Dan, Parenting, pregnancy

An Ode to the Other Half, Part One: Pregnancy Partner

So while this is largely a blog about my experience going through pregnancy, so far, parenting is going to be a partnership for us. And I’ve mentioned my husband, Dan, both in the “About” section of this website, and in posts when he comes up. But I thought I’d feature him a little more since he really has been a true partner throughout my pregnancy, and I expect will continue to be a true partner as I go through childbirth and parenting.

I’ve found an enormous amount of support and help as I’ve gone through trying to conceive, pregnancy loss, and pregnancy through the various subreddits of which I am a member on Reddit. And as I’ve gone through the last almost two years since we first started making plans for children, I’ve noticed that a lot of women complain about their partners. First, their partners don’t want children as much as they do. Then their partners don’t appreciate what they go through to determine when they’re fertile. Then, they don’t understand pregnancy symptoms or loss. Some partners seem to think that pregnancy symptoms are an exaggeration or that all pregnancies are the same, so if they’ve known one person who was pregnant, they know how their partner is going to react.

And this is where Dan seems to rise above much of the crowd: Through everything, he listens to me and believes me. It helps that he actually wanted kids more than I did at first, but he was supportive while I figured out what I wanted, rather than pressuring me. And then from there, he’s taken in all the information I’ve given to him, or sought it out for himself. He trusts my research and believes me when I tell him something about my body. And he’s not squeamish about bodies. I mean, he’s the one who had to go buy extra-absorbent pads during my miscarriage and incontinence pads when pregnancy made me start peeing myself.

This really showed itself in the first trimester of this pregnancy, though. I got hit hard with nausea, and he never complained about the fact that I could barely do anything outside of meet my professional obligations. He would let me come home and flop on the sofa rather than make dinner. He made one of the three dinners I could actually eat, and made sure not to eat anything that smelled bad to me. Heck, when one of his video games made me throw up, he never played it again. He took care of me, in all senses of the word. And he never expected any particularly praise or adulation for it. It was just what you do.

Luckily for both of us, my nausea faded as I moved into the second trimester and I’ve mostly been able to pick up my standard duties around the house. I’ve even started joining him in nesting (he got bit by the nesting bug basically as soon as I had a positive test and has been cleaning, organizing, and putting things together for months). And I cook most nights now. But he still supports me, mostly by picking up things that fall on the floor, or taking things up and down the stairs when I forget them. He does all our laundry, since our basement stairs are a bit nerve-wracking, even without the balance challenges of a growing belly (plus, I can’t actually bend over to pull clothes out of our top-loading washer!).

And he’s continued to take in all the information. He’s read The Birth Partner and uses what he’s learned to connect with me about preparation for childbirth. When we packed our hospital bags, he pulled out the book to double-check things we might not have thought of, like a pair of swim trunks for him in case he wants to get in the shower with me to help me labor. And he’s continued, reading the childcare books that I’ve read, so that we’re on the same page. He reminds me to do my Hypnobabies exercises.

So I guess I wanted to take some space here to, yes, brag about my husband. He deserves it, and I think the rest of the world deserves a bit of praise for a husband of a pregnant lady because partners and coparents can be the butt of so many jokes about men falling short. But despite the fact that we both annoy each other on a regular basis, he’s one of the good ones.

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pregnancy, Third Trimester, Weeklies

Thirty-nine Weeks Pregnant

I’m closing in on my due date now! This week, I decided to start trying to keep a daily journal, since I’ll want to try to document as much as I can when the baby comes. I’ve struggled at keeping a journal in the past, so we’ll see how this goes. So far, I’ve managed to journal each night before going to bed, so that’s a good start.

One thing I realized this week was just how variable my physical ability level is from day to day. On Sunday, I found myself absolutely physically wiped out after our normal weekly walk to and from the local coffee shop and ended up spending a large portion of the day in bed. Later that night, I woke up to turn over in bed, and had a thought about how, for most of my adult life, I’ve kind of treated my physical status as a kind of n=1 experiment, where I can largely figure out what is or isn’t making me feel a certain way. But in pregnancy, sometimes I just feel crappy and it’s not anything I’ve done or didn’t do. I can eat healthfully and exercise moderately and stretch myself out, but ultimately sometimes I just feel awful and the only reason is, well, I’m pregnant.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the transition to being “a mother.” After re-reading Like a Mother, which I reviewed on Tuesday, I realized that birth is an ordeal that acts like a rite of passage and, while I will bring my past self with me, I will be forever changed by it. So I’ve started to think about becoming A Mother. To that end, I’ve decided to branch off from my main blogging and social media accounts and actually created an Instagram and a Facebook page specific to this blog. I’ll update my “About” page to reflect that contact information. But definitely check out my Instagram. The Facebook page currently just contains reposts of my Instagram posts, so if you’re not on Instagram, you can follow the Facebook page to see more updates on Facebook.

At my Thursday morning prenatal appointment, I found out that I’ve officially gained 40 lbs. this pregnancy, so I’m definitely over the recommended weight gain. It’s interesting because I don’t look like I’m gaining weight excessively, and I’m not swelling or retaining fluid much, so I don’t really know where the weight is going. Honestly, I’m surprised I’m mostly as unconcerned as I am, but the doctor hasn’t commented on it, my blood pressure looks good, and I feel generally healthy. So I’ll definitely be talking about my weight gain and how that carries on into the postpartum period later on.

Speaking of the postpartum period, I picked up a new book called The First Forty Days about self-care (and care from other people) during the postpartum period. It’s really interesting because it stresses the importance of proper nutrition and rest in the postpartum period, which includes resting from feeling obligated to host visitors in your house. Basically, it instructs new mothers not to feel pressured to have visitors that are only there to have baby time and not to support the new parents. That said, even a book on postpartum self-care assumes the partner will be going back to work within two weeks after the birth, so I’m hoping I have an easier time with Dan off for a bit longer.

How I’m Feeling:

As always, I’m just noticing the gradual ramping up of the nagging complaints of pregnancy. My hips are still sore, my back occasionally hurts, my belly tightened with Braxton Hicks contractions sometimes. I’m tired a lot. But since it’s been ramping up gradually, I don’t usually have days that are bad enough to just have to stay home. Sunday was a surprise because usually once I get going, I’m okay for the day. I’m still working, and even though I increasingly don’t want to get out of bed or face my walk from the metro to work, once I’m on my walk, it’s not so bad. Like I said earlier, sometimes I feel crappier than others, but that’s just pregnancy. I’m kind of at the point where there’s not a whole lot I can do besides generally take care of myself.

On Wednesday in the early morning, I had a bout of really uncomfortable Braxton Hicks that kept me up for a couple hours. Honestly, even after I got some more sleep, I woke up still feeling crampy. I was still pretty sure it wasn’t the real thing, but I ended up working from home, just in case. But they eventually settled down (showering helped). Also, I had another prenatal checkup on Thursday that confirmed that they weren’t doing anything; I’m still not showing any signs that the baby is coming soon.

Of course, then on Thursday night/Friday morning, I was up for hours with even more contractions. These were more intense and rhythmic than I’d had before, and were accompanied by some additional symptoms that made me wonder if I was going to be one of those “I wasn’t dilated at all at my checkup and went into labor the next day” people. But they eventually tapered off and just left me feeling crappy for the rest of the day. I’m starting to worry that I’m going to have to deal with every-other-night contractions for the next two weeks.

Current Cravings: beet kraut from Sweet Farm, cereal with milk

Exercise: 2.1 average miles/day walking

Fruit/Vegetable Comparison: Pumpkin

Other Posts This Week:

Book Review: Like a Mother

Exercise and Pregnancy: The Final Months

Exercise, pregnancy, Third Trimester

Exercise and Pregnancy: The Final Months

I’ve spoken earlier in my pregnancy about my exercise routine and how I’m incorporating that into my pregnancy. I managed to continue going to barre class about twice a week until the end of October, when I was about 34 weeks pregnant. Since then, I’ve continued to walk most days, and have tried to make time to do some yoga every week. I will admit, I did find it a bit more difficult to motivate myself to exercise since I stopped having the accountability and scheduling of the barre class. I mentioned in my weekly update that my doula has lent us a copy of the Spinning Babies Daily Essentials DVD to use for the last few weeks of my pregnancy and it’s definitely helped re-invigorate my workout routine.

So the first few weeks of November, when I officially cancelled my gym membership, I gave myself permission to be a little lazy. I mean, I still had to walk a fair amount, since I walk about 50 minutes, round trip, to get to and from work four days a week. And I tried to make sure I got in at least one more day per week of walking, usually our weekly trip to Vigilante Coffee. So I was still averaging over two miles per day of walking, though it was more like 3.5 miles five days a week, rather than a couple miles every day.

But after I got the Spinning Babies DVD, I made more of an effort to work on stretching and strengthening exercises from that DVD. The difference between that and my workouts before is that now I definitely see my goals as explicitly preparing for childbirth, rather than for general fitness. My doctor has even reminded me to walk for a half an hour every day, so I’m trying to make sure to fit in some walking time every day, even when I don’t walk to work. It helps that we have some lovely walking trails nearby.

And then, I do yoga and Spinning Babies exercises. I can do the full 35-minute Daily Exercises routine or the 28-minute yoga flow from the DVD when I have the time and energy, but I try to do a little every day, even if it’s just my favorite 3-4 exercises. And my Hypnobabies course actually recommends doing a small set of exercises everyday. So I do my pelvic tilts, squats, and butterfly stretch every day to keep my body supple and ready for childbirth, while windmills help release the lower back pain that has crept up as I’ve gotten bigger. Unfortunately, I had to stop doing forward-leaning inversions when my acid reflux got bad. But I notice that my body feels better when I do these exercises more consistently. Plus, I can still do my weekly lunchtime yoga class at work, since the instructor is a coworkers of mine and the class is small enough that she can tailor it to our needs.

In this way, I’m helping keep my body flexible and supple, and my mind quiet and prepared for the rigors of childbirth. I’m not going to be running any marathons soon, but I am preparing for the next endurance event on my schedule.

Reading, Reviews

Book Review: Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, by Angela Garbes

When I first saw my mother-in-law after telling her that I was pregnant again, she gave me a book. My in-laws are big givers of books, which I don’t dislike at all. This book was by a woman that she’d heard interviewed on NPR about a piece she wrote about the intricacies of breast milk, and is titled Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, by Angela Garbes. The author is a woman who had her first child at the age of 36 after suffering multiple losses, including one right before she got pregnant with her daughter, and while pregnant, spent a lot of time researching best practices for pregnancy and child-raising. She found that there is not only a lot of conflicting science, but cultural aspects of the investigation of that science. So she wrote a book about it.

First of all, I’m sure plenty of people have heard of Expecting Better, Emily Oster’s simultaneously controversial and lauded book about how pregnant women can drink alcohol if they want (it’s actually about learning how to make your own decisions in pregnancy, but for some reason, people mostly latch onto the alcohol thing). I read that book when we first decided to start trying for a baby and found it immensely informative (albeit not entirely so on the one topic that actually comes up every single day for me). But Garbes’ book isn’t about statistics or studies, really. Yes, she talks to some renowned experts on the subjects she covers, but ultimately, her aim is to place pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care in a broader cultural context.

Her book really speaks to me as someone who gets fascinated by a subject and wants to learn everything about it. Her treatment of breastfeeding and human milk shows this nuance. Plenty of sources are quick to point out that the concrete evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding tend to fall away when researchers attempt to correct for the confounding effects of socioeconomic status (i.e., a lot of affluent women breastfeed because they can take the career hit that it can cause, but their babies probably do better because they’ve been born to affluent women). But she goes deeper, investigating the actual research into the constituents of human milk itself and the mechanisms of breastfeeding that could have positive effects for a baby. She still completely acknowledges that modern formula is absolutely healthy and there isn’t any proof of the benefits of breastfeeding, but it’s interesting to see beyond studies of the overarching effects of breastfeeding on a baby.

She treats other topics similarly, from placentas to kegels. Through it all, the main thread is acknowledging that women are integral from this process, and yet their role sometimes gets ignored in favor of focusing all attention on how the baby is doing. When studying anything related to pregnancy, whether it’s induction or soft cheese, people tend to focus on how it will affect the baby, rather than looking at the whole picture. Garbes makes sure we keep in mind that the mother is a part of this, not just a vessel.

And this is so important. From her early chapters on loss to her later chapters on the transition she felt after bearing a live child, she stays connected to her own journey and changes as a proxy for the changes the reader might be feeling. I know that I have had some trouble struggling with the fact that, while my family and friends are largely supportive and excited, most of them are excited for the baby, and seem to see supporting me as tangential, especially when discussing plans for visiting after the birth. Interestingly, the ones who ask me the most about how I’m doing are the ones that have gone through this themselves, particularly the recent mothers.

On the other hand, while I’m still a person in my own right, I appreciated Garbes’ willingness to put into words the feelings of loss and rebuilding of identity that comes with pregnancy. Particularly as I near the end of my pregnancy, I’m starting to realize that just as our life will never be the same, I will also not be the same as a person.

So I think this book is a great read, particularly for someone currently pregnant. I actually found it interesting to read it multiple times during my pregnancy, the first time right near the beginning, and again as I neared delivery. While it provides some really interesting information, it is not primarily a “how to baby” book, but instead a seamless marriage of information, context, and personal narrative that helps the reader think about her own place as a mother in society.

NB: Links are non-affiliate and I haven’t been provided any incentive to review this book. All thoughts are my own.

pregnancy, Third Trimester, Weeklies

Thirty-eight Weeks Pregnant

Yup, still pregnant. Due date is in two weeks, so I imagine I’ll have more people asking if I’ve had the baby yet around then, but at this point, I’m kind of at the point where I could have the baby today or I could have to wait nearly another month. This week we spent a fair amount of time just refining our prepping. We had the quick and dirty bare minimum done (we have a car seat, bassinet, some clothes, some diapers, and feeding supplies ready), but this week we kept working on making things a little more ready. We washed everything we’d gotten from our shower (within reason; we didn’t wash the books, obviously), and we made sure the car seat carrier was clicked into the base in Dan’s car. We also worked more on packing out hospital bags. I still need to clean out the back of my car so we can install our second car seat base. Oh, and I’m also playing with setting up a separate Instagram account for this blog (with the handle @cecinestpasunmommyblog), so feel free to follow me over there if you’re on Instagram.

Dan packed his hospital bag, but after our meeting with the doula, we realized that we should organize things into a bag for before I give birth and for after I move into recovery, rather than a his and hers bag. So we repacked all the stuff we need for the actual birth in my bag and put the things I was going to bring for after giving birth into Dan’s bag. We also got snacks for Dan and packed everything edible up into a separate bag so we don’t need to worry about food leaking onto important things. At this point, I feel like we’re about as ready as we’ll ever be for the actual birth, plus we live close enough to the hospital, that we can probably run home for things if we need them.

Thursday I had my first weekly appointment with my OB. I go every week now, which is actually kind of nice, since I like my OB’s office and they’re pretty good about fitting me in for the earliest appointment possible so I can go and still be back at a reasonable hour to start teleworking without taking time off. I got to the office before 8 a.m. this week and it was kind of neat being the only patient there. I definitely feel like I’m starting to recognize the nurses and get to know people. It’s kind of funny, though, because other than measuring my vitals and fundal height, checking heartbeat, and asking if I have any questions (and checking my cervix, starting this week), there’s not really a lot to do during an appointment. I’m usually out in less than half an hour. I’m having a very boring pregnancy. I think I’ve been asked if I’ve chosen a pediatrician three times, simply because they’re looking for something to ask, kind of like when you go to an interview and you feel like you need to have something to ask when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. But hey, boring pregnancies are good, right?

I’ve also been working on freezer meals. The doula also had the brilliant suggestion (I really need to do a post of “brilliant suggestions my doula has made that seem so simple but I didn’t think of them”) that instead of carving out some time to make a bunch of “freezer meals” and free them, we should just make extra dinner when we’re already cooking for the night and freeze half of it. So I’ve made a point to make double-batches of some of our go-to dinners and we now have four dinners in our freezer, ready to go once the baby is here and things are crazy. We’ve also stocked up on some Trader Joe’s staples (their char siu bao are my favorite), and we’ll get some bags of frozen veggies to augment some of the Instant Pot curries I’ve frozen sans veggies.

How I’m Feeling:

I had the distinct feeling that the baby might have dropped this week. Starting about Monday evening, I definitely noticed more pressure in my pelvis. It’s odd because I don’t actually feel like I’m having pressure on my bladder. It’s like my bladder has found some sort of pocket dimension to hang out in so that I’m not the stereotypical always-peeing pregnant lady. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that I don’t have to get up more than once at night to pee, but it’s just weird because it’s the one consistent complaint I’ve heard from people. I also think my acid reflux might be getting slightly better because I missed my morning Zantac the other day and didn’t even notice for an hour and a half, when usually I’m starting to feel it an hour or so before I’m due for another dose. When I had my first cervical check at the doctor, she mentioned the baby was at -1 station, which isn’t super low, but said it probably explained the increased pressure I’m feeling. Oh, for anyone following along at home, my cervix is still closed and posterior. Cervical status isn’t a crystal ball, but that suggests baby will be hanging out where they are for a bit.

Other than that, the nagging pregnancy complaints just kind of keep ramping up. My hips are getting sore more easily, particularly in the inner hip creases where I bet my ligaments are loosening. I find that making time to do some labor-prep stretching every day really helps. On days when I don’t do the full Spinning Babies routine or some yoga, I’ll do my top four favorite exercises from the Spinning Babies routine (three of which are also recommended in my Hypnobabies course). I think I’ll post a bit more about exercise in some detail later this week because I haven’t really posted about it since the second trimester when I was still going to barre 2-3 times a week.

Current Cravings: pecan pie (no one in my family but me likes it so I didn’t make one this year)

Exercise: 2.8 average miles/day walking, yoga twice, Spinning Babies Daily exercises once

Fruit/Vegetable Comparison: Winter melon

Other Posts This Week:

Pregnancy Cravings: Date Nut Bread

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Maintenance Check-In #1