Merry Christmas, From David

Last Saturday, I had a prenatal “Coping With Labor” class. It was basically an extensive “how to keep from freaking out when you’re in pain” workshop, and I was kind of feeling alienated. For one thing, Ethan had his final graduation project due in a few days, and couldn’t come to class with me – so I was the only person there without a partner. I hadn’t slept well, and I was trying really hard not to fall asleep throughout, and my voice was way lower than usual (because I was half asleep), and I didn’t think I was looking too hot (because I was half asleep)… basically, I wasn’t feeling too social or too confident. And when you combine an unsociable mood with 8 months of pregnancy, you seriously just don’t feel like talking to people.

When the nurse mentioned that some people like to listen to more “peppy” music than others during labor, my brain immediately started playing “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)”. That was stuck in my head until the class concluded, at which point my brain switched over to “Highway to Hell.” Wow, I thought. I’m ready for motherhood. I was starting to think I was a total freak.

On top of all this, I’m usually a very active person, and I try to go out of my way to help people around me. During pregnancy, however, I apparently Animorph into a gigantic slug. I have zero energy, and not enough brain power to finish a sentence. Over the past few months, I have become a vegetable of sorts. I’m here. I live. I just don’t usually feel like I contribute to society. And when I try, I usually end up hurting myself.

Long story short, Saturday morning I was on autopilot – and by about noon, when the prenatal class ended, I was kind of feeling sorry for myself. I stopped off at Arby’s on the way home (the baby was driving, apparently), went in, and ordered more food than I probably had room for. I tried to smile and be friendly and all that, but I was also avoiding talking to anyone unless I absolutely had to. I got my food and went to a back table, where people would be less likely to see me.

That’s when a guy came in, sauntered over to the corner table across my way, and dropped his backpack on a chair. He sat down for a few minutes, looked around him with a smile, and then stood up and walked around the restaurant. He walked in a circle around the tables, glanced at the menu, ordered nothing, then sat down again. A minute later, he got up and walked another lap around the Arby’s. I began to suspect he had some kind of mental disorder, but he was enthusiastic enough that I started smiling.

After taking another lap, he came up to me, pulled a receipt out of his pocket, and wrote something down on it. I wondered if he were Deaf, and needed me to order his food. (But why wouldn’t he just write it down for the cashier? I thought.) He handed me the receipt, and I saw the words, “Corn Chex” neatly written in the corner.

Dude, I thought. You are in the wrong establishment. I must have looked confused, because he took the receipt back. When he returned it, it said, “Corn Chex, 1.49.” “Cost,” he signed – and said, with a thick accent.

I was still confused. The price wasn’t the problem, I thought. I signed, “You bought it already?”

“No,” he signed.

“You can’t buy that here,” I signed back at him. He laughed at me, took back the receipt, and wrote, “Maceys” on it.

At this point, I figured it out. My brother has Autism, and he sometimes brings us scraps of paper with lists of his favorite things: Swedish Fish, M&Ms, names of girls he likes…. I realized this guy was just really excited that Corn Chex were on sale. I looked up at him, and he signed, “My favorite.”

Suddenly it made sense. This wasn’t a question; it was just awkward small talk. “Oh, I see,” I signed. “That is a good price. My favorite is Peanut Butter Crunch.”

He seemed to think that was a fine choice. He introduced himself: his name was David. I gave him my name. He then told me all about his three brothers, which of them were Hearing and which were Deaf, which were “real” brothers and which were step-brothers, in addition to his place in the family (firstborn). He also told me about his ex-girlfriend in Wisconsin, his opinion on Oreos, and how much he liked talking to pregnant women.

By this point, I was actually out of my self-pity shell and enjoying the conversation. There’s something extremely relaxing and low-risk about talking to someone without having to physically verbalize anything. It’s also refreshing to talk with someone who won’t judge you if you change the subject suddenly and almost violently without warning. We discussed quite a few of our favorite foods, and I advised him not to put Arby’s sauce on his Oreos. (He doesn’t; don’t worry. Just milk.)

This whole time, David hadn’t ordered anything. After about ten minutes, a woman approached me and said, “Hey, since you can talk to him – will you ask if I can buy him lunch?” He ordered a number 9 combo, and thanked the woman, who wished him a merry Christmas. By the time his food was ready, his brother had arrived, and the two of them sat down for a few minutes to eat. I eavesdropped while David told an elaborate pantomime about deer hunting. He was a very funny storyteller.

They left after a few minutes, and I finally started eating. By the time I was almost done, David came running back in, got my attention, and asked, “What’s your name? I forgot.”

“My name’s Rachel,” I signed.

“Merry Christmas!” he signed. Then he turned to the manager and said out loud, “Merry Christmas!” while signing it. His speaking voice wasn’t great, so the manager looked at me for a hint.

“Same to you,” I said (and signed). “Merry Christmas!” The manager figured it out and repeated the sentiment. Then David bounced happily out the door, and I finished my meal. I took a pit stop at the restroom, then came out and asked the manager for a water cup.

“That was really nice of you to talk to him,” said the manager as he handed me the cup.

All of the awkward came back, and I didn’t know what to say. “He started it,” I blurted out like a guilty six-year-old, then realizing that didn’t make any sense, I muttered, “Thanks,” and went to fill my water cup. Then I headed out to the car and just sat there for a while, thinking about what the manager had said. Why wouldn’t I have talked to him, I wondered?

Well, if I didn’t know sign. That would’ve made things difficult. So I guess there was that. I was probably the only person in the store who knew ASL. And then it occurred to me that David came and talked to me because I was noticeably pregnant. I was the only in the store who fit that criteria. And that woman wouldn’t have been able to offer to buy him lunch if she hadn’t seen me signing. And then I realized that most people didn’t have any experience carrying on a conversation that had absolutely no rhyme or reason. I might have been the only person in the whole store who had the skill (?) to start a conversation with the price of Corn Chex.

“God,” I said (to God), “Thanks for that. I mean… I’m awkward. But apparently, there are some other awkward people out there and I can still brighten their day.” It made me feel good to know that even when I’m feeling useless and weird, God still knows I want to help. And He can send somebody to help me, too – maybe someone who fits in about as well as I do.

Merry Christmas! ♥



For those of you who missed my posts (I flatter myself), I apologize. I literally dusted off my laptop today and checked my blog for the first time in weeks. Basically, what happened is, everybody died.

Well, maybe not died. But it’s been a rough couple of weeks. My doctor told me last month that pregnant women have very weak immune systems – I’m about as susceptible to the flu as an 80-year-old. That’s not good. (I got a flu shot.)

About 3 weeks ago, while preparing to move to a new apartment, I came down with a cold. Not one of those “sniffly nose” colds, either; it was more of the “feels like somebody shoved a wet octopus up your nose and into your sinuses” variety. Also, I was terrified to take any medication, because every box you buy over the counter tells you to ask a doctor before you breathe if you’re pregnant or nursing. So, while Ethan went student teaching during the day, I stayed in bed and blew my nose. By the time our contract at the new apartment began, we had almost started packing.


Fortunately, we had paid through the end of November at the old apartment, and we had several weeks for the moving process. In the evenings, we slowly started packing and moving what we could spare. Between my stuffy face and my pregnant brain/body, I wasn’t much help – but between us and a few friends, we managed to get the bed and some necessities over to the new apartment and moved ourselves in, if not everything we owned. A few days later, we managed to get the rest of it all into the new apartment, cleaned the old place, and turned in our key. We were living from boxes, but we were all in one place.

By this point, the octopus had moved from my sinuses into my throat and upper chest, and I had developed a smoker’s cough. Lovely.

I was also spectacularly bored. Those of you who know me are well aware that most of the stupid things I do happen when I’m bored.* Ethan kept telling me I wasn’t allowed to move anything, because I was nearly 8 months pregnant, and we didn’t want me to go into early labor. Or hurt myself. Naturally, I got bored, disregarded his advice, and moved in some of the books. A book doesn’t weigh that much, I reasoned. Of course, a whole box of books does – and I ended up tweaking** a muscle between my ribs.

bad decision

This hurt for a couple of days, especially when combined with the hacking cough I had developed. Adding to my general health complications, an 8-month-old fetus leaves very little room for a bladder. That means that every time my hacking cough started, I went running for the bathroom. Few things hold as little dignity as sitting on the toilet with your pants around your ankles, coughing, peeing, clutching your side, and groaning all at the same time.

After a few days, the rib was starting to heal, and life was starting to get bearable again. My family came down to help us unpack (thanks, guys!) and we made some serious headway on the home front. Then I had a particularly bad coughing fit. After a spectacular cough, I felt something in my wounded side expand like a little balloon, then pop. A whole new wave of pain came, and stayed for the next few days.

At this point, I asked for a priesthood blessing – which brought some relief, especially by mentioning specifically that I would heal, and that the baby would be fine. I should also note that while my body was being shot to pieces, the baby was getting increasingly wiggly. This was good; it meant I wasn’t worried about him.

I slept on my left side for another week, while my right side started to mend, and the cough slowly abated. I made a breakthrough a few days ago, when I realized I could laugh or cough without any significant pain. Hooray!

Then a few days ago, Ethan called me on the way to student teaching. He had pulled over somewhere in Draper to throw up by the side of the road, and he needed me to contact his professor to let her know why he wouldn’t be at the elementary school. Having done this, I crawled back into bed (on my left side) to wait and pray he made it home alright. A long while later, he managed to drive himself home, and spent the next 32 hours bonding with the toilet.

diarrhea since easters

After much dysfunction and misery, I am happy to report that Ethan’s intestines have forgiven him whatever sin he committed, and my chest and sinuses are almost back to normal. I can now lie down on my right side for upwards of 10 minutes at a time, if I get the angle just right. And my head has cleared enough for me to do some writing/editing, if I feel so inclined.

I might not have any work to do for a while, though. My boss called today. He’s been sick all week. ♦

*This is closely followed by the category “Stupid Things I Do For a Cheeseburger.”
**Pulling? Tearing? I did something, and my muscle was not happy about it.

Motivation Has a New Name: Eggo

Last night, I was craving tater tots so much I would have killed a potato to get them…. if I thought I had a clue how to make them. Instead, I went to Wal-Mart late last night and wandered the frozen breakfast foods, debating whether it was a wise decision to buy the 5-pound bag. It was cheaper per ounce, after all. And I was so sure I could eat that many. Maybe at one go.

Instead, I made a responsible, adult decision. I decided to spend the extra 3-pounds-of-tater-tots money on a box of Eggo waffles and some breakfast sausages. Just look at those waffles, said my brain. They need a warm, welcoming home.

This morning, my husband and I woke up at 6 and started getting ready for the day. I poured him some cereal, then realized the Wal-Mart waffle box was in the laundry room freezer. I thought for a moment, considering the options. I could stay inside, warm and snug, or I could brave the cold to get to the laundry room next door.

Some things are worth the cold. I put on some pants and a hoodie, braced myself, and ran out the door.* I shivered my way to the freezer, shivered in front of the freezer, shivered my way back. But I had waffles! Beautiful, golden, toastable waffles! Oh, the joy. They were delicious. ♦

*When I say “run,” I actually mean that I meant to run. And then my body said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but you’ve got a growing baby in here and very little energy. No.” So substitute “run” here with “shuffled slowly while pumping my arms.”

I Laughed, I Cried, I Threw Up a Plate of Nachos…

Pregnancy does funny things to a woman’s hormones (which are a little skiwampus even on their own).

For example, last night I ate some delicious nachos and watched a movie with friends. After the friends left, I started crying because I was worried about something. I don’t even remember what it was. Ethan consoled me, talked it out with me, then started acting goofy just to make me laugh.

I laughed hysterically until tears started coming out of my eyes and my throat hurt. Then I started sobbing hysterically instead of crying. Not because I was sad, mind you. These were sobs of hilarity…somehow. After laughing myself to tears, and then sobbing myself sick, I went into the bathroom and threw up.

My poor husband must be so confused. ♦


Cravings are well-known to be related to pregnancy, but let’s not forget that food cravings happen fairly frequently to “normal” people as well. Most of the women I know have encountered menstrual cravings (chocolate comes to mind). And cravings usually make sense. If your body needs a certain ingredient (or is addicted to, and thinks it needs, a certain ingredient), you’ll start craving a food that contains that ingredient. For example, women on their period – and therefore losing iron – will often crave chocolate or red meat, which contain iron. Athletes might crave salty or sugary drinks, because they’ve been sweating a lot.

Back before I was pregnant (which seems like eons ago now, despite the fact that it was only a few months),when I was particularly active and my body was working hard, I would crave mustard. Just regular old yellow mustard. These cravings were especially strong while I was a missionary, because I was making hard demands on my body all day long. I kept hot dogs in the fridge, and often just cut one up into a small bowl of mustard to get my mustard fix. There was one occasion when I ran out of time or hot dogs, and just snuck a spoonful when my companion wasn’t looking.


That was the point when I decided I needed help. I had to figure out what ingredient I was looking for in this mustard – because I just couldn’t go on any more as a closet mustard-eater. I started checking out the ingredients list, which was basically just mustard seed, salt, water, and vinegar. When the cravings came back, I started trying other foods with salt in them. Didn’t work. So I moved to vinegar. Lo and behold, my cravings were easily shifted to dill pickles or chips and salsa! And both of these foods looked far saner than eating a spoonful of mustard every night before bedtime.

Ethan and I have tried to satisfy my pregnant cravings using this same technique: whatever I’m craving, we’ll break it down. Is it sweet? Salty? Tangy? Bitter? What exactly is the ingredient that I’m craving? The trouble is, rational thought was a lot easier when I was only sharing my brain with one body. Now that most of my being is consumed in creating another living thing, apparently the little part of my brain labeled “Thinking Cortex” is just out to lunch. A very specific lunch.

I’ll start feeling faint, and realize I need to eat. (More often than not, I’ll start acting stupid, and Ethan will tell me I need to eat.) Ethan asks what I can eat. I don’t know. “Do you want something sweet?” Umm. “Salty?” Umm… no? “How about…

“Chicken nuggets.” Aha! My brain did a thing! Somebody up there in the Thinking Cortex finally woke up and decided to do their job! I’m so proud of myself.


“We don’t have any chicken nuggets,” Ethan will say.

I’m completely stupefied. What do you mean, we don’t have chicken nuggets? But that’s what I can eat! Why don’t we just go buy some right now?

But Ethan has other, saner ideas. “Well, you probably need protein. Would you like some beans, or something with hamburger in it?” Ethan starts listing off all meat- or chicken-based foods we have. “What category are we looking at here?”

At this point, my brain is done compromising. The game of Jeopardy inside my brain that normally has things like “Foods That Contain Vinegar” and “Quick Sources of Iron” now has five categories across the screen that say things like “Nuggets That Are Chicken” and “Small Chicken Pieces, Battered and Fried.” Chicken nuggets have consumed every category. “Umm, I’ll take ‘Bite-Sized Battered Poultry’ for 400, please, Alex.”

Today, I managed an impressive compromise by eating fried chicken wings instead of chicken nuggets. I still consider it a stretch. As this pregnancy progresses, we may develop a few patterns, based on the foods I most frequently crave. Chocolate milk is one: we now have instant breakfast mix in the pantry, two gallons of milk in the fridge, and four (4) bars of Lindt chocolate in the fridge that Ethan pounced on in the clearance aisle. We might have to stock up on chicken nuggets, but we’re not really convinced yet that this is going to be a consistent thing. So far, I haven’t once considered pickles and ice cream. I’m thinking this is still a good sign. ♦

The Jolly Rancher Miracle

You guys!

Hard candy helps with morning sickness.

I found this out by trying some “Preggie Pop Drops” my (also pregnant) cousin gave me. And I ate some. And all of a sudden, I was like, “Hmm. I’m not nearly as queasy anymore. I like this feeling.”

Needless to say, I went through them in about a day. So I asked my mom to buy me some more…

And I’ve made a pretty sizeable dent in those, too.

Then I took a good, hard look at the list of ingredients. These things are basically just your average hard candy. They’re all natural – so if you want to make sure you’re eating real cane sugar and essential oils instead of modified corn stuff and artificial flavoring, by all means, go buy some. But for me and Ethan, this meant that we had a much cheaper option at the local grocery store:
Jolly Ranchers!

I have no idea who named Jolly Ranchers, or why said rancher is in such a good mood, but these things were more valuable than hard currency when I was in elementary school. A watermelon Jolly Rancher was worth its own weight in gold.

So I’ve been spending the morning (and some of the afternoon, for that matter) playing Sonic the Hedgehog and alternating real food (like peanut butter sandwiches and Cheerios) with small handfuls of Jolly Ranchers.

It’s the greatest day. ♥

What To Expect When You’re Expecting

I’m pregnant!

One of the reasons I haven’t updated this blog very regularly is, frankly, I didn’t want to include any information that implied that I was expecting. It’s not that I’m not excited (because I am. So is my husband.) It’s just that, if anything went wrong early on and I ended up miscarrying, I didn’t want to have happy well-wishers telling me congratulations all the time while I was dealing with a personal trauma.

But, having seen the doctor, everything seems to be going well, I’m nearly 10 weeks along, and it looks like we’ve got a cute little baby cinnamon bear hitching a ride in my abdomen. I’m likely going to survive the first trimester – which is nothing short of a miracle, really. Especially when you consider that my husband might also survive – and still seems happy to be living with me. This is one of my favorite qualities about Ethan: his ability to tackle perilous situations head-on, and still laugh through it.

One example of a perilous situation: the refrigerator. Prior to pregnancy, I was hoping to lose weight. Now I’m packing as much instant breakfast mix into my milk as I can dissolve, in vain hopes of getting some calories into my body. It’s not that I’m craving certain foods – it’s that I’m craving no foods. There are no foods right now that sound good. There are one or two I can handle without gagging. Last night, I opened the fridge to get a yogurt (holding my breath so I didn’t have to smell anything), and ended up fighting the urge to vomit because I had seen food that wasn’t yogurt. Egad.

Emotional imbalance is another peril that Ethan faces on a regular basis. (My imbalance, that is.) While we were at the doctor’s on Friday, we were filling out paperwork in the waiting room, which was very happily decorated with pictures of babies and with lots of toys for the multitude of small children in the waiting room with their expectant mothers. There were no smells. The staff was very kind. It was air-conditioned. It was absolutely perfect, until I tried to do paperwork.

I have discovered that there are certain times during pregnancy when a woman’s brain simply shuts down, with no warning signs whatsoever. I develop a vacant, cow-ish look, and fail to recognize any input. Often, I manage to answer a yes/no question, and forget to stop shaking or nodding my head. At any rate, my brain failed right about the point where the receptionist gave me some paperwork and asked me to sit down. Ethan and I sat on a bench, where we could fill out forms and watch Mulan, which was playing for the kids in the waiting room.

I stared down at the form, trying to get my brain to work. There are only about six blanks here, I thought to myself. Come on, Rachel. You can do this. After hovering my pen over one question for about two or three minutes, Ethan looked over at me and said, “Would you like me to fill those out?”

“No, I’ve got it,” I said. “What’s today’s date?”

“The 13th,” he said. “Your birthday was yesterday, remember?”

“Oh, yeah,” I said, filling in the date slowly, thinking hard about the year. Then I hovered over the question that read, “Date of Birth,” stumped again.

Ethan gently took the paperwork from me as I got distracted by Mulan, and began to weep openly. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I’m hungry, and I don’t want to eat anything, and I’m so tired, and I can’t fill out this paperwork, and I can’t watch Mulan anymore!”

“What’s wrong with Mulan?”

“She’s so sad! Look at her! She’s a disgrace to her family, and her father’s going to die in a war, and her reflection doesn’t show who she is inside!” I sobbed. I just couldn’t handle it. I was totally losing it in the waiting room.

Ethan put his arm around me. “I really love how empathetic you are,” he laughed. “Do you want to lay your head on my shoulder?”

“No!” I said, and stubbornly sat there, watching Mulan. Then I put my head on his shoulder, and he pulled some grapes out of my purse for me to eat.

Thus far, I’ve come to conclude that pregnancy makes a woman emotionally five years old. I really hope my five-year-old stomach (and the gummy bear inside) gets a little less picky sometime soon. In the meantime, I’m drinking instant breakfast, eating yogurt and bagels, and avoiding any and all Disney movies. I don’t even want to talk about how hard I cried watching Lilo and Stitch. ♥