Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Huevos Fritos

When Valentina doesn't want to fall asleep, Rosa says she has "ojos como huevos fritos" - eyes like fried eggs.


Two weeks ago we hired Rosa to be our "mucama" - someone who cooks, cleans and looks after Valentina when I want to take a shower, a nap or run an errand. Having her around has significantly improved things. She's pleasant, on the quiet side and seems trustworthy - the most important thing here. She's the cousin of one of the downstairs doormen so is more likely to be "de confiansa". Along with a crotchety husband of 20 years, she has three teenage boys of her own but always wanted to have a girl. She adores Valentina and showers her with affection and attention. I'm more than thrilled to have the support and for Valentina to have an extra bosom to fall asleep on after a feeding. Rosa comes Monday through Friday from about 9am - 6:30pm for the monthly cost of what I used to spend on a Nordstroms outfit or decadent sushi meal. Bringing in a Mrs Doubtfire was a no brainer. Its one of the benefits of living in South America where domestic help is the norm for middle class families and extremely affordable.

Today was a holiday so we paid her extra to work so that we could go to a movie - just the two of us. Hugh checked his cellphone every 15 minutes or so to see if she called with an "emergency" and I missed Valentina more than I thought I would, but it was good to get out of the house. While we were gone she cleaned the entire apartment, baked a swiss chard tart for dinner and played with the baby. For lunch she made us chicken and beef milanesas.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friends and thanksgiving

This week marked the return of a semi social life. One of many transformations since Valentina's birth is the friend circle. My closest girlfriends - Gaby, Laura and Judith (all single and childless) keep wondering when I'll be back to our weekly late night dinner/wine events. Judith - farthest from breeding or even monogamous coupling wants to know when I'll be back with the running team. Gaby joined a new adventure running team and has been going on spiritual retreats. Judith went to Club Med Brazil with two other single gals from our running team last week. Laura's been calling 3 times a day wanting to visit and not understanding why I can't make solid plans or why entertaining is more draining than fun. Where does Ambi the tired new mom fit into all of this?

For Thanksgiving, fellow expat and writer friend Amanda invited us to her place for a civilized turkey feast (Photo 3). Three other couples with kids were there. It was the kind of evening I would have abhorred a year a go but it turned out to be fun and a relief. Kids running and crying, adult conversation constantly interrupted, pumping on the go for the first time, Valentina mostly sleeping but then ultimately crying and us making a made dash for the door, two hours spent outside of the house in a semi-normal social setting with our baby - a true milestone and for that and many other blessings, I am thankful.

Yesterday we invited Italian friends Mara and Matijas over for a mate (Photo 1). They brought a huge tub of Persicco gelato and their two month old boy who loved Valentina's swing. We talked about being new parents and life in our adopted country. Later that night we ventured out to friend Brad and Laura's thanksgiving dinner party (Photo 2). I didn't want to go (what if she cries, what if we can't get a cab home in time for me to pump, what if I miss my window for a nightly nap?) but knew they'd be disappointed if we flaked even with the fussy 4 week old as an excuse. Valentina slept through dinner and had a massive crying attack just before dessert so we headed home after a respectable appearance. Brad's testing two new cookie flavors for his business so we indulged in oatmeal raisin and chocolate butterscotch tasties at home.

Where do new moms go? A good friend of mine from San Francisco literally disappeared for 6 months after the birth of her first child. We went from talking every day and seeing eachother a few times a week to nothing for six months. No calls, emails or visits. She had no help and her husband worked long hours. At the time I was incensed and hurt. Now I see...

Friday, November 21, 2008


I'm not a boobologist but I've learned a lot about boob mechanics the past few weeks. With all of the prenatal yoga and childbirthing classes I took during my pregnancy I somehow failed to attend a lactation talk. Turns out this was real important.

Since her birth day, Valentina has latched on to the boob. No problem finding it nor knowing what to do once it made its way into her super sucking orfice. I hired Maria the doula/lactation specialist to help me get adjusted to this new activity. I thought things were going ok the first few days. Valentina sucked and although there was no milk yet, she was eeking out the bit of colostrum they say is so key to her immunity. Then she started to look a bit yellow - jaundice warning. Pediatrician said it was likely due to my milk coming in a bit late - 5 days after birth. Finally it came in and her color improved. I also took her outside on the balcony for a bit of indirect sun exposure. Then the right boob got clogged. Turned splotchy red and hard. Hurt. Doula advised me to massage it, hot showers, try to express the milk out. OB Dr. Lodeiro suggested taking Ibuprofen to release the milk. Meanwhile, all this time breastfeeding is excruciatingly painful. Nipples are war wounds and Valentina never seems satiated. Doula suggests different positions, opening her mouth wider, keeping her more awake, nursing for more time each boob, nursing for less time each boob but more frequently. Is there anything we haven't tried?

Last friday, Valentina goes to pediatrician for her checkup (had been 12 days since last visit). She weighs less than her birth weight. WHAT!!!! They send me up to the lactation center at Hospital Aleman. They pump my breasts and only 20ml comes out. She's starving. My boobs are so wounded I cry during the pumping. Tears of pain and extreme frustration. I thought this was supposed to be natural and easy? Do I have to become a boobologist to get my kid some nurishment? They advise bottle feeding with formula to supplement my breastmilk until production increases. Boobs no longer a body part - they're a machine. I cry some more. Not the evil formula. After all this yoga, natural birth, no meds...now I have to give her formula? boo hoooooooo They treat the boobs with special salve that is supposed to heal them fast.

I tried for two days to breast feed and then give a bottle of formula. She sleeps more and seems calmer, well fed. No problem taking to the bottle. She'll suck on anything. She also gets a pacifier. Boobs are still a mess and all I feel is pain. Yesterday broke open the pump. Now I am pumping milk into a bottle to feed her and adding another bottle of formula. The "bad boob" that once had a clog gives two squirts of milk and then stops. The lactation people at the hospital said I am too exhausted to produce enough milk. Have to get more rest. Monday starts a full time maid/nanny person to help out. i dream of mrs doubtfire.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pretend Anniversary

Eight years ago Monday Nov 10th, Hugh and I stood on the steps of San Francisco City Hall and pledged our I do's to ex-Mayor, sometimes wedding officiant Willie Brown. Later that night we dined in high style at Fleur de Lys - one of if not the nicest french restaurants in town.

This year's celebration was....not like that.

In the afternoon we got a delivery from one of Hugh's work associates. He sent a dozen long stemmed red roses for me and two adorable pink (there is no other color for girls in Argentina) outfits for Valentina. I said to Hugh "let's pretend you gave me these flowers for our anniversary!" It set off a game of let's pretend I let take hold of my mind.

Let's pretend we'll dress up fancy tonight and go out for a decadent meal instead of scarfing down leftovers separately while one holds a crying infant.

Let's pretend we had time to get each other cards or a gift.

Let's pretend I got more than two hours sleep last night.

Let's pretend the baby didn't have an hour long crying fit in the midst of the air conditioner breaking and leaking pools of water all over the living room.

Let's pretend we went on that family walk around the lake I wanted to take but ultimately had no energy for.

Let's pretend being new parents is nonstop fun and easy.

Let's pretend we know what we're doing.

Let's pretend we'll soon get back to our old lives.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Who's in charge

If I could pick two photos to sum up the last week, these two are it (the bathtub shot is incidental). Valentina is either a monster or a typical newborn. She is happiest when held which makes sleeping or doing anything else nearly impossible. This is the first handsfree moment I've had in a week when I'm not trying to catch up on some precious zzz's. All the veterans of parenting are probably nodding, smirking and remembering their own trials of the first weeks and months.

Yesterday I walked us with stroller the one mile loop around Rosedal lake. My week of repose inside the house gave way to the spring blossoms of Jacaranda trees. Everywhere I look now the bright lavendar branches burst out for attention. This is my favorite time of year although our spring is hotter than usual (already in the 80's) About halfway around the lake I got very tired and Valentina a bit cranky. I sang her a lullaby so she'd know i was still there which seemed to soothe. When we got home I was exhausted and wanted to collapse for a two hour siesta. Instead Valentina had a crying fit that lasted an hour while I bounced her on the ball, danced, swayed and sashayed. Then she nursed and then we both slept for nearly 3 hours.

I looked around at all the baby stuff we have and to my surprise, we are using all of it. At first I thought - some of this has got to be superfluous clutter. But no, the muslin swaddles, the onesies, little hats and socks, blankets, swing, sling, burp cloths and boppys, nursing pads, and ointments. We have used everything. But, if I had to give an award to the most helpful item so far, I'd say the book I didn't even know I needed "The Happiest Baby on the Block". The 5 S's(swaddle, shush, side, swing, suck) to soothe her work miracles. That doesn't mean she wants to be put down but at least she is not screaming her head off. Thank you again Fowlers and other friends that recommended this book.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The first few days

She sucks, cries, sleeps.

Utta worries.

Daddy cooks and coos.

I recover and marvel.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Birth Day

The birth story is for another day but here a few details.

Valentina Alexander was born this morning at 5:17am Buenos Aires time in her own bedroom. She weighs 7.7 pounds, has dark hair and blue eyes.

We labored for almost exactly 48 hours (yes, you read that right).

Mom, baby, daddy and Grandma Lori are all doing fine although tired. Utta stayed up through the night and kept watch from the other room. She is very anxious to get to know her new baby sister but we are taking it slow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Real Deal

Woke at 5:45 with seriously painful contractions. Ouchie! now I know why they say you'll KNOW when it really starts. The warm up contractions of the previous several days were nothing. They come every 5-10-15 minutes. Olga, the midwife says we are still in the early stage until the contractions come every 5 minutes for two hours in a row. Went on a short walk with Mom and Utta to the park, stopping to clutch a tree, a bench or mom's shoulder every contraction. Hugh is giddy and excited. Valentina is on her way....

Monday, October 27, 2008

Final ultrasound

Got another ultrasound this morning so my OB could confirm all is ok with the amniotic fluid and that we can wait a few more days. The results came back very good. She's doing well and is about 8 pounds, plenty of amniotic fluid, heartbeats normal, placenta well placed - excellent report all around. but....she can't stay in there forever. So, he wants to give me 48 hours and then Wednesday morning I will take the Prostaglandin pill to provoke the final contractions. Even though I've had two false starts (including lots of contractions last night), he says the third one is usually the charm. So we wait some more.

Rach leaves tonight on the 10pm flight. If Murphy's Law is in play at all - I will go into labor as soon as she leaves. I have given up all control or attempt and planning. This lesson is clear and undeniable. No one except Valentina is in charge.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday rain

yesterday went on three long walks and to see the new (at least for Argentina)Coen bros movie with Clooney and Pitt. I never tire of seeing Brad Pitt's face and body onscreen. Even when he's being a total goof.

Contractions all day yesterday and last night picked up intensity though still 15 minutes apart. the body is doing its thing but in no hurry. Auntie Rachel is leaving tomorrow night to take care of the hubby who threw his back out this week. Hoping this new "deadline" helps bring Valentina into the world before but I am certain this is totally out of my hands. Mom is here now too and making me soups and accompanying me on all outings.

My friend Sharon (writer and reflexology guru) is coming by this afternoon to give me another treatment.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Getting closer but...

Yesterday the contractions continued every 15 or 20 minutes. I was fatigued and a bit withdrawn, irritable. laid around alot. Mom arrived three hours late due to technical issues on the flight from Dallas but is now here and delighted to join team Babywatch. Thought for sure things would continue and progress but slept easily through the night and contractions have stopped. ugghhhhhhhhhhhh

Saw my OB Dr. Lodeiro this afternoon and yea! He said Valentina had dropped and that thanks to yesterday's contractions, I am 2 centimeters dilated. I am thrilled but know we've still got a way's to go and need to get that baby movin. Hopefully this weekend will bring more activity....

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Signs of Labor????

Last night we joined Democrats Abroad and made calls to registered voters living outside the US to help them get their absentee ballots in. Rachel and I had lists of people living in Canada but registered to vote in Ohio. Hugh had a list of Americans living in Argentina. It was fun and a great distraction from Operation BabyWatch. For two hours I was just another participant in the democratic process. Everyone I talked to was thrilled to get the call and appreciated the reminder and tips on how to get their vote in. Many of the Americans I spoke to living in Toronto had already planned to send their ballot with friends or family (or drive themselves) to Ohio. I had to inform them not to do that. The govt requires a postmark from the residing country so their votes wouldn't have counted if they took that step of hand delivering the ballot in Ohio.

I started to feel some strong contractions when we got up to leave the phoning center and realized too that Valentina had made her way down south a bit more. My waddle turned to a snail like shuffle. We stopped by California Burrito Co. for dinner although I already knew there was no way I would eat spicy mexican. I drank a lemon lime soda and when we got home had a few slices of pineapple. Loss of appetite is definitely a "sign" of something. My contractions continued through the night but not close enough yet to be timed and not strong enough to warrant beasty moans or crawling around on the floor clutching support. We'll save those goodies for my mom who arrives in just a few hours!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama Momma

Yesterday I cast my vote at the US Embassy with an absentee ballot sent from the elections office in San Francisco. Go OBAMA!!!! Sorry Republican family members ): but your party's goin down this year.

The daily inquiries as to the status of the birth (or in this case NOT) are getting more urgent and panicky. All I can say is... CALM DOWN PEOPLE. She is taking her sweet time and I will put a blog post up as soon as something starts happening. As of today, no contractions and I feel great - lots of energy and although big as Mao Mao (the pregnant panda bear we watched on Animal Planet channel the other night), am walking lots and still doing yoga. Last night Rachel and I did 24 flights of stairs in our building (thanks for the tip Stacy!). I figure it can't hurt.

Rachel extended her trip and now has an open-ended ticket. Gracious hubbie Rey encouraged her to stay even though he and their two doggies miss her. She didn't come all this way to miss the main event so will keep me company until Miss Valentina appears. Yea!!!!

We all went to my OB appointment yesterday with Dr. Tito Lodeiro (who'll attend the birth). He said her head is still moving a bit and not yet descended into my pelvis. Dangit! So, he didn't want to ck my cervix. Obviously, we're not there yet and she is having too much fun in my belly to rush out. His only words of advice "Hay que tener paciencia" - ya gotta have patience.

Tomorrow night the three of us will volunteer on the phones with Democrats Abroad. They're very active here in Argentina and have been sending me email updates on activities these past weeks. They need people to contact expats living in Argentina who are registered to vote in Florida but haven't yet cast their absentee ballots. This will be my first volunteer effort on a presidential campaign and I'm excited to participate.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jumbo ride

The other day Rach and I went to Jumbo - BA's own big box shopping store. I hate going there as it reminds me of the parts of the US experience I don't miss - the gluttony, the bigness and waste of consuming. but....it carries the most extensive international food section in town so we can buy fajita seasoning, corn tortilla chips and other random goodies. I made Hugh's year by picking up a jar of jalapeno peppers. He's been waiting to see them carried by Jumbo since last years sighting.

Anyway - its so big inside (think food, electronics, home furnishings and several cafes in one space, that I get exhausted and can't get out of there in less than 2 hours. This time I decided to take the crippled cart - which as I realized is actually made for people like me - limited mobility! The security guard lit up when I motioned to get onboard. Reminded me of being a kid and skidding around on the bumper cars. Only two ways to go - forward or backward. I sideswiped a few old ladies but other than that came through unscathed and with lots more energy than I've ever had at the end of a Jumbo session.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day in Argentina so as we say here "Feliz Dia del Madre!". Did I think I'd spend this day with a newborn in my arms - yes, most certainly. Valentina has other plans it seems. Today is also my official due date. Stats show that only 1 in 20 babies are born on their due date. Although I've got insomnia, no major labor pains so looks like this day will pass like the others this week - in anticipation.

What could she be waiting for?
For her auntie Rachel to arrive - no. been here almost two weeks and due to leave on Tuesday. boo hoo

For the house and her room to get in order - no. The house has been cleaned meticulously from top to bottom several times. Every time Marta comes she gives it an extra umpf just in case Valentina makes an appearance that day or the next. Pictures hung, baby swing assembled (with batteries), labor food stored (chocolate, gatorade, yogurt, teas, orange juice ice cubes). We ate through the entire pan of baked pasta Hugh made last week intended for the midwives and doctors. Today he will make batch two.

For the full moon - no. Tuesday passed with no false alarms even. The moon was nice to look at though.

To finish growing -no. She's cooked and considered full term for two weeks. Nothing new to add on, just weight.

For grandma to arrive - maybe. She flies down on Wednesday.

To be a Scorpio, not a Libra - maybe. Tuesday, she'll be a Scorpio. Already, she's on the cusp so I've been reading up on this sign for children. I already know what its like having a Scorpio mother and mother in law. Scorpio children are a handful - wise souls, creative, passionate, sometimes secretive and strong willed. One site said "high maintenance" but if parented well, they can change the world. Ghandi and Picasso - Scorpios. Well, so much for the easy peasy Libras.

For her momma to vote Obama - maybe. Tomorrow I'll go to the US Embassy to cast my vote. I received my absentee ballot in the mail from SF on Friday so just have to drop it off with the box marked "not the creepy old man and nitwit from Alaska" please. Rachel showed me how to watch The Daily Show episodes online so I've been catching up lately. Valentina's enjoyed some pee-my-pants funny moments of laughter.

For everyone I know to send me at least one check-in message ie "news?", "is she there yet?", "any updates?", "what's happening?". Some friends are now on to round two and three of these inquiries. Last night I heard Hugh on the phone with family in Texas "Oh, she's fine. Gigantic! Really really big!" Yeah, just what I want to hear...

Your guess is as good as mine at this point. Friday I went to Hospital Aleman for my scheduled fetal monitoring. Her heart is all good and beating normally 120-160 beats per minute depending on whether she is moving around or not. Ran into my Argentine girlfriend Carolina. Her due date was last Thursday and she is as anxious as me to meet her baby. Her doctor will induce tomorrow if she doesn't go into labor on her own. This is the typical conservative practice here. Pass your due date and let's go! My doc said we'll wait 10 days past the due date with no concerns of risk factors, then he'll give me a pill to get contractions going and cervix thinning.

All of the documented ways to bring on labor naturally - tried 'em. Any others you know of? Let me know!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Crisis trickles down to BA

Inflation has been a problem since we arrived. The most conservative estimates pin annual inflation at 30% but some say up to 80% on certain items. Last night we went to dinner at Empire Thai for my friend Sharon's 40th birthday celebration. My eyes bulged with sticker shock when I took a look at the menu. The entrees went for 35 to nearly 50 pesos each ($12-15US). This is double what it cost to eat there 8 months ago. The restaurant was nearly empty for a Saturday night except for our party of 15. We made an early-ish exit (2 hours is the max I can sit at a table) when my limbs started to swell and back ached so paid the waitress separately. Hugh had a chat with her about business and she admitted they were struggling. Their only customers now were expats and even those were few and far between. Their response (Argentines) seems to be - raise prices on the few customers you have left to make up for the shortfall. Not a good strategy. This place will not last long.

Yesterday afternoon Rachel and I visited a well referred hair stylist named Ryan (of Canada) who does the hair of friends Sharon, Amanda and Kara. His specialty is repair jobs on the oft-poorly executed Argentine mullet cut. I've been trying to grow my mullet disaster out for two months and Rach needed a color touch up so we headed over to his place. He admitted the US financial crisis had practically decimated his business in the past 3 weeks. His clients are expats - mostly North Americans and Europeans that want an english speaking stylist. He said many of them had already fled Argentina - heading home to manage/fret over/review their investments, real estate etc. The panic had set in and many felt uncomfortable being so far away as their financial lives collapsed. Another anecdote he shared was of a client who saw her net worth drop from $120 million to $20 million in one week. It's hard to feel sorry for someone like that - she won't be living on the street anytime soon but may have to scale back her P-Diddy yacht parties in the south of France. His prices are still reasonable (65 pesos/$22US for a cut) but he said he'll need to raise them next month to survive.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not yet...

Today is not the day. Neither was yesterday or the day before. I can't imagine labor catching me by surprise. Waters still intact and so is my appetite. I'm trying to make plans a few days out at a time so I have more to do than read "The Happiest Baby on the Block" (excellent resource if the 5 "S's" really work to quiet the cries). Auntie Rachel brought a nasty cold with her that I caught on Wednesday night so I think Valentina will wait for me to get better before making her grand entrance. The house is all sniffles and sneezes. Hugh made us his famous lemony chicken soup with spinach for dinner last night and we curled up for a movie on the couch.

Utta's escorting/guarding behavior has taken on a new intensity. She must know the time is near. She trots after me from room to room with a concerned look on her face until I settle in to do something. When I nap, she naps beside me. If I'm in the kitchen, she'll bring her bone-chewing in there. When I retire to the couch to read or watch TV, she's right next to me until we both go to bed at night - always at the same time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Waiting Game

Rachel arrived from San Francisco yesterday morning with another huge duffle of baby gifts from friends and family. She's sick with the flu or some sinus-y thing but still managed in the first few hours of arriving to rearrange my underwear drawer with dividers she brought down from the states(gotta love The Container Store), organize the kitchen cupboard and do a load of dishes. I had to beg her not to do the dishes last night so that our housekeeper Marta would have something to do today.

Friend Sharon came over and gave me a special reflexology massage - targeting the trigger points for getting labor started. I'm hopeful but so far nothing new. My OB checked my cervix for dilation on Monday afternoon and it was "cerrado" - closed. Emails flood my inbox daily now with questions of "did it happen yet?" Last night brought home a birthing chair from my weekly class with the midwives. Trying to keep on doing the normal things and let Valentina take her time but the suspense of when...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

37th Week Update

Spring sprung today. Officially it started last Sunday but the weather took a week to catch up to the calendar. We spent the afternoon in our favorite park Rosedal across the street from the apartment. I gussied up and Hugh played photographer as I donned pose after pose from my prenatal yoga series. I want to have some shots that I can use afterwards in marketing materials, maybe a website or something for my prenatal yoga classes.

We ran into our new friends Mara (Italian) and husband (name escapes me) outside for the first time with their newborn Matijas - born just two weeks ago. We probed about all sorts of new baby schedule/apparatus and life change changes. Matijas lay peacefully asleep in his stroller the whole time. They have to go through some extra paperwork to register their childs name. The father is slovakian and the spelling reflects that heritage. Matijas doesn't exist on the Argentine list of "approved" names so they'll have to petition. We won't have that problem with Valentina but we would if we wanted to name her any of the in fashion celebrity names of late - Apple, Suri, Zuma, etc. The Argentines don't want to fill their country with a bunch of weirdos. They are just fine with generation after generation of Diegos, Gabrielas, Rodrigos, Sergios, Valerias.

I received a number of emails from friends this week wanting to check in and see how I was feeling - now so close to the due date. So here it is: Baby has "dropped" into my pelvis in preparation for D-Day so I am waddling around...slowly. I feel a great deal of pressure down there and am most comfortable with hips as open as possible and lots of cushy back support. Makes going out to dinner and sitting for any period of time longer than 15 minutes uncomfortable. That said, we're trying to do lots of both now while we still own our own time. I'm still doing yoga - next week I'll teach my last class for a three month maternity break. I will miss my students but am wanting to stick around the house much more these days. Still have crazy vivid dreams and occasional restless nights anxious about the coming changes. The other night I dreamt Utta bit the hand off of our baby girl. Yes, I'm a bit worried about introducing our first baby girl to the new human one. The Dog Whisperer will be consulted. I am having occasional pre-labor contractions. My OB says its normal to have 15-20 per day. Sometimes I feel tightness in the belly and other times it more intense like a menstrual cramp.

Valentina moves all day and I can feel her legs up into my ribs and knees rolling towards my belly button. She's a constant companion that I never get tired of. As excited as I am to meet her in person I have a feeling I will miss the pregnancy too. Tomorrow marks week 37 - according to most, the baby is now full term. Any time, any day. For me, she'll arrive a few days after her auntie Rachel (coming Oct 7th).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Writers retreat

My writers group Thursdays@Three had been talking about a weekend retreat all winter. Half the group took vacations to the Northern Hemisphere to enjoy a summer break from the cold so we knew the earliest we could get it together would be the first weekend in September. Joanna found us what appeared to be an adorable casita on one of the islands in Tigre - a short one hours drive north of Buenos Aires. Tigre is a collection of little islands - all navigable via boats like the Florida Keys (never been there but comparisons have been made amongst other expats I know here). Its scenic and serene in the fall and spring though intolerable in the summer when mosquitos multiply and thrive in the still, moist air. In the winter, it floods and homes simply float away.

We arrived early Saturday morning to the boat launch that would take us out to the casita. It was overcast, drizzling, cold and the kind of day you'd rather not get out of bed. Sharon brought a dangerous quantity of freshly made pastries (facturas) and we boarded the boat with the “necessities”. I decided to prioritize comfort over vanity. At this point I just don't care if I'm viewed as hoggy - I am high maintenance. I brought two huge dufflebags and two small grocery bags. The full body pillow - check, sleeping head pillow - check, softest warmest blanket - ck, breastfeeding "boppy" pillow to use as a lapdesk - ck, hot water bottle, yoga mat, yoga block and blanket and cds, various writing materials, ugg boots, rain boots, comfy sweats and Hugh's heavy pea coat, and clothes for one night, two full days. For sustenance I packed my mate kit, hard boiled eggs, granola cereal, two tupperwares of fruit salad to share for breakfast, yogurt and a grilled chicken breast just in case. Excessive yes, but in my case, practical. I wanted for nothing and am so glad I overpacked.

The initial charm of the casita melted like snow on a spring day as we tried to unpack and discover how things worked – or in this case, didn’t. Oh, how quaint - the toilet doesn't flush. Looks like we need to pour water from a bucket into the tank for a manual flush. Lovely! There are only two burners on the stove that work and light manually to barely a simmer. Good thing we're in no rush to heat hot water for coffee or anything else. Look at that - the "bedroom" that sleeps 4 is a separate outhouse from the main casita, is 10 below zero with a non working heater and two sets of incredibly tiny and unusable bunkbeds! Hmmm, that’s odd, the electricity seems to flicker on and off. Guess we’ll have to unplug the refrigerator so we can heat the living room where we’ll write and hang out. Luckily several of us packed extra blankets and pillows. By group consensus we pulled the wafer thin mattresses off the bunk beds so that most could sleep on the floor in the living room.

Finally we settled down to business and started in on our real agenda - writing. There was one truly comfortable chair - offered freely to the preggo, yea! We stayed on task throughout the drizzly afternoon with writing exercises, some free time to work on individual projects and a lengthy discussion of writing achievements over the year. We took a break when a floating store passed by. Bought freshly made ravioli for dinner and a ton of water (of course, you can’t drink the water in the house or use it for washing dishes, your face or your teeth!). Some of us took a stroll in the rain around the other properties and through a foresty trail that reminded me of Muir woods. I retired early (to the one bed that existed) and fell into a black slumber while the rest remained giggling on the floor deep in bedding, champagne and stories.

Sunday we started with an Ambi-led yoga class in the living room. Another full day of writing, planning for the coming year with new goals for our group (hosting a reading event, participating again at the Feria de Libros, focusing a bit more on writing technique in our weekly meetings and all of us submitting more work for publication), walking, frequent smoke breaks (for the two puffers) and eating of course. The bus boat came by to pick us up at 7pm. I felt strangely rested and pleased with the course of things. With all its discomforts, it was the perfect getaway - only an hour away and filled with adventure to laugh about later and bond the group.

We decided not to wait another year before retreating again. Next time we'll go to the beach at the end of the summer and hopefully have more luck with the rental but just as much fun.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A whole lotta belly

A few days before Vaughn left town, I got an invite to dinner from one of the women in my prenatal yoga classes (that I attend not teach). It was the first time anyone had "asked me out" and I was thrilled at the opportunity to make friends with another "embarazada/preggo". She said a few others from our class were coming too with their Sig O's/spouses. Vaughn rolled his eyes and said "great, an evening with a bunch of pregnant women" - with special emphasis on the "p" word as if we're lepers. I guess I can understand. He's swingin single, on vacation, wanting to do man things and somehow is getting dragged to an evening of flying female hormones.

The evening was a huge success and we all had fun - even Vaughn. I suggested from the beginning that all the women sit on one end of the table and the men at the other (a common practice anyway in Argentina). The men bantered all night about sports and other manly things - cigars? porn? who knows.

Anyhoo...us gals talked of our burgeoning bellies, birth plans, nanny set ups, cravings and the like. It was heaven and giggles of fun. We took this pic of the six of us - all in our third trimester. Starting on the left, there's Mara, Italian and living here with her husband for two years while he finishes a work assignment, next is Sally, Australian and married to an Uruguayan that grew up in BA (they are moving back to Australia when the baby is two weeks old), then me, then Melanie, Swiss and living here for two years while her Swiss husband works and then they'll return home, Mariela is the Argentine with Australian boyfriend in all black with the biggest bump at 40.5 weeks (she had her baby girl Sofia two days ago - nearly 10lbs) and lastly Carolina, also Argentine and coupled with an Australian bloke. Both the Australian men want to move their Argentine girlfriends and new babies back to the motherland. Hugh and I are the only ones sticking it out here. Will be nice to socialize with this group over the next year but soon all will be gone...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Boogie Night

Saturday night we took Vaughn (Hugh's friend from SF in for a 10 day visit) to a "boliche" aka late night dance club. Why I waited until my eighth month of pregnancy to visit a disco is a mystery. The Boliches don't even open until 1am. So, in preparation we took naps from 9-11pm, then drank mate. Friend Gaby arrived at 12:30am and we took off in her car for a place called Museum in San Telmo. There was already a line of 50 or so people when we arrived and the place was nearly full inside. Eyes widened as I sashayed by with my big bump. I knew what they were thinking "good god, what the hell is she doing here!" I felt high from the mate and excited to be out in the middle of the night like a real Portena. It was either retro night or Argentines love the 80s - either way, the DJ rocked Erasure, Boy George, Wham (wake me up before you gogo) Early Madonna, Michael Jackson, Shania Twain (yes, and all the women knew the lyrics word for word), and many others. I rolled my hips in circle eights and Valentina enjoyed the ride. About 4am my feet started to swell and the heat from 500 pulsating Argentines started to suffocate me. So, Hugh and I took a cab home and Vaughn and Gaby stayed out till a more respectable 7:30am when the sun came up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guest blogger - a man's perspective

Ok, so we've had a kind of full week of pregnancy related outings. Hugh got inspired to write. Here's his version....

"Monday night is our birth class. As it is a "natural" birth class (women who want to have their kids without drugs, suction, tools used to stretch or cut the vagina to speed up the birth, no cesareans, etc.), we sit on the floor. I guess sitting cross-legged for two hours is preparation for the pain of childbirth. In "nature" there are no chairs, only pillows and sore backs.

Raquel, the motherly, graying, 60 something "advisory" midwife (she's only instructing us, not participating in the birth) who teaches the class, gets the only chair. I frequently tune her out and think about how comfortable she looks. Sometimes, maybe 45 minutes into the class, I scan, spy, study the faces of the men to see whose eyes are glossed over, who is nodding off; then, when I spot a perp, I look to see if his wife's face is conversely attentive and full of the glee that only a woman can feel when she knows her man is participating in an intimate conversation with witnesses. There's this theory I have about men being forced into doing things by their wives all over the world and this seems like a good opportunity to test my theory.

Usually the men say nothing. But this Monday night was different. After one mother revealed that she has been breastfeeding her son for 3.5 years, a blast of consciousness spread across the husbands' faces as if a bucket of cold water had been poured on their laps (she shared with us that her biggest problem is social pressure, of course, like the time recently when her nearly four year old boy ate a chocolate bar at the beach and followed it up with some tit milk in front of horrified onlookers). The men suddenly had lots of questions and things to say. So did I. When we were leaving, in fact, I told Amber, "There is no way in hell we're breastfeeding for more than a year. Period."

Birth classes bring couples closer through communications like this, I guess.

So it was only natural on Tuesday morning that when Amber told me we had yet another, different birth meeting scheduled for Tuesday night with our "practicing" midwives -- yes, Birth Team Alexander is now up to 10 people and one dog: 1 advisory midwife; 2 practicing midwives; an OBGYN; neonatal doctor; lactating/breastfeeding specialist (gotta have one of those!); Amber's sister who is anurse; the maid; us -- that I would politely ask, "Why on FUCKING earth are we having another birth meeting? Please tell me there's a reason for this."

I admit that Amber never satisfied me that this meeting was necessary or helpful, but she insisted it was required, and that the two midwives want to drink tea with us, discuss the birth, talk about things they would need in the house, etc.

Fine. I went.

We sat on the floor (surpirse), drinking tea and eating high-fiber cookies, and about 90 minutes into what was nothing more than an emotionally charged bullshit session on how wonderful natural childbirth is, we started in on war stories, complete with graphic pelvic photos, videos, and the typed story of Valeria and Juan's birth experience, which one of the midwives started to read.

I followed along as best I could in Spanish. While some of the more subtle details escaped me, the role of the husband in the birth did not. I was all ears, asking the midwife to repeat the parts I missed. For example, did the mother really say that Juan while was massaging her sacrum she could feel another round of red-tinted mucous sliding down her leg? Did Juan really massage, hold, clean, caress for 5 consecutive hours?

These parts had to be repeated.

Unfortunately, while I asked for them to be repeated so that I could get a clearer picture of what I might need to skillfully escape during the birth process, the midwives misinterpreted my questioning, and at the conclusion of the birth story began asked me how I visualized my role in the natural birth and then stared at me, judging, waiting, eager to know if I was prepared to go as far or further than Juan. When I stalled, they figured I was needing help with my Spanish, and produced photos of Juan cutting the umbilical cord himself, wife exposed, covered in birth gook.

"How beautiful!" They exclaimed. "Do you see yourself being like Juan??"

Three pair of eyes were trained on me, watching, judging.

I was sitting on the floor for my fourth hour in the last 24. I spaced out and wondered if the vibrating text message I just received on my mobile phone was from DirecTV, who had been calling all day to schedule installation of my NFL Sunday Ticket package, which provides all NFL games for all 32 teams, all season. I turned my attention back to the women watching me and thought maybe the midwives would fire us and not work with us if I somehow messed up my answer.

"Si!" I exclaimed, and a chorus of "que lindos" (how beautiful!) poured out of the midwives and one of them clutched her heart with both hands (not making that up), and I was safe.

That is, until the midwives explained we would be having these 2-hour meetings once a week for the next 8 weeks until the birth."

The A Team

Olga (left) and Laura (rt) are the latest additions to the Alexander Birth Team here in BA. Hugh laughs and says now that he won't rest unless we have at least 10 people in the house for "D Day".

After literally months of interviewing OB's, midwives, doula's, attending birthing classes and workshops and talking to anyone who would recommend their medical team, we finally found "the ones". More than once, I've been told we did an "exhaustive" search with raised eyebrows. Well, its said people in the states spend more time picking out a new car than the professionals that will be with them through the birth of their children. Not true for us. So here's the lineup for our homebirth:

Olga and Laura: they are a midwife team. They'll come first when I've had two hours of contractions consistently. As they've told us many times, they could end up hanging around the house for anywhere from 5 - 18 hours after that call. They drink a lot of mate. Olga is the more experienced mother type. She's been a midwife for 30 years. Laura is the younger, energetic assistant. She has "buenda onda" as we like to say here which means I liked her vibe and could imagine her not bugging the crap outta me in the house for hours. They also attend births without the need of an OB but work according to the desires of the couples. In our case, we decided to hire an OB that also has access to the hospital Clinica La Trinidad four blocks from our new apartment just in case we need it.

Guillermo Lodeiro aka "Tito": everyone in Argentina has a nickname. He's known as Tito to his friends and colleagues and now to us. He's our obstetrician. A friend from my prenatal yoga class recommended him, also the american trained doula friend we met worked with him and gave him high marks. We met with him and he spent an hour with us detailing the 30 year history of the natural childbirth movement in Argentina along with his role in it. It was illuminating and also amusing when he added his own son's birth to the timeline. He engendered our trust immediately and also gave me the most thorough exam I've had so far. Olga/Laura will call him when I'm at 8-10cm dilated - basically at the very end when I'm ready to push. Tito will come with a neonatal doctor - Hugo Guzman. Also well known and respected in the world of natural births here. He's also a pediatrician. His role at the birth is to see that the baby is a-ok once she comes out.

Maria Nogues: argentine born, US raised and educated. She's a doula (US certified). Argentines don't know much about the concept of doula here because they have their families close so not much need for this kind of support. Maria is also a lactation specialist and consults for an Argentine company that manufactures bottles for children born with cleft-lip syndrome. She's our post-partum aid. She'll come once the baby is born to help me with breastfeeding and also help us set up a new schedule with all of the adjustments. When we first met her she drew a diagram of three circles, explaining with arrows that while the first two circles (me and Hugh) used to take care of each other, now I am taking care of a new circle (Valentina), so Hugh will need to take care of me. His face fell when he realized there were no other circles to take care of him and his role is going to shift dramatically. She also knows all of the people we interviewed in the process of finding a midwife and OB so helped us sort out the pros and cons of each.

Sis Rachel: Nurse Rach will arrive the week of October 6th and stay till the end of the month. My due date is the 20th but two psychics and my own intuition tell me Valentina will come a week or so early. Rach will be with me throughout labor so I am not scared or worried about anything medically that could come up (of course she's not a midwife but I just feel better knowing she's coming). Also the midwife team needs someone to drink mate with while I'm doing squats and groans in the other room.

Marta: Our housekeeper mentioned last week that she wants to be here to help yell "PUSH" "APUJO!". She's the closest thing to family we have here so we'll probably add her to the party parade. Another mate lover.

Utta: She won't be allowed in the baby/birthing room but will of course be nearby. She knows something is up and is being extra protective and clinging on me these days. She takes long deep sniffs of my belly. Olga tells me in her experience the pets around at homebirths have a sense of what the woman needs and tend to stay very quiet and still once labor starts.

Hugh: Last but not least. I've assured him at no point will he have to be "in front" of the action with the potential of being exposed to an enlarged vagina or head coming out. He started out wanting to wait "in the hall of the hospital with a cigar". Now he is looking forward to the homebirth party and involvement sans blood and bodily fluids. We'll save the gore for the midwives and my sis.

Clinica La Trinidad: This hospital is just four blocks from our new pad. Dr. Tito attends 90% of his births here (the other 10% at home) so he's comfortable and familiar with their protocols. They are much less conservative than Hospital Aleman (where we are insured but limited to using their doctors) and are the preferred choice for most of the argentine and american friends I know. Going to La Trinidad is our "Plan B". Of course we'll pay out of pocket but the total cost of the birth would still be one-fifth of the cost of having the baby in the US.

Whew! I think we're ready.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Los Olimpicos

We're staying up late every night to watch live coverage of the Beijing Olympics. It's quite a different experience from the US as Argentina doesn't have the medal potential (thus incentive) to cover every second of swimming and gymnastics. So, they flip around to all of the other events of the games and we get to see more variety. Who knew there were olympic level table tennis matches? fencing? The biggest deal here (aside from the obvious soccer) really is the female hockey team - Las Leonas. So far, they are winning all their matches and in a good place to make the finals. Most Argentine girls - even the sissy ones play hockey - a fairly studly sport so its not unusual to see hoards of 12-14 year olds walking down a neighborhood block with hockey stick in hand on their way to practice late weekday afternoons. Hugh already dreams of Olympic Gold for our Valentina some day...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

La Bourgogne

Last night Hugh took me to the fanciest french restaurant in town La Bourgogne to celebrate my descent towards middle age. I don't know if this place is 5 star rated but its part of the Relais Chateaux family of establishments and the official restaurant of the Alvear Palace Hotel - consistently rated one of the top ten hotels in the world. Yes, fancy fancy. Beyond the food - which was of course very french and outstanding - full of light and crusty bread thingies, sauces and in between course palate refreshers, the service wowed. No fewer than five peguined english speakers surrounded our table each time a course was delivered or retrieved. I told Hugh this week that I wanted to go to dinner at a really nice place - nice enough to wear this maternity frock I purchased with Joni back in March assuming I'd wear it to Rachel's wedding. At month five, I wasn't big enough to wear it to the wedding but at 30 weeks I filled it out just fine. I squeezed my sausage feet into a low pair of heels and clung to Hugh's arm for balance as we exited the lobby of our new apartment building. A rare grown up moment so it was special and fun. Other than the culinary outing I spent the day doing my favorite things - sleeping in, prenatal yoga class, cooking lunch, taking a nap, skype call with my sis, a sunny stroll to the plaza with Utta, a bit of writing and a mid afternoon candlelight bath. A luxurious leonine birthday.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Last week I brought my camera to painting class. My teach Ada is working on a new canvas of turqoise and yellows that I think is beautiful but she finds lacking. Maria-Vanessa, her other student just finished up an earnest abstract of gray tones and vibrant brick reds. Both inspire me to work harder and practice patience. Maria-Vanessa's canvas evolved no fewer than three times over the past months. She started out with this idea to use masking tape to create rectangles, triangles and squares. The colors were well developed but she hated the rigidity of the lines. So she started painting over the shapes and brought in new shades of red and black. I was scared for her at first not knowing how it would turn out but Ada was confident and led her in just the right direction. While painting, we three chat about the latest Christina Kirchner snafu, their grandchildren and of course how to mix color. Half way through the 3 hour session, we pause for tea and a dessert - usually the Argentine favorite cheesecake with fruit sauce or dulce de leche.

The other side and Previa-free

Monday I went to see Dr. Engel at the German Hospital for my monthly check in and to get an updated ultrasound. Great news! The placenta has moved. Well, not really. As Engel told me "placentas don't have feet". My uterus grew in such a way that the placenta is now up and far away from the cervix so no more worry or danger of it getting in the way of baby coming down the chute. Yes, a big relief. Now we are all systems go for a natural water birth in the woods with witches and incense (:

Here's a pic of me yesterday in a classic maternity "outfit". Yoga pants, extra long tank to cover the frontal and backside expanding bumps, and some kind of knit sweatery thing. Hugh is so tired of this look and all of my other non-sexy attire (eggplant purple full length terrycloth robe, baggy sweat suits, and shirts with built in bras (think opposite of Wonder). But, as my prenatal yoga teacher said to me yesterday..."welcome to the other side of pregnancy". I was lamenting how smooth and easy (even enjoyable) the first six months had been. Then, bam! In just over a week I've got non stop heartburn that cuts into the top of my ribcage regardless of whether I have a glass of water or a slice of pizza and chronic sacral low back pain. Last weekend during the move I got stuck in one of our new bean bag chairs and Hugh had to roll me over like a charred chorizo sausage on the parrilla using both hands so that I could get to my knees and stand up. With yoga, hot baths and a prenatal massage, the pain is no longer excruciating but flickers off and on from bearable to grouch-monger uncomfortable. Likely its Valentina's growing head pressing in to my sacral nerve so not much I can do about it other than avoid things that hurt like bending over, lifting anything and rolling out of bed.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blogger facelift

yes, something IS different. I changed the template for my blog. The old sage green tones were getting on my nerves and more so each time I came across a new blog that looked identical. So it goes with templates in blogdom.

Friday, August 1, 2008

We're in!

Today Hugh realized his long time furniture fantasy. Two custom upholstered leather club chairs arrived in time for our first night in the new place. We found them browsing antique shops near the Mercado Las Pulgas in Palermo Hollywood a few weeks ago. They were ratty and torn to pieces - a deep burgandy leather and missing a seat cushion but the bones of beauty shined through. Hugh knew immediately he had found "the ones".

The "flete" moving truck arrived this morning and carried our bed, rugs and remaining suitcases of stuff. Even though we've lugged bags over on our own via taxi every day the past week or so, there was still a lot left to transport. After a massive de-cluttering of material goods when we left the States, we find ourselves cluttering up again. New furniture, kitchen supplies, plastic balcony chairs, organizers for the closets, appliances yahdahyahdahyahdah.

Thanks to the recent posters who cautioned me not to reveal our address on the blog. I do often forget that the information is out there for anyone to read and strangers often do. In my mind, its just my mom checking in for regular tummy shots.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another move

We are moving this week.

After a year and a half of searching for the perfect place to buy, we've decided to put that thought on hold for awhile. The economy here is of course shaky but more than that - the real estate cycle seems to be at the tippy top - never a great time to buy. Also the govt, in an attempt to regulate the price of currency is tightening restrictions on money that comes in and out of the country - including real estate transactions. New laws cropped up in the past 6 months that would make it trickier (not impossible) for us to buy and then when we sell, well that's a whole different story. They do not want foreigners to buy and flip so when we buy, we need to be damn sure we want to live there (or can rent it out) for a good long while. All of that spells commitment. Commitment to neighborhoods and sizes of places we just aren't sure about yet. I love our current neighborhood Palermo but keep wondering whether we'll want more space or a yard with Valentina on the way.

So, we took the next logical step and are renting our first long term unfurnished apartment on a two-year lease. We decided location was more important than anything else. Then came noise factor since we currently live in the front side of a corner building where 3 major bus lines converge. Whaaaaattt did you say? I sometimes scream when Hugh is a mere 5 feet away from me in the living room.

Our new place is on the Park Avenue of streets - Avenida Libertador. Across the street is Rosedal Lake and the 1 mile runners track I visit at least 4x week (walking now of course) It's just two buildings away from the US Embassy so we've joked more than a few times, that when the civil war/riots start, we can just bungee jump from our balcony to safety inside the walls of our US friends. The apartment is "contrafrente" meaning it faces the back not from front side of Libertador and is mystically quiet. We have a balcony twice the size of our current one that looks out onto the lush manicured gardens of the American Embassy. The apartment itself is nothing special but the layout is functional and almost double the size of our current place. We had the walls painted a light buttery yellow and the chesnut wood floors are in great shape.

This week we are moving a few loads over every day. From my last trip to SF I brought back our remaining rugs, window coverings, bedding and our copper pots and pans. Everything else we must buy. Feels strange starting over literally from scratch at this age. Even when I had my first apartment in college, mom and others donated a load of kitchen supplies so I never really started from nothing. The sweet upstairs neighbor Haydee has adopted me. She comes down every day with another bag of stuff she thinks will be useful but I think is mostly crap. I do adore her and appreciate the kindness but its getting ridiculous. Yesterday she brought down a grayish floor mat (some 15 years old) that her fat cat used to sleep and pee on. Not to be an ingrate, but what, exactly am I supposed to do with that? Its so foul I wouldn't even use it to clean our floors. Of course I smiled graciously and have thanked her for each and every item she's cleaned out of her storage - broken set of espresso cups, turquoise and marine blue doile, odd sized curtain rod, two tiny floral plates, a plastic salad spinner. She keeps saying she doesn't want us to spend a fortune outfitting a new place but I have a feeling we are going to end up at Jumbo (the Price Club of BA) this weekend to just get it over with.

these photos are the view from our balcony. also one of the kitchen because its more than 3x the size of our current one and has space for a table even! wheeeeeeeeee

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Valentina Alexander

When this Leo married an Aries, she knew they would have their fair share of arguments. Add to inevitable clash of two fire signs, the Aries is an ex-lawyer, former debate champion and the Leo is a first child, fiercely independent, with a tendency to take self-righteous stands on even the least contested of issues…..the naming of their first child seemed a recipe for months of haranging, posturing, focus-group testing and lists of pros and cons.

Instead the name, much like the easy formation of the child came out of nowhere and just stuck. Both were drawn to “V” names. He, because his dearest family member is Vince Lee. She, because, well, no reason.

So, months before she starting wiggling around the womb and growing upwards into mommy’s squished ribcage, she was and still is Valentina – 27 weeks and counting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A pregnancy scare

The short time I spent in SF included what felt like a years worth of life crammed into 7 nearly sleepless days. Spending time with Joni, visiting storage and packing up 5 suitcases of household items, preparing for the baby shower, visiting family and organizing baby gifts to travel back and being pregnant, emotional and exhausted. The final event started the day I was to fly back to BA.

I woke with symptoms of what appeared to be menstruation (never a good sign when you're 6 months pregnant). After a few teary 7am phone calls to friends and female relatives, Rachel took me to the maternity ER at CPMC. Friend Kristie called ahead and arranged for the doctor that helped her bring 2nd baby Nate into the world just weeks earlier to attend me. They did a thorough exam and sent me upstairs for an ultrasound. Kristie already had plans to be on that same floor visiting Ramesh who gave birth to twins Ariana and Farah two days before. I had to stop by their room for a hello in my hospital gown. When would we all three be together again in this scenario? me, pregnant and in for an out of town emergency, Kristie breast feeding two week old Nate and Ramesh with her brand new girls. Real surreal.

They diagnosed Marginal Placenta Previa - a condition that means for now my placenta is a bit too close for comfort to the cervix. The doc was a bit alarmist and claimed she would ck me in overnight for observation if I were a regular patient of hers but given my situation and desperation to just get and be home, she put me on bedrest for the rest of the day and said I could hop a plane the following day.

The airport scene was chaotic but ultimately manageable. Rach helped with all the heavy bags since I was instructed not to lift a finger. I "carried on" the suburban stroller (which you're only allowed to do if you are traveling with your child). Several flight attendants asked "where's your baby?" to which I replied with an impatient and irritated tone "she had to take an earlier flight with her father!". No one dared inquire further and I made it back to Argentina safely though spent. It was a turning point in this adventure. Already my daughter is the boss of me and I have no choice but to take her needs into account. Slow it down....was the message. And I have.


The Saturday after I arrived in SF my sis pulled together a aptly girlish afternoon baby shower at a tea house named the Secret Garden. 12 family and friends changed their holiday weekend plans to be there in less than a weeks notice. As a surprise my mom flew up from San Diego that morning and spent the weekend (Rey quickly fled to his brothers pad in Oakland for fear of so much estrogen in the apartment). It was a truly joyous afternoon that came together at just the right time. We nibbled meringue encrusted sandwiches and cranberry scones, sipped vanilla victorian lace teas and many got to know each other for the first time. My mom and aunt CJ especially enjoyed meeting so many of my friends. Then several read stories of their births(or the births of their children). Friend Megan read a poem she wrote about the births of her two children and many closeted writers came out. Lastly I opened gifts and we delighted in ewwing and awwing over tiny pink socks and bunny hats. Yes, that's a photo of me with a double breast pump. Can't wait to get that hooked up ;: I managed to squeeze all of the baby gifts (including a suburban sized stroller) into my luggage for the trip back to BA along with 4 rugs, our drapes, some pots and silverware, linens and our wedding photos. The rest will come with our friend Vaughn when he visits next month. Welcome to the Argentine underground railroad Vaughn....

Something in the Water

A festive night at Joni's with me, Rach, Rey, Joni holding baby Agreen, Carly (baby Elijah in the oven) and momma Shona.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


It's been awhile since my last post. At first I had neither time nor inclination to do any writing. Then I just dreaded putting down in print the words, for I don't know what - cheapening the experience by trying to express what just feels doesn't have a real description. Then I go back to what I know can do - just tell the truth.

On Wednesday this week my best friend Joni died.

I knew something was wrong a few weeks ago when I couldn't reach her by phone, email or skype for three straight days. Finally when someone picked up her phone, it was her brother, in from Arizona. The cancer had advanced to her brain after behaving somewhat in her spine but starting its journey in her breasts a decade ago. I booked a flight the following day to San Francisco. We spent part of every day together save for one during my 10 day trip. Friends dropped by all the time to visit, bring food, run errands, laugh and love her. I have never been around so much love. It was a week of new life as well. Her upstairs neighbor Shona gave birth to her son Agreen two days before I arrived so visited often with him in the sling. Friend Carly was due that week and gave birth to son Elijah two days after we had a big group homemade meal.

The day before my flight home we said our final goodbyes. Nothing trite or verbose - just love and a few words. She seemed peaceful and unafraid while I was anguished and heartbroken. 10 years, many vacations and our daily lives shared keep running through my mind. The day she told me she had breast cancer when we both worked at Oracle. Trips to Italy, Vegas, Utah, Mexico, Buenos Aires. Walking together in the 3 Day Avon Breast Cancer Walk. Lounging in her sunny apartment on Sunday afternoons with the dogs running round us on a play date. Seeing every new play at the ACT during theater season. Shopping, spa-ing, oogling men. Poking fun at our similarly ridiculous corporate personas.

Tomorrow morning Hugh and I will make a celebration of Joni's life at Rosedal Lake where she enjoyed long walks on her visit last October. I don't know yet what I'll say but I'll bring bright yellow dahlias and freesias.