A series of uncomfortable events

As you may be able to guess from the title, this one is all about our big, old fashioned family Christmas vacation.

Psych! No, it’s not. And my husband probably just had a heart attack. Although I can’t let it go unsaid that I vividly fantasized about clubbing my father-in-law with a yuletide log when he cheerfully reminded me that I “still have three more months to go!” and that, going by his wife’s experiences, I “should have a ton of energy!” as I was lying on the floor trying to release a seized-up back muscle the day I was puking (from a weird 24-hour stomach bug) and had fallen (on motherfucking treacherous ice outside our charming little mountain-town rental). Anyways…family holidays are magical.

Breathe and refocus. The title is actually just a phrase I used to describe pregnancy in general to my sister- and brother-in-law over a brunch of what is quite possibly the world’s best french toast and a true holiday highlight. Well, I’m not sure it was my exact wording, because the french toast was really distracting, but it was something along those lines.

Overall, I have very little to complain about (and yet I will) because it’s not that my pregnancy has been particularly problematic, painful or difficult in any serious way. Nonetheless, I’d still say that I’m vaguely, in some way, at least a little bit uncomfortable a good, oh, 75% of the time. Of course, the 25% of the time that I feel really good is always in the comfort of my own home and never when it would actually be super helpful to feel good – like in a client meeting, on a plane or stuck in my desk at work. And nearly every day brings at least one moment of, “Great, so my body does THAT now. Awesome.”

Like, you start getting sharp pains when you sit up (or get up) too quickly. Cool, so that’s a thing. Your leg/hip sort of “gives out” when you make certain movements. Right on. Your lower back/pelvis hurts or feels weak or unstable almost all the time. Sweet, that’s normal now. The list goes on. And it’s always a moving target. Just as you get used to “what’s normal now”, a new little niggling symptom appears or an old one disappears.

Currently, my biggest complaints are heartburn / acid reflux type issues when I lie down, and the general sense that all my organs are undergoing a massive reorganization. My stomach feels like it is somewhere up by the top of my ribs and my lungs do not like walking up two or more flights of stairs. Consider this handy GIF that illustrates what I am feeling happening:

How a woman's internal organs move when she's pregnant

Slightly disturbing, no? Other than that, I’m not really digging the heaviness – literally, not metaphorically. While the weight gain and change in body shape isn’t the most esthetically pleasing proposition, it’s actually more about how it feels than how it looks. Now that my bump has officially popped out and I’ve gained about 17 lbs, I’m starting to feel heavy and awkward. Bending over sorta sucks. Putting on shoes/boots sorta sucks. Getting up from lying on your back sorta sucks. Basically, your body just feels weighed-down, sluggish and less nimble than it normally does. Which also makes you feel less confident and capable. Which then makes you feel less attractive as much (or more so) as your reflection in the mirror dictates. At least for me.

On the bright side, feeling the baby kick is still pretty fun. She’s big enough now to pack a solid punch/kick/flip (CONSTANTLY), but not so big yet that she’s actually causing any discomfort. At my check-up today all was well, measurements are normal and her little ticker is pumping away at 136 bpm. I also learned that I am officially in my third trimester now (!!!), so the thought of being in the homestretch is helpful.

A quick word on why I suck before I go: As many of you have reminded me, I have not been the best at keeping up with blog posts lately. I could offer up a myriad of excuses: Christmas holidays, work, company, etc. etc. but the boring truth is that I’m just lazy sometimes (often) and over the last few weeks it’s been a bit of a struggle to sit in my desk at work and pretend to be a creative writer, let alone to face the computer when I get home and again, pretend to have the creative energy to come up with anything worth the effort of typing. I think that’s an inherent problem with maintaining a creative side project when you have a creative day job. Sometimes, there’s just nothing left over to give.

Rotating Doctors, Rotating Perspectives

The maternity clinic I attend actually houses four different clinics in one building. The one I am in has nine physicians, and you see whomever is working when you come in for your appointment. Three of the clinics share on-call (delivery) duties, so any one of about 14 physicians could be the one who delivers your baby. Meaning, there is a chance you will have never met the person who delivers your baby. This is okay with me…I feel like it won’t really matter who is there that day because they’re all equally qualified and that experience is pretty much going to suck anyways (until it’s over, of course).

What is interesting about this set-up is that you meet a variety of physicians in your prenatal visits. In three visits I’ve seen three different doctors, plus a couple of residents as well. I have to admit, I am a bit of a creature of habit, so I’m surprised this doesn’t unsettle/annoy me more than it does. So far the first one was my favourite, so I’m going to kindly request that the universe sends her to the hospital on the Big Day.

Anyways, they have all been fine/good, but they have also all been quite different in personality and style of care. Some are more laid-back, some are more directive, some more communicative or information-heavy, some more blunt etc., etc. For that reason, I’m actually kind of glad that I’m exposed to different perspectives instead of being stuck with one personality, and having to take just one doctor’s word as gospel truth. If I had been thinking about this more at the outset, I would have made an effort to ask each doctor the exact same question on some random topic so I could have compared their responses. I don’t necessarily think I would have gotten different answers per se, but I know the question would have been addressed in significantly different ways, if that makes sense.

On Monday, I had the pleasure of waiting for 40 minutes (alone in the exam room, of course) for the doctor-on-duty to see me (for 10 minutes, of course). With no entertainment, I was practically forced to eavesdrop  overhear the doctor’s visit with the patient in the room beside me. The 40-year-old woman was in for her first appointment, and they set her due date for July 2 (seriously, this is how clearly I could hear every single word spoken behind full walls and two closed doors – the need for whisper-mode was duly noted for the next time I have a sensitive/embarrassing topic to discuss in there).

Anyways, this doctor was really hammering home the point of eating lots of protein, lots of veggies, limiting starches, increasing your calcium/dairy “but without increasing your fat intake!!!” and that “sugar is enemy number one in pregnancy!!”. She then asked the patient what she does for exercise (“uhhhh…..yoga?” was the tentative reply) and told her she had to work up to 150 minutes of “dedicated exercise” per week and that yoga was “okay for stretching” but you also need cardio and strength training, yada yada yada. Then she went on to talk very matter-of-factly about the heightened miscarriage and genetic risks of pregnancy at 40. Her tone the whole time was very friendly and even-toned, but the messaging was unmistakably all-business.

Sure, it was all perfectly good advice and accurate information, but I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for the patient. A patient I don’t know a thing about, mind you, for all I know she is diabetic or has weight or other issues that necessitated this hard-line stance on prenatal fitness…but if I had been dealt that kind of doctor at my first prenatal appointment I would have been overwhelmed and feeling pretty bad about myself. At 11 or so weeks pregnant, it’s quite likely you’re still feeling like a bag of shit and having a hard time keeping any food down or dragging your ass home at the end of the work day, let alone whipping up a salad and blasting out a few sets of squats when you get home.

The upshot was that by the time the doctor made it to my room, I had 40 minutes of warning on how opinionated and direct she was apt to be. Small wonder baby’s heart rate was a record 158? Luckily, I was spared the scary warnings and exercise lecture. In reviewing the results of my last ultrasound though, she asked if I had found out the sex of the baby. When I said that we had, and it was a girl, she told me, “I don’t recommend that. They are occasionally wrong and it has been shown that it’s very hard on you psychologically when that happens.”

Well okay then. I mean, valid food for thought and all, but too late for that now, no? Why voice that opinion (and it is just an opinion) after the fact? I gave her a confused cocker-spaniel head-tilt and glanced at the resident in the room who was also giving her the side-eye and glancing back at me.

After being shocked a week or so before by a friend who told me gender ultrasounds are wrong about 30% of the time (!!!) I had already scoured for statistics and found that they are generally considered at least 90-95% accurate – with the experience of the technician and timing of the ultrasound (i.e. not too early in your pregnancy) being the major factors, and that in many cases (right view, right tech, right timing) they can tell with near 100% accuracy. As far as my own experience went, I asked how confident technicians are in their predictions and mine said, “we don’t make guesses: I either know or I don’t know.” I believed her.

So while I am sure that finding out she is actually a boy after expecting a girl would be quite the shock, this physician seemed to be making a strong recommendation for my “psychological health” based on something that maybe – at worst – happens once or twice out of 20 times.

As I laughed the comment off with a, “well, I guess it’s too late for me now!” she went on to urge me not to imagine scenarios or “create a persona” for a girl, and to try really hard to keep thinking of it as an “it” — exact words! Okay lady, now you’re just talking crazy. Good fucking luck with that one.

Isn’t it at least possible that there could be psychological benefits to finding out early? Benefits that could apply 90-95% of the time? Bonding maybe? I’m no expert, but it feels like encouraging me to objectify and distance myself from the baby isn’t the most psychologically sound recommendation either.

Whatever. I left the clinic that day, took my shetus directly to the mall and bought her the most adorable pair of size 1 baby Chuck T’s. She’s a good girl, she deserves it 😉

Baby Basting

I’ve taken to lying in bed, slathering myself in oil or body butter and declaring that I am “basting the baby” – much as you would a perfectly browned roast chicken. I guess technically, the baby-baking process is probably more akin to a slow-cooker method…moisture-sealed environment, long cooking time and whatnot. The basting analogy is much more satisfying. And I look forward to my belly button popping out like the timer on a Butterball turkey.

It’s all in the name of preventing stretch marks, which is apparently all in vain, since there is absolutely zero evidence that any of these products can actually prevent stretch marks. Sigh. I just can’t accept that.

I get it. Stretch marks don’t happen at the surface level of the skin, they are actually tiny tears in the middle (dermis) layer as your skin stretches with weight gain. So nothing we rub on externally is going to prevent these tears in the supporting tissue underneath.

Evidently, it’s largely genetic and you’re either predisposed to developing stretch marks or you’re not (like cellulite, in my observation). If your mom got them, you probably will too. So…women who say they used “X product” and didn’t get stretch marks probably wouldn’t have gotten them anyway. Damn hey? Except my mom didn’t get many and they quickly went away so, yay genes! The speed of your weight gain has something to do with it, as do hormones. Some people get stretch marks because their bodies produce more corticosteroid than normal. This hormone decreases the amount of collagen in the skin, and collagen is the protein that helps those deeper skin fibres stretch elastically without breaking down.

Facts be damned. These stretch-mark products are seductively lovely and I still want to cling to the notion that I have some control over the outcome of 40 weeks of bodily abuse. Plus, your skin gets itchy as it stretches and nothing scratches that itch like spending money on body products. In my defense, there is some evidence that exercise (boring!) and massage (bingo!) may help with stretch mark prevention by encouraging new tissue growth and promoting circulation. As can drinking tons of water (back to boring) and getting lots of vitamins A, C & E, zinc and silica in your diet (zzzzz).

So far I’ve gone with these: the Clarins Tonic Body Oil and the Neal’s Yard Mother’s Balm, alternating between them as the whim strikes me.

StretchMarks

The Neal’s Yard is rich and solid, but melts into a nicely spreadable texture that goes a lot further than you’d think. It certainly smells good enough, but the Clarins….sweet baby Jesus, it’s like instant spa all over your house as soon as you open the bottle. It just smells expensive – and so it should. Plus, when I went to the Clarins counter, the nice lady in the white lab coat warmly congratulated me and gave me a ton of little samples of other products (a few décolletage/bust things, a stretch mark minimizer lotion…other things I can’t remember because I did this in week 8 or something) along with a nicely produced book (not a booklet or a brochure, mind you – a full-on book) on pregnancy according to Clarins (also sorta pictured above) and all sorts of advice on product usage. It’s interesting, because the brand doesn’t go out of its way to overtly market this product to pregnant women, but it’s kind of a cult favourite that everyone and their dog (online) swears by. At any rate, when the pregos do come flocking to the counter, they are certainly prepared for them.

So far so good on the belly…although I do have a few marks on my boobs. I got those within the first few weeks of pregnancy and I have some leftover from when I got boobs the first time around. I think I am just prone to them in that particular location…but the new ones have definitely faded already.

The spa that shunned me.

Even if you’re not afraid of certain activities during pregnancy, you will inevitably find yourself at the mercy of other (well-meaning?) people who are. These people suck.

Andrew has an upcoming conference at a fancy schmancy hotel about an hour and a half away. Fuck it, it’s the Fairmont Banff Springs. With our anniversary falling on the weekend prior, we figured we’d treat ourselves and head up a couple days early. They have an amazing spa, so I also reasoned that I may as well funnel the money I’d normally spend on overpriced cocktails into an equally overpriced spa treatment. I’m cool with it being overpriced…everything in Banff is, and it’s something special that I don’t get to do all the time.

That said, I’m not going to shell out for a treatment that I can get anywhere / any time, for half the price. I want something different than my typical mani/pedi or massage. So I scour the brochure. I spend 2 days looking at it every time I have a spare minute. I finally settle on the “Seasonings: Feet First” treatment:

Massaging reflex points on the feet and hands relieves tension throughout the body. In this head-to-toe experience, a foot soak and scrub is followed by a foot and hand massage, focusing on vital energy points. While skin absorbs the essential oils, you are pampered with a head, neck and shoulder massage. Great for any season.

The site mentions disclosing any medical conditions or special considerations including pregnancy at time of booking. So in the notes section of the online form I type, Pregnant – second trimester and hit submit.

Not long after, my phone rings. It’s the spa and since they have noted that I am expecting, they are sorry to inform me that the treatment I have chosen is “too stimulating and not appropriate for pregnancy.” They can suggest a regular pedicure ($85 for 45 minutes is the cheapest of the three offered) or a pregnancy massage ($199/hr). Er, no. The caller was super polite, warm and seems genuinely sorry about being the bearer of bad news, but her employer’s fearful policies suck.

I totally understand that massage, essential oils and reflex points can all be very powerful therapeutic tools, but surely there are ways this can just be adjusted for my needs rather than avoided altogether. Don’t use the essential oils that are contraindicated in pregnancy? Don’t drill your thumbs into the “uterine contraction” trigger point, if one exists? Don’t somehow mistake my feet, hands, shoulders or neck for my abdomen and jump up and down? Don’t scrub all the flesh off my feet leaving me susceptible to a systemic infection? I mean, really…what the hell could happen in this treatment that would compromise a pregnancy?

At least offer me more choices. Maybe offer to send me a list of ALL the treatments that would be acceptable for a woman as frail as I. I have a hard time believing I couldn’t receive a facial, or a moisturizing treatment. I was a bit too dumbfounded to press her on it, and as I said, she was totally pleasant, so I’d never shoot the messenger. But I would have liked a more specific explanation. I may still email them and ask for one. I’ll see how bitchy I feel tomorrow.

I think the truth is that there is no real reason, they are just scared shitless of something coincidentally going wrong while I’m in their facility and being blamed or sued.

For now, I’ll happily give my business to my regular kick-ass massage therapist who has no hesitations about treating me at any point in my pregnancy and the hardcore ladies at my local cheap n’ cheerful nail salon who, truth be told, could probably deliver a baby while doing a set of acrylics at the same time.

A no-show

So many punny title options for this one, my head nearly exploded. It took a lot of restraint to scale it back to this one. I suppose it’s the rare woman who is totally happy with her body at any given point—but I’d venture to say that having too small of a belly rarely makes it to the top 10 complaints list. Unless of course you’re 16 weeks pregnant with next to nothing to show for it.

I’ll be the first to admit that this falls into the “good problem to have” category. I haven’t had to change a single thing in terms of wardrobe yet, and having done some preliminary browsing, I’m not all that eager to start shopping the maternity sections. Plus, it’s nice not walking around like a billboard for procreation, inviting all the borderline offensive commentary, labour horror stories and unsolicited advice that I’ve heard is (eventually) coming my way.

But I can’t really feel anything either, and therein lies the problem. When you can’t feel the baby and you can’t see the baby, it’s really easy to let your head get away from you. I’m also midway between prenatal appointments right now, so it’s standard practice for me to start doubting that all is still well in there. I’ve found that the reassurance of a Doppler stethoscope or ultrasound only lasts a couple of weeks before it wears off. For that reason, I’m anxious to start having some tangible proof of life.

For the last 2 weeks or so I’ve occasionally felt some weird flutterings, almost like vibrations, inside and down low. So far, it only happens if I’m lying on my back at night, being very still—but it doesn’t happen every time I do this. Sometimes Twitchy tries to help by stepping on the baby and kneading his paws on top of it, so if the kid has a phobia of being crushed by sturdy cats, it won’t be without good reason. From what I gather, these flutterings can be the start of being able to really feel the baby move – which apparently happens somewhere between 15 and 25 weeks for a first pregnancy.

Mostly I’ve just felt bloated for months, and I’m juuust starting to get to the point where I’d rather leave the buttons undone on certain pairs of jeans. Needing to do something – to take action of some concrete nature – I ordered 2 of these:

I have decided that this is the way forward—as online shopping so often is. The training wheels I need before I will be ready (physically and mentally) to dive into the full-on, over the belly, stretchy, high-waisted maternity jeans that haunt the corners of my dreams. These and leggings, which I can see a lot of in my future. By the way, wtf are maternity leggings? Aren’t those just called bigger leggings? I feel that maternity is a marketing word much like “bridal” in that using it to preface anything can make the product seem like a necessity and allow you to charge 30% more for it.

A Perry Pumpkin

We had a little pumpkin carving extravaganza at work leading up to the big day. Somehow, my team got on board with a jack-o-fetus. I drew it onto the pumpkin using some fetus silhouette clip art (can’t wait to see the kinds of ads Google will start feeding me based on that day’s search history) as a reference. I also got to scoop out the pumpkin guts, because it is seriously one of my favourite smells in the world…not pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice mind you, just that wet, earthy raw pumpkin goo smell. LOVE IT. No, this is not just a pregnant thing this is an everyday weirdo thing. It was then lovingly carved by my two teammates (while I paced in the waiting area) into the disturbing creation I now present:

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As you can see, it was a little touch and go for a while when we realized that the umbilical cord was inadequate and the baby fell out shortly thereafter. We took the opportunity to do a little detail work and cleaning up around the edges before bracing him (or her) back in there with toothpicks.

Baby brain freeze

My husband likes to remind me that baby brain is not a scientifically proven fact. He does so as he blows out candles and turns off burners I’ve forgotten about, reminds me of appointments and gently corrects my ass-backwards logic on simple topics. He is right though, there is not enough evidence to conclusively say baby brain is a real thing – and yet so many of us preggos report a variety of problems, particularly forgetfulness.

Some research has shown that pregnancy and motherhood have no negative cognitive impacts. Other studies have shown the presence of impaired memory during pregnancy and shortly afterward. Is it down to hormones? Sleep deprivation? Stress? A newish study suggested that during pregnancy, women use the right side of their brain more as they prepare to bond with, and care for, their newborn babies. But if there is no “real” cause, a likely explanation seems to be that baby-related shit just occupies an inordinate amount of brain-space and basically, something’s gotta give.

And give it did. Yesterday, I reached a new low. Actually, it was weeks in the making but shit finally got real. Let me put it this way: a lot of things happened in the first trimester, but paying my gas bill was not one of them. So with an overdue account of $212, I came home to a bright pink disconnection notice on my door. Here we huddle, bundled under the duvet in flannel pajamas with two cold, judgmental cats and only the white-hot heat of my embarrassment to keep us warm until morning.

Andrew was super cool about this whole debacle. No pun intended. I know I would not have cut him as much slack if this was his fuck-up. His understanding knows no bounds. Of course, while I was on the phone with the gas company arranging for reconnection, he casually mentioned that he dropped a four-digit sum at a charity auction the night before on a pair* of signed Muhammed Ali boxing gloves. Stings like a bee that one. Well played, sir.

*I stand corrected, it was A SINGLE GLOVE.