Thursday, March 30, 2006

I think I am giving off vibes

First: the TOEIC class (full of cute young Japanese women) seems to have warmed to me dramatically since finding out I'm pregnant. Today they were friendly and giggly, and a lot of fun.

Second: G. (one of the other instructors) and I left at the same time this afternoon and walked to the subway together. He wanted to stand in the sun for a while (it was so warm today that neither of us had worn a jacket) and finish his cigarette; I was happy to wait with him. Suddenly some guy (whom I couldn't see because the sun was right behind him) started going on at length about what an attractive woman I am. Evidently people just don't appreciate women, especially women who are a 9.5 out of 10, and who were picked on as kids (you were, weren't you?).

It was high weirdness (and the weirdness wasn't the only thing that was high, IYKWIM). But it was oddly nice, too.

Third: the King streetcar was crammed full (it was 5:30, after all), so I had to stand for the ten-minute ride. No big deal. But suddenly a seated woman looked up at me, noticed my loose clothes, and offered me a seat. Surprised, I thanked her and declined.

I'm showing a bit if you know what I looked like before, but I certainly don't look very pregnant yet. My aura must have changed or something. I don't know how much I go for all that psychic stuff, but today was just a bit freaky.

For dinner I suggested we go to Betty's. We've been semi-regulars there for more than six years, and hadn't been there in a few months. A year and a half ago I had a weepy night on Sinéad, one of their servers, very shortly after the miscarriage. She has three kids of her own, and she couldn't have been more kind or supportive. Tonight she was there, and came over to say hello to us even though we weren't at one of her tables. She sat down next to me in the booth and gave me a big hug. Her first words were, "You're drinking juice!" as she beamed at me. It felt so great to be able to say "Yes! Thirteen weeks!"

Mike waited on us and was full of congratulations. Kim came over to say hello, and she was too. Mr. Krapsnart and I giggled with each other and just had a nice evening out. I felt so comfortable and welcome. Hooray for having such an excellent local.

Welcome to the second trimester, I guess. Not sorry to see the back of the first one.

P. S. Many thanks to Bitch Ph.D. for the link to one of my posts.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Thirteen weeks

It was a very mixed day. The gym this morning was good: Mr. K was with me, and I managed to increase either weight or reps on every exercise I did. I'm even doing more weight on the bicep curls and the seated calf raises than I was doing last October. So, yay!

This afternoon, though, I wasn't so on with my teaching, and the vibe in my TOEFL class was a fairly resounding "meh." Then my boss told me, ten minutes before a writing class I've never taught before, that he was coming in to observe. Oh goody. I always get so wound up and nervous when I'm being observed, and today was no exception.

I do appreciate feedback from someone in my own profession -- it was one of the things sorely lacking in my previous job. But my boss is such a perfectionist that even though all the comments he offers are valid and constructive, they're so numerous that I always feel grumpy and slightly incompetent afterwards.

Then a student from my night class needed a makeup this evening because she missed last week. She was tired, and she's been sick, so her brain was working slowly (boy can I empathize) and I ended up spending about two and a half hours with her instead of the one and a half that a makeup usually takes. I didn't get home until just before 9pm. And I'm still not finished with my prep work for my eight-and-a-half-hour day tomorrow.

But then on the commute home, I saw a Mennonite choir assembled in the Bloor-Yonge subway station. They were singing in beautiful four-part harmony, and suddenly I felt peace and sweetness and a twinge of longing for their deliberately simple lives.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

"Wham!" say the cultures as they collide

Yesterday morning, I was starting to think I'd have been better off to stay in bed. I woke up with a head cold (on top of the nausea, which persists), and did not feel like dragging myself into work. But I'd seen the boss dragging his bad self in all week, and he was worlds sicker than I was. Our little school is so small that if a teacher is out, some students don't have class that day. So in I went.

I was to teach a listening and speaking lesson for three hours yesterday, and all the material I needed was on some CDs that I couldn't find. Turned out they'd gone home with the administrator so that she could make backup copies of them. Oh dear. (She was thoroughly apologetic, as was the boss. Some days I am very glad I am not a new teacher.)

So I had to do next week's lesson (which I hadn't prepared) on reading and writing. The reading part went well, but the writing after the break went completely to pieces. The prompt was "'I think that there is too much violence in movies.' State whether you agree or disagree, and give specific reasons and examples for your opinion." Standard TOEFL-type boilerplate 30-minute essay with the introduction and the body paragraphs and the conclusion and the hey hey hey. Two of the (five) class members had spent four hours with me earlier in the week discussing what makes for good reasons and examples in such an essay, so I figured that for them, at least, the exercise would just be a review and a chance for some extra practice.

Silly me. After they'd written for 30 minutes, I started a table on the board of the "for" and "against" reasons that they'd come up with. Suddenly two things became clear. First, all of them had misunderstood the assignment. Several had simply described the plots of violent movies that they'd seen, without offering any supporting reasons or evidence as to why that violence was "too much". Others had disagreed with the prompt without offering any compelling reasons why. They were a bit baffled when I told them that the TOEFL graders would not give their essays good marks. Sigh.

Second, and what set me back on my heels a lot more, was discovering that what constitutes "violence" in some cultures is very, very different from "violence" in North America. Some of them seemed genuinely surprised that the definition assumed by the essay prompt was limited to the realm of the physical. A Turkish guy mentioned "bad language" as an example of violence, and pointed out that in his country, prison sentences for murder are reduced if the person you've killed insulted you. He was surprised that the law is so different in Canada. One student, an utterly charming young woman from South Korea, had given "same-sex marriage" as an example of "too much violence in movies".


The topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage has come up in my classrooms before. The first time that it did, the ensuing discussion left me a blubbering mess, what with students I respected deeply saying things like "finding out my daughter was gay would be like finding out she was a cocaine addict" and "I'd rather my son were dead than gay" (this one from a wonderful older woman whose first son had died in the Iran-Iraq war, so she knew what a child's death really meant). The next couple of times, I was better prepared, and I like to think I handled it better. (The third time I even told them that although I'm married to a man, I'm attracted to women. They were wonderful about it.)

The class I'm teaching now is much more focussed on preparing people for tests, so I couldn't let the discussion stray very far. But I did say that in North America, violence involves efforts to hurt other people, usually physically, and I couldn't see how two people standing up in front of a wedding officiant to say "we love each other and want to keep each other" could hurt anyone. I mentioned the three weddings we attended in 2004: one straight, one lesbian, and one gay. I said that my sister is making noise about maybe marrying her girlfriend. And I did acknowledge that hearing about these kinds of relationships discussed openly can be a very big shock for people who come from other cultures that anathematize them, but that in Canada, equal marriage is the law of the land.

I'm polite about it (hell, I'm Canadian), but I don't brook homophobia in my classroom.

Eventually the Korean woman acknowledged that she shouldn't use same-sex marriage as a negative example in future essays. It's a start, I guess. Damn shame it was her last day in the class; I'd like to work with her more on writing good, solid, well-reasoned essays. I hope I at least planted some seeds.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Twelve weeks

The nausea seems to be easing, at least a bit. Yesterday I went into the washroom at work twice without retching from the stink of the McDonald's that's downstairs. (I have been polishing my hatred of McDonald's to a fine sheen over the past six weeks. Every day I loathe the place just a little bit more.)

We took Martha and Charlotte to the vet this morning for their annual oil change and tire rotation. The (extremely nice) vet, who sent flowers when James died, was quite taken with our accounts of Martha's obsession with the rainbow snake. Both kitties are very healthy and well-adjusted. Hooray.

The office cat is an enormous, infinitely mellow tabby named Pushkin. He let me hold him on my lap for a little while. When I hefted him up, I got unexpectedly teary-eyed because his shape and weight and brown tabby goodness reminded me so much of the greatness that was James. I've been missing him a lot lately. He was so very excellent.

I loves me my cats. My parents tell me that my first word was "kitty."

I am currently trying to achieve escape velocity from the apartment so that I can get to the gym, and then have time for a shower and lunch after my workout before I have to be at work at 1:30. I guess I should put the computer down and back away.

By the way, all, comments are welcome. I hope to get a blogroll going soon, so I can feel a bit more like I'm actually participating in something, and less like I'm just sending stuff off into the nothingness.

Off to lift heavy things.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A hope, not a promise

Mr K just left to go see his parents and get his dad to sign an application for an official death certificate for his (Mr K's) grandmother. Mr K had already dropped off said application in person a couple of weeks ago, but the government of Ontario lost it somehow. Yee ha.

The certificate is necessary because Mr K is applying for Irish citizenship, to which he is entitled because his grandmother came from Ireland. If he gets the Irish passport before our little sprog comes, the sprog gets Irish citizenship as well. So time is of the essence. You wouldn't believe how much paperwork is involved in this process: the Irish embassy wants official copies of just about every document you can think of.

So I'm alone for the weekend.

I've made tentative plans with K. to do some shopping this afternoon, after I get to the gym. I talked to her more than an hour ago and said I'd see her in two hours, after I'd finished working out. Here I still am in the house. Sigh. I'm going for dinner tonight with K., her husband M., other K., her husband J., and I don't know who else. So at least I've made arrangements not to sit around sulking by myself for two days.

I've been reading a lot about abortion lately, and I've just been seething about the arrogance and misogyny that is gaining control in the country of my birth. I'm so horrified by what's happened in South Dakota: of course the abortion ban is a challenge to the Supreme Court, but how many women (and children!) are going to suffer while this piece of trash legislation wends its way through the judicial system?

Bitch PhD writes so well on this topic; every time I read something she has to say about it, I find myself nodding in agreement. But the piece of writing I found yesterday is particularly resonant for me right now. I've been feeling oddly disconnected from my emotions about this being growing inside me. Gretchen Voss's story of having to make the agonizing decision to end her pregnancy at 18 weeks after discovering her baby had hideous genetic defects struck such a chord. Near the end of the article, as she describes her second pregnancy, she writes this:

Way too nervous to sleep on that frigid morning this past November, I snuggled my bloated belly up to my husband and curled into a little question mark. Sixteen weeks pregnant, today we would finally have our full-fetal ultrasound, finding out whether our baby was developing normally. Given what happened the last time, I had every reason to be nervous.

The last four months had been a sort of emotional no man's land where the baby was concerned. While we were elated to be pregnant again, we were also terrified. It was hard to become fully attached to this pregnancy, knowing that it could be taken away from us. Instead of shopping for layettes, we were consulting genetic counselors. We now knew all too well that pregnancy was a hope, not a promise.

"Emotional no-man's land." "Hard to become fully attached." Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Exactly. I wept as I read this. I weep now as I type this.

My gut knows just how devastating it is to lose a pregnancy, and even at the time of my little miscarriage at seven weeks I knew that it would be so much worse if I'd had to make the decision to end it myself. When I see all these efforts to take away the right to make that decision, to force women to bear children they don't want or can't support, children who might be horribly damaged or even already dead, I am enraged.

I once saw someone argue that the biggest advance in medicine for women was pain relief in childbirth. No. No, no, no. The biggest advance is the right to control when or even whether we bear children at all. Pregnancy is exhausting, disfiguring, sometimes disabling, even life-threatening. It is dangerous. No one who does not want to endure it should have to.

When a pregnancy is not a hope but a sentence, something has gone terribly wrong.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Eleven weeks

We went for our second visit to the midwives this morning. Just being in the clinic still made me a bit weepy, but not in a bad way. I'm far enough along now that they're actually starting to do medical things, such as taking blood, testing my urine, checking my blood pressure (100/66), and feeling my abdomen (the uterus is just starting to peek up over the pubic bone).

The midwives are nice people.

Yesterday the geneticist called and left a message. My blood is normal except for one thing: I did test positive for the prothrombin gene mutation. Dammit. (Fortunately, Mr K is negative.) However, I found this on the March of Dimes site, confirming what the hematologist told us:
Generally, treatment is not recommended for most pregnant women with one of the less severe thrombophilias (such as factor V Leiden or prothrombin mutation) and no history of blood clots or pregnancy complications. The risk of blood clots or pregnancy complications due to thrombophilia appears to be less than 1 percent in these women. However, some doctors may recommend about six weeks of treatment after birth (when risk of blood clots may be highest) if the woman has a strong family history of blood clots or if she has a cesarean delivery.
Other than that first miscarriage, which seems to have been of the garden variety, I have neither a history of blood clots nor of pregnancy complications.
So basically, the message seems to be: don't worry about it until after the baby's here.

Looks like I'm going to have to find other stuff to fret about. Knowing me, I'm sure that won't be a problem.

Word seems to be getting out to my old students that I'm pregnant. In a week or two when I'm feeling better, I think I'll collect all the e-mail addresses that I have for them, and send something out. I miss them a lot. The new job is good, but there's nowhere near as much of an emotional connection with the students as there was at my old one (the director's open contempt for such connections notwithstanding). The focus now is on getting them good marks on their tests, not on giving them the language they need to get on with their lives in Canada. Also, the new students are mostly a whole lot younger than I am; so far only one is a mother (her baby is two months old), and she's leaving the school next week.

For the past several months I've more or less pulled my head into my shell and been out of touch with friends. Time to change that, I think.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Life on Mars?

From the news coverage you would think it's a godawful small affair, or not even an affair at all. We have fifteen news channels and not a single one is showing anything about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the most technologically advanced spacecraft ever sent to our neighbouring planet. It's designed to study the history of water on Mars.

I guess I watched too much Star Trek when I was young and impressionable, but this news gives me a thrill. It represents a tremendous achievement for the engineers and scientists involved, and an important moment for humankind. But if I didn't have Web access I'd have no idea that NASA was just able to reestablish contact with the orbiter after it had gone out of range. I can only imagine the party that's going on in California right now: sure as hell can't see any of it. Stupid "news" networks.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


I bought a three-month membership at the new gym today, having let the membership at the old gym expire at the end of February. The old gym was well equipped, and it hooked me up with my fabulous trainer, but the hard sell I got when I joined was enough to sour me on it. Plus, it seemed to focus mostly on machines, and it had only one squat rack. Often I was the only woman lifting the free weights; all the other chyx were doing cardio. Harrumph. And being on the gym floor while the hip-hop dance class was going on, with its same little hip-hop riff being played over and over and over and over and OVER again at earsplitting volume, was just a little slice of hell. Plus, since I quit the old job I had no regular reason to be in that neighbourhood anymore anyway.

So: the new gym. Smaller, less crowded, worlds more mellow. No upselling, no high-pressure "Let Us Tell You about Our Personal Training Packages." A carefully chosen set of equipment, decent music, published rates, and towel service included. It feels like a community gym rather than a corporate one. So, yay. New bullshit-free place to work out. And I actually got there today, and Mr. Krapsnart came with me. I like working out with him.

I've had to scale back so much on my workouts since I got pregnant. The biggest change is that I've been doing them only about once a week for the past month or two, as I've eased into the new job and tried to find a rhythm with my new schedule. Another big change is that I've had to decrease the weight I'd been lifting. A few months ago I was able to do three sets of eight squats at 95 pounds each; now I'm just about wiped out by three sets of eight at 45 pounds. And I've stopped deadlifting; late last year I managed to get 225 pounds off the ground (if not all the way up to the top of a deadlift). Wonder how long it'll be before I see that again.

Last Monday I put in my first full day of work, teaching for five and a half hours. I'm still not used to how much English these students know; they're at a much higher level than the ones I used to teach, and the adjustment is challenging for me. Plus, good teaching is draining even when one isn't nine weeks into her first trimester. When I got home, nearly dragging myself in on my lips, I checked my e-mail to find a note reminding me that I'm to teach a night course at my other job for the next eight Wednesdays, from 6:30 until 9:30.

If I'd been sitting at a desk I'd probably have banged my head on it. APRIL first, I'd kept telling myself. The other class doesn't start until APRIL first. But noooo, it started on March first. And one of the students works all the other nights of the week, so we can't move it. Monday and Wednesday are my five-and-a-half hour days; now Wednesdays are going to involve eight and a half hours of teaching. I asked Mr. K. to take me out back and shoot me, but he reminded me that we live in a condo and that there is no "out back". Drat his oily hide.

Good thing I don't have to be at work until 1:30pm on Thursdays.