Pink or Blue, Part Two

gender-revealAlmost three years ago, I wrote a blog post about the silly futility of trying to predict the gender of a not-yet-born baby without the benefits of modern technology. We were getting close to time to find out whether we were having a blue or a pink, and I made a vague sort of guess that he (because it was a he, we’d find out later) was a boy because I couldn’t come up with any boy names that I loved. By that logic, we’re definitely cooking up a girl this time — I’m ready to name a boy but can’t settle on any girl names! Still, that’s hardly any way to figure it out, so tomorrow — hopefully — we’ll find out the new-fangled way.

In the meantime, though, I thought I’d go back to that 2012 blog post and try out some of the same gender predictors to see what they had to say this time around. Last time, I took 8 online gender prediction quizzes. Four said I was going to have a boy, and four said I was going to have a girl. How do we do this time around?

So as you can see… totally conclusive! Fifty/fifty, just like last time!

Obviously, I need a tiebreaker. Fortunately, the Me of three years ago planned for this occasion and wrote her very own gender prediction quiz based on highly unscientific nonsense (sample question: How many freckles are on your right hand?). I just took it and got the following result:

Your result: Girl!

You are going to have a child of the anatomically feminine persuasion.
Start stocking up on baseball bats, shotguns, and other devices to repel unwanted suitors.

There you have it, friends. Gotham is scientifically proven to be a girl. Or something.


I guess we’ll see what the fancy schmancy machine has to say about that in the near future.

Expectant Motherhood

Before there were pregnancy websites… before there was What to Expect When You’re Expecting… our foremothers relied on books like this one to help guide them through the process of gestation.

Expectant Motherhood - Front Cover
This book, Expectant Motherhood by Nicholson J. Eastman, was my grandmother’s. She had her children in the 1950s, presumably armed with this book which was originally written in 1940 and re-released in 1950. This was a time period when women showed up to the hospital to give birth and were anesthetized — against their will in some cases — so that they had no memory of the experience of childbirth. (I’m not making that up, incidentally. Look it up.)

Expectant Motherhood - Inside Cover

The book, while outdated and a souvenir of a very different era of womanhood, actually isn’t all that bad in terms of medical information. There’s quite a lot in it that you would find in a modern text, albeit perhaps not worded in quite the same way.

But this wouldn’t be a very entertaining post if I just showed you the reasonable stuff, now would it? So instead, I bring you some of the “Best Of” excerpts from Expectant Motherhood. Enjoy.

A newly pregnant woman’s journey to motherhood begins with a visit to the doctor’s office — her very first such visit, as a matter of fact, since she’d have had no reason to worry about that anatomical neighborhood until this point.

First Doctor's Visit

After that pain-free and modesty-preserving experience, the woman is ready to begin cooking that bun in her oven. While doing so, she should be careful to cut down on potentially problematic vices.

EM - Smoking

As her pregnancy progresses, she will need to consider the problem of her wardrobe and its changing requirements.

EM - Clothing

(It kills me that I can’t find the line about how she should take care to maintain her appearance, for her husband’s sake — wondering if I read that in a different old maternity book? It was classic…)

She will want to select her undergarments, in particular, with care.

EM - Corsets

It will be important for her to refrain from overexertion, and from overtaxing her nervous system. Driving an automobile should be considered carefully; for that matter, it isn’t necessarily healthy for her to be a passenger, due to the strain of observing the landscape speeding by….

EM - Driving

Delivery of the child is, naturally, a concerning prospect for the young mother-to-be. Fortunately, Expectant Motherhood is here to reassure her that she won’t even be conscious of the experience.

EM - Delivery

The book details several methods by which a laboring mother might be spared the pain of delivery, such as this one:

EM - Rectal Ether

It then goes on to explain that, after delivering her child, the mother is (for at least the first week or so) free of any responsibility toward the infant.

EM - The Newborn

Using Expectant Motherhood as a prop for some of my maternity pictures made it hard to maintain my composure, as you can probably well imagine…

Cracking up while reading EM

You've got to be kidding me.

Anyway, there you have it. Forget all those slick 21st-century productions! Next time you’re in a family way, reach for a classic: Expectant Motherhood. It worked for me!

Expectant Motherhood

Enjoy It Now!

If I fuss, I’m not fussing at you. Unless I am, in which case, you might deserve it. But I fuss because I love. Or because I’m hungry and hormonal. One of those things.

I’m eager to join the Sorority of Motherhood, but a great deal about it mystifies me. Among the many things I wish I understood: Why do parents want to make expectant parents believe that parenthood is so awful?

I’m not talking about people who didn’t want kids, either. I’m talking about people who wanted and love their children. People who are happy for you when they find out you’re going to have one of your own.

People who are delighted to point out that YOUR LIFE IS OVER! Mwa ha ha!

Let me give you some examples.

Me: “We go to movies at the dollar theater about once a week.”

Other Parent:

You mean, you USED TO go to movies!

Okay, so obviously, I am about to hit a stage in my life when my evening entertainment options are going to be sharply curtailed. No impromptu nights at the ballet for me for a few years! But will having a baby really mean that I can’t join the other parents-of-babies in the back row of the DOLLAR THEATER once a week or so? I mean, it’s a buck. If I have to go out into the lobby, so be it. Oh, and it’s not as if I don’t have family and friends in town — not to mention a growing network of teenagers and young adults — who couldn’t watch Pablo for a couple of hours. 

Here’s another one:

Me: “I have a really busy weekend: class all day Saturday, and two different performances.”

Other Parent:

Ha! You don't even know what a busy weekend looks like yet!

You’re right. I’ve never had a busy weekend before. Quick, someone call early 2000s me and let me know how easy I’ve got it. Yes, of course I know that my life is going to get busier and busier as Pablo grows up, joins activities, and gains siblings. Heaven help me if he decides he wants to do soccer or ballet or something; I don’t think those parents ever see the insides of their homes. But given the wee tyke’s genetic makeup, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if those busy weekends consist of long trips to the library and occasional mathalons… which, trust me, will seem downright relaxing compared to this past weekend or to just about any weekend I ever had throughout college.

A standard theme:

Me: “I found a cute shirt on sale the other day.”

Other Parent:

You'll never buy clothes for yourself again -- enjoy it now!

Dude. I shop at Ross, thrift stores, and clearance racks. Yeah, I’m a little bit enamored of the Tiny Clothes Section, and I know he’ll grow out of every thing the minute I put it on him. But somehow I don’t think I’ll magically lose the ability to clothe myself just because I’m a mom… and even if I do put my clothing-purchasing energies into kiddy clothes, that’s okay because I’m still enjoying myself. Right?

Here’s a recent favorite:

Me: “I’m enjoying the fact that I just got my car washed and vacuumed.”

Other Parent:

Your car will never be clean again!!!

Okay, so, really? I’m not a neat freak (as my mom reads this, she is probably laughing out loud) and I’ve never really prioritized having a spotless car. Heck, I’m one of those teachers who basically lives out of her car during the school year. Yesterday, as a gift/payment for some help I gave Ryan with his student council stuff (hey, I’m not above being bribed) I got my car washed and lightly detailed. It’s the first time that it’s been really clean since we bought it, and you know how much time it took? Half an hour. Do I know that kids stain upholstery and stuff Cheerios and pacifiers in places that you didn’t even know your car had? Of course I do! But do you know how many ooooold homework assignments, flattened granola bars, lost (unopened) cans of Coke, and forgotten thrift store book purchases you can find between the seat cushions on a car that has NEVER had a child in it? Because I do. And besides, just because there’s a car seat back there doesn’t mean that anyone is going to tell me:

you shall not wash your car

I guess it’s just kind of getting to the point where I feel like people really want to make sure I know that

being a parent sucks

which is weird, because I know none of them actually believe that. Quite the opposite, actually. So maybe they’re just trying to tell me that

being a parent is hard and different

Nevertheless, it’s kind of off-putting. I’d been warned to expect horror stories about childbirth (which I don’t mind, actually, but which I haven’t really encountered) but not really about the onslaught of ENJOY IT NOW comments.

The thing is… I’m 32 years old, which I guess isn’t very old, but I’ve been married for almost nine years and have wanted to have a baby for several of those. We put it off for reasons of finances/job stability/insurance. Then, when we felt like our life situation had caught up with our desire to expand our family, we began trying — and had no luck. We went to doctors, did invasive tests, took medicine that made me very ill, injected hormones into my stomach, had to make split-second decisions about risky interventions. We spent surreptitious moments investigating the costs and logistics of adoption. We watched, sick at heart, while people we knew got pregnant with babies they didn’t want and, in some cases, didn’t have. We fought back feelings of bitterness and jealousy when we wanted to be congratulatory and happy for friends. We rode the neverending roller coaster of hope, results, and despair. Then we got pregnant, and then we had a miscarriage. And it was horrible. And then we got pregnant again, and this time it stuck.

God in heaven, we are ready for a little bit of stinky, fussy, time-consuming inconvenience in our lives. We are ready to not just be Ryan-and-Kate. We are ready to stop falling through the crack between “young singles” and “married with kids”; we’re ready to be able to put up family photos and to not be thoughtlessly scolded by students and relatives who want to know if we aren’t getting a little old to have not had any kids yet. We are ready for milk stains, soggy Cheerios, dirty diapers, soccer practices, ballet recitals, all-night barfing marathons, Chuck E Cheese…

Will I go on Facebook and exclaim at how different — how hard — how busy — my new life is? Almost certainly.

Will I complain sometimes? Probably — especially if there’s vomit involved. Or poop-painting. That’s gonna be “fun”.

But I wanted this. I want this.

So bring on the interrupted and skipped movies, busy weekends, outdated wardrobes, and dirty cars. I am more than ready.

My life isn’t over. My life — the life where I get to grow old surrounded by my children and grandchildren, the life where I get to do the one thing that seems truly important to me — is just beginning.


This is a blog entry in two parts. The first part is entertaining for general audiences (and comes with Very Excellent MS Paint Illustrations!); the second part is mostly so that I remember later on when I’ve lost the rest of my mind.

Part One

After school yesterday, I went down to the district office to fill out all of my maternity leave paperwork. As previously noted, my country doesn’t mandate paid parental leave — but fortunately, I work full-time for an employer that offers short term disability insurance, and am covered by FMLA as well. Doubly fortunately, Squirmy Kermie will be arriving at such a time that I have a super-long maternity leave due to summer break.

In order for me to get paid for the time that is covered by my short term disability (which I would totally abbreviate, except that would be STD, and we’re not going to discuss what is and is not covered by an STD on this blog) my doctor and I have to file paperwork. Some of this has to wait until I’m actually unable to work (i.e., in labor) but other parts could be filed now.

Let me just tell you: This was the best paperwork ever. (The HR lady helping me told me that one of her favorite parts of her job was walking first-time parents through this paperwork. I was about to die laughing.) Why? Well, see, it’s just standard disability paperwork, not maternity-specific. And so I got to answer nosy and delightful questions like:

  • On what date did this condition begin?
  • Was this an accident?
  • Specify how this illness or injury will prevent you from performing your work duties.
  • Was this work-related? If so, do you plan to file a worker’s compensation claim?

(They asked a variation on that last one four different times. HR Lady said it was particularly funny when both parents are district employees…)

Perhaps the “best” part was that Pregnancy Brain hit me full force while I was trying to answer the basic questions. You could have held a gun to my head or offered me a million dollars, and I still would have been completely incapable of remembering my own address. I wrestled with my brain — even plugging possible addresses into my maps app on my phone in the hopes of finding my own house that way — for the entire appointment. Finally, I came up with the address and filled it in… only to get home and realize that I’d put a 9 in the street number where a 3 belonged.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up (other than to give you the opportunity to join me in laughing at myself) is that one of the questions my doctor will get to answer is, “Is this patient mentally competent to perform his or her work duties?” I got to that question, after laughing with HR Lady about how I don’t even know where I live, and burst out laughing. Go ahead and check NO on that one! Let me go home now!

no brain!

Part Two

So here is how it’s going to work. (Some of this is repeated information, but I want to get everything down so that it’s here for me later on.)

When I can no longer return to work (to the point where my OB will declare this to be the case… not just the point when I can’t remember where I live) my doctor will inform the district. At that point, I take (at least) ten days of my stashed-up sick and personal leave, for which I receive full regular pay. Because only three personal days will roll over to next year, I’ll use my extra days first, and then the sick leave. Technically speaking, my short term disability does not kick in until the baby shows up (regardless of whether he is early or late) OR I’m incapacitated, with the doctor’s paperwork received at the district. That means that, if I’m starting maternity leave early, I either need the doctor’s say-so or I just need to use some more of my sick leave.

After those first two work-weeks, the district stops paying me and short term disability insurance kicks in. It will pay me at 2/3 my usual salary, with nothing taken out — no taxes, no Social Security, nada. As a result, if my math is correct, I won’t actually take a financial hit. I am entitled to six weeks of this (eight weeks if we end up having a c-section) but, unless things happen pretty early, won’t need all of it. (Once June hits, I no longer have to be taking time off.) During this time, I’ll receive weekly paychecks mailed to me — instead of monthly paychecks directly deposited. We need to make sure to be vigilant about getting those checks, to make sure that my address got corrected on the paperwork. (HR Lady says it did, but it doesn’t hurt to be paranoid sometimes.)

Also, during this time, the district will be covering my non-tax monthly deductions (health insurance, professional dues, flex spending account). When I go back to a regular paycheck, they’ll slightly adjust my monthly pay for the next year so that I gradually pay them back. Since this will only be for a month, it won’t be terribly noticeable.

In June I won’t receive a regular monthly paycheck (that was the weekly stuff) but starting in July, I should be back on the district payroll.

I have enough sick leave saved up that I could, technically speaking, not use my short term disability insurance at all. This would give me full pay throughout my leave, but would also exhaust all of my sick days, and I feel like I ought to bank up as many of those as possible for next year with an infant. Since it’s an option and all.

Through FMLA, I’m entitled to a total of twelve weeks off with the guarantee of my job back when I return. Only six of it would be paid via short term disability, though. Plus, taking the full twelve weeks would mean not being here at the beginning of the school year, which is an undesireable thing in terms of setting up classroom management, expectations, etc. Because I’ll be using less than the full amount, the remainder is still at my disposal for the following school year in case something comes up that causes me to miss work (even if it isn’t in a block of time).

I mentioned that we were giving some thought to having me work 2/3 time next year (every other day) and she said that while that obviously affects my take-home pay, it doesn’t make my insurance any more expensive or less comprehensive. We looked at my insurance and think that it will make more financial sense to put Kermie on my plan than on Ryan’s, but he needs to do some research in that area as well. (It makes a CRAZY amount of NO SENSE AT ALL to have Ryan and I on the same plan. Child #1 is about $70 a month; no matter how many kids I have after the first one, the total for children is only about $75 a month. But Ryan? Putting a spouse on my insurance plan adds something like $500 a month to my insurance bill! Thank goodness he is working elsewhere…)

We checked to make sure my maternity substitute was good to go (he wasn’t yet — another of our HR people isn’t so very good about getting things done in a timely manner — so it’s a good thing I asked to check) and I was reminded that while on maternity leave, I have no work responsibilities. No lesson planning, grading, email, etc. — completely off the hook. Right now, I’m wondering whether I’ll be able to walk away that completely… but people seem to manage. 🙂

The doctor has to let the district know that I’m medically cleared to return to work (I think that’s where the mentally competent question came in) at some point as well. If he turns in that paperwork before the end of the school year, it’s not a big deal. I’ve already put in that I am out until August, and that’s all settled.

Ryan, incidentally, is entitled to FMLA as well — but his would be straight-up unpaid leave after his (smaller) stash of personal/sick leave gets used up.

There are so many awesome things about being a pregnant teacher whose baby had the courtesy to be due at the end of the school year! There are two downsides, though… the first is that it makes me sad that I’m going to miss my seniors, and it’s going to be challenging to fulfill all of my end-of-year traditions (but I’m going to make them work SOMEHOW!). The second is that the vast majority of my social circle consists of my amazing coworkers, but over breaks we all scatter to the four winds and keep in pretty poor touch. (Most of them live in a completely different town than I do and have entirely different communities.) I will miss talking to them, and sort of pre-emptively regret that they won’t all be a captive audience for baby visits and whatnot during those first few months. OH WELL. I am NOT complaining about four months of time off with my baby.

Just because it sort of fits with this post, and because I wanted to be able to find it later, here is a map that makes me cranky.

maternity leave worldwide

Review: Redshirts


Redshirts by John Scalzi

My rating: 3.75 to 4 out of 5

John Scalzi is one of my favorite science fiction authors, for three reasons:

1. How can you not love someone whose Goodreads bio says, “John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent”?

2. On top of being a fairly prolific novelist (and a contributor to Stargate Universe), Scalzi maintains a terrifically smart and entertaining blog.

3. On top of being prolific, smart, and entertaining, Scalzi does something rare and exceptional: he writes really great funny science fiction — of which Redshirts is only the most recent offering.

If you are a fan of Star Trek, you probably get the reference in this book’s title. If not, I’ll try to explain. Have you ever noticed — or heard people joking about the appearance that — horror movies casting black actors as the expendable buddy who falls victim to the ax murderer/vengeful ghost/etc. early on in the film? The “black dude dies first” trope (you can substitute “meme” for “trope” if that makes more sense to you) doesn’t actually happen that often in contemporary horror, but it happened often enough that it’s become heavily parodied (see Scary Movie — or don’t, because that’s a terrible movie, but it’s an example). This is an echo of the redshirt phenomenon from classic Star Trek. When the episode included an away mission, they would send the “important characters” (your Kirk, Spock, etc.) who obviously needed to survive — but someone has to fall victim to the malevolent natives, right? Often-nameless crew members in red uniforms (meaning they were part of the security detail) were expendable cannon fodder, dying horrifically to advance the plot, and becoming a catchphrase among geeks everywhere.

Scalzi latches on to this trope for this hilarious and thought-provoking, self-aware parody of the original Star Trek series (self-aware in that it eventually acknowledges the relationship between the novel and the TV show). In Redshirts, the lower-ranking crew members of the Intrepid have begun to realize that, in their words, “everyone on this ship [is] monumentally f***ed up about away missions.” And no wonder; every mission seems to follow the classic ST model. Not only do new recruits get mysteriously mowed down in an almost orchestrated setup for the glorification of a handful of “important” crew members, but random bits of exposition and motivation seem to pop into their heads as if being uploaded. It’s bizarre, ominous, and — as our protagonists quickly discover — often fatal.

A few plucky redshirts band together to try to unravel the mystery in time to avoid gruesome death vis-a-vis whatever inexplicable battle or situation arises next. With the assistance of a yeti-like ship hermit and tongue-in-cheek application of heavy-handed deus ex machina, our protagonists bust through the veil dividing their reality from that being parodied. The results are not only funny and smart, but surprisingly touching as the two worlds collide and improve one another.

If you’ve ever stayed up late over coffee (or your “conversing about hypothetical issues with friends” substance of choice) bouncing crazy ideas about multiple universes and time travel with your equally geeky friends, or if you’re the sort of person who likes to sit in the back of the theater and make snarky comments about implausible plot developments and the abuse of your suspension of disbelief, you will probably get a HUGE kick out of this book. (Being a fan of ST isn’t a requirement, although it will enrich your reading experience as you draw connections between characters and cast members.) This would be an amazing book club selection, for the right book club; I find myself itching to ask other readers about one of the central characters and his power over the craziness aboard the Intrepid. The three “Codas” — short story epilogues that add some rather lovely layers to the story — provide some excellent food for thought and discussion as well.

Redshirts isn’t liable to win the Pulitzer (although it did debut at #15 on the hardcover fiction best-seller list), but it was exactly the sort of book I needed on a cold February night (and yes, it flies — once you get sucked into the tractor beam of this novel, be prepared to lose a few hours). This novel is transportive, grin-provoking, and the literary equivalent of sharing a great inside joke with a clever friend. And if you’d like to give it a try, you can actually read the prologue and the first four chapters for free.

You can also read Wired‘s interview with Scalzi — it’s pretty good, too.

Horizontal Stripes

It’s funny how one’s ideas about fashion can change.

Before Bump (BB): Horizontal stripes? Who can wear these things? They make me look as big as a barn!

After Bump (AB): Horizontal stripes? These make me look as big as a barn! Do they have them in any other colors?

* * *

BB: This is a cute t-shirt, but it fits waaay too close to the skin for my comfort. Shows every flaw and ounce of fat on my torso. Maybe I should get the next size up.

AB: This is a cute t-shirt, but it’s a little loose at the bottom… Maybe I could try a smaller size…

* * *

BB: I don’t wear t-shirts or tops made out of t-shirt knit to work.

AB: I don’t own any shirts that aren’t made out of t-shirt knit.

* * *

BB: It’s Friday! I can wear jeans to work!

AB: It’s Friday! I could wear (maternity) jeans to work… but my knit pants that look like dress slacks are so much more comfortable…

* * *

BB: It’s Friday, so I can wear jeans to work, but it’s work, so I’ll make sure to wear a nice top or at least something with a school logo on it to balance out the informality.

AB: It’s Friday. What’s clean and comfortable?

* * *

Speaking of uncomfortable jeans: After spending two days trying to keep my elastic-waist-style maternity pants from falling down (and wondering if I could find some suspenders somewhere), I decided to dig out my pair of full-panel jeans this morning and give them a shot. I’d shelved them earlier in the pregnancy because they wouldn’t stay up… but it appears that the bump has a sartorial purpose after all. Obviously I haven’t even left the house yet, but so far these are staying up much better.

Comic Relief

I found a great blog the other day. 269 Days by author/illustrator Brie Spangler is the account of one woman’s pregnancy — told in very charming, funny illustrations. (I love this sort of thing. Well, maybe everyone does, but I have an excuse in that my sister Meredith is an annoyingly talented multimedia illustrator, and so I’m particularly drawn to the field. Ha ha, that was a pun AND I DIDN’T EVEN MEAN IT.)

269 Days is so great because it’s so honest, and because it embraces — sometimes literally — the less-discussed experiences of pregnancy.

Me. Except that the thought of the word  "wintergreen" makes me want to lose my breakfast. It's all about the assorted berry flavors.

Me. Except that the thought of the word “wintergreen” makes me want to lose my breakfast. It’s all about the assorted berry flavors.

Being what essentially amounts to an autobiographical webcomic (dude — I hope Spangler has thought about doing this as a graphic novel, or whatever the heck you’re supposed to call an illustration-based memoir! People would love this as a book!), 269 Days stars its author and her husband. It also features some great cameos from her pets, organs, and other important characters on her babyquest.

This is so true, and no one ever tells you about it. Who would think that pregnancy -- even pre-bump -- would make sneezing so dangerous?

This is so true, and no one ever tells you about it. Who would think that pregnancy — even pre-bump — would make sneezing so dangerous?

She was writing the comic on a two month delay, and had their baby on March 10, 2012. Sadly for the rest of us, her maternity leave from the comic has extended for some time — but who can blame her, really? I’ve subscribed to 269 Days in the hopes that an update will eventually pop up in my Google Reader, but in the meantime, it’s well worth stopping by for the first two trimesters. 🙂 I started at the beginning (bottom of page) and read my way backwards to her most recent post, in June of last year. Check it out!