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Listen to the Oompa-Loompas

Blueberry Baby

"I feel funny!"

Apparently, I’ve “popped.” That’s what I’m told, anyway.

When I look in the mirror, suddenly I see Violet Beauregarde staring back, with a horde of Oompa-Loompas dancing around me in a circle.

Recent developments include:

1.     I’ve become unable to perform any activity without making a loud grunting sound, like Monica Seles delivering a game-ending slam. This happens whenever I’m getting in the car, getting out of the car, getting out of bed or trying to lift my foot.

2.     Basic activities cause me to break out in a body-drenching sweat. Like typing. Or breathing.

3.     I’ve started to walk with a distinctive pregnant-lady swagger: a lazy waddle that involves tilting the shoulders back, jutting the belly forward and moving slower than a toddler who’s just learned to walk.

All these things add up to one thing: my pregnancy has become impossible to ignore. People are now comfortable assuming my inflated girth isn’t just from an increased consumption of jelly doughnuts. As a result, I’ve been getting some pretty bizarre comments. Reference the conversation I had with one of the cooks in the cafeteria at work:

Cafeteria Guy: That thing doesn’t even look real!

Me: Huh?

CG: Looks like you got a pillow stuffed up under your shirt!

Me: Oh. Yeah, it’s definitely real.

CG: Gonna be a big baby!

Me: Well, I hope not. For my sake.

CG: I was a big baby. I was so big my mom had to have a hip replacement after giving birth to me!

What is it about pregnancy that brings out so many inappropriate comments? It’s nice when people congratulate me or ask me when I’m due (as long as they don’t assume it’s within the next 24 hours). But there are a lot of weird exchanges too — like when strangers call out, “Hey, mommy!” And can someone please tell my male co-worker to stop referring to me as “Preggers” (this is the same guy who asked me the other day if I “stopped at Denny’s for a big-ass breakfast” on my way into work)?

I’m often reminded of the scene in Juno when, referring to the very public nature of her pregnancy, the knocked up title character tells her baby daddy, “At least you don’t have to wear the evidence under your sweater.” Like Juno, I have days when I wish this big belly were one of those fake pregnancy suits forced upon unsympathetic husbands and promiscuous teenage girls, just so I can take it off for a little bit.

It’s been hard to get used to my new reflection in the mirror. Inside, I still feel like me: a friend, a daughter, a career woman, a wife. Most of the time I feel like a kid, just trying to figure it all out. I can’t get used to the idea that I’m going to be someone’s mom. That word carries a lot of weight.

Being pregnant creates more questions than answers. I feel like the most common phrase out of my mouth these days is, “I don’t know.” I don’t know if this baby is a boy or a girl. I don’t know what direction my career will head after he or she is born. I have absolutely no clue how we’ll ever choose a name. But, thankfully, this little one doesn’t give me any uncertainty about its vitality; there seems to be a party going on inside of me all day, every day (and night).

If only those Oompa-Loompas would sing me a charming little song with a helpful moral at the end.

Oompa Loompa, do-ba-dee-doo,
What do you do when your belly gets huge?
Oompa Loompa, do-ba-da-dee,
Try to relax and let it all be.

I’ll try, Oompa-Loompas. I’ll try.

What’s Inside the Diaper?

A creative, convention-free kid

The devastating consequences of letting your child make her own choices.

It turns out my husband and I are not brave pioneers.

Apparently, waiting to find out your baby’s gender until the delivery is child’s play. Waiting to find out its gender until the baby tells you what it is: now that’s hard-core.

Can we talk for a minute about the Canadian parents who refuse to reveal their baby’s gender, saying, “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs”?

Seriously.

To some extent, I get it. They want their child to grow up with his or her own sense of identity, unburdened by society’s judgment and expectations. Frankly, I want the same things for my child.

However, I can’t get over the irony (hypocrisy?) of the situation. In making their child’s gender a big, creepy secret, these people have created an international inquiry into what’s inside the diaper.

The couple says they’ve noticed “parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious.” These parents don’t seem to realize they’ve already made a very big choice for their children by exposing them to such complex and emotionally charged issues at such young ages.

It seems to me that, in an effort to give their child freedom of choice, this couple is actually foisting a radical viewpoint on a baby who’s blissfully unaware of what he or she “is.”

Do we really need to worry about four-month-old babies being stereotyped? While cooing over a new baby, I don’t think too many people are thinking about his or her sexuality or future choice of magazine subscriptions. When you’ve only been alive for four months, people mostly just worry about whether or not you’re able to pee in their face while your diaper’s getting changed.

When I was young, I was fortunate enough to attend the fantastic Columbus, Ohio pre-school, School For Young Children (SYC). Long before it was hip to do so, this school facilitated an open-minded and accepting environment where kids engage in self-directed, imaginative play. At SYC, if a boy chooses to spend the day in a princess dress from the collection of dress-up clothes, no one blinks an eye. Similarly, no one pulls that boy aside and asks him, “are you sure you want to be a boy? Maybe you want to be a girl instead?” To me, that’s true gender acceptance.

There’s a difference between gender acceptance and gender ignorance. Why not just teach your kids they can be anything they want to be? My mom was great about giving my sister and me the freedom to express ourselves, letting us put together our own outfits and style our hair however we wanted — even when this resulted in years of very, very bad school pictures.

Life is tough enough these days. Being a baby should be easy and fun, and free from serious questions about gender, sexuality and stereotypes. I commend these parents for creating an environment where their kids are accepted for whoever they are. But kids aren’t supposed to make all their own decisions.

Parents should say no when their kids want to play in the street or drink Drano. They’re supposed to encourage a vegetable here and there and teach their child how to respond when someone has a problem with him wearing a princess dress.

I hope this little bean inside me has his or her father’s confidence to disregard societal conventions. For my part, I’ll try to teach this baby that whatever he or she wants to wear, study, play or be is okay. That’s the plan anyway.

Better Than Ice Cream

Now all I need is for Orlando Bloom to be on the other end of this ...

It was a gray, cloudy morning here and — after being awoken several times last night by storms — I’m feeling a bit gray myself. Every now and then the pregnancy exhaustion; the hour-long commute home from my job; the daily mess brought in by our two big dogs; the stress my husband is dealing with while trying to embark on a challenging new career: it gets to be a bit much. On days like today, I could really use an ice cream cone from Orlando Bloom.

If you haven’t seen Elizabethtown, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s one of Cameron Crowe’s finest films, and considering he’s responsible for such gems as Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky, that’s saying a lot. Plus, the soundtrack — arranged by Crowe’s wife and former Heart singer Nancy Wilson — is near perfection.

There’s a great scene where Orlando Bloom’s Drew says to Kirsten Dunst’s hippie go-lightly character, “you’re kind of great, Claire.” To which Claire replies, rather ungraciously, “I don’t need an ice cream cone.” She goes on to explain, saying, “You know, ‘Here’s a little something to make you happy. Something sweet that melts in five minutes’ … I don’t need it.”

The point is that she does need it. Claire plays it cool to a practically psychotic degree in order to get Drew to let his guard down and view her with the same gooey adoration she feels for him. In reality, she’s thrilled at any compliment, phone call or glimmer of interest from him.

Aren’t we all just a little bit like this? We act casual in our jobs and lives as best we can, faking cool confidence when inside we’re turning to mush. So what’s wrong with wanting a little ice cream cone now and then, or even needing one?

Frankly, there are days when I’d give anything for one of Claire’s ice cream cones.

On days like today, I try to give whatever it is I need to others. I throw out compliments so liberally I wonder if they seem disingenuous. But at the end of the day, I think people appreciate a little something sweet, regardless of how many empty calories are inside. I know I do.

So here’s an ice cream cone for you, my friend: Thank you for being here. Thank you for reading this and sharing in my world. Thank you for who you are and for all you’ve brought into my life.

Wouldn’t you know it; outside the clouds have gone and the sun has come out. It’s not ice cream, but it’ll do.

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