By Yuki Hayashi
Sure, people tend to be favourably inclined towards pregnant women in general. But isn’t it funny how every so often there’s a mom-to-be at your office or on your street that everyone is delighted to hear is with child? You know, the one where you think, “Oh! She’s expecting! How fun, how adorable!” as soon as you hear the news? Melissa Carter is our that gal.
Canadian Family‘s associate editor, Melissa is quirky and soft-spoken, has a stylist’s eye and a penchant for pie, meringues and the Sunday New York Times. Melissa’s the person on your team whose emails most resemble a Victorian stream-of-consciousness narrative: “Too, I wondered to myself…” and whose weekend you’re most interested in on Monday. “Did Melissa faint in the street again while searching for an antique armoire like last week?” “Will Melissa have another anecdote about heirloom pork?” “Is Melissa pregnant?!”
She is, and she’s due in November. In many ways, she’s a typical Canadian mom-to-be. She’ll be 29 when she has the baby, she lives in a big city (Toronto), she’s living with, but not married to, her partner of 10 years, Jason (common-law couples now account for almost 19 percent of Canadian parents). But she’s also uniquely looped-in, given her line of duty. Canadian Family got her thoughts as she counts down to D-day.
CANADIAN FAMILY (CF): Twenty-nine is the average age of giving birth in Canada, and 28 the average age of first birth. But anecdotally speaking, many, if not most, women in the magazine industry are in their 30s when they get pregnant. How do you feel about being a relatively younger new mom?
MC: I love it, love it, love it. One thing I’ve heard consistently, anecdotally and from medical sources, is that the bounce-back happens faster when you’re younger. Here’s to hoping. Oh, and I’ll have my freedom back sooner rather than later. Youth is certainly advantageous in this industry but I’m not sure that at a later age, and in a more senior career position, I’d feel as comfortable leaving my job for a full mat leave.
CF: You’re currently in your second trimester. Have you decided yet how long you’ll be on leave, or how you’ll split it up with your partner, Jason?
MC: No. But I’ll take a minimum six months, likely nine. Apparently six months is the magic mark, after which caring for bébé becomes more enjoyable as the infant responds more. I must decide soon, as I can only hide from the company’s human resources lady for so long. Jason has better benefits, so we’re deliberating what the split should be.
CF: Speaking of dads, what do you think of the popular stereotype of bumbling fools and naïfs popularized by recent flicks like Juno and Knocked Up?
MC: I can’t understand why we underestimate the capabilities of men and fathers to such an alarming degree. That said, I do know women who happily do more than their share of the housework, cooking and child-raising. But I’m not inclined to be one of them.
CF: What kind of dad will Jason be?
MC: Jason is an apple-pie sort of fellow, which is why I fell in love with him – his thoughtfulness and gentleness. Children and parenting don’t alarm him. I wish that he had a friend who was expecting at the same time, though. I’m glad for him that there are more father groups out there now.
He said something lovely not too long ago, which has stayed with me. Something along the lines of, “Melissa, do you think the baby will feel left out because we are so much in love?”
CF: You’re of mixed European ancestry, while Jason’s parents are from Guyana. Will you take a laissez-faire or planned approach to exposing your child to his or her cultural heritage?
MC: We believe the easiest way to pass on culture is seamlessly, through family. When I was little, it made me quite happy to hear my grandparents speaking a different language, to hear my name pronounced with a different cadence.
We eat food from, listen to music from, watch films from, and have friends from different cultures. So hopefully a certain degree of exposure will be effortless. I think that kids’ lit, knowledge of history, music lessons and art are wonderful ways to feed a child’s fascination with other countries and cultures. And travel and language classes would be ideal.
CF: Have you become addicted to any parenting shows?
MC: The baby/parenting/nanny shows really turned me off the thought of ever becoming a mom, and I’ve tried to re-watch them now, without success. I went through a month-long phase of Jon & Kate Plus Eight, before the adults in it started to irritate me.
CF: Has pregnancy changed your eating habits? It’s kind of hard to picture you forgoing Brie or prosecco…
MC: I stuck to firm cheeses for a while, before realizing that most Canadian cheeses and many from other countries are pasteurized. And I thought nine months without sashimi and 10 cups of black tea per day would be as much fun as being tied down and forced to watch Oprah repeatedly, but I love it. I’ve returned to a healthier lifestyle.
CF: No Big Mac attacks? Have you been pigging out at all?
MC: I come from a family of foodies, and eating’s always been a great pleasure—pregnancy conveniently lets me prioritize that. And few activities are more satisfying than food shopping. Mostly I just eat more, and my rule is to eat well. We eat simple-to-prepare meals with fresh ingredients because it’s easier and more delicious.
CF: Wine with dinner: a teeny-tiny thimbleful? Absolutely or absolutely not?
MC: Absolutely. In a Kim Possible disguise. If I confessed to all the forbidden foods I’ve devoured, this article would be unfit to print, and spark irate letters.
CF: People really judge moms. It starts early in the game.
MC: The one thing I abhor about pregnancy is that suddenly others feel compelled to judge—and tell me about—my unfit choices. Even my most free-bird friends are concerned about my errant pedestrian ways.
CF: The jaywalking did surprise me a bit the other day when we met for lunch…I’m just sayin.’
MC: Hey, I avoid preservatives, hormones, sugars and food dyes and always look for synthetic-fragrance-free cleaners and grooming products. At least let a lady jaywalk.
CF: What’s your approach to maternity dressing?
MC: I haven’t bought anything maternity yet, with the exception of a pair of GapMaternity jeans. I hate jersey. I hate that pregnancy is perceived as open-cleavage season. I avoid floaty dresses that have too much extra fabric. Or I belt them just below the bust. I’m splurging this fall on an Isabella Oliver pencil skirt and cardigan. I love that all of your best features are emphasized now. My wrists, neck and face have never been as lovely.
CF: Are you concerned about stretch marks?
MC: Jason moisturizes my tummy nightly, and it seems to be preventing stretch marks thus far.
CF: Has your nesting instinct kicked in yet?
MC: No, but with every week, I dream a little dream that it’ll kick in at any moment and send my productivity skyrocketing. My younger sister is irked that I still haven’t chosen a nursery palette. But due to the nature of the industry I’m in, the amount of reading I do and my non-committal nature, it’s a challenge to make and stick to decisions.
I think Jason went through a nesting phase. There were a few weeks where he cleaned non-stop, even taking things apart to get under them with a toothbrush. If he could have lifted off the baseboards, he would have. Needless to say, my seemingly laissez-faire attitude is alarming to him. I think he’d like to see piles of baby things lying about.
Writer Yuki Hayashi was a flakier, more water-retainier, butter-chicken-cravingier type of pregnant lady than Melissa Carter.
Here are some of Melissa’s picks for life with baby. (We’ll cover her baby gear in an upcoming issue once she’s had some time to test-drive her purchases with Junior.)
|“I love that the Bee doesn’t scream Bugaboo, and is light as an umbrella stroller, but with a single bar. It has the best functionality of the dozens of strollers I’ve tested.”|