Saturday, March 31, 2012

No Booze for You!

Non-alcoholic wine (aka grape juice) is made more
tolerable in a high-heeled shoe bottle holder,
both a gift from girlfriend Beth.

I have an experiment in mind. I'd like to walk up to a bartender, literally bellying up to the bar as my pregnancy arrives anywhere well before I do, and order an alcoholic beverage.

I hope I would get a response akin to the Soup Nazi on "Seinfeld": "No booze for you!"

Like most reasonable people, I don't think a small glass of wine every once in a great while during pregnancy is the end of the world. Regularly having a glass of wine -- or four -- is a problem.

And forget dirty martinis, my favorite cocktail. Whether hard liquor is that much more damaging to a fetus isn't my issue. It just seems tacky.

Lots of moms recount tales of finding out they were pregnant after they had imbibed at some fabulous party, the details of which they can remember only because someone posted the pictorial evidence on Facebook. Many an obstetrician has soothed a panicky (and possibly hungover) mother-to-be with assurances that as long as she didn't continue such behavior, everything was going to turn out fine.

I was slightly surprised that giving up alcohol seemed relatively easy this time around. I am the parent of a teenager, after all, which can drive anyone to drink. (Prohibition was more difficult with my first pregnancy, as it pretty much crimped celebrations during my senior year of college.) I even cut back while I was trying to conceive.

Unfortunately, I recently became a member of Chaine des Rotisseurs, a supper club of sorts that pretty much revolves around wine. Events can be rather steeply priced, to cover the cost of said elixir, which seems wasted on a woman who can't even enjoy it. Luckily, my local chapter's bailli is willing to give me a price break.

For most of my pregnancy, I haven't really craved any alcohol. Well, except for one colossally stressful night when my husband found me sobbing in the sunroom, a full wine glass in one hand and an unlit cigarette in another. He pried both away and wisely left me there to bawl it out.

But as my due date approaches and the weather gets more beautiful, I'm beginning to feel twinges. My fingers involuntarily curl as if around a glass stem. My ears hear imaginary ice cubes tinkling together. My lips pucker for a big swig of olive juice swirling in a vat of vodka.

Those twinges had better go away. I'm planning on breast feeding, and I've yet to find a sippy cup that doubles as a cocktail shaker.

Perhaps we'll have some success with pumping and bottle feeding, which could mean that mommy gets her own big girl bottle of booze for an evening. But I think that would just be a first step in me wanting it all the more and bringing an untimely end to breast feeding.

I'll have to let you know how the bartender experiment goes.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Code 10-10: Officer Needs Help

One of the sexiest things a woman can hear is her partner telling her children, "Hey, listen to your mother."

When my husband says this, I get momentarily distracted from whatever harping is causing my teenager's eyes to roll. I have to pause a moment and give a prayer of gratitude for what we all need:


In the newsroom, we sometimes hear a dispatcher on the scanner asking if police need more units wherever they are responding. Co-parenting is a lot like this. Someone with impressive authority, quick response time, and serious weaponry is truly appreciated when a situation gets overwhelming.

Tangling with teenagers is not for the weak. Mine happens to stand more than a foot taller than me too, so eye-to-eye confrontations work only when he cooperates.

I usually hold my own with him quite well. He trends on the obedient side of the spectrum anyway. Yet he is still a child, and I am still a parent, and there are days when recalibration is needed.

Sometimes I'm off my game, or sometimes that kid simply loses his mind and thinks he can grumble or guff his way out of it. Either way, it becomes quickly evident that we are both in need of a rescue, me from floundering and him from himself.

Enter the other adult, and the power balance shifts with a heavy thud.

"Listen to your mother" is code for "Shut your mouth." It means the child has crossed a boundary, and the mother's partner isn't going to stand for it a moment longer. It means, "I don't care if she's cranky or wrong or irrational, I'm on her side, period. You have several years yet to figure out how you're truly going to become an independent person who is responsible for himself, but only one more second to realize that you are going to listen to the entire rant, nod your head, apologize, and then perform whatever rectifying behavior she wishes."

Depending on the sharpness of the tone, it also can mean that the child is about to raise the stakes -- and lose. The co-parent is signaling that while it may have taken that long to exhaust one parent's patience, the other one's fuse is shorter. The child has forfeited whatever reasonable and commensurate consequence the first parent was trying to mete out and is about to incur some serious wrath, not only for what he did in the first place but also for bringing distress to a beloved partner.

The phrase could just mean, "Good grief, I can't stand the sound of her high-pitched ragging anymore either, so just say yes and get it over with so I can watch TV in peace, please."

It's all good, as far as I'm concerned. It satisfies what I need in that moment, which is some help.

This is why single parenting can be challenging. Single mothers are not less successful at mothering than married ones. In fact, it may be the contrary because they have to try that much harder to keep it all together.

What's really missing in their parenting experiences is the other cop standing just behind them, badge gleaming and hand lightly resting on a holster. The confidence, the validation, the mere assistance of "Listen to your mother" is an advantage partnered parents have.

What my son doesn't know is that when he leaves the room after a conversation has been wrapped up by the utterance of, "Hey, listen to your mother," the gleaming-eyed shrew that was his angry mom suddenly melts into a love-struck, doe-eyed wife who smothers her husband with kisses.

It's truly a magical phrase.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

You Are What You Wear

Preggo, for posterity. (Photo by Amy E. Voigt)
Dear clothing manufacturers:

You do know that most pregnant women get bigger in other parts besides their bellies, right?


Short Fat Me

Shopping has been my drug of choice for quite some time now, primarily shoes. Smartly designed clothes that are easy to launder and flatter my full figure are a close second. They also are easier to pass off as a necessity. Shoes (and purses and jewelry, oh my) are busting my closet open like an episode of "Hoarders."

Certainly getting new maternity clothes could pass as healthy behavior. I might even get a codependent spending spree out of my mother.

However, shopping for maternity clothes has been nothing but a buzz kill.

Some women buy new clothes in the hopes of masking their pregnancy as long as possible. Maybe their relationships or career objectives otherwise would be thrown into chaos, or maybe they want to hold onto their privacy as long as possible.

Some women refuse to accept that their body parts are going to puff up into wonky, ill-balanced shapes. These women buy Spanx garments well into their second trimester and beyond.

To each her own, but the last thing I wanted to feel like as a pregnant woman was a sausage stuffed into polyester casing. And I was anxious for the beach ball belly to become evident. I'd rather have someone look at me and think, "Oh, she's pregnant" instead of, "Oh, does she really think she can pull off that look with that muffin top?"

In the beginning, I traipsed off to a department store that had faithfully outfitted several family members for years. To my horror, half of the maternity collection was essentially yoga garb, and anything else that might have been suitable for the office was sized in either Small or Medium. Mostly Small.

I haven't been "Small" since grade school. My breasts alone weren't ever going to fit into those tops, never mind a burgeoning tummy. To make matters worse, I already was a "plus-size" gal, dealing with the guilt of not seriously slimming down before conceiving. Pregnancy books had promised me that maternity wear had come a long way in recent years, but the message in the actual stores was clear: Only women who started as a size 2 deserved to have clothes that celebrated motherhood.

I had hoped to find a voluptuous, understanding friend in maternity wear. I instead found a skinny bitch who took advantage of my raging hormones and turned me into a sobbing freak who ran out to her car and promptly ordered a pizza.

Food carried me through my shopping withdrawal for a while. I managed to dress myself in selections from specialty stores that understood short, fat women existed in the world, but let's do the math: Coping with pizza and advancing in pregnancy eventually exacerbated the need to get actual maternity clothes.

I generally do not patronize giant discount stores, but I decided to try the least offensive of them. The maternity section there was the saddest little corner of the world I had ever seen. Four racks of completely unwearable fashions made out of ridiculously uncomfortable fabrics. There were a few pairs of pants that had larger waistbands, but they also had legs long enough for an 8-foot-tall Amazon woman. Another strikeout.

A consignment shop had decent enough clothes, since they once had been worn and then sold by actual women with actual bodies, but again not much in the plus sizes. I did pick up a cute purse, though.

Then I broke down and tried the maternity store in the mall. Big mistake. Their bras were made for the chest of a 10-year-old and the cutely patterned fashions graced sizes reserved for personal trainers. Far in the back was a meager selection of plus-sized garments made from unnatural materials that made me sweaty just looking at them. A few solid-colored basic T-shirts were possibilities, until I looked at the outrageous price tag. There ought to be a special hell for exploiting the budget of a pregnant woman.

I turned to online shopping in desperation, never having had much success with clothes I hadn't been able to try on first. But there were pleasant surprises, even a few tops cute enough to garner compliments. The leggings were a bit on the jodhpurs side, but the outfits got me through the winter.

When spring sprang early in my neck of the woods, I needed to find some dresses. No more pants, please. No more anything that had a waistband. I was pretty big by then and uncomfortable in all sorts of ways, and I was staring to hallucinate that wearing my mu-mu nightgowns to work would be perfectly acceptable.

My salvation was discovered in a national chain that builds its collections for all ages around easy-to-wear, jersey-knit separates. I found trendy, well-shaped, plus-sized dresses in which both my skin and my lungs could breathe. The local store in our area doesn't have a maternity section, but there is one online. A few coupons and an extra-lucky holiday sale later, I looked like a professional, presentable pregnant woman, while I felt like a relaxed, comfortable kid at a slumber party wearing a giant T-shirt as pajamas.

I was finally high again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Can't Drive 55

My teenage son says I have a "road dial."

From what I gather, it's the volume of rage I have during a driving commute. My freedom of expression has increased concurrently with his age; Gabe and I are both at 15 these days.

My self-assessment is that I'm a good driver. My parents both drove professionally, I had several weeks of driver's ed back when the local schools actually taught it, and none of the wrecks in which I've been involved were my fault.

Every other driver? An idiot.

I am determined that Gabe is going to be a good driver. Farm kids tend to learn early on lawn mowers and tractors, so I'm sure his skill will be acceptable. It's his awareness of other drivers, his commitment to gracious merging, and his willingness to get out of the way of faster travelers that will need to be actualized.

This is not going to happen in 24 hours of classroom instruction and eight hours with a certified driving instructor, which happen to be Ohio's minimum education requirements before testing for a driver's license.

It's not going to happen with him driving me around while he has his learner's permit, either. I'm seven months pregnant and not about to entrust his younger brother's yet-to-be life to a novice driver, or burden Gabe with any guilt of injuring his mother. Nor would it be good for Gabe to have a pierced eardrum from his control-freak mother screaming, "Don't you know what a turn signal is!?"

My only recourse now, since someone else will have to cowboy up and supervise his actual driving practice, is to nag him continually while I am driving and he is a passenger.

"Be careful in this intersection. It's hard to see oncoming traffic."

"Do you see what that car just did, cutting off that semi truck? Don't you ever do that."

"Four-way stops are not rocket science. Go when it's your turn. The person on the right has the right of way. That's why it's called 'right.'"

Gabe replies nearly every time with, "I know, I know." This usually gets me snapping along the lines of, "Well, what I know is that I'm your mother and it's my job to tell you these things." He's usually quiet again for a few miles.

I chatter on.

"If I ever catch you racing down residential streets where kids walk home from school and dogs can dart out of yards, I'll ground you until you have gray hair in your ears."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Am Mommy, Remixed

I'm not sure what it is about me that consistently draws the question: "So, is this your first baby?"

Maybe it's the way I waddle, or my fatigued replies to any social invitation. I attribute both to being in my late-30s and working full-time at a stressful job. Others seem to think that it must be because this pregnancy business is all new to me.

Hardly. I gave birth to a baby boy nearly 16 years ago. Weighing in at 9 pounds at his first breath, Gabe is now taller than 6 feet and talks a lot about getting his driver's license. He already drives tractors at my parents' farm, he has a paying job as the nursery attendant at our church, and he is in charge of picking up dog doo in the yard and mopping the kitchen floor.

Somewhere between my first nursing bra and this day, I raised a boy into a relative man. This is explored and charted territory.

Yet having a second baby a decade and a half later indeed can feel like the first time all over again. I am a different person, physically and mentally. I am in a different marriage, different career level, different state of residence.

In some ways, it's like mooning the parole board. I'm so close to the end of my sentencing as a legally responsible parent, and I go and commit an act that is going to keep me behind crib bars for even longer.

In other ways, it's reassuring. I'm having another boy, so I already know that carrying him around like a duffel bag by his overalls suspenders isn't going to do any long-term damage.

Still, the age gap raises a few eyebrows. When I get the "is this your first" question, my answers range between a simple "no" and "well, sort of" -- peppered occasionally with a tart, "It's the first as far as you know, since you don't know me well enough to realize I already have a teenager but feel comfortable asking me such questions anyway."

Pleasantly, some resulting conversations introduce me to other mothers whose children are far apart in age. These women seem no worse for the wear.

Other mothers are intent to get all parts of certain stages of child-rearing done at once. When diapers are done, diapers are done.

Even in families who add children in typical two- to three-year increments, if they add enough they can have both dynamics: a large gap between the oldest and the youngest as well as close age-mates. I am the fourth of five siblings. To my parents, this meant they were in "adolescent hell" for 20 years.

Gabe has desired a sibling since he was about 4 years old, just about the time a kid starts noticing relationships and figuring out differences among friends. He even told me that I could probably find a baby at our farm, "because that's where things grow." I seriously considered digging out my old Cabbage Patch doll from storage at that point.

He had to wait nearly 16 years to get one, but he's not all that fazed by it. My dad and his younger brother are about that far apart in age, and Gabe sees firsthand the benefits of their adult sibling life, like when they borrow tools. He doesn't know about the time little Johnny punched big Jim square in the nose because he was barricading his path to the bathroom, but I'm sure my boys will come up with their own ways of pestering each other.