A Pregnant Chronicle

While I was happy that the baby would be born in the least busy time of the year, I did not know what to expect being pregnant for the most busy part of the year. It was very interesting. For instance, though I had a pretty easy time with nausea in comparison to many, I had some episodes during the Fine Arts Summer Academy. 

Like on registration day, when I threw up in the bushes of the courtyard at Lipscomb University, then walked up the steps and proceeded to register students, feeling faint but otherwise fine.

Or sitting in an evening orchestra practice, feeling pretty normal, till it’d wash over me (or up me…🤢, and I would tell the harp student next chair over, “I’ll be back in just a second. I have to go throw up.” I would walk speedily to the bathroom, do my duty, and then return to orchestra practice, feeling fine.

The other surprising sensation was when I’d feel like my body was about to evaporate like Olaf the Snowman unless I ate something RIGHT THEN…and, of course, my figure was far from evaporating. ☃️

The greatest surprise of all, however, was that I developed a hatred for coffee. Me? Yes. I started noticing the great Shadow in the early weeks. I somehow didn’t really want coffee…it just didn’t appeal to me (!). In disbelief, I kept sipping my morning (or noon, or afternoon) cup. Days past as I slowly began to feel a little sick. Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t stand the stuff. It wasn’t just drinking it, it was smelling it. This was extremely inconvenient, as my entire family are big coffee drinkers. Every time I’d visit any one of their houses (which is very often) somebody would be making a Chemex pour over. I would have to bury my face in a sofa pillow until the smell calmed down. 

It got so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t even hear the word mentioned without feeling nauseated. Poor James had to recourse to getting his coffee at one of the copious hipster coffee shops in Hillsboro Village, where we lived. What an inconvenience… 🙃 The most ridiculous moment was the time James and I were driving down the interstate and there was a great semi-truck with COFFEE spread across the side.

“James! Get past that truck. Get past it!”

“Are you serious?”

“YES!!!”

So, in this present state of things, not to mention the involuntary need to sleep at random moments of the day, or the inability to sleep at night because all the dreams of the heaven and the earth decide to rollercoast in your head, we went on a very busy touring season, where we were only home around 6 days in 3 months.

And in that 6 days we also finished filming a music video (link down below👇🏻), where I was tastefully placed behind a bale of hay. 

Then there were the super long car rides and concerts day after day. If you happened to see a whale-ish pregnant woman speed-walking the aisles of random gas stations in the United States, or making walking wheelies around the cars, or doing dorky pregnant exercise videos in dressing rooms and fellowship halls, that was probably me. James was a sport, rubbing my feet on day-long car rides, carrying all my bags and luggage through hotels, churches, theaters, and everywhere, and not letting me have any of his hot chocolates or croissants.

😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡 To infinity and beyond!

Being on the road for 5 months with a no-sugar no-processed-carb diet is not the most fun thing in the world. But, to make up for it, we did get to see some pretty cool places…like Ghost Rock in Utah, where my anemic self got dizzy from the altitude and James and my brothers risked their lives continually. 🤦🏻‍♀️

But nothing could match the sweetness of hearing his heart beating so fast and strong at every prenatal appointment. Or talking over names with my husband (what a magical thing…naming someone!). Envisioning my safe space with my baby, seeing his smile in my mind’s eye. Going to the ultrasound and seeing him swim. Wondering what personality is in that perfect little head. Feeling him kicking with excitement when I played the piano and harp on stage every night. 

Having the best hair and skin ever…🙌🏻

And then there was that time James and I decided to go to NYC, in November, while I was 8 months pregnant and deep into the waddling phase. But that’s for another post. 👩🏻‍💻

 

 

Birds, Bees, & Babies

Gabriel Elijah on Mother's Day 2017

 

It was Mother’s Day morning, the morning I took the test. I knew it was too early, but I wanted to know just in case I was actually a mama on Mother’s Day. I set the test on the counter in our tiny studio apartment’s closet/bathroom. A quick glance told me negative. I sighed, steeling myself to the result, and started brushing my teeth. 

I spat the toothpaste into the sink, put the toothbrush back in the holder, and started to walk quickly out of the vicinity of the test. But it called to me, and I couldn’t stop myself looking at it quickly in passing, just in case I had missed something.

And there it was. A second line. Super faint, but there. I tried it in different lights, rotated it to different angles, and the line did not disappear.

I was pregnant. An inexpressible joy filled my heart. Somewhere deep inside of me was the baby that is now sleeping peacefully in our incredibly messy room as I sit in my rocking chair writing this post. Let me just say, it’s true that a baby changes everything. I’m just amazed that I’ve been able to write this much without interruption. I'm also loving the new IPad my parents got me. On a further side note, I can still taste the blackstrap molasses, bell pepper, and arugula smoothie I made for lunch. Unfortunately. And the healthy Immaculata chocolate chip cookies I made after. Haha. Solidarity folks. And postpartum figures... 😳

But back to Mother’s Day 2016. I walked into the main room of the studio, where James was snoring peacefully in bed in the dim morning light. He is an extremely heavy sleeper. It is nigh impossible to wake him up. So I sat down on the edge of the bed, smoothed his hair back, leaned in, and whispered, “Hey!” No response. I shake him vigorously and shout, “Guess what? I’m pregnant!”

It only took once. He was up. “Are you serious?” 

I show him the test.

“And it’s Mother’s Day,” I said. “Isn’t that crazy?”

“So when does that mean we got pregnant?”

“North Carolina according to the chart.” We’d played at St Michael the Archangel church a couple weeks earlier and I specifically remembered kneeling and praying for a baby. And also eating great amounts of delicious breakfast food at a local French bakery.

James laughs. “Nothing like good food and fun… So when is the due date?'

"January 17. Looking at the chart, it'll probably be a boy!"

"The DaSilva line lives on!" (James is the last male of his line.) He hugs me. “I can’t believe I’m a father!" Then a look comes over James’s face. “I don’t have a gift for you!”

And he never got one. Meanie. But it was short notice. 😘

Not being the secretive type, we told the family that day. Our baby existed and therefore would be celebrated. On my side of the family it was the sixth grandchild: we are pretty used to pregnancies, childbirths, and babies, and so we announced in a simple way over the breakfast brunch after church. Much joy! 

On James’s side of the family it was the first grandchild, so James wanted it to be a special kind of surprise. We discussed it as we navigated the maze of Home Depot looking for a cute birdhouse to give James’s mother.

There’s nowhere that will make me lose my temper faster than trying to find something specific in a supermarket.

“No wonder I’ve felt so bloated!” I said as we strolled calmly into the store.

“You look great, honey,” James said. 

“Even though I’m like only three-and-a-half weeks pregnant. Seriously. Oh man, I kind of feel nauseated.” I look at my iPhone. “Oh gosh, we are going to be late for dinner!” I see a Home Depot worker at the far end of the Miracle Gro. “Excuse me, sir, do you know where bird houses would be?”

A look of suppressed panic flits over his face. “Um, I think that would be outside somewhere. Like, by the garden hoes.” He points vaguely over my head.

“Oh okay, thanks!” I turn around and we start walking in that general direction. By the time we’ve actually found the doors leading outside I’m starting to feel exhausted. Then we get outside. It’s hot.

“He said they were by the garden hoes.”

“Oh, here we go,” James said. We scan the wall with squinted eyes, trying to make sense of the jumble of garden tools.

“I think I want to say it this way,” James says. “We’ll give her the birdhouse, and then say, ‘Mom, we have another gift for you, but it won’t be here for nine months.’ How do you like that?”

I laughed. “I love it! You do it, okay?” My eye alights on something that looks like it lives in the vicinity of bird feed.

“Oh man, these are birdhouse building kits! Ugh. We need one of these cute little bird houses that are all painted and stuff. Seriously!” Frustration broils inside of me. Who’d ever want to make a birdhouse when you could just buy one? … just kidding 🤐

James takes charge. “Excuse me, ma’am?” He accosts a young teenage girl who is working in the flowers behind us. “Do you know where the bird houses would be?”

The panic is genuine on her face and she doesn’t even pretend to know where they are. “I mean, maybe in the chicken wire or something?” She gesticulates vaguely to the left.

I wonder to myself how on earth a girl from the suburbs had the guts to get a job at a Home Depot? I’d probably lose my mind trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing in mulches and stuff…not to mention the heat of the outdoors…and wasps in the plants! (Says the girl who set up a beehive in her backyard… 🙈)

We walk a mile to the chicken wire section and look in vain through the barbed packages. Then I ooh and aah over the cute scarecrows. And then I feel my body melting to the floor as the Home Depot rises in horrific size around me and I say, “James, let’s just go. This is ridiculous.”

So we start making our way to the exit, I blindly trusting in James’s ability to navigate (I have an opposite sense of direction…for real). On the way out, we bump into the bird houses.

Who knew? No one. We get a cute little bird house, and since we don’t have time to get it wrapped correctly before we are supposed to be at James’s parent’s house for Mother’s Day dinner, we fill it with bird seed, coast down the driveway at the house, and sneakily hang it from a tree while James’s parents are grilling steak on the porch above.

And then, after dinner, James announces the news. Except it comes out like this: “Mom, we have another gift for you. It’ll be here in January.” Which of course doesn’t give quite the same impression as ‘nine months’… I nudge James to elaborate.

“Oh, that’s so sweet of you honey,” Kathy says. And then a look of confusion crosses Kathy and Mario’s face. “Wait, January?”

“We are pregnant!” James says, smiling.

Tears flow. Hugs circulate. Blessings abound.

And so that’s how we found out. I was pretty pleased with the idea that I’d be having the baby in January, when there is generally not a huge amount of touring for the Annie Moses Band and smack-dab two years from when we got married.

Little did I realize that that meant I’d be pregnant for one of the most busy touring seasons in our history, traveling all the way South to Disney Land, West to Colorado, North to Michigan, and East to New York City, with the baby kicking during my piano solos.

But more on that later 🙃

A Romance in Cheese

February is the dreariest of months.

So in order to accentuate the dreariness, we decided to make the month our Whole30 offering.

You may have heard about the diet. It basically means no coffee shops, no dates (except the fruit kind…😳), no restaurants, no fun and lots and lots of onions.

It was quite a slap in the face to James and me, who live in the middle of downtown and love to keep no groceries but raw vegetables and then step out our front door and waltz off to see the world and grab a croissant. The worst was that I could have no cheese.

Cheese has been a long love affair for me. Beginning with Wallace and Gromit claymation as a little girl ("cheese, Gromit!"…if you don't understand that reference, you should look it up…) At my wedding, I specifically chose an artisan cheese board. At Whole Foods, I dwell over the cheese bar. I love cheese. I suppose it’s the British-Irish in me. Every year I go on diets and cleanses, but never yet have I gone over 7 days without cheese. Until February.

For 30 days I broadened my horizons. I found out that you can make things tasty without cheese by adding lots of garlic and onions and herbs to everything you cook. Or tomatoes. Who knew? And that you can make amazing fried potatoes with only a little coconut oil and salt. Or that grass-fed beef and pastured eggs are the best thing in the world. In fact, I didn’t miss cheese at all. I didn’t miss sugar at all. I didn’t miss carbs one bit. 

And then the Whole 30 ended and the first thing I decided to add back in was a little cheddar cheese on my fried egg.

BAM. My whole body felt like molten metal dripping to the floor. I was like Olaf the snowman in summer. I lay down and staggered over the revelation that the ‘exhaustion waves’ I’ve struggled with my whole adult life are because I eat cheese. Wail 😭. More specifically, I eat cheese that’s pasteurized and covered with chemicals rather than fresh raw cheese.

I tell James.

“Really!” he says. “That puts a whole new spin on why we had that awful argument out of the blue that one time.”

“What? When?” I say. And then the video reel of memories in my head fast rewinds (remember that?) back to another day.

A summer day. Bright and sunny. James and I are in the blissful season of our dating lives, where our world consists of James picking me up at 10am and whisking me off to enjoy the wonders of springtime until 9pm that night. 

James drives me south down Nolensville Pike, past green meadows and beautiful houses. We are young and in love, the sun is shining, our dreams our spooling out in front of us with the highway. We stop at a tiny little community consisting of an Amish grocery, a thrift store, and an antique shop. We window shop and then go into the Amish grocery and buy a big hunk of cheese. We haven’t had any lunch, so we decide this and a couple colas will be our picnic.    

We eat the cheese as we drive further down the highway towards Franklin.

Why isn’t James talking to me? I look over at him. There is a glazed look about his eyes. I am so tired. My veins feel like they are filled with lead.

“Are you ok?” I ask.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” James says. “Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I just feel like you’re distant.”

James sighs in exasperation. “I am not distant!”

“Yes you are! I feel like you’re not interested in talking to me.”

“I thought you didn’t want to talk to me!”

“No, I just can’t think up anything to talk about.”

“I feel like you’re not interested in me! You know, sometimes I think we fight too much. Maybe we need to think about this.”

“We never fight! I mean, compared to most people.”

“I don’t know. Why do you always feel like I’m distant?”

“I don’t always feel like you’re distant!”

Silence reigns in the car. 

I break first. It’s a bad habit of mine from the times I had fights with my sister as a little girl. If I didn’t say sorry first I’d feel guilty. So: “I’m sorry, I’m just so tired.”

“Why are you tired?”

“I don’t know.”

The sun is darkening. A wind kicks up in the east. I turn off the air conditioning. James turns back on the air conditioning. I turn on John Mayer. James switches it to John Coltrane after the first song. The second song was my favorite.

The mood thickens.

And then James reaches over and pats my hair, rubs my shoulders. “Sorry honey, we can listen to John Mayer if you really want to. Why don’t you like air conditioning?”

“I hate air blowing on me.”

“What!?” James looks at me, horrified. There is nothing he loves more than air blowing on him. Apparently when he was a toddler he’d fall asleep on the floor with his face in the stream of the air vent.

“Yeah.”

“You know what? I don’t feel very good,” James says.

“Me neither.”

“It’s the cheese.”

My memory video reel fuzzes out at a walk in a green meadow across from the Franklin factory and becoming happy again as the cheese digests. My mind shimmers back to the Present. 

“It really was the cheese!”

A Girl in Ipanema (that's me 😉)

The heat is overpowering. The sky of Rio de Janeiro stretches blue and untouched above my head. Homeless men line the sidewalk, passed out in drug-induced sleep, no shirt upon their backs, skin jet-black from the sun. A woman walks past me, nursing her naked brown baby at her bare breast. 

People swarm the Ipanema Beach, dressed in as little as possible. String bikinis, speedos, tube tops, no tops. I am dying in capris and a t-shirt, my umbrella open above me, giving only slight relief from the sun. 

There is a tropical magic in the air. This is the region where the famous “Girl from Ipanema” was composed. The story goes that Antonio Carlos Jobimwould sit every morning in his favorite cafe facing the window and see a blonde-haired beauty walk by on her way to work. He composed the bossa nova jazz tune and had his friend, Vinicius de Moraes compose lyrics to match the story. I understand the curiously striking and exotic aura of the song, seeing the hot charm of the Ipanema Beach.

Our hearts are beating irregularly from the heat, so we stop at a side cafe and get a glass of sugar cane juice to cool off. It is fascinating to see the long green stalks grind into the great juicing machine. Every restaurant, cafe, gas station has one of these. Even at the very smallest, greasiest dive you can get a glass of fresh-squeezed mango juice. 

I drink the sweet green juice, trying to still the beating of my dehydrated heart. But it makes me thirstier, so, seeinga concessions stand with a big waterfall of coconuts hanging off the side, we head for some coconut water. One coconut is 5 reals, a little over 1 American dollar. We order two, watching as the man gets an ax and lops off the tops of the coconuts and sticks a straw inside. It is raw, sweet, refreshing. The hairy coconut is heavy and awkward in my hands. 

We pose for a picture with the statue of Antonio Jobim, the blue umbrella framing our faces and melding magically into the sky. Teenagers from the favelas sit under scant trees, selling handmade jewelry and woven baskets. I buy a mismatched pair of feather earrings.

Then my husband points it out. The Ipanema Cafe, where Antonio Jobim wrote “The Girl from Ipanema”, sitting in a sticky corner overlooking the simmering sidewalk. The restaurant is packed to the gills, the fans whirring desperately above the pictures on the walls of Jobim’s manuscript.

I push through to sit at the one empty table without waiting for the receptionist. A drop of sweat runs down my back. I lift my hair, all two feet of it, twisting it on top of my head, feeling the fan on the nape of my neck, the breeze wafting through the open windows. I wave a hand at the waiter, “Con license! Con license!” No one seems to understand my version of “Excuse me.”  Finally he turns towards me, sees my raised hand. “Agua. Agua.” I mime drinking desperately. James tries to supplement my broken Portuguese. Sizzling iron skillets of picanha float to the tables around me, adding to the heat of the room.

My heart flutters. Weariness and nausea from the heat overtakes me. It becomes apparent to me that I need to get back to the hotel before I die. Visions of the swimming pool flash through my head. I slap a mosquito off my arm and call an Uber on my iPhone. The waiter brings two water bottles. I guzzle mine, marveling how the locals around me aren’t affected by the heat. They are laughing, talking, eating hot food, drinking beer and Guarana sodas. 

I feel like a tourist. I suppose because I am a tourist.  I am in South America and I feel a sudden happiness at the experience, the adventure, being able to see what life is like on the other side of the equator, even though it may give me a heat stroke. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

We leave 5 reals on the table and climb into the Uber. The air conditioning hits me like heaven. Cold, sweet luxury. I lean my head back and dream of the hotel swimming pool only ten minutes away. 

 

Hear my favorite version of "The Girl from Ipanema" here.

Terror on the Sugarloaf

“I want to get away from the tourist-y part!” I whisper, grabbing James’s arm. We are standing on the Sugarloaf mountain.

“I agree. These shops are all the same.”

“Let’s go back to that rope bridge with the fruit growing in barley fiber pockets on the trees. I want to see nature. I mean, gosh, we are in the tropics!”

We walk back to the bridge from the platform where everyone is looking at the immense view, smoke from a burning building smudging the sky. The bridge stretches into the woods, bordered by great tropical trees with dark waxy leaves. Men hover, spraying water onto the rare flowers growing in barley planters along the tree trunks.

“Now this is fun!” I say, looking over the edge of the bridge.

We emerge from the forest and find ourselves in a deserted corner of the mountain. A few men stand around, repairing parts of the sidewalk. There are stairs with a rope cutting them off from access.

“That’s the way down to the forest,” James says.

I move forward, lift the rope, and start down.

“That is off limits,” a worker says.

“Oh really? Why?”

“No going down there,” he reiterates in broken English.

“Oh, ok." I wait till his back is turned and then walk down the stairs, pulling James after me.

A path thru a beautiful forest and an opening onto a balcony overlooking the city. I lean over the balcony rail.

James hugs me from behind, kisses my head. “Look at that,” he says.

We soak the beauty in, the little terracotta roofs, the quirky favelas nestled in emerald green hills, the great sea beyond. The Christ statue stands on a mountain opposite, looking over Rio de Janeiro. 

I make a video blog, trying to document the view. We take a picture or two.

Then we see the birds.

“Look at those buzzards! There must be something dead.”

The black birds dance against the blue sky.

“Those are crows, honey. Buzzards circle, they don't swarm.”

“Oh my gosh, they’re coming this way!”

We watch as the black cloud of birds flies towards us. One bird breaks away, flying at breakneck speed in our direction. I watch in disbelief, waiting for it to veer away, but it doesn’t. I scream as it swoops low over our heads. I can feel the wind of the wings. The rest of the birds are close at hand.

“Run!” I scream to James.

I dash back to the woodland path, my iPhone shaky-cam-ing with me. A grey wing flaps above my head. “HURRY!” I yell.

“Honey, those are bats!” James says.

“BATS!!!”

I open the umbrella, running like a penguin, aware of how dumb I look even in the midst of my fear. Another one swoops and the vision of one getting caught under the umbrella and then locking it's teeth in my eyes makes me try to shut the umbrella again.

Then I am out of the forest. Back at the shops. Out of breath. James behind me, cool as a cucumber.

“I need WATER!” I gasp.

“Let me get you some, honey,” James says. Awwww…

I write a Facebook status to celebrate the adventure. You know, because that’s what you do in the 21st century.

Then my sister comments, “Do you know bats have rabies?”

And James just chuckles as the blood drains from my face and I guzzle his water bottle.