Friday, December 30, 2011

The Birthening, Part 1: Induction

It's taken about two months to write this. Babies are a bit more work when they're out of the womb... and they're distractingly cute even when they're not being work. So I don't apologize for the delay. :-)

I had had my usual appointment with the midwives on Thursday, October 13. At that appointment they had told me I should come in over the weekend to do a quick blood pressure check. I had initially agreed to Sunday, but the prospect of one last weekend at home, just me and DH, without a 2-hour round trip drive to the hospital, was much more appealing... so I called on Friday and said I would come in on Monday, the 17th.

I went to work on Monday and had difficulty concentrating. I think, in the back of my mind, I knew I wasn't coming back in for a long time. Rather than spur me to productivity, though, the thought just made me listless. Since I'd already trained the part-time temp who was going to cover much of my job, I was mostly tying up small loose ends, anyway. I left a little early so I could take the el train to the hospital and be there by 4:00.

When I got to the midwives' office, there was some confusion: apparently someone had written me down for a noon check-in, when I had explicitly told the person on the phone that I would be there at 4:00. So I ended up twiddling my thumbs in the waiting room for some extra time, telling myself to be calm.

That was the whole problem with the blood pressure stuff: it got more tense each time I got checked, because I knew they would want to induce me, and I didn't want to be induced for a million reasons (including my sister's terrible failed induction/ c-section nightmare), so I had to stay calm. But telling yourself, "STAY CALM!" doesn't really, uh, work.

Finally, I was called back to an exam room and a nurse checked my blood pressure. I tried so hard to take deep, slow breaths while she was doing it, but my heart was racing.

150/80. Way too high.

In the past, they'd let me sit for five minutes and check it again. I naively thought they would do this at this appointment, too. They were also planning a cervical check and everything, so I de-pantsed myself and sat in the room with that big paper sheet over my lap for a moment and then Midwife Amy came in. She did a cervical check and declared me completely closed.

Here's where I was clearly just in denial: in my mind, what she told me ("completely closed") was that my body just isn't ready to have the baby yet, so they're going to send me home, tell me to relax, and they'll see me Thursday at my regular appointment.

Amy didn't see it that way, and the tone of resolution in her voice made me break out in to a sweat. She was giving me two options: be admitted to the hospital right now, or go home and pack a bag and return with DH tonight. Being completely closed just meant they'd have to do more work to get me ripened up.

I felt a little thick-headed: both options sounded like an induction would be starting within hours. But she just said my cervix is closed. After months of focusing on medication-free childbirth and hoping to let labor happen naturally - the whole reason I was working with midwives - this just puzzled me. At one point Amy said, "were we not clear that this was probably going to happen?" And I had to admit that, yes, they'd been talking induction for weeks. I just hadn't been listening.

Of course, I was also alone. This was the only appointment throughout the course of my pregnancy when DH hadn't accompanied me. Amy let me get dressed and call him before I had to make a decision.

My hands were shaking when I dialed home.

I explained what the situation was, and we agreed that I would come home, we'd eat a little dinner and pack up, and we'd come in to the hospital that night.

When Amy returned, I told her the situation, and she said she'd let Labor and Delivery know I was coming in. I explained how far we lived from the hospital and that it would likely be late - after 9:00pm - and she said that was fine.

With that, I left. As I walked toward the train, looking down at my big pregnant belly, I told myself that this was a lucky thing - I was getting one last chance to be on my own before I have this baby. A little time to myself to think.

In reality, I was scared and upset. This was all going wrong. I'd managed to carry a baby for 39+ weeks, but I was doing something wrong and now they're forcing the kid out when he's not ready. My hands were still shaking. I wanted a hug. (To be fair, Amy could see that: she gave me a big hug before I left and told me everything would be fine).

So I called my parents.

Parents of adult children: if your daughter calls you and says, with a nervous voice, that she's about to be induced, the first response you give should be "Are you OK? How are you feeling? Everything is going to be fine."

Despite your overwhelming excitement about the impending birth of a new grandchild, your response should not be: "GREAT! We're getting in the car RIGHT AWAY!" Which is precisely what my mother said.

My mother's enthusiasm didn't help. I was fighting a lump in my throat, and now I had to tell her to cool her jets, I'm completely closed, this is going to take a long time, et cetera. I had expected that she would remember how long my sister was in the hospital during her induction before they finally pulled my niece out via c-section, but apparently all that stuff about forgetting labor extends to grandmothers, too.

I don't blame her for being excited, of course. I just wouldn't have minded some reassurance. But she'd never been induced, anyway, and the one time she was threatened with it she was 42 weeks pregnant and it was a very hot August and she was SO DONE with being pregnant. I had not yet reached that point.

My parents insisted they would be leaving after dinner to drive halfway to Chicago (this panicked me. In hindsight, I shouldn't have called them until at least 24 hours later, or maybe even until after the kid was born).

My next call was to my brother, who had told me weeks earlier that he was keeping his phone by his side 24/7 in case I needed anything in the last days of pregnancy. His response was pretty much exactly what I needed to hear. He started with "Is everything OK? How do you feel about this? Is there anything you need?"

As my sister has said, our brother is rare among men. He absolutely loves being an uncle and was very excited about meeting his nephew, but he didn't let that get in the way of taking care of his lil' sister.

By the time I finished talking with my brother, I was on the el train, and I didn't want to be discussing the state of my cervix within the hearing of train strangers, so I moved to texting people: first my sister, then a few close friends and one co-worker. The slow process of sending text messages on my clunky phone helped distract me from the sweat that was developing in my armpits. As encouraging/excited responses trickled in, they helped me feel a little better.

I was on the train over an hour: first the brown line, then the green line. It felt like a year. I felt alone, detached from all the people around me in a completely different way than the usual commute. I wondered if they could tell what was about to happen to me.

When I called DH and told him I was almost home, he suggested he'd order a pizza for delivery, and then he would come meet me at my train stop. That sounded good to me.

When I finally got off the train and saw him walking toward me, I kind of started to lose it - I realized I'd been mostly keeping my cool in public but was really, truly freaked out. As he came closer, I started to cry. He gave me a hug and we walked through the dark together to our home, our last time doing something like this without worrying about the kid.

Once I was at home, my sister called. She, also, was very reassuring, and told me that her induction had been earlier in her pregnancy and it was really unusual, and that mine would go much more smoothly, and a million other kind things. I was gathering up things to pack while she talked to me, and then DH started badgering me about cash for the pizza delivery while I was still on the phone with my sister, and then my sister started asking about when she could visit in January, and I felt myself starting to crack: "You know, we still have to get packed up for the hospital, it's a little crazy here right now..." I was starting to cry again.

I got off the phone with my sister, and I - proud moment here - screamed at DH. But seriously, I felt like I was about to cede all control of my body and our baby to a bunch of doctors, and he can't get eighteen f***ing dollars together? And he didn't so much as wash a dish while I was trapped on the train, even though he knew we'd be in the hospital for days? I was pissed. Then it turned out I didn't have enough cash, and I really lost it. The stupid pizza was supposed to simplify things, and now I could feel my blood pressure going through the roof, and it was clear that I had to fix the situation even though my brain couldn't handle anything additional at that point. I told DH to call the pizza place and give them our debit card number, which for some reason he thought wasn't possible.

He called. It worked. We got our pizza. Things went a little better once we ate something.

We packed up the bag, and headed out in to the October evening, late enough that traffic wasn't bad.

We got to the hospital around 9:30pm - after hours, so we had to press a special button to be admitted to the main doors by some remote security person who buzzed us in. We carried all our stuff up to Labor and Delivery, and between the two of us we looked like we had planned to spend a month: we had bags of snacks and drinks, my body pillow, a laptop, and a million other things.

When we got to the secure L&D doors, I picked up the phone on the wall and said, "we're here for an induction", and they let us right in, no questions asked.

We schlepped up to the nurse's station with all our bags. The nurse at the desk did not inspire confidence: she acted like she had no clue who the hell we were. I had to repeat my name several times, and repeat that I was with the midwives, and it was an induction, over and over again. I was so ready to bolt back out the door at that point. Had I known what the next few days would be like, I probably would have. Finally, the nurse (who still kind of looked like she was just making things up) admitted us to L&D room 311.

I thought to myself, "this is where it's all going to happen. I'm going to meet my son in this room."

I changed in to a hospital gown and climbed on to the hospital bed. Another nurse came in and gave me an IV hep-lock and a hospital bracelet, and hooked me up to the continuous fetal heart rate monitor. The kiddo's heartbeat was nice and steady. Since I was going to be on medication, I had to have the monitor on all the time. Fortunately, I could still walk around: if I had to wander further than a few feet from the bed, I could just unhook the monitors, toss the cords behind my neck, and walk over to the bathroom or whatever. I was pretty happy about that.

Then Midwife Kim came in and talked with me for a while about the next steps: I'd have a dose of Cervadil that would stay in for 12 hours, then they would assess me. If I wasn't quite ripe yet, they'd give me another 12-hour dose of Cervadil. After that, Pitocin. She told me that sometimes, Cervadil is enough to just get things rolling on their own. I hoped for that outcome, because I'd heard some bad things about Pitocin.

She then gave me the first dose of Cervadil, which is a suppository-type thing that gets inserted in to the cervix. Oh lordy, was that unpleasant. I knew Kim to be pretty skilled when she has to deal with the nether-regions, so I think Cervadil just kind of hurts. Once it was in, though, I couldn't really feel it.

Around 11:00pm, we settled in for the night. DH pulled out the chair-bed thing in the room and put on some pajamas, and I reclined my hospital bed. We turned down the volume on the fetal heart rate monitor, turned down the lights, and waited for things to get started.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Boob Juice: the situation so far

One of the reasons I haven't finished the birth story is that my hands have been full, in a very real sense, with feeding this baby. With the exception of three days, my 8-week-old son has been fed only breast milk, and he's thriving: he's over 12 pounds now, and is big and strong (95th percentile for length! And he can already roll over! And... I'll stop. But I'm very proud of him). After the first five days of his life, my milk supply has kept up with his demand pretty well; the "girls" are producing plenty to keep him fed.

Easy peasy, then, right?

Not exactly.

About two weeks ago, as I was struggling through yet another excruciatingly painful nursing session, I was composing a blog post in my head entitled, "Breastfeeding is An Enormous Pain in the Ass". I felt duped, and I felt like there was no getting out of the hell I'd gotten myself in to: my child was thriving on my plentiful milk, but I was crying at the end of (and sometimes the start of) each nursing session. This was clearly great for him and awful for me. Everyone had told me that the first two to three weeks would be difficult, but things shifted from challenging (i.e., figuring out the mechanics of nursing a new baby) to painful after those three weeks. I kept thinking I needed to tough it out, or maybe I was just more tender because I had a big, strong baby who liked to eat in gulps, or maybe I was doing something wrong... it all boiled down to something being flawed with me, or with my approach. I just had to figure out what it was.

Thanksgiving week was when it finally hit the fan; when I was sobbing in bed while my son was contentedly nursing. I was sobbing for two reasons:

A) The unending, burning, stabbing pain while my son nursed, and

B) The need to stock up on milk so I could go shopping with my mother that Saturday.

Item B is probably the topic for a separate post about difficulties with my family and their growing tendency to ignore my needs, but it did mean that I was pumping milk after each nursing session, trying to glean enough extra so I could spend precious hours away from my month-old son, shlepping around in a crowded shopping mall during Black Friday weekend. This was creating additional stress for me, which wasn't helped by item A: pain.

DH made the suggestion, while I was weeping, that I just start pumping until I could figure out what was going on. We had both given up on what we thought were La Leche League lies ("breastfeeding should never hurt!"), but he offered that perhaps it shouldn't actually hurt this much. And pumping was less painful.

The Sunday after Turkey Day I began exclusively pumping, and our baby started getting all his milk from bottles. (Side note: He is so easygoing. As long as there's milk, he doesn't care where it's coming from. I love this kid.) While I pumped, I Googled things like "agonizing pain while breastfeeding". And I learned a few things:

First, I learned that, while "breastfeeding should never hurt", it often does, especially in the early weeks. I found a message board of women describing the pain when their babies initially latch on as being equal to or worse than labor pains - and I nodded in agreement. And while I was told to expect "discomfort" for 2-3 weeks, several of these women said it took two to three MONTHS before that latch-on pain dissipated.

And by "latch-on pain", I mean take-your-breath-away, toe-curling, 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 pain.

Second, I learned that, though it can (and often does) hurt to start with, what should never happen while breastfeeding is a burning feeling, like the intense burn I would have for about 30 minutes after each feeding. That's a sign of a problem. Other chest-area problem signs I had: urgent itching during a nursing session, occasional shooting pains at any time, and, yes, pain intense enough that I cried while feeding my son.

Dr. Google told me I might have thrush, which hadn't occurred to me. OK, it had, but I kept checking my baby's mouth and he had none of the fuzzy white spots I knew to look for, and he never acted irritated when he nursed. If he didn't have thrush, how could I have it?

That Monday, I relayed my concerns to our pediatrician at the kiddo's one-month appointment. The doctor checked him carefully and told me she saw no signs of thrush in him, but it was possible - especially if I'd been given antibiotics and he hadn't - that I had thrush but hadn't transmitted it to the baby. She suggested I use Lotrimin (yes, the athlete's foot medicine) 3 or 4 times a day and see if that helped.

She also did what all the health professionals do, and complimented me on my milk supply. Thanks, but I would enjoy being able to give the milk to my child without the delivery of said liquid being such an issue.

After a couple of days of only pumping and using Lotrimin, I didn't feel like things had improved markedly - I was crying less, but only because I wasn't nursing. And I was sad about not nursing.

Also, all the dealing with bottles and the pump actually created a lot of friction between me and DH: when I exclusively nursed, I just took charge of the kid for an hour at a time, no fuss, no muss. I was forced to put my feet up and DH had some time to do what he wanted. With the exclusive bottle feeding, DH would feed him while I pumped, or else I would feed and burp the baby and then hand him over to DH so I could then pump... and then one of us would have to wash all the pump parts and bottle apparatus every day or so. It was a huge hassle, and felt like way more work for both of us.

So on that Wednesday I did what I should have done probably two weeks earlier: I called the midwife's office. The triage nurse who talked with me was awesome - she immediately made it clear that I shouldn't be in this kind of pain, and she made me feel, for the first time in a long time, that I wasn't inherently flawed or doing anything wrong. After a couple of conversations with her, I had a prescription waiting for me at a local pharmacy: two doses of Diflucan and a tub of All-Purpose Nipple Ointment. I'd heard of APNO several times, and it kind of sounded like a wonder treatment. Diflucan was referred to in a lot of the search results I found when I Googled around about thrush.

The nurse also told me that as soon as things stopped hurting terribly, I should get back to nursing the kiddo - there wasn't a big concern about giving him the thrush.

So a third thing I learned is something plenty of people have told me: ASK FOR HELP. If something hurts? Ask for help. If you feel like something's just not right? Ask for help! If you're crying while you're feeding your kid? Ask. For. Help. Or clarification, at least. I got really invested in toughing it out when what I needed was a prescription.

And a fourth thing: if you're sore (and if you're nursing, you will be, especially if you give birth to a mini-Hoover like my son), use these Soft Shells. They were recommended to me by a new-mom friend of mine and they work beautifully. Between these and my prescription ointment I started healing noticeably in a couple of days.

We're up to the point now that I'm nursing the kiddo about half-time, and the other half of his feedings he's getting bottles of pumped milk. In the last couple of days, I've had several nursing sessions when latch-on pain was minimal, and the rest of the feeding was essentially pain-free. It's amazing, and I think I can see where this is going: I'm back to hoping I'll be able to breastfeed this kid for a solid year, whereas a few weeks ago 12 months sounded like a lifetime of pain and suffering.

When it doesn't hurt, I have to say that nursing a baby is pretty awesome, in the true sense of the word. I gestated this baby, and now I'm still sustaining him with my body. I love the snuggle time that is guaranteed during a nursing session, and generally extends for a while afterward when I'm burping him and he dozes off on my chest, content with a full tummy. Nursing can certainly feel like the best kind of tender loving care a mother can give to her child.

But while I already stated for the record that I would be completely fine with some formula supplementation - which is exactly what we ended up doing in the first few days of his life, when he had jaundice, my milk hadn't yet come in, and he needed to poop out that bilirubin - I will now say, after two months, that I certainly don't blame women who don't stick with breastfeeding. If I hadn't had two solid months off work and a spouse who was home with me full-time and a health care professional who was extremely supportive, I don't think I could have weathered the learning curve. Of course now I know I had some issues that were unaddressed for too long (ASK! FOR! HELP!), so my case was probably not typical.

So, yes, so far we're exclusively breastfeeding, and as we come to the 2-month point I anticipate that will continue to be the case. But just because it's "natural" does NOT mean it's easy, not in the first two months, at least. I'm becoming convinced that anyone who says it is must be trying to sell you something.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Yes, I'm still writing out the birth story, and it's three parts so far, and maybe I'll finish it or maybe it will stay an unfinished tale like that triathlon I never wrote about (the short story on that: it was fun. And now that I've given birth, it's no longer the toughest physical thing I've done).

But it's hard to fit in any writing - or anything - with a baby around. Yes, even though he sleeps approximately 16 hours a day, according to the books. And yes, even though DH and I are both home full-time together during leave. And, yeah, even though right now the kid only needs about three things in rotation: milk, diaper change, sleep. You'd think a couple of people with graduate degrees could manage that AND getting the dishes washed in the same day, but you'd mostly be wrong. So creative pursuits are not getting the attention they may have otherwise.

I'm not complaining, though. Despite fatigue and occasional frustration (it's a weird frustration, too - I'm frustrated for... getting frustrated. Like I should be able to handle it when the kid has a full tummy, a dry diaper and a comfy place to sleep and is screaming his head off at me for no apparent reason. DH reminded me that it might be normal to find that frustrating).

Last Thanksgiving I honestly wasn't even thinking about having a kid. When I realize just how quickly we shifted from "not yet" to "why not?" with the baby question, it's a little stunning. This time last year I was not only not pregnant, I didn't think I'd be having a baby any time soon. Certainly not while still in my 20s, anyway.

But our minds changed, and then we got ridiculously, stupidly lucky and I was pregnant much sooner than I dared to hope I would be, and here it is, Thanksgiving, and we have a one-month-old son. And holy crap, people, he is cute. He's starting to smile sometimes, and use his voice - he likes to say "ow", very cheerfully, sometimes very loudly in the middle of the night when I'm burping him and DH is trying to sleep - and he reacts to different voices in the room, and he's starting to see things like the shapes of the mobile that hangs over his changing table. He's also growing like crazy, and we're pretty sure he'll weigh over 12 pounds at his one-month pediatrician appointment.

So, clearly, there's a lot to be thankful for here:

We have a beautiful, healthy son, and somehow we've picked up the basics of this parenting gig without freaking out so far. (The very short list of needs he has is helpful). Also, let me repeat: he's beautiful. The whole time I was pregnant I was prepared for a weird-looking kid, because we're a little weird looking, ourselves. And then he was born, and... wow. He's objectively cute. I spend a lot of time staring at him and feeling amazed.

I'm healing up and feeling more like a human (OK, most of me... my "girls" are still feeling a bit battered - the kid's massive weight gain is all due to mother's milk. This kiddo inherited the appetite enjoyed by both his parents. This is great for his sleep, but tough on my mammaries). I can do things like take long walks outside now, so I don't feel like an invalid like I did the first couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to being cleared to do things like jogging and lifting things that are bigger than the baby (though, hey, he's big enough that I'm less limited all the time!).

We're surrounded by supportive family, friends and neighbors who have been fantastic about stopping by with meals, calling and e-mailing to see if we need anything, and appropriately fawning over our beautiful baby.

With the extra leave due to my c-section and the timing of winter break at my work, my maternity leave is basically 11 weeks long, which is awesome.

We have health insurance. I seriously don't know what we would have done without it, because according to the statements I've gotten in the mail so far, our week in the hospital cost $35,000. Do what?

We live in a friendly neighborhood, full of folks who will strike up a conversation with a couple walking around with a baby. We're still not used to it, but I like the surprise each time.

And... well, I'm sure there are things I'm missing. But that's sleep deprivation for you. I hope all three of you readers out there have a beautiful holiday. We'll get to see a whole lot of both of our families, with a minimum of travel on our behalf, which is wonderful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Birthening: the prologue

Over the last several years, I have read many, many birth stories, and I know that there is often an unexpected thing that happens during labor and delivery. Birth plans are just plans, and they need to be flexible. My whole approach to labor took that in to account: we took a childbirth class focused on unmedicated childbirth, but I was clear with DH that if things took a long time and I needed to conserve my energy, I was open to the idea of some pain relief that would help me rest.

We didn't even write out a birth plan, actually: we talked the whole enterprise over with the midwives, and everything that really mattered to me was just standard operating procedure. The most crucial aspects of any plan we would have written were the moments just after birth: I wanted immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby, I wanted the team to wait until his cord had finished pulsing before it was cut, I wanted to try breastfeeding before they gave him any shots or weighed and measured him. The midwife said this is all standard - we would need to write out a special request NOT to have these things happen.

Well, none of those things happened. My son was born in a freezing operating room, via caesarian section, after a failed induction that took over two days. I didn't get to touch him for almost 4 hours except for a quick kiss on the cheek before they whisked him away to the nursery while I was sutured up and rolled back to a recovery room, without him. DH spent some time in the middle of the night pacing the hall between his post-operative wife, his baby in the special care nursery, and all his in-laws in the waiting room, waiting for news. The final process looked nothing like our general plans.

I am 100% OK with all of this.

I used to think that the people who had experiences like mine who said things like "at the end of the day, I have a healthy baby and that's all that matters" were just making themselves feel better about a situation over which they lost control. Maybe they were, but I seriously feel good about the way my son's birth panned out. He's huge and healthy and beautiful, and I never felt like I had lost what small amount of control I ever had over the process. It's just that the plan had to be even more flexible than we realized.

In part because I feel like I owe it to all the bloggers who shared their birth stories, and in part because now, only a week later, certain details are already starting to elude me, I'm planning to write out my son's birth story. It will likely take a little time between feedings (oh man, does this kid like to eat) and naps (his and mine), but I'd like to write it down. Because what happened was basically my nightmare scenario, but it wasn't terrifying at all. Through the whole process, which lasted over three days, I felt supported and listened to, and I felt like all the options were being laid out fairly to me and DH.

And, yes, at the end we have a healthy baby. I think I had to grow up a little and realize that seriously? That is the point of this whole thing.

Before I get in to the long story, however, here are the details: the kiddo (sorry interwebs, you don't get his real name) was born at 1:48am on Thursday, October 20. He was 21.25 inches long and weighed 8 pounds, 15 ounces. The midwife on call noted that this was after he pooped several times immediately after delivery, so she insisted that he was at least a nine-pound baby. And yes, his size was part of the reason we ended up in the operating room.

Oh, and we love him to bits and pieces. I'll have to write a separate post about how my feelings toward newborns have changed, because this particular newborn is just the tops.

Monday, October 17, 2011

39 weeks

OK, this really may be the last weekly pregnancy update. The midwives have continued to be nervous about my blood pressure and they're indicating that they won't let me go past 40 weeks, and may try to induce me sooner than that. Since, as I type this, I'm at 39 weeks, 3 days, that means - urp - some time in the next 4 days I may be delivering this kid. Am I ready for that? Is anyone ever ready for this? I'm huge and kind of uncomfortable, and I'm looking forward to meeting the little guy, but I just spent one last, relaxed autumn Sunday hanging out with DH and soaking up some just-the-two-of-us time, and it made me feel a little melancholy that I'm about to give that up. DH likes to say we're just adding someone else to the party, and I'm sure he's right (and I'm sure the second I see him holding our son I'm going to melt into a puddle), but after five-plus years of sharing my home life with just DH, I know it's going to be a serious adjustment for me. Not a bad thing, just a big change.

Weight Gain:
35 pounds! I lost a pound over the last week. Meanwhile, my belly got bigger, so I'm thinking we're in a magical phase wherein I transfer my weight to the tot. Maybe I should stay pregnant for three more weeks? Is that the best weight loss plan ever? Probably not.

Symptoms: Achey hips, occasional shortness of breath, bizarre hunger cues (I didn't want to eat much of anything Saturday, then I was STARVING ALL DAY Sunday). And - get this - contractions. Only a few, on Friday night, but they felt like menstrual cramps that started low down and moved slowly up my abdomen. It's bizarre to feel excited about pain, but as DH pointed out, the whole pregnancy enterprise involves feeling positive about crappy symptoms (early on it's "I want to puke... yayyy!"). Also, I know I could have on and off contractions for, like, weeks, but I still take it as a hopeful sign.

Happily, my belly button is still just weirdly flat. I feel blessed that it hasn't yet popped out, like a turkey timer. Maybe we'll manage to avoid that...?

Cravings/Aversions: All over the place, and kind of unpredictable. I'm thinking my system must be getting ready for some action, because my relationship with food is becoming weird. There's a little of the first trimester "I need to eat and I feel bad because I haven't but nothing sounds good" feeling, but then eating almost anything is generally delightful (except on Saturday when food was mostly a chore).

I am loving: How unavoidably huge I am. People just stare. And sometimes make comments. One woman just laughed at me. I wonder what people do to women who manage to make it to 42 weeks?

I miss: Oh, the usual stuff: especially rolling over in bed without it being a major chore. My hips feel like they're going to dislocate in the middle of the night these days.

I'm looking forward to: Meeting him! Maybe soon! We got a bunch of hand-me-down clothes from one of DH's cousins over the weekend, and since they'd been in storage for a while I washed all the newborn-to-6 month size stuff. Folding up the tiny sweaters and snuggly little pajamas was really fun, and I am geeked about finally putting a little person in to these outfits and cuddling up with him when it's cold outside.

I'm concerned about: How it's all going to go down, delivery-wise. I have no choice but to go with the flow (OK, I guess the other choice is to panic... but that doesn't help anything) and hope - and work for - the best delivery possible. I got to have a nice long chat with my friend who had an emergency c-section 10 days ago, and she's rooting for me to have a natural birth so she can live vicariously through me. I hope I can come through for her! But whatever gets this little guy out in to the world safe and sound is good to me.

Milestones: Little dude is "watermelon sized". And his mother is Sherman Tank sized. :-)

Movement: Still good. I got hooked up to a fetal monitor for 20 minutes on Thursday, and they wanted him to move twice in that time - which he did - and they wanted his heart rate to accelerate appropriately when he moved - which it did. So he's already passing tests! I'm proud.

OK, mostly walking and puttering around the house. I've been sitting almost exclusively on my yoga balance ball at work, too, which is its own low-key exercise (and makes my hips feel like they're dislocating... but that's kind of all the time these days).

Sleep: Still pretty good, especially considering what I hear from other moms about how they just DID NOT SLEEP the last weeks of pregnancy. I'm getting at least 6 hours a night, and usually closer to 8. The kid is definitely down in my pelvis, though, because when I get up to pee at night it is a desperate and painful need to make it to the bathroom in time, not just kind of urgent like it used to be.

Diet: Mostly OK. Saturday was kind of a wash, as I had a big basket of fried stuff when DH's family took us out to lunch and then I felt crummy for much of the rest of the day. Otherwise I've been much better, and have been tending toward spicy foods, just in case that home induction remedy works.

Something nice: Most people, in most places, are just really nice to someone who's as huge-pregnant as I am. And most of them smile at me. I appreciate that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

38 weeks

Though I know this can change at any moment, the little guy has shown no signs of making his appearance any time too soon. On the other hand, there's a full moon this week, so... will this be the last weekly update? Time will tell...

Weight Gain:
According to the midwife, 36 pounds! Yikes. I'm gaining over 2 pounds a week lately, which is TOO MUCH.

Symptoms: Is "I can't say no to food" a symptom? I don't know. Otherwise, I'm big, my right hip occasionally hurts, I've started to have some really lovely crotch pain (sorry, TMI? It seriously feels like I got kicked down there sometimes), and my lower back is achey by the end of the day. So basically I've gained 36 pounds in a few months and my body is reacting appropriately. Oh, I also have cankles. This is what I get for being all smug a few weeks ago, when I thought I'd made it through the summer unscathed. Seriously, though, these are all minor, and - except for the cankles - none of them are constant. I still feel like it's been smooth going for this whole pregnancy.

Cravings/Aversions: I seriously want to eat everything. OK, except the canned mushrooms. But everything else.

I am loving: That the midwife at my last appointment took all the data points seriously and didn't order another 24-hour urine screen. We bought another week! And she was even asking us what our plan will be if I go over 41 weeks, so the specter of induction seems to be receding, which is fantastic.

I miss: Having a pregnant buddy. My friend who was due 4 days after me had an emergency c-section on Thursday. She had a boy, which means we're both raising sons, which is exciting, but we both really expected me to go first - she was talking about trying to hold out until November, actually. The circumstances for her were a little scary, and pretty sudden, but mom and baby are both fortunately doing fine now.

I'm looking forward to: the return of cooler fall weather this week.

I'm concerned about: When this is on my list of "concerns", I've got it easy: some of my maternity shirts are getting to be too short, and they're riding up in the front, exposing either my bare belly or the big elastic band of my pants. If I go to something like 41 weeks, WHAT WILL I WEAR?? I may need to get a pair of maternity leggings so I can just wear all my dresses as shirts.

Milestones: I asked the midwife how big she thought this baby is, and she said his head seems about 7-pounder sized, but that he might be faking her out because he seems really long. So... lanky baby? But also: seven pounds already?? Yikes. Also, he's been head-down for several weeks now, which is great.

Movement: Much of the same. If I drink something cold or have something to eat, his foot is all up in my rib. I'd yell at him but I really don't think he has a lot of options for where to put his feet these days. Also, he doesn't allow me to slouch. If I lean forward too much he gets very kicky.

Improving. One insight we gained from the midwife appointment was that, even though I thought I was drinking plenty of water, I actually wasn't. I upped my hydration and a lot of the crampy feelings I was getting on our walks basically disappeared. DUH. So now we're back to taking LONG walks, which feels great.

Sleep: Holding steady. I never thought I'd just get used to waking up between 3 and 4 AM to waddle to the bathroom, but I do it every night now. I'm generally able to get back to sleep after not too long, and I think this is helped by the longer walks.

Diet: Also improving. Something about being over 36 pounds on my weight gain shocked me in to realizing that "occasional sweets" does not mean three desserts in the same day. So... occasional. And I'm eating more fruits and veggies.

Something nice: DH's adorable baby cousin got baptized this weekend, so we went to the service and the family lunch gathering afterward. This baby is so amazingly chill: she loves to eat, she's a good sleeper, and when she's awake she's content as long as she has a good view of the room. Every time DH and I are around her we both rub my belly and tell our kid to be just like his cousin. I hope that works.

DH's whole family is pretty excited about the little dude. His aunt found a bunch of clothes at a consignment sale that everyone has been telling me about: I haven't seen them yet, but there's a rumor of a sweater vest, and oh how I love a baby in a sweater vest. His family is also going to lend us a swing and buy me a breastfeeding pillow - two things I hadn't yet gotten that I really want to have. This kid is lucky! OK... so am I.

Also: over the weekend we stocked up on pantry goods. We have enough laundry detergent, canned goods and boxed mac n cheese to survive the apocalypse. It does help ease my mind, knowing that we can live for weeks (that's probably not an exaggeration) without going to the grocery store, since I'm anticipating a few weeks of complete brain-dead sleep deprivation at the start there. If I get my act together in the next few days I'm going to make a few meals to freeze, since there are still a few square inches of open freezer space in our kitchen, and we can't have that, can we? Does this count as nesting? I think it may.

Finally: several folks have asked me when I'm due, and then have guessed: "in a month?" Then they're all surprised when I tell them two weeks. So I just passed an invisible threshold of somehow looking less pregnant than I actually am. I have no clue how these things work.

Oh, and as a bonus: did you hear about the woman who ran the Chicago Marathon at "nearly 39 weeks" pregnant, went in to labor DURING THE RACE, finished, grabbed a bite to eat, then went to the hospital and had her baby? Thanks for making us all feel like slackers, lady!! I stopped running at something like 10 weeks!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall harvest

I don't regularly check in on CJane's blog, so I didn't realize she was pregnant again until she was, like, really pregnant. But this post she put up last week made me nod:

"Good bye September.
It's a curious thing to have a body on the same fertile cycle as Mother Earth.When I see the heavy apples on the tree in the backyard, hanging on for one more month of perfect ripeness, I feel my position. When I see my face in this photograph I also see the roundness, the readiness of a harvest of a different kind.
September, we're glowing."

And she is, round-faced and glowing in the picture.

As I've been waddling around in search of tasty pumpkin delicacies, I agree with her that it's curious to feel rather pumpkin-like, myself, in the autumn. Curious and kind of fun. I've always loved October, and now I think I will love it even more, because (unless I go really overdue) it's the month when I get to meet my son.

I've heard that it's best to have babies in the spring, so one can do all the gestating and nesting when it's cold outside, and that always made sense to me. But this year I'm enjoying this affinity with apple trees and squash plants, and I'm looking forward to what this autumn will bring us.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

37 weeks

0-4 weeks until the big day! That's quite a range.

Weight Gain:
About 32 pounds, according to the scale at home. I would like to keep it under 35, but we appear to be gaining 2 pounds a week at the end here. Not sure how I feel about that.

Symptoms: I know I still have it easy, but I'm experiencing an increase in aches and pains. My hips are achey, my lower back is occasionally giving me what-for (not in a crampy way, more in a "dang, girl, you're carrying 30 extra pounds around all the time" way), and holy hell, have I gotten some painful gas lately. Especially when the kiddo decides to try to stretch out, I have moments where I just feel like there's too much matter in my midsection and not enough space. I'd like to keep the little guy baking for at least another couple of weeks, but I can completely understand why some women are just done with the blessed pregnancy process at this point.

I am also getting occasional crampy feelings, and I'm feeling my Braxton-Hicks contractions more, so I think the body is moving in to "getting ready" mode.

Cravings/Aversions: I really just want to eat all the time again - hence the 2 pound a week weight gain, I'm sure - but carbs are always delicious.

I am loving: The nice weather and the way DH and I have been kind of soaking in our last few days/weeks together as just the two of us. We did a lot of work on our apartment this weekend and now I feel like we're really moved in, just in the nick of time. The place feels like home, and the kid's room is really cozy, and we're enjoying our last days of quiet while simultaneously looking forward to meeting the new guy.

Oh, and I have a new sleep strategy to ward off hip pain: I am now sleeping with my Snoogle, plus a regular pillow, PLUS a folded-up comforter between my knees. This looks completely insane, as I'm basically sticking one leg all up in the air, but it means I sleep.

I miss: Just about everything about my body 30 pounds ago. But most of that will come back soon, so I'm cool with it.

I'm looking forward to: Hopefully at least one more beautiful fall weekend at home with just DH before the Big Day.

I'm concerned about: My blood pressure... sort of. I'm really concerned about the midwives' attitude shift. Three weeks ago, my BP was a little higher than it had been for most of the pregnancy, but no one seemed too concerned. Then last week, when the nurse pulled out the blood pressure cuff, I briefly panicked - I felt my heart pound and I got that quick fight-or-flight head rush one can get. I should have asked the nurse to wait a second, but she was jabbering away about something, so she takes my blood pressure and it's scary high. Then she interrogates me: "Were you rushing to get here? How do you feel? Have you had headaches?" She makes me lie down and tells the midwife to take another reading later.

Here's the thing: 10 minutes later, the midwife takes my BP and it's almost exactly what it was two weeks before. I am certain I have a case of "white coat syndrome", especially in light of my sister's experience with birth. Despite the new normal reading, though, the midwife orders a blood test and a 24-hour urine collection - something they had made my sister do before they tortured her. When I heard about the urine thing, I yelled, "no!" - in my mind, this was the beginning of the end of hands-off midwife care, and they're about to hand me over to the OB wolves with their IVs and their scalpels.

So in between working on our apartment all day Saturday, I was also collecting my pee in a charming orange jug. Sunday morning we dropped the jug o' pee off at the hospital, and by Sunday evening we had confirmation that no problems were found in any of the blood test labs or in my urine - I'm cool. Despite that, the midwife who talked with DH on Sunday afternoon when I was away rattled off all the symptoms of pre-eclampsia that he should watch out for, and made sure to mention seizures as a possibility. He was rightfully annoyed that they're still acting like something is wrong even though all the tests are showing that I'm fine thus far. I understand that pre-e can crop up quickly, but it almost feels like they're hoping for something to be wrong so they can induce me.

Anyway, with all that, we bought another week. And we're kind of ready for a fight on Thursday at my next appointment. I do feel a little reassured that I have now managed to progress further in my pregnancy than they let my sister get. I feel like every additional day the kid can stay in the womb means better things for him when he's born, and hopefully a better birth experience for both of us... especially if they try to induce me. The closer we are to the due date, the more ready he'll be to get born. But I'm cranky that I even need to worry about induction.

Milestones: Full term! If he is born, say, tomorrow, they wouldn't even think about sending him to NICU unless there's some extra complication with the birth. Yes, I would like my slimy baby placed directly on my chest as soon as he's born, thank you. We have a lot of getting-to-know-you to do.

Movement: Ugh. It's still reassuring, but does it have to be so... painful? He likes to s t r e t c h out, and lo, there is no room in there for the stretching.

Exercise: OK. I've been more sedentary at work than I probably should be, but we are at least getting nice walks in during the evenings. This fall weather is fantastic. I'm sad that it's supposed to heat up again later this week.

Diet: OK-ish. I need to keep focusing on protein, especially with all the midwife panic.

Something nice:
On Sunday, a group of my friends had a "mothers' blessing" for me and my friend who's due 4 days after me. It was a really nice event, and a good opportunity to think about this transition. I'm supposed to text the organizer when I go in to labor so she can tell all the women who were there that they should say a prayer for me, which is cool.

Also, I got to Skype with my best friend who lives far away in Canada yesterday, and she was asking me all kinds of things about my experience with pregnancy and what I'd learned about birth. It's great to talk with her, anyway, but I also like feeling like I'm becoming one of those moms that other women can ask about this stuff. There's a lot of stuff that nobody tells you!

Also, DH's mom picked up a lot of really cute sleepers for the kiddo, and his aunt called on Saturday and said she found a bunch of adorable baby clothes at a consignment sale for super-cheap. There was a time when I was worried we didn't have any clothes for the little guy... that time is gone.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Boob Juice considerations

I'm going to note, right off the bat, that my male readers might just want to give this post a miss. It's predominantly about breasts.

Wait, that probably didn't deter you.

Um, lactating breasts.


I've always expected that, should I produce some offspring, I would do what other mammals do and nurse them. It just makes sense to me. My mom did as much with her three children, and she's noted that it's easy and affordable - and also a nice bonding experience. DH's mom also nursed all three of her kids and has said basically the same thing. I recognize that I'm fortunate to have family support on the baby-feeding front... but some of that "support" has taken an ominous shape.

Over the Easter weekend, when I was still not even really showing yet, and DH and I were occupied with a long list of higher priorities like finishing grad school, finding a place to move, and other items of actual import, one of my relatives handed me an enormous book about breastfeeding and told me I should start reading it now and attend La Leche League meetings immediately - this was later backed up with "no later than July, really". Then my mother ordered me two more books about nursing which arrived at our apartment the next week. (Side note: you know that fun feeling when an Amazon box arrives at your door? Imagine it contains a book about nursing a baby. Still fun? Yeeah...)

So I suddenly had three books to read, on top of the couple of pregnancy books (thick, yes, but meant to be read piecemeal over the course of 40 weeks) and the stack of information I got from my midwife each month, and the weekly e-mail that pops up in my inbox. And, I don't know, the READING I WOULD LIKE TO DO THAT ISN'T ABOUT BABIES.

Look, I understand that the women in my family are being supportive. But this information overload was threatening to stress me out. I had thought that by planning to breastfeed, I was choosing the simpler route, but these people were making it into a research project, complete with deadlines. Will nursing suddenly not work, if I don't do all this reading? Can't I research this stuff my own way? Over the last, oh, five years, I've picked up plenty of useful tidbits from talking to other moms my age who have successfully nursed their kids and from reading the occasional blog post or article. I know my midwife has a lot of resources for new moms; I'll have a list of numbers to call if I need some advice.

And frankly, I don't want to join La Leche League. I never did, and I'm less interested in it now than I ever have been. They're entirely too dogmatic for my taste. I know a couple of League members who have told me that women who stop nursing "just give up too easily" or, seriously, are "failures". Because this is a test to pass or fail? I know there are women who tried valiantly and had to make the choice between nursing and providing enough nutrition for their baby to thrive, and so they turned to formula. Somehow their babies are still alive - thriving, even. The League doesn't want new moms to notice those kids. The League tells us formula is "poison". And what mother would willingly feed her baby poison?!?

I don't want to turn in to one of those moms who judge other mothers. And I don't want to nurse my kid out of a sense of stubborn correctness. That's not good mothering, it's sickness. I want to nurse my baby because... well, I already said it: it makes sense and I won't have to worry about running out, etc, etc. And of course, it's healthy for both of us. And it's cheap and we're on a budget. That's really great, and I'm willing to work hard to make it work (and to his credit, DH is willing to put up with a fridge full of breast milk and the hassle of warming bottles when I'm away at work). But if, for some unexpected reason, like I don't have ducts that work right or I have raging, violent postpartum depression or some other crazy thing happens, and the choice is between nursing and my child's health... well, this is a no-brainer. My son is more important than my sense of righteousness, and he's gotta eat something.

Frankly, the League fanatics overdo it so much that their rhetoric backfires with exhausted new parents. People like Marisa are led to believe that giving in to formula is admission of breastfeeding failure - there's no room for supplementing in the mind of the League. It's all or nothing. So for new moms who might need a little more time to get the hang of it, there appears to be no grey area - no actual choice - and they give up. Is that what the League wants? Why do they prioritize exclusive breastfeeding over the compromises some people need to make, like supplementing with formula while the whole process gets worked out?

I was also interested to see what Jenny recently wrote about her difficult (and exceptionally painful) breastfeeding experience, too - especially the part where she felt that pumping all the time actually took away from times she could have been bonding with her baby. I'm sure the League would disapprove of that kind of admission. In fact, it seems the League is unwilling to consider any emotions involved in child-feeding that aren't positive.

I feel like I'm not going in to this with illusions. I understand that breastfeeding is difficult, exhausting, and sometimes painful at the start, which is why I've been talking to my midwife and my friends and relatives and coworkers who've done it successfully, and why I'll have phone numbers of lactation consultants to call. I have the wonders of the internet, and I'm already on a message board that's been talking about this stuff. And, hell, I have three huge books now. So I've got resources.

It's also fair to point out that I've read plenty of articles and posts by women who had really positive experiences breastfeeding. Sherry at Young House Love posted in July about the 14 months she breastfed her daughter, and Emily at Oh! Apostrophe recently wrote about how breastfeeding managed to work for her and her baby even though she "broke all the rules" at the beginning.

It's almost like each one of these women, and each of their children, is different. And each of them figured out what worked for them and their kid. It's as if I'll have to do the same thing with my child.

If it takes some extra time for my milk to come in, or my baby has a poor sucking reflex, or whatever, I'm going to supplement with formula. I'm writing that out now and considering printing it off to hand to my League-obsessed relative. Maybe we'll have to do half-breastmilk half-formula for a while. That's OK. Maybe we'll have to do all formula. I'll be disappointed about the expense of that, but beyond the finances, I'd like to think I'll be cool with it. I'm disgusted by the "failure" language, and try as my relative might, I'm not going to buy into it by internalizing it, and I'm not going to attend a monthly League meeting where they'll tell me I'm doing it wrong unless I quit my job, co-sleep, and nurse on demand until my child is four years old. Because none of those things will happen.

In an ideal world, I would like to breastfeed my baby until he's a year old. Beyond that, we'll play it by ear. If we get that far, maybe he'll wean himself at 14 months like Clara Petersik, or maybe I'll have to wean him when he's two because he - like one of his uncles who will remain nameless - will "want to nurse until he's twenty". It's going to be up to him, to a large extent, and up to me and DH to pick up on his cues and figure out when we need to change what we're doing or ask for help from one of the many resources at our disposal.

At the end of the day, as long as our baby is getting nutrition and growing, I'll consider the test of early childhood feeding to be passed, no matter how we get there. And I solemnly hope that I won't turn in to one of the high-pressure "lactivists" when some mom-to-be asks me for advice in the future, because making a pregnant woman feel pressured about these things isn't actually being supportive.

Monday, September 26, 2011

36 weeks

My due date is in less than a month, but I could deliver this Friday and have a full-term baby. So... in 0-5 weeks, we have a baby. Then we have to take care of it. Yikes!

Weight Gain: Right around 30 pounds, according to the scale at home. My weight gain has not had a very linear trajectory.

Symptoms: I'm sleepy, pretty much all the time. Of course, it's been raining and cold for the past 48 hours, so I think a lot of people just want to stay in bed these days. Fortunately, this isn't the soul-crushing fatigue of the first trimester, just general tiredness. Also: my ankles have started getting puffy. I managed to avoid cankles throughout the record-breaking heat of the summer, and NOW my ankles puff up? Whatever. If I put my feet up and drink something, they calm down again. Also: my hips are definitely expanding. If I try to roll over in bed, they make a loud POP, and I have to keep two pillows between my knees when I'm sleeping now. And when I get up from sleeping or from sitting for a while at work, I have to walk several steps before I feel like my hips are definitely going to support my weight. Weird.

Cravings/Aversions: I want food. Mostly carbs. Often desserts. Frequently. Since my stomach capacity is tiny these days, I'm eating little snacks all the time. If I go more than two hours without eating (unless I'm asleep), I'm faint/nauseous/cranky. I am turning in to an infant, apparently.

I am loving: Not gonna lie, I kind of enjoy being so big I turn heads/ make people look scared. Seriously, some people look frightened. Just wait three more weeks, people!

I miss: Not being sleepy all the time. I know I will read this in 6 or 8 weeks and laugh maniacally at myself, saying, "Schmei, you didn't know the MEANING of TIRED back then!" but still, this is how I feel.

I'm looking forward to: This is odd, because I know it will be when I'm very uncomfortable and sleep deprived and need a lot of help with day-to-day life, but I'm looking forward to my mom coming up to help after the baby is born. I think it's going to be really comforting to have her around.

I'm concerned about: Life with a newborn. We're completely responsible for a tiny, helpless human? This makes me nervous. Though I think this nervousness is good, because it means I'm becoming less worried about pre-eclampsia, at least.

Milestones: He'll be full-term on Friday! Yowsas!

Movement: He's slowing down and stretching out and getting crowded in there. Movement that feels like an actual kick is becoming rare. Now it's more slow rolls and leg stretches, and sometimes it's painful because he's really pressing hard against my bladder/kidney/something. He gets hiccups a few times a day, and I can feel that more strongly each day. The hiccups kind of make me feel bad for him, but I know they're helping to make his breathing strong. And as DH pointed out, hiccups are annoying when you're trying to speak or do something else, but the little dude doesn't really have a lot on his agenda these days. Good point.

Exercise: Pretty good. Over the weekend of the wedding we had access to a pool, and floating around without fighting gravity was heavenly. I did a few lazy laps each day. Otherwise, I've been pretty good with walks, and my legs get stiff so easily I'm doing stretching/light yoga moves a few times a day on days when I'm at work. I can't walk as fast as I could before - I start to get contractions - but I can still walk for a pretty good while.

Diet: To be frank, I haven't been as careful as I was the last 8 months. Hot chocolate? OK. Cake? Sure. My actual meals are all pretty healthy, and I'm still trying to get lots of lean protein and fruits and veggies, but I'm huge and my hips are separating themselves and it takes me ten minutes to haul myself off the couch and sometimes I just want a donut.

Something nice: I was at work, talking on the phone with a woman who was interested in one of our training programs, and I was explaining to her that I'd be on maternity leave soon. She was really nice and said she had three kids via natural childbirth, and then went on, being all encouraging. "Labor is really a mental thing," she said. Then she said she'd keep me in her prayers. I don't even know this lady's name! That was super nice. And the mental thing... it was just what I needed to hear.

Also, at the end of the wedding weekend - which was really nice - we were all saying goodbye to each other, and the bride's whole family (a bunch of British people who had just met us all less than 48 hours before) said all kinds of sweet things to me and asked that we send baby pictures and wished us the best. It was a little hard not to get verklempt.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So there isn't a stork?

Now that I'm in the final month of pregnancy, my belly is so prominent that I'm getting used to constant comments from... well, everyone. Relatives, coworkers, random strangers. The thing I don't understand? People who tell me that childbirth is going to hurt.

Seriously, people do this. And they think they're... being helpful? Letting me in on a secret? I don't know. It wasn't just that woman I mentioned in my last post, it just happened again - this time it was a MAN, on the train. Men: never, ever tell a pregnant woman that childbirth will hurt, because she just might start thinking of what she can do to you so you can enjoy a comparable experience.

The dude on the train started off all friendly, telling me about his 18-year-old daughter who's starting college, and he's so proud of her, and it seems like just yesterday his wife was pregnant, and they grow up so fast... that's all nice stuff. Then there was a lull in the (mostly one-sided) conversation, and he said, "I don't want to scare you, but" (Schmei's internal monologue: THEN DON'T SAY IT, IDIOT!) "my wife said she wouldn't have had that baby, if she'd known how much it was gonna hurt."

There was another woman sitting near us on the train who rolled her eyes so dramatically I felt at least a little vindicated in my sudden hatred of the guy. I just said, "uh huh."

I have found that most of the folks who've told me it's going to hurt a lot are people who have never had children. And seriously, half of them are men. I'm sure they're in awe of the whole process, but they need to shut it.

And I need to start saying, "you know what? Never say that to another pregnant woman again."

But don't worry, dear readers: the universe attempted to right itself. A few minutes after that conversation I was walking toward home, and two guys sitting on a bench hollered out to me as I walked past:

Guy on bench: Hey lady! How far along... when are you due?

Me: In a month!

Guy on bench: You look real sexy!

Me: (laughing, give thumbs-up in their direction)

Hey, at least it was complimentary.

Monday, September 19, 2011

35 weeks

Weight Gain: According to the midwife, 30 pounds. According to the scale at home, 28 pounds. Sometimes that makes me sigh, others I'm OK with it. I did gain 5 pounds in two weeks, according to the midwife's office scale, but I was wearing much warmer clothing than usual (copout) and the midwife noted that I had had something of a "plateau" the month before. We had one of the cool midwives. She did not snark that gaining more than 25 pounds is "bad for me", which I appreciated.

Symptoms: I'm tired. I think that second-trimester energy burst is starting to wane. I'm also getting occasional mild headaches... but at the risk of over-disclosure, my whole digestive system has, er, slowed down, so I'm guessing that's what that is from.

Cravings/Aversions:I've been craving sweets more, especially chocolatey carbs. Do I just need more calories, or is this a warning! sign! of pre-eclampsia! God, I wish I wasn't so worried about that.

I am loving: Cool weather. I'm not sure how many times I've thanked/apologized to my mother for having me in August, because I can't imagine spending the last month of pregnancy in July... and then going 10 days overdue. Sorry, Mom!

I miss: Full nights of sleep. OK, I can't complain too much, because I still get a full night of sleep every other night or so. But the intermittent nights involve waking up once or twice, going to the bathroom... and then staring at the ceiling for an hour or so because I can't get back to sleep. The little dude can't really be blamed - he hardly kicks me at night, and I don't think it would keep me awake if it did. My brain just doesn't re-settle very well.

I'm looking forward to: My brother-in-law's wedding this coming weekend. I will be playing the part of the enormous pregnant lady.

I'm concerned about: Pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure was slightly higher at the last appointment, though I'm trying to tell myself that it was because I drove through rush-hour traffic, and then the nurse took FOREVER to take my BP, which made me nervous. No protein in my urine or anything, and some headaches in late pregnancy (mine have been very mild) are supposed to be normal. Still, when I'm staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, I keep envisioning being at my next midwife appointment and being told "You have pre-eclampsia. We're inducing you today. You're going to writhe in pain for two days and then we'll give you a c-section against your will. Got it? Why are you crying?"

What's interesting to me is that I basically spent 33 weeks or so being all chill about this pregnancy: whatever happens, happens, I can only control inputs, not outcomes, so let's all do some yoga. Why am I freaking out in the last month? I'm sure my sister's terrible birth experience (which featured - get this - pre-eclampsia, a days-long failed induction and a c-section. I'm very creative with my worries) has colored some of this, but I also wonder if worrying about this very specific potential problem is helping me to not worry about... everything else that could happen.

Milestones: He's honeydew-sized! And he'll be full-term in 2 weeks. Wow.

Movement: He just punched my bladder. The kid likes to move.

Exercise: Pretty good this week, what with the clement weather. A few long walks, some workout tapes, a little yoga, and on Sunday basically a full day of nesting-type behavior - organizing the baby's room and our bedroom, washing all the new clothes we got, etc. I'm trying to fight the sleepy and to feel like we're close to prepared for this kid's arrival.

Diet: actual meals have been pretty great - lots of home-cooking, mostly cooked by the wonderful DH. I am becoming more interested in desserts now. Not sure if this is because of the cold weather, the last month being when the kid packs on the most weight, or the dreaded pre-e.

As noted above, it's becoming inconsistent. And unkind people like to mention that we will NEVER SLEEP AGAIN so this makes me a little sad. I really, really like to sleep.

Something nice: One of my coworkers told me I make pregnancy look easy. As I was about to fall asleep at the receptionist's desk at the time, I appreciated the compliment. Seriously, I have had it pretty easy up until now. I think expecting the last month to be as much of a breeze as months 4-8 were is probably just too much to ask: I am carrying around a darn-near full-sized baby at this point. In my uterus. Woah. That I'm merely tired and occasionally have mild aches and pains means I still have it easy, and most of the time I am grateful for that.

The other nice thing? Washing all the kid's clothes this weekend. DH and I kept geeking out at how tiny and snuggly and cute the stuff is. Itty bitty socks! Wee hats! Tiny diapers! Little footie pajamas with cartoon puppies on them! I can't believe that in, like, 4-6 weeks or so, we're going to have a small person around to put those things on. That's kind of mind-blowing.

Something less-than-nice: This is an anecdote I had to share.

So, I'm obviously, shockingly pregnant at this point, and random strangers comment on it all the time. At least 90 percent of the time, they say something nice - I'm seriously amazed at least once a day by something kind someone says or does - but this morning as we were heading out the door of our apartment (DH walks me to the train in the morning because he's a super nice guy), this random woman was sitting on our front porch steps, talking on her cell phone. There are only 3 other people who live in our building, and this lady was definitely not one of them, so we looked a little puzzled at her. She started giving a long explanation about how she was waiting for her friend who lives in the next building... and then she got a look at my (terrifyingly large?) belly, and cut her diatribe short.

Random Stranger Porch Lady: Oh - how many months?

Me (trying to get to the sidewalk so I can walk to the train): eight.

RSPL: Do you know what it is?

Me (almost to sidewalk - why is it suddenly so far away?): It's a boy!

RSPL: Is this your first?

Me (at the sidewalk! Trying to walk quickly!): Yep.

RSPL: (smiling broadly) It's gonna hurt!

Me (internal monologue) WHY the f**** would you EVER SAY THAT to an OBVIOUSLY SUPER PREGNANT WOMAN??? Don't you think it's a LITTLE LATE FOR ME TO BACK OUT? And do you think I'm COMPLETELY STUPID and have never heard of CHILDBIRTH?? YOU SUCK AND I HATE YOU! GET OFF MY PORCH!!

(what I actually said): haha - I've heard that!

Sigh. I really need to spend this last month removing that politeness filter.

Monday, September 12, 2011

34 weeks

I'm not pledging to be consistent about this, but I do feel like there's more detectable stuff going on in this trimester than there was in the last two, and I feel compelled to write it down.

Weight Gain:
Not sure. My next appointment is Wednesday and I still haven't weighed myself since we moved. I'm a little worried I'm gaining weight fast, but we'll see.

Symptoms: Belly button, please stay right where you are. Don't pop out. Please? Because you're starting to look... strained.

Also, cramps and contractions. My legs want to cramp up if I'm not careful, and the ligaments or whatever in my lower abdomen - right above my hips - have given me a couple of "yeee-owch!" moments, when I moved too fast or tried to roll over in bed. And on one recent hot morning I got another round of quickly repeating, mildly painful contractions while I was walking to work. I drank a bunch of fluids and sat down as soon as I got to the office, and they went away immediately.

And... is this pregnancy related? Mild headaches. They come and go, and they're in my right forehead, just over my eye. I'm telling myself this is related to digestive issues and not pre-eclampsia.

Oh, and stretch marks on my thighs. It's interesting what bothers me (essentially, stretch marks anywhere else) and what doesn't. I guess I've never found my thighs to be overly pretty, so this is not really a thing.

Cravings/Aversions:Sometimes I want ice cream, a lot. Or chocolate. Apparently craving sweets is some kind of pre-eclampsia warning sign, so I'm trying to down a lot of protein and keep moving around a lot. But sometimes I do just eat the ice cream. Still not down with canned mushrooms, but I love fresh ones now.

I am loving: The occasional cool day. Wouldn't mind if they stick around!

I miss: Being able to roll over in bed. It continues to get more complicated, and it's when I'm sooo tirred and just trying to get comfy.

I'm freaked out about: Just gonna say it: pre-eclampsia. This is the first time I've been a little nervous about an upcoming midwife appointment, what with the (mild!) headaches. Please, please, please let my urine screen be OK this week. I'm not really swelling and I'm consuming more protein than I did when I was triathlon training... but I'm right around the same stage in pregnancy that my sister was when they gave her the bad news, and having a sister who had it means my chances are higher than the average mama bear.

If I can make it past this week's appointment, my next one will be at 36 1/2 weeks, which is a lot closer to full-term and would make me less concerned about horrible interventions.

I'm actually not sure which element of pre-eclampsia makes me more nervous: the prospect of having an induction/c-section forced on me, or the prospect of caring for a premature baby while recovering from a c-section. Regardless, I hope everything is cool on Wednesday so I can just take a deep breath and focus on fun stuff, like my brother-in-law's wedding.

I'm looking forward to:
my brother-in-law's wedding! It's in less than 2 weeks, which boggles my mind because I remember thinking "I'll be the size of a tank at that wedding!" I think that means I'm approaching tank-size...

Milestones: Those weekly e-mails I get are now comparing the kiddo to some pretty large fruit. This week: cantaloupe!

And this isn't a baby milestone, it's a parent milestone: we found a pediatrician. She's within walking distance of our apartment, she's fairly young (but she's been practicing for 10 years), she has two kids of her own, and her general philosophy is very similar to ours. I expected we'd just be settling for someone OK, but we both like her. And her office offers free classes on different parenting topics, which is cool. So that's a big task off the to-do list.

Movement: Still good. Sometimes when I'm sitting on the couch, he stretches out such that I have to lean way back to give him room or else his whole leg is in my ribs. A few times he's kicked me so hard it did actually hurt. Watch it, kiddo.

Exercise: After months of walking and doing the same yoga video, I was craving something different, so I checked out the cheesiest pregnancy workout DVD from the library. It was originally filmed in 1988, and it has the unitards and legwarmers to show for it. And the music was awful. But I kind of got an OK workout following along with it. Then on Tuesday we went back to the library and I checked out another workout DVD: FitMom. Holy crap, this lady is hard core. And the workout was filmed some time within the last 5 years, so it's way less 80s. So on good days, I take a long walk and then do 20-30 minutes of the FitMom workout. And then I sleep!

Sleep: This is a new category, partly because it's the number one question I get: "are you still sleeping?" I've been surprised, really, at how this is everyone's first question. For the most part, my sleep is OK, though it's becoming more common that I'm awake from about 3-4AM. Sometimes I wake up to pee, sometimes to get a snack, but then I can't fall back to sleep too quickly. This is why I'm trying to work out more, as it seems to help.

The other funny sleep thing is that I'm apparently making wacky noises when I am asleep. One early morning this past week, DH woke me by asking, "is he kicking?" And I muttered, "no", and I was annoyed that he was waking me up, but he mis-heard me and put his hand on my belly anyway. Not really a big deal. But then we were talking about it at breakfast and he told me that I'd apparently yelled, "WHOOOOO!" in my sleep. Real loud-like, as if I'd just gotten pummeled. I have zero memory of that.

Pretty OK. We're eating home-cooked meals pretty much every weeknight these days, which is awesome. I'm all about desserts, but I've mostly been turning to cereal to kick the sweets craving, so that's not too bad. But I'd be lying if I said I don't have ice cream 2-3 times a week. It's so good! I'm such a stereotype!

Something nice: The experienced-mom network is awesome. A woman I worked with on a conference in January, who is located in DC, is sending a box of baby stuff my way. She has four kids and isn't having any more babies (and her youngest is the cuddliest squishy-cheeked little guy ever - he joined her at the conference), so she's excited to get rid of the stuff and I'm happy to have it. This is in addition to the box of clothes (including a dozen pairs of itty bitty socks!) I got from another woman who's worked with me on an annual conference - that one came from Iowa. I'm getting free stuff from all over the country! I spent some of the weekend sorting out all the new clothes, bath towels, and other things we need to wash, and I think we're more prepared for a newborn than I originally thought, which is great.

Also, I keep holding things up and telling DH, "this is SO SMALL!" Last night it was newborn diapers. They're tiny! Whose butt would fit in that? Awwww.

Monday, September 5, 2011

33 weeks

It's Labor Day, though hopefully not THAT kind of labor day for me. Here's hoping you readers are enjoying a day off from your hard work. We're taking advantage of our last holiday weekend together as just two married folks by puttering around the apartment, enjoying autumn-like weather, and taking naps. I love naps.

Weight Gain: 26 pounds... and now I'm officially over the 15-25 pounds I'm supposed to gain, with 7 weeks to go. I'm not sure there's a lot I could have done differently to gain less weight, and I'm honestly not stressed about it. I also seem to be carrying ALL of it in my belly (OK, some of it made it to my thighs): my face isn't puffy or anything. So there we are. I will likely gain over 30 pounds total, and the not-quite-so-nice midwife who told me "that's not good for you" can deal with it.

Speaking of that, after months of striding out of every midwife appointment feeling like I'm the best mom, and DH is the best dad, and our kid is the best ever, we met with our first dud this past week. She made me feel like I must be doing something wrong, she told me my legs are swollen (uh... or I have big calves? My ankles/feet/hands weren't swollen at all and my blood pressure was "great", according to the nurse), she harped on me about the weight thing, and she basically told me I'm doing it wrong because I didn't have a list of questions for her. I see a midwife every other week, I've read umpteen books and blogs, we just took a 12-week childbirth class... if I have questions, I seek answers. I just really didn't have any this week. Then she really made me feel confident by telling me her watch had been off by a day for the whole month, and she just realized it. That just sounds flaky to me.

Now I'm worried that she, not any of the other 6 awesome midwives I've met so far, will be on call when I'm in labor. I'm praying that isn't the case, as all the other midwives (except the one we have yet to meet at the next appointment) have ranged from "you'd be nice to have coffee with" to "can you please be my second mom?" I guess we had to have one who's less-than-awesome. Hopefully the last woman is more cool.

Symptoms: Big belly that now moves so much when the tyke is feeling gymnastic that it has interrupted meetings at work and a childbirth class. He likes attention, I guess. Also: decreased appetite and more of that first-timester "bleh" feeling when my stomach is empty, which has gotten bad enough in the middle of the night that I've had to get up and eat a snack at 3am.

Also... I think I've had some contractions. Totally irregular, localized to my lower abdomen, but kind of crampy feelings. Each time it's happened has been when I'm walking or attempting to bend down. If I sit still, they go away. They happened on a super-hot day, so I'm hoping this is heat-related, in part because if I can't even walk until after this kid is born, I will start to lose my mind.

The internal thermostat situation continues to weirdfy, as well. I get super hot and sweaty at the drop of a hat, even in a cool room. My skin almost always feels cool to the touch these days, though, so it's not like I'm feverish. I just can't handle heat - or even mild warmth. I'm so glad the weather is cooling down.

Cravings/Aversions: I'm having days when food in general isn't interesting, unfortunately. But sometimes I really, really want a milkshake. Or orange juice. I must need more calcium/vitamin C these days.

I am loving: that we're really starting to think about what life will be like after October 21 or so. I'm starting to daydream more about a baby who will be a little boy and then a young man, rather than just a theoretical concept that gives me digestive issues.

I miss: All the same stuff. And my second-trimester love of food. Food is getting complicated for me again, and I do not enjoy that.

I'm looking forward to: Seeing my son's face. It's so weird that we don't know what he'll look like. I've already had a couple of weird dreams in which he has no face, or I can't see it, etc. It's clearly bothering my subconscious.

I'm freaked out about: Going in to labor early and not being ready. But will we ever actually be ready? This, I do not know. Also: going in to labor and having Flaky CrankyPants midwife on call. I know the odds are greatly in our favor that one of the awesome ones will be around, so I should focus on that. Also: going in to labor before my brother-in-law's wedding at the end of this month. It's going to be such a cool wedding! We gotta make it to October, at least!

Milestones: We had our last childbirth class - finally! - and I think that made us realize we're moving in to home stretch territory. Also, we got the car seat (thanks, Mom and Dad!): the only piece of equipment required to leave a hospital with a newborn. Are they seriously going to let us take a newborn home with us? They're crazy.

Movement: Frequent, strong, and sometimes nigh-disorienting. He seriously almost knocks me over some times. I think he's doing Krav Maga or something.

Exercise: OK with walking, though at times I have to slow it down due to shortness of breath and occasional achy-ness... and now contractions. I'm trying to do more yoga, which helps me sleep/makes me less stiff/ is strengthening all the stuff I need to be strong to birth this kid. I'm also trying to incorporate more arms/upper body work, since a couple of new moms told me to do it NOW, before I'm holding an 8-pound lump for hours on end and wishing I had more arm strength.

Diet: OK. We got a big bag of brown rice with our sweet new Costco membership (thanks again, Mom and Dad!), and DH is experimenting with healthy/cheap dinner eats. What he's come up with so far has been delectable. I do think I frankly over-restricted myself the day after the appointment with CrankyPants midwife - I kept feeling hungry and drinking water instead of eating anything - so I need to just push her snotty voice out of my mind and eat when I'm hungry. I should be drinking more water, though, as CrankyPants reminded me. The problem with 80 ounces a day is that then I have to pee seven million times. But at this stage I'm peeing that often, anyway, so I guess I might as well have something to show for it.

Something nice: A woman who works at the university where I work, with whom I have never had a direct face-to-face conversation, surprised me with a couple of hand-knitted baby washcloths she made out of really nice soft cotton stuff in fun colors. She said it was a thank-you for a small favor I did for her department, but I felt like that was way beyond anything that was called for. I was surprised and touched.

Also, the new guy at the health food store around the corner from my office gave me a 10% "pregnancy discount" when I bought some coconut water on the day the weather was super-hot and I was feeling huge and crampy and not so great. He didn't know I'd just been huffing and puffing down the street and worrying about contractions and the heat, he was just being nice. It made me feel a lot better.