Monday, July 21, 2008

How do you say "sharp pain" in French?

Douleur aiguë (roughly pronounced "doo-lurr ay-goo"). Of course when I called the midwife station Saturday after experiencing just that on my left side, my French abilities kind of went out the window and I said douleur aiguille ("ay-gwee"), which would translate as needle pain. Hey, same difference. It did feel like a needle. The doc or midwife on call seemed to understand anyway. His advice: take a bath and your anti-spasm medicine and wait two hours to see if it's better. And it did seem to get a bit better.

So, I'm still hanging out in the apartment, occasionally trying to find just the right position to avoid this sharp pain which comes and goes. According to the baby books, could be that baby is moving down (does seem that way) and pressing on a nerve (thanks, baby). I told her she needs to make up her mind and get things moving or just calm down. Give poor mom a rest!

Because of said sharp pain, my husband and I didn't go to the restaurant yesterday as had been planned for a few weeks with his parents and grandad. Not twenty minutes after I called him at the greenhouse to ask him to come home early the other day, his mom called back to see if were still on for the "resto". "Er, not really sure how things are gonna go," I said, "but please don't cancel on my behalf. You can go ahead without me." They don't have/take many occasions in the year to go out to eat, and I don't want them holding a "missed" opportunity over my head. The prospect of sitting in a fairly rigid chair for three to four hours (French meal standard), leisurely waiting for each course and discussing our dismal summer weather wasn't very appealing with this pain looming over me.

So the husband and I stayed in the apartment and watched the least annoying stuff we could find on TV, dozing off from time to time when it got too boring. And he sweetly prepared all the meals since sometimes standing in the kitchen was too much for me. He has been a very supportive guy lately, saying in a fairly convincing way that I look nice in my maternity clothes and with these chipmunk cheeks on my face. Maybe my family has paid him to say that! Plus he's gonna do the food shopping today since I don't feel like driving about. No doubt he'll go wild in the paté/cheese section, but at least I won't have to deal with loading and unloading the cart and the crowds. To be continued...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ups and downs

Yesterday I thought I might be losing a little fluid (as in amniotic), so I went to the midwife station at the hospital to be checked out. Apparently I wasn’t the only jittery pregnant woman as there were several other ladies who’d come in without appointments. So I waited patiently and read the book I’d luckily brought along (The Devil Wears Prada, deliciously detailed). The waiting room is right in front of the obstetrical ward and as I sat there I saw them wheel a clean bed through the swinging doors. A few minutes later a fairly tired-looking lady was wheeled out on the same bed. No doubt she’d just given birth. I didn’t want to stare but I couldn’t help wondering what she’d just gone through. Shortly after a nurse brought in one of those rolling plastic baby beds and then emerged with the same bed filled with a blue bundle. I could see his little fists agitating about and he gave out a few cries. A really brand new baby, probably the one who’d tired out that poor lady. A little girl who was waiting with her pregnant mom couldn’t keep her eyes off that new baby either, probably imagining her own future sibling.

I finally saw the midwife who did all the routine tests and decided it was nothing to worry about this time. At the end of the exam she put the small Doppler device on to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Nice and strong. I have to admit I am not as awed now to hear it as the first time. I remember reading about this in the baby book I bought my husband. The first ultrasound is amazing, the latter ones we’re almost jaded and more impatient to see the real thing. It’s not that I’ve forgotten how lucky I am to be in this situation, but there are always moments when we almost take things for granted. I’m sure that in a few years time (or earlier), baby girl will be whining or pulling a tantrum because I don’t want to buy her Kinder chocolate and I’ll wish I could put her back where she came from.

In fact it’s just like everything in life, love included. At the beginning you’re ecstatic to hold your boyfriend’s hand, this boy you secretly pined away for. His eyes are endless pools of blue and could only hold tenderness for you. Fast-forward to a couple of years (or just months!) of living together and you’re wondering why he can’t bend over to pick up his dirty socks that you, in your feminist move of the day, will NOT touch because they’ve been there for days, and, well, you get the picture. We always end up taking things for granted at one point or another.

And then there’s the cat. This time last week I thought Chat-chat was on his death bed. I was praying for him to just get up the strength to eat by himself again. Now I’m threatening to kill him. And I might have good reason. About a month ago my husband and I thought we were so clever to have devised a night-time plan for kitty. To prevent him from jumping on our door handle at four a.m. we lock him in the living room with his litter box at night. Husband even reversed the door handle direction so the cat couldn’t make that awful clanking noise. But the cat is maniacal. He scratches at the door and the linoleum. This morning I heard him scratching and thought I’d let him practice self-soothing (as they say is good for babies). Ten minutes later I check on him anyway and find that he’s torn up about a 3 inch patch of linoleum right next to the door! Evil cat doesn’t sum it up. We are renting, people! This is gonna cost us. So at 5 a.m. I’m on the floor trying to put the puzzle pieces of linoleum back together, slapping packaging tape over that to keep it in place. Followed by aluminum foil and more packing tape on the edges to hopefully deter the cat from further damage. Yeah, right.

My husband, of course, didn’t take the news well and started muttering in fast inarticulate French and proceeded to cut the cat’s claws really short. There is no tenderness in those blue eyes today. Ah, it will all calm down at one time or another, let’s hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bastille Day and French-Anglo communication

Baby kindly cooperated and stayed put so that I could go to the barbeque organized by one of my colleagues. It was a joyous mix of French and Anglo cultures and foods. Everyone seemed to enjoy my Tollhouse cookies (imported chocolate chips, brown sugar and baking soda) whether they were discovering the taste for the first time or having a nostalgic moment. Good salsa dips (hey, Crystal!), taboulé salads, rose wine (not for me), chocolate pies. My husband made more of an effort to speak English with my coworkers and I think down deep he enjoys practicing. He’s starting to see that the British-American way of teasing is not mean and sarcastic though this can remain a big point of debate between us! The French do tease, too, but I suppose they don’t see it the same way as we do.

Still not sure in fact if I mortally offended the mid-wife doing the preparation courses at the hospital last week. I asked her about that famous maternity list of what to bring in your suitcase and when she didn’t know what the “gigoteuse” was (the sleeper thingie), I said (jokingly!), well, if you don’t know either that reassures me. Then she said something like don’t make fun of me, but I couldn’t tell if she was joking back or not! So I covered by saying, well, you see, I’m not French, and this baby stuff is an entirely new language, which she agreed with. If she’s on duty when I go in for the big day I may just have to make sure we’re on good terms or she might take revenge on me…

Anyway, yesterday went to the in-laws for lunch. This was real Bastille Day and we were blessed with something resembling summer weather. Bluer skies than we’ve had in a while and some nearly hot parts of the day. Father-in-law was whacking down an unruly bush that bothered him. Don’t know if my parents-in-law really know how to relax. Their work is always two steps away from their front door and when there’s a fairly quiet period they still keep busy with home repairs and cleaning and gardening. I feel colossally lazy next to them. How to ever explain to them that I spend a good deal of my team reading and writing emails and perusing web sites, watching TV, reading books and, oh, yeah, a bit of cleaning in there, too. It would just amount to nothing for them. But it’s my life.

We watched a bit of the Tour de France on TV as we ate. The parents-in-law don’t really watch any sports except this one, and mostly just to see the lush landscapes the cyclists are whizzing by. It’s kind of lulling, with the quiet commentary and the lush green images. Great for helping you get in napping mode. And after coming home late from the BBQ I needed a little nap. As the husband and I were so tired we came on home and rested then had crêpes for dinner. Not exactly Bastille Day food, but it hit the spot. We basically just used anything in the fridge as filling, turkey slices, hot dog sausages, spinach, mashed potatoes. And a few dessert crêpes, but I tried to be “good” and just used a bit of jam and pineapple slices on mine. Still watching out for my sugar since it was a bit high last month.

Now I’m just hanging out here doing some random cleaning and organizing (again). Chat-chat’s more back to his normal self, including those charming habits of scratching at the door and tearing up bits of linoleum (really not good). He’s slowly eating again and jumps in our laps again for a cuddle. To think I was crying my eyes out a few days ago for him.

More later…

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Three vet visits in one week

During the last vet visit yesterday I very maturely cried my eyes out in front of the no-nonsense vet lady. I was so hoping to keep it in and calmly describe Chat's symptoms but in the waiting room I just felt those tears welling up. CC was in his carrier case trying to ignore the dogs who were barking up a storm. He had enough energy (or maybe it's his innate cat nature) to hiss and growl at them through the plastic slats of his case. Then the vet called us in.

Blubbery me, I apologized for being a total mess and proceeded to tell her that CC still wasn't eating or drinking on his own. That all we could do was squirt the cat milk in his mouth with a syringe and he just moved slowly from one part of the living room to the other. She palpated him and said he seemed less sensitive than Wednesday and there were no hematomas visible on his tummy. For her he's doing better but it'll just take time. Another check to the vet (grand total for this week: 76 euros) and I departed with CC and a new tin of special pet milk that's fortified with vitamins and other good stuff. Just to make a liar out of me, last night he actually drank some water on his own and licked his face a little (the first washing since Tuesday!).

Yes, I love my kitty and I've always been highly emotional about my pets when they're ill. And my husband, despite saying he's not a cat person and often calling CC sale bête (dirty creature), has been participating in the cat-feeding sessions and saying, "Oh, oui, Chat-chat, oh, oui." Actually he says that even when CC isn't sick during their TV cuddle time.

I suppose I feel a little guilty worrying so much about my Chat-baby and not as much about baby baby. Of course I haven't forgotten about bébé, but she's been safe in my belly whereas Chat-baby took that nasty fall. There were times early in my pregnancy when I almost found it hard to imagine loving my baby more than CC. Now I know that of course if bébé were allergic to cats, I'd have to part with CC, not bb. No brainer there. Let's just hope we can all be one happy family. Pretty soon CC will be back to his old tricks, jumping on the counters without invitation as my husband snarls, "Hey, Chat-chat, you need a hand there?!" Ah, the good old days.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Playing nurse and téléréalité

I've been worrying about the Chat. He hasn't eaten anything since yesterday morning and has just now started to drink a bit of water. Plus he's taken to hiding again. Under the bed, in the litter box (nice one that). So I schlepped the 12 pounder to the vet again and she did an X-ray. He appears to have a little fracture of the sternum and perhaps some swelling. So she gave him a cortisone shot and told me to try to get him to eat more. I even bought that special milk for cats. But all he'll let me do is put a bit on his lips then he licks it slightly. Well, we're doing the best we can for the little fellow. Thanks for everyone's get well wishes.

To distract me from worrying there is always Internet (surprise) and a little reality TV à la française. I am a bit addicted to this one show called Un dîner presque parfait (An almost perfect dinner). The concept is that five people take turns inviting each other over to eat during one week. They all try to outdo each other in terms of cooking, decoration of the table and/or room and finally ambiance.

It has become my little guilty pleasure. I sometimes try to do the ironing at the same time so I won’t feel like I’m totally vegging, but then again, what’s wrong with some vegging?! Sometimes I actually get some recipe ideas, but come to think of it, I haven’t actually incorporated any of them into my cooking. Maybe it’s more fun just to see how other people cook and clean and decorate their homes. Plus you get some folks who are just too serious about their food and you want to tell them to take a break and eat like the rest of us. Like this snooty lady who owns a restaurant and therefore thinks she can openly criticize the other hosts if they don’t make their own mayonnaise or raspberry purée.

My other reality show at the moment is called L’amour est dans le pré (Love is in the prairie). My husband gets into this one, too. The idea is intriguing: take some single farmers, vineyard owners, goat cheese makers, what-have-you, and try to hook them up with someone willing to live out in the middle of nowhere. It’s mostly men who are still single and hoping to find their better half through the concept, but there is usually one lonely cow-girl, too. In our household it’s practically interactive TV, because my husband keeps talking to the screen and saying, oh, no, that girl’s not prepared for country life/her eyes are too small/she’s too aggressive, etc.

It is pretty interesting to see how the farmers and their candidates try to get to know each other. This one clueless guy didn’t even bother to pick up the two girls he’d selected to spend a week with him (yes, two at the same time, in separate beds, mind you). They had to call him from the station and he told them to rent a car. Plus that evening he had a meeting about some bicycle outing so the girls had to fend for themselves for dinner. What a catch! Another guy still lives with his mom, so he and his potential lovemate spent their first evening over an awkward dinner of crêpes and Nutella in the presence of maman.

Now there is also the summer junky one: Secret Story (the English name gives it that special something over here). I watch snippets now and then. I’ll mostly catch up on this one through the tabloids, no doubt. Don’t know if they have it in the US, too. The idea- some largish number of highly photogenic people live together in a mod house with, of course, a swimming pool. They all have secrets they must successfully keep from each other and they try to discover the other candidate’s secrets to win money. So far the audience knows that there is a mom and daughter in the household, plus a lesbian couple, and a fake couple. Mostly this show seems to be a jumping off point for aspiring models, weather girls, singers and actors. At least that’s what the tanned and cute candidates are hoping.

With the wasteland that is summer TV, I’ll probably be spending more time than I’d like to admit watching this type of entertainment.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

room transformation

It's not even 6:30 a.m. and I'm blogging and checking emails. Just couldn't sleep anymore. Husband is still in bed though. Chat is convalescing in his basket. Tried to give him a bit of those pain meds but some of the syringe contents are on the side of his basket. Perhaps I've got a bit of that nesting syndrome they say expecting women can get. My head is rather a-buzz with things I want to do today- mostly on the order of organizing, cleaning, writing. Part of me doesn't want bébé to come until I've finished my mental lists. Plus that barbeque Sunday.

As I mentioned, we put that crib together Sunday. In fact it was easier than the shelf system. And no major fights! I told my husband that Ikea must have tested the assembly of the crib to see if it could go quickly and pain-free since there could be frantic fathers doing it after their babies have arrived. He wondered if they tested it on American girls, too. Ha ha.

We put up this mobile my friend lent me but it seemed too low. So I put a teddy bear in there to simulate baby's position to see if it would knock her head. My husband then practiced picking "baby" up. Hand supporting the neck and butt, he asked? Umm, yes, I think so, I answered, trying to sound convincing myself. Later I showed him the part of Dr. Spock's baby book which says babies aren't as frail as they seem.

I catch him later listening to the mobile music. He prefers the little toy he bought that plays "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star". Something about the cute tinny music gets to me sometimes and I get teary. So husband says perhaps the crib is for me and that baby should sleep in the real bed! I think he's feeling more like a papa-to-be lately. He keeps looking at my belly and saying, "you're a little pregnant there."

Yesterday the doctor asked us if we wanted to induce next week. Kind of shocked us as she's not due for another 3 weeks! I think honestly they're having a bit of a backlog at the hospital. The midwife said recently that the delivery rooms are always full. So maybe they figure by inducing some they can set their own timetable. But my husband and I would rather just wait (but not too long). Plus, that's two weeks less of diapers, Mr. Logical added.

We'll see.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Chat-chat on suicide watch

Maybe he's getting antsy about bébé's arrival. My husband did use his stern voice on him yesterday when we were putting the crib together so he wouldn't jump in it. And maybe the Chat can tell there's something in my belly that will one day pull his tail with glee. At any rate, he has been jumping to the neighbor's balcony quite often lately. We got so tired of it so my husband put a filled watering can between our balconies to deter this bad habit.

But what do I see out of the corner of my eye as I'm putting up my laundry to dry today? Chat-chat trying to jump around the watering can and his paws finding nothing to land on. And like a cartoon with the Road Runner and Coyote, he's free-falling from the fourth floor. Or fifth floor we would call it in the US. I seriously hear the instructions in my head to scream. And I do, one worthy of a horror film. Not that it would have brought him vertically back to me or anything, but it seemed the right thing to do. I bend my head down over the railing expecting the worst, but he's on the grass below, still moving. Thank god the grass and not the concrete barrier near the little parking lot.

I hear this wailing and think it's the cats on the first floor (second floor US) who are upset about Chat-chat in their territory. I see their owner, a nice little guy in his 50s with silvery hair and moustache bending over too. I explain the situation to him and ask him if his cats are meowing, but in fact it's Chat-chat. Meanwhile I've screamed to my husband to go get the cat. Which he dutifully does, having to chase the shaken kitty out of the bushes and getting a nice scratch for his efforts.

Back in the apartment Chat-chat seems to be walking ok but is a bit quieter than usual, mind you. But later he goes hiding under the bed, and you cat owners know that can mean sick kitty. I debate on calling the vet but finally do, who advises me to bring him in. So after chasing him out of the bed (with the broom handle, hubby's idea), we take him in for "observation." Two hours later we go to get him and he's had a dose of antibiotics and pain meds. Now he's hiding behind the couch (easier to access for us than the bed), and will be getting a dose of pain medicine for the next five days. He's still rather quiet, but considering the height of his fall, it's no wonder!

My husband thinks this experience will "teach" the cat not to jump again. I know better. I think we'll just have to remove that watering can and let him land stably on the concrete post between our balconies. Or NEVER open the balcony again and suffocate on the hotter days. It's the price to pay to keep kitty from using up those 8 remaining lives!

Friday, July 4, 2008

A 4th in France

It's my sixth time to spend the 4th of July in France. I have to admit it was never my favorite holiday when I was stateside, but I do sort of miss it now that I can't celebrate it properly. And just by coincidence I did something today that reminds me of my nationality: going to the French administrative office (la préfecture) to renew my visa that allows me to live and work here legally.

This used to be my least favorite activity in the world when I lived in Lille. I had to get up at ungodly hours to stand in line outside their ugly, unfriendly Préfecture to wait for the equally unfriendly guards to open the doors and look at our passports and give us a number. Then I'd wait inside in offices that were screaming to be remodeled often to be told conflicting things by civil servants who desperately needed vacations or transfers to Martinique.

But in my new city it has been smooth sailing. I just walk in when I want and wait a minimal amount of time. Today I asked a fellow foreigner if I needed to go to the reception first. But he didn't speak French. Later I heard one of his friends speaking English with one of the employees so I asked where they were from. Sudan in Africa. I told them I was American and they said, "First country in the world." I didn't want to come across as one of those smug Americans who thinks her country is better than everyone else's. So, I said, something like, but not Bush. Then the guy said, "Obama." I guess it's true that many African countries are watching the campaign closely since his father is from the continent. When the employee called my name to give me my temporary visa, one of the guys said, "America." I imagine most of these guys would love to have a chance to live there. It's hard enough for them to make it in France not knowing the language.

Must be my international day, 'cause at the bakery, after I asked for my bread, the baker asked me "Is that all?" in English. Then we talked a bit about where I was from. He knew about the south and of course had the stereotypes of our racist past. I tried to tell him things were better now. He was born in Morocco and made a joke that Moroccan and American almost sounded the same. Well, letter-wise, I suppose we can give it to him.

I don't think I'm gonna make anything particularly American for dinner today. But I wouldn't mind having a nice light mayonnaise potato salad, juicy hamburger, a slice of watermelon and some Barber's ice cream air mailed to me. Mom, are you taking notes?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It’s oh so quiet

It feels like that Björk song that starts out with that line, in a throaty whisper. Then builds up to a brassy refrain that sounds like it comes from a 50s musical. Now everything is calm, I’m in my apartment- piddling, cleaning, resting; my main company until my husband comes home is Chat-chat. There’s no crying, no diapers to change. The baby is still inside, occasionally moving a foot rather vigorously, but still hidden. But soon, all that will change.

I’m sure that in a few months, the memory of being pregnant will be just that. And a distant one. Now it almost seems I will always be in this state. I can barely remember what it was like to have a flat stomach and feel my ribs. I’m used to carrying my offspring around with me all the time. But in a few weeks she’ll be introduced to her stroller and crib and perhaps one of those baby-back/stomach packs. Instead of being a vague idea, she will be pink flesh and tiny fingers.

Now we are just in the wondering stage. We wonder what color hair she will have. My husband hopes she’ll be a bit red-headed like me, and perhaps my own vanity would like that too. To have a mini-me? But there are plenty of dark-headed folks on both sides of the family, too, so it could go either way. And her eyes? Probably light, we guess, since the immediate family all have blue or green eyes. My rudimentary genetic skills from school taught me that. Could she be taller than us, my husband wondered this weekend? There are some tall ones in our families, too, like my sister and my dad’s side. Imagine our “little” girl towering over us at 15! Of course, what’s most important is that her heart is strong, she’s got good lungs to deliver that first cry and that everything else is in order.

I read my baby books sort of like I’m studying for an exam. Ok, no pillows or big blankets in the crib, check. Don’t heat up bottles in the microwave, check. But soon will come the practical exam. Luckily the hospital here teaches you lots of important things those first days, like how to give baby her bath, how to clean out her eyes and nose, I suppose. How to feed her, how to hold her. Then they’ll let us loose on our own to frantically remember all that.

Then the hard work (and the fun?) will begin.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Month

So I’ve turned the calendar into July now. A month I thought was so far off. I remember back in January when I put this calendar up and my husband and I perused all the months. Each month has a cat and a dog or rabbit and dog, etc. which have nearly identical coloring and are snuggling together. July has a sandy/gray tabby kitty and a calico type rabbit. And lots of appointments at the hospital marked in, for birthing classes, nursing classes, plus the arrival of mom and sis on the 25th. Husband’s birthday the 24th (ooh, mustn’t forget to buy him Season 3 of The A-Team). And not marked but certainly anticipated: baby’s arrival for the 30th. Of course, that’s a guesstimate. She doesn’t have a calendar in the womb to consult, so she’ll come when she wants. Maybe even August.

Now I’m on maternity leave and feel that I have a million things to do and I’m not sure where to start. Organizing stuff, not necessarily baby stuff, but paperwork, old clothes. Cleaning out the old stuff I’ve been hanging onto for too long. Reapplying for my carte de séjour (basically my visa which I must still renew even though I’m married to a Français). Packing the famous maternity suitcase. Making sure my apartment is decent for visitors (cause pregnancy isn’t an excuse to let everything go to pot).

And in between all that I’ll read on in my pregnancy and baby books. I have four total. Three in English, one in French that is for the husband but which I’ve read more than him. Last night he started reading it more seriously. He wanted to start from the beginning, but I told him to skip to the part about the delivery, considering the date. From time to time he would say, “Eh, bah, ça va être gai!” Translation: well, that’s gonna be pretty. I’ve been trying to drop him subtle hints for months now that delivery is not in fact always pretty. He started musing about how they clean up the room afterwards. A high-pressure hose? A metal grill on the floor to let everything drain out? That’s my husband, so romantically practical.

But no matter how many books I read or classes I take, I know nothing will completely prepare me for the pain and even the good stuff that comes afterwards. For the moment I am still rather anxious about the pain part. This hasn’t been helped by the fact that I found out there isn’t always an anesthesiologist there exactly when you need him or her. If you’re so lucky as to deliver at night, on the weekends or a holiday (July 14th, Bastille Day, is coming up!), the anesthesiologist is shared between maternity and surgery. And apparently epidurals are not as urgent as putting someone to sleep for heart surgery. I beg to differ, but hey, that’s their policy.

At any rate, I think it will be an eventful month…