The cuna: some assembly required

Today I decided to pull the new cuna out of the box and put it together, so we could see how far we would have to move the bed, and also to let the thing start airing out. I hate that “new plastic stuff” smell (one of several reasons I would never, ever buy a new car– in my mind it’s a bonus to get it without that new car smell), and I can’t imagine a baby would appreciate it any more than I do.

So my husband helped me disentangle it from the box. It comes neatly packaged in its own little nylon zipper bag, so we peeled that off, unstrapped it, clicked the bottom into place, and then…  things got weird. The top rails are supposed to pull up and click straight, right? They wouldn’t do it. I knew they weren’t defective, because it worked in the store. I tried everything. I squeezed the latches while pulling up on the side bars. I turned the whole unit on its side, and then upside-down, trying to get those rails to click into place. No luck. They just wouldn’t go. Every now and then I’d get a little clicky noise and think I had it, but the rail would sag back down. This went on for a couple of hours: I’d try a few things, take a break, come back, fuss with it some more– all to no avail.

Finally, I looked up “playard assembly” on the internet, and found this YouTube video, which isn’t even for the same model. And in under a minute, I learned the key to getting the rails straight: do the rails first, THEN lock the bottom braces in place. Any other order and it won’t work.

Once again, the internet saves the day!

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The perks of being huge, and nursing in public

Now that I  look unambiguously pregnant, I find there are some perks to living in a somewhat-less-modern country.  People wave me into the fast checkout line at the supermercado, even if I obviously have more than five items in my basket, and defer to me in crowded aisles. I never have to stand up on the bus any more– gentlemen of a certain age will practically leap out of their seats so I can sit down, even if there are still a couple of empty seats further back. I feel sort of like royalty, just at the point where I am also starting to feel quite awkward with my sore hips and penguin gait.  My feet are not as easy to see as they used to be, and I recently made a false step getting off a bus– I was sure I would land face-first on the pavement. But a gray-haired gent waiting to get on the bus caught my arm and kept me upright.

I’m tempted to claim that chivalry isn’t dead, and I’ve found one of the remaining pockets of it, but…   I don’t think that’s quite it. I’ve seen a lot of complaints from female expats– it seems the local men still feel quite free to catcall women.  Just not billowing pregnant ladies. I guess we’re a special category, along with nursing mothers.

Nursing… that was one thing that really surprised me. I see ladies nursing everywhere– in church, on sidewalk benches, on the buses…  The formula industry seems to have made significant inroads, which is kind of a shame, but I’m so used to “nursing in public” being a political issue back home. In the US it’s rare to see ladies nursing in public at all, and when I did see them, they were always using these big, tentlike cover-ups to keep people from staring at their boobs. It’s not like that here. Not only do ladies nurse everywhere, they don’t cover up or go hide in another room. They just hike up their shirts, use the baby blanket to shield any exposed midriff, and go about their business. And nobody stares or harasses them or acts as if this is anything but boring and ordinary. Which is great!  They also seem to be nursing a much broader age-range of kids– tiny infants all the way up to rather large toddlers.  I think it also explains the curious scarcity of specialty nursing bras and tops; perhaps they’re not needed.

I have a theory on this.  In the US, back in the fifties, we had pretty much a whole generation raised on infant formula– a generation who did not see their mothers nurse their younger siblings, and who pretty much never saw anyone else nursing, either. So it became this warped public obscenity/nudity issue just because people got un-used to it. Meanwhile, here, the tapwater still isn’t safe to drink– and certainly isn’t safe to feed to babies!– so I doubt they’ve ever had the experience of an entire non-breastfed generation. It may still happen– folks here seem determined to take on all the bad habits we care to export (Frosted Flakes, TV crime dramas, elective C-sections, Starbucks…). But it hasn’t happened yet.

I’m just hoping I haven’t soaked up too much of the creepy attitude from back home, and I’ll have the grit to go ahead and nurse my kid like all those other ladies I’ve seen here– without thinking about it, or being self-conscious. I may have to practice the hike-shirt-cover-midriff move at home before I feel confident.

30 Weeks, Using Google Translate for my birth plan

Only ten weeks to go, more or less.  Six weeks until the “holy crap, we could be heading off to the birth center any day now– what should we pack in the bag?” Less time before “maybe we should set up the baby’s bed and let it air out”.

The doctora sent us home with a sheaf of documents to read at my last checkup. They are all in Spanish. I’ve been gradually translating them, so we’ll know what’s expected of us and what we’re signing, and what to put in our birth plan. So far, I’ve only run into a couple of passages I couldn’t work out. For the most part, Google translate is awesome. I’m not really looking forward to lining up a backup hospital, and a backup ambulance service, in case of an emergency transport. But that seems to be part of the deal. Looking at the required supplies/amenities list… I’m actually glad we’re not planning to have the kid at home. Our apartment just isn’t big enough. The guide seems to require that I bring two people with me– my husband for emotional support, and some friend or relative for general practical support. We’ll have to inquire further to see if that’s a requirement or just a suggestion. I just don’t know anyone I could ask…

Just Wow

Still watching my way through the natural childbirth videos on YouTube, with a bias toward the ones where women are not shown lying on their backs. I came across this one today, and it is breathtaking.  Clearly, this is just the final ten minutes of a much longer saga: the baby comes out face-up, and I’ve never heard of that being an easy, short, or comfortable labor. It tends to be many hours of stop-and-go labor with intense back pain. Possibly the baby’s posterior position explains the odd-looking lopsided squat she’s chosen; the benefit to doing it without the drugs is that you’ve got raw animal instinct on your side, and that instinct can do a really good job of telling you the best way to get the baby out.  This lady makes a posterior delivery look almost easy.

In the clear!

I had a prenatal checkup today, and came out feeling like I’d passed a really difficult exam.  My weight is still not back up to September’s benchmark, at 58.5 kg, instead of the 59 kg I was hoping for. But my fundal height is right where it should be, baby sounds good, and I don’t look like a sunken-eyed crack addict any more.  The doctora says everything is fine, and tells me to eat between meals to help me gain weight if that continues to be stalled out. Right now, my little weight gain graph looks so sad. There are the two lines marking out the 90th percentile for each week, and the… 20th(?) percentile for each week. I started out below both lines (morning sickness), zoomed up to being between them (the sweet spot!), then fell almost off the chart, and now I’m back up some, but still below the lower line and trying to claw my way back up into that nice safe space between the lines. I think I will just try not to stress out about it any more. As long as I am not sick, I’m eating well, and my blood sugars are under control, the baby is getting what it needs, even if I am not gaining the ideal amount of weight.

The baby was in a funny mood and decided to be head-down at the appointment. Which means nothing, because I’ve been feeling the kid do flips all week. Sideways is still a favorite, so I get an intense kick on one side followed immediately by the baby’s head bonking into the other side. My guts are a trampoline.

We’re also slated to start attending prenatal classes, which are in Spanish. I’m assured that a fair portion of the classes involve exercises such as different kinds of breathing for labor, so we shouldn’t be completely lost. But my Spanish is definitely not up to par. The doctora says the main benefit to attending the classes is to alleviate fear: that the most important element to having a smooth, uneventful labor and delivery is to not be afraid of it. So I’m mostly set– my books and reading sources have covered this very thoroughly for the most part, and the classes are just reinforcement– with the bonus that I can drag my husband along to the classes, when I can’t make him read the books. We’ll see how it goes.

The 104 Bus

Once again, the maintenance ladies in our building prove to be the nicest people on earth.  About a week ago, my husband passed Sra. G in the hallway, and asked if she knew a good place to look for a “cuna”.  According to the dictionary, everything I could possibly be looking for in the baby bed category translates into “cuna”. Cradle, moses basket, crib, bassinet… they’re all cunas.  If you want to be more specific, you can add “Moises” to the mix to get a moses basket, but I haven’t learned the subtle vocabulary to differentiate the others. Sra. G said she’d get us an address.

A couple of days later, we were starting to wonder if she’d forgotten, when Sr. J knocked on our door. Sra. G hovered behind him, and he explained that if I was free Monday afternoon, she’d take me shopping for a cuna. So we made a date. Today, as promised, she stopped by the apartment, and then she, her sister Sra. M, and I all walked down to the corner, hopped on the 104 bus and rode a long, long way– out of Magdalena, through Jesus Maria… we ended up somewhere in La Victoria, along Avenida Grau, where there was a rather large mercado specializing in baby stuff– strollers, toys, tiny bicycles, high chairs, and cunas of (almost) every description. We dipped in and out of several shops and wound through a couple of mazes crammed with strollers– at the very back of one, there was even a workshop that specialized in repairing stroller wheels– and looked at a bunch of variations on Moses baskets, cribs, playpens, pack-n-plays…

In my head, I thought we could get one of those Moses baskets like we were seeing in Cusco– one that was an actual basket. They seemed lovely and practical. But all I could find here were the modern commercial iteration, made of plastic, with padded sides and a harsh chemical smell. Pretty shoddy construction too. So I gave up on that idea. From what I’ve read, the padded versions are not safe, for the same reason that crib bumpers are not safe– they’re a suffocation hazard.  There were, however, some pack-and-play type options that looked like they might work, so I kept an eye out for those instead. Our apartment has some serious space limitations, so most of them were too big to work. But I finally found one almost narrow enough, and some inquiries produced a still narrower model from a box in the same shop. The proprieter pulled it all out of the box, assembled it, demonstrated how it worked, and Sra. M tried to get 20 soles knocked off the price. In the end, we did get it for 10 soles less than the asking price, but I think she was disappointed not to get that last 10 discount.

Sra. M insisted on carrying the box the couple of blocks back to the bus route. We ended up in a taxi anyway, to get home. And now the last major item is checked off my list! All I need are sheets for this thing…

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