State of the baby, almost third trimester edition

Yesterday was our first breath of spring.

Everywhere I looked, drivers had their windows down in the sunshine with pale arms extended. The mountains of craggy snow were melting, revealing litter and broken tree branches . . . but no one seemed to mind. When I went out at lunchtime, I immediately shucked off my jacket and walked around with the first warm breeze of the season on my face. It felt glorious.

In the last few weeks or so, I feel like I’ve gone from “Er, maybe she’s pregnant” to “WOW, that lady is REALLY PREGNANT.” Out running errands on Sunday, I had my first chat about my due date with a perfect stranger. “How’s that baby?” she asked kindly, and I smiled.

No one outside of my family, friends or coworker group has dared to inquire . . . fearing, I’m sure, that incredibly awkward moment of asking about baby that does not exist. For the record, that has happened to me — an old acquaintance brazenly asking about my “bun in the oven” years ago, back when there was certainly no pregnancy and I was already having an off day.

I’m sure he never made that mistake again.

27 weeks

But now? Well, I feel our guy moving around all the time — especially at night. Sometimes I can lay on my side with an arm across my stomach, taking in the rippling and shifting with a mixture of shock and wonderment. Though Baby J gets a little shy when his dad reaches over to say hello, Spencer has felt kicks and even seen the shaking from the outside.

Now that is crazy.

I’ll be 28 weeks along on Friday, meaning I’m almost in the third trimester. I’ve created an epic Baby To-Do List because I can’t grasp how quickly time is flying — and though I feel we’re prepared in some ways, we’re not really ready. But is anyone ever ready? Can you be ready? I don’t know.

For the most part, I feel awesome. With the exception of losing an hour of sleep to the time change over the weekend, I’m pretty perky and alert and productive. Work hasn’t been an issue. I’ve started getting those fun leg cramps when sitting too long, but that’s nothing I can’t handle. With the help of the mighty Snoogle, I’m resting (mostly) comfortably. All is well.

I feel lucky. In those sick, hazy, rough early weeks, I worried I would spend my pregnancy in a flu-like daze — and that hasn’t been the case at all. Aside from the obvious discomforts of just, you know, getting bigger and my clothes feeling weird at times, I feel like myself. Maybe better than my normal self? Certainly more grounded and aware. Less caffeinated, but I’ve adjusted to that.

Putting on weight has been hard, honestly, but I made peace with this being a happy season in my life . . . and I don’t want to spend my pregnancy obsessed with necessary, normal weight gain. There will be time and opportunity to get back in shape later.

I’m already a little nostalgic for this period. Is that strange? We need a word for the feeling of missing a fleeting moment before it’s even passed. Once we come up with that, I can apply it to basically every era of my life — childhood, high school, college, the early post-college years. To falling in love and out of love and finding my true love. To this strange, wonderful sensation of getting to know a little boy we haven’t yet met, and daydreaming about all that’s to come.

It’s a strange, heady feeling — almost mystical. Now that spring is peeking in at us and the trees will bloom again, I’m feeling emotional in a new way. One I didn’t necessarily expect. I can’t believe that this season — pregnancy, before Baby J is here — is already winding to a close . . . and that soon, God willing, we’ll be holding our son in our arms.

Our son. Though I know he is on his way, I still struggle to comprehend it. Even as he shifts and snoozes and pokes at me while I type.

Behind the scenes, we’ve started handling logistics. Spence and I have a childbirth class in two weeks; I’ve contacted HR to begin my FMLA paperwork; I’m researching child care and pediatricians and breast pumps and insurance issues. I’m working ahead for the time I’ll be off at the newspaper, prepping my summer sections months before I’d normally give them a thought.

There’s so much more than just painting the nursery (though, er, we need to do that, too). It’s a little overwhelming, but I keep consoling myself with the knowledge that women have done this since . . . well, since the beginning of mankind. That I have a wonderful, loving husband who can’t wait to be a father. That we have the support of our families and friends, and a great work environment that will help us all thrive.

I mean, it’s still scary — but it’s a scary wrapped in joy.

I think I can handle that.

Fresh (maternity) duds

I’ve never been trendy or fashionable or fashion-forward, per say, but I’m trying not to look a frightful mess during this pregnancy.

That’s been somewhat challenging given how little maternity clothing I own . . . and how little I want to invest in it. After losing almost 40 lbs. in 2013-14, I had to replace nearly everything in my wardrobe — which hurt in the pocketbook and the psyche.

It might sound ridiculous, but imagine if all of your favorite pants, tops and dresses no longer fit. Or like everything vanished overnight. Even though I wanted to get healthier, of course, I never considered the fact that my favorite Levi’s — a pair I’ve lovingly worn since college — would no longer be wearable, and I’d have to drop $40 a pop trying to find a replacement in my new size. (And I still haven’t. The angst.)

I’ve been fighting with my wardrobe for years. Before Weight Watchers, I struggled to find clothing that made me feel confident. I hated the way everything hugged and spent most of my time pulling at my clothing. Post-Weight Watchers, I felt great getting dressed . . . when I actually had something to get dressed in. I started searching for cute, affordable clothing to replace nearly everything I owned. And I was making good progress!

Then I got pregnant.

Maternity wear is an entirely different animal. In the beginning, I purchased basic short-sleeved tops and camisoles to wear under open-front, non-maternity sweaters. I bought stretchy black slacks for work from Old Navy and have two pairs of maternity jeans I like from Sears. Christmas brought some new tops from my parents, sister and husband, but until this weekend? Well, I basically rotated the same half-dozen tops for work and have been wearing one of two sweaters after-hours.

The thing is, I’m trying to be frugal. Though I want to feel good, of course, it’s hard to justify dropping hundreds of dollars on clothing I won’t be wearing come summer. My pregnancy has been a back-and-forth between wanting to invest in nice duds that will make me feel confident and trying to save money in general . . . so. I’ve sought basics I can pair all kinds of ways and tried getting creative with my wardrobe — but there’s only so much you can do without shelling out more dough.

Which is why I nearly burst with happiness on Sunday. My brother-in-law’s cousin kindly told my sister about baby gear she is ready to offload now that her youngest is two, and — as an aside — mentioned she had some maternity wear she’d be happy to pass along.

Friends, she came through big time. I’m talking 25 tops in various styles and colors for work and weekends, most from Old Navy or Motherhood Maternity — the two stores I’ve been visiting regularly. I honestly could have wept.

I’m wearing one of the new (red!) tops today and honestly feel like a million bucks. I didn’t realize how drab my clothing had gotten, too: all grays and blacks. Very monochromatic. I love those tones, but as we inch closer to spring? I want to branch out a little. Maybe bring in some purple and mint green, you know? Something uplifting.

I think the lesson here is to put things out into the universe, be patient and be gracious. When you least expect it, someone might show up with a trash bag full of fresh duds and expect nothing in return.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to inspect my haul. I just like petting them.

If you’re like me and on the hunt for maternity wear, I’ve had good luck with the tops from Kohl’s (the Oh Baby by Motherhood line) and Motherhood Maternity. Sears is the only department store that actually carries maternity wear in-store, and I love the maternity jeans my husband found there!

I browse Zulily’s maternity section pretty faithfully, but I haven’t always loved what I’ve ordered . . . mostly because it’s too short. If you keep in mind that their “tunics” can’t actually be worn with just leggings, making them tops, they have cute items! And they’re not all solid colors. Why are maternity tops all in solid colors?! Is there something offensive about a pregnant lady in a print?

A home office, a baby, a life


Who knew a room could launch you into adulthood?

I spend a strange amount of time not feeling “old enough.” Not old enough to have a house, a car, credit cards, a checkbook. Not being old enough to have a husband and a baby on the way; not old enough to argue with cable companies and insurance representatives, to be grocery shopping independently and gathering tax documents.

Though I don’t obsess about it, I often feel like I’m glancing over my shoulder — waiting for someone else to swoop in and take care of things. Fix the insurance snafus; adjust the thermostat. Be the adult in the room.

It’s scary to realize you’re the adult present. The one throwing the party, taking the phone calls, signing up for health care. It’s all you.

We have a home office. One with built-in cabinetry, outlets for computers, actual computers, a mug with pens and Sharpies. And pencils? I guess you need those sometimes.

It was the first thing we noticed in the real estate listing discovered around this time last year: a beautiful space with counters and drawers and ridiculous organizational possibilities. Coming from a relatively small apartment, all I could think about was cramming our stuff in those nooks and crannies. There were so many of them! Something out of a dream. As soon as we stepped inside and looked left, taking in this gorgeous room, we were sold. I mean, the rest of the house is great . . . but that office.

It’s been almost a year since we first toured the place that would become our family home. I had “that sense” as soon as we walked in, you know? That feeling of peace, tranquility, overwhelming rightness. We’d already visited half a dozen houses with my dad, a Realtor, and found positive qualities in each . . . but this one? This was it. It had everything. Never a doubt in our minds.

I freaked out a few times, of course — mostly about money. Houses require lots of it. We got into a bidding war right before the bank formally accepted our offer on the foreclosure, so there was a time when I thought we might have lost it. That thought brought on a potent mix of overwhelming disappointment . . . and relief. I was panicky thinking of another move so quickly after our wedding and my initial transition from my parents’ house. Putting our life back into boxes — ones I felt I’d just unpacked — was overwhelming.

But it was worth it, of course. We got the house; we moved all of our worldly possessions; we’ve made this place ours. We’re home now. I won’t pretend like there aren’t still piles of stuff in the basement waiting to be organized, placed and hung . . . but no one goes down there anyway, right? Spence has learned to ignore them. For now.

With a snowstorm blowing through the Washington area on Monday night, I was able to take a laptop home and work from our office on Tuesday — for the first time ever. And it was magical. “Working from home” is a mystical concept I’ve heard others experience, but I’ve never been able to attempt such a feat.

Given I’m six months pregnant and unsteady on my feet on a good day, my boss kindly suggested I hook up with our IT expert and figure out a way to make it happen. I was ridiculously grateful. By 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I was hunkered down in said home office with two laptops fired up, listening to Coldplay and sipping a contraband Coke while typing away.

Outside, my husband — off for an actual snow day — set to work clearing our driveway of the 8 inches of fluffy stuff that came down overnight. Our neighbor drove his tractor up and down his property, making hasty U-turns at the street. Around lunchtime, a plow finally pushed its way through our neighborhood. Salt coated the street. The sun broke through the windows.

And I felt happy.

Like really, really happy. Suddenly, inexplicably, buoyantly happy. I’m emotional in a normal (non-pregnancy) state, but something about this scene — cozy but productive at home, our home — just felt . . . really good. Adult-like. Answering work emails, researching articles, laying out pages, being part of a team . . . well, I felt like a grown-up. Never mind that I’ve been in the working world — and at my job — for nearly eight years. This? This was it.

Do you ever have a “This is my life” moment? Tiny, sparkly shards of realization that you are, in fact, this or here or something in between?

For me, they’re usually sparks of recognition that I’m married, starting a family, turning 30 this summer . . . that somehow — by the grace of God, perhaps — we have a home to call our own and people we love who love us back. And more than anything, Spence and I have each other.

There are times I wake up and feel like I’m 10 or 12 or 25 again. Sometimes I expect to open my eyes and be back in my childhood canopy bed, Dad downstairs popping Eggo Waffles into the toaster while my sister and I scramble to get ready for school. Sometimes these scenes feel so familiar, so real, that I forget. Forget I’m here. Forget it’s now.

Feeling a baby kick and tumble in my belly produces some of these existential wanderings, sure, but I’ve always been a philosophical mess. Questioning everything, adding weight to every moment. I was a weird kid. Once, at Disney World, I remember crying because my mom gave me a piece of gum — and I threw away its paper wrapper. Someday, I thought, I’ll remember her handing me this wrapper — something she held. Someday, I’ll want it back.

See? Weird.

I’m not worried about becoming a mother. I don’t worry about being bad at it — though I’m sure I’ll screw up and ask forgiveness and wish I’d done things differently. I’m not a perfect person, and I won’t be a perfect parent. But I already love our son with a fierce fire I didn’t think was possible, and I know I’ll do my best. I’ll do more than that.

Sometimes I think about what it means to bring a child into this world. Like everyone, I think of the scary things — illness, violence, heartbreak — and worry about how I’ll make myself a human shield, absorbing his blows and soothing his cries. Knowing I won’t be able to fix everything — or, someday, anything — is already a gnawing ache.

But I can’t go there. I know I can’t. So I focus on how we want to raise him — how we want to encourage him, laugh with him, inspire him. I keep thinking of my own happy childhood, wanting Spence and I to give him everything we had: love, support, attention.

I keep picturing him in this home office in a Pack ‘n Play, baby-babbling while I tap out emails and field phone calls — how different our life will look four, six and twelve months from now. So foreign from how it looked when we first cleared snow from our shoes and walked through the front door last March.

But also right, too. Very right. Good.

Getting registered

Babies R Us

I knew Babies “R” Us would overwhelm me before I even stepped through the threshold. Like starting our wedding registry years ago, I’m easily paralyzed by having too many options . . . but unlike when we were getting married and creating our household, we have no earthly idea what we actually need for a baby.

That’s where our family, friends and kind readers stepped in. I took many of your suggestions into account as we paced the endless aisles of the baby store, scanning items and staring at bottles, onesies and the like for almost three hours (!). (This registry list was also very helpful.)

My mom and sister came with us, offering moral and educational support, and we found ourselves keeping a running list of what we would have to register for “later”: car seats, changing tables, etc. All the big stuff, basically. We didn’t feel ready to commit to some of the more important items without consulting the vast resources of the Internet . . . so there is more work to do.

But we’ve started. And it felt good to start. Now that we’re about four months from D-Day (Delivery Day, that is), I’m still often stricken with the shocking thought that I am pregnant. And we are having a baby. Every time I get a glimpse of my profile in a mirror, I feel my jaw fall open at the sight of my burgeoning belly. It’s happening slowly . . . but quickly, too? I can’t keep up.

We made a trip out to see my cousin, Karen, and her littlest daughter on Sunday. Braelynn is two months old and as precious as can be. Cradling her was the first time I’d actually held a newborn in . . . well, a long time. Certainly the first time as an adult. When confronted with others’ babies, I usually wave and nervously retreat to a corner. They just seem so fragile.

But this was good practice — for Spencer and me. When I asked Karen if Braelynn could hold her head up, she showed me how to brace the baby to support her neck while lifting her. Walking through their beautiful home was like Babies “R” Us come to life: we saw many of the items we’d registered for in action, which was really helpful.

Spence and I took turns holding the baby, the two of us marveling at the tiny fingers and adorable socked feet. “Can you believe we’re going to have one of these?” I breathed, looking at my husband — but for the first time, this realization was accompanied by more excitement than nerves.

The best was definitely the Fisher-Price swing, which lulled our little cousin to sleep for most of the time we were visiting. Karen gave us a tutorial on that and other items, and I came home to make sure we’d registered for exactly what she has. With two sweet girls under age 2, Karen is my new expert.

Though I still have no concept of the “best” bottle or whether we need a Boppy or a Bumbo or some other B word, we left Karen’s feeling more relaxed and less intimidated. It was great to see the family and spend time together “just because” — something I hope we’ll be able to continue after Baby J is here.

“We’ll be ready for him,” I keep thinking.

And I’m actually starting to believe it.

Maybe ‘Tomorrow,’ I’ll stop scaring the baby


There are a few irrefutable facts about me.

I love cupcakes, for one. Black and gray are my wardrobe colors of choice. I have incredibly wavy, hard-to-tame hair.

And I’m a terrible singer.

At this point in my pregnancy, I’ve been encouraged to speak to our baby. He can hear me, apparently; sometimes I shudder to think about the silly rants, crying fits and crazy stories Baby J is now privy to. Despite reminding myself that he doesn’t yet speak English, I’ve still been watching my tone and trying to sound, you know, soothing and mother-like. Is that a thing? Mother-like?

If I’m not telling him tales (which, I’ll admit, feels a little bizarre right now), I can sing. Though I have a voice that could probably shatter glass in its pure awfulness, my wee little one doesn’t know a Mariah Carey from a . . . well, from a me.

I don’t sing publicly — not even in front of my husband. Since a disastrous (and very public) chorus audition in elementary school, I’ve avoided any situation in which I might be expected to carry a tune . . . and be laughed off a stage. When I knew I had no future on stage with the cool kids singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” at the holiday pageant, I picked up the keyboard and started playing bells.

The only exception came during my high school theatre days — back when I was bold and silly. I auditioned for a few musicals singing “Part Of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid,” a childhood favorite, but had no lofty ambitions beyond getting a bit part. Our director always took pity on me, tossing me in as a background character. I was never mic’ed.

And that was fine. We can’t be good at everything. I knew from childhood that I would never be one of those starry-eyed, tone-deaf dreamers foolishly auditioning for “American Idol”: the ones we all swear must have someone (a parent? friend? enemy?) telling them they’re just really not good, sweetie, yet they’ve managed to reach adulthood believing the opposite.

Despite all this, I love to sing. I’m actually really great at remembering lyrics — I just sound flat and horrible and scary while doing it. Artists like John Mayer are better for me; lower, deeper, closer to being “in my key.” Whatever that is.

But now that Baby J is, you know, hanging out with me all day, I’ve started questioning my music choices — and wondering if I’m doing permanent damage to both his hearing and psyche. The poor little guy is going to emerge with a terrifying fear of Maroon 5, Hanson, The Killers and Death Cab for Cutie; sometime around his fifth birthday, a latent memory of hearing me belt out an Ingrid Michaelson tune is going to cause an anxiety attack.

Inexplicably, I can’t stop singing “Tomorrow” from “Annie.” My sister performed the musical during her junior year of high school, and I swear that thing was a showstopper. I’ve seen the famous movie, of course (though not the remake), and . . . well, it’s just so catchy and relentlessly optimistic that I can’t resist it.

The sun will come out
Bet your bottom dollar that, tomorrow
There’ll be sun
Just thinkin’ about tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow . . .
‘Til there’s none

I sing in the shower. I sing down the hall. I sing on my way to work, listening to an unrelated audio book — my voice melding with the narrator’s, creating a nonsensical mash-up. I hum the tune when I’m at my desk, then mouth along to the words invisibly while I answer emails.

It’s in my head all the time, basically.

So I guess it’s in Baby J’s head, too.

When I’m stuck with a day that’s gray and lonely
I just stick out my chin, and grin, and say . . .
Oh, the sun will come out tomorrow
So you gotta hang on ’til tomorrow, come what may
Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya, tomorrow
You’re always a day away . . .

Hey — maybe this is fate’s way of telling me he’ll be a sweet-tempered, curly-haired redhead. And an eternal optimist.

And he’ll probably explore all of this in therapy.

Sorry, little dude.

It’s a . . .

If you’ve popped by my Instagram lately, you know the answer to this most life-changing of questions. Regardless, I love a little fanfare . . . and who doesn’t love a good party?!

After Baby J was resolutely uncooperative at our first ultrasound, we had to reschedule the get-together we’d planned with our families. I’d ordered a cake from a friend so we could cut in and all be surprised together, which had to be delayed with a few frantic text messages.

Disappointed, we went for an additional elective ultrasound last Wednesday — and got a bouncier baby this time! Our ultrasound technician said she could tell “right away,” and we had our answer — now sealed in an envelope — to deliver to the baker.

We got together with our parents, grandparents, siblings and aunts — some through the magic of FaceTime! — last Friday to finally learn whether we were expecting a boy or girl. Though Spence and I were both genuinely excited at the idea of either sex, I’ve had a hunch from the very beginning that we would be welcoming a little guy.

And . . .

I was totally right!

Unlike the last time Spence and I cut a cake together (our wedding day), my hands were trembling like crazy. I actually felt a little faint as we prepared to slice in . . . only because I knew that we would forever remember this moment. That it changed everything.

Having a boy will be such a grand adventure. I’d be lying if I said I’m not a little nervous, only because I have so little experience with kids in general . . . and boys in particular. I am one of two girls; my mom is one of two girls; her mom is one of two girls . . . for as far back as I can remember, we’ve had ladies in our family. Though my dad’s side has many little gentlemen running around, my mom’s side has been resolutely female for decades.

And here comes our guy, busting out his power tools and race cars and monsters.

Because I’ve felt from the beginning that he is a he, I wasn’t surprised — but it’s one thing to suspect something and, you know, something else entirely to know it. If we’d cut in to see pink inside, I think I would have actually been shocked. Mother’s intuition?

I have so much to learn — about babies in general, of course, and little guys in particular. But I’m so excited for my husband to have a buddy in all his experiments and home projects, me to have a young reader (already building his library!), our dads to have a grandson and for both of our families to have a little one to love.

Boy, oh boy!

Gender reveal

Early lessons in (not quite) parenthood

Twenty weeks

Back in November, we scheduled one of the most exciting appointments for parents-to-be: our 20-week anatomy scan, also known as the Big Exciting Ultrasound Day in which many parents get a detailed glimpse of their growing child — and learn the sex of their baby-to-be.

It was the week before Thanksgiving. I was still fighting off the urge to gag at chicken, Brussels sprouts, candy . . . everything, basically. And the idea of actually being pregnant — like, with a baby — was still pretty novel. Spencer and I had the shell-shocked looks of two people who had no idea what they were in for, and we sat at our first trimester screening holding sweaty hands.

Though I knew something was happening, that first abdominal ultrasound afforded us our first look at our little one actually kicking, squirming and air-punching. Moving. Until that moment, “the baby” was totally abstract. But there, on the screen, was the baby. He or she looked both foreign and familiar, new and old. Impossibly small. Totally beautiful.

When we scheduled our anatomy scan for January 15, it seemed like forever — an eternity — before we’d return to that office. I couldn’t imagine how I would look in two months . . . and even more importantly, how I would feel. I remember shaking with nerves and excitement, and consoling myself with the knowledge that the holidays would help the time pass quickly.

Because we wanted to know.

Despite friends’ efforts to convince us to wait for the Big Reveal at birth, Spence and I both agreed that we wanted to know whether we were having a boy or girl as soon as we could. I commend parents who can wait the whole nine months — actually, I think it’s awesome. But I am way too anxious and impatient. After our very first positive test, actually, Spence blurted, “So we’re going to find out, right?”


Our anatomy scan last Thursday was perfect. Baby J was moving, flexing its fingers and wiggling — to get comfortable? — across the giant screen. I started crying again, looking at that strong and flickering heartbeat, and felt all the anxiety I’d felt in the days leading up to the appointment begin to fade.

We saw the brain, kidneys, fingers and toes. A profile (with little nose!), stomach, roof of the mouth, the leg bones and arms.

Everything! Everything but . . .


Everything but whether he is a he or she is a she.

As I laid there with an ultrasound technician trying valiantly to gain access to our child’s private area, panic began to make my heart race. We’d planned a gender reveal get-together with our families for the following night — complete with a cake to reveal to us, too, what our baby will be. We’d waited so long. We wanted to know.

Spence and I had already prepped our technician to warn us if she would be getting close to any “tell-tale” areas and to please write the sex on scrap paper, which we’d been planning to deliver to a friend to bake our pink-inside or blue-inside cake. He or she — which will it be? I’d been scheming this Friday get-together for a month.

We tried several angles. Twisting, turning. The baby would shift, shift, then turn away — giving us a clear view of his or her backside with the umbilical cord tucked resolutely between their legs. When the tech had no luck, she called in the doctor to try and offer an opinion. She said she had “an idea” but, sadly, told us she just didn’t feel comfortable “calling it.” Uncooperative.

I. was. devastated. Devastated in a way that only a truly irrational pregnant woman can be. It was just abject disappointment, really; just a letdown. But I kept reminding myself of the actual importance of this visit: ensuring our baby is developing normally and getting stronger. And he/she is! Our due date is right on target for early June. Our wee little one now weighs 11 ounces.

That seems impossibly small and also . . . so big. Considering we found out we were pregnant when Baby J was little more than a clump of cells, smaller than a blueberry, we’re making great progress!

After I regained my composure on Thursday (and started making calls to cancel our little party), I realized we’d just learned an important early lesson in parenthood: life is unpredictable. Stay flexible. Don’t expect kids to do what you think they will when you think they will . . . in fact, don’t be surprised if they’re, like, doing headstands. In the womb. And totally ignoring you.

Despite our disappointment at having to wait longer to learn if we have a guy or gal on the way, I went to sleep Thursday with a happy, grateful heart. And rumbling belly. All things in perspective.

And we’re halfway through. Halfway!

Orange juice toast for everyone.