Pamper thyself

Prior to becoming pregnant, I was what you might call an admirer of beauty products.  I certainly found them alluring–I could easily spend ages in Lush and Sephora poring over products, and imagining how the potions and lotions might work their magic on me.  Occasionally, temptation would overcome me, and I would buy several products and bring them home.  I promised myself I would begin a new beauty regimen, but mostly the products just stayed on the shelf, looking attractive and promising but going unused.  I tended to favor things that were more overtly aesthetic, like clothes and makeup (what can I say, I’m a girly girl).

The same was true for spa treatments.  I love going to the spa, and swear I’m going to put aside money to make massages a regular treat for my tight shoulders, but it never seems to happen.

Since becoming pregnant though, all those theoretical treats (wouldn’t it be nice if I could have bright undereyes with no shadows?) have become real necessities.  One thing I have learned is that even easier pregnancies take over your body.  I’d consider myself pretty lucky–my morning sickness was just nausea, I was full of get up and go in my second trimester, I’ve not been incapacitated in the third.  But there are still a bevy of discomforts–heartburn, painfully swollen feet, a belly that itches horribly from stretching so much, painful, uncomfortable sleep.

MR very sweetly for my birthday in April bought all kinds of pregnancy comfort products, which really touched me, but in the back of my mind I wondered if I would use.  Turns out they’ve been essentials–stretch mark oil and foot spray and a pregnancy pillow that I literally could not sleep without.  Then I added to my stores with more foot and hand creams, and moisturizers for my stomach.  And I find myself using them daily like I never have before, and taking long soaks in the bath. I think in the past 9 months I’ve taken more baths than I have since I was a kid.

I’m coming to rather like the ritual of it, and one of the neat things is seeing the benefit.  MR is being a very good husband and massages my swollen feet, and every time he does that I see the difference.  Sleep is kind of a miserable experience at the moment, filled with pain and discomfort and what seems like hourly trips to the bathroom, but rubbing a bit of cool cream into my stomach to relieve the itching feels both relaxing and indulgent.

I think the takeaway here is that these little indulgent rituals are something worth preserving.  I’ve mentioned before how ‘experienced’ parents love to warn with wide eyes about how once you have a baby, say goodbye to everything, and how at breastfeeding class, they made me worry I would be a milk cow.  But even if I am, there’s five minutes to rub some cream into my feet, or sit with my husband and give him a neck rub, or have him give me one (I don’t think I can count on the foot rubs continuing post partem).  And it’s worth finding those five minutes to feel human again–or still, depending on how you look at it.

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The Doom Squad

The past month or so has been full of intense preparations for giving birth.  My nesting instincts kicked in, and I meticulously organized all the baby clothes and created a spreadsheet for all the things we need to buy.  MR and I attended a round of birthing classes, and I started hypnotherapy in an effort to calm down about the impending labor.  I have to say, the efforts have paid off well.  I was nervous about giving birth (honestly, who wouldn’t be?), but now I feel much more equipped for it.  Plus, the subsequent conversations with MR all this preparation inspired have made me feel even better.

By the time our last NCT class (or birthing class, for those of you in the States) rolled around, I was feeling downright cheerful about the whole thing.  I had labor in hand, I felt–I had an arsenal of pain relief techniques, and if those didn’t work, I had an epidural.  Whenever I went to appointments, the midwives always said I was doing really well, and I didn’t even have gestational diabetes, which I was sure I was going to get.  Things were going to be ok.

Except.

I’ve planned to breast feed for awhile, really for as long as I’ve been planning to have kids.  It just seemed like the best alternative.  I don’t pass any judgment at all on women who choose to bottle feed, but as they keep saying how breast milk is best, it’s something I thought I should do.  Also, nature seems to have over-endowed me in that area to the point where it’s a bit annoying, so I thought it would be nice to put the things to their natural use.

What I didn’t know was that apparently, it’s not as simple as it looks.  This seems a bit unfair as other milk producing mammals don’t seem to have issues.  Heck, humans make use of cow, sheep, and goat milk on a daily basis, which says they can produce enough milk for their offspring and then keep going.  As I learned more about breast feeding, though, I learned that humans, for some reason, don’t have it so easy.  On top of that, because we are self conscious, perhaps too much for our own good, there are all kinds of theories about it.  Science says ‘breast is best’ which makes sense, but then some people take it to a whole other level and say that those women who say they have production problems simply don’t want it enough.  That kind of language weirds me out, because it’s the kind of phrasing they use in the Olympics.  “She’s extraordinarily gifted, but you just don’t see her wanting it enough.”  But the last time I checked, there was no competition for breastfeeding, and it doesn’t get your face on a Wheaties box.  (Sidenote: Are Wheaties still around?  They tasted an awful lot like cardboard.)  So then there are all these levels of superiority, and judging, and the implication that women who breastfeed are better mothers and much closer to their babies.  It’s all a little too intense.

Admittedly, most of this I’m getting second hand, from a friend who struggled to feed and couldn’t manage it, and was subsequently subsumed by guilt and saw accusations towards bottle feeders everywhere, especially internet forums (never the place to go when you’re having a personal crisis).  I can’t say I blame her for getting upset over what she read and heard and perceived–this post is essentially the same thing.  Nonetheless, her reports were enough to start making me nervous, although I tried to say to myself that my experience may be very different, even when she was talking about how much you have to feed to keep your supply up.  Maybe I wouldn’t have issues with supply?

But then other reports started to come in.  Other women I knew who just had babies reported how hard and tiring breastfeeding could be.  Then our NCT classes confirmed: pretty much for the first twelve days, the baby wants to eat every two hours, and will take a long time to do so, so you barely get a break between feeds.  There are a vast number of scientific reasons for this: the baby is learning, the mother is learning, the milk supply has to balance out and meet the demand, but none of this reassured me.  Instead raw panic gripped me.  I was essentially going to be a cow, existing only to milk.  I couldn’t type on my computer, or sew, or crochet, or do anything but stare zombie-like at the television and hope to catch half an hour of shut-eye in between feeds.  Of all the things about motherhood, this is the one that actually terrified me.  MR said I was having an existential crisis about it, which I think is pretty accurate.  That description of barely sleeping and constant feeding made me feel like I would lose every ounce of who I am.  Maybe I would get it back as things started to even out, but a fortnight of losing all sense of self is a rather terrifying prospect.  For the first time I began to worry about getting post partum depression.

In thinking about it, I realized there’s a certain amount of betrayal in that description.  I need some hope at the moment, something to look forward to.  Labor is not an exciting prospect, however prepared I feel for it, and now that I’m counting down these last four weeks and three days, pregnancy is really getting old.  I’m constantly uncomfortable, and can’t really walk anywhere.  I’d like to be able to stand up without a monumental effort, or crouch down without my knees singing out in pain, or eat without having ferocious heartburn.  I can’t remember what it was like to have a normal body.  But the baby was going to be the payoff, and that was what I was hanging on to.  To hear that the first couple weeks with her will turn me into a zombie was crushing, especially as I do not like anything zombie related.  (No, I haven’t watched the Walking Dead, and I don’t plan to.  It’s really not my thing.)

MR has mentioned before how new parents *love* to give advice and get all wide eyed as they impart dire warnings of impending misery.  He also points out that despite this misery, people seem willing to subject themselves to parenthood multiple times over.  This is something of a paradox.  Except it’s not–people in general love to complain and feel uncomfortable gushing.  And so I don’t even know if ‘experienced’ parents realize what they’re doing to people who are about to become parents.  I mean, I know it’s not going to be a bed of roses.  I’m going to have to deal with a lot of crap, both literal and figurative in just over a month, and that will continue for the rest of my life.  But in a way, that’s kind of beautiful–this little person is coming into my life, and she’s never, ever going to leave it.  No matter what happens, no matter how much she or I screw up, I will always be her mother and she will always be my daughter.  It’s irrevocable.  Early adulthood is full of fragile human bonds that seem to break so easily–fights with friends, relationships ending, and there’s an amazing security of parenthood.

Which brings me to my point–this isn’t going to be a horror movie.  Yes, it will be hard.  I’ve never done anything like it before.  But I have been sleep deprived.  I’ve pulled all nighters to finish papers; I’ve been on many, many transatlantic flights where sleep was impossible.  And breast feeding is probably a lot easier to pull off on no sleep than making incisive points comparing the depiction of childhood in Dickens and Twain.  I just wish people would *say* that.  A little encouragement would go such a long way.  Not the grim “You’ll get through it” that people seem to espouse as some form of motivation.  It shouldn’t be that way.  Tell me it’s hard, that’s fine, but also tell me that there’s some magic in there, something good.  No, I may not be able to write, or do much of anything, but tell me that really seeing your baby’s face and seeing your own features or your partner’s reflected in it is incomparable.  Tell me how happy all the relatives will be to meet the baby.  Tell me that somehow it brings you and your partner closer.  Tell me something good, for Pete’s sake.  Don’t you think I need to hear it?

Ultimately it was MR who got me realizing that there would actually be good stuff in the midst of the two week haze.  He said that whenever he announced a happy change, it was always met with an exhale of air and some dire warning.  When he got engaged, everyone who was married said “There goes your independence.”  When we bought the house, all the homeowners said “There goes your money.”  I don’t know if this is a British thing, or just a people thing, but it made me realize–getting married was stressful (and was made more so by certain Departments of Immigration which may or may not be shut down by government crises at the moment), but even with all the planning and rushing around the two days before the wedding, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.  The best to date, really.  Moving house was again very stressful, and packing wasn’t much fun, but setting up our new house as distinctly ours was.  We bought all this great furniture and painted things how we liked them, and it felt really good to do that and build a home with someone.  And now I get to walk around the house and know that it’s *mine* (well, half of it anyway), and that I’m not answerable to any landlord.  So clearly the same is going to happen when we have this baby at last…isn’t it?  If you have any words of encouragement, I’d really like to hear them.

No, I’m not speaking English wrong (some musings on the English language)

For some reason in the last week I’ve come across a couple of musings on the English language.  One was from my husband, though, and considering we talk a lot and in depth about all kinds of geeky topics like linguistics frequently, this is not altogether surprising.

The other was a facebook post, one of those things that make ‘keen’ observations on the English language.  It’s rather long, so I’ll post a couple of highlights:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse. …

 

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

 

I feel compelled to reply.  I’m a linguist of sorts–I’ve spent a lot of time studying different languages and making connections.  I’ve also taught linguistics (one of my favorite classes to teach *ever*) but have had relatively few opportunities to actually take linguistics courses–I’ve had three from high school through to a Master’s Degree.  Sometimes I think I would pick colleges differently and try to major in linguistics, but at the moment I shall have to remain self taught.  Of course, that doesn’t prevent me from itching to wade in on issues of language.

Like this post on Facebook.  Such ‘observations’ are something of a bugbear of mine, because they only seem to say ‘Haha!  Isn’t English wacky and possibly stupid?’  But it’s not.  English is fascinating because it’s such a mongrel language which has had such varied and heavy influences in barely more than a millennium of existence.  What’s more interesting to me than the questions are the answers.  For instance, hamburgers aren’t meant to have ham in them.  The term is a reference to the German city of Hamburg.  He goes on to observe plurals: ‘If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? ‘  A lot of it has to do with the etymology of the word.  Index came into Middle English from Latin, and pluralizing it has a lot to do with how the word would be pluralized in Latin.  He laughs at more paradoxes by saying ‘English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? ‘  That may seem insane, except…play is an Old English word, while recite is Middle English, coming from (you guessed it) Latin.  It’s not insane, it’s a question of different language influences.  That’s why the words for meats in English are rarely related to the animal they come from: pig/ pork, cow/ beef–pig and cow are Old English words, used by the lower class Anglo-Saxon farmers while the meats were then in turn eaten by the Norman (i.e. French speaking) lords in the middle ages.  It’s easy to see the French influence when ‘porc’ is French for pork and ‘boeuf’ for beef, and pronounced almost identically.

English isn’t insane or without logic, it’s a beautiful and deeply complex language which owes much to the many cultural influences on both culture and language.  That’s why I have a couple of observations to add.  Namely:

British English isn’t the ‘right’ English.

I cannot even begin to say how many people laugh at me saying ‘tom-ay-to’, or claim I’m either pronouncing or saying English ‘wrong’ since I’ve lived here.  My husband’s grandmother yelled at me for calling my future child my ‘kid’ but then she uses the regional word ‘babby’ instead of ‘baby’.  English people seem to think exerting their cultural dominance over Americans or other ‘colonists’ is absolutely hilarious, but I’ll admit–it kind of grates on my nerves.  I chuckled when Henry Higgins spoke-sung ‘In America, they haven’t spoken [English] for years’ because I thought he was just so over the top.  But he’s not.  And every time I hear it I get annoyed because a) I have spent most of my career learning how to craft and manipulate the English language, and am annoyed at the implication that I can’t speak it properly and b)…

There really isn’t such a thing as proper English.

In linguistics, there’s the idea that grammar can be prescriptive, that is to say a set of rules that everyone must follow to speak a language correctly, and an idea that there is a single right form of a language.  Alternatively grammar can be descriptive, meaning the rules of grammar come from observation of the habitual uses of the speakers, and thus is a very malleable, changeable thing.  

An example of prescriptive grammar is the idea that you can never end a sentence in a preposition.  That rule comes from Latin, in which it’s impossible to end a sentence in a preposition.  But English is not Latin, and we’re centuries past the days when Latin and English had such a heavy relationship.  And English is structurally a Germanic language.  But most of all, it’s just irritating when people correct you in a superior tone for saying ‘What did you step on?’ with ‘On what did you step?’

Prescriptive grammar notes the habitual ‘be’ in Black American English, as in ‘She be shopping’ to imply that it’s something she does often.  It notes the use of ‘like’ as not only a prescriptive word but a placeholder in spoken language, much like ‘euhh’ in French while the speaker thinks of something to say.  I like it because it celebrates the rich tapestry of a language in trying to describe it.  Descriptive grammar is kind of elitist, in my humble opinion, and saying British English is right and American English is somehow lesser diminishes the use of the language on both sides of the ocean, especially when you consider it’s pretty incredible that after nearly three centuries the English language is mutually intelligible around the world.  That said:

Text speak is still pretty annoying, and won’t take over.

I have an issue with text speak, not because it’s ‘wrong’ but because in my personal opinion, it’s destructive to language and writing and the key point of both–communication.  Text speak seems to make language purposefully unintelligible by completely changing the way things are written, and while it may be shorter it is not necessarily clearer.  We are soon going to need a Rosetta Stone to translate text speak.  I’m not saying text speak doesn’t have its uses, but that those uses aren’t universal, and we still need a standard way of writing to make language clear, such as in cases of words that are spelled the same but rely on context for meaning (see above) or more complicated thoughts and vocabulary words.

Thus endeth my rant, which is rather wordy–my apologies.