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What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting: Taking Baby Home

Dedicated to Dave, who wins the Ultimate Best Husband of All Time Ever award, for doubling the joy, halving the stress, and helping me keep my cool.

If you weren’t expecting, you might not have learned some of the practical ways your life will transform. Here are some simple exercises you can perform to ease into new parenthood.

1.  Practice sharing your bed with a spider monkey. Place it conveniently between you and your partner. Try to sleep.

2.  Learn to perform all tasks one-handed. You may pick which side you use. Beginner level: In the other arm, from crook of the elbow down, place two five-pound bags of sugar. Don’t drop them. Intermediate level: Poke holes in the underside of the bag closest to your hand. Contain the sugar leakage. You’ll need this skill if your baby’s diaper quickly becomes overwhelmed with waste.

3. Compose a To Do list of 1) brushing your teeth, 2) showering, and 3) changing out of your pajamas. Try to feel very accomplished when you finish.

4.  Program your alarm to go off every two hours at night. When it wakes you (no snooze buttoning!), head to the kitchen and measure out three ounces of caffeinated coffee, and load it into a medicine dropper. Test the temperature of the coffee on your wrist, making sure it’s comfortably room temperature. Take it back to your bedroom and feed it to the spider monkey you’re now sharing a bed with. Don’t give him more than a drop at the time so you don’t choke him. When you’ve finished, the monkey will be completely awake, so you’ll have to coax him back to sleep. You’ll probably notice an inverse correlation between the sleepiness you experience and the sleepiness the monkey experiences. And never fall asleep holding a spider monkey. It is very dangerous – just ask the hospital.

5.  Empty your savings account.

6.  Once an hour, inject your breasts with pure potassium or some other fire-in-the-veins liquid. This will prepare you for the “let-down tingle” of milk production, which should in fact be called “let-down avalanche of pain” if you are taking performance-enhancing herbs like fenugreek and blessed thistle.

7.  Find a YouTube video or Vine of a crying infant. Set this to play on repeat every time you and your partner are in the mood for love. Learn to either 1) ignore it and continue, or 2) become asexual.

8.  This I can’t prepare you for, no matter what exercise I come up with: your heart is about to double in size and walk right out of your body. Sure, you’ll be sleep-deprived, teary, and sometimes plain angry. But that baby is the most precious, joyful bundle you’ve ever seen. You won’t be able to kiss that face enough, take enough pictures, or snuggle that little body enough. Prepare to fall in love all over again.


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What Else to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting

A few more things occurred to me after I posted last time. It’s like when someone asks your opinion and you can’t think of anything to say and then a day later, you have sixteen different responses. You know what I mean.

6.) You might spend an inordinate amount of time gazing at your torso. Every time my baby moves, it hypnotizes me. Of course, all I see from the outside is a slowly shifting mound of alien head, but it’s mind-blowing. Weird too, because Anna is majorly attached to my bladder, a.k.a., her dribble-practicing apparatus, stability ball, and best friend. She naps on it, squeezes it, flips over it, and probably coos sweet nothings to it. Naturally, I’m thrilled to be growing such a resourceful fetus, but there are times I tell her, “I swear, if you touch that thing one more time, you will have hell to pay. With God as my witness.” About that time, she’ll somersault visibly, and then I forget I was in the middle of an important disciplinary lecture.

7.) You might cry at commercials. For real. Publix had a commercial around Mother’s Day featuring this little girl in pigtails and a pink striped shirt. She and her manifestly pregnant mother were making lunch in the kitchen. Mom says, “You know, I used to tell you secrets when you were a baby. I’d hold you so close and whisper in your ear. No one could hear it but us.” Mom smiles as they continue making lunch and having a love fest. A frame later, with Mom’s attention elsewhere, baby girl gets right up next to the bulbous belly and whispers, “You’re gonna love Mom.” I am literally tearing up as I write this. (Honestly, though, that commercial is hardcore even for the non-pregnant.) Pregnancy stirs up these waves of emotion that feel so big they consume at least six cubic feet of the air around you. P.S.: Be ready for anger to feel that way too if someone interrupts your nap, pulls out in front of you, or eats the last one of the things you crave most. It’s intense, even if you normally aren’t.

8.) You might be surprised how much time you spend discreetly passing gas. Or trying not to. I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but since no one told me, here’s another friendly PSA: you might morph into one gassy heifer. Luckily for me, I have a five-year-old stepson, so passing gas in my family is merely part of a comedy routine, a way of life. On the other hand, I spend my workday exclusively with teenagers. If I ever non-discreetly pass gas, I will have killed my respectability for the rest of the semester. But hey, that’s what maternity leave is for: reputation restoration after the pregnancy hijacking of your body and personality. It’s like pregnancy amnesia for your community.

9.) You might give your baby the hiccups. My pregnancies have not been successful so far, so when the slightest thing feels different, I duck and cover. It happened the other day after I gulped 20 ounces of Coke in about 4.6 seconds. Don’t judge me; I was very thirsty. Not long after I finished, my belly started a rhythmic bounce that perfectly matched the bass line of “Blurred Lines.” It was during the school day, so I looked around surreptitiously to see if my students noticed. I slid behind my desk and banged on my keyboard, furiously researching my mistake. Was she in distress? I went to WebMD and discovered that I might have rapidly mutating kidney cancer, or maybe little Anna had the hiccups. I sighed with relief and gazed at my torso again. I swear she echoed, “Mama!” up my esophagus in between frustrated spasms. I said, “Yeah, well, knock it off with the bladder antics.”

10.) You might feel even more affinity for your man than you did before. I’m sure you think your man is the best, blah-blah-blah, but I know that’s not true because I married the best. While I already had a crush on him when we got married, now that we have a burgeoning little one that is the result of our love for each other (and my insatiable attraction to him), it feels like there’s something completely magical between us. We made a little person! A half-me, half-him person! Probably she will be the coolest person of all. I anticipate some hard times as we adjust to Anna’s rhythms and re-create our own, but there is no one on the planet I’d rather Anna have as a father. He’s strong and manly and loving and generous. She is so lucky. And so am I, to have them both plus two other half-hims. It’s an embarrassment in riches, really.

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What To Expect When You Weren’t Expecting

You didn’t read the baby books. You didn’t have pregnancy tests on hand. You hadn’t been taking prenatal vitamins, scrambling to plan sexy evenings during your O-days, and consuming 60,000 extra milligrams of folic acid every few minutes. Because you didn’t know you were within four light years of housing a fetus.

Me either. Welcome to the club. I am the kindhearted big sister who will let you in on all the things I have learned in the last eight months of my very unexpected pregnancy. Because all women are different, all pregnancies are different, so perhaps you will experience none of what I have so far. But just in case, here’s the lowdown.

1.) You might wake up one morning with a rash from hell. It feels like your lower belly is having a wildly abrasive allergic reaction to the dragon breath of your hormones. An intense, fiery passion to claw at your skin until it bleeds will overpower you. Luckily, this tends to happen at opportune moments, such as the dozing stage right before sleep when you’re finally wedged in between five voluminous pillows carefully, ingeniously arranged into a fluffy sleep cloud that doesn’t allow your belly to pull at your back and relieves the swelling in your ankles. Because it takes a minute to locate your hands in the cocoon you spent so much time designing, the itch-burn has time to build into a truly nuclear situation. Here’s my suggestion: a coating of topical Benadryl spray underneath a layer of anti-itch lotion applied twice a day, and for the love of God, don’t touch any skin within a four-foot radius of the hormone rash. You are fighting an uphill battle here.

2.) Your dog might know you’re pregnant before you do. That is how oblivious I was. About three days before my man and I saw The Second Pink Line, our dog fairly glued himself to my midsection. He would crawl into my lap and place an ear on my lower belly and stay there as long as I’d let him. I thought he’d developed an affinity for my digestive noises. Weirder things have happened when it comes to animals. And digestive noises. But in fact, Peabody apparently sensed a shift in my body, however slight, and was desperate to figure it out. If your dog doesn’t do this, he might just not be as smart as mine.

3.) You might start hearing a lot of “just wait until.”  How many times has this scene played out:

Coworker/Acquaintance/Stranger: How are you feeling, Mama?
Amie: I feel unbelievably tired. Even my blood could use a nap.
Coworker/Acquaintance/Stranger: Oh, just wait until that little girl is on the other side of your uterus! Ha ha ha!
Amie: I will cut you.

Why people enjoy invalidating your current situation so they can give you an even gloomier look into the future (based solely on their own unhappy reality) is beyond me. This is what I figure: having a baby will be more stressful than anything I’ve ever done by a factor of 1,000; however, if I’ve gotten through every other stage in life successfully, I’ll get through this one too. And there must be some joy in the process because when I told people I was pregnant, they got all bright-eyed and huggy. Unless my friends are all masochists…well, they kind of are, come to think of it.

4.) You might need to stock up on groceries you never bought before. Mine has been cheese and, lately, orange juice. Some mornings I would’ve exchanged the baby herself for some slices of cheese and an inexcusably large glass of pulp-free orange juice. I’d heard of pregnancy cravings of course, but it seemed like they were always (1) weird, and (2) fleeting. Mine have been neither. Cheese is not weird. Orange juice is not weird. And my deep, heart-aching need for both has been anything but fleeting. They’re just grocery-list-topping necessities at this point in my third-trimester bonanza.

5.) You might cry every single time the tech lets you listen to your lady parts. Well, we’re not listening to my lady parts anymore because Anna has positioned herself much higher in her advanced fetal age. But in the beginning, when you have the ultrasounds performed by a “wand,” and all you’re looking at on the screen are your lady parts marked by one dark dot, you might still lose your poise when you hear that heart plugging away, trying to get itself all strong and formed. When I heard Anna’s heartbeat the first time, I thought, “That is the perfect sound, the sound my ears were created to hear.” It was beautiful, and it was over too fast. I wanted to take the instrument home to listen to her heart every free moment. And even though I’ve heard her chug-chug-chugging away several times now, it’s no less magical at each appointment.

I love this brand-new human with a purity and immediacy I never dreamed possible. No, I wasn’t “expecting” those two lines I saw in April, but now I can’t imagine expecting anything else.

P.S.: The title of this post was inspired by the FaceBook status of a comedian I like; however, everything in the post belongs solely to me.

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Car Trouble

My man noticed a few days ago that it was getting increasingly difficult to steer my car, and all turns were accompanied by a grinding, whiny sound. It was time for my 30,000-mile checkup anyway, so yesterday I took my Jetta to the dealership to kill two birds with one stone. After I’d been squirming in my seat for a little over ninety minutes, the service rep found me in the waiting room and gave me an apologetic grimace.

“It appears your rack is leaking,” he informed me.

I was certain I’d misheard him. “I’m sorry?”

Encore performance of the apologetic grimace. “Your rack is leaking,” he repeated, shrugging and holding out his hands as if there were simply nothing else to say.

My eyes got wide as I dropped my gaze to my shirt for assessment. That wasn’t supposed to happen for months! Your milk couldn’t possibly come in during the seventeenth week of pregnancy, right? Plus, I didn’t feel anything amiss. But I was mortified all the same. When I didn’t see any milk coming through my clothes, I looked back up at him, questioningly. It finally hit me that what he’d said may have been embarrassing, but more than that, it was crude. How dare he!

Taking his cues from my wide-eyed expression, although blessedly misinterpreting my thoughts, he said, “Oh, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Around 30,000 miles, the Jettas from your year tend to develop a power steering leak. The part we need is on backorder, in fact…” He continued talking, but I was so relieved my rack wasn’t leaking – that it was only my car’s – that I barely understood a word.

Leave it to pregnancy to make you self-conscious about the weirdest things.

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