Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Eric was raised on a farm near Urbana, Iowa: population 1,391.
Before moving to Brasil, we lived in the big city of Burlington, Iowa: population 25,549.
To say the least, we were used to running into people we know anytime we were out and about around town.
The greater Belo Horizonte area has roughly 5 million inhabitants.
So lately we've become rather used to going out and never seeing another soul that we recognize. Granted, we occasionally make a random connection with someone who knows someone we know, but for the most part we run around pretty anonymous.
So you can imagine our surprise when we're walking through the supermarket on Saturday afternoon and someone walks up to me and asks, in English, "Are you Emily?"
Several weeks ago, one of my friends and former coworker from Iowa emailed me to say that she had an old classmate who had just married a Brasilian guy and was going to be moving to BH in March. Subsequently, I exchanged a few messages on Facebook with the Iweegan-turned-soon-to-be-BH-resident.
This random person in the supermarket? The girl from Iowa and her husband! She had just gotten into town the previous day. We hugged, introduced the husbands, and then stood around chitchatting for several minutes.
On her Facebook page a couple weeks ago, I noticed her awesome engagement pictures and recognized that they were taken in/around BH. I had asked her for her photographer's name, as I had been trying to find someone to take maternity shots. As it turns out, the photographer is a friend of her husband's.
Anyway, we get on the subject of the photographer and I mentioned that we were hoping to go out to a local fazenda/park for some of the photos. Her husband casually mentioned what a beautiful place it was and said that his brother-in-law is in charge of the gardens out there. Eric and I quickly exchanged glances, because shortly after arriving in Brasil, we went out to this fazenda/park and ending up meeting a guy who did something with the landscaping there. The guy went on to explain that his brother-in-law was Italian. And wouldn't you know it . . . yep, that's the guy Eric and I met.
So, I met my Iowa friend's classmate's husband's brother-in-law and then a year later I meet my friend's classmate on her first day in Brasil while grocery shopping.
Oh, and in this big sprawling city - they are living like 5 blocks from us. (And no, the grocery store we were at is not particularly near our neighborhood.)
Turns out my mama might have been right! She always warned me to behave myself at all times because you never know when you're going to run into somebody who goes to church with your grandma. And like the good, obedient, teenager that I was, I always heeded her advice. (What is that choking sound I hear? Dad? Seriously, get yourself a drink of water!) I sort of believed it when I was living in Portal . . . but seriously, in Belo Horizonte, Brasil!?! Turns out maybe the whole six degrees of separation theory really does hold true.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Most baby's are born between 38 and 42 weeks (with the "due date" being 40 weeks). We're hoping for sooner rather than later around here these days. While I've had an extremely easy, totally healthy, couldn't-ask-for-any-better pregnancy, I'm definitely hitting the "I'm tired of being pregnant" phase.
I would like to be able to walk up a slight incline without sounding like I just ran a marathon. I would like to be able to tie my shoes and breath at the same time. I would like to be able to roll over in bed without having to count to three, take a deep breath, and sling my belly over. I would like to be able to stand at my gas stove without the fear of catching my shirt on fire as I reach for the pot on the back burner. I would like to be able to have sushi with a glass of wine.
And I'm also sort of interested in meeting this little being who has spent the last 9 months using my internal organs as her punching bag.
Eric and I spent most of this weekend finishing up a few final preparations for Z Baby. We made a stock-up trip to the supermarket, installed the car seat base in the backseat of the Punto, finished packing the hospital bags, and completed the loading up of the freezer with some good home-cooking. That last part was the best as we now have a freezer full of bagels (whole wheat and honey oat), Belgium waffles, whole wheat flour tortillas, chili, vegetable chicken soup, lasagna, and lean ground pork sausage (spicy sage sausage and chorizo). And in addition to all the homemade goodies, we bought a bunch of frozen fruit pulp since I can't seem get enough of my fruit smoothies these days.
We pretty much have no space left in our freezer for anything else now, but that also means I can't have any ice cream around the house . . . and to be completely honest, it's really probably safer that way.
I started having light contractions last week and this weekend they started coming more frequently and getting stronger. It excites me that Z Baby is finally going to be making her big entrance into the world - but I'm also trying to remind myself that it could be another 4 weeks.
Patience: really not my thing these days. But I'm trying.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Copa Airlines (www.copaair.com) has some great prices right now - although we have no idea how long they'll last!
Roundtrip between Orlando and Belo Horizonte (with a quick layover in Panama City, Panama): US$660 including taxes and fees! (On American Airlines from Miami to BH, you're looking at more like $1,200!)
Using Travelocity, we found flights on select days of the week between Chicago and Belo Horizonte (with layovers in Houston and Panama) for US$742.
We found similar deals to Rio too.
These prices are well below anything we've ever seen. So if you were wanting to make a trip to Brasil, now might be the time to get something booked!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Back in November 2007, shortly after our arrival here, we set out on a mission to find a nativity scene. We were certain Brasil would be just the place to find a great handmade set. And well over a year later, after searching through two Christmas seasons, we hadn't found anything we liked. Everything was either too brightly painted, or too plain, or too small, or didn't have enough detail.
And then on Saturday, we walked into a small shop next to the Basílica in Congonhas and guess what I saw . . .
It was pretty much exactly what we were looking for. The clay-formed pieces have some size to them (the men are between 10-12" tall), and they are minimally painted with a neutral color and just a few gold accents here and there. And maybe the best part: we bought the entire set for R$130 (less than US$60)!
Monday, March 23, 2009
But we both were drawn to the idea of getting out of BH for the weekend. So after a little research on Friday, I decided we should go to Congonhas on Saturday and then spend the night at a pousada/fazenda out in the country.
Congonhas is a small town just about a 45 minute drive from us. And while we pass it each time we go to Rio, we've never stopped and explored. There really isn't a whole lot to see there, with the exception of the Basílica do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. It is one of the many, many churches in our state designed by Aleijadinho, but is one of his most famous pieces of work because of The Prophets out front. He sculpted 12 Old Testament prophets from soapstone between 1800 and 1805 and placed them around the front of the church.
(Okay, and actually there is a place called Iglu Sorvette which makes the trip worth it as well, especially if you happen to be pregnant. They serve the biggest, yummiest waffle cone full of your choices of delicious ice cream flavors for a mere R$2.50 (just over US$1)! It could be very, very dangerous if we lived any closer to Congonhas than we do!)
The church sits on top of a steep hill.
Or Jonah and the freaky-looking fish.
From the church, you get a great view of the city and surrounding mountains.
Or my belly blocking the view . . .
Downhill from the church are a series of six small chapels, also designed by Aleijadinho.
Inside each chapel is a scene from Christ's life, portrayed by carved wooden figures.
The place we stayed was situated on top of a mountain peak. The pool was on one side and the chalets/apartments on the other.
We enjoyed a nice, quiet Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning lounging around the pool, eating entirely too much, taking naps, going for strolls around the property, and just generally relaxing. A big storm started rolling in shortly after lunch on Sunday though. And since we had to get down the mountain on a dirt road and then cross a river which is known to flood the tiny little bridge and road leading to it, we decided to head out.
We made if off the mountain and onto pavement just moments before the downpour started!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Anyway, we were once again reminded on Tuesday night that there are some things that just don't change - no matter where you are in the world. Our latest example: little old ladies. They feel quite free to speak their mind and leave no doubts about what they're thinking.
The doorman called us to let us know we had a delivery and Eric went downstairs to get it. There was an older lady from our building down there talking to our doorman. After paying for the pizza, Eric turned to head towards the elevator. He was about to greet the lady and thank the doorman, but before he had the chance the little old lady nodded towards the pizza boxes with a confused look on her face and dramatically shouted out, "Que isso?!?" (What's that?)
Eric told her it was pizza and she asked where he got it from. Indicating towards the name on the box, Eric told her it came from Dominos. She gave him a rather untrusting look, as if he was trying to pull one over on her, and Eric promptly opened up one of the boxes to show her the contents. While peering down at the pizza and scrunching up her face as if totally disgusted, she asked Eric if he actually liked that. He shrugged and told her it was quite good, while she just gave him a disbelieving look. Eric smiled, told her good night, and turned to head towards the elevator. Just before he was out of ear-shot, she muttered something about it being enough food to feed the entire building.
As Eric told me about his encounter with our neighbor, I just giggled. At what point do I get to stop worrying about being polite and just say whatever pops into my mind? Because I make it a real point not to let my disgust show when I see people eating a kabob full of roasted chicken hearts. And despite nearly having a heart attack when a chicken foot (with toenails and everything!) pops up out of the stew as I go to serve myself some frango com quiabo (chicken with okra), I hide my shock for the sake of minding my manners. But at some magic age in the future, I think I'm allowed to just say anything - it's like some sort of reward to little old ladies for being so prim and proper during the earlier years of their life. It really seems like a good reason not to moan about the increasing number of little wrinkles around my eyes . . . I just need to think of it as being one step closer to the benefits of little-old-lady-hood.
And who knew pepperoni pizza could be so repulsive, anyway?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Somebody apparently liked giving me a mohawk!
And older still (Emily above, Eric below)
And another thing we hadn't really thought about yet regarding this whole becoming a parent thing: Is it inevitable that our children will laugh at our hair, clothes, glasses, etc. every time they see a picture of us from around the time they were born?
(Emily and Dad T above, Eric and Dad Z below)
Monday, March 16, 2009
We woke up to gorgeous clear skies on Saturday morning, so we got up and made our way over to the clube to enjoy some pool time. A bit later, we headed over to a friend's house for an awesome lunch of American-style lasagna, salad, and garlic bread to be topped off with an ice cream cake for dessert. And then we left there to catch a rugby game that afternoon.
We had no idea Belo Horizonte even had a rugby team, but I somehow ended up with an email from some unknown individual in my inbox with a general invitation to attend a game between the local team and a team from São Paulo. Turns out the team has been around for a long time and has quite the local following. http://www.bhrugby.com.br/ And in case you're wondering, it's rúgbi here (pronounced HOOG-bee).
Eric and I really know very little about rugby, except that I think they need to be wearing a lot more protective equipment. But it was really fun to go out and watch, even though our team lost.
While I've taken a bit of a hiatus from the BH softball team, Eric has continued to go out and practice with them on Sundays when he can. The last couple weeks, they moved the three-hour practice from the middle of the afternoon to first thing in the morning. And being summertime and dadgum hot these days, there's been a much better turnout with the change in practice time!
Yesterday afternoon, the coach and his wife hosted a cookout/pool party for the team. The grilled beef, pork, chicken, and chicken hearts were quite typical of a Brasilian cookout, but some of the side dishes had a distinctively Japanese twist. (Our coach and his wife are originally from Japan and she is an awesome cook.) And it was soooo good!!! Soy farofa, Asian salad, Japanese rice, eggplant and spicy peppers in soy sauce . . . mmmmmmm
Sitting on the ground for three hours without a bit of shade hasn't sounded like a ton of fun to me, so I have been staying home when Eric has gone to practice. And so I hadn't seen anyone from the team since I last practiced with them, back in November. They were all having fits over my new figure and there was lots of belly rubbing going on. And at one point, I think I got compared to the huge watermelon before it was cut up. One of the guys was happy to put his arm around my shoulders though and tell everyone he didn't know what all the fuss was about since his belly was still bigger than mine. hehehe
It was a fun weekend and helped reassure my husband that I do still have some interest in something other than cute cloth-diaper covers, little baby shoes, and itty-bitty Brasilian baby bikinis. (I do think he was starting to wonder . . .)
Friday, March 13, 2009
Our 29-week ultrasound estimated her at 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) and her length to be 38 cm (15 in).
Yesterday we had another ultrasound and she came in at 2.37 kg (5.2 lbs - the 45th percentile for her age) and 46 cm (18 in). She has almost caught up to her Daddy's birth weight, 5 lbs 11 1/2 oz, but still has a way to go before she catches her ol' Mamãe, 8 lbs 11 oz.
But might I add that staying closer to Eric's birth weight would suit me just fine? I've been counting on it, actually. You see, I come from a family of 4 children. At over 8 1/2 pounds, I was the smallest. Two of the others were 9+ lb babies and my middle brother was right at 10 lbs. (And bless my Mama's heart, she delivered all of us naturally using good ol' Lamaze!) Sometime shortly after high school, I started judging men much like you do bulls: low birth weight = desirable trait. I'm pretty sure I did wait until like the third date or something before I inquired as to Eric's weight at birth though. Fellas that weighed 12 pounds at birth needed not even apply . . . I just couldn't take my chances with those kind of genetics. I mean, I lived on the farm; I'd seen calves get stuck. ;)
Anyhoo, we got an all-around good report from the ultrasound doctor again. I wasn't able to capture any fabulous images from the video of the exam, but here are a couple anyway.
This one leaves Z Baby looking a bit skeleton/alien-like. But, you can see her left fist up to her mouth; she spent most of the exam with both hands against her mouth as she sucked away at her fingers.
Besides her multi-times-per-day-hiccups that keep my belly bouncing around, she gets extra wound up when we play music for her - especially anything with a Samba beat. And she'll kick me nice and hard whenever Eric asks her to. (I thought I had a little more time before those two started ganging up on me, but apparently I was mistaken!)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Well, we could. I'd just rather not. There's nothing like being 35 weeks prego and re-starting the search for an obstetrician!
The very first doctor we went to see was not a good fit for us. The minute we sat down with her she started talking about when I could schedule my c-section and at the end of the appointment she instructed me to not eat - that I had plenty of extra weight on me as it was and I didn't need to gain anymore with pregnancy - so, naturally, I should stop eating. (Not uncommon advice apparently as my friend (who is quite active, in shape, and not at all overweight) down in Rio received a similar suggestion of meal skipping from her first doctor.)
So when we went to visit the second doctor, we went in with a nice long list of concerns and our preferences regarding labor and birth. From the very beginning, we've wanted a very natural,
drug-free, knife-free birth (so long as the pregnancy was healthy and all that, of course.) The first consultation we discussed our very specific wishes at length with the doctor and she assured us that she had no problem with any of it and even suggested her preferred hospital for our birth. It seemed quite perfect.
During our consultation with the doula we want to use, she encouraged us to really talk frankly with our doctor and make sure we're on the same page. We assured the doula that we had spoken with our doctor at length about our desires and she was on board. We were then warned that "she might say now that she won't do a routine episiotomy, but when it comes right down to it, the episiotomy rate for most doctors here is seriously like 99%."
So last Monday we took a copy of our birth preferences/birth plan to our doctor. I had worked really hard to get it all written out in proper Portuguese (given that our doctor doesn't speak English and probably none of the hospital staff will either.)
As she started reading, her eyes got big. Now please note that none of this should have been new. This was all stuff we had told her we wanted all along. And all along she would tell us there was no problem, she loved natural births.
And then she started in on why our wishes were impossible:
- Did you know that 99% of women require an episiotomy? That our bodies won't allow a baby to born unless we're cut? (Silly me, I thought that my body was designed for childbirth! And she just gave me a blank stare when I told her the things I've been doing to help avoid needing an episiotomy - I'm pretty sure she'd never even heard of such things.)
- The hospital she so emphatically suggested when we told her what we were looking for? Hmmm, now she says that me wanting to be free to move around during labor is impossible there - I'd have to stay in a bed. (But I can lie on my left side if I don't want to be on my back. Oh goody, now there's an exceptional set of options!)
- Not wanting an epidural? Oh, well, that's okay with her. She'll just give me a series of locals to numb me up real good. What?!? I don't want to be numb? But, that will hurt!
- I don't want my membranes to be artificially ruptured or Pitocin routinely given. Unless there is some medical reason to speed things up, I want things to progress on their own. But, but, but, you could be in labor over 10 hours! (Well, yes, this is my first child. I fully expect to be in labor much longer than that!)
- Eric with me at all times? Well, probably there won't be any room for him in the pre-birth area where I'd be laboring. But he can certainly come into the operating room to watch the birth. And oh, yeah, by the way, all births must happen in the operating room.
I swear, for a moment there I thought I was planning a birth in 1962. I knew before getting pregnant that Brasil has a really high elective c-section rate (as high as 90% in some private hospitals) and that "normal" births tend to be very medicalized and with tons of routine interventions. But, I was encouraged when I found a group in BH that is promoting and trying to educate women and doctors on more natural alternatives. And I really thought I'd found a doctor who was on the same page! (And it should be noted that I have no issues with epidurals, enemas, episiotomies, and the sort, if that's what you want or if it's medically necessary. But I also believe that my body was designed for birthing-babies and I personally don't want needles and scalpels unless a problem arises! Childbirth just really doesn't scare me. *I'll get back to you in April regarding whether or not I should have been afraid. hehehe)
Anyway, our doctor went on for at least 20 minutes explaining why she couldn't help us with the birth we wanted. Nevermind Eric and I had talked to her about each of these points specifically in the past and were always told that it was no problem at all! (I hate to generalize, but this has really been the typical experience for us in dealing with people here. No one will ever tell us that they can't do something. The answer is always "yes" until it comes right down to the wire or you really push for honesty. Just one example: after our crib hadn't been delivered within the 30 days we were promised, we called. Turns out they were expecting the shipment that day! (They said.) The next two times we called we were assured it would be delivered "tomorrow". A few weeks later, we had our crib.)
In the end, after seeing everything in writing (and I guess finally deciding that we were serious), our doctor told us if this is what we want, then we really should find a different doctor. Lovely.
So we got a referral to a couple doctors that our doula routinely works with, and we've got appointments to meet them. Over the weekend we went around visiting several different hospitals and the lone birth center in town. (The birth center is by far our first choice now, but they only have 5 rooms and they stay pretty full, so we're going to need a back-up plan.)
And so therein lies our current quandary.
Sort of related: I dreamed last night that I was giving birth squatting in the corner of a thatched-roof hut somewhere deep in the jungle with a medicine woman and surrounded by an array of monkeys, mosquitos, and malaria. It was kind of a nice dream. But then again, I've always really liked monkeys.
Friday, March 6, 2009
The last seven weeks I've gone from not hardly even noticeably prego to HELLO BABY!
The good news? My belly button is still an inie. And nary a stretch mark thank-you-very-much-deep-moisturizing-lotions! (and good genetics?) And hey, look . . . I can still button my pre-prego jeans. And that last one makes for very happy Brasilian doctors. (We met our pediatrician earlier this week and she excitedly commented that I wasn't all fat all over - all my weight was in my belly. And that is like the ultimate compliment from a doctor down here. hehehehe)
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
We made the leap into the world of domestic help today. It has taken nearly 17 months, but I have finally decided not to be the only person in my entire neighborhood without some help around the house. Nothing too drastic mind you, just a faxineira (cleaning lady), but still.
I was worried that it would be weird having someone in my house. Especially someone who is cleaning my toilets, scrubbing my floors, and ironing my clothes. And you know what? It is kind of strange.
But as I sit at my computer sipping a pineapple-banana smoothie taking in the wonderful aroma of various cleaning products being used without my elbow grease, well, I think that maybe, just maybe, I can get used to it. After all, I've always had a bit of an affection for weird and strange.
Updated at 5:52 pm -
After being here since 9:30, my new favorite person just left the premises. All that remains now is me and sparkling windows, incredibly fresh smelling bathrooms, a sliding glass door to my shower that's so NOT covered in water spots that I almost walked right into it when I went to get a shower earlier, floors that no longer turn my feet black when I walk on them, dust free counters and surfaces, a promise to do all my ironing when she comes back on Friday (those windows took up a bit of time today, you know, since I haven't gotten around to cleaning them since (oh my goodness, am I really about to admit this) um, August). . .
and all she took with her was US$25.
Good grief, would someone please tell me why we didn't do this months ago?!?
Monday, March 2, 2009
My dedication to the no-bathroom-breaks-in-stadiums rule applied even more so at the Sambódromo last week. Which means I carefully made sure to only ingest as many fluids as I was sweating out, thereby removing the necessity for bathroom breaks. (Hey, I know, not the healthiest option out there, but judging by the massive crowds, I was seriously afraid to go into the restroom there . . .)
Growing up with 3 brothers and now having a husband, I am quick to admit that on more than one occasion I have been jealous of their ability to answer the call of nature pretty much anywhere and without the need to condition their thigh muscles first. And I confess that a twinge of jealousy did come over me as we left the Sambódromo at 5:00 am and Eric made a quick restroom stop. Despite sweating plenty, it had been like 10 hours since I had been near a clean restroom and that's a heck of a long time for this prego - especially after enduring several hours of a four-pound fetus samba dancing on your bladder!
So imagine my disappointment when I was unpacking on Thursday last week and I discovered one of the many "goodies" I had been unknowingly handed as I entered the Sambódromo:
(back of package)
Along with several condoms (yes, seriously, they handed everyone entering the place 4 condoms . . . now, first off, that doesn't help to change the tourists' image of Carnaval/Brasil . . . and further more, something about me being, oh, 8 months pregnant and being there with my husband makes me believe that maybe, just maybe, I was't the most ideal recipient of their safe-sex campaign handouts . . . but I digress), I was handed three of these babies. Without even looking at what they gave me, I threw the three small packages in our bag along with all the other fun handouts of the evening.
Now, if you will notice the bottom right of the back of the package (as pictured above), you might observe that there is a diagram of a woman standing in front of the toilet as she relieves herself. Oh yes, my friends, I had been given the gift of standing to pee! And I didn't even know it!!!
Of course, this being the first time I had ever been exposed to this concept, I quickly opened up a package to further inspect this little contraption.
And then it took me at least 10 minutes to stop giggling. My mind started going in all kinds of directions (like: I wonder if the women's restroom had a trough ahahahahaha; and, what would I have thought if I had gone into the restroom without the knowledge of this little device and seen high heels in the stall next to me turned the wrong way, facing the toilet? hehehehehe) Oh, I'm just never too old for a little potty humor.
But I am still rather disappointed that I didn't know about this until three days later. Of course, I really doubt I would have been able to bring myself to try using it - something about it just screams "accident-waiting-to-happen", or to me at least. But still, it is rather tempting to throw one of the unopened packages into my purse, you know, just in case. And furthermore, despite my reluctance to embrace such technology, kudos to the genius who is trying to rid us ladies of our hoovering-necessities!
(Fellow Brasil-Blogger and friend over at Daily Rio Life also had a bit to say about this and much more on the xixi topic. And just for the record, my lab (oh thank goodness!) does things a bit differently than hers! hehehe)