Vagina lightning

AKA lightning crotch, cooter shooters or shiv snatch – thank you, online pregnancy message boards.

A few people use these terms to describe the (minorly unpleasant) second trimester round ligament pains, but those are a walk in the park compared to real lightning crotch.

Personally, I find it more akin to a screwdriver in your cervix. Because while it is shocking and stabby, like lightning or a knife, it is at the same time twisty and wrenching. And I feel it high up and deep inside my pelvis. If you’re walking, it makes you freeze in your tracks or double over. If you’re sitting, it makes you bolt upright, and in any case it is almost impossible not to yell out, swear or gasp in pain.

It’s super common (and nothing to worry about) but it’s a real son of a bitch. It was happening occasionally for the last couple of months, but towards the end of last week I went through a day or two where it was happening so frequently that every time I moved, I was afraid. It seems to have settled down a bit, but is still happening daily  (or more). Nobody knows exactly what causes this third trimester treat – it could be early cervical dilation, the baby triggering nerves in your pelvis, or the baby engaging (dropping) into your pelvis and (head)butting up against your cervix.

The pain is one thing, but the worst thing about it is that it’s pretty confidence killing. You’re thinking, “I can’t even handle these fleeting pains and I’m going to manage to get through a million hours of labour? Right.” And every time it happens, you feel like your husband (who will aggressively deny this) looks at you skeptically like, “oh great…she’s already freaking out and this isn’t even close to as bad as it’s gonna get.”

Somewhat comfortingly, everything I’m reading and hearing indicates that it really does hurt, but it is also really nothing like labour pains. As my friend (and fellow lightning crotch survivor) Kristyn assured me, “no, no, no, labour is a gradual process, not like knives in your vagina.”

So, there’s that.


What I did on my winter vacation

*this post is only about a month and a half overdue…not bad.

Right up there with “push present” is the equally obnoxious pregnancy buzzword “babymoon”–which is stupid in both concept and practice. Conceptually, an anything-moon should happen AFTER something (like how a honeymoon comes after a wedding, not sandwiched between the best man’s speech and the cake cutting). And practically speaking, vacationing while pregnant throws a bit of a wet blanket over everything that is usually fun about vacation.

I didn’t plan on being 29 weeks pregnant when I went to Hawaii for 12 days in February. If anything, it was more of an, “aw shit, I’m going to be super pregnant by then,” moon than a babymoon.

But what can you do? If you’re serious about getting pregnant, you just have to do a few simple things like buying a golf membership, adopting a second cat and booking a non-refundable trip to Hawaii. Duh.

So off we went to Maui with my husband’s two brothers and their better halves. Now, proponents of the babymoon would have you believe that it’s a fun, last-ditch chance to vacation carefree and child-free. The flaw in this logic is that you are NOT actually child-free when you are pregnant. There is a child, people, and it’s right there stomping on your bladder, dolphin-kicking your ribs, and flipping off your Mai Tai-free liver.

It wasn’t all bad, of course – in fact, lots of it was super fun. It was just super fun for a not-ideal situation, rather than straight-up super fun.

The good:

Time off: 12 days of waking up at your leisure in a balmy paradise and not going to work is better than 12 days of waking up to an alarm and going to work in sub-zero temperatures. That one’s a given.

The company: The company I cannot complain about. Really, I cant – they read the blog. Ha! I kid, it’s always fun hanging out with the siblings-in-law. Oh, and  my husband is pretty fun too. It’s pretty undeniable that I was the weakest link in the fun department on this trip.

Tuna, coconut shrimp, cinnamon buns & pancakes: Separately…not like, blended together or anything. Our resort was known for it’s banana-pineapple-macadamia nut pancakes with fluffy coconut cream (worth the 30-45 minute line-up) and a local bakery sold a limited number of cinnamon buns out of a kiosk in the lobby every morning. So, breakfast wasn’t terrible. And there are few things I love more than coconut shrimp and fresh ahi tuna poke (sorry ’bout all the mercury, unborn baby.)

Maui: Maui is beautiful, safe, essentially bug-free and warm without being deathly sunburn-y the way Mexico can sometimes be.

Fleetwoods on Front Street: This was one of my favourite nights out. A rooftop patio in Lahaina, delicious lime in the coconut virgin cocktails, bagpipers (Mick Fleetwood’s mom is Scottish) a Hawaiian storyteller and a great band. The food was amazing and it was still not the biggest reason to go there. Highly recommend.

The not-so-good

No A/C: The gentle Hawaiian breezes are supposed to be enough to keep your room cool, but I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat one time too many to believe that.

The sand: Easily the most overrated substance on the planet. Pretty to look at, but murder to walk in when you’re carting around some extra poundage and all your joints are sore and unstable.

The bathtub: Or lack thereof. This is not something I would normally care that much about, but not having a bathtub when you’re preggers sucks. Especially if you plan on shaving your legs or, you know, cleansing yourself in any way from the belly down, really. You just can’t see, reach or contort your body in an effective way to make a tiny shower stall your first choice.

The discomfort: At this stage of pregnancy, everything feels like work and nearly everything tweaks a nerve, puts an appendage to sleep or triggers the need to pee. Walking around isn’t all that comfortable, but trying to get comfortable on towels or beach chairs for any significant length of time isn’t all that easy either. So you’re always sort of tossing, turning, fidgeting around trying to find a position that is “relaxing”.

The ugly

Two words: mirrored walls. This was really a cruel joke. Our room was fitted with two, adjacent, fully-mirrored walls to – I can only assume – make it feel more spacious. So the second I sat up in bed in the morning I had to face my own increasingly spacious body. Averting my eyes all the way to the bathroom resulted in some stubbed toes and colourful language.

When all was said and done, I’m glad we went ahead with the trip – it wouldn’t have been worth cancelling. But, word to the wise: don’t intentionally book an expensive beach vacation beyond, let’s say, 20-25 weeks. It’s just not as great as it should be. Instead, travel a ton before you get pregnant and then spend your pregnancy sucking up to your parents so they’ll babysit while you go on kid-free trips afterwards.

Placenta Power?

I don’t have a whole lot of plans for how I want this birth to go down – in four weeks (or less…) The extent of my birth plan is pretty much: do whatever it takes to get through it and leave the hospital with a healthy baby.

Okay, I’ve thought it through a bit more than that. I hope to avoid the epidural and get by on gas and narcotics, if I can. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – including the often bizarre, crunchy granola birthing stories in the first half of the book. I’ve been listening to my “hypnobirthing” guided meditation audio recordings on iTunes and reading up on various coping techniques. I’ve embraced the belief that my baby and some primal part of my body instinctively know exactly what to do, even if I don’t or can’t understand how it works – it just will. We’ll pack our tennis balls, massagers and hot/cold packs. And I know my hospital/doctor practices delayed cord clamping when possible, so I’m good there. Pretty standard stuff so far. But then I’ll also be packing two large ziplock bags and a mini-cooler to store my placenta on ice so it can be picked up at the hospital and returned  in pill format for my consumption. Yup, I’m essentially gonna eat that sucker.

This is the encapsulation process as described by my chosen service provider (the sister of a friend and a DONA certified doula):

Steamed Preparation is the Traditional Chinese Medicine inspired preparation. It involves cleaning and bleeding the placenta. The placenta is then placed in a double boiler where it is gently steamed with lemon, cayenne, ginger, myrrh, lemongrass and some water. Steaming the placenta with these spices and herbs adds a warming aspect to it which encourages the tonifying and sealing of the uterus which allows the qi to replenish and encourages blood to circulate to the parts of the body that need healing, balancing a mother’s body and essence post birth. The placenta is then sliced and placed in the food dehyrator for 8-12 hours. Once the dehydration process is complete, the placenta strips are ground into a powder and encapsulated into capsules. Depending on the size of the placenta this method usually yields 75-200 capsules.

Some people think this sounds totally legit, while others think it’s horseshit. I can’t say who is right, but I’ll certainly play ball. The few scientific studies conducted on placenta encapsulation have neither conclusively supported nor disproved the purported benefits of the centuries-old practice. Nonetheless, many women who have done it, swear by it. The one thing I found particularly compelling was hearing several people I know say that on days when they didn’t take their pills – their partner/others could tell. Among the many possible benefits, one of the biggest is a decrease in postpartum depression and anxiety. It may also help to increase the release of the hormone oxytocin – which helps the uterus return to normal size and promotes bonding with your baby, increase CRH – a stress reducing hormone, restore iron levels in the blood, stimulate milk production, reduce postpartum bleeding, provide natural pain relief and keep your energy levels up.

All for just $200? Fuckin A’, sign me up!

With no real risks, why would I not give it a shot? Even if the effects are mostly in my head – so what? A well-intended placebo can go a long way and if it helps in any concrete way, then all the better.

Down there.

At my 35 week check-up yesterday, the nurse reminded me that at my next visit I will be due for my Group B Streptococcus swab. It’s a routine screening for a common bacteria that about 25% of healthy, adult women are carriers of either vaginally and/or rectally– harmless to them, but potentially dangerous for a baby passing on by via the birth canal. If you test positive for it, you’ll receive UV antibiotics during delivery to protect the baby from infection. ANYWAYS. This is not the funny part of the story.

The funny part is that she softly says, “it’s just a quick swab around the skin down there and on your bottom.” Like she was talking to a child instead of somebody who is about to deliver one. Not that I’m a fan of using euphemisms for anatomy when speaking to kids either…but it’s a maternity clinic for christ sakes–we all know what a vagina is. And most likely a rectum too. If there is an appropriate time/place for a medical professional to use proper anatomical/medical terms, I’d think it’s here and now.

The shit monster who didn’t shit enough

If you woke up this morning thinking, “man, I wish somebody would write extensively about cat’s asses and bowel movements,” boy, are you ever in luck. The squeamish should proceed at their own peril.

Rewind to a morning about 18 months ago when I stumble from bed into a scene from CSI: Felines — the hallway carpets smeared with blood. No weapon or body in sight. At which point I – wife of the year – think to myself, “I really hope my husband is bleeding.” My logic being that of all the bleedable creatures in the house, it’s not a lot of blood for a human but it sure as hell is a lot for a cat. And, you know, I can imagine scenarios in which a human could cut their foot or have a nosebleed in the  night, but I have no frame of reference for spontaneous indoor cat bleeding. This is when Twitchy saunters by and does a slow turn in front of me, revealing his horrifying ass-end. It is at this point that I start sending my boss texts like: I am going to be late today, my cat seems to be bleeding from his butt. Sorry.

I take a warm, wet washcloth and start trying to clean up the area to see what is really going on, and it begins to look less awful. He is oozy, but no longer actively bleeding and the source doesn’t seem to be his actual butthole, but sort of off to the side. Nonetheless, it’s not pretty. I bundle T off to the vet at opening time and find out that his anal glands had become impacted and ultimately ruptured.  This can happen to cats or dogs and isn’t all that uncommon, but it can be dangerous. As gross (and messy) as it is, it’s actually better when they rupture externally rather than internally, as an internal rupture can quickly cause a serious systemic infection that can kill them. He needs surgery to clean out the infection and close up the wound, plus antibiotics and painkillers. A few hours later I have a very stoned, very stumbly cat on my hands with shaved hindquarters, stitches and a soft rubber drainage tube.

Due to his size it took a lot of drugs to knock him out and extra time for him to come to after the surgery. We are given instructions to apply warm compresses a couple times a day to keep the tube clean and draining well. And to keep the little drunken sailor away from stairs for a few hours. Not to be deterred, Twitchy pinballs off the walls and beelines for the top tier of his cat tree where I then have to stand and make sure he doesn’t fall off until he decides to stumble (with help) down. He takes it all like the champ he is, and heals up nicely. The most upsetting part for him seems to be the two car rides to the vet.

All is well and then last Saturday night, Andrew has his diaper party – which is a Newfoundland thing (do they do this anywhere else?) and basically the male equivalent of a baby shower where guys bring the expectant father packages of diapers and then go get drunk. I think the boys may win on this tradition.

Sunday morning, we let Mr T into the bedroom for “special kitty  morning snuggle time” since he has recently been banned from sleeping with us to set the stage for when baby will be in her bassinet in our room and cats won’t be allowed in overnight. Lo and behold, his poor sore butt is at it again. Definitely not as bad as last time, but again – not awesome. Especially on a hungover Sunday when our vet is closed. Luckily, Andrew is in remarkably good shape and able to help me wrangle him into his carrier (no small feat) and get him to the emergency clinic. This time he just needs the wounds flushed out and an antibiotic injection – no surgery or stitches. But it also came with a complimentary lecture on his weight, which is kind of funny because Andrew had, to everyone’s amusement, informed the tech at the desk that T is sensitive about his weight issues. I guess she didn’t note that on his chart.

Now, I know he is overweight – but it’s so tough. He has always been a big cat and when this vet says he weighs twice as much as he should, I think she is delusional and obviously not taking into account his notoriously broad shoulders. I also didn’t mention that at 19 lbs he is actually already down 3 lbs from his weight 18 months ago. He has been on various low-cal diets over the years and owns several dis-used harnesses from my attempts at cat walking. He will actively play with a toy or a wand for a few minutes a day, but then loses interest and takes a nap. His same-litter sister Molly never had weight issues and received the same food and care…is it us, or is it just how he is?

Besides that, it turns out that although Andrew (who coined the shit monster term) would never have guessed it, Mr. T needs more fibre in his diet in the form of Metamucil, Benefibre and/or canned pumpkin. So he can take larger, softer poops that will help his anal glands express themselves and stay clear. It should also help him with weight loss, apparently, which also lowers his chances of another butt gland explosion.

So here we are, sprinking Benefiber on his kibble and warm compressing his butt again. Digging out the wand toys and kibble ball dispensers to coax him into a little extra activity and researching new ways to help him lose a few pounds. Because even though I think he’s perfect just the way he is, I also want him to be healthy for as long as possible. He’s about to be a big brother and I’d really like the little Ranger (this is Perry’s new nickname – reasoning will be revealed at a later date) to have a few years with this very special guy.

The most annoying Grandma in the world

Happened to be staying at our condo resort in Napili Bay last month. No matter where she was or what she (or her 18-month-ish grandson) was doing, her mouth did not stop moving. I first encountered her at the pool, where the soundtrack went something like this:

“Oh look, daddy’s swimming!…swim daddy swim, kick, kick kick!…do you want to swim? We’ll swim after a snack…just like daddy’s swimming…see him swimming in the pool?…there’s the pool…look at the water in the pool….daddy’s swimming in the water in the pool!…let’s have some yogurt…strawberry yogurt…yum, yummy yogurt, strawberry yogurt…spoon, we eat yogurt with a spoon..mmm mmm mmm…look at the birdie by the pool, look there’s a birdie…birdies fly!…” and on and on….and on she went. And everywhere I saw them (beach, grass, restaurant, lanai) a similar scene was playing out.

After half an hour or so of this ceaseless running commentary, I was screaming on the inside for her to shut the fuck up (and I swear, I swear that the poor shell-shocked, overstimulated kid was too).

In a serendipitous twist, this all went down while I was reading Bringing Up Bebe, and within a day or two I stumbled across a section that described exactly what I kept seeing this woman doing (and have seen lots of other parents do to a lesser extent)  – but previously lacked the terminology to describe: narrated play.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“…I’m stunned by what I see at a playground in New York City. It’s a special toddler area with a low-rise slide and some bouncy animals, separated from the rest of the park by a high metal gate. The playground is designed for toddlers to safely climb around and fall. A few nannies are sitting French-style on benches around the perimeter, chatting and watching their charges play.

Then a white, upper-middle-class mother walks in with her toddler. She follows him around the miniature equipment, while keeping up a nonstop monologue. “Do you want to go on the froggy, Caleb? Do you want to go on the swing?”

Caleb ignores these questions. He evidently plans to just bumble around. But his mother tracks him, continuing to narrate his every move. “You’re stepping, Caleb!” she says at one point.

I assume that Caleb just landed a particularly zealous mother. But then the next upper-middle-class woman walks through the gate, pushing a blond toddler in a black T-shirt. She immediately begins narrating all of her child’s actions too. When the boy wanders over to the gate to stare out at the lawn, the mother evidently decides this isn’t stimulating enough. She rushes over and holds him upside down.

“You’re upside down!” she shouts. Moments later, she lifts up her shirt to offer the boy a nip of milk. “We came to the park! We came to the park!” she chirps while he’s drinking.

This scene keeps repeating itself with other moms and their kids. After about an hour I can predict with total accuracy whether a mother is going to do this “narrated play” simply by the price of her handbag. What’s most surprising to me is that these mothers aren’t ashamed of how batty they sound. They’re not whispering their commentaries, they’re broadcasting them.

When I describe this scene to Michel Cohen, the French pediatrician in New York, he knows immediately what I’m talking about. He says these mothers are speaking loudly to flaunt what good parents they are. The practice of narrated play is so common that Cohen included a section in his parenting book called Stimulation, which essentially tells mothers to cut it out. “Periods of playing and laughing should alternate naturally with periods of peace and quiet,” Cohen writes. “You don’t have to talk, sing or entertain constantly.”

Whatever your view on whether this intensive supervision is good for kids, it seems to make child care less pleasant for mothers [footnote to a 2009 study]. Just watching it is exhausting…”

Exhausting indeed. Does it make child care less pleasant for mothers? It completely would for me, and it’s absolutely obnoxious from a bystander’s perspective…so why was she doing it? I’m not convinced that there is an upper middle class tendency or that it’s to flaunt what good parents they are…it seems like they might be doing it just because they think they’re supposed to. Like it’s a way of confirming that they are actively involved, squeezing every “teachable moment” into their kid’s day and being present (perhaps so they don’t end up being publicly skewered à la that ridiculously judgy and guilt-inducing Dear Mom on the iPhone thing that exploded all over my Facebook newsfeed a couple years ago.)

My main objection (other than how annoying it is to people around you) is that it feels like it steps all over the kid’s play time. It’s invasive. Doesn’t your kid deserve a little space to just be, without having to be the subject of a (very boring) documentary?

Play, by definition, is activity that is self-chosen, self-directed and done for no reward other than its own pleasure. But of course, there are other long-term rewards (that the kids aren’t aware of) as they learn to explore, observe, discover, interact with the natural and social world and “make believe”. Until we adults ruin it by trying to verbalize, intellectualize and ascribe meaning. My mom used to say that play is a child’s job. I think that’s true, but I’d also argue that they don’t need a manager, performance review or agenda in order to be successful.

It’s so sad to me that letting your kids play freely without butting in is so rare nowadays that we had to invent special terms for it – like “free range parenting” or “self-directed playtime”. It’s even sadder when it starts in baby or toddlerhood. And sadder still when it interferes with my peaceful Maui pool time when I’m pregnant and can’t even make a fun drinking game of it.