Belly Lessons

A farmer's market in a small town in the West Coast is exactly what you would expect of it. There is someone playing an acoustic guitar; a french song I recognize from Madeleine Peyroux. There are people laying on the grass with their children, and funny looking dogs tied to trees. The whole place smells of fresh fruits, mostly pomegranates and some other exotic citruses.

Random friendly people come to talk with me just for the heck of it, such as the lady who is explaining I should mix this sauce with this vegetable and lie to my guests that I made that sauce myself. The Indian men who is selling me the sauce had already let me taste every single one of them. "She is pregnant. She should try all of them," he says to no one in particular with his heavy accent, "Here, try this. This good for baby."

Just then I hear a whisper, "Look where that lady hides her baby! She hides it in her belly!" I find the source of the voice and it is a father and his little Shirley Temple looking little girl having lunch. She stares at me, then at my belly, blue eyes wide, and asks her dad, "But WHY?"

I go home smiling, thinking I was that little girl once and the lessons I have learned as a young child about pregnant bellies.

Some of the lessons came from sweet moments; others not so much.


As a young child I had a huge ball I liked to play with. My mother kept telling me I needed to find a proper place to store it, because it seemed to always be in her way.

While walking in the country club one day I noticed a pregnant lady and thought she was the most brilliant person I had ever met. I couldn't believe that a grown woman also had a big ball that she cared enough to carry it with her under her shirt.

I told my mom, excited, pointing at the lady with the ball, "Mom! Look where that lady keeps her ball!"

To this day my mom still laughs out loud about this and she had explained to me then; to wide eyed me then; that what was inside that lady was a baby.

Lesson learned: When you see a lady with a big, round belly, she may be carrying a baby, not a ball.


In Catholic school we had Bible classes as part of the curriculum and when I learned that Mary got pregnant because God wanted her to, I missed the point of the story completely and became horrified that maybe God could decide for me to get pregnant with the next baby Jesus.

I wondered how I was going to explain that to my parents.

I became terrified to use the bathroom for number 2, and push too hard and have a baby.

A friend sensed my concern when I took a little too long in the toilette and I confessed to her my fears.

She said, with a child honesty that most adults lack, "The Virgin Mary was a very good person and you are not."

"I'm not?"

"Nope. You're kinda mean sometimes."

"Oh, good!" I said, relieved.

"Plus I think that God lets you know ahead of time. He sends an angel or something."

I stopped being afraid to use the bathroom but then I was scared shitless of angels.

Lesson learned: I am not good enough of a person to carry the next baby Jesus.


I had a Geography teacher that seemed to be pregnant for three years. She had one baby after another, but because I didn't know about the whole nine months yet (more like ten), I thought her baby just didn't want to come out.

My memory of her was not only her large size, but her difficult waddle from the door of the class to her desk while we threw papers at each other and talked loudly.

Her face always looked like she had just chewed up on some lemon, all screwed up and discontent.

She would try to put order in our unruly class by screaming and telling us what to do.

It never worked. We found her exasperation amusing.

One day she collapsed on her chair, put her head on her hands and started crying.

That was the first time we ever got quiet in class.

Lesson learned: Pregnant ladies are large, they walk funny, cry a lot, get mad a lot and look like they are chewing on lemon all the time.


Growing up in a third world country, you learn that someone soliciting by your door has a whole different meaning than that in the United States.

In Brazil people knocked on our door not to sell things, but to ask for a piece of bread, and they meant it.

(BTW, the economy has gotten better and we don't see this anymore, but as a child I would answer the intercom several times a day to people asking for food)

One day, as I stepped out of the school bus, I was stopped by a pregnant lady that dragged with her two other little kids and a toddler on her arms.

I was told not to talk with strangers, but how can I be afraid of a woman that waddles with a bunch of little kids in tow?

She was dark, had dark hair and bright green eyes. She was probably one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen and hypnotized by that I listened to her story.

Beggar lady needed a mattress and asked me if we had one to spare. I said we didn't, which was a lie, but I didn't want to get in trouble with my mom.

The lady lifted her shirt. She had stitches on her baby belly that were deep and large.

"My husband stabbed me. He doesn't want another baby and now we have no place to go."

In my twelve year old mind, this was too shocking and too heavy to deal with. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do. I finally decided to haul a mattress down the street to that woman and watched as her little kids carried it, who knows to where.

Lesson learned: Just because a woman is pregnant and has children; that doesn't mean she is immune to violence and people being mean to her.


The eye of the beholder

Everybody loves a pregnant woman, so I have been told. Random ladies on the street smile at me but I think it is because in their heads they know I am bigger than they and that makes them happy.

Lately I had been thinking that maybe the rest of my body was getting smaller, but the measuring tape doesn't lie. I have even more junk in the trunk than before. With this I have found another intriguing thing about pregnancy: the fastest way to make your ass look smaller is to grow your belly really big.

I was wondering, then, how other people really see me. When I look in the mirror, I see either a pregnant oompa loompa or a coconut: brown, small, harry, and round.

I got my answered on Saturday, while listening to someone else converse in a restaurant. By the way, I wore grown up clothes and grown up hair at this point in the day.

"I saw this cute, little pregnant young girl walking on the football field by the gym this afternoon. She had tiny shorts, a hot pink work out tank top, and a high ponytail. Her belly was huge!" here she showed with her hands the large dimension of said belly, "... and she had those big knockers. She looked so uncomfortable waddling. Her ponytail kept swinging side to side. You can tell she couldn't wait to finish her walk because she kept checking her watch. I guess she got tired, set under a tree and started text messaging on her phone."

First of all, I was not text messaging. I was online, on baby center forum, reading about other ladies that waddle. Second of all, I am not that young. My short stature, plus ponytail, give an optical illusion from a distance. Third of all, walking is hard! Fourth of all, thanks for the "cute" part.


10 things that are a bad idea while "with child"

1. Going for a long walk on the beach + coffee + small person squooshing your bladder - bathroom nearby = BAD idea. You will waddle faster than the seagulls.

2. Thinking you look either too cute or too ugly. Most of the time you just look funny. You're funny looking.

3. Wearing cleavage or high heels or short shorts or anything that makes a part of your body look sexy. Men get so confused. The normal ones want to look at you but turn their eyes really fast. You can see the struggle in their poor, puzzled brains.

4. Eating spicy food. The burn you feel in your mouth will come back to it in the form of heartburn.

5. Wearing pants that are hard to take off. You never know when the little one will decide to squeeze your bladder out of the blue. You will be saying, OMG, OMG, OMG in a public bathroom and will freak out the old lady in the next stall.

6. Having sex. It's not a bad idea, but it's so National Geographic, especially when your mate is describing the whole thing with, "...and the large female approaches the helpless male..."

7. Forgetting you are pregnant and dancing in public.

8. Forgetting you are pregnant and running to cross the street when cars are approaching - unless you want to scare the crap out of a driver.

9. Leaving a grocery store with only a bottle of wine, even if it is the non-alcoholic kind. You will look like you are out of your mind.

10. Wearing a bumble bee costume for Halloween with antennas and wings (more on that later). Read number 2.

In the grand scheme of things

I am in a library listening to a very animated person read Halloween stories to goblins, supermans, flowers and other spooky and hyper creatures of about three years old. My friend dragged me here as a crash course on what you do with a munchkin that is driving you nuts at home: you dress him up as a scary creature to go to the library so someone else can deal with him.

I watch one of the moms seating next to me cover her newborn with a cloth and change his diaper with one hand in a few seconds.  "That woman is a ninja!" I whispered, impressed, to my friend, which made her choke with her water. "That's probably her second," she explained, whispering too.

As I look around at the smiling group of  monsters and their parents, this got me thinking about what could possibly be worrying these people right now, because I know where my brain is.

I am thinking about the person I had considered hiring that is already giving me a headache and how I can't stop working; that I have to somehow keep making money and staying independent. I also think about the bitch who hit my husband's car whom claimed to her insurance that he was at fault, and now we have a grand to put down on something we didn't do... I sigh, thinking that life is long some days.

Outside the sun is shining and there are sunflowers  bopping with the sea breeze, which I can also see in a distance.

I like sunflowers. They know exactly where the sun is, even if it is overcast. Because my mom often quotes that a "cloud is a cloud; it's not the end of the sun," I have made a tattoo of a sunflower on my lower abs (which is now a huge sunflower because my belly has stretched it) to remind me of that.

This tattoo was done exactly five years ago. Where was I five years ago? I was heartbroken and finalizing a divorce. I had quit a job and started a business. I lived with a hoarder. I had an air mattress and very few possessions. I woke up one day on the floor. The mattress had a hole in it. I swore to myself I would never ever wake up on the floor again. With the little savings I had and a friend with a truck in tow, I bought a mattress and drove back home with it tied it to the car's roof, like a good, tacky latino does.

I got home and flopped myself on that mattress, hugging it with my arms and legs, and stayed that way for a good few hours. While there I promised myself I would start making grown up money. I would never ever depend on a man again. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I was going to make six figures. A few years later, my accounted was surprised to report to me that I had accomplished that.

Let's rewind to five years before that. Where was I? Terrorists had just attacked the United States a day after I broke up an engagement. My parents kept saying I had no reason to live in another country now that I had no roots and that I should quit everything and go back home. I had school to finish in Virginia and was just offered a job at CNN in Atlanta. I could do either one of those three things: finish college by taking over seventeen credits in one semester in order to graduate with that class, otherwise I'd lose my scholarship, move back to Atlanta sans diploma, or run back home to mommy.

Because I didn't have a computer, I would hide in the basement of the school's library when the guards closed it and finished doing my papers in one of the computer labs. One day, a cleaning person, a man that didn't speak English, entered that room and panicked, I begged, "Please don't tell the guards! Please don't tell the guards!" I had been writing the whole night and still had a good five hours of writing to do. That man left the room, and I thought for sure I was in trouble. That man, however did one of the nicest things any stranger had ever done for me.

He brought me back a cup of coffee and a bagel. Without a word, he left. Because of that man's kindness I decided it was the right thing to stay in school.

I can go back another five years and now I am in Brazil, at the end of my teen years. I am either a blonde, or a redhead, or I just shaved my head. I can't remember. My identity was all over the place at that point. I probably had a boyfriend I didn't really care about. I was singing in a band that my parents didn't approve. My worries back then were probably about the fact I hated high school and wanted to go live abroad and get away for a while. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life.

Fifteen years forward, we are back in the library of a small beach town in California and while the creatures sing about their skeleton bones, I surreptitiously check my emails on smart phone.

My friend just gave birth. She tells me in an email about the long, painful and eventful pregnancy, her worries, and the labor.

But then she tells me about the first time she saw her boy and how suddenly she burst into uncontrollable tears, and how she would do everything again just to feel that high. She says no orgasm, no wine, no chocolate, and no Pumpkin Spice Latte (we are both fans) can take you to that place.

With that I turn off my phone. In the grand scheme of things, the bumps in the road seem so small compared to moments like that.

I went home and did one of the bravest things I have done in the last few years: after numerous phone calls I have finally disabled my business website.

PS: the sunflower in the picture just bloomed in our backyard.


The evil cookie recipe

By request, I am posting the Evil Cookie Recipe.

Originally it was called Treasure Cookies, but I think it's just too nice of a name for something so evil, because nothing this good can be good for you.

Ideal occasions to bake Evil Cookies:

- When you want to gain three pounds in record time
- When you want more cellulitis on your butt cheeks
- When you don't know what to give someone as a gift
- When you need to apologize to your husband for being a bitch
- When you want everyone to fall instantly in love with you
- When you want to get high without drugs
- When you want people to think you have a talent for baking
- When it is sunny
- When it is rainy
- When it is snowing
- When the world is ending
- When you are PMSing
- When you are pregnant

What you will need:

- A box of Graham Crackers (the Honey kind is fine, but I use plain) - 1 1/2 cup crumbs
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 (14 ounce) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (not evaporated milk)
- ½ cup margarine or butter, softened (I do it in microwave)
- 1 & 1/3 cups flaked coconut
- 1 (12 ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

How to make these yummy things:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place about 16 Graham Crackers inside of a plastic bag and beat the crap out of it with a kitchen hammer until the cookies become flour, or small crumbs. Fill up a cup and a half of Graham Cracker crumbs.

In a small bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, flour, and baking powder.

In a larger mixer bowl, beat condensed milk and butter (remember to melt butter in microwave first!) until smooth. Add graham cracker crumb mixture; mix well. Stir in coconut, chocolate chips, and nuts. (Some people; I am not going to say who; can eat this batter as it is).

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto foil lined cookie sheet (I usually spray cooking spray on the foil). Bake 9 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Store loosely covered at room temperature.

A rounded tablespoon makes about 3-dozen cookies.


- Because the cookies are so sugary, they may get stuck to the foil, so you REALLY need to wait for them to cool off. (Some people; I am not going to say who; have gotten their fingers really burned trying to pry evil cookies from the foil before they were ready).
- Keep watching the oven every three minutes because those things can BURN!
- I usually use pecans because some people have allergies to walnuts
- You can use fat-free condensed milk


Tokophobia and the scariest thing yet this Halloween

Picture this: the cold lights on the ceiling are passing by really fast, doors open automatically as you approach, people get out of your way and stare at you. The crowd opens as you enter the elevator and once you get to the desired floor, you are moving fast, through halls and more halls, endless halls. You see spooky balloons and decorations that announce that Halloween is coming, but nothing else can scare you as much as you are frightened right now.

Are you a celebrity running away from papparazzi in a airport? No, you are being wheeled by a somewhat panicked hospital orderly from the Emergency Room to Labor and Delivery. Although human beings are taking you there, you find this to be the loneliest, and the longest, ride you will ever take.

Now, let's rewind a few years back.

I am reading online that perhaps I have something called Tokophobia, which is an irrational fear of child birth. Tokos comes from a Greek word that means childbirth and you know what phobia is.

People with Tokophobia can not talk about pregnancy, and sometimes can not even look at a pregnant person. Tokophobics have trouble watching movies or videos where a woman is in labor and view the whole process of pregnancy as a very alienish and foreign experience.

Tokophobics dream of storks.

When I thought I was pregnant about a year ago, I rushed to a bookstore to read more about the whole process. I ran into a book that had a nude picture of an expecting mother throughout the nine (more like ten) months. I immediately started hyperventilating called a friend crying, feeling terrified.

A former client who is a psychologist told me I needed to work through this phobia before I ever considered getting pregnant and what do you think I did instead? I got knocked up.

Let's go back to this past Saturday and the nurse is placing a heart rate monitor and other machinery on my belly.

I am twenty six weeks pregnant and was having contractions, followed by cramps, when I told zen teacher these symptoms (to get to know zen teacher, go to the post called "Prenatal Yoga"). Once I saw zen teacher lose all her zen demeanor, I knew I had no business being zen anymore either.

My nurse assures me not to worry because nothing bad ever happens to her patients and I know it's a lie, but it makes me smile for a split second. I hear other women going on labor and other heart rates in other rooms that sound like horses galloping. On the walls there are posters of what a ten centimeter dilated vagina looks like and it seems it is almost impossible that that can happen with anybody.

This is a center for distressed women and to a tokophobic all it needs is the soundtrack from the movie "Psycho" and flickering lights to complete the horror scene.

Strangely, I am calm (under the circumstances). I hear the noises, I feel the contractions and the baby kicking frantically, but I have gone to another place in my mind, a place that longer cares about me and my pain.

I think instead of preemies and how pink and little they look and how they could be blind, and have lung, heart and mental issues. I know that if he comes out now he will reject my milk and he will be staying in intensive care for another two to three months. I know I will go home with an empty womb, empty handed, and with an empty heart.

So here is my note to all the friends that don't know yet if they will have children and to those that are just too frightened by the whole thing: after you feel the baby kick for a few weeks and a few months, something drastically changes inside of you. Your brain completely erases any selfish concerns you may have for your own pain and your own discomfort.

Unconditional love is a strange thing. How can you love so much someone you have never even seen?

I am back home and all is well now and, as I write this, I can't believe how sarcastic I had been in the past about the whole thing. The whole thing being, becoming a parent.


The girl with a big question mark

I have a friend that says she describes me to other people as an image of a girl seating, surrounded by books, with a big question mark over her head.

I understand the archetype, or stereotype, as I have been this way since before I could read... if I don't understand something, I want to know why and it will bother me that it doesn't bother other people. The concept of ignorance being bliss doesn't register well with me.

So it's no surprise I am seating here surrounded with books about babies, breast feeding and how not to raise a psychopath.

Then there is the question of things to buy and things to do before the baby is here.

The lists seem to be endless. In my mind all a baby needed was a place to sleep, some diapers, some clothes and a pair of boobs. After all, what did cave people do? Didn't they just wrap their babies on their chest and hope for the best?

Not so much for the modern baby. Modern baby needs different clothing for different occasions, and jumpers, and swings, and bouncers, and pack n' plays. Modern mom needs at least one extra bag, sometimes two, and forget about anything matching.

I will probably be the mom that will remember to bring all baby's things for a play date and forget the kid. I'll be saying, "I didn't forget anything! Yay me! Now I just have to go back home and bring the baby!"

The more I gather information from other moms, the bigger the list gets and then there is always other scary information I don't know, such as preparing to breastfeed. "I have to do what with my nipples????"

I thought that baby came out of the belly hungry, you gave him a boob and everyone was happy.

Not so fast. Some babies don't like boobs right away, and vice-versa.

The list of classes I have to take to be a mom also sound like a continuing education course for some kind of certification that I will never get.

Question is: do classes really teach you to be a better parent? Haven't people been doing this for millions of years?

Apparently, according to some baby books, how you treat your infant will reflect on your child's personality and consequently, on how functional they will be as adults. No pressure, right? This concept got me thinking about crazy, needy, and socially awkward friends and ex-boyfriends, so I had to buy the books. The marketing people hired to sell those books are geniuses, by the way.

Should I just trust my instincts or is the modern mom that flawed?

My mother should be my best teacher, right? I was a good baby, as I have said before, but then again she did burn my brother in the tub (nothing serious but I wonder if that's why he has a nervous twitch? - just kidding!)

I don't know, and because I don't know I will continue to read.


Sympathy pains... in my neck

My husband has been so nice and loving that I suspect his body has been taken over by sweet aliens.

However, (there is always a however when it comes to men, isn't there?), I wonder if he is expecting as well.

It all started one day, when he turned to me and said, right after I threw up for the ump millionth time during the first trimester, "My stomach is upset. I feel like throwing up." So I thought that maybe we both ate something funny.

Then he started to feel really tired and claiming he needed a nap. That was around the same time he seemed to be little bothered with the fact that I wasn't working as much and was always too exhausted to move away from the couch. He made the following comment, a tad resentful, "What did you do all day?" and I answered, "I made a heart and a liver, what did you do?"

Then I caught him in bed with preggo pillow in a lazy Sunday morning. Instinctively and jealous, I wanted to save preggo pillow from him because while I smell delicious of lotions and girl things, he smells of dude smells (which strangely is what got me here in this pregnant state - pheromones are an interesting thing). I decided to leave them alone, though, because I am a good person that way.

Then he started having leg cramps and then a shooting pain down his belly. I couldn't resist and said, "Honey, those are ligament pains. It means your uterus is growing." He didn't get the joke because by then there was something on TV about Libya (read the post about Manners - he and I are different people; he actually watches the news).

Then his belly made a really loud noise and he joked saying it was kicking. I warned him, "Sweetie, whatever you have in there that is kicking is not cute."

Finally, one night he woke up in the middle of the night starving. Preggo pillow and I watched with only one eye open as he walked around in the dark, looking for food.

The next day he read an article in a newspaper about how a study has shown that men do get sympathy pains and pregnancy symptoms when around an expecting mother.

He said, sure of himself "I don't have that."

"Of course you don't" I responded.


On becoming a woman

When does one become a woman? I am confused, because the rite of passage keeps changing on me.

First they told me I would become a woman the day I had my fist period. I was ten and thought I had pooped in my pants. When my mother finally told me what was happening with my body, I didn't feel womanly. I felt like a freak. I had boobs already and really, really, really liked boys. The nuns would call my house and tell my parents that I should be playing with dolls instead of thinking about sinning. I wanted to play with boys, but did they want to play with me? No. Did I feel more of a woman because my cycles had began? No. I felt cursed.

I figured I would become a woman the day I lost my virginity. I spent that night awake in bed thinking, "Why in the world do people even like sex?" and "I could have done that with a tampon." Was I more of a woman for that? I don't think so, and if I was, I was a disappointed one.

Then I was told I would become a woman the day I got married. In that case, I became a woman twice. The first time I was dressed in pink and the groom's parents were bare feet. We had no place to live and he turned out to be a drug addict, so not much womanhood there. The second time we married by a waterfall in Brazil. He wore his Marine Corps uniform and I wore a short dress; a girlie bride dress. The ceremony was romantic but almost entirely in Portuguese, a language he does not speak nor understands, so he is still not so sure what he agreed to and signed (a perfect scenario, if you ask me). Our celebrant was middle eastern and had an Arabic tattoo on his hand, which I noticed half way through the ceremony and prayed (in silence) that if he was a terrorist that he didn't explode until we were pronounced husband and wife. Did I become a woman that day? I was too tired and drunk to notice.

And now I am pregnant and for the first time in my life I was sure I could say, "Hey, I think I am a woman now. There's nothing more womanly than carrying a child in a womb, right?" Wrong.

Some of those tree-hugging, self-righteous, knocked up, and hormonal females I have met think you have to have a natural birth (no drugs, no doctors, no modern science to facilitate the birthing process because, God forbid if bad, evil science is trying to help us feel a bit better) to be a real woman.

You know what? In the next life I will come back as man, because all you really need to be claimed as such is a penis.


Let's talk about pumpkin sex

My stepson has been curious about how babies are made for a while now.

He knows that I know that he knows. For a while there he wanted everyone to know he knew. He would make comments about sex at random times, to try and get a reaction from us grown ups. We would whistle the comments away.

I mentioned it to his mom and she said she knew that he knew that I know. He also knows what gays are because he watches Modern Family (and aren't we a modern family?)

So what's the fuss about sex talk with a child that already knows and wants you to know that he knows, anyway? If we know that he knows (and we have no idea how he knows; there is usually an older cousin or neighbor that will spill the beans, right?), why not be open about it?

We were walking by my little orchard, which I realized, surprised, that taking care of my plants became a favorite past time of his too, when we noticed that the baby pumpkins are coming out (a little late in the season, but I started late).

(It's funny, by the way, how gardening has brought together the most unlikely of people: my father, my stepson and I. My father grows vegetables (and pumpkins) all the way in his country house in Brazil and we exchange gardening tips and pictures. Now I have finally something to talk on the phone with my dad besides, "Hi dad, is mom there?" and we both think mom doesn't understand the concept of placing eggshells around plants to keep bugs away; a concept my stepson understood right away. "The bugs are afraid of chickens!" he said. I never imagined I would bond with these people over flowers.)

Stepson noticed the little pumpkins and asked how those babies came about.

I told him how flowers date and get married too (at his age people don't have sex outside marriage yet), and that most plants have a boy and a girl flower.

The girls become pumpkins, I told him, once boys give them their seeds.

I showed him the girl. She is usually wider and the parts that make her female are a little fat. They also have a belly on their stem, because nature wants to make sure that all women are self-conscious.

The males are everywhere, I further explained. They show up sooner when you fertilize the land; eager to mate, and they are skinnier.

Then I explained that because they couldn't date physically, insects did it for them by bringing the pollen (I rubbed my fingers here on the yellow powder to show him what it was) from boy to girl. After a few days, I said, the flowers die and a baby pumpkin starts to grow.

Proud of myself for managing to be tactful without being graphic, I waited as stepson stared at the flower, pensive, reflective. I imagined that perhaps this was one of the coolest conversations he ever had with an adult and that he would never forget this moment.

He finally turned to me and said,

"When are we going to Legoland?"


Prenatal Yoga - AOMMMM

My mother advised me to take prenatal yoga classes as way to calm my ever so anxious mind down. In other words, she hopes that by bringing some zen into my life I will be less of a bitch.

She claims I was a good baby because she did prenatal yoga throughout her pregnancy. Apparently I slept through the night, rarely ever cried, and had no sickness or colic. I attribute that to the simple fact that I am awesome.

However, my mom says, after the age of three I became a real little turd, picking fights with everyone and just being difficult. I asked her, "So when did that 'turd' phase ended?" and she responded, "I am keeping my fingers crossed. Any day now!"

So here I am, at the yoga studio, with my oversize pillows (you are supposed to bring two), my blocks, and my yoga mat, feeling a little nervous, like it's my first day at school.

I realize quickly and surprised that I am not the fattest lady here. I suddenly feel thin. I am a thin pregnant lady. Yay. These women are about to pop. One of them is due tomorrow and inadvertently my eyes keep darting at her to make sure she is not going through labor or something.

The zen teacher speaks with her zen voice for us all to close our eyes while we seat with our legs crossed. Then she says, "Now we are going to squeeze our Kegel muscles and relax; squeeze and relax... clear your mind..." and I am thinking, "Are you serious? How can I clear my mind when all I can think of is that all of the women in this room are focusing right now in their vagina muscles?"

Then the zen teacher starts with the actual yoga class.

So what is the difference between normal yoga and prenatal yoga?

Nothing, really, except, of course of the Kegel part and the modification of certain poses because of the belly.

The rest is as hard and I have never been a good yogi. So here I am shaking, my sweat dripping on my mat and the teacher says something along the lines of, "Now grab your left foot with your right hand from behind your back..." and I am thinking, looking at the other pregnant ladies, some grabbing their foot effortlessly, others falling to the side like a seal out of the water, "Somebody needs to tell this lady we have a human inside of us."

That's when it downed on me, "We have fifteen pregnant ladies in this room, and fifteen little fetuses, so in reality there are thirty people here right now..."

My ADD mind was off somewhere like this when the teacher asked again that we clear our minds.

But then my baby started hiccuping and I brought my hand to my belly, making a face.

"Anything wrong?" zen teacher asked.

"He is hiccuping," I said, which made some of the ladies giggle.

"Oh, good," zen teacher said, "We want hiccups. We don't want cramps, though."

Should I tell her I do feel cramps?

Anywho, there's something unnatural about the downward dog position when I have an extra three pounds of blood volume rushing to my head and my weak stomach muscles are sipping burning gastric juices in my esophagus. I want to say, "By a raise of hands, who else has heartburn and want to move onto something else?"

The pigeon pose, however, is magical. Zen teacher modifies it by placing blocks under me so I don't squoosh the baby and it hurts so good that I can feel myself getting crossed-eyed under my closed eyelids with pleasure.

By the end of the class we lay sideways, with one pillow between the legs, mimicking preggo pillow.

Zen teacher then places a small lavender smelling cushion over our eyes and I swear I actually dozed off into another dimension, and that's where I got sold.

I am coming back for nothing more than that lavender pillow and that lovely nap.

Manners - or lack thereof

I don't have much manners.

Or at least I haven't incorporated yet the manners I should have here in the United States. Eleven years in, I am still going through cultural shocks and learning that if you bump into someone on the street, you better say you're sorry (where I come from, you don't even notice it - personal space is slightly overrated there).

When I was fresh off the boat in this country, I learned most of my colloquial English from a boyfriend that now I know, had a very dirty mouth.

I dropped the "F" bomb like it was an adverb or an adjective, and sometimes like it was the subject of a sentence.

My then boyfriend's grandmother had a horror expression on her face whenever I talked and I figured it was because she was senile. A professor in college finally made me understand why.

I raised my hand during class and asked, "Professor, I don't understand what the f... you just said..." The class exploded in laughter and my professor took me aside after class. He said, "Mariana, girls don't talk like that. As a matter of fact, nobody talks like that, but sailors." He explained to me that the "F" and other not so nice words were not appropriate things to say, ever, and especially coming from a sweet, little girl.

I wasn't aware. I mean, I wasn't aware I was sweet.

A few days ago I showed my stepson the ultrasound pictures of the baby that are glued to the refrigerator. I said, "...and here you can see his little peepee and his little balls..." My stepson brought his hands to his mouth, bursting out in giggles. "Did I say something inappropriate?" I asked my husband, whom shook his head from behind his newspaper. "Seriously, is there another word for balls?" which made stepson laugh even more, as if I had said the funniest thing ever. My husband just shook his head again, rolling his eyes.

You see, my husband and I are already from different planets.

He comes from a small, conservative town and is from a long line of Southern Baptist ministers (... the only boy who could ever reach me, was a son of a preacher's man, yes he was - remember that song?). He is neat, classy, quiet, shy, and is interested in talking about serious things, like economy and politics.

I come from a crowded, three million people city, in a very liberal country where clothing seems to be optional. I can talk with a brick wall if you let me. I am far from shy. Sometimes I forget to brush my hair (no point if you are driving a Jeep, anyway), and the most I have ever been involved in politics was while representing the commuter students as a senator, and I only did that because they gave free cookies.

So here is the question: do I have enough time to straighten up before the baby is here? I don't want him to be the weird kid that says funny things and sounds like a sailor.

Son Of A Preacher Man Song

Musical Chairs

I believe I have sat in every single chair in the waiting room at the doctor's office and in every single angle whithin five minutes, trying to find a comfortable position. If there is a hidden security camera around here, whoever is watching is thinking, "What in the world is she doing?"

Once they bring me into the private room and while I wait seating up on the doctor's table, swinging my legs, I catch a glimpse of myself on the mirror by the wall (why do they have a mirror right there? I don't know. Maybe to remind pregnant ladies of how huge they look seating up in an unflattering hospital gown?). I stopped swinging my legs abruptly and said out loud, "Oh my lord! I look like the letter B."

Doctor thinks I am gaining weight at the right rate (12lbs thus far), whatever that means. He predicts I may gain another 15 pounds. I can't imagine getting any bigger or any more uncomfortable. Someone needs to explain to mother nature that I am five feet tall and that thirty pounds in me looks and feels a lot different than thirty pounds in a lady of normal height.

He then proceeds to check on the baby's heart rate with a doppler and, what do you know, my octopus kicks it away; doesn't want anyone poking him. "Oh, he is a kicker," doctor says. "I know," I say proudly. "He doesn't like cell phones resting on him either."


The monster upstairs OR A visit from stepson

There is a special place in heaven for stepparents.

But there could also be a place in hell.

Being a stepparent brings out the worst and the best in you.

I often joke that Cinderella's evil stepmom was not mean or heartless, but misunderstood. If the Cinderella's story was told by the stepmom's point of view, she would tell you that Cinderella was high on LSD when she talked with animals and made friends with an old, invisible fairy that turned pumpkins into vehicles. She would also tell you about the one time that Cinderella came home from a party so trashed that her dress was in shambles and she was missing a shoe.

I am not a mom yet, on the sense of the word. There is a child inside me, but I don't know yet about sleepless nights, the tantrums, the lack of understanding and cooperation from the child's part when you want them to do something that is important to them (and they won't), and have yet to live the part where they tell you they hate you.

When someone throws a half grown kid into your life that came from another woman's womb, it becomes even harder to comprehend.

You start to wonder if there is something wrong with the child, and then if there is something wrong with you because you don't understand that child.

When he throws himself on the floor because you won't give him a toy, or won't eat his food if it's not macaroni and cheese, or won't go to bed and take showers when you expect him to, and interrupts your conversation every three seconds, runs around and breaks things, says your name with such frequency that you wonder if your name is going out of style, and claims he is bored when you already spent the whole day with him in a loud and wild water park where the water smells of pee and think you can't move any longer... you wonder, is this normal?

I remember a particular day; one of those days when he seemed to have incarnated the tasmanian devil, acting hyper, throwing tantrums and wanting to play, play, play, and I took not one, but TWO birth control pills at the end of that day. I recall rushing to the medicine cabinet, my head pounding from the day's events, and said under my breath while hearing him complain from the living room that he was bored yet again, and looking frantic for my birth control pills, "Where are those damn things?"

But then he follows you around just because he looks up to you, wants to help you plant your sunflowers, asks you questions such as, "If China is on the other side of the planet, how come Chinese people don't fall into the universe?", and understands the beauty of just watching seals sunbathe or how truly cool oversized Lego sculptures are, you end up feeling horrible about yourself.

He is a child, after all, and it is OK that he is jealous of this baby, and that he tells his mom in the process that he hates me. A grown up understands that he doesn't mean it. A grown up swallows his or her pride and tries to see things from the point of the view of the child, even if it hurts, and sometimes it hurts a lot.

That's why being a grown up sucks.

A stepchild is God's way of presenting you a mirror to your soul, all the good, the bad and the ugly, which forces you to learn about love, the unconditional kind, and to grow up really fast.

This is what came out of his room this morning and I suspect that this is the source of all the creepy noises we have been hearing upstairs.


Dear John (and other important updates)

Once upon a time there was an English doctor named John Braxton Hicks.

He was obsessed with women's parts and obstetrics.

In my very scholarly and thorough Wikipedia research, I found out that Hicks was one of the first doctors to deal with bipolar. "Were his patients all manic-depressive and mentally unstable?" you may ask, knowing full well from your own experience that pregnant women are in fact slightly out of sorts.

No, bipolar, in obstetrics world is when the baby is laying sideways when he should be coming to the world head first. Hicks proceeded to insert his big 'ol hand in there and turned the baby. He was the first doctor to master this procedure, but I don't see anywhere in my internet literature on how satisfied those poor laboring women were with his method.

When I first read this (in terror) I immediately called my doctor and said, "I want an epidural now!" and also, "If something called bipolar happens to me, just cut me open, OK?" He agreed, and I said, "I am serious. Don't go turning anything in there with your big 'ol hand."

Hicks was most famous, however, for being the first doctor to describe something women knew for gazillion of years: you can have contractions months before birth.

Women have been telling their doctors and anyone with ears this symptom since the beginning of time and have been regarded as nuts and, in this case, bipolar, but all it took was a man (that never felt it and never would feel it himself) to acknowledge this discomfort and suddenly everyone believe it existed.

The London obstetrics association went insofar as to give this contractions his name: Braxton Hicks.

Why am I so interested in this piece of history? One, because I am having insomnia and have nothing better to do. Two, because I am having those contractions right now.

They feel as if someone is squeezing one part or all of the uterus, raising my heart rate and leaving me slightly out of breath.

(OMG!!! I was typing here and munching on my very early breakfast when I saw a little mouse seating next to me on the couch probably having his breakfast and comfortably paying attention to what I am writing. I screamed bloody murder and threw this very computer a few feet away - it still works. My poor sleepy husband is now moving all the furniture around, looking for the intruder. I think it's time to call a pest control. I am now in another room and can hear my husband joking, saying, "Honey, at least someone is cleaning after the cheerios you leave between the creases of the couch")

Where was I? Oh, yes, my contractions are gone now and who cares, anyway. There is a nasty, yucky thing in my house that likes my breakfast and seems to have an interest in my blog.


I'm gonna cry!!!

Someone just told me that fetuses cry in the womb right about this very week I am.

Then I saw this video:

Baby crying in womb

and then I cried.

Apparently this is how they start to show displeasure over loud noises or being hurt (think car accident, or jarring movements).

Yesterday, as I took a hot shower and let the water hit my belly, baby literally punched my belly button. When I moved my belly away, he calmed down. I wonder if he did cry, or was just pissed off. Do fetuses get pissed off?

I know they can feel heat, sense light, hear loud noises, taste the spicy food I like, and play with the umbilical cord by squeezing it until they feel out of breath - I don't know about you, but that would teach me really fast that this is how I get my oxygen and I think I would stop squeezing it.

Now I have also learned that they dream. What could they possibly dream about? They can barely see their hands to make sense of them and put them in a dream. Could my baby just dream about my singing? That could be a nightmare.

Also, how do scientists discover those things? Do they ask the babies when they arrive? Seriously.


What lies beneath (my roof) (warning - angry cussing language)

If you have read the post Rodents and I (in September file), you know I wake up in the middle of the night ravenous. Baby is growing up a storm and is hungry.

These days I slide off of the bed feet first without seating up, pretty much falling to the floor. Seating up takes abdominal muscles, which must be dormant by now, even though I plank my way through the mornings. I always land with a THUMP that makes my husband squirm for a bit, turning around and sequestering my preggo pillow away to his side of the bed.

Once on my feet, I reach out for my crunchy protein bars, which I find with the light of my cell phone. Then I check facebook while I munch away, because in Brazil it's already morning and unimportant but important things are starting to happen on facebook news.

A few nights ago, however, I heard another crunch that felt outside my head. I stopped between bites and listened, bringing my head to the wall of the bedroom. Something else seemed to also have the munchies in the middle of the night and is living in my walls.

I heard of raccoons living in people's walls in order to have babies in this region and my first reaction to this was, "How cute!" but now what came out loud from my mouth full of crumbs was, "You little fucker!" which made my husband turn in bed and mumble, "Huh?"

It all started one night, when the yard sensor lights came off out of the blue several times that evening, brightening up our room. My husband and I alternated looking out the window for a suspicious intruder. We saw nothing. I thought, "Either there is a very small Mexican thug hiding by the grapevines or this thing detects ghosts."

The next night, while watching TV, my husband set up abruptly, with a panicked look on his face. "What?" I asked, now panicked too. I was shushed. "Be very still!" he whispered, and I pictured Jason from Friday, the 13 standing behind me with a knife.

"What is it?" I asked. "Just listen!" he whispered again, then he proceeded to move towards the kitchen with cat-like movements and Marine-like skills. My heart was racing and in my head I am thinking, "Where is that freaking shalaylee that was such a pain to bring through airport security when you need it?"

Then I heard it, right above our heads, crunch, crunch, crunch... "We have roommates" I finally said. I listened a little while longer, and completed, now concerned, "and they are not small."

My husband took on the mission to solve the mystery by setting up mice traps around the house. He is still convinced it is something small. His explanation, "the neighbors just cut their tall grass, so those things get out and invade other people's homes."

In the middle of that night, while munching away, I heard a loud CLECK of the mouse trap in the garage (yes, I have super hearing powers too). I poked at my sleeping husband, "I think we have a suspect," I said. He mumbled, "Huh?"

The next morning, my Marine approached the garage with cat-like caution and came back with a strange look on his face. "What?" I asked. "It's still alive and it's a baby" he said, weird expression still on his face. "Nooooo," I cried. "We can't let it die! What if his mom is looking for him?"

I have heard that when you are nesting while pregnant, you start to understand all mothers and that's where my mind was when I said, "We have GOT to release it!"

Now it's the evening and picture this: my husband is walking fast by our dim lit street while a waddle right behind him. He has a plastic bag where a live baby mouse is trapped. "I can't believe we are doing this. You are turning me into a softy, you know?" he kept on saying.

He decided that the best place to release it was by the field where bunnies hang out. "What if there is a vicious little bunny there, like the one from Monty Python?" I said, and he rolled his eyes. I walked away about twenty feet. It's a mouse, after all, and I don't want to see it decide to crawl up on me.

From a distance I see the silhouette of my husband by the field light. He opens the bag, walks away, then un-click the trap, walks away, then picks up the trap, something little falls, he walks away. The something little doesn't move. "Noooooo!" I yell. I see my husband's head turn towards me, then look down at the something little. "It's dead," he says, but then the something little crawls up a bit and we decide to leave.

We came home feeling somewhat victorious. We caught the pest and we didn't completely kill it.

Just like a scary movie, though, and just as we were about to fall asleep (scary movie music please), the yard lights came on again.

I still think it is something bigger than a ratatouille family, though. Stay tuned.



I was talking with a friend the other day (I won't mention her name or else she will kill me) and told her about the Octopus Alien (the Octopus Alien post is under the September file). She said, "Huh! I wonder if he is trying to say something?"

I said, "I know, right? But I don't think he even knows he is IN somebody. He probably hears my voice and think I am very talkative God or something." She said, "Hum. Then maybe he kicks to get you to shut up?"


All I know is that sometimes his movements get caught up in a rhythm and stick to it for a good minute, almost to the tempo of "Billy Jean."

I did a little research and I think I figured out the mystery. Turns out baby is not dancing to Michael Jackson or talking Morse code. Baby is hiccuping.

Why do babies hiccup?

First, baby needs a brain and a functioning nervous system. So that's good news. If a fetus is hiccuping, that means things are growing according to plan. Second, baby needs to open his big, little mouth and yawn (yes, fetuses yawn) or swallow (just for the heck of it) amniotic fluid. Third, his lungs have to react to the presence of the fluid by causing his tiny diaphragm to contract (another sign that things are responding well) and that's how fetus' hiccups are made.

As a little girl, whenever I got the hiccups, my brother would sneak behind me and scare the crap out of me with a loud "BOO!" It never worked; my hiccups continued, and I was now pissed, but it's an old wives tale that scaring someone with hiccups causes them to suck the air in rapidly, which stops the rhythm of the hiccups.

No, I'm not going to say "BOO!" to my belly (I tried. It doesn't work).

Btw, I dare you to get "Billy Jean" out of your head now.
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