Sexy, Savvy, Natural Mama

a blog space for pregnant ladies, new moms, feminists, and interested souls

It’s a …. April 28, 2010

Filed under: pregnancy — hokoonchi @ 12:09 am
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There are many things I love about my husband. The biggest thing is that he makes me laugh like no other person I have known. Add to that that he drove me thirty minutes to my ultrasound appointment after the doctor mix-up, and I’m convinced. He’s a good guy — the best.

During our many conversations about whether our baby will be a girl or a boy, he has mentioned his own proclivities as a child. He collected snakes, lizards, turtles. His snapping turtle ate his other turtles. One of his snakes surprised his mother when she opened the bathroom door. He created “battle wounds” in his G.I. Joe soldiers, and melted or exploded many of his toys. He also tells me about the numerous items that he took apart with a butter knife before he got a legitimate screwdriver set. In a later stage of life, he decided that he was a ninja, and later, a skater with athleticism and coordination that I cannot begin to comprehend. Recently, he told me that he would line up garbage bins and jump them … just for fun.

What was I doing in the meantime? I could probably be found reading Roald Dahl or Madeleine L’Engle. I had completed The Hobbit by third grade. I hid in the library during class, or I was caught chatting with teachers while I was supposed to be working on reading I’d probably already completed. I spent days in my playhouse creating art, writing stories, or daydreaming. I made mud pies and “mixtures” in the yard, but I always washed properly afterward. Later, surely, I would become more complicated and mock my mother’s authority, but as a young lady, I was just that: a young lady.

I always envisioned myself as the mother of a little girl just like me. I would teach her the joys of books and arts and crafts, and I would teach her how to cook and sew — activities that I so enjoy now. I would take her shopping for beautiful little dresses, fix her hair as my mother did for me, and hold her when she cried about unrequited love. Of course, I would also teach her to appreciate science fiction, the offbeat writing of authors like Roald Dahl, and above all, I would encourage her imagination to expand and soar, just as mine had.

Well, I must prepare myself for snakes, and it is feasible that we will have to mend battle wounds on multiple toys. Today, we found out that our baby is a boy. Just as I suspected, my child’s ferocious movements are preparing him for jumping fences, garbage cans, and tending to overgrown snapping turtles. I am still prepared to teach arts and crafts, create stories together, and read The Twits and The BFG. I suspect that this young boy will also enjoy some of the other things I love: mud pies, Miyazaki movies, and hiding out during thunderstorms. Above all, I will encourage his imagination to expand and soar.

Our boy will be named after both of our grandfathers. Samuel Rhoderick, the names of two extraordinary men. We’re going to call him Sam.

Sam, we love you.


A Boy or a Girl: 19 Weeks April 27, 2010

Filed under: pregnancy — hokoonchi @ 12:50 am
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Tomorrow, I will be nineteen weeks pregnant … And I will find out if my baby is a boy or a girl. Incredible.

I went through a crazy debacle this morning, calling three doctors. Why you ask? Well, I made an ultrasound appointment with the wrong doctor. It’s a complicated mistake, the mistake that I made. I was in an all-day meeting, crafting evaluations for thirty-nine of my students. At lunch, I decide to call for my 18-22 fetal anatomy ultrasound, but alas, I do not have my referral from my OB. Since I am a resourceful pregnant lady, I ask my colleague who also chose to birth at Virginia Hospital Center where she got her ultrasounds done. She responds that she had seen Dr. Maclaren at Maternal and Fetal Medicine. By gosh, that name sounds familiar! In fact, I believe my OB told me that Dr. Maclaren and Dr. Katz perform ultrasounds for VHC.

So I call Virginia Hospital for an appointment with Dr. Maclaren. They refer me to his “new number,” which I call. I make an appointment for Tuesday at 2:30, a day before my work retreat leaves. This was the day I had imagined from the beginning of my pregnancy, just in time for the retreat. So I that I could answer that inane “boy or girl” question with something definitive. Everything was fine.

Until Sunday. On Sunday, I check my referral, only to notice that I have made an appointment with a doctor that no longer works at Virginia Hospital Center. Lovely. Fast forward to this morning. I call the right doctors, who can only make an appointment in May. I call my OB, whose nurse has no desire to assist me in my endeavor, as the appointment is not an emergency. Finally, I go back to the beginning and call the wrong doctor, whose dear and fabulous front desk attendant says that I can come in regardless of the referral. She adds that they need to update their information anyway! I thank her profusely, and we are back to the appointment I had imagined for months. The wrong doctor is about thirty minutes away from my abode, but hell, we’re going.

I mentioned in my last post, however peripherally, that we are definitely going to find out if this peanut is a boy or a girl. I totally understand those who choose not to find out, but Eric and I are devoted fans of modern technology, despite our natural leanings concerning childbirth. Let me put it this way … When we lived in California, my mother sent along our Christmas presents on December 10th with specific instructions to open them on December 25th. Of course, we did not wait. We had Christmas on December 10th. I still don’t feel guilty, and it felt fabulous, indulgent, and very much like Christmas.

I expect tomorrow will feel like Christmas too. It won’t ruin the surprise — not for me anyway. I’ve been looking forward to this since I saw that second pink line appear on that test. It won’t be any more a surprise than if I find out on my the day I deliver. Early Christmas is the best Christmas, I say. And I can’t wait for tomorrow.

I will be honest and say that I have yearned for a daughter. I see those little dresses and hats, and tiny little stockings, and my heart melts. I so love being a woman. I love the strength and beauty of womanhood, I love the challenges that I have faced as a woman, and I love the female friendships that I have formed. I love all that my gender entails, and I would so want to be the mother of a beautiful little girl. Having gotten that off my chest, I do believe my baby is a boy. I’m not sure why, but I feel him in there squirming around, active and agile like his father, and I see him in my dreams, blue eyes and all.

So tonight I will write for you, my son or daughter. I will promise you tonight that I will always love you, that I will give you the best life that I know how, and that I will support you in the person that you are. I will always let you be yourself, and I will encourage you to follow your dreams. No matter who you are, I will always be your mother. I will be there for midnight phone calls, first loves, difficult conversations, and advice that you may or may not want. I will advocate for you at parent-teacher conferences, and I will support you through learning differences, or plain dislike of authority (from which your father and I both suffer). I will help you with book reports, and your father will teach you how to navigate word problems. When you find what you love to do, I will provide for you all of the things you need to accomplish your goals. When you change your mind, I will be excited for you and encourage you to push forward. When you find the person that you love, I will love that person too, whether a man or a woman. I will always teach you to love yourself, to be kind to others, but not to tolerate ignorance or petty meanness. I will stand by you, whoever you are. And I have a feeling that you will make me proud on many days in my life, however many of those days I also feel frustrated. My dear son or daughter, I love you so much, whether you are a boy or a girl.


Pregnant Conversations: 18.75 Weeks April 26, 2010

Filed under: pregnancy — hokoonchi @ 1:49 am
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I have recently started showing to the point that many people notice that I am pregnant. I have been excited about my expanding self, and I feel beautiful — like a mother. However, I find myself frequently engaged in inane conversations with people that I do not know.

Person: When are you due?

Me: September.

Person: When in September?

Me: The middle of September.

Person: But when?

Me: Oh, the 21st or 22nd. That’s what the doctor said.

Person: Oh a Virgo baby!

Me: Or a Libra.

Person: Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl? Are you going to find out?

Me: No, I don’t know yet, but I’m finding out soon.

Person: Are you sure you’re going to find out? I didn’t.

Me: Yes, I’m sure.

Person: Don’t find out.

Me: I’m going to.

Person: Are you excited?!

Me: Yes.

Such conversations leave me exhausted. I feel that I have to come up with answers I don’t especially want to provide. I don’t think due dates are important, I don’t care what anyone thinks about my decision to find out the sex, and yes, doubly yes, of course I’m excited. I equate these conversations with the useless prattle my classmates in high school and I would exchange after vacations and weekends. One student would ask, “What did you do for spring break?” The answer didn’t especially matter, but it was soft, meaningless conversation. A reply is expected, because vacations and weekends are something everyone enjoys, right?

Such is the case with pregnancy, except that your classmates aren’t the ones asking you. It’s remote acquaintances, people you might not especially like, and very often, perfect strangers. Replies are expected. Smiles are expected. Happiness is expected. Many of my friends who are already mothers hinted at this phenomenon, mostly referring to those people who will rub your belly without permission. The end result is the same; pregnant women are public property, radiant mother-beings with a ready conversation starter protruding from the front of you. Although I am a talkative person, this prattle exhausts me. I feel that I am called upon to perform, dance my way through the words, and provide satisfaction for the listener.

They don’t especially care what I say. Perhaps, they simply wish to absorb the idea of pregnancy into their day, contemplate their own past or future, and of course, share their most pertinent advice that they simply must impart. It’s easy to tell that these exchanges are essentially one-sided, only providing entertainment to the listener, and a lens through which he or she can see their own concept of pregnancy, such a happy time.

I know that I have been guilty of such conversations in the past, prying information out of pregnant ladies for my own amusement. For now, perhaps my own responses are making up for the pressure I have foisted upon others, and the back-and-forth they didn’t want to have. This is just a small, tiring bit of the expectations that are draped upon us as pregnant women, mothers, women in general. I can only respond with pat answers, veiled sarcasm — after all, it’s against the expectation that I be polite to handle it any other way.


Amy Butler’s Nappy Bag: The Perfect Baby Shower Gift April 21, 2010

Nappy Bag

The handmade nappy bag, made by these hands ...

Amy Butler’s Nappy Bag Pattern is the only thing I’ve ever sewn for real. Don’t get me wrong — I use my sewing machine a lot. I’ve made a pretty simple one-layer-of-fabric gym bag that recently fell apart, a couple of janky diaper pads, a burp cloth, and I’ve quilted my way through part of a handbag that I never finished making. (But the fabric I picked out is totally fly, so I might finish it sometime soon.) I’ve also sewn a whole bunch of hems on my jeans — some better than others.

In short, I’m no seamstress. I have a one hundred dollar sewing machine, ordered on a whim from Amazon (it’s the older version of this Brother model). In only three years, the needle has bent twice, and the threader no longer functions at all. Still, it’s a sweet-ass beast, and powers its way through all of the layers in this totally amazing purse.

With my admittedly limited experience, I’ve made this baby three times. Three different beautiful ladies have this delightful creation, made by the very hands that type this post. I know for sure that my sister-in-law uses hers all the time, slung perfectly over the handles of her stroller, filled with diapers and toys for her two bambinos. So, it’s fab, functional, and won’t fall apart. And it’s super easy to make!

The annoying thing is that you have to cut out all of those pieces: two from the outside fabric, six from the different inside fabrics, two from interfacing for the interior, and a couple more pieces of canvas that act as a stabilizer for the whole thing. You have to be exact with the cutting. This would make sense to most people, but I’m not a person who does anything in a straight line naturally. Unfortunately, cutting pieces for a sewing pattern doesn’t leave room for my natural creativity … After making my first bag, I have improved in my cutting and lining up. It shows in the bag quality.

The only unusual thing you have to learn to do is sewing in a curve. For experienced tailors, this is no big deal, but it proved daunting the first time I did it. I would suggest practicing on scrap, and don’t over think what you’re sewing. After a while, it just comes naturally. I finally figured out that you sew a curve just as if you are sewing a straight line. The only difference is moving the fabric around to follow its curve.

iphone bocket

Showing my creative side ... with an iphone pocket.

Even though sewing at my beginner’s level doesn’t allow for a tremendous amount of creativity, I have inserted an iphone/ipod pocket into the bags I’ve created. The original pattern calls for a silly, tiny cell phone pocket on the exterior. It appears to be designed for the tiny cells of the early 2000s, rather than the Smart Phones of today. In order to put this beauty in, I deleted one of the bottle pockets that the pattern calls for. Since the bottle pockets take up a bunch of real estate, the iphone pocket frees up interior pocket space and generally rocks. (In order to make the lined pocket, I just cut out two 5’X7″ pieces of fabric and stitched them together, flipped them right side out, and put it on the interior lining. Easy! And cool.)

Very easy bag to make. It only takes about one dedicated day to do the whole thing, though you might want to spread it out over two or three if you burn out easily or need to walk away when frustrated. There are no buttons, zippers, clasps, or difficult linings. Despite this, the bag is shaped so that it stays closed at the top when walking around or slung over a stroller.

You can pair this thoughtful gift with a handmade diaper pad (included in the pattern), or you can fill it with goodies for the mom-to-be. Either way, you will be a huge hit at the baby shower, and people will tell you that you are talented, wonderful, and should start your own Etsy shop. If anything, it’s a great boost for the self esteem since this thing is so damn easy to make!

In my opinion, this is an awesome first “big project” to tackle, and it’s extremely rewarding. It has inspired me to want to do more, so I’ve recently purchased Amy Butler’s Little Stitches for Little Ones and hope to post something else handmade in the not so distant future. Who knows … maybe I’ll even start my own Etsy store, as suggested. I will soon be making one of the more complicated bags in this volume for myself, and I hope the result will look just as professional.

If you have a sewing machine that’s just sitting there collecting dust, I recommend buying this pattern for thirteen bucks, getting some cheap fabric, and experimenting. You can keep it, give it away … either way, you won’t be disappointed! Fabulous.

(As an FYI, the exterior and interior polka dot fabric are by Amy Butler herself, and purchased from EBay, and the interior starburst fabric is Stone Hill fabric, and was purchased from Jo Ann Fabric.)


Product Review: Leacho Back ‘N Belly Contoured Body Pillow April 19, 2010

Filed under: Product Reviews — hokoonchi @ 11:49 pm
Little Leela

My puggle tries out the pregnancy pillow.

Overall: C+ … worth a try if you have a king size bed. Or a small dog.

For those of you who have been through the second (and the first, and as I’ve heard, especially the third) trimester of pregnancy, you may have experienced some rather uncomfortable nights. I know that I have, as early as about eight weeks. At first, I had many anxiety dreams that would wake me early in the morning and not allow me to get back to sleep. There’s nothing to be done about that, unfortunately. More recently, my belly has been expanding to the point that I am uncomfortable in my customary face-down, stomach-flat-to-the-sheets, knocked-out position.

Frankly, this pretty much sucks. I battled insomnia all through my high school and college years, but in the past few years, I’ve settled into a comfortable routine of getting in bed around 10 PM, reading for thirty minutes or so, and falling into a blissful, deep sleep for eight hours (and ten on the weekends, if allowed the time). I know, I know, all of this is about to change, and so on and so forth. But right now, I’m suffering. I teach, advise, attend meetings, grade papers, answer emails, serve on committees, and generally have to be “on” all day. Combined with growing an organ and a human, my inherited gene for tiredness has overwhelmed me since the uncomfortable nights of insomnia have returned. Toss here, turn there, get up to pee, accidentally wake the twenty pound dog that sleeps under the covers, kick my husband, listen to the dog pace and circle to find the perfect spot, turn back over — all at three in the morning. I usually don’t get back to sleep until six, and then the horrible birds start to sing their morning songs, and it’s just about time to wake up.

Cue the pregnancy pillow! On my many searches and browses for pregnancy-related products on Amazon, I kept seeing the Leacho Back ‘N Belly Body Pillow pop up. The reviews are many (394) and for the most part, positive (four stars). On the positive side, the pillow does indeed provide support to the back, and I can see how it would provide support to the belly as it grows. My belly is as yet too small to rest upon the curves of the pillow, but I assume it will get there in time. It’s a good pillow to hug, and to put between your knees, which definitely helps the dull back pain that comes with expanding ligaments and kicks to the hip. It also feels pleasantly like a hiding place, or a cocoon of blankets. (This is comforting to me, since I used to cocoon my head and neck in blankets when I was a kid in order to protect myself from the vampires my father told me about. This has scarred me permanently.)

The complaint that comes up a bunch of times on Amazon, which I feel is totally legit, is that it’s a giant frickin pillow. It’s about the size of two big body pillows hooked together at the top (it looks smaller in the picture on line). As you can see, it swallows my diminutive puggle. It also swallows me, and it certainly would not be acceptable for anything but a king size bed. My husband says it snakes its way over to him at night and infringes upon his bed space. In a queen size bed, there would be no way to escape it. I wouldn’t even try it in anything smaller.

As for my experience, I slept on it for about a week. I really worked with it. I slept with it as my main pillow, with my regular pillow on top of it, right side up, upside down, with both sides between my legs, and with one side between my legs. I definitely saw some positives, as mentioned above, but on Saturday night, I got totally fed up with it and kicked it out of bed during one of my runs to the bathroom at two in the morning. I think I may go back to it as I progress in size, since I will need something to support my ever-expanding womb. For now, I’m sticking with my regular old latex pillow, and I’ve been having a good run of sleep at night for the past few days. I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping that it stays that way.

I know I’ll use this sucker for something. I like to be swaddled, propped, and padded. This might just be the perfect recovery-from-pregnancy pillow. I know it makes one hell of a reading support while in bed, and I haven’t tried it, but it might be just the thing to make me comfortable on the sofa while I watch television. I spent sixty bucks on it, so I’m going to try everything I can think of, perhaps even re-engineering it with my handy-dandy sewing machine. For all of you out there, I would recommend you not spend your money on it. Buy a cheap body pillow from Costco, or try one of the other Leacho products.

And try to get some sleep.


The Way I Feel My Baby Move: 17.75 Weeks April 18, 2010

Filed under: pregnancy — hokoonchi @ 3:13 pm

I’ve come to the conclusion that any symptom is possible during pregnancy. Just because it’s rare, it doesn’t mean you’re abnormal, or crazy, or making something up. If I had realized this a lot earlier on, I would have been a happier, calmer pregnant lady.

What brings me to this post today is the crazy fetal movement that kept me up for about an hour last night. By all accounts, I shouldn’t be feeling anything yet. According to the books, and the google, I would only feel something if it were my second pregnancy or if I were a lot slimmer to begin with. However, I’ve been feeling that kid move all about since the latter part of week 13.

Crazy, right? Totally nuts, like it couldn’t possibly happen at all. (It just kicked again, as if in accord, or perhaps disbelief, right as I type, below my MacBook.) The sensation? Not “butterflies,” or “gas,” or “bubbles,” or even “popcorn popping.” Nothing cute about these movements since I first started feeling them. Amazing and incredible? Yes, absolutely. Cute? I would say not. This kid is a born kicker. He or she is a fighter. I’ve been feeling jabs, stabs, yanks and tugs since my fourteenth week.

At first I thought it was round ligament pain. That’s the only thing it could be, right? My coworkers who have had kids assured me that it could only be the stretching and shifting that the uterus does early in the second trimester. As if on cue, the “butterflies” shifted into higher gear, turning into flips and cartwheels. I noticed that the jabs and pokes were starting to be accompanied by distinct feelings of swishing, whooshing, and whirring. Unmistakable fetal movement.

I’ve been so amazed by this in the past few weeks. So distinct, so early, so strange. In the past few days, I feel my little one all the time. I can now determine if he or she is awake or asleep. It’s also started to follow a pattern: waking up with me in the morning, poking at me when I’m hungry, and happily flipping about after I’ve eaten. Some nights, it will wake up with me after I go to the bathroom. Last night, in particular, I felt bouncing, tugging, jerking and flipping about. It was somewhat uncomfortable and kept me awake, but I knew that I didn’t feel alone in my body anymore. I am no longer one person; I am two.

I know that I am an exception to a hard and fast rule, but I am becoming aware that every lady’s pregnancy will have an exception to some hard and fast rule. No morning sickness, nausea all the way through, painless labor, no cravings, no symptoms. I’ve heard all of these things. I’m coming to look forward to each poke and jab, rather than doubting myself, or worrying that something is wrong. I’m deciding to relax and accept this wonderful, though unexpected, abnormality. Perhaps it is just a part of our child’s personality. I hope it is. I hope she or he always defies expectations, never accepts norms, and values individuality above what anyone else thinks.


My Favorite Pregnancy Books: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin April 13, 2010

What is the first book that every pregnant woman in America reads? That’s right. They read What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This is the very first book I picked up. I actually downloaded it onto my husband’s Kindle the very day I found out I was in a family way. I had always thought it was the go-to pregnancy guide, the one you see in the movies, the one that you can always consult when you have a question, an infallible authority on all things pregnant.

I did consume the whole thing in one day. I was at my husband’s family’s house, scared to tell anyone about the pregnancy because it was so early on. As I read more and more of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, instead of becoming more informed, I became more and more alarmed. I read that I should not be using whitening toothpaste, nor should I use face wash with salicylic acid. There’s a whole section on all the things that can go wrong, entitled “The Complicated Pregnancy.” This nearly did me in. I’m a worrier anyway, and these “helpful” pieces of information put nightmares into my sensitive brain. Phew.

Why did I introduce my review of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth with a review of a totally different book? Well, to me, they seem polar opposites. Of course, the two books have different goals. What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a general guide, and Ina May speaks of labor and delivery only. To me, though, the feelings that I got from each of these books are completely opposite. With What to Expect When You’re Expecting, I felt overwhelmed and frightened; Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth made me feel positive, enlightened, and empowered.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is unique in the world of books for pregnant ladies. First of all, Ina May Gaskin, the author, is a midwife with over thirty years of experience, who birthed on “the Farm,” a commune in Tennessee, starting during the late 1960’s. In other words, she’s a total badass. She’s informed and educated in ways that most doctors are not — she has attended all of her own births, developed her own philosophy of post-partum care, and will try a multitude of techniques with her patients in order to make their labors comfortable and their babies healthy. She’s also a damn fine writer. She lets her delightful sense of humor flow through her anecdotes and advice, and you can feel her personality coming off the page. For an English major dork like myself, Ina May Gaskin’s writing is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Ms. Gaskin’s book also has another unusual aspect to it: her entire first section is filled with the diverse voices of the women whose babies she has birthed. This section takes up about a half of the book — what other author would give such a large portion of her book over to the writing of others? The birth stories, written by patients of the Farm, are overwhelmingly positive. Though all the stories are positive, they are also all real. There are stories of women who have had c-sections and chose to birth vaginally. Others recount breech births, painful labors, stalled progress … all of the things that can happen and end up concerning some women (and their doctors) so much. The overarching theme is still one of female power, health, and ability. All of these women give birth naturally, attended by the midwives of the Farm.

I used this part of the book as my daily dose of positivity. All of theses stories also contained valuable information on the most interesting, exciting, and feared part of pregnancy: birth. Gaskin then moves on to write about all of the technicalities of labor and delivery, writing about all of the options available to a woman, as well as pain coping techniques backed by fascinating anecdotes of births on the Farm.

Ms. Gaskin does spend some good time throwing stones at the modern pain-coping techniques and perhaps unnecessary testing. However, she also carefully explains each one so that parents reading her book can make informed decisions. I will say that, unlike other books touting natural childbirth, the Guide to Childbirth does not push faulty information on how “harmful” ultrasounds are. Gaskin does include her opinion that ultrasounds are not necessary, but that’s as far as she goes. (It’s a total pet peeve of mine when I read statistically unsound information about how harmful this routine procedure is. Again, I don’t like alarmist crap.)

I know that I will go back to this book time and time again. I will likely re-read parts of it closer to my due date, for the pain-coping techniques, as well as the incredibly positive and uplifting stories of childbirth. I would absolutely recommend this book to any expecting mother, whether or not she’s going for a natural childbirth. I give it a solid A on the Savvy Mom scale of approval.