Saturday, December 19, 2009


I don't know why this exists or what its purpose is, but it's the creepiest thing ever: a robot baby from Japan.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"My brain is like it has two sticks in it"

There's a brilliant post on Jezebel about things people did as kids that freaked out the adults around them. (The post is sparked by a not-at-all funny news story about an eight-year-old boy who got sent for psychological assessment after he drew himself as Jesus on the cross. Ugh. Sometimes kids just do weird or morbid things, and that doesn't actually mean they're insane, y'know?)

Be sure to check out the comments -- some choice quotes:

When I was about 8 I made a poster on the computer with a seashell border that said simply "Kill or Be Killed" and happily showed it to my mum. She was a bit freaked out and put it in a cupboard... I think my general non-chalance at the time was rather amusing - I coloured the shells Crayola "seafoam green" and thought it looked ever so pretty, but couldn't understand why my mum didn't appreciate it.
My cousin proudly announced to her Brownie troop that her (and my) uncle was going to be on America's Most Wanted. Which, while true, left out the very important fact that he was a sheriff being interviewed about an escaped murderer.  
I got sent to a "gifted" art program in elementary school by drawing lots of hooker pirates.

Is it wrong that one of the reasons I can't wait to have kids is that they'll hopefully do bizarre stuff like this?


Staying cautiously optimistic

We've been operating under the assumption that everything will basically go OK; that it will take a couple of months to get pregnant, and then I'll stay pregnant for nine months, and have a healthy baby, and we'll all live happily ever after.

I know that none of this is guaranteed.

I know that not everyone gets pregnant easily. Not everyone gets pregnant, ever. Not everyone stays pregnant long enough. Not every baby is healthy. And maybe it's tempting fate to assume that it will all be fine.

And yet... even though I'm a constant worrier, I can't really bring myself to worry about this. Not yet. I can worry about what to eat during the pre-conception period, I imagine I will worry endlessly about everything once I'm actually pregnant, and I come from a long line of chronically worried parents, so in the back of my mind I envisage motherhood as one long freak-out that will only end when I finally keel over from stress. But I can't seem to get going, properly, at worrying about fertility per se.

Part of it is because I know that we're both young and both healthy, and my family history in this regard is extremely good, and the odds are that things will be fine. Part of it is because there are just so many things that could go wrong: my mind tries to run through all of them, and then it gives up. I've found the Holy Grail of worry: something so scary that I can't worry about it. And part of it is because I so desperately want this, and furthermore I want to enjoy this; I will worry if and when I have to, but in the meantime I want to believe that it will be OK, and just enjoy this whole process as long as possible.

So I suppose what I'm doing isn't assuming that all will be well. I'm choosing to believe it, which is not the same thing. I will give up on this belief if there's evidence to the contrary, but I'm going to cling to it as long as I can.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Between friends

So, we thought about it. And although we really don't want everyone to know about our plans (beyond the fact that we'd like kids at some point), there is one person we realised I had to tell: my best friend.

I went out to lunch with her yesterday and I told her that we're planning to start TTC right after the wedding. She was excited and happy for us, and very amused at the fact that she's been making jokes about us having a baby for months without knowing that a baby was actually a realistic possibility. Although she was a little worried that this doesn't leave her enough time to learn to knit baby clothes; but I think she'll be fine on that front, heh.

It felt really good to tell her. I didn't like keeping secrets from her, and I really don't know how long I could have lied convincingly to someone who knows me so well and sees so much of me. I don't have to stress out over what to say when she offers me a coffee, and I don't have to conceal how much I've been thinking about baaaaabies for fear of seeming weird.

Also, it was fun to horrify her with tales of all the headwrecking advice I've been hearing: "Alcohol is bad for the baby. But so is the stress of not drinking! If you eat oily fish less than once a week, it's bad for the baby because it misses out on nutrients. But if you eat it more than once a week, it's bad for the baby because of all the mercury. And it goes on like this."

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Period pains are ongoing. I am so full of Ponstan and Panadol I'm surprised I don't rattle when I move, and the pain still won't completely go away. I do worry about how awful labour will be, if cramps are this bad.

On the plus side, I only have to go through this a maximum of five more times before we start trying... Knowing this makes it a little more bearable.

On the wagon

As part of our preparations for Project Baby, we're slowly giving up various unhealthy foods and drinks. Which is about as much fun as it sounds.

Because new sperm takes a while to be produced in the body, it's better for a man to get healthy well in advance of actually trying to conceive, but of course once the woman is actually pregnant, his biological input is over. Whereas from my point of view, I've been toting these eggs around my whole life, and I feel like any damage I'm likely to do to them has probably already been done, so it's not as urgent for me to stop drinking, etc., until closer to when we're actually trying. But it seems mean to make Don give things up when I can still eat what I like, and it also seems mean for him to drink tequila and eat sushi (although not simultaneously, because that's just wrong) while I'm pregnant. So we're trying to do this together: I'm quitting things when he does, and he's planning to stay on the various wagons as long as I do.

Well, we don't smoke or take drugs, so that's two major things we don't need to worry about. Yes, we are wusses. Processed foods are slowly, sadly, being weeded out within reason; I do like baking, though, so we can still have cake and things the odd time -- just trying to replace shop-bought with homemade as much as possible. They're nicer, anyway.

Next up: caffeine. Depending which study you believe, it's either bad for sperm motility or it makes them all caffeinated and hyperactive, which is... quite a mental image. Excess amounts in pregnancy seem to be associated with miscarriage, low birthweights and SIDS. Lovely. The risk isn't huge, but why take chances? So, time to quit coffee. Don is a total caffeine addict, which is just sad, because he actually hates the taste of coffee. I can take it or leave it, but never drank that much of it. After a few hairy days of detox, Don's now a tea-only guy, and I'm down to a very occasional latte, to be discontinued altogether closer to the wedding day. We're still drinking a lot of tea, which isn't ideal, and I suppose we'll have to cut that down* too -- which, since we're Irish, is going to be a massive culture shock for us, as well as automatically making us bad guests wherever we go.

*Not giving it up altogether. Let's not go mad here.

The big one: alcohol. In men, alcohol lowers testosterone and increases oestrogen, which can lower sperm counts and sex drive. Everyone knows that heavy drinking in pregnancy is dangerous for the foetus, and the NHS says it can make it harder to conceive in the first place. A small amount of drink, especially past the third month, is probably OK for a lot women; but nobody knows what the safe maximum is, if any. (Oh, and just to spice things up a bit, one study suggested that small amounts of alcohol in pregnancy could even be beneficial.) Recommendations vary between cultures -- the US government advocates strict abstinence, while the British government goes back and forth but is generally a bit more relaxed about it. Any time I try to research this issue in depth, my brain threatens to explode, but I'm thinking I'll aim for total abstinence and not beat myself up if I occasionally have half a glass after the first trimester. I mean, it's not like booze is good for you, anyway. (Except Guinness, har har.)

Well, but the evidence for effects on male fertility are fairly clear-cut, so Don is quitting, and that means that so am I. Pre-wifely solidarity and all that. The timing is awful (our two-year anniversary, Christmas, a lot of birthdays, New Year) but there'll never be a good time. Not that we're alcoholics or anything! I mean, we don't even really get drunk that much any more. But we like the odd drink, like most people. Anyway, we are cutting way down, and aiming to have stopped altogether by January.

We were at a party last night, and had already made up our minds not to drink at it, although as it happened, we were both full of painkillers* so couldn't have drunk even if we wanted to. (Don had backache, I had period pains. Pregnancy cannot come soon enough for me.) His friends kept at him to drink, and he cheerfully told them to feck off, and eventually someone confirmed that drinking on top of Difene is a really bad idea, so they left him alone. This time. Nobody nagged me about not drinking, but I'm horribly shy, particularly at parties, and being sober does NOT help with that. We left early because the stress of making conversation just wore me out.

*Which I know will also need to be quit at some point, but all in good time. We're only human.

So: Don needs to come up with new ways to distract his friends from the fact that he's not drinking (water? nah, it's vodka!) and I need to figure out how to talk -- sober -- to large numbers of people I barely know, or else stop going to parties.

This will all take a bit of getting used to, and let me tell you: I'm going to guilt-trip the hell out of this kid one day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Healthy teeth for a healthy baby

The more I read about pre-conception planning, the more I'm surprised by what's important. For one thing, you apparently have to take extra care of your teeth during this time.

I'm in the process of getting a wisdom tooth (and by the way, there seems something vaguely icky about planning a pregnancy when I'm still growing teeth), so I will have to get checked out in the next couple of months to make sure everything's going ok there. Obviously dental X-rays and surgery are things to be avoided in pregnancy if at all possible.

But I've also read in several places that you need to be really careful with your gums, because gum disease can increase the risk of premature labour. Which sounds completely insane, but I did learn in university that it can contribute to heart disease, so I suppose it must be pretty bad for the body in general. Weird, though, right? So I'm trying to be better about flossing, in order to develop good habits well in advance. My dentist would be proud. Bit of a pain, though.

It is a bit easier to motivate myself to be healthy if I can think of it in terms of being good for a possible future baby. I'm luckily in good health generally and so I don't ordinarily have much motivation to change my diet or lifestyle (both ok, but could always stand to be better. I'm lazy). But if I can think of these changes as things that will help me to have a healthy pregnancy, that's a pretty good motivator.

And I have seen a lot of online snarking about how encouraging women to be healthy in order to have a healthy pregnancy supposedly reduces us to just being "vessels for babies". I have very little time for that. Wanting a good pregnancy outcome does not diminish the mother as a human being.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Interesting article here about the backlash against overparenting (and the hilarious irony of people taking classes in how not to overthink parenting). I know a lot of the examples they give must be unrepresentative, used to make the article more dramatic, but it's still a little scary. (Apparently the advice columnist Dear Abby suggests taking a photo of your kid before they leave for school every morning, so that if they get abducted you'll be able to show the police what they were wearing that And baby kneepads? ... People are insane.

I mean, everybody has ideas before they become a parent, of what kind of parent they want to be. And I'm sure 90% of people end up doing things they never thought they'd do, for better or worse. I have a fairly clear idea of what kind of a parent I don't want to be, and I really really don't want to be overprotective or clingy. But it's going to mean fighting against some pretty ingrained aspects of my personality -- I'm a worrier -- and I hope I'm strong enough to do that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Planning . . .

Funny how the baby-making plans tend to affect so many areas of life. And funny how many times a day I'm discussing something with friends or family, and have to bite my tongue before I mention how it affects Project Baby.

I just got a swine flu shot because I have very mild asthma. My mother was surprised that I was so keen to get it; I told her that I just really don't want the flu. But I also feel excited to have one tiny bit of baby preparation out of the way well in advance: if I can get vaccinated now, I don't need to worry about catching it when I'm pregnant.

We've found out that, due to some planned building work, we'll need to move out of our apartment at some point in the next year -- nobody knows when, exactly. It's not the end of the world, though. Much as we love this place, we were always going to have to leave anyway: it's up a lot of stairs, and there's no lift, and no way you could get a pram up and down several times a day, and the landlady, while lovely, isn't keen on babies. A lot depends on the timing, but chances are that when we look for our next home, we'll be looking for somewhere rather more family-friendly.

On a rather more superficial note, Don is going on his stag trip soon, and his friends have decided they should all get their suits for the wedding while they're away. Thing is, he's hoping to lose some weight in the next few months, seeing as excess weight isn't particularly good for fertility. So, the suit may need to be resized before the wedding -- which hopefully won't be too much of a problem.

Meanwhile, I'm having the opposite issue: I'm planning on making myself a sweater, and have been having sizing issues because I'm hoping to get bigger. The pattern doesn't include my actual size, so I can make it a little bit too small, or somewhat too large. Ordinarily I'd go for too small, as I like clingy tops, but... depending how long the sweater takes to finish, I could (fingers crossed) be pregnant just a couple of months later (!). Which means it wouldn't fit for very long. And, fast-forwarding to the hazily imagined postpartum future, I'm still going to be bigger than I am now, for a while at least; maybe forever. It feels very weird to be actually planning around this now, but thinking about it, it actually makes sense. I don't want to make this to fit pre-pregnant me, and then get pregnant and find I can't fit into it again until 2012. So... the bigger size it is.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday breakfast

This morning we went to a local restaurant for a leisurely yuppie breakfast. For some reason, this particular restaurant is always full of pregnant women and babies... this time, there were so many we couldn't help laughing. It was like going to a creche that happened to serve food. Not that we minded! The babies were mostly pretty well-behaved, and awfully cute.

Couldn't help feeling a little jealous, too.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On waiting until marriage

Waiting to start TTC, that is... not the other kind of "waiting". That ship has sailed.

I was born in the mid-1980s. Ireland was a very different country in those days. My parents were in a relationship but were not yet married, because my mother was still married to her first husband (divorce was not made legal in Ireland until much later). As a result, my mother was asked at her first prenatal check-up if she would be keeping me, and when the time came for me to be born, she was whisked off to a separate ward for unmarried mothers. Everyone else there was in their teens, and she was the only woman who had any visitors (i.e. my father). All the others were alone the whole time, without their families -- or, you know, the fathers of their babies -- to support them. It seemed ridiculous to my parents, but nobody else seemed to question any of this: single mothers needed to be kept away from the respectable married women, and if their families and boyfriends had decided to abandon them, who could blame them?

Without wanting to sound super-dramatic, I always felt a bit different growing up. The vast majority of kids I knew came from families where the parents were married, and nobody had half-siblings. Families in books and on TV were the same: everybody's parents were married, and family relationships were simple and straightforward. When I explained my family to other children, they tended to think we were a bit weird; the teachers at my primary school sometimes acted vaguely sceptical that my father was, in fact, my father (even though we look very alike and have the same surname); even registering my birth was a ridiculous administrative hoop-jump because the system just wasn't set up for this kind of situation.

It was hardly traumatic -- this is not the stuff of misery memoirs -- but many (most?) children like to feel that they fit in. I didn't particularly enjoy being different. As an adult, I know that every family is "different" in one way or another, but that really didn't occur to me then, and somehow I still have it in my head that a "standard" family is one where the parents are married, right from the start. And even though we're not particularly mainstream people, this is one area where I'd rather do the mainstream thing. It's not a dealbreaker -- if I found out I was pregnant today, I would be delighted -- but the fact is: I want to be married before getting pregnant.

Ireland has changed a great deal since I was born. My (half-)sister gave birth just a few years after I was born, and there was no talk of her giving up her baby, or of a separate ward for unmarried mothers. My mother got her divorce and married my father years ago. Lots of women raise children alone, and lots of couples have families without getting married, for whatever reason. It's really not remarkable any more. And yet... sometimes the ideas we pick up as children are awfully enduring. I felt embarrassed at having a non-standard family set-up when I was little, and it isn't what I want for myself, my fiancé, or my children. Does that signify a lack of courage on my part, or does it mean that I'm stuck in the past? I don't know.

What I do know is that I am very glad this country has changed so much. We are very far from a perfect society, but we are more accepting than we were, and this is most definitely a good thing. I sincerely hope children today are growing up with a better understanding of the diversity of family life, and how every family is different, including their own, and that's ok. It sounds cheesy and obvious to adult ears, but children don't automatically know these things. I'll be sure to tell mine.

The obligatory intro post

Who are you?

We're a couple in our twenties who have been together nearly two years and are getting married in six months' time. We have known for a long time that we want to have children together, and have decided to start trying to conceive pretty much as soon as we're married. 

Why are you blogging about this?

Planning a family is a major preoccupation for us. Not a day goes by that we don't talk about it in one way or another. And yet we don't feel 100% comfortable telling our friends and families about our plans in any detail. Partly because we want them to be at least vaguely surprised when we finally have good news, partly because we don't necessarily want them to know if we have trouble getting to that point, and partly because "trying for a baby" basically means "having unprotected sex", and honestly? We doubt our friends and families want to be told about that.

So this blog is an outlet. It's a way for us to express ourselves anonymously about the process of getting ready for a baby, to talk openly about what excites us, what confuses us and what frustrates us, and to chronicle our journey towards parenthood. Only, you know, not as pretentious as that sounds.

Are your names really Don and Betty?

Uh, no. Don and Betty Draper are two of the main characters from Mad Men, although (hopefully) our relationship is nothing like theirs. It's a good show. You should check it out.