeling - heaven after the long & turbulent year. We got home to find that Christmas was in full swing. Yet after living for weeks without To Do lists or work, getting in the Santa Swing was tough. We skip the tree and enjoyed Christmas Eve at Dad's - complete with Yorkshire pudding. Christmas Dad was at Kate & Brendan's place. Kate's family was in town and we are SO happy that her brother Chip has returned whole & unharmed from his time in Iraq.

I'm hoping we're back on an upswing for 2011. All my best to you & your family.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blossoming Bellies

I'm told that I should feel the baby move any time now. I'm 1 day shy of 20 weeks and eager to feel that first kick. I may have felt it already, just not realized what it was. As for this week's status report: "Your baby weighs about 10 1/2 ounces now. He's also around 6 1/2 inches long from head to bottom and about 10 inches from head to heel — the length of a banana." Yikes. I've got a banana tucked into a melon in my abdomen! You think I'd notice if the banana decided to move around.

But what's really kicking me is the pregnancy rules. It seems that almost everyone wants to get in on the game of telling expecting women what they should or should not be doing. Some times it makes sense - Don't take Aleve or ibuprofen because it will increase the rate of birth defects by 7%. Some times it doesn't - you cannot wear high heels. (I realize I might not want to wear heels while pregnant, but how is that going to damage the baby's development, exactly?)

I labor under the abundant unwanted advice that is thrown at me: eat fish, but don't eat *that* fish. I'm struck by the urge to say either, "Shove it" or "Do you realize how dumb you sound?" From what position to sleep in (left-side) to the shoes I should we wearing (no heels, no flip-flops), to my choice in lunch (no sushi, no deli meat or hot dogs) I'm sick of these rules.

I am not only amazed that the wrap-the-pregnant-woman-in-bubble-wrap mentality, I'm also stunned that so many women I know to be smart & thinking women buy into it. Does it ever occur to them that, "Hey, we've managed to keep the human race reproducing for nearly 40,000 years and only in the last 100 or so years have we seen these rules. Maybe it is mostly hype? The women in France seem to be enjoying brie with not a noticeably higher rate of miscarriage" Poll the women 60 & older - they'll tell you that they drank while pregnant with you and you seem (mostly) OK. Maybe this has to do with the desire to just let go for 40 weeks - "No, hon, I can't clean the kitchen, my doctor says to take it easy. Yet, when I miscarried, I was told that it was likely genetic - not that lovely Camembert cheese I had.

I'm a little slow, yet what I'm coming to understand is that this is the pre-birth version of Mothers Guilt. While Freud started this movement with his blame your mother psychology, the tone and rigor escalated once women who didn't need to work yet didn't want to stay home put on their hats and got jobs. I can recall the news casts talking about how scarred latch key kids would be as adults. I was a latch-key kid and I seem to be a (mostly) well adjusted adult.

Thankfully, we've seen the real data - a generation and a half having grown up without mom home baking cookies - and so far, so good. Lately the tactics seems to be focused on getting mothers to feel guilty that they aren't providing enough opportunities for their child to thrive in. Hence the well scheduled & over-planned life of the modern child - from play date to music lesson to soccer practice, and woe be to the mother who doesn't make a good, home-cooked meal after busing Junior around all day. Just stop already.

I do say that all women should find the right balance for themselves. My balance involves an occasional drink of wine, nearly daily work-outs and all the blue cheese I can eat - balanced with my 5-7 servings of fruits & veg, one of which should be a leafy green and total ban on caffiene, unless it is in that chocolate I just noshed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Wedding

Oh whoops - I promised a report on the wedding plan.
Here's how it happened....
As we we looking at our due date and considering our post-house purchase financial status, I suggested that spending $15k - $20K next summer, on an event that we'd have to fund, plan and execute while dealing with being a parents of a 2 month old seemed like a lot. We both missed out on a honeymoon the first time round and, with our current wedding budget projections, it looked like we would miss it the 2nd time round as well. So I suggested we elope. The only problem - I didn't want to get married outside the US and Marc didn't want to honeymoon in the US. He explains, "It isn't a real trip if they speak English & use US Dollars."

So, what if we got married on the down-low here in the US and then run off? I labeled it "faux-loping". Sounded good to me. We were mulling over plans and bringing in Dad & Cathy to co-conspired with us at Cousin David's wedding to the lovely Luisa on Cape Cod. Also at that event a conversation with my Aunt who tells me, "It just isn't right to elope. Part of getting married is sharing the even with friends & family..." Great, she didn't even know our plans and was already condemning them!

We then decided where to go - at first we were thinking Australia, but then realized there was too much to do/see. So we took it down a notch and decided that after this crazy year, we could really do with some quiet together time. Fiji came on the radar. Cousin Dania gave us good advice on where to go.

So, the event - well, we got Marc's mom to agree to come out for Thanksgiving. She wasn't sure why, but we got here here just the same. We worked out the planning, flowers & cake with Dad & Cathy. I had a tough time with a dress - what is the appropriate attire for a Thanksgiving Day, 2nd Wedding, at my father's house while pregnant? The long white gown was SO out. And finding something that doesn't look like it should be worn to the prom/opera gala/office can be tough!

But we worked it all out. We told the other attendees - My mom, little brother & sister-in-law on the precessing Tuesday. They were all excited and sworn to secrecy. The weather cooperated with a sunny day. We decided that the deck with the view would be ideal. Everyone arrive by about 11:30. We realized that Dad wasn't going to be able to read the ceremony from his iPad, so we put it on the nook. Sister-in-law helped me get dressed and led me to the alter at the right time. Both Mom's signed the paperwork. Step-mom read a passage. Little Brother took photos and tended the rings.

We said "I Do" and exchanged the rings then a kiss. Dad didn't let little brother bring the shot-gun for some silly photos. We had a toast (I got a baby glass of champagne). We enjoyed Cathy's traditional Thanksgiving feast. We cut the cake and then caught a flight to LA to catch the evening non-stop to Nadi, Fiji.
As soon as we boarded the plane, we changed our status on Facebook & turned off our phones for the next 2 weeks.

Three weeks, 1 day we've been married. I'm happy. Oh so happy. So there's the scoop.

My Belly Preceeds Me

I'm coming up on 18 weeks. I'm eager to pass the 20 week mark so that I'm official half way to my delivery day. This is the I'm-not-fat-I'm-pregnant phase. I find myself telling anyone who will listen, "I'm pregnant!". I've gained ten lbs (some of that is the baby, some is the Fiji Honeymoon). My waist has expanded four inches. My clothes don't fit anymore. For the first time in four weeks I was in the office. The female coworker say they see it. Yet asking a male colleague, he responded, "Jen, no male's eyes will notice your stomach". I realized that due to my increase in cup size, 99.9% of men will find their eyes unable to drift below my blossoming boobs.

I've notices my breasts too. I noticed that, when I got hit my a jelly fish in the water, I was unable to see my waist, as the boobs blocked my view. I've noticed that while swimming in the ocean my nipples felt like they were getting run through a grater. They may be big & luscious, yet they are totally "Look but Don't Touch". Today's advice: a month before the baby is due, start brushing your nipples with a toothbrush to help desensitize them and make breastfeeding easier.

Aside from the onslaught of advice (were women really able to reproduce when they didn't know that they could kill the baby by lying on their backs??) which, as a pregnant woman, I've found myself drowning in, I'm finding myself awash with, "Congratulations". I just got out of nature's way, had some fun and here I am expecting the next generation. It takes no brains - as we can see on 16 and Pregnant - no brains at all to get pregnant. I know those of us 30+ do have a harder time, yet, for the most part, it felt good and I think Marc did all the work. It is like getting Congratulated for finishing a big bowl of Ben & Jerry's.

As my belly grows, I bet the weirdness responses will only increase. Last night, hubby looks over at me while I'm chopping veggies for dinner and says, "You do look pregnant". "Really?" I wonder, or do I just look like I have a belly? Of course I have to sneak upstairs to the full length mirror to check. When I have good posture, my belly doesn't go out farther than my breasts. When I slouch - my belly precedes my boobs. Belly - no Belly - Belly - no Belly.

Yes, I'm pregnant but one of the few things I've liked about my body is my flat stomach. My thighs break my heart, but my belly and narrow waist make me proud. Now the belly is not flat. I look down and my belly is blocking my view. How? Why? Did I really let this happen? I want to look pregnant, not big-bellied, is that possible? So many months to go before I diet... so many months to go...