Don’t trust Pinterest pregnancies

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Before I was pregnant, I had a lot of great ideas about how I’d do pregnancy.

First, I would surprise Mr. B with a positive pregnancy test and something cute and clever I’d seen on Pinterest, like maybe a bunch of balloons with the test tied to them, or a t-shirt with “Best Dad” on it, and his eyes would light up and we would toast to our success and then casually go about our business.

In reality, what happened was that by the time we decided we wanted kids, we were desperately yearning for them. Wanting to have kids is not something other people can impose on you by constantly nagging you about when you’re going to have kids. It’s not something that happens overnight. But when it does and you’re ready for it, it is the most pressing, urgent feeling in the world.

For me, what happened was that everything that used to be interesting to me became boring. We booked tickets to Hong Kong and I thought, great, another vacation, just the two of us, alone together. Sitting in coffee shops reading alone slipped from fun indulgence to mindless luxury. Watching other peoples’ children grow up on Facebook became painful. Despite the fact that I had a successful career, was in school and active in the tech community, my life seemed dull, uneventful, like I was growing older for no apparent reason, without a purpose. It was like being in a Woody Allen movie.

We were really intensely ready and trying to read any and all signs that might mean the start of something new. I stared at the two faint pink lines on the pregnancy test, squinting. Was this really a positive test? It seemed so normal and innocuous on the counter. I called Mr. B in. “Hey, I think this is positive,” I said, as if hoping he could interpret it better than me.

He walked in eating a banana, carefully avoiding all of my sample specimens laid out on the counter. “I don’t know,” he said, “maybe you should take another test.” I took another test. Same faint pink double-line. But no certainty. I started Googling. Well, not so much Googling as opening an anonymous browser, starting up a VPN proxy, and using DuckDuckGo, because, privacy. “It says we should buy an electronic test,” I said. What kind of mother was I, buying pharmacy brand? Mr. B went to get cash from the ATM, in case the test came up on our credit card statement, and bought three.

It said pregnant.

“Congratulations?” I said to Mr. B.

Even though our bathroom at this point looked like the beginnings of a meth lab, I still didn’t believe it. How can a simple pharmacy test determine the rest of your life?

I waited with Mr. B and the doctor’s office, feeling completely unpregnant.

A kind woman asked me the last date of my cycle and told me I was due in January. “Congratulations,” she said, handing me a Toys R Us catalog. “Wait, you’re not going to test me?” I said, incredulous. “You did take a pregnancy test at home, right?’ “yeah, but isn’t there something more official you can do?” I asked her. She looked at me like I was insane. “We can take the same test here, but it will charge to your insurance.” “And there’s nothing else?” “No, congratulations again,” she said, shooing me out of the office.

“What a scam,” I told Mr. B. “We can’t tell my parents yet, then. I’m still pretty sure I’m not pregnant.”

Two weeks later, while we were taking a morning walk, I threw up on the sidewalk. “That’s definitely pregnancy,” Mr. B said. “Or cancer,” I said, wiping the prenatal vitamin spitup off my chin.

I didn’t believe I was pregnant until I heard the heartbeat at my first official appointment. Then I squinted my eyes hard to stop the tech from seeing me cry with relief and awe.

The second thing I thought I would do is write a cute post on my blog that many bloggers do, starting with a coy allusion to “BIG CHANGES” and then maybe a picture of Mr. B and me and our shoes and another tiny pair, like they always do on all the lifestyle blogs. But for the first 17 weeks, I was too exhausted to even read the news. I was throwing up every other day, figuring out a new job, driving to class three times a week, and then slithering onto my couch and trying to gestate quietly without the room spinning. I never realized I could get this used to throwing up.

“How are you feeling,” everyone asked, and I tried to come up with a viable metaphor, but there is none. For me, the first trimester was like being hungover every day. Starting with the possibility of throwing up, followed by faint waves of nausea where you have to be prepared to dart to the bathroom at any time. One week, I could only eat chicken nuggets. Another week, it was Lifeway Kefir. A third week, only a specific cereal brand. Every day was like walking through quicksand: enormous and unimaginable.

Mr. B handmade me water with lemon juice mixed in for three months because I couldn’t drink regular water. He drove to the store on almost a daily basis because I couldn’t get off the couch. And if I didn’t eat, even though I wanted to, bad things happened. When I showed up at my parents’, not having eaten for three hours, and my mom didn’t have food I could eat, I broke down and cried. When Mr. B tried to dash out to the grocery store, I sat down at his foot and held his leg and cried, because I was worried he wouldn’t get a chance to eat first.

Every time I sat down to blog, I became drained, exhausted, and stupid. There was nothing interesting going on in my life, and nothing public worth sharing without giving it all away. Everything I’d written before seemed dumb and every analogy or allusion I could possibly write seemed trite, already written about pregnancy before.

And, there was no way I could write a cute post with a baby announcement, because of the third thing I’d thought about pregnancy, which is that I was constantly terrified. I thought I would do when I was pregnant is be happy that I was pregnant, and just become really nice and mellow. And there are some moments where I am. But mostly, I am anxious. Not terrified, but anxious. Anxious that the baby is developing fine. Anxious that the baby getting enough nutrition. Anxious that I am not in situations where I could expose the baby to harm.

Only chill American moms who aren’t anxious can write posts with cute baby clothes and baby plans looking out to 9 months ahead. Russian Jewish moms who are genetically imprinted to remember pogroms, cholera, the Mongols, Eastern European family heath histories and other tiny tragedies of every day life cannot be this blasé about babies.

In addition to the fears I knew from my own every day life, I was terrified of things I had read on the forums. “Don’t read the forums,” Mr. B said, but the forums were mostly helpful. Just sometimes, people would announce that they had had a loss at 7 weeks, 12 weeks, 13 weeks, and just when I thought I was safe, I saw their messages. I constantly checked myself between checkups for signs that my baby was ok, that it was growing and healthy. Every time I threw up, I breathed a sigh of relief afterwards because it meant everything was fine.

When I stopped throwing up and before I started feeling baby movements, I tried to read big fantasy books to keep my mind busy. Blogging about a process that was so fraught with terrifying potential avenues, that was so new and fragile, seemed like tempting fate, and it still does, but I’m getting to the point where I can’t not write, because writing is also my life.

When I did want to write, I was worried about privacy. I saw hundreds of naked babies on Instagram and Facebook, and didn’t want that to be me. Where do those baby pictures go when Instagram dies and Facebook becomes dismantled? Where does my privacy end and where does my child’s begin? I don’t know, and as someone who likes to document her life, it makes me worried. But I also didn’t want to not share, because it felt like was living life with a gag across my mouth. I’m trying to toe the middle line. (Maybe I’ll repost pictures of those Instagram babies as a compromise.)

So anyway, surprise blog post ending, I’m pregnant, and there is no certainty to anything about being pregnant like there was in every other part of my life, and it’s scary. But I am certain (knock on wood, tie the red bracelet, spit over your shoulder) that we are having a healthy, happy daughter in January and I could not be looking forward this part of my life more.

P.S. Don’t believe the sunshiney-happy-belly-rubbing pregnancies people tell you about in social media. Social media, especially Pinterest, was invented by Americans.

 

I can never go back to real life

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When my classes end for the summer, I always quip to people that I’m on summer vacation because the only thing I’ll have to do now is go to work 9-5, and then have five blissful hours of freedom in the evenings.

I’ll think to myself that it’s not a true vacation unless you’re doing absolutely nothing, like you used to do in the summer before school started, but then I remember back to my summers in middle and high school. They were filled with summer work: English books to read, history essays to write, current events to synthesize.

We would get the work on the last day of school, or during the first hazy days in July, a package would come in the mail, the dreaded assignments. No matter how I tried to finish them ahead of time, there I would be, the last couple weeks of August, frantically writing, terrified I wouldn’t get an A and be off to a bad start with my new teacher.

This past summer semester was my hardest one in school  yet: I started a new job almost exactly at the same time as three classes started, and I signed myself up to give at talk at Philly WordCamp in the middle of the month. As a result, my June was hell.

These days, I truly am doing nothing.  Or, I’m only do things that aren’t annoying: as you can tell, I’m not blogging, I haven’t picked up my novel since last week.

I have no commitments other than to my friends and family.

I come home, maybe make some dinner, maybe eat some watermelon. Maybe Mr. B and I go for a nice long walk around the neighborhood, maybe we watch some bad Russian tv.  Maybe I eat a popsicle.

My calendar is clear of any school/teaching/tech obligations until late August.

I lay on the couch and read books. I’ve already finished The Luminaries and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.  I start long, thoughtful, angry, poignant blog posts and don’t finish them.  I start short tweets that have jokes and don’t tweet them.

Sometimes I get manicures.

Sometimes I just open the windows and smell the sweet grass Mr. B is mowing.

I have never been this unbusy in my entire life.

And it’s scary how good it feels.

Listicle of small things that make me extremely happy

Valentin Bogdanov - Man in Landscape 1957

 

  • Getting a thank-you note in the mail
  • New running shoes that are so comfortable
  • The hand massage in the middle of a manicure
  • Having someone favorite a funny tweet I wrote
  • Being done with one of my four classes this semester
  • Cracking open a new book and knowing right away that it’s going to be amazing
  • Hearing “great job” at work
  • Skyping with my mom on her new iPad
  • Getting inspiration for a new chapter for my book
  • Running three miles
  • The feel of autumn
  • Late brunch with friends
  • Watching Mr. B eat a meal I cooked for him
  • Clean sheets
  • Fruit salad
  • SeaSnax
  • Fresh highlighters
  • Finding the right painting that goes with the tone of a blog post

Nassim Taleb

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From the Telegraph

Still my favorite philosopher/economist/misanthrope. Still agree with him on nearly everything.

Antifragile resembles a self-help book, though it is difficult to imagine any other self-help book as intemperate and cranky. The author is a tireless self-aggrandiser, boasting of his gargantuan reading habits; of being a weightlifter, ready to physically slap down detractors; and a gourmand, recommending fine wines and camomile tea to ease a troubled mind.

Here are some excerpts from press about him+ Antifragile:

Actually, Antifragile feels like a compendium of people and things Taleb doesn’t like. He is, for instance, annoyed by editors who “overedit,” when what they should really do is hunt for typos; unctuous, fawning travel assistants; “bourgeois bohemian bonus earners”; meetings of any kind; appointments of any kind; doctors; Paul Krugman; Thomas Friedman; nerds; bureaucrats; air conditioning; television; soccer moms; smooth surfaces; Harvard Business School; business schools in general; bankers at the Federal Reserve; bankers in general; economists; sissies; fakes; “bureaucrato-journalistic” talk; Robert Rubin; Google News; marketing; neckties; “the inexorable disloyalty of Mother Nature”; regular shoes.

And:

A reader could easily run out of adjectives to describe Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.” The first ones that come to mind are: maddening, bold, repetitious, judgmental, intemperate, erudite, reductive, shrewd, self-indulgent, self-congratulatory, provocative, pompous, penetrating, perspicacious and pretentious.

And:

He also comes across as a helluva personality: irascible, finicky, vain, prone to fits of pique at those who mischaracterize his ideas (uh-oh, better watch out), disdainful of journalists (double uh-oh), a weightlifter, too (this is your third and final warning).

On the other hand, he has habits I admire: He told the New Scientist he only goes to doctors if he’s really sick, he takes a dose of local water (a drop, no more) when visiting India (good for the immune system) and apparently he’s never been in debt

And:

You’re critical of various groups who claim to be able to predict and manage the future – which, in your opinion, has done the most damage? The most damaging group are economists; probably the most damaging individual is [former chairman of the US Federal Reserve] Alan Greenspan, and maybe also [current Fed chairman] Ben Bernanke and [US treasury secretary] Timothy Geithner. The reason I’m against the top-down state isn’t so much theoretical, but because of what I call having skin in the game – bureaucrats have no personal stake in their decisions. I don’t tell you what I predict; I tell you what’s in my portfolio. So economics-wise, I don’t want people to tell me what to do; I want to know what they’re doing.

And:

“Exactly!” says Taleb. Once you get over the idea that you’re reading some sort of popular economics book and realise that it’s basically Nassim Taleb’s Rules for Life, it’s actually rather enjoyable. Highly eccentric, it’s true, but very readable and something like a chivalric code d’honneur for the 21st century. Modern life is akin to a chronic stress injury, he says. And the way to combat it is to embrace randomness in all its forms: live true to your principles, don’t sell your soul and watch out for the carbohydrates

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Tax Returns

 

It is a rainy, misty day in Londondelphia and Vicki sits at her kitchen table, absentmindedly spooning Nutella from the jar and brooding. There are hundreds of papers scattered about and her hair is dishevelled.  She makes small noises of curiosity from time to time and rifles through the papers systematically, throwing some on the floor when she is done. The tea kettle goes off again and again distantly in the background.

Mr. B walks into the room with a slight limp.  For the sake of this story, we are going to pretend that Mr. B is a veteran of the Soviet wars in Afghanistan and partakes in opium, even though Mr. B was not even born when the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan happened and I’m not really sure how one would even go about finding an opium den in 2012.

“My God, woman, what are you doing,” Mr. B asks.

“The returns, Boykis, the returns!” Vicki turns towards him with a crazed gleam in her eye.

“What returns?” Mr. B gently turns the tea kettle off and pours himself some Assam, stepping over the mess.

“All of the information we need to file federal taxes for 2011 is missing.  Doubtless an enemy has stolen them for his benefit.  Think, Boykis.  Who would hate us so much that he would want to see our tax information?”

Mr. B rolls his eyes. “No one hates us. We have no enemies.” He pours some milk into his Assam and sits down beside Vicki.

“That’s what you think,” Vicki says, pushing a couple of folders full of mortgage information out of the way, onto the floor. “Moriarty’s spies are everywhere.  Especially when it comes to finding the two documents we need to be able to finish our returns. I bet,” she trails off and puffs on a hookah pipe lying on the floor.

“I bet they realized that we were working on taxes since they saw our attic light on late at night.  They knew we were missing papers, so every day they checked our mailbox while we were out.  One day this week, the electric man was supposed to come check our meter.  Under that pretense and since we live in a relatively crime-free neighborhood where no one is suspicious of normal activity, they came to our house dressed as the electrician and-” Vicki gets up and rushes outside in her bare feet.

“-yes.” She kneels down near the electric meter and traces the soil, rubbing it between her fingers. “The footprints here were much larger than that of a usual electrician. He walks around a lot for his job in checking the houses, so he has very snug shoes, which are smaller than the shoes that imprinted in this here dirt. They took our letters under that pretense and-” she walks over to the mailbox, delicately avoiding any of the soil.

“-yes.” She brushes the top of the mailbox with her finger and tastes it. “They were wearing gloves.  Usually the postman that comes here does not because he’s allergic to latex.”

Mr. B has appeared and is peering outside the front door with suppressed curiosity. “Aren’t you cold?  You should come back in.”

“Patience, Boykis!” Vicki cries. “These non-fingerprints are less than 24 hours old and we are hot on the trail!”

Mr. B holds out a stack of envelopes in his hand.  “Are these the documents you were looking for?” Vicki’s neck jerks up and she squints.

“Why, yes!  How did you find them?”

Mr. B gives her a pointed look. “You accidentally put them in the middle of your Economist magazine as a bookmark.”

Vicki’s whole body slumps, no longer primed for the chase.  She trudges back inside.

“Can I deduce something, if I may be so bold,” Mr. B asks, raising an eyebrow, ushering her in.

“What,” Vicki says, dejected. “Oh, yes, alright.”

“Can I deduce that you’ve been enjoying our watching the new BBC Sherlock Holmes remake, Sherlock, and have been so inspired by what you think is a great show that you wrote a fantasy blog post about something that kind of happened but you made a much bigger deal about it than it was in real life because you are a writer and are crazy?”

Vicki perks up. “Brilliant, Boykis.  You’re finally catching up to my staggering intellect, I see.”