Monthly Archives: April 2012

Queasing My Way Through Egypt

I don`t need a baby growing inside me for nine months. For one thing, there`s morning sickness. If I`m going to feel nauseous and achy when I wake up, I want to achieve that state the old fashioned way: getting good and drunk the night before. ~ Ellen DeGeneres

This blog has been, up to this point, pretty much a parenting blog — I’ve talked about feeding my kiddo, and about the various issues that my little family has been dealing with (like this and this) since said kiddo came along. But I existed before he did, as hard as that sometimes may be to believe, and I had adventures and thoughts and stuff back then, too. So I thought I’d share a little bit about an adventure I had while I was pregnant — a trip that acts as a bit of a segue in my mind between the me of before Baby and the me of after.

I said segue, not Segway. Yay, fun with homophones! (Courtesy of Spinnick597 at en.wikipedia)

Back in the summer of 2010, Loving Husband and I were living in Sicily. We had been living there since 2007, and we’d used that proximity to loads and loads of foreign awesomeness to full advantage, traveling all around Europe (though there is a lot that we missed. Guess we’ll just have to move back.) We had always said that since we were so close to north Africa we would go to Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Sadly, at this point, we were running out of time, so we booked a Nile cruise and put Tunisia and Morocco on our bucket lists.

On September 1st, I found out that I was pregnant. “No problem,” I rather naively thought. “I’ll be fine. Besides, the trip’s already been paid for!” And I continued blithely on my way. Tra la!

The trip came at the beginning of my seventh week of pregnancy. (If you’ve had babies, you probably already see where this is going.)

Such a tiny thing, and it can create SUCH BIG problems.

You know what’s really funny about morning sickness? The name. It was really more like, “All day long, especially when you can smell things” sickness.

Oh, the nausea. Holy fucking shit, the NAUSEA. I was living on limeade and ginger snaps, and still thought it would be a really good idea to travel by aeroplane to an incredibly hot country and spend four days on a boat.

We packed the usual items — clothes, toiletries, sunscreen, laptop — and a few unusual things, like large freezer bags full of ginger snaps and pretzels, and my Travel Nausea Kit (patent pending): toilet paper, ziploc bags, those elastic bands that press the anti-nausea pressure points on your wrists, Dramamine (which the doctor assured me was ‘safe enough’), wet wipes, and mouthwash.

You GUYS! I took this picture! No stealsies, 'kay?

The first part of our trip was the boat part. Because we had booked the trip through an Italian travel agent, it was an Italian tour full of Italians. We don’t speak Italian, so they booked us our own private tour guide for Upper Egypt (score!) His name was Ashraf, and he was fantabulous. He got us a room upgrade on our river cruise ship, which gave me lots of extra room in which to feel ill (which was nice — add claustrophobia on top of everything else and things would have been much worse.) Once we spilled the “I’m so sick because I’m preggers” beans, he was really good about making sure that we were going at a pace that was good for me, taking lots of breaks for pretzels and ginger snaps. He introduced me to karkadé, drunk cold and only a little sweet, which turned out to be really good for my poor, tortured tummy. He showed me all the places in the temples which specifically related to mothers and pregnancy, including images of Taweret (who became the patron goddess of my pregnancy), of Isis giving birth to Horus, and of Bes, the weird little dwarf god of mothers and children. Ashraf had a family at home, and you could tell. He was with us for the entire time we were cruising the Nile, from Luxor to Aswan. Yeah, I was nauseated, but it was still a blast and a half.

All hail Taweret, who totally doesn't make me nauseous, and who always reminds me that my breasts could be a whole lot saggier. (Drawing by Jeff Dahl)

The second part of the trip was a couple of days in Cairo. For this part, we were with another American couple and a new guide. The Americans were newlywed, in their early 20’s, and seemed quite nice. The guide, named Amr, was also in his 20’s, having just finished guide school (or whatever it’s called that guides have to go through in Egypt in order to be licensed). This was all fine, except that … well, none of them had kids or had ever been pregnant. And they were all young enough to be pretty bad at hiding irritation and impatience.

It didn’t help that the day I was the most nauseous in the course of the ENTIRE pregnancy happened to be the day that we went to the Valley of the Kings. (I know, cool, right? We went to the Valley of the Kings!) Unfortunately, most of what I remember is that going down into the tombs was like diving into pools of liquid nausea. They’re hot, they’re stuffy, they’re full of smelly people, and you have to walk through in a slow-moving line (which means that you can’t make a run for the exit.)

Our companions and our guide were not happy with us. I was such a Debby Downer, always banging on about, “Wait, I need to take some Dramamine” and “Oh my god, this car is so stuffy, could we please open a window?!” and “Does this fancy buffet have any plain cucumbers? I think I might be able to keep down some cucumbers.” And me being me, I was beating myself up for ruining their good time.

Still, in spite of everything, the highlight of the whole trip was with Amr and our American traveling companions. That’s right — when we went to see the Pyramids, we went on a camel ride.

Should have been a disaster, right? I considered refusing to go on that camel, since I figured that I would almost definitely blow chunks all over its head. But I’ve always wanted to ride a camel. So I went.

My camel’s name was Mickey Mouse because he was the smallest and the gentlest one (really, that was his name. Loving Husband’s camel was called Michael Jackson. I COULD NOT MAKE THIS UP.) I, being totally unprepared for camel riding, threw cultural sensitivity to the winds and hiked my skirt up to my hips so that I could straddle that tiny camel. When Mickey Mouse stood up, a miracle occurred.

That's my shadow, Mickey Mouse's shadow, and my pasty white leg. Sexxxxxxxxxxxy.

My nausea disappeared.

For the first time all week, I felt no twinges of morning sickness. And this is entirely because, even if your guides tell you that your camel is tiny, when a camel stands up with you on its back, you think you’re going to be thrown off and die, all of which causes a big old rush of adrenaline.

Tiny camel my sweet ass. It sure felt huge to me.

Yeah, the morning sickness returned once I had descended from Mickey Mouse’s hump (now there’s a sentence I bet you never thought you’d read). And our traveling companions were glad to see the last of us when our three days in Cairo were over, but still. It was a pretty great trip. And you know what? I RODE A CAMEL!

Updated: I feel like I should note something. Loving Husband pointed out that the Valley of the Kings is in Upper Egypt, that we were still with Ashraf for that, and that I have little or no sense of Egyptian geography. All of which, I am ashamed to admit, are true. Whatever, I was still HORRIFICALLY ill that day.

Things That I Don’t Know

Have enough sense to know, ahead of time, when your skills will not extend to wallpapering. ~ Marilyn vos Savant

I find myself in the rather awkward position of having to teach a person everything he needs to know to be a functional member of society. This is pretty funny (not ha ha funny, more weird funny) because I myself am only quasi-functional as an adult. Thank god or luck or Loki or whoever that I have Loving Husband, because otherwise this poor child would be doomed.

Nevertheless, I’m going to do my damnedest to teach my son all the skills that I have gained over my years of existence — at least, all the ones I’ve found to be useful. I’ll teach him to drive a manual transmission, to boil an egg, and to write bullshit in a way that gets A’s out of English teachers.

But a lot of what I know really isn’t all that useful. I can imitate accents really well, which is useful only in certain very specific circumstances. I can intelligently compare the Elder Scrolls games to D&D-based computer RPGs (anybody else notice that Skyrim’s Blackreach is really just the Underdark with no Driders?) I can unerringly find and fall in love with the single most expensive item in any shop, even when there are no prices marked. And even mean cats kinda like me.

So I’ll teach Baby what I know, not all of which will be useful, but at least it’ll be an interesting skill set. Thing is, I’d really also like him to know a few things that I really, really don’t. Here are a few of them.

How to play a musical instrument. I played snare drum in my middle school band for three years, and I took guitar lessons for a couple of years in high school, but I just have zero talent for music. I can sing fairly inoffensively, but I can’t read a note of music beyond the rhythm. I’d really like Baby to be able to play a real musical instrument. He can always start on my disused guitar. It could use the exercise.

How to throw a football. Now, here’s something that he’s not going to learn from either parent. I know how to throw a rugby ball (having dated a couple of rugby players back in the day — fairly out of character for me, but hey, I got a skill out of it) but that won’t be really useful in middle school gym class. Good hand-eye coordination is always good to have, right?

How to make friends. I’m so bad at this. The more I want to be friends with a person, the more likely I am to be completely silent in their presence. True story: I once had someone say to me, “Man, when I met you I thought you were such a bitch! But now that I know you better I think you’re pretty cool.” I never learned this skill as a child, and I’ve been working on it through my entire adult life. I’d really like for my Baby to learn it less painfully.

Know what helps social anxiety? Wine. Mmm.

How to whistle. This is something that I’ve always wanted to be able to do, but I just. Can’t. I mean, I can sometimes make some tuneless noise come out, but otherwise nada. Actually, the whistle that I’d REALLY love to be able to do (if I had to choose one kind) would be that super loud piercing whistle produced by putting your fingers in your mouth. Or to your lips. Or something. See? I have no idea.

How to speak a foreign language (well). I’m actually pretty good with foreign languages — up to a point. Since I can imitate accents so well, I have beautiful pronunciation. But I’m not so great with anything else. This becomes an issue when you pronounce “Hello, I’d like one kilo of oranges, please,” so beautifully that people try to strike up a conversation with you, and all you can say back is, “Thank you, I feel well. Where is the toilet?”  So even though I speak a little German, a little Italian, and a tiny smidgeon of Russian, I speak none of them well. I’d really like Baby to be able to get beyond my level of, “Sure, I sound great, but I have no fucking idea what you’re saying.”

How math works. I’m more of a verbal kinda girl. I think this speaks for itself. Loving Husband will be useful here. He has mad math skillz, yo.

How airplanes stay up. For this, we clearly need to get him in touch with a Muggle. And also a physicist. As far as I’m concerned, it’s magic, just like electricity and magnets.

I just want my kid to be better than me, you know? Smarter, savvier, and more well-adjusted. What sort of things do you want your kids to know, but you can’t teach them?

Confessions in Corsetry

I once had dinner with Madonna and I wasn’t nervous but within about a minute I found myself talking about underwear. ~ Randy Newman

Just under twelve months ago, I squeezed a person out of myself.

Let’s just think about that for a minute.

Are you done?

Oh, sorry.

Now are you done? Okay.

I keep reading things written by doctors and other mommies and “experts” and such that say I am a goddess, bringer forth of life, that my curves and scars and inconvenient fatty deposits are battle wounds and I should be proud of them.

Hmm.

Oh my god! She doesn’t have a FACE. (Photo by Don Hitchcock)

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that we are much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Well, I am anyway, and most especially so when it comes to body image issues. I know that I’m slim, that I’m generally pretty well-shaped, and that (if I do say so myself) I have a particularly fine set of legs.

But when I look into the mirror, I only see the things that I’m not happy with. I see a complexion that hasn’t been acne-free since I was thirteen. I see a … let’s call it a strong nose. And I see the place where my waist would be, if I had one.

I never did have much of a waist. My torso always proceeded in a more or less straight line from my ribs down to my hips, especially after I gained my “I’m in my mid-20’s now” weight. I also always realized that I was MUCH more aware of it than anybody else was, and therefore didn’t worry too much about it.

Now, while I was pregnant, my mid-section was my favorite part of myself. I felt beautiful with my burgeoning belly sticking out in front of me. It helped that I was really lucky and didn’t gain much weight anywhere else: as I was told repeatedly, I was “all baby.”

But since I squeezed that little person out of myself, I’ve looked at that whole section of my body differently.

In the months after Baby arrived, I still rather liked my mid-section, largely because it was so obliging in its shrinkage. The skinny-skinny genes from my mother’s side kicked in and I lost my baby weight with no muss and no fuss.

But then it sort of … plateaued.

The numbers on the scale say that I weigh just about exactly what I did before I got pregnant, but my middle is still … fluffy? Hmm, how to describe it … well, let’s just say that Baby likes to poke it and watch his finger disappear. He also likes to slap it and watch it jiggle.

This is unacceptable.

“Ah,” you say to yourself. “I see where this is going. This is going to be about diet and exercise, and Kathy is going to publicly announce her determination to start a weight-loss regime! The blogging is to help her to stay accountable!”

Well, yeah, I mean, I could try that.

I hate exercising, though. And dieting? I definitely don’t have the discipline for that.

So instead, when I wanted to look pretty for a staged reading not too long ago, I bought a girdle.

They called it a ‘waist-cincher’ on the tag, but I know what it really is. It’s a girdle. Like what your grandmother wore. Scary old lady underwear that nobody has worn since the sixties, when the hippies made wearing underwear at all into something only the un-groovy oppressors did.

And guys? This thing is GREAT.

It isn’t that it gives me a tiny waist like the corsets in Gone With The Wind. It just sort of gives me shape where there wasn’t any before. To be more explicit: it gives me a waist, which combined with my lovely, lactating, larger-than-ever-before boobies, equals va-va-va-VOOM.

Not this.

THIS.

I want to wear it all the time. I mean, yes, it would suck in hot weather, and the boning can be a little uncomfortable if you try to slouch. But it makes me feel SO. SEXY.

And there’s the voice inside my head that says that I shouldn’t care so much about how I look, that our culture has socialized me to estimate my own value based on superficial gender norms which aren’t realistic, that I’m a goddess, blah blah blah. That’s my feminist voice, and even it had to stop a moment, mouth agape, and stare at the femme fatale in the mirror.

So I suspect that I might be buying another one. Or three. Maybe I can start a trend and single-handedly bring old lady underwear back in.

Hell, anything is better than exercising, right?

What sort of things have you done to help you come to terms with your body?