Friday, May 30, 2014

The belly as fair game

 For a few weeks, my protruding belly was such that it was a noticeable encroachment upon surrounding space drawing much immediate attention and confusing people that did not know that I was pregnant. Due to the accepted social custom of not commenting on a woman's weight, I would note contorted expressions of confusion and directed glares at my belly. Some would brave the question after much deliberation in such an awkward manner that I wanted to downcast my gaze and in a sombre voice reply in the negative, further explaining it was a tumor. However, I decided that might be a little too mean even for me.

What surprised me, however, is that once my belly conquered the surrounding space such that it was patent that I was housing a demanding tenant, my belly, as well the body attached, suddenly became fair game for comment. An exception to the long standing custom that one should never comment on a woman's weight, particularly when unsolicited, has been clearly carved out for the circumstance of pregnant women. Thus, while people would never exclaim "my, you are getting BIG!" to a woman,  this is not only accepted, but routine, when it is directed at a pregnant woman.  The comments are not only limited to the size of one's belly, but increase in cup size, skin changes - in fact, a woman's whole body becomes fair game for all comment as soon as it is common knowledge that she is pregnant. I have received comments from friends, colleagues, even strangers that I am convinced would never brave social opprobrium in non-pregnant circumstances to nonchalantly comment as to the increased size of my breasts and the seemingly unstoppable growth of my belly.

Loud exclamations as to a women's progression in pregnancy are also accepted, routine and generally quite optimistic. I am at a loss to understand why the insatiably curious do not simply ask what weeks one is instead of exclaiming in a level assured to have the ear of all carbon life forms in the vicinity that you MUST be six months. Worse, I have had several colleagues ask whether I am carrying twins. I was not surprised when my mother asked - and so repeatedly- whether I was carrying twins and to prove her point of what a belly housing only one tenant should look like, sent me a photo of her much further along neighbour, so I could ostensibly have a helpful comparison.

The fun doesn't stop there. People not only perceive that they have a carte blanche to comment as they will on how you look, but that it is perfectly acceptable to touch and rub your belly. At first, I was quite flummoxed that people I had never even shared a hug with, felt more than comfortable attacking my belly as if I were a Buddha and they would somehow rub off good fortune. Now, I know to look for the gleam in the eye concomitant with the raised arm in approach and dart out of the way before impact.

I suppose people have the confidence to comment at whim as they understand that a pregnant woman's body is not her own and they are commenting on her pregnant state only. However, what these shrewd people do not understand, is that even though they are correct that our bodies are not our own for they are now humble servants to demanding regents, we still perceive ownership of our bodies and at a loss to control our body's changes, we are even more vulnerable to comments respecting our appearance.

And the comments continue....

No, I am not carrying twins. No, I am not six months. No, you cannot touch my belly. I should just wear a t-shirt.

Monday, May 26, 2014

a pickle sardine sundae...

No, I haven't exactly craved such a sundae (nor any in particular), but though I hate to be predictable,  I have succumbed to the cravings of both pickles and ice cream (but it was the ice cream that nearly caught me in a pickle). Yesterday, craving mascarpone gelato (after having craved ginger, cinnamon and guinduja the days before), I marched my husband to our local gelateria and completely consumed by my gluttony, was completely oblivious of the quite extended line and insouciantly barged to the head of the line with what observers might well have deemed an indecently wide smile in the circumstances. My husband, nervously a step behind me, appeared a little disconcerted, but declined to voice the reason for his discomfort until we were well outside the gelateria, our new treasure in hand. He explained that the multitude of people were aghast and angered, but that when he turned to allow the real person in front their turn before us, whose big, burly and surly description he laboured over, the man simply looked at my belly (ever charging forth!) and waved us forth. The man sensibly understood that you do not get between a pregnant woman and her ice cream (or any craving for that matter).

My other cravings, apart from tomato and cheese, which I don't really count as pregnancy cravings as my magnetism towards them has hardly changed from my pre-ninja belly days, have been for pickles, spaghetti bolognese and sardines. I once bought two cans  and ate them together in front of my flummoxed husband who had dared to voice that my eyes were bigger than my appetite. I proudly cut up my garlic and parsley and squeezed lemon over my conquest, proceeding to eat every bite of the two cans, savouring both my meal and the fact that I was proving my husband wrong.

I have not yet commanded my husband out on the clichéd midnight run, but I am convinced that this too will occur soon enough...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

To Pee is Key!

They say every pregnancy is different - even the pregnancies of the same woman. That makes sense as every child is different. One symptom that we all seem to share without fail is having to pee all the time. Once those little ones figure out how to use those kidneys, they start practicing like professionals. I never had a stealth bladder to begin with, so now half way through this weird and wonderful journey, I am waking up about four times a night to pee and can hardly get through a yoga class (why do they make prenatal yoga classes 90 minutes??).

One of the reasons I pee more often is that I get easily dehydrated- in terms of toilet time, it's a downward spiral. I've heard plenty of women staunchly avoid water and other liquids a few hours before going to bed. I'm against this rule - if your body needs water, don't deny it. However, my body doesn't even allow me the grace of making this decision as I get a merciless headache if I even attempt to stay parched for a little while. I'd rather troll down to the bathroom at night than have a thumping headache, so here's to toilet runs!

One symptom I haven't heard in the literature concerns the pungent smell of my pee. It seems I may be the only one or one of the few graced with this blessed symptom. At first, I thought my olfactory senses were particularly sensitive (a symptom I have noted innumerable times in the literature) but then one day my husband's scrunched up nose was dispositive of the case. "Have you been eating asparagus or something?" he wailed. Nope. My pee just smells. I feel sympathy for any poor soul that must go  straight after me. My only comfort is to believe that my body has become a ninja in expelling toxins and that's what super efficient pee should really smell like.

My urethra annals don't stop there. I became very concerned at the beginning of pregnancy, to the point of fearing sex, when I read that pregnancy heightens your risk of a UTI. Gulping my cranberry juice, I wondered each day after sex whether judgement day arrived. I'm a little more relaxed now that I've realized taking antibiotics for an infection will not regress my child to the Cambrian era but considering my earlier propensity, I remain wary.

My urethra has a scandalous history of housing bacteria squatters, to the point that I needed a urethral dilation. I was skeptical about the dilation at the time, as I had read that there were complications and more importantly, that it was merely a stop gap measure leading to more dilations. However, since my dilation over three and a half years ago, I've only had one UTI and haven't had a need for a second dilation. Go Doctor Y! To this day, however, I remain militant about peeing after sex- no post romantic cuddling with this urinary tract.

The last UTI I got, after three years of freedom, was due to the fact I flagrantly broke that golden rule - I didn't pee straight after sex. My husband and I had been staunchly not-trying-to-not -get-pregnant ( our preferred method to keep at bay our shared neurosis which sort of worked, although both us knew my iPeriod dates off by heart so we could pin point our baby's conception to the Super Bowl). I had stupidly followed my non-doctor friend's advice that peeing after sex would prevent or constrict conception. My first response to her scowl was to revert to my ninth grade biology studies - weren't they completely different holes? "It's still all about gravity" she countered. A smart cookie and usually on the money, I decided to see whether that was the trick. I even had my legs in the air. The result? No to baby. Yes to UTI. And boy did the Universe ensure I remembered it.

After two days of no symptoms, I happily thought that I had conquered and was waiting in line to board a direct flight to Vienna from JFK. Right at that merry moment, the burning and the need to pee started. I rushed to the toilet and knew that I was screwed. Why hadn't I packed precautionary Cipro? Why had I taken my friend's advice? There better be a baby in there, I internally growled as I politely asked the respectable middle aged woman next to me to switch seats so she could have my window and I her aisle as I explained that I would need to repeatedly use the toilet throughout the trip. To my surprise, she declined my offer. Throughout my flight, I had to nudge her awake to her increased angst so I could wade my way through to the bathroom. Hey, I warned you lady. My most particularly graceful moment was when I spilt a whole cup of water over my jeans so that when I rushed to the bathroom, it patently appeared that I had come a little too late to join the queue. The three people in front of me tried to avert their gaze but their curious eyes kept darting back to my crotch and I internally debated whether I should defend myself and point out that it was only an unfortunate spillage of water or simply whisper "I'm just really afraid of flying. That recent turbulence was a tough one!" In the end, I opted for the silent blank stare.

I had never been so happy to land as when my sleep deprived self set afoot in surgically clean Vienna. I had organized a trip with my airbnb host back to the apartment he was renting my friend and I and tried my utmost to not fall onto him and cry for a doctor.  By this time, I was shivering with pain. I managed to blurt out good morning and thanked him for picking me up before I began to wail for a doctor. He immediately called his partner to find out which doctors were working (it was a Friday morning and Vienna is not known to be Muslim, so I was surprised that it would be usual for them to close shop) and drove me to a clinic immediately. Thank you ever so much H!

I had great faith in the European medical system. I expected it to be efficient and free. The receptionist greeted me with a somewhat abrasive air, stating in perfect English that she did not understand English (I suppose she could have practiced that one sentence alone until she got it down pat and nothing else) and that I must communicate in German. After some wild gesticulations on my part due to the non-existence of my German (which consisted of bitte, danke, prost, nein, ja and something I could never repeat in a public place), a friendly American sitting in the open waiting room which already held more than twenty people according to my shrewd eye, came to my rescue and translated. I had to pay 100 euros in cash. It would be about ninety minutes. I was flabbergasted, but understood I had no leverage and hung my head low.

Serendipitously, a charming cafe was right next door with the best coffee and eggs I have ever tasted (their "Vienna Special") which I tried to enjoy through the increasing pain. I delved into my German app right away and armed myself with photos of phrases I needed to use with the rigid receptionist. Es is ein Notfall! Mir geht es schlechter! This all seemed rather commanding to me however. How do I explain in polite German that I needed assistance right away or I would get worse? By asking the couple next to me, who I wagered as Austrians, would know English pretty bloody well. They were a little stunned at my request but asked no questions, simply dutifully writing what I requested into my text box without pause. I thanked them in German and staggered back up to the receptionist. The photos of my phrases in tow, I started to read aloud in what could only have been terrible German as she quickly hushed me with flailing hands and asked in perfect English, "what is the matter?" I was a little uncomfortable relating my urethra issues in front of the whole waiting room so I stupidly pointed to my stomach and said it hurt. She raised an eyebrow and asked if I could be pregnant. I jumped at what I thought was my ticket in. "Yes! I could very well be pregnant!" I exclaimed. She shook her head. "In that case, we can't help you here. You have to go straight away to the hospital" she said matter of factly and returned to her paperwork. Nein, nein, nein! "Please", I stammered, "I know what I have, I just need antibiotics." She looked up at me with a disconcerting gleam in her eye. "Well if you know what you have, why do you need to see a doctor?" I was nonplussed for a second and then began to  surreptitiously stammer that I needed antibiotics and that I needed antibiotics for a UTI. She stood up. "You have what?" I whispered the cause of my distress again and she shook her head, confused. "We need a translator" she said and walked up to the American, who was still in his same seat in the open waiting room, heavily invested in his ipad. He ran up, happy to be of assistance. "So, what is the matter?" I averted my gaze. "I have a UTI." He blinked. "I have to look that up" he responded and turned back to his ipad. I have blocked out the German for UTI due to the incessant shouting that occurred right after he promptly (and quietly) informed the receptionist of my ill. "SHE HAS WHAT?" "SHE HAS (GERMAN PHRASE)?"( repeated three times, American simply nodding in embarrassment). "Hey Hilde, LOTS OF GERMAN WITH UTI SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE" (across the room). They ensured that everyone in the waiting room and possibly the cafe next door knew what I had. Welcome to Vienna. But it got me to the doctor and to antibiotics in no time.

After that burlesque, I went straight back to my militant after sex peeing and haven't had a UTI since. And our little one proved my friend wrong - sperm really do defy gravity.