Thursday, November 18, 2010


The title of this post roughly translates to the sound of the bean's heartbeat. Whisper it to yourself quickly, with short "o" sounds, at roughly the rate of 140 beats per minute. And that's the magical sound our little bean's heart makes as it flips around on the inside.

It is the best sound I have ever heard. Really. Ever.

I am 24 weeks today, and feel like a pretty good cliche. I have energy but I sleep well. I can eat a full meal and feel satisfied. Walking up a flight of steps is annoying but not totally exhausting. I crave chocolate but I also crave broccoli. I am hormonal but not totally off the deep end. I feel grateful that the bean is still warm and safe, and I don't yet feel annoyed with it for taking up so much space under my ribcage. And so far, I only get up to pee at most twice a night.

Despite all of this, despite the total unremarkable facts of this pregnancy, despite the fact that I have felt more or less okay since I passed the 16-week mark, the other day I had one of those horrible anxiety-ridden days where I just couldn't calm myself down.

The Anxiety Day came just after a very full weekend and a very long preceding week. Matt's return from Amman was fantastic. I felt like I'd never been so happy to have him home from somewhere. He came home on a Wednesday, the same Wednesday that I had my first ever work-related high-profile speaking engagement. That Thursday was my birthday, but it was also the beginning of a 3-day conference where I was supposed to remain intellectually engaged in the topics at hand while schmoozing with other lawyers. At the end of those three days, I went to work on a Saturday, and capped everything off with a birthday dinner, followed on Sunday by a football gathering at our place where I made too much food and worried that the invited guests wouldn't feel comfortable in our apartment.

I woke up on Monday feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. Which in my current state, translated to waking up and realizing the following impossibilities:
  1. There is no way I am going to be able to cram 7 months of work into the 4 months that I have left before I go on maternity leave. And even though I probably need to take it easy on myself, I can't slow down because I haven't yet talked to my boss about my post-maternity-leave plans, and I don't want to her to think that I'm a slacker.
  2. There is no way that Matt and I are going to be able to afford to pay for daycare and this apartment at the same time. Which is a problem because I want to think about decorating the baby's room, even just a little bit, even though it makes me feel superstitious, because it also makes me excited. Except that I can't think about decorating the baby's room if I don't know whether we're staying in this apartment, which I can't figure out until I know how much it will cost to send the kiddo to daycare, which I can't know until I figure out whether we're staying in this apartment.
  3. There is no way to balance all of the changes that Matt and I are going to face in our relationship with the changes that we're going to confront when the baby is born; it is impossible to prepare for such things, so we are likely doomed.
This culminated in the obvious: a total meltdown at Park Street Station while waiting for my train to arrive.

Matt rescued me from Kenmore and stayed silent while I ranted for the car ride home. He was silent for two reasons. For starters, I was yelling. But also because when I finally took a breath between high-decibel tear-infused frustration, he looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you're finally ready to talk about this stuff."


It turns out that Matt, like most dads-to-be (at least according to this valuable tome), think about all of these nitty-gritty details from the moment they find out that they're going to be someone's father. Moms-to-be, on the other hand, initially think about things like their changing bodies, and labor, and nurseries, and whether it's really okay to have sex in your pre-pregnancy favorite position. But eventually, all of us parents-to-be come to the same conclusion: having a baby is a giant mind fuck, and there's a lot that's going to change, a plethora of unanswered questions, and completely uncharted territory.

So my questions about where I'm going to live are other parents' questions about how to work out their call schedule. My concerns about getting all of my work done before maternity leave are other parents' nanny versus daycare conundrum. In typical Matt-Lizzi fashion, while I was spending my time marveling at the size of my breasts, Matt was patiently waiting for the day when I was ready to talk about things like our budget, our apartment, and our childcare options.

We had a long talk that night. It involved spreadsheets. We made a list of the things we need to do. We made some decisions. We made some decisions about not deciding. We reached out to some people who might have answers. We fell asleep on the couch totally exhausted. Matt read Superman to my belly.

I woke up the next day with the start of what turned out to be a 24-hour (plus) stomach virus, which I took to be my body's way of telling me to slow the F down, for REAL this time. And today I finally feel like myself again: 24 weeks pregnant, just as many unanswered questions as answered ones, and beating a steady pace inside me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Never on a Friday

The bus is packed. Bodies are pressed against bodies, windows fogged from the humidity of the rain outside coupled with the warmth of the people inside. Despite the fact that most people look showered and ready to work downtown, the bus smells like an old, wet dog. You spot the odor-culprit muttering to himself and rocking back and forth. Sighing, you heave your computer bag onto your shoulder and collect the various other bags containing your lunch, conference materials, and the cookies you're bringing in for a co-worker's birthday. You manage to grab onto a pole as the bus lurches to a start, and two of your bags swing dangerously close to the women sitting in front of you. She looks up, annoyed by the near-death encounter with your baked goods. You smile an apology, she takes in the fact of your bags, your exhaustion, and your swollen belly, and she returns comfortably to the book she was reading for the remainder of the ride.

"You're clearly and obviously pregnant now!," chirps the cheerful words from the baby website you read once a week to find out how big the baby is (the size of a Harry Potter book!). "People will smile at you on the street, give your belly unwanted pats, and stand up to give you their seat on the bus."

Except that there's a limit to even the nicest commuter's willingness to give up their seat, and I have found that it is correlated to two things: weather and day of the week. If it's raining on a Friday and you are so huge that you look like you're going to go into labor any second, be prepared to hold onto a pole while balancing 14 packages for an entire train ride, all while trying desperately not to wet your pants.

Sunny Mondays are the best. Filled with the good will of a weekend, event BU Frat boys will offer you their seat on the bus. Wednesdays and Thursdays are tricky. Women are more likely to give up their mid-week seat, more likely to stand up during the evening rather than morning commute, and are most likely to offer their seat if they are somewhere between the ages of 25 and 45. Younger women remain engrossed in their cell phones, and even when they look up, they will probably scowl the gross-ness of your condition, and then promptly return to their text message. Pregnant women are the most likely to give up their seat for other, more pregnant women, something that gives us a chance to smile at each other in a "don't other people suck?" kind of way. Most of the time, men aren't interested in giving up their seat. Chivalry is probably dead and apparently labor isn't hard enough. I'm pretty sure they're not remaining seated because they think that no good feminist would want them to stand, but I could be wrong. This is Boston, after all.

As a daily commuter, I vow to teach our children how to give up their seat for the elderly, the disabled, the exhausted-looking, the woman with a stroller, and the pregnant. I vow to teach my someday son to be chivalrous, to look up from his ipod (or whatever device) when people get on the train. I have every intention of becoming the woman who asks for a seat during my 10th month of pregnancy when it's snowing outside. But the next time it's raining on a Friday, I will probably drive.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What 6000 Miles Can Mean

For the past 10 days, Matt has been in Amman, Jordan. The trip is mostly business and partly pleasure, and it marks the longest amount of time that we’ve spent apart since I got pregnant. I spent a few days in Denver around the 16th week of my pregnancy, but there’s something inherently different about Denver and Amman. I think it’s probably the 6,903 miles that separate the two cities, but I could be wrong about that.

Matt was a mess before he left. I couldn’t figure out how to help him, how to calm him down, how to make him see that this trip would be an incredible experience, an opportunity that he simply couldn’t pass up, and one that truly couldn’t have come at a better time in my pregnancy (namely, before the baby was born). The night before he left he tossed and turned, anxiety crippling his features in a way that I have never seen in the 11 years we’ve been together. It was almost too much to bear, and I complained to Julie that I wish he’d just LEAVE already, because it was too hard to not understand what he was going through and not have any power to help him.

But I was talking to an old and dear friend about it over the weekend, and she was so insightful. “Being there for you is pretty much the only thing that Matt can DO at this point,” she said. “When he’s not there, then it’s almost like he’s not part of it, because he’s not growing that little person, not feeling the aches and pains, not going through the changes that you’re actually going through.” And all of a sudden Matt’s anxiety made sense. The one thing that he can do to usher us safely through this pregnancy is to help usher me safely through this pregnancy. It’s awfully hard to usher when you’re 6,000 miles away.

But the strangest thing about Matt being gone is that it’s forced me to spend some time alone with my own thoughts about pregnancy and motherhood. A few weeks ago, this would have been a very bad thing. I would have thought about all of the ways that I was already a terrible mother, because I was likely doing something terribly wrong to hurt our little bean. But now, a few good appointments under my belt, regular movement in my tummy, and the occasional visible-from-the-outside kick near my belly button, the thoughts aren’t all anxiety-laden. Even as I sit here licking the remnants of a Milky Way from my fingertips, I know that I’m not (yet) a bad mother.

But what I realized the other night was just as shocking to me as if the bean had screamed “I hate you!” from inside my uterus. I realized that I was okay. Rather, I realized that even with Matt not there, I was doing alright, and that the bean and I are a new lumpy little unit.

I can’t explain why this realization was so jarring to me, except to say that I will look back on it as the first time that I realized that I am actually going to be somebody’s mother. The mother to somebody who will need me for most moments of their first few months, somebody who will expect me to calm their fears, exalt their accomplishments, and be present for the little and big moments of their life. Someone who will have every right to expect my unconditional love, and who will someday shout at me for smothering them. It was both a terrible and an amazing realization, because it made me feel wonderful to feel so needed at the exact same time that it made me feel terrible for needing Matt a little less.

I haven’t shared any of this with Matt yet, so when he reads this post he’ll probably feel sad. It flies in the face of what it is that he probably feels like he can do to make this pregnancy easier for me. If I don’t feel like I need him when he’s gone, then what can he give me while he’s here?

The truth of the matter is that by leaving for Jordan, he gave me something he couldn’t have given me if he stayed. He gave me confidence. He reminded me that I’m strong enough to weather a long-distance relationship, that missing someone (for a little while) can be a good thing, that I can be the type of partner who recognizes a great opportunity for her husband when she sees one. But more than that, by leaving, he made me realize that I will be the kind of mother I want to be, the kind that fails (by her own standards) many many times, but succeeds many times too. I already know exactly what kind of father Matt is going to be, because he will be the man that I married, the man who loves me and our someday-bean unconditionally and feels anxious at the thought of not being able to be there for us. I am starting to realize that together, we’re going to make a pretty good team.

Matt will be home in 2 more days, just in time to celebrate my 32nd birthday. I can't wait for him to come home, can't wait to hug him and kiss him and see his face as he marvels at how much my belly has grown in the 12 days he was gone. I have no intention of being apart from him for the rest of this pregnancy; I AM better off when he's around. But in the interest of donning a pair of rose-colored glasses, of looking on the bright side (finally), I think that this trip was a good thing for all of us, for me, and even for our growing little bean.