Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cool things and kak things about being pregnant

Cool things

Discovering a support network that seemed to have been waiting for me my whole life. Theoni, yoga and hypnobirthing teacher and general pregnancy guru at the hub of it. If you are pregnant and live in Joburg, you must get in touch with her. From midwife to gynae to massage therapist and homeopath, I have been blessed with really caring, sensible professionals. When I hear some of the stories women go through, I wonder how I got so lucky.

Yoga. I joined a Kundalini pregnancy yoga class at about 10 or 11 weeks. Always an Iyengar kind of girl, this form has been great for me. I love all the chanting and breathwork, the meditations and the weird holding poses. My body has learned how to understand a full minute of intensity. The idea is that contractions only last about a minute, so if you remember holding your arms up in the air for agonisingly long, like you did in class, you understand presence and intensity in a different way. Several of the girls from the class have reported that this has really worked for them in their labours.)

Watching birth porn. I didn't do antenatal classes. Just the Hypnobirthing course. Couples meeting once a week for a month. Dads baffled but wanting to do the right thing. Women unsure what they want but knowing its not the medical route, not drugs and spinal blocks. Wanting to be present and conscious but, erm, no pain please. So there you are, nervous strangers discussing perineal massage, studying diagrams of the uterus, and watching birth porn. Yes, birth porn. In the normal antenatal classes they show you all the options. That means watching gruesome birth videos that make you blanch and reach for the phone to book a caesarian. In the Hypnobirthing course, they only show you footage of women having easy, comfortable, deeply relaxed and sometimes ecstatic births. And then there's Amber. Amber, standing in warm water, moves her hips in a spiral. Amber has a blissful smile on her face. As the baby descends she starts to moan. Not 'oh my god this hurts' kind of moaning, but I'm having a Really. Really. Good. Time. Kind of moan. Not Meg Ryan's moaning in When Harry Met Sally. Intenser than that, and softer. I'm not a prude, but I didn't really know where to look while Amber channelled the Milky Way through her spiraling heart and hips and had a lengthy spirit, body, cosmic orgasm. Whew. I want what Amber was having.

Nesting hormones. I have never been much of a domestic goddess. Bohemians are people who wash the dishes before meals, right? In the last few months I have been renovations supervisor, put-away-your-shoes-nazi and I've baked gluten brownies. I have a very beautiful new kitchen.

Perspective. I really don't give a damn about stuff I used to give a lot of a damn about. And its better this way.

Being ushered to the front of the queue. It only happened once, but it was a very good day for it to happen.

Random smiles from strangers.

Saving graces: Like flax seed oil for the tearful weeks, the forgetful so-called porridge brain. Tissue salts - they're safe and can treat an amazing range of stuff. Rescue remedy - without which I would probably be on trial for husband-icide.

Being right. All the time. Don't argue, its just true. You are. One is. I am.

Kak things

Yeast. Infections.

Relaxin hormones that make your joints unstable. Dislodging my sacro-iliac joint at about week 26 and still having to drive, teach, climb stairs and carry books for the three weeks that it lasted was very flippen sore. Thank you the Osteopath for making it go away. (Of course those hormones are really pretty cool. They loosen your ligaments so that pelvis can open and baby can get through easier. But its good to keep yourself fairly symmetrical, just in case.)

Working through your shit. Got parental, childhood issues? Who doesn't. Pregancy is a great opportunity to clear that stuff and clear it fast. You just don't have space for it anymore. Just warn your partner and watch for the emotional speed wobbles and aftershocks as you vaccuum your psyche. Like the last point, this could be under cool stuff. But my husband wouldn't put it there.

Overwhelm. Sometimes it doesn't take much to slide over the edge into a blubbering wreck. Just ask the parking official on campus that wouldn't let me park in the 'reserved' bay that I know never gets used, after I drove around for 30 minutes looking for a spot and was late for class. Just ask him. (Just ask my husband, poor pussycat)

Turning over in bed. Is so flippen hard! I'm really looking forward to lying on my tummy again.

People who want to tell you horror stories.

People who have random unasked-for advice.

Lost parking tickets. And words, and keys and cups of tea, and, supposedly, brain cells. The whole 8% thing? That pregnant women's brains shrink by 8% and they get stupider? Its a myth, ok? My sense is that your intelligence centre moves down from the head into the heart and solar plexus. I am much more forgetful, but also much more psychic and intuitive and 'smart' in ways I've never been. And right. Did I mention that I am right? Sigh. If only everyone agreed with me. Then they could be right too.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Writing about it

Well. If 26th of May was my last post, I must have a lot to say. I do have a lot to say. And its been muttering below the surface for months. Like a running commentary on what I could be saying if I had time to blog. A blubbering brook. No, that's not the right terminology. Although if you had an ear to my bedroom door some nights...

Its funny though. Its a harder subject than I thought it would be. Being pregnant. Universal, ineffable, particular. Lots of people get pregnant. Not lots of people write about it, certainly not well. Its such a strange, interior space. And so changeable. And so all consuming. Hard to find reality checks - is this interesting? Is this just pure complaining now? Who am I writing this for? Its like describing a fast moving river that you watch every day, and some days you are in it and some days it is in you, and somedays its just a boring mass of water moving along doing its thing.

I tried keeping a diary - a "one day I'll give this to you to read, my child" sort of diary. That was cute, for about a day.

But its weird writing for an imaginary reader who is so close and yet so unimaginable. I'd like to keep an honest document about what its like to be pregnant but I'm sure you don't want to read about your parents' sex life under the influence of hormones and whether or not your dad helped with perineal massage.

I couldn't get this image out of my head of my future child turning the pages of this notebook (and how long it took me to even select the right notebook to write in) and rolling his or her teenage eyeballs at every paragraph.

If a girl, well, how lovely, maybe she'll be pregnant one day and can have a document of all her mother's aches and rashes and cravings and insecurities and... and fights with her father, and yeast infections... er, no. Besides, I'm having a boy.

So, the diary is now a blurt place for all my angst, not fit for any sharing.

I didn't want this to be a blurt place though. Daily complaints of nausea and pants that don't fit and stresses about forgetting to do pelvic floor exercises. I wanted it to be like Anne Enright's hilarious book, Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood. Witty and tongue in cheek and full of solid, really useful advice (Her best chapter is called "How to Get Trolleyed While Breastfeeding")

But I'm not her. Sigh. So in the next few days before this wriggly little guy burrows his way out of here, I will do my best to piece together a few thoughts to answer the question an old friend asked the other day: "So what's it like being pregnant?" And for the rest, I will just see what comes up.

Disclaimer: that's not a promise. I am 38 weeks. He could come any day now. I've had a busy, active pregnancy thus far. But since I stopped working I have been mute and bovine. Oh who am I kidding. I have been that way for most of the past 8 months. Words skim past like agile fish and I swipe at them with clumsy paws, grasping at approximations. Oh, who needs precision anyway? Why search for "purple" when "blue", or even "green" will do? Oh, I've called you by your real name all your life, why do you mind if I suddenly call you Susan for no apparent reason?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Before you know it

At first, it was a sweetening of my senses that I didn't quite understand. A feeling in my stomach like I'd had too much lemon meringue pie, even though I was really hungry.

I went home in February. Mfuwe Zambia, still home to me even though I flew that coop long ago. As is always required, I popped in to the market to greet all and sundry, but mostly to pay my respects to Bridget in her little cement blockhouse shop. I stepped into the peering dark and she got up to dole out one of her fearsome hugs. Asked after sister Miranda and baby. Then the stern look. "And when are you having your baby?"
"Um, well..."(its complicated)
"You must pray for me, Bridget."
A long solemn stare.
"Its coming this year."
"What? No. Really?"
"Yes. you must be ready."
"Ok thanks, gee is that the time."

Going home is always good. My cells expand as the Joburg neurosis seeps away. I was ostensibly there to meet with Seka, the drama group that my sister has loved and laboured over for many years. We were planning a new production, a trip to Cape Town for the Out the Box puppetry festival, about which I shall post elsewhere another time.

Of weeing and elephants
We enact our rehearsal rituals under the big open sided structure with a steel-strutted warehouse roof that is waiting to be turned into a theatre. Thick February bush all around.
"Guys, you carry on, I'm just going for a wee behind the tree..."
Me walking in a straight line to said tree with neck turned, looking behind me as I walk.
"Woaha." Big elephant steps out from behind the anthill and said tree. Not going for a wee yet you're not.

But I am weeing a lot. A fact I ignore. I've always joked that I've got a bladder like a thimble. Waking in the night (three, four times?) to the sound of elephants tearing branches and chomping is something I don't get much of in Joburg. Unless I'm still asleep. And its always a pleasure to sit there and stare out the mosquito gauze and try to make out the outline, paler than the sky behind.

Raw egg mayonnaise
I'm hungry. Jeez I'm hungry. Its so much easier to get all kinds of food in Mfuwe these days. The market is well stocked. But lots of ingredients most people take for granted are not available close by. And I have residual childhood anxiety about where the next meal is coming from. I'm in Mom's kitchen trying to throw together some leftovers coz we haven't been to the market. The chicken skeleton from the braai "a couple of days ago", still fleshy in places.
"I know! Let's make chicken mayonnaise sandwiches."
"We don't have mayonnaise"
"Can't we make some? How hard can it be? You've got eggs. And lemons.
I've forgotten the recipe I once knew. Mom searches in the Nyasaland wives recipe book passed down from her mother. I'm charging ahead anyway, beating those eggs with a fork.
"Yolks only? Can't remember, ah what the hell, beat the lot."
When I read in the books later about food to avoid I can't help wondering about our delicious three-day old chicken with raw egg, sunflower oil and lemon juice. Salmonella? Pah!

Stomach like a hyena
In retrospect, once I'm tested and confirmed I realise that, yes, I have had a slight quease in the morning. But nothing like the horror nausea vomit in the nearest dustbin that I've heard some women complain about, my own mother included. Me I still head for the thick dark coffee and chilli sauce on toast for breakfast, no problem.

Or is it? There is a sweetysick tinge to everything, but I have a strong override on unwellness. I'm good at carrying on like its all fine. Only later, I realise. Duh.

Cocktail, anyone?
Going home means being in Zambia. Which means sundowners, beers, booze. Naturally. Going home means stopping in at Ross Sinclair (who know who you are) which means cocktails. Vodka and lots of stomach-stripping citrus. Oops. (When I read the books later, I'm told there are lots of women who have early trimester piss-ups before they're aware. ANd surely all that vitamin C cancels out the booze? Right? Right.)

What's that smell though?
I can smell everything. I can smell your toes in your socks in your shoes. I can smell the river's rotting feet. I can smell a cigarette across the dambo. I can smell a diesel engine before I can hear it. Don't get me started on the actors.

Oh that's what it is.
When I eventually do the maths, I know I don't need the pee-stick. I know. Its obvious, now. Should have been obvious seven weeks ago but, you know, I lead a busy life.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

This is a baby blog, ok? Its about being pregnant and surfing the hormonal Big Wave. Its about the fear that grips at 3 am when I am wide awake because my body is apparently 'practicing' for the wee-hour breastfeeding sessions. Its about surges of unexpected heart cracking and the sudden alarming way I have started grinning at other people's babies in prams, even the ones that already look middle aged and corporate. Later, if I last that long, it will be about the creature on the outside. No doubt I will discuss whether bamboo re-usable nappies are better than hemp ones. I will have an opinion about sleep training.

Now I know many of you are contemptuous of this, and I too have yawned and clicked on through when encountering many of those 'isn't-little-widgum-cute-and-what-a-pretty-poo-he-did-today' blogs. oh yeah. who the fuck cares.

Writing about boring baba routines has to involve some sort of alchemy if its going to be even vaguely interesting for others. All that mechanical wiping and plugging in dreary sleep haze has to be transformed through a crucible of humour or lyricism to deserve a place in cyberspace, ne?

Er, no promises there. This is the internet baby, s'up to you to sort through the trash. No really, that's why I've separated it out. Fleeing Muses as the net that will still strive to catch those fugitive moments of inspiration. For the part of me that is afraid that the independent artist activist lifestyle is going to shrivel like an exhausted testicle. This one here will be about Mommy stuff. Or, differently put, that blog is the arty, this one is the farty. (Actually, the real reason I'm doing it is for Fush. I want to keep him as a reader. I'm sifting out the nappy talk for him.)

So, who's the Owl, who's the Pussycat you ask? Of course you do.
Obviously, Owl is yours truly. Wide-eyed not from wisdom but overwhelm. Slightly skeptical and beaky and with a fearsome propensity to swoop down and dig claws into things that go scurry in the night.

And sometimes, that means Pussycat. Now he's not all cute and rubbing his cheek against your trouser leg mind you. In spite of his Taurean earthiness, his love of naps, stroking and a good bit of sushi, he also has claws and a hiss. And you should hear him yowl when he's ruffled the wrong way.

So there we were, having stopped up all the leaks in the beautiful peagreen boat. Well most of them. Still had some honey, and well, not exactly plenty of money, and we have eyed the five-pound note a couple of times but managed to hang on to it for now. The runcible spoon still serves us well, and has many more uses than we initially imagined. As we danced by the light of the moon.

And then there was a bump.