Oh, food.

I’m a person who likes food.  I’ve always appreciated a good snack, and consider chocolate to be one of my closest friends.  These days, though, I spend almost as much time thinking about the contents of my stomach as the contents of my uterus.

As you know, there’s the cheese.  Cheese, once delicious, has lost its status as a preferred food.  Having discovered this unfortunate aversion, I’ve experimented a little to refine what it includes: Parmesan is fine in moderation, artificial cheese flavoring (including on mac and cheese from the box) is good, melted cheese is bad, Cheddar is terrible, melted Cheddar is the worst, pizza is acceptable (but only sometimes) if the cheese product is processed to the extent that it doesn’t smell or taste real.  Not complicated at all.

Thankfully, at 8 weeks and 5 days, morning sickness has yet to come my way.  Or, at least, it’s been confined to vague queasiness.  This queasiness is most pronounced before meals, however, and largely dictates what is delicious and what is terrible.  I have strong feelings about food.  Strong, inconsistent feelings about food.  It makes choosing lunch an adventure.

Sea finds the foods I crave hilarious: green vegetables, all the time.  Broccoli, green beans, and asparagus are particularly delicious.  Goldfish crackers, which I previously ate about once or twice a year have become a staple of my diet.  I wonder now how I was previously so oblivious to the fact that they are pretty much the best food.

While– beyond the aforementioned categories– food often doesn’t sound delicious, I’m hungry all of the time.  Sea also finds this pretty funny.  I eat breakfast, get to work, and am hungry again.  Half an hour after eating, I’ll unthinkingly say something about how hungry I am.  I’m currently trying to wait patiently for dinner, while simultaneously considering a trip to the kitchen for some more Goldfish crackers.  I carry snacks in my bag at all times.

Despite having heard a lot about pregnancy and food, I find my own body’s relationship to these things disconcerting.  Commiserate with me here, blog friends.  What were/are your cravings?  What were/are your aversions?  What food lurks/lurked at the bottom of your bag for urgent snacking needs?

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L’Chaim

In the evening, I sat with my family for our Passover Seder.  My wine glass was filled with blackcurrant juice, carefully selected to match the red wine that filled the other glasses.  In the kitchen I had mumbled a carefully rehearsed excuse about antibiotics, conveniently echoed by an old friend who was also there.  The Seder began:

“Let us be thankful, as we light these candles, for this moment of peace.”

My Good Friday had begun with a visit to Clinic One.  In the waiting room, Sea texted The Doctor, asking her to pray.  I faced the large fishtank and Mecca, closed my eyes, and drank some Holy Water.  A minute later we were called in by Diana for the ultrasound.

“Let us be grateful for children and for the work of the week that is our fruitfulness.” 

As I took my pants off, Diana answered the phone in the corner of the room.  “I’ll be right there,” she said, “this will only take a minute”.  A minute?  She prepared the ultrasound wand in record speed and told me to lie down.  I reached out and squeezed Sea’s hand quickly.

Diana hit buttons on the ultrasound machine: the quiet beeping was the only sound in the room.  The screen was facing away from me, and I asked if I could see what she was doing.  “In a minute.”, she replied and Sea explained that she was still measuring.  “Does everything look okay?”, I asked, “Is it bigger?”  Sea replied that the embryo looked the same to her, but Diana reassured me that the embryo was, in fact, bigger and that everything looked good.

“We have arrived at a time of year when everything is growing and opening.”

Finally, the technical work done, Diana turned the screen to face us.  Bingo was bigger, though still not discernibly human-shaped.  At the last ultrasound the heartbeat had been large and obvious on the tiny Bingo.  Today, it flickered in the centre of a much larger frame.  Wanting confirmation, I asked where the heartbeat was.  “There”, Diana responded, moving the ultrasound wand slightly and pointing to that flickering.  The heartbeat is now 152 beats a minute.  Strong.

In a hurry, Diana finished the ultrasound quickly.  As she handed us the new photo, she commented, “Your baby is cute!”  A milestone!  The first time somebody has lied to us about how cute our child is: at 7 weeks and 5 days gestation.

“Let us experience the people and events of our lives as if they were new to us.”

Dr. Text was at Clinic One, and in a better mood than at our last visit.  He asked about how I was feeling, and I told him that I was fine.  I explained that I had only had a bit of nausea, and that I hadn’t been vomitting at all.  “I can write you a prescription for the nausea.”, he responded.  “Uh, no, I’m fine.”  Other than that the visit was brief.  He increased the dosage of my thyroid medication, and we joked about selling Bingo on eBay.  Then we were sent on our way, told to return for another ultrasound in two weeks.  In the world of fertility clinics, two weeks somehow seems like a very long time to go without medical intervention.

“Let us drink a special toast to our children: may your lives be rich and satisfying.  May you work to build, with people everywhere, a world of peace.”

In the evening, I sat with my family for our Passover Seder.  They laughed about how there were no children present to ask the four questions or to find the broken Matzoh– that the “children” were now all in their 20s and 30s and that we would have to wait for the next generation.  I smiled and drank the last of my blackcurrant juice during the final toast,

“L’Chaim– to life”.

Total Ultrasound Count: 30

Partner’s Post: Bingo

Tonight, PartnerA and I Skyped PartnerA’s parents. The script that we had practiced in advance of this call included the words ‘we’ and ‘our’ in every sentence to tacitly reinforce to PartnerA’s already-skeptical mother that regardless of its genetic makeup, PartnerA’s and my child is PartnerA’s and my child. Our embryo and someday-child has two parents and two parents only — and PartnerA’s mother, contrary to some opinions, is not one.

The rehearsed plan was to catch both of her parents mid-conversation at the point when they exchanged seats in front of the webcam. But that didn’t quite work out so well because upon completing a lengthy conversation with PartnerA’s mother (during which PartnerA’s mother referred to PartnerA as “child” twice), she announced that PartnerA’s father was in the midst of making dinner and was too busy to chat. PartnerA insisted, so PartnerA’s mother disappeared to the kitchen. Moments later, she returned, sans Daddy. Again, PartnerA’s mother reiterated that PartnerA’s father was too busy making dinner to talk. Again, PartnerA insisted and again, PartnerA’s mother disappeared to the kitchen. Moments later, PartnerA’s father appeared in front of the computer, sans Mummy. Dude! Getting those two into the same room is impossible.

That’s when PartnerA made the spontaneous decision to ditch the plan and launch into our script. She caught me off guard, but I squeezed her hand out of view of the webcam and rolled with it.

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Just don’t tell me about the syringe you used.

Today was a busy day of telling.

It began with my aunt, who is more like a third parent. I called her this morning and, in thanking her for money she had given us a couple of months earlier, I told her what it had been used for and that I was pregnant.  She was thrilled.  She asked when we were due and whose eggs we had used (in preliminary conversations with family members we had maintained the possibility of using IVF with Sea’s eggs).  We answered the first question and not the second, and the call ended with many more congratulations.

Next we told a couple of friends, a friend couple.  Sea has a very locked down Facebook album with the ultrasound photo and one future baby announcement, which she gave said friends access to this morning.  Within fifteen minutes they had liked and commented on the photos and within twenty minutes they had texted to ask if they could come over.  An hour later they stopped by our house briefly with congratulations and this book.

The big announcement, though, was later in the day: Sea and I had agreed to tell my parents.  We had even agreed on how we would tell them—on Skype while they were both in the room, we would tell them.  Then only my mother appeared on my screen, and told me that my father was too busy cooking dinner to speak to us.  I refused this information, and told her to go and get them.  He reappeared without her, and we realized that trying to get them in the same place at the same time was a little too much like herding cats to be feasible.  So we told him first.  The conversation:

Us: “We have some exciting news.  We’re having a baby.”

Dad: “What?  You’re planning to have a baby? Or you are having a baby?”

Sea (muttering in my ear): “You explain it.”

A: “We’re having a baby.  I’m pregnant.”

Dad: “Who’s pregnant?  You?  A?”

A: “Yes, I’m pregnant.”

Dad (laughing, excited): “Bingo! [pause] Just don’t tell me about the syringe you used.  Don’t tell me anything.”

A couple of minutes later he went to get my mother.

Mother: “Dad tells me you have some exciting news?”

Us: “Yes, we have some exciting news.  We’re having a baby.”

And then we realized that my mother definitely did not know before that moment.

I actually captured the exact moment of realization in a screenshot: my mother’s arms in the air and her mouth a shocked “o”: I wish this blog wasn’t anonymous so that I could share it with you all.

My mother began squealing and oohing incoherently.  A few minutes later, slightly more composed, she asked if I was the one who was pregnant.  We confirmed that I was, and then the questions began.  When are we due? Did we use an anonymous donor?  A fertility clinic?  Whose eggs did we use?  How long was the process?  Why didn’t I tell her?  How could we have stayed in a hotel room together without me telling her?  Who else knows?  My aunt already knows?  Why did we tell her first?  Am I still riding my bike?  Is Sea feeding me enough green vegetables?

We had expected these questions and had answers prepared.  We’re due in November.  Yes, we used an anonymous donor and a fertility clinic.  We’re not telling people whose eggs we used.  The process took several months.  We weren’t telling anybody.  A couple of friends know and we told my aunt this morning.  The timing made it easier to tell my aunt first.  I am still riding my bike.  We’re both taking care of ourselves and each other.

A couple more questions followed, still in a near shriek.  She told me that she wouldn’t tell anybody, but that she would think of little else.  And then the conversation was done.  Sea and I high-fived and hugged.

And with that, in a single day, we’ve doubled the number of people who know.  I’m exhausted.

Passing on Passover.

Both Sea and I come from families with mixed religious histories: a quirky blend of Atheism, ambivalent Christianity and Judaism.  We celebrate Christmas, but also light the Chanukiah.  Sea eats Cadbury Creme Eggs with abandon, and my family (one of my favourite cousins) hosts a Passover Seder.

This year’s Passover Seder is a week away.  For those of you unfamiliar with its traditions, one of them involves drinking four glasses of wine.  My family’s Seder is a radical freedom Seder, which sacrifices a lot of the text and traditions in favour of feminism, queer-inclusivity and anti-Zionism.  One of the things it doesn’t sacrifice, however, is the drinking.  You can drink more or less than four glasses, but you will be drinking red wine.

To date, I’ve been saved from having to explain why I’m not drinking by the fact that I don’t drink ever.  I don’t like alcohol, and I don’t drink it in my regular goings on.  Passover is the exception: I have never refused the Passover wine.

We’re not ready to tell the cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and random neighbours who attend the Seder that we’re having a kid.  They’ll know eventually, of course, but not until some point in the second trimester.  I would rather they not find out from the untouched glass of wine sitting conspicuously at the side of my plate.

So, what do I do?  Again, this isn’t an occassion where simply saying, “I’ll skip the wine” is kosher.  I could:

a) Lie and claim to be on antibiotics, which will lead to nosy relatives asking about my health.

b) Bring grape juice and try to sneakily pour myself a glass in the kitchen.

c) Sacrifice tradition, pass on the wine, and hope nobody pries.

d) Do something else that I haven’t thought of, that one of you brilliant people will suggest.

And yes, I know that one glass of wine is unlikely to stunt our fetus, but I’d rather not get something the size of a blueberry drunk.

Thoughts?

The twenty-ninth/first ultrasound.

Sea’s neat writing on the calendar marked today’s big event:

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This morning was the first ultrasound.

Confession: I had spent most of yesterday terrified, convinced that I was going to see blood every time I went to the bathroom, worried that we wouldn’t see anything today.  But this morning I woke up less afraid and more excited.  We had breakfast, packed up the holy water, and headed out the door.

We were called in for the ultrasound quickly, by one of the ultrasound technicians I rarely see.  The room was the same one where I had had my first Clinic One ultrasound, months ago.  Under the dim lights the piles of paper sheets and endless baby pictures taped to the walls looked the same, only now the ultrasound technician was smiling and Sea was coming to sit in the chair beside the table.  I quickly took a sip of the holy water and went to lie down.  The ultrasound technician found the sac and, smiling and making approving noises, began to take measurements.  A couple of minutes later she turned the screen towards me and Sea: she pointed out the yolk sac, the embryo and, then, the beating heart.  I may have said “wow”.  I may not have said anything.  I don’t remember: all I remember is that pulsing dot on the screen.  Too quickly she turned the screen back towards her and finished the measurements.  As I sat up, I told her that we had wondered about twins given the high beta numbers and that, honestly, I was relieved to see just the one overachieving embryo.  “Hmm, let me take another look”, she responded, practically shoving me back down on to the table.  She did another scan of my uterus, but the embryo remained a lone wolf.

As I pulled my pants back on and Sea and I turned to leave the technician pushed a printout into our hands: “Here, take your baby.”

After that we met with the fourth doctor, Dr. Text having decided not to show up to work today.  The fourth doctor seems somehow less competent in comparison to the bored professionalism of the others, and I watched skeptically as he fiddled with the paper due date calculator on his desk.  According to the fourth doctor, we’re due on November 10th (though all calculators I’ve used say the 11th).  We’re to come back in a week for another ultrasound, and then for another two weeks after that.  NT scan at 12 weeks and then a referral to an OB.  I told the fourth doctor that I would be seeing my own doctor next week, and that we hadn’t yet decided between an OB and a midwife.  He took this in stride and sent us on our way with a quick congratulations and instructions to get another blood test to check my TSH levels.

The woman taking my blood asked me if I was a Catholic and talked about Sunday mass, while cheerfully taking blood from the back of my hand.  Then we were done.  We left Clinic One and headed to our respective offices, that first photo tucked neatly into the front pocket of Sea’s purse.

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Total Ultrasound Count: 29/1

Expectant mothers.

About six months ago I told my mother, half-jokingly, that I wanted to go to a theme park for my 30th birthday.  Immediately enthused about the possibility of a mother-daughter trip, she had started researching and making plans.  Every week she would call me and ask if I had decided on the trip and I would deliberate, procrastinate, and promise to tell her the following week.  Then January’s cycle failed and, convinced that my uterus was a barren wasteland, I told my mother that I wanted to go.

Six days before the IUI that worked, my mother booked our tickets as my 30th birthday present.  Six weeks pregnant, I found myself sitting next to her on a plane as she asked about when grandchildren would be forthcoming.

You may have gathered that Sea and I have been deliberating about when to tell people.  Sea is a lot more cautious than I am, and would rather wait until 12 weeks before telling anybody.  I agree with her generally, but think that there are exceptions to every rule: doctors, a few close friends, the internet, my parents (Sea’s parents are a totally different story, for many reasons).  After some discussion, Sea and I agreed that we would tell my parents.  Though we decided that we would make the announcement jointly, she left me to decide whether the announcement would happen before or after the birthday trip.

On the plane, my mother took a break from telling me about the minutia of her daily life and asking about grandchildren in order to use the closet-sized airplane bathroom.  The stranger sitting on the other side of me turned to me and said, “You’re such a good daughter, sitting and listening to your mother talk”.  In that moment, I was so relieved that Sea and I had decided to wait until after the trip to tell my parents.  Spending four days alone with my mother– several hours of those days sitting next to each other in the confined space of the plane’s cabin– is overwhelming enough without that reveal thrown into the mix.

My mother.  My mother loves me intensely.  She refers to me and her sister as her two favourite people in the world, ignoring the fact that she also has a husband and another child. She talks constantly and cries easily.  She calls me every week and wants to know every detail of what I’ve been doing.  When I came out, she sent me a pair of rainbow socks and a card saying, “You’re different.”  She resents Sea, though pretends not to.  She would, and does, give me everything.  She wants more from me: more affection, more communication, more attention.  She is incredibly giving and incredibly needy.

To summarize my relationship with my mother, let me tell you a story: a few years ago my mother asked her lesbian friend how said lesbian friend’s son had been conceived (I forgot to include, my mother is also nosy).  The lesbian friend told my mother that she had gone to a feminist sperm bank in California– nowhere even near where we live.  Telling me about this, my mother enthusiastically informed me that I should do the same when the time came for me to have children.  She also told me that she would go with me, and that we would make a vacation of it.  I had to explain to my mother that one’s partner, not one’s parent, is usually the one there at the moment of conception.  She seemed disappointed.

And now I was on a plane, wedged between my mother and a sympathetic stranger, listening to my mother talk about how she wants a grandchild (complete with suggestions on how to procure said grandchild).  I was also five and half weeks pregnant and headed to a theme park where every ride came complete with this warning:

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Going to a theme park and foregoing all rollercoasters was fine: there were plenty of stationary attractions to enjoy and I get dizzy easily.  More harrowing was travelling with my mother who still wanted more—more conversation, gratitude, openness, affection, just more.  Also harrowing were my attempts to dodge the questions of grandchildren.  We’re in no rush, I said.  Before we’re 40, I said.  We have two uteri and plenty of eggs, I said.  There are lots of options in terms of how we’ll do it, I said.  I evaded at points and lied through my teeth at others.  One morning, flipping through channels on the hotel’s TV, I found myself watching a show about people who didn’t know they were pregnant until they went into labour.  After, my mother asked me what I had learned from the show: “Did you learn that you might be pregnant?” Trying not to stammer, I told her that I would have a lot of explaining to do if I was.

That explaining will start soon.  Tomorrow is our first ultrasound.  Assuming everything goes well, we’ll be telling my parents this weekend: I can only imagine that my expectant mother will have a lot to say.