Creature Feature: The Kick Came From INSIDE My Body.

I am now 19 and a half weeks pregnant! I am officially too enormous for my favorite jeans, which I have now shelved indefinitely. Before I was growing a human being, I used to despise that all denim is now 2% Lycra, because it meant that for the most part, I could wear a pair of jeans one time before they were all stretched out and falling off my ass. (And I’m disgusting and cannot be asked to wash my clothes often enough to keep up with that kind of demand.) However, now, those previously maligned, instantly-too-baggy, only-skinny-for-four-hours jeans are my saviors. They hang below my belly and are just stretchy enough. Plus, they still fall off my ass, which at this point in my life, I really appreciate. Thanks, 2% Lycra, for making 5 Month Pregnant Sarah still feel thin enough to have her pants falling off her. 2% Lycra is also allowing me to get through the weeks before my trip to California without paying tons of money for maternity jeans. Basically, a win-win at the moment.

In other news, we are days away from finding out what this little creep is, and I am very excited to pin one of the two names we’ve chosen on this little unsuspecting person. In addition to allowing us to define the rest of our child’s life by giving it a name, finding out what the sex is also means I will know what proscribed gender stereotypes I will be battling for all of Creep’s childhood. (No one is more humorless than me!) Yay!

In the cutest, most adorable development thus far (barring, of course, all the baby clothes I’m starting to collect): my mother has discovered the gender reveal party and is going to fold that into a baby shower she’s throwing for me when I go home in a few weeks. She’s also running full steam ahead with the “Mexican fiesta” theme I suggested initially as a joke, which is fabulous. I wanted to avoid the seemingly inevitable lean toward pink or blue, so I chose something that would force the use of every color in the rainbow. Inspiration:

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Who could care about pink for girls and blue for boys when there’s glitter in a Modelo bottle?

Also, I currently have a fiesta flag banner hanging in my bedroom in England as part of the normal, every day decor, so this is pretty much perfect.

Finally, while I’d felt tiny flutters and occasional “bubbling” before, just this week, I’ve started feeling actual baby movement. Last night, I drank a glass of cranberry juice from a hotel bar (as you do) and then laid down in my hotel bed at 9pm (again, as you do) and absent-mindedly put my hand on my belly, because I’d been catching little movements here and there and it’s reassuring to know that all is well in there. Seconds after I placed my hand on my skin, the baby kicked the hardest it has thus far and I felt it from both the inside and the outside and was immediately creeped out by my own body. It’s one thing to feel something that could be misconstrued as an upset, rumbling tummy and another thing entirely to feel something almost deliberate knocking around in your insides. Again, it’s comforting to know that the babes is okay and doing well and I’m actually loving the growing reminder that yes, there is a baby in there, because for weeks, I just felt fat and bloated and moody, but unable to drown my sorrows in wine. Now, I am pregnant. For reals. However, imagine for a moment that you are holding onto a small plastic bag full of water and someone drops a big fish in your bag and this big fish bops around in the too-small plastic bag, hitting its face and tail on the plastic lining and you can feel this fish if you put your hand on the outside of the bag. Imagine all of this, except now the bag is your guts and the fish is a baby person. That is what fetal movement is like.

Fish Baby: debuting July 2015.

It’s A…Human!

On Monday January 12th, the one year anniversary of my move to England, I had my first ultrasound, which was firm confirmation that another huge life-changing event is on the horizon.

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IT’S A BABY.

I’m getting my health care through the NHS, so I have the benefit of not needing to pay for private insurance, which, as a US citizen, is a little bit like living in opposite land. However, because I’m not paying for the health care, the experience has been different than what it might have been if I were in the states. For example, I met with both a general practitioner and a midwife before the 12-week scan I had on Monday, and neither of those medical professionals confirmed the pregnancy (through urine or blood). I also wasn’t offered an early ultrasound (at around 8 weeks), like I might have been in I was back in California. So, for the first three months, until I saw the little babe kicking around on the ultrasound screen this week, I could have basically been making the entire thing up like a hysterical crazy person and no one would have been the wiser, myself included.

As a notoriously high-strung individual, it was really strange for me to have very little medical intervention during a time when all I wanted was as much reassurance as possible. Thankfully, I have my midwife’s cell phone number – that poor woman probably hates me.

As I understand it, because there is very little that can be done in the first three months of pregnancy, the ethos here is to just let it happen. It’s all very c’est la vie.

That was very, very difficult for me.

Additionally, the NHS keeps sending me totally vague and absolutely terrifying text messages as my various blood test results are received by my doctor’s office. Nothing says peace of mind like getting a text at 4:55pm that reads, “Your test results are now available. Contact your GP as soon as possible.” So fun trying to frantically contact a health center administrator in the last five minutes before the office closes. Fortunately, as of now, all results are normal.

In England, prenatal care – and often, birth itself – is managed by full trained, highly educated midwives, not OB/GYNs. I think this is excellent, because in theory, it should cut down on the amount of unnecessary intervention suggested to women as they prepare to have babies. That being said, the strangest thing that’s happened thus far occurred during my “booking in” appointment, the first time I met my midwife. We went through family ancestries and histories, I told her my height and weight, she took my blood pressure, and then after this extensive testing, she deemed me “low-risk” and advised me to have my baby at home.

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WHAT.

As an American, this casual suggestion was similar to hearing a nurse tell me that I look pretty competent so I should just handle the stitches myself. For years, I’ve harbored some obnoxious ideas about how medicalized pregnancy and birth can be in the United States, so I absolutely appreciate living in a place that treats this like a natural process, and not a terrible disease. However, having a midwife use 30 minutes of conversation to determine that I wouldn’t need any medical help was a teensy bit surprising, even for a liberal granola nutcase like me.

Luckily, the options are basically endless here, so as of now, I’ve decided to use a birth center inside a hospital, staffed with only midwives, but an elevator ride away from some serious surgeons, just in case. I’ve read that for a home birth to be truly effective as an experience (and also, I guess, as a way of getting an 8 pound human being out of your body), you have to be relaxed. I, queen of the tightly wound, would not fare well with a potentially life-threatening situation intentionally scheduled away from a hospital.

Luckily, I am slightly less anxious now, as I’ve got four photos of our tiny martial artist and I know it exists. However, now that I know this is for real, I am ramping up tons of anxiety about making sure I don’t screw it up.

I’m such a well-adjusted human being. It’s just amazing.

In English.

I love living in England. People eat fries with everything (including lasagna, soup, and pizza), everyone is too polite to say anything negative about anything so I feel like a super genius all the time, and the supermarkets make so much more sense. (I can’t describe this. It’s just true.)

However, there are a few things that baffle me:

1a) They have one-year Master’s programs.

2a) These Master’s programs run from September to September and hold their graduations in July, meaning that students complete their coursework about nine months before they don graduation robes. I know people who are deep into the first year of their PhDs and only just walking in MA graduations this week.

3) Stovetops are called “cookers,” janitorial staff are “cleaners,” and elevators are “lifts,” but it’s too informal for me to address an email with “Hello!”

4) The weather. Yesterday, it was Atlanta, Georgia in August. Today, it was Los Angeles, California in October.

5) People preparing for exams are said to be “revising.” As in, “I have a huge test tomorrow, so I can’t hang out. I need to revise.” What exactly is going to revised here? What’s being changed? Is it your brain? Are we really referring to studying as “brain restructuring”? It doesn’t make sense. It. Just. Doesn’t.

6) The metric system. I know this isn’t England’s fault. AMERICA.

7) The plumbing. The last relaxing shower I took was at the beginning of April, in a hostel in Prague. Usually, it’s a race against the hot water boiler emptying and seizing and pumping air instead of water, occasionally set to the beautiful rhythms of deep, rumbling pipe squealing.

And perhaps most upsetting of all:

8) There is no delicious Mexican food. I have a trip home planned for September, and it is going to be all burrito, all the time.

Things I Learned In Newcastle.

Yesterday morning at 7 am, I flew up to Newcastle for a workshop. Last night at 8 pm, I flew back to Southampton. (Initially, I wrote “at 8 pm, I flew home,” and then I immediately panicked. Is England home now? Eeeps.)

When Newcastle University offered to fund my flights up there for one day, I was super impressed with myself. I’d sent out a query about attending a workshop exactly six days before the event was set to take place, and instead of the form rejection email I deserved, I received a supremely enthusiastic reply, complete with details on a flight that could get me there and back in one day. Mind = blown. As much as I loved teaching children, it was always a terrible struggle to wring $20 for new colored pencils out of the administration of the private school where I worked. So, the thought of someone I didn’t know throwing £200 at me so that I could share my infinite wisdom with a group of people who were hugely more educated and accomplished than me was nothing short of unreal.

I was so excited for my business trip.

Sadly, now, sitting on the other end of a 17-hour work day that included two planes, two taxis, two trains, and one bus, I can say that flying to a meeting in another city without also booking a hotel room is really pretty dumb.

However, the workshop was fantastic and Newcastle is gorgeous and I’m very happy I was able to go.

It was also a learning experience:

1) Newcastle Airport is staffed entirely by teenage girls. This is no exaggeration. Check-in desk: girls. Security staff: girls. Gate police: girls. I could not believe it. My air travel safety was in the hands of 18-year-olds with box-dyed pony tails and loud stories about boys. I don’t doubt the intelligence or abilities of young women, as I was one of those once, but there was something mildly unsettling about having the people scanning our carry-ons be people who were having a heated discussion about the best music festivals in England.

2) I am a demon when hungry/tired/traveling. I saw a baby struggling to get its face out of some bright sunshine at the airport and my first thought was, “God, just close your eyes, dummy.” I thought that. About a baby.

3) This is not specific to Newcastle, but it synthesized for me when I tripped over the cord of a running vacuum cleaner at the Newcastle Airport at 5:30 in the afternoon: retail England does not hide its maintenance from the public. In the United States, supermarket shelves are restocked late at night and in the early mornings. In fact, the only time I have ever seen someone wheeling a cart full of boxes around a Ralph’s was when I’d pop into one at 6:30 am for the cheap coffee and bagel I’d sometimes eat in shame in my car before I started work. Here, in the UK, supermarkets are restocked approximately 100% of the time I am inside them. I would say that one in four supermarket aisles have massive carts blocking them at any given moment in England. Also, there is always, always some sort of cleaning happening throughout the day, like in the airport W H Smith bookstore I was in yesterday, where there was a teenage girl (surprise!) wheeling a vacuum around the store in the middle of the day. WHAT.

4) Los Angeles has ruined me for public transportation – in that, there is no public transportation to speak of in LA, and I have now aged to a point at which there is no teaching this old dog new Metro tricks. (Not in a prostitute way, pervs.) I rode the Metro thirty minutes in the wrong direction yesterday and ended up in Sunderland, which is, according to the taxi driver who drove me back into Newcastle, the patchy, sad stepbrother of Newcastle Upon Tyne. (I didn’t say that, guys. It was all the cab driver. Sunderland looked great.)

5) The power of good Mexican food knows no borders. Strangely, of the twelve people at the workshop yesterday, six of us were American ex-pats. Three (including me) were from California. Two were from Los Angeles. I ended up talking to a dude from La Habra about the glory of El Cholo, my favorite Mexican restaurant of all time, for about ten minutes. All about the sauces and the chips and the burritos and oh my God I have to stop thinking about this because it is physically painful.

All in all, despite my near-death experience in the bookstore and my very real (and also very fleeting) baby judgment, yesterday was a pretty good day.

I just never want to do something like that again.

Fringe.

In keeping with the recent tone of this blog, which is one of emotional chaos and instability, I am going to follow up a supremely emo post about the day my family found out I’d decided to divorce my husband with a post about hair! Because, obviously.

On Friday, I went from this (read: looking like deathbed-Beth from Little Women)

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to this:

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(While this is a story about bangs, it could very well also be a PSA about the dangers of fluorescent lighting.)

I think I may hate them. I knew that I would, but I did it anyway because I am so rebellious. They aren’t even really what I wanted, because my attempt to go full Zooey Deschanel was thwarted by the man charged with cutting my “fringe.” We had a long, lost in translation moment when I first sat down, when I told him what I wanted and kept demanding “bangs,” forgetting, of course, that I’m in a country where asking for things like “rides” and “bangs” means something decidedly different. When I finally pulled out my phone to show him all the photo examples I’d collected, he said, and I quote, “With your hair in this weather? No.”

I strong-armed him into what I currently have, and I’m thinking now that my first mistake was thinking bangs were a good idea. My second was trusting a man who didn’t understand half of what I was saying to attempt to cut them.

It’s been two days, and I’m already looking into creative ways to pin and braid them back. So.

At least that’s going well.

Photo Phriday.

I’m not particularly fired up about anything that happened in my own life this week. I did, however, find out some exceptionally awesome news about a new, life changing development for one of my closest friends in the world. This person kept me from completely losing my mind last year, and I am (quite seriously) forever indebted to her. I am so, so thrilled for her. I am also conveniently making it all about me. Getting huge news from home is bittersweet – I am so excited that it’s happening and also a little bit devastated by how much I’m giving up to be here. There is enormous, wonderful life happening for my people and I am too far away to participate in it.

Nothing earth shattering here (other than battling some pretty epic homesickness). I’ve been super busy with work and have managed to keep up with the running, gradually adding mileage, still terrible at pacing myself, still feel like my bones are grinding into dust. I realized while out yesterday that I’d run 4.5 miles in about 30 minutes, which put me at around 7-minute miles. That most certainly does not need to be happening. I’m hoping, come race day, I’ll be forced into a pace by the pack of other idiots running this thing with me.

And there will now officially be a race day, as I just registered yesterday. I think I was secretly hoping to get out of having to do this. Unfortunately, that plan did not go well.

Last weekend, I went to the southern coast and hiked and ate and meandered with some new friends (yes: friends!). It was a gorgeous day. England has its moments.

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Last night, I went to a fancy gala fundraiser for a department at the university, and did my own eye makeup. Forgive me. I am so proud of myself.

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And, in case you all thought I was some classy, make-up doing success now, here’s a text I sent this week:

unnamed-4It’s the little things.

Fort Brag.

Hey! Everyone! No, EVERYONE. Gather around, because I have big news.

This is an iron that’s been in the fire for some time now, and is probably one of the major reasons my face rebelled against me recently. (Did you know that stress causes break outs? DID YOU???) It’s an opportunity that presented itself literally 24 hours after I landed in the UK, so I’ve been working to try to make it happen since my very first full day here.

Drumroll, please:

I’ve been accepted into and have been offered full funding (plus an annual stipend) for a PhD here in England! I start this fall, which is perfect timing because I will have just completed the contract on the job I currently have.

This is MAJOR, on many different levels, considering last spring, I was fully convinced I would never finish my MA and would just languish in grad school purgatory for the rest of time.

I have had the most traumatic, terrifying, embarrassing, and stressful year of my life, a year of reevaluating and admitting defeat and taking ownership of my life in ways I’ve always avoided, and yet in the midst of all of it, I’ve managed to scrape together the trappings of a pretty awesome future.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again (and again and again and again, until no one wants to talk to me anymore): anything is possible. Any. Thing. The vast majority of the time, the only person in your way is you.

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Getting Better All The Time.

This is another post that would be better filed under a “Who Cares?” folder. I’m in such a great mood right now, though, that I’m going to subject you all to this and not feel guilty about it. Deal.

So, it’s been two weeks since I began my attempt clean up my life (and, if I’m honest, by “life,” I mean “face”). I wasn’t going to post, as I am extremely superstitious and a notorious downer. However, I’m on this new zen kick, in which I’m trying to be positive and invite good things, so it only makes sense that I would let some good news out of the bag.

The good news: there is absolutely improvement. I haven’t stopped breaking out (and have, in fact, gotten a few different kinds pimples in places I usually never have any, like on my cheeks near the center of my face and small, flesh-toned painful bumps on my forehead), but in the hotspots, on my chin near the corners of my mouth, where things were getting pretty horrible, there is definite healing happening. I have one active “normal” pimple on my chin, and one, small, barely-there-to-anyone-who-does-not-have-my-nerve-endings growth on my forehead. Other than that, it’s just scarring. (The hyperpigmentation will be another beast entirely. For now, though, I’m just happy that my skin is discolored and FLAT.)

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, and apparently when you “detox” your body, like say by completely changing your eating habits and starting a course of crazy supplements and altering the way your wash/make up your face, your body expels these extra toxins in overdrive. In these so-called detox breakouts, you get forms of acne you’ve never had in places you’ve never had it. I panicked about this at first, because I was doing everything right and things were actually getting worse, but it’s levelled out now and I can see where this is heading. And it’s to a place where I get my face back, which is fabulous.

I made it through approximately one week without wearing makeup, which was great as a challenge, I suppose, but not so great for my self-esteem. I started slipping into the acne rabbit hole, a place I hadn’t been since I was 19 years old. Looking at my exposed volcanic face in the mirror at my job made me feel desperate and out of control and even made me call into question how the people in my life who care about me could love such a terrible monster. (This actually happened. Like, ten days ago. Acne, for me, stirs up a lot of uncomfortable feelings.)  It made it difficult for me to focus at work and I was a bit of a depressive terror to be around. I wasn’t myself, because I was so singularly focused on how hideous I felt I looked.

This constant anxiety and stress about acne can actually make acne worse, which is a total double-edged sword. In order to stop the obsessive thoughts about how gross and unprofessional I looked, I decided that while I’m healing my face, I should allow myself the dignity of makeup. I just had to find the right kind. Following the advice of several natural living/beauty websites, I bought some Bella Pierre mineral powder foundation on Amazon and am absolutely in love with it. It has only four mineral ingredients (mica, iron oxides, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide), and the inclusion of zinc, which helps promote healing and quell inflammation, means that it actually aids in the reduction and prevention of acne. In addition, the “Ultra” shade – the lightest one available – matches my vampire skin tone perfectly, which means I don’t have to wear makeup anywhere but on the spots. (I despise subjecting the majority of my healthy, freckly face to makeup.)

In sum, things are looking up. I’ve started doing yoga at night to help calm me down and have stopped touching my face. I look in the mirror only when I get ready in the morning and when I can’t escape it (like, say, in a bathroom), and when I do, I focus on how much healing is happening and how much better I feel, not on how far I may still have to go. I am in an entirely different place emotionally than I was even just last week, and that change has been 100% mental.

I had avoided thinking about how huge this move was and how isolating this experience has been sometimes, and all the internalized stress made its way out through my poor face. Now, I’m trying to focus on how lucky I am to be here and to have the opportunities I have. Obviously, I still miss home, but now I’m making real efforts to meet new people and make friends and, alternatively, really enjoy the time I have to myself, as opposed to spending it feeling crazy and alone and desperate. I am feeling more myself right now than I have in the nearly three months since I moved to England, which is so, so, so wonderful.

I’m looking forward to being a (relatively) normal human again.

Walk-a-ton.

I’ve collected a ton of new readers recently, which is super great, but I’m a little bit at a loss about it, because nothing about this blog is interesting anymore. I mean, I’m not talking about periods or acne or babies all that much, guys. I’m not discussing anything of note, really, except that I’ve been a massive and insufferable misery for the past seven months. And I haven’t even been brave enough to discuss the half of it. Regardless, I still feel like I should acknowledge all my new followers by saying genuinely and from the bottom of my heart, welcome, Fake Internet Profiles Who Want To Sell Me Prado Bags And Gucchi Sunglasses. I hope you enjoy reading about how much I hate walking. Because that’s what’s coming.

If you’re a follower/computer program that is new to this blog, you may not be aware that I am from Los Angeles, California, and that I am currently living in England. This move has forced me to adjust in myriad ways – most of them positive. However, one of these adjustments is making me crazy. Which one, you ask? Oh, only that I need to use my own two feet to get anywhere I want to go. I, a member of a species resting at the pinnacle of bipedal evolution, hate walking.

It wasn’t always this way. In LA, when I sat in traffic in my car for nearly three hours every day commuting to and from work, I longed for a time when I didn’t need a vehicle to get around. In the first few weeks I lived here, I loved that I was walking everywhere. If I’m honest, there are definite positives. I started eating normally again (after literally living off a handful of cashews a day for months) and haven’t gained any of the weight back, because I’m now exercising about 100% more than I did in years before I moved. My commute now requires that I am outside moving around in the fresh air for at least 45 minutes every day – it’s a “workout” that is built into my daily routine. That’s all good.

There are two things that aren’t. Namely, 1) that my poor lazy old lady bones are over the grind and 2) sometimes it would be really great to just DRIVE somewhere.

1) I made it about five weeks into my new all walking, all the time lifestyle before both my ankles and a tendon in my left foot decided that enough was enough. Then each step of the average four miles I walk a day was less about the beautiful crisp late winter air and more about a deep, intense longing for a seat in something with four wheels. For nearly two weeks, both my feet demanded days of rest, and for nearly two weeks, I just kept on walking. Fortunately, randomly, they’re better now, mostly because I think they have Stockholm Syndrome. If they must walk me everywhere, they might as well shut up about it.

2) Today, I was supposed to receive a giant package full of weirdo herbal supplements and teas in the mail, because I am nothing if not a giant California cliche (and also because my skin is frightful nightmare here and I’m going to attempt to wrangle it into submission with a bunch of crazy people vitamins I read about online. You’ll hear more about it. Trust.). Unfortunately for me, Royal Mail does not leave packages on the doorstep like the United States Postal Service does. If it doesn’t fit through the mail slot in the front door, and no one is home to receive the package, it gets taken back to the local delivery office to await pick up. I’ve had that happen with UPS shipments at home before and while it’s mildly to moderately annoying, it is decidedly less annoying than having your shipment stolen from your porch (something I have also experienced), so I accept that this extra precautionary step is a necessary evil. However, it becomes more difficult to appreciate having to pick up your very important dandelion root tea and agnus castus capsules from a Royal Mail Delivery Office when you have no car and that delivery office is two miles away through the worst part of town.

What’s a lazy, panicky idiot to do when faced with the prospect of taking an hour walk roundtrip through a neighborhood famed for its hookers and crack dens?

She plans on taking a taxi to the delivery office tomorrow afternoon. Because no.

Alone Time.

I have always been social. Even as a teenager, when my terrible skin destroyed my self-confidence, I had huge, deep, transformative friendships. In fact, when my skin got bad, I just got louder – in an effort to direct the attention from my face – and my friendships became more important to me.

I have never had a time in my life when I had no one. I suppose that makes me very lucky. I have always had people I loved around me. Until now.

Now, I have no one. Or rather, I have them – they are just eight hours behind me and more than 5,000 miles away.

In the panic and singular focus I experienced in the months leading up to this move, this loneliness and isolation is something I didn’t consider. I was so excited and had so much to look forward to and so much left to finish before I left that it never occurred to me that once I got here, I’d be without a support system for the first time in my life.

Having never left home in any real sense – college for me was 40 miles from my parents’ house – I have never had to rebuild a life from the ground up. And unfortunately, I’m not in school and I have a particularly solitary job, so I’m not meeting people the way most people do when they move across the world.

So, what’s the hardest part of moving to a new place, after having the hardest six months of my life?

Not having anyone to call on for last minute dinner plans or coffee on Saturday or moral support when something annoying or hilarious or wonderful happens.

I miss having people.