27 January 2007

Like a Virgin (Drink, That Is)

The last drink I had was a glass of sherry at Jaleo in late October. Since then, ginger ale, water with lemon, and cranberry juice have been my default drinks. But those are so, well, snooozy. I'm pregnant, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to drink some creative nonalcoholic beverage while my friends linger over a glass of Viognier or slam down their Sam Adams.

Oh sure there's your Shirley Temple (nice if you're 12) or virgin daiquiries (really, only appropriate at TexMex restaurants), but I needed a slightly sophisticated virgin drink to quaff during happy hour.

"How about a virgin Manhattan?" my co-worker suggested.

My ears perked up. Manhattans are my drink of choice. But how do you fake blended whiskey and sweet vermouth? The truth is you can't, but here's a recipe I found online. It looks enough like a real drink that when the server placed it in front of me, my co-worker gave me a wide, incredulous look and said somewhat breathlessly, "You ordered a drink?!"

"Oh it's a virgin," I told her.

Ironic, though, I thought, patting my belly, that I'm drinking one because I'm not.

Virgin Manhattan
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp cherry juice
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1 - 2 dashes orange bitters
Garnish with a cherry.

Tired of water with lemon? Try these resources or leave one of your own!

Pink or Blue? Or, "Remember Baltimore?"

"Should we find out if we're having a girl or boy?" I ask Rodney.

"Yes, we should definitely find out. I can't wait," he replies.

"I don't know. Maybe it'd be fun to wait and see," I suggest.

That's when he shoots me the I-don't-think-so-look: one dark brown eyebrow cocked, head tilted down, and the left corner of his thin lips upturned.

"Remember Baltimore?"

I groan and nod.

To celebrate my 25th birthday, Rodney announced that he was taking me on a special trip to an undisclosed location. The night before we left, I laid awake, tangled in the sheets thumbing through all the possibilities -- a day trip to Charlottesville? A jaunt to Rehoboth? A whirlwind weekend in the Caribbean? The alarm clocked glowed 3:30 a.m. before my heavy lids shut.

The next morning he revealed that we were spending a romantic evening in Baltimore. He'd booked a hotel within walking distance of the Inner Harbor and made reservations at great little Italian restaurant. I wish I could say I had a delightful weekend, but the truth is I can't tell you a thing because I was too exhausted from staying up the night before. The chianti we had with dinner may as well have been Nyquil.

So, me and surprises...Mmm, not so much. We find out if Sprout is a girl or a boy on March 1.

19 January 2007

Fertilizer for Sprout

The other day, my co-worker stopped by my office with two large bars of dark chocolate.

"Fertilizer for Sprout," he announced, placing the booty on my desk.

Even as my mouth watered, I mounted the weakest of protests. "Really, I couldn't."

But really, I could and I did. Before Sprout, I was a nonchocolately kind of girl. I bypassed brownies for gingersnaps and favored flan over flourless chocolate cake. Piles of Belgian dark chocolate could linger on my desk for weeks, and I might help myself to a few pieces a week.

"You have such self control!" people would coo, their mouths half full of my chocolate treats, crumpled foil candy wrappers in their hands. I would shrug and nonchalantly wipe the potato chip grease from my fingers on the napkin I kept on my knee (I never met a potato chip or french fry I didn't like).

Now, I can't get enough of the stuff. Twix Minis, chocolate cupcakes from Cake Love, Haagen Dazs' black raspberry chip ice cream, Uncle Johnny's gift box of Godiva chocolates; all of it ends up in my mouth.

Pregnant women are notorious for their cravings, but what's really behind it all? The most obvious answer is hormones, which have a powerful effect on a woman's taste and smell. Raw vegetables tasted terribily bitter to me during my first trimester, and even if I'm in a car, I can smell someone smoking two cars away.

"No one really understands what causes cravings," says Chez. "No absolute cause has been scientifically established." ("Food Cravings and What They Mean," BabyCenter.com, accessed 1/21/2007.)

Whatever the reason, my newfound love of sweets only proves that Sprout is very much his/her father's child.

15 January 2007

Do I Look Lumpy?

15 January 2007

Evonne lifts up her shirt to show Rodney her Bella Band, a knit band you wear at your waistline over your unbuttoned prepregnancy pants.

Evonne: Look, I put on my Bella Band.

Rodney: Very nice (pats stomach)

Evonne pulls her shirt down and smooths it across her stomach.

Evonne: Do I look lumpy?

Rodney: You're supposed to look lumpy. You're pregnant.

Sprout's First Photo

On 3 January 2007, I go to the Arlington Medical Center for a nuchal translucency (NT) test, a prenatal screen test that uses ultrasound to measure the clear space in the tissue at the back of the developing baby's neck. This measurement helps health care practitioners assess a baby's risk for Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities as well as major congenital heart problems. A blood test done at the same time measures two proteins in your blood -- freeBeta-hCG and PAPP-a. Together, these screening tests are 85%-95% accurate in detecting the risk Down syndrome. It's important to note that NT is NOT a diagnostic test; that is, it can't tell you for sure if the baby's chromosomes are normal. This test, combined with the blood test, can only reveal your statistical chances of having a child with Down syndrome. (BabyCenter.com, Nuchal translucency screening, updated May 2006, accessed January 2007)

Since I'm under 35, I'm not at an increased risk for having a child with Down syndrome; however, R and I decided that we'd like to be aware of any possible risk as soon as possible.

Once I'm in the examination room, the technician slathers my stomach with a warm, clear jelly and begins to move around the paddle. On the screen across from me, the spectral world of my abdomen appears -- gray wispy clouds against a black backdrop.

The technician warns that this may take a few minutes, but it doesn't. Within seconds I see my half human half seahorse child, heart pumping, arms waggling, head bobbing to some unknowable tune. I'm awed by the sight of this little one Rodney and I created...and anxious about the results.

Thankfully, I have nothing to worry about: my results are in the normal range. Relief.

For more information on nuchal translucency screening, please visit the below links.

Making a Person from Scratch

Even though I'd escaped the dreaded nausea associated with the first trimester, the exhaustion hit me hard. I've never been a nightowl, usually snuggling under the covers around 10:30 or 11 to read The New Yorker or whatever novel was sitting on my nightstand, but as a newly pregnant woman, I found myself checking the clock at 7:30 wondering if 8 p.m. was acceptable bedtime not just for four-year-olds but also 32-year-olds.

When Saskia was pregnant with Harper B. and complained about the constant exhaustion, her husband Kevin exclaimed, "Well of course you're tired: you're making a person from scratch!"

Caption for above photo: "I am the best wife in the whole wide world, but I am VERRRRRRRRRYYYYY sleepy because I am making a NEW PERSON!" .


R and I heard Sprout’s heartbeat for the first time on 20 December 2006. R almost didn’t make it, though. We left the house at the same time but in different cars, and when we arrived at the hospital, R couldn’t find me because I forgot my cell phone. Undeterred, he called every OB/GYN practice in the hospital until he found me. I was almost in tears telling Dr. McVeery that my husband couldn’t be there because we lost one another on the way here, when there was a knock at the door and my tall, dark handsome guy strode in. If I was a gymnast, I would’ve done flipflops. The idea of his missing hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time almost broke my heart.

Dr. McVerry spread that cool jelly on my belly and moved that paddle around until we heard the heartbeat, like the sound of the world’s tiniest horse galloping.

“It’s in the 170s, where it should be,” she said smiling.

3 December 2006 (7 Weeks)

According to the weekly newsletter I subscribe to that charts the embryo's development, Sprout still has a small tail and is the size of a raspberry. I am one of few lucky women who does not have to endure morning sickness, which makes me wonder if I will pay by experiencing excessive flatulence, developing hemorrhoids, or sprouting veritable family trees of varicose veins on my soon-to-be-ample thighs and legs.

For now I enjoy NOT having to get to know the inside of the toilet bowl and focus on eating. I'm consuming the Hobbit's diet: breakfast I, breakfast II, lunch, snack I, snack II and a little bit of dinner. I'm also lamenting the loss of some of favorite food groups. It's goodbye Brie, fresh mozzerella and feta cheese. So long sushi and a surprising au revoir to deli meat, all of which may be contaminated a type of bacteria that can lead to listeriosis, a serious illness that can threaten a pregnancy. According to CDC, pregnant women are 20 times more likely to become infected than non-pregnant, healthy adults. My love of spicy tuna rolls must be suppressed until July 2007.

Estimated Due Date: 15 July 2007

During my first prenatal visit I find out that Sprout is due 15 July 2007, a few days after my 33rd birthday. Rodney groans, knowing that July will forever be a month of high expectations. How cool would it be if Sprout was born on 7 July 2007, 7/7/07?

13 January 2007

How Rodney Found Out

The first thing Rodney does when he gets home is ask, "Did we get any mail?" so I tucked the pregnancy test in between two envelopes in that day's mail and waited for him to come home.

Twenty minutes later I heard his key turning in the door and the velco rip of tires peeling off the wet pavement outside. He sprinted up the steps and walked right past the dining room table where the mail was.

"Hi!" he smiled. Tiny droplets of water rested on his dark curly hair and flecked his silver framed glasses.

"Aren't you going to check the mail?" I asked.

"Why? Did we get something?" Then he looked at me again. "Why are you smiling?"

"I think you should check the mail," I insisted. So much for subtlety.

"Why?" he asked again.

"Just check it!" I insisted.

Confused, he walked over to the dining room table and fumbled through the envelopes and found the thin white dipstick.

"What does the plus mean?" Hah. He wasn't the only one.

"It means that I'm pregnant."

He hugged into his chest and rested his chin on top of my head. "Boy, my guys are good!" I could feel him smiling.

How and When I Found Out

I found out that I was pregnant with Sprout on the evening of November 11, the same day the Democrats took back control of Congress. After I looked at the pregnancy test, I doubled checked the instructions to make sure that "+" really meant pregnant. Then I took another test. "+" still meant pregnant. Not, "yes, you're not pregnant."

Early in the fall we had thought that maybe we'd wait until after Rodney had finished the classes he needed to take in order to become a high school English teacher. What if he made less money? How could we fit a child in our 800 sq. ft. condo? Then on October 4, my sister-in-law, Saskia, gave birth to our darling niece Harper B -- I still remember the phone call at 2 a.m. "Hello Uncle Rodney," Saskia said in a sly but proud voice -- and Rodney and I decided that there was no perfect time to have a baby.

Still, that was October 4 and here we were, barely a month later, pregnant.