Creating Life: An Update in Lists

We're ready, her room is ready, and judging by her kicks, I'm pretty sure she is ready, too. I had a lovely shower, and I think she has just about everything she could possibly need. And we've met with our doula, taken infant CPR, and toured the hospital. (Though somehow the car seat won't install itself, alas.) 

By the Numbers 

1.5 — growth, in ring size, of fingers due to swelling

2 — # of bottles of Tums purchased for heartburn relief

2 — # of pairs of both shoes and pants that currently fit

3 — # of visits to Emergency Room

4.9 — estimated current weight of baby, in pounds

5 — # of basketball games baby has attended in utero (3 rooting for UNC, 2 for Georgetown) 

7 — # of states vomited in (DC, MD, VA, NY, PA, CO, WI)

19 — purported current length of baby, in inches

38 — number of days remaining until due date

78 — size of baby, in percentile ranking, at 28-week ultrasound


Exciting Symptoms (not an exhaustive list*) 

  • swelling of hands, fingers, feet, and toes 

  • nausea & vomiting (yes, still; yes, I have tried everything) 

  • heightened olfactory sense (less than ideal when frequenting public restrooms) 

  • plantar fasciitis (sneakers help) 

  • heartburn (exacerbated by lacing up aforementioned sneakers) 

  • fatigue 

  • elevated body temperature 

  • bleeding gums 

  • round ligament pain 

  • overall unremitting discomfort 

*The exhaustive list is safe somewhere else, lest in the future I forget my misery and think it's a good idea to repeat this process. 


Good Reads 

  • Eleven Hours: A stirring, powerful novel about one woman's birth over an 11-hour period. The friendship she cultivates with her nurse grows in intensity as the the moment of delivery draws closer. Probably not great to read if you are nearing delivery, however, as complications do arise for the protagonist. 
  • Love Works Like This: Travels Through A Pregnant Year: A memoir of psychologist Lauren Slater's experience during pregnancy and early parenthood.  She writes about things that other people won't or don't. For example: "Motherhood's biggest taboo may not be rage but mildness. Mother love must be intense. I am not intense. I feel a great guilt. So far, it is only my guilt that makes me a mother" (142). 

  • The Birth Partner: Our doula gave us this book to help Jacob prepare to help me through the birth. It's not just for the partner, though; the explanation of the birth process was very informative and unbiased. 

  • Mindful Birthing: This is a combination mindfulness/birthing book, also recommended by our doula. I mostly skipped the part about mindfulness, though some of the specific applications to labor and delivery were useful. 

  • Catastrophic Happiness: The follow-up book to Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman, this book was also amusing and full of self-deprecating humor. The kids are older in this book, so it didn't feel quite as relevant, but it was a worthwhile read nonetheless.  

  • The Baby Name Wizard Book: A very useful resource written by the creator of the Baby Name Wizard website and blog. My favorite part was the list of likely siblings for each name, data generated census records. 

  • Operating Instructions: Anne Lamott's memoir of raising her son, by herself, over the first year of his life. So good! 

You can click the image to purchase the book directly from Amazon. A small portion of the sale helps to support this blog! 


Not-As-Good Reads 

I didn't end up finishing any of these, so it's entirely possible they improved significantly after the first chapter or two ... let me know! 

  • First Bite: The author interview on Fresh Air was great! But the book had me bored with detailed accounts of scientific studies.  

  • Our Babies, Ourselves: An interesting, albeit dry, take on pediatric anthropology. I really wanted to like it, but it put me to sleep. 

  • Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety: I started getting more anxious about the challenges of balancing everything, so I promptly put it down and eventually returned it to the library. 

  • After Birth: I thought this was going to be an interesting novel about motherhood, but it turned out that was not the case. I read the free sample a while ago, so unfortunately I don't even remember why I didn't like it. 


Offspring-Related Podcast Recommendations 

  • Bee Wilson, author of First Bite, on Fresh Air: An enlightening take on the power parents have to shape their children's food preferences and habits.  

  • Only Human episode on Prenatal Testing: How the development of prenatal tests empowers parents to make (sometimes controversial) choices. 

  • Episode 2, Attachment Parenting, of the new podcast Science Vs.: I'm about halfway through the episode, and am so grateful for all of the dispelling of attachment-related myths. When it comes to offspring, it can be hard to figure out what's backed by evidence and what isn't, but so far this podcast seems adept at doing just that. 

  • Episode 57, Milk Wanted, of Reply All: A fascinating tale of the history and context of breast milk, and why it is so hard for those who need it to get it. 

  • The Accidental Gay Parents on The Longest Shortest Time: This is the first of four episodes with these parents. Such a compelling story about what it means to parent ... I dare you not to cry! 

  • Also on LST, Terry Gross on Not Having Kids: I could seriously listen to Terry Gross talk all day, so this rare glimpse into her personal life was fascinating. 

  • Episode 103 of Totally Mommy on Birthing in a Volvo: Elizabeth recounts the story of giving birth to her second child--in a car!  

My Shining Moment

It's not what you think. 

I have never liked measuring ingredients. Salt, nutmeg, even green food coloring--what's the use in hauling out the measuring spoons? (Yes, I once made green cookies.) When I do, on rare occasion, measure an ingredient before dumping it into the bowl, I feel as if I am conforming, succumbing to blandness and normalcy. What's whimsical about employing measuring cups? Doing so will only mean that my cookies are the exact same as everyone else's. Who wants that? Well, I suppose if the cookies are good ... 

As part of my I'm-Almost-Thirty-Kick, I decided I would plan ahead (WOAH) and make something relatively healthy for dinner that would last us for a few days. Since this was Sunday night and we were just about out of fresh ingredients, I settled on something egg-related. I love the flexibility of eggs. It is possible to combine them with just about anything and produce something relatively edible. So, I decided to pursue the adventure that baking a quiche, and before I knew it, I had found not one, but two, recipes. (Who am I? I never do this!) One for the gluten-free crust, and one for the quiche innards. Not that I actually followed the latter all that closely, but it's progress. 

I pre-baked the crust at 425F for 15 minutes. Of course, ideally, I would create the egg situation while the crust was pre-baking, but OH PLEASE, that is not, and never will be, possible. Most recipes, I feel, are arrogant; they act as if it's no big deal to chop obscure vegetables and braise some expensive rodent meat while the electric mixer churns 3  flours that grocery stores don't sell with organic eggs and a homegrown herb or two. I don't have seven hands and two brains! 

On another recipe note, I feel that most recipe layouts, on a scale of readability and design, rank somewhere between mediocre and abysmal. What I would like to see is, at the top, an overview of the cooking methods and tips for how to work efficiently, followed by a list of directions (and possibly accompanying pictures, a la Blue Apron), with the ingredients AND amounts of said ingredients. Why do cookbooks resist the bullet point? Maybe I am extra sensitive to layout and font because for the past two years I have created assignments and written instructions for students with learning disabilities? Regardless, recipes should be friendlier; they should want you to make them! 

Also, I think that minimal commentary in the recipe itself is best. Otherwise, I will skim the recipe (because either I or the husband is hungry and wants to eat this food!) to avoid the excessive instructions and inevitably not perform some crucial step, like, for example, when I threw green beans into the pan without cutting off the ends. Who knew?

But back to the quiche--there was some extra time for the crust to cool down while I finished making the veggie and egg concoction for the middle. The whole ordeal took approximately 75 minutes, though of course I did not time it. 

I have two disclaimers: The original crust recipe would have made two crusts, so I halved most of the ingredients because I only needed one crust. Who needs two crusts? I took care to write out the new amounts so that I would not unintentionally use double the amount I really needed. However, not so accidentally, I used twice as much salt as recommended. I didn't bother halving it, even though I halved all the other ingredients. I figured it's just salt ... so the crust was salty. I also used some peppers from a Blue Apron meal, and I have no idea what they actually are.

 Nevertheless, I was so pleased! 

My Quiche Recipe

(albeit with rough measurement estimates)

First, make the crust by mixing (ideally in an electric mixer) the following ingredients: 

1) Combine and mix the dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup of GF flour
  • a sprinkling of flax seeds
  • another sprinkling of psyllium husk
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of sugar

2) Add 1/3 cup of coconut oil and mix. 

3) Add one egg and mix. 

4) Add up to 1/3 cup of water slowly. 

5) Roll out the crust on parchment paper, then flop it into the pie pan. 

6) Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. 

Second, sauté the vegetables and add any desired meat. I used Applegate Farms turkey sausage. 

1) Chop two full-size peppers or one full-size pepper and two mini ones.

2) Throw into a pan with some olive oil. 

3) Chop a zucchini and add it to the pan. 

4) Add meat into the pan as desired. 

Third, concoct the egg mixture and then combine everything. 

1) Combine and then whisk together the following: 

  • 5 or 6 eggs 
  • a dash of milk 
  • 7 or 8 mini mozzarella balls 
  • salt and pepper 
  • an herb, if you want to be fancy 

2) Pour the veggie and meat mixture into the crust. 

3) Pour the egg concoction on top of everything else. 

4) Bake for 30 minutes at 375F. 


Freedom from Domesticity

I've always abhorred crock pots. No matter that I've never had one, I knew all I needed to know: that they symbolized the tethering of a woman to her kitchen. 

As far as kitchen appliances go, they rank the lowest. Others, like the ice cream maker and the waffle iron, which mostly sit idly on the counter or forgotten in a drawer, at least serve a worthy purpose: pleasure. But then, there are others such as the electric mixer and the blender that are worth the counter space they consume. They do, actually, make kitchen life easier and more efficient, and that, I believe, is what we want our machines to accomplish. 

Years ago, I wrote a story in which the female protagonist, upon being abandoned by her romantic companion, hurls the crockpot out her apartment window, where it hurtles through falling snow until it crashes into nowhere else but this man's unfortunately located parked car. 

Back when I wrote that story, the character's actions represented my antipathy toward all things domestic. My vision of her flinging the crockpot solidified my rejection of, and resentment toward, what I felt was the inherent connection between domesticity and femininity. Why is it always women who are featured, smiling blissfully, in advertisements for home improvement and products? A kitchen appliance does not a happy woman make! 

See, the problem with the crockpot is also its blessing: it allows one (male or female) to plan and construct a meal in advance of when one wants to consume it. Really, it alters the time at which one puts together said meal and in theory makes cooking easier. But what it also does is require a certain level of planning. You cannot simply look in the pantry when your belly starts to rumble and then decide to use the crockpot. No, you must find a recipe, stare at that recipe, decide what you do and do not already have, go shopping, follow the recipe, and then start the device with enough time for it to cook the food just slowly enough to be ready when you want it to be ready. A hassle, indeed. 

Here goes nothing ... 

Here goes nothing ... 

But it turns out that it is a pleasant experience to have food ready when you want to eat it. I discovered this well-known fact just last week. There is something delightful about returning home to an actual dinner. It is almost as though you did not make this meal yourself--the veggies chopped themselves and the meat made its own marinade and everything hopped itself right into the pot in synchrony. The passage of time, of even just six hours, soothes the memory of the earlier labor, or at least it did for me, just this one time. 

I think I will call my Chicken Tikka Masala dish a success. I found the recipe, purchased the ingredients, plopped all the pieces into the pot, left the device on (and did not burn down the house), and returned home to warm, edible food. Four days have passed since this momentous occasion, and though I have yet to actually scrub the pot (why is there not yet a device for that?), I remain at once gratified by the ease of using the device and bewildered by the strange sense of pleasure that using it inexplicably brought to me. 

Chicken Tikka Masala with Sautéed Kale and Rice

Chicken Tikka Masala with Sautéed Kale and Rice

My Dog Ate My FitBit

Yes, dear Lil Schroed chomped down on my pedometer on Tuesday. Munchity munch munch. While the darn thing was clipped to my shorts!

Apparently, personal electronic devices are quite yummy. That, or the precious canine was attempting to send me a message about my priorities. Or, I guess, he was bored of sitting in my lap (behaving well, ostensibly) and was intrigued by the flashy plastic green thing. Regardless, I haven't been able to measure my steps for two days now. This is disconcerting. And I'm disconcerted about being disconcerted about such a minor mishap.

So what I've realized is that I have come to rely heavily on this device for measuring my exercise. I know, I know--that is probably the goal of FitBit's marketing team: to make people rely on the device rather than themselves to feel satisfied about meeting their exercise and health goals. Well, mission accomplished. When I go outside to take Lil Schroed for a walk, I feel like my efforts don't even count! I may as well have lounged in front of the tube all day eating Doritos.

My ability to monitor my own effort and exhaustion has vanished. FitBit has stolen my self-regulation, robbed me of whatever internal wisdom I still possessed. Therefore, FitBit = Vampire. I give them money, I hand over my self-regulation, I develop a need for something I don't need, and the more I use the thing, the more I think that I have to use it. Because if I don't measure my steps, I didn't take them; and if I didn't take them, I can't calculate my weekly totals; and if I can't calculate those totals, I can't compete with my friends; and if I can't compete, then how am I ever to know if I am getting enough exercise, whatever "enough" is? I've voluntarily relinquished all ability to validate my own efforts.

So what am I going to do now? Well, I've already ordered a replacement. Do you want to order one, too, and be my friend?

What I'm Not Supposed To Think About In Yoga

During yoga, my mind wanders, races, drifts, and engages in other metaphorical activities that it shouldn't. Really, the mind is "supposed" to be calm, but "should" and "supposed to" should really not be part of my vocabulary, as (according to mindfulness practices) I should try to notice and accept what I observe without judgement. If you know me well, you know that there is no way that this is possible. The faster the pace of the class, the more likely I am to be able to "stay with the breath," though even in these classes there are many still moments in which I anxiously ruminate on ...

1) Mat Placement: This is one of my most significant decisions, as it has to be made very soon after entering the studio. This decision will affect my experience of the entire class. Yet it must be made without appearing to require too much thought, otherwise other people might judge me for where I put my mat, or worse, for taking too long or staring--though of course if those who arrive early are resting in their respective states of zen (as those who arrive early are wont to do), it is unlikely that they will be disturbed by my indecisiveness or will judge me for overanalyzing my options.

           Earth Studio @ Tranquil Space (Photo Credit: Tranquil Space)

           Earth Studio @ Tranquil Space (Photo Credit: Tranquil Space)

The front is always out. Only people are are yoga teachers themselves or those who arrive late end up there. Actually, that is probably only true half the time. There are some incredibly calm, self-assured people who have no qualms about being in the front row. The second row is no good either, and most of the time it doesn't fill up until just before the teacher closes the door to begin. The back row will suffice, but only on the side, and only if there are no other side spots available. When there are no other edge spots available from the 3rd to the penultimate row, a back corner spot is the best option, but on the side away from the cubbies, as I don't want to be THAT PERSON that everyone has to step over just to put his/her bag away, and, later, to retrieve said personal belongings, especially if many more people will be coming in. But if I end up in front of the blankets, people might come too close to me at the beginning to fetch one or circle around my mat at the end to put them away. Then there is the issue of personal space. I'd guess that the majority of yoga practitioners understand that it's best to spread out across the whole studio before cramming themselves between two other people's mats, but there are just enough people who don't understand this principle to cause me to worry each time that someone arriving on the later side might squeeze in beside me and therefore ruin my practice. (I know, I know, it would be my fault for not being able to chill out, but I would still blame that person.) So I have to arrive after a few people have already settled in, but not too long after that, to claim a spot along the wall in the 3rd to penultimate row, with the penultimate row being the optimal placement.

2) Centering: I'm thinking that the time that constitutes "centering" is the time after the teacher reads the announcements to the time he/she opens the door to let in the latecomers. This can be the most difficult part of the entire practice, as you are supposed to breathe and "let go of things" (at least that is the most common message for this time) and probably not run through your Very Important TO-DO List. Of course, there remains the possibility that a latecomer may squeeze himself or herself into the space next to me that is really quite small but just wide enough for another mat. I am supposed to get super relaxed with this kind of uncertainty? The unpredictability of this time represents just one of the many reasons why, when my last mat was whisked away by an unknown suspect, I purchased an extra-wide one to replace it. This way, even in the unlikely event that someone does place a mat too close to mine, it is likely less close to me that it would have otherwise been, thanks to the extra width. See, even those "squeezers," as I think of them, leave a few inches between mats, and this distance is going to remain a stable social norm, even if I have a wider mat, thus allowing me to be less close to that person than I otherwise might be. And this whole breathing thing, well trying to breathe one way is hard enough. I'm supposed to transition to a different kind of breathing? If I am breathing AT ALL, well, then, it's a good day.

3) Vinyasa: Vinyasa means "flow," or at least I think it does, and this is the part of the class with the most movement. A teacher will call out the poses, and the idea is that you follow along and do those movements while maintaining some kind of magical alignment of breath and movement.

People start to perspire. Outer layers are removed. The room heats up. And I wonder if we are going to be blessed with air, or suffused with stuffiness and sweat. I know I am supposed to focus on my own breath and movement and just be in that awesome flowy state in which all extraneous thoughts vanish, but that happens about once a year.

I am distracted by other people: how proficient they are, how jealous I am of their flexibility, what they are wearing and how expensive it is, how sweaty they are, or worse, how dirty their mats are, how well their clothes fit, how inflexible or misaligned they are. If I am in the back row, I worry that I will fulfill the back-row stereotype (that my imagination, with only minimal evidence, created) of not being able to keep up, taking too many breaks, or needing a prop when others don't. In other words, awful as it is, this is what I think: that if you are in the back row, there is a reason you are in the back row. This morning I was in the back row (as the other desirable edge spaces were already taken), and was self-conscious and fearful the entire time of succumbing to the stereotype. And I probably did, though I wanted to explain to everyone that I had done a class yesterday, and that I was low on energy--though in reality probably nobody even noticed that I sometimes went straight back to downward facing dog (a not-really-resting-pose resting pose) rather than flow through a vinyasa (which requires more energy), or that I needed a strap to do the pose in which you hold your leg straight out in front, grab your foot, balance, and twist. This barely happened with a strap, and it certainly wasn't going to happen without one. Of course, there is also the dilemma of when to actually listen to my body when the teacher gives everyone the option of flowing through a vinyasa or skipping it in favor of child's pose or downward facing dog. I have seen people listen to their bodies. It baffles me how they do it. Most of the time I push through and do a vinyasa, so as not to appear weak, or tired (which would indicate weakness, either physical, psychological, or both), though today I had simply had enough of vinyasa-ing and retreated into child's pose more than I care to confess, though I know (rationally) that this was a wise decision and one that I shouldn't waste any more time thinking about.

4) Asanas of the Month: I sometimes really enjoy Tranquil Space's pose of the month. This month it is side crow. I can now do side crow, albeit briefly. SIDE CROW WIN. This should not be a source of pride, yet it is.

Last month the asana (pose) was Noose. I think everyone found this to be miserable. The one before that was revolved extended side angle. I think that is simply too many words. My body won't do this one. So for the entire month, the entire month, there was this one pose that I had to try to do every time I took a class that made me feel incompetent. OK, I should just get over it and accept my limits, but it still made me mad EVERY SINGLE TIME. I'm sure there is a lesson here. I just probably don't want to hear it!

5) Inversions: I can reliably do a couple of inversions now, including shoulder stand, headstand and tripod headstand (pictured above). I can't do forearm stand or handstand, and I don't know if I should ever even aim for these. Most of the time, when a teacher offers time for an inversion, I am eager to get into a headstand so that I can feel good about myself for being able to do a headstand. (You must understand: When I get upset, or mad, or feel pathetically un-athletic or out of shape, I tell myself: "I can do a f***ing headstand," and I feel better.)

But when I am too tired, as I was today, to do one, inner turmoil brews. I don't want to be THAT PERSON who poops out at the end. But I do want to be, at least in theory, the person who listens to her body and gives it what it needs. I want to be the person who is confident enough that she can do a headstand to know that she doesn't have to do one EVERY TIME just to prove that she can. And if, while upside-down, I see someone doing something cooler than a headstand (which I inevitably do), then I can't even feel all that good about my headstand. It's true that yoga is not a competition; in fact, it's supposed to be the exact opposite. Alas.

6) Savasana: I like to put my legs up the wall. (This, of course, is premised on being next to the wall.) But I don't like to be the only person with legs up the wall. I did that about a month ago, and it felt weird. I also know that I am supposed to let my mind clear up and just focus on the sensations I feel in my body. But they are boring. Seriously, most of the time they really are quite dull. I feel the floor. I smell sweat. I hear every little sound, both inside and outside the studio. I notice the footsteps of the person walking around with the lavender aromatherapy spray. Boring, right? I try to get comfortable. But most of the time I end up wanting a pillow. A few minutes pass. And then the teacher usually says to roll over the right side. The right side doesn't feel good. I feel my bones press against the floor. Then we roll up to a seated, cross-legged pose, eyes still closed, and end. And then I have to decide if I am going to clean my mat, and if so, if I can get to the spray easily, and if not, if people will think I am gross for dripping sweat onto it and not cleaning it. Most of the time the cleaning just removes some of Schroeder's hair, so it isn't really worth it. When I finally gather my belongings and put away the props I wish I hadn't needed but try not to feel bad about needing, I revel that I am free, free to think about all the things I shouldn't think about without the added pressure of knowing that I shouldn't think about them.