The Unexpected: Part 2

Somewhere around 20 weeks I wrote Part 1 with the notion that there would surely be enough material to inspire a sequel…and then forgot all about it. I’m not sure if much has truly surprised me since then – but that’s more to do with just getting used to an endless parade of weirdness than with things being “normal” per se. So at (the end?) 40 weeks, here we go:

Bleeding gums – diving right in since, as the journalistic maxim goes, “if it bleeds, it leads”. This really should have been included the first time around since it has been happening right from the start. In my experience, it doesn’t matter how dedicated your oral hygiene or historically flawless your dental track record, you will bleed every single time your teeth are grazed by brush, floss or stiff breeze. Pregnancy hormones do this, because they are multi-tasking life-ruiners. #science.

Things don’t necessarily get worse – This is a pretty good one. There were times where some shitty symptom or pain would surface and I would think (or be told) “that will only get worse”. But this hasn’t really been true at all. Things get different, perhaps even equally crappy or annoying, but not every little thing will necessarily get progressively worse. Lots of aches and pains come and go with no trace. If you have shooting pains in your hip one month – they may completely go away the next. Exhausted in the first trimester? That may never resurface again (it hasn’t for me). And on and on.

Leaking boobs – I guess technically I knew this happened, but I figured it would be much closer to baby time. But nope, you can start leaking sticky, clearish fluid (colostrum) at any point, although usually in your third trimester. I think I was around 30 weeks? If that. And for the record, your nipples do a lot of disturbing shit when you are pregnant. They will change shape, size and colour about 5 times and every time it is freaky and gross. Everyone assures me they go back to normal eventually.

Sleep (for better and worse) – I am an unnaturally sound sleeper, and always have been. Despite the dire warnings, I have continued to sleep like a baby all the way through. I may toss and turn and say, “ow, ow ow!”, waking Andrew up all night, but me? I’m still dead asleep and fine. So that’s been good – for me. For the past 4 weeks or so though, everything has been falling asleep really easily. I always wake up with at least a couple appendages down for the count, and if I stay in any position too long, pins and needles are par for the course. Thanks to nerve compression and cellular swelling (even though I’m not visibly swollen) I also have 3 fingers on my right hand that have been 20-75% numb for well over a week. It’s a sort of pregnancy carpal tunnel effect that is really annoying.

Heartburn sucks – before I was pregnant I didn’t even really understand what heartburn or acid reflux was. Now I know it’s Devils juice corroding away your soul. Heartburn can be so bad that labour starts to look good. I think this may actually be part of the divine strategy for propagating our species.

Still, how little happens at the doctor – I still haven’t had a single internal exam, or anything more involved than measuring my belly, listening to the heartbeat and taking my blood pressure. You see the doctor for maybe 5-10 minutes on every visit. Yet somehow your appointment will still take 30-60 minutes with waiting time.

Have you had the baby yet?

The wha? Ohhhh the baby…gosh I’m sorry, that happened days ago and I totally forgot to tell anybody. I’m so silly.

Do people really think this is a plausible scenario? They must. Or they just don’t know what else to ask when you’ve literally become the elephant in the room. And I do understand, because while I know that nothing is happening from one moment to the next, everybody else thinks of any moment they are not looking directly at me as a moment I could secretly be having a baby. And to be fair, a lot of other questions are equally inane at this point.

How do you feel? I feel like I’ve felt every other day for the past 280 days. Fine, with a smattering of vague symptoms/complaints that are indicative of absolutely nothing. Really, if I looked up every symptom I’ve had in the past 40 weeks, I could have diagnosed myself with everything from hay-fever to Lou Gehrig’s disease.

What are you doing tomorrow? I dunno, maybe having a baby. More likely I’ll just be doing a bunch of random, dumb shit until it’s uncomfortable or boring (which could take anywhere from 2 to 45 minutes) and then I’ll do a bunch of other random, dumb shit and see how that pans out.

What do you want for dinner? I’d like to not be eating dinner one of these nights because I’m having a baby, but other than that, burgers will be fine.

In fact, everything is fine. Nobody believes me, but I’m not actually going insane, freaking out or crazy upset about being a day past my due date. It’s everyone else who is full of anxiety and suggestions about what to do to bring about baby. Go for walks! Drive on a bumpy road! Eat spicy food! Stay positive! (like I’ve been immobile, housebound, eating rice cakes and crying up until this point). You go knock yourself out, I’m enjoying a (shittily) paid vacation from work right now. I’m excited to meet the baby, yes, but I’m not exactly dying to go through the worst pain of my life, and in spite of any discomfort I’m currently in, I’m also pretty sure that I won’t feel like a million bucks right after delivery with a newborn keeping me up all night. So, for now, I’m enjoying myself.

It’s really not so bad. As I said to Andrew yesterday, it’s kind of like the day you are coming home from vacation and have an awkward flight time. You couldn’t sleep in because you had to check-out of the hotel, but you don’t really have time to do anything fun either. You don’t really want to go to the pool or the beach because you don’t want to get all wet and sandy again before your flight, and besides, all your stuff is packed up. So you end up wandering around aimlessly or killing time in the duty-free. But it’s still pretty good – I mean, you’re still not at work. You’re still getting a tan. If you’re leaving Vegas, you can still have a cocktail before noon and play the Dolly Parton slots at McCarran.

The only difference is, your departure time is generally more accurate than your due date–which is actually a pretty flimsy estimate. Consider this excerpt from expectingscience.com:

If you knew nothing about due dates, you might reasonably suppose that the due date is the average date of delivery.

And you’d be wrong. The due date is NOT the average delivery day of a large, modern reference sample of pregnant women. The due date is also NOT the day on which pregnant women most commonly deliver (the mode). It is NOT the day by which half of pregnant women have typically delivered, and half have not (the median). No, the average, the mode, and the median delivery days are all 1-4 days after the “due date“.

The due date is based on calculations made in the 1800s by a German hospital director who “relied not only on the duration of actual, observable pregnancies, but was also greatly influenced by biblical scholarship indicating that the gestation of Christ lasted for ten lunar months.” For real? Sheesh.

So there. Baby Ranger is not late, her due date is just too early. And despite the unreliability of the due date itself, 90% of babies are born within 2 weeks of it – so I won’t be pregnant forever. I promise.

But as long as I am, I’ll be directing all inquiries to this brilliant website: haveyouhadthatbabyyet.com

 

 

Sweeping debate

At my last prenatal appointment I was offered a cervical sweep – also known as a membrane sweep, membrane stripping or, as some people at my clinic disturbingly refer to it, “rimming” – which…I…I just can’t understand why they would use a word with such a broadly used  (and giggle-able) sexual connotation. If you don’t know what I mean, Google “rimming” and see what comes up – I guarantee you, the first few pages of Google results have absolutely nothing to do with labour induction.

Moving along. With a sweep, your doctor puts their finger inside the cervix and sweeps it around to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix and release hormones (prostaglandins), which may kick-start your labour by encouraging your cervix to “ripen” (honestly, these words, *shudder*). It can increase your chances of delivering within 48 hours by 24% and your chances of delivering within a week by 46%.

Since it was only my 38 week appointment, I was totally caught off guard by the offer, having thought it was a procedure you tried once you had reached your due date – at least. But no, at my clinic they routinely offer it starting at 38 weeks. There’s no harm in refusing, since they offer it at every appointment after that, and you can really ask for it any time you want it, up to the point of spontaneous labour or a medical induction.

So I refused. Partly because I wasn’t mentally prepared for an internal exam that day and partly because it just felt too early – I still had another 3 days at work for chrissakes. Plus, the procedure itself can be uncomfortable or even painful and can cause cramping, spotting and discomfort afterwards.

Arriving back at work, I promptly sent out a work-inappropriate email to a few moms in my office and fired off a couple texts to see if anybody could weigh in with their recommendations. Responses were mixed. A few had refused the sweep, for a few it had never come up (e.g. they went into labour early) a few had it and felt it was “no big deal” and a few said things like “fucking painful” and “worse than labour”. The best I can figure about the painfulness is, it depends on how ready your cervix is to begin with. If you’ve already started to soften and dilate a cm or two, it is bound to be less uncomfortable than if you’re still tightly closed up. I think it also depends how sick and tired you are of pregnancy. I may get to a point where I’ll do anything to get things moving, but I’m just not desperate yet.

A big pro is that it is a natural method of getting your labour moving, which can reduce your chances of going over your due date and requiring a chemical induction – which by all accounts is something you want to avoid if at all possible. So once you hit your due date, it’s definitely something to consider.

I’m currently 8 days away from my due date and 3 days away from my next appointment – where I will have another chance to say yay or nay to the sweep. Right now, I’m tempted to just let it ride and see if things won’t start on their own. I feel like she’ll come when she’s good and ready. But in your last few weeks of pregnancy, three days is an eternity and I change my mind at least three times a day about how much discomfort I’m in, so there’s really no telling where my head will be at by Tuesday.

 

 

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.

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.

A quick morning rant

It has come to my attention that the average person may not actually know what a pregnant woman looks like. Sure, they could pick one out of a line-up (the pissed-off scowl and basketball belly are among her many distinguishing features) but I guarantee you they will – one way or another – find the image “wrong”. She will be too big or too small. Carrying too high or too low. Visibly pregnant only when viewed in profile or, from behind, two blocks away (both scenarios wrong, wrong, wrong). I know this because at 32 weeks I am yet to look “right” and frankly, I’m running out of time to nail it. I went directly from not really looking pregnant for about 25 weeks to hearing (the never clever line) “are you sure it’s not twins?!”

While I personally feel huge, I can assure you I don’t need to hear it. I can also assure you that my preggo body is not – in any technical way – remarkable. After some initial early weight loss, my weight gain has been slow, steady and smack-dead-middle-of-the-road average. I was advised to gain 25 – 35 lbs and have thus far gained 22 lbs (or a full Twitchy, using the International Cat System of Measurement). With 7.5 weeks left, during which I am projected to gain about a pound a week, I’ll probably come in right around the middle of my “healthy weight gain” range. I am yet to resort to maternity pants (a huge bonus of the fact that I am carrying really high, so I can get away with wearing leggings or unbuttoned pants with belly bands low). I’m not retaining fluid (my ankles, feet, hands etc. aren’t swollen –rings and shoes fit just fine). I am not spectacularly gargantuan. I’m just fucking pregnant.

If I could suggest a rule of thumb, it would be this: a pregnant woman looks just like however the woman standing in front of you who says she is pregnant looks.

And, talk behind peoples’ backs if you must – I certainly do, it’s one of life’s joys – but there is probably no more need to comment on someone’s weight gain in pregnancy than there is at any other time. Think about it. Can you imagine if we said things like, “Whoa, you’ve really chunked out since the divorce eh?”, “You must’ve gotten a membership to the donut of the month club for your 4oth!”, or maybe, “Hey, congrats on the promotion, but it looks like that desk job hasn’t done your ass any favours!”

That is all. For now.

Topics coming to the blog soon: childbirth classes, vacationing pregnant (or, why sand sucks), two book reviews, the results of the Big Purge.