pregnancy, Third Trimester, Weeklies

Forty-one Weeks Pregnant

Yup, still pregnant. I now refer to myself as “excessively pregnant.” And it’s certainly been a week. I spent this week working from home, which was at least nice because I didn’t have to fight crowds on my commute, but it also meant that I didn’t get the benefit of interacting with other people on a regular basis. It did get a little lonely and made me wonder how I’m going to handle being at home with the baby for three months after Dan goes back to work.

I’m also just starting to feel big, ungainly, and tired. The baby is obviously running out of room, and is starting to grow back up into my stomach, causing my reflux to get worse. Friday and Saturday nights were the worst, but I’m hoping that upping my Zantac dosage (doctor’s suggestion) will help that. I’m still not showing any signs that the baby is coming soon. I’ve had some contractions, off and on, but nothing major and nothing that progresses.

So I’m scheduled for an induction this week and that’s when the baby will probably come out. At least I know this is my last full week of pregnancy and have an end in sight, but I do hope my next few days are better than the last couple have been.

Dan and I are now both officially off work. I’m using my paid time off to cover any days between now and the birth, and Dan has two Federal holidays and an undetermined amount of time furloughed before he can get his leave re-approved. Thankfully, our finances are robust enough to weather the shutdown at the same time as I’m heading out on partial paid leave.

So we’ve spent our time being relatively lazy and just resting mostly. I prepped some homemade gelatin to have on hand, since it’s what I’m allowed to eat right before my induction, and I’ll probably make a batch of lactation bars to take with me to the hospital for after the baby comes out, for when I need an easy, hand-held snack. But other than that, we’re mostly as ready as we’ll ever be.

childbirth, pregnancy

Seemingly-Simple Wisdom from our Doula

I’ve made references to our doulas in the past. We’re having a doula from Silver Spring Doula attend our birth. Since both of them share duties, either Jenny or Rose will attend the birth, but our “primary contact doula” is Rose. She’s a certified Hypnobabies instructor and has been really helpful as I’ve gone through my self-study, and has been working as a doula for over a decade. Plus she has two kids of her own. So she’s learned a thing or two. And I thought I’d share some of her little wisdom gems.

  1. Freezer meals: I’ve mentioned this one before, but rather than carving out separate time to prepare “freezer meals,” simply make a double-batch of whatever you’re making for dinner that night. And then freeze half. It’s so simple, and yet I hadn’t thought of it. I was dreading figuring out when I was going to have time to make casseroles, not to mention buying spare dishes to freeze them in and figure out the freezer space. But since I’m only freezing two servings at a time and cooking when I would already be cooking anyway, it works out with much less headache.
  2. Shelf-stable high-protein snacks: She suggests having some shelf-stable snacks that are high in protein stashed around the house for eating while breastfeeding. Energy bars and peanut butter are good ideas. I imagine beef jerky would also work (although I’ve heard you get incredibly thirsty while breastfeeding, so that might be counter-productive).
  3. Hospital bags: Rather than packing a “his” and “hers” bag, pack a bag for during labor and after labor. That way, you only need to bring one bag in with you when you get to the hospital, and your partner can run out to the car to grab the other one after the baby’s come out. We actually re-packed our bags after hearing this and I feel much more confident about our packing because it also gave us a better way to organize things to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.

I know, I know. This all seems so simple and obvious, right? Well, I hadn’t thought of it. And I’ve mentioned it to other pregnant women I know and they were surprised not to have thought about it. But it’s helped me feel so much more prepared for birthing and the postpartum period to have these little ways to get things done. That way, my mental energy can go where it’s really needed: washing so many things for the baby.

pregnancy

Expecting Better, Pregnancy “Rules,” and How I Managed My Personal Pregnancy Restrictions

So in my review of Like a Mother, I referenced Emily Oster’s book Expecting Better. Now, I don’t think I need to review this book. A lot of women find it helpful or liberating, while others find it cherry-picked and overly permissive. Personally, my takeaway from this book was not that everything they tell you to avoid in pregnancy is fine, but that it’s important to investigate the context behind any “rules” you’re given in pregnancy.

The big one is alcohol. At this point, the medical bottom line is that there is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy. But it’s not as simple as that because the “no alcohol” rule is a product of social context and backlash after the discovery of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which occurs when mothers have a serious problem with drinking. So Oster’s book attempts to actually look at the research behind drinking in pregnancy beyond just the excessive level that is known to cause FAS. Because it’s unrealistic and infantilizing to tell women that they can’t have anything to drink ever if they’re not using birth control (seriously). But that’s not to say that alcohol is necessarily safe. I mean, ethanol is a known mutagen and teratogen, and the products of metabolizing ethanol in the body have similar negative effects on cells.

But this is a rabbit hole that most people don’t want to go down. Most women pick up this book and just want someone to tell them “Is X safe?” Unfortunately, the answer to that is that, well, nothing is safe in pregnancy. Because pregnancy involves so many interconnected variables that it’s pretty difficult to pin down whether one particular factor was or wasn’t a factor that helped or harmed a pregnancy. Beyond taking folate and not getting yourself injured, there’s not a whole lot of consensus on what is and isn’t an appropriate risk to take in pregnancy. So we can talk to our doctors (though they need to stick to certain party lines) and read books like Oster’s and The Panic-Free Pregnancy, but ultimately, we have to decide how much restriction we’re willing and able to accept in our lives.

Another thing that a lot of people do is look at how restrictions vary by country. Personally, I looked at the recommendations on drinking tea for women in Asian countries, where tea is seen as a healthy beverage and not a caffeine-laden vice. But it’s important to remember how differing practices of handling food in other countries may affect the recommendations. For example, women in the UK are told that it’s safe to eat raw and undercooked eggs in pregnancy, but only because there is a type of egg in the UK that is certified to be free of food-borne pathogens. Since these eggs don’t exist in the US, that recommendation doesn’t really apply to women in the US. The same is true with warnings and recalls of vegetables in the US. A woman in Europe wouldn’t necessarily need to avoid romaine lettuce because it’s unlikely that it’s coming from one of the contaminated sources in North America.

Ultimately, I drew my personal lines and decided what I felt comfortable with and what I didn’t. I used a little of the information in Oster’s book, and a little information from Broder’s book, as well as jumping into my own research when that information seemed lacking. And then… I listened to my body. In particular, I spent some time thinking about alcohol. I knew that women in other countries aren’t necessarily counseled as strictly about avoiding alcohol, I had the information gleaned from Oster’s book, and I decided that I would feel comfortable drinking a glass or two of wine per week once I passed the first trimester. And then, while out with my in-laws at 14 weeks, I had the tiniest sip of prosecco from Dan’s glass and the resulting heartburn was excruciating. I tried again while we were in Barcelona and had similar effects. So no alcohol for me.

The same proved true with sushi. I had convinced myself that any food-borne illness I might catch from sushi wasn’t particularly likely if I stuck to places that had never made me sick before, But then, my food aversions started manifesting as aversions to both taste and texture, and I realized I felt oddly about the idea of chewing raw fish. And I didn’t want to risk the expense of ordering a sushi dinner, only to discover that I couldn’t eat it (I had this problem with plantains and bacon where I didn’t realize I had an aversion until I put them in my mouth). So no sushi during my pregnancy.

So I think it’s important to come to your own conclusions. While I was grateful for the general discussion of caffeine in the books I read, I found it insufficient to guide me in my daily life because I drink tea that is steeped in a way that differs from the standard view of “a cup of tea.” So I did my own research and came to my own conclusions about how to incorporate tea into my pregnant life. I did the same thing with personal care products, especially since there is almost no discussion of this in the books, and doctors’ advice will range from “use as little as possible” to “anything is fine.” I think a lot of people don’t understand the importance skin care plays in my life, especially when hormones can make your skin a little wacky, so I had to find my own data to make decisions. And this is fully supported in Oster’s book.

I think the main advantage of the new trend towards pregnancy books that cast a critical eye on traditional pregnancy “rules” and restrictions is a response to the idea that pregnant women should always want to be as cautious as possible because it’s better to give up something of themselves than potentially risk a miniscule chance of harm to the baby. But everyone should be free to come to their own conclusions. I, personally, decided that listeria and toxoplasmosis were not risks I wanted to take, so I avoided cold cuts, cold-smoked fish, pate, charcuterie, rare meat, and working in the garden (we have a lot of outdoor cats in our neighborhood). Dan took care of the litter box mostly because of the smell, since our very sheltered indoor cat likely poses no risk of toxo. I also did my best to avoid other forms of food-borne illness, just because that didn’t sound fun. I temped my heated food and I broke the yolks in my eggs, or scrambled them. But I was less dogmatic about this, especially with eggs from farmers we patronize frequently. And I did have the occasional sip of wine, and to hell with the heartburn!

(Now, anyone who is visiting me in the hospital or soon after can feel free to pick up a charcuterie platter from our favorite butcher, shown above when we visited a year ago.)

pregnancy, Third Trimester, Weeklies

Forty Weeks Pregnant

still-life-with-watermelons-1912.jpgLarge

Well, I’ve officially passed my due date. After a rough end to last week, where I really thought the baby would come before the end of the weekend, I managed to have a relatively quiet weekend. I got plenty of rest, and by Sunday, I had enough energy to start making preparations for the week ahead. I’m realizing more and more that the uncertainty of the end of pregnancy is almost more nerve-wracking than the actual thought of childbirth.

I think my boss was surprised to see me in the office on Monday morning, after I had taken the day completely off on Friday rather than just working from home like I usually do when I’m feeling slightly off. But I had a good and productive day. In addition to taking care of things that came up suddenly, and tying up existing loose ends, I also managed to get in touch with someone to tour yet another daycare. I’m definitely researching child care in fits, spurts, and drips, rather than actually making an effort to get it done all at once, but since I discovered the list of home-based daycares in my area (hint: If you’re in the state of Maryland, this website is invaluable), I’ve felt a little less pressure to find a daycare, like, six months ago, and I’m hoping if I don’t already have something lined up, I’ll be able to contact more people while I’m on maternity leave.

The rest of the week went pretty similarly. I’ve actually been sleeping pretty well this week and after several nights interrupted by varying levels of contractions last week, I’ve had basically nothing this week. I had my weekly checkup with the doctor on Thursday, where everything looked on track, and I could tell she was trying very, very hard not to say “see you next week” because, honestly, there’s not a lot of sign that this is happening anytime soon. They did get me on the schedule for an induction in two weeks, just in case, but hey, a lot can happen in that time.

And then, Friday, I went in to work for my last day in the office. I’ve cleared with my boss to work from home next week until the baby comes, so Friday was my last day of getting up early, showering, packing a lunch, and commuting. As much as I like my coworkers, I’m not going to miss the commute (although that means I’ll have to make myself go for walks during the day instead of having them built in automatically to get to and from work). It was also our holiday party, which was nice to get to, since I wasn’t sure if I’d make it that far, with it being held the day before my due date!

Waking up on Saturday and knowing that 1.) it was my due date and 2.) I wouldn’t be going back to the office until next spring was surreal. We made a nice breakfast and grocery shopped. We’ve definitely been stocking up on supplies and this week I decided to get some extra rice, oats, lentils, and more broth for easy pantry soups. I’ve been reading The First Forty Days, which is about taking care of yourself postpartum and I’ve decided to try out some of the recipes ahead of time. So I made a big pot of kabocha and red lentil soup for dinner and froze the leftovers!

How I’m Feeling:

Well, like I said, I’m sleeping better, getting woken up less, and just generally feeling a bit more energetic. Honestly, I really think the difference is just that I’m not getting woken up by contractions. I’m still feeling bigger and bigger everyday. I can also feel the kid running out room when the move in my belly.

But I’m mostly feeling pretty good. I was proud of myself for making it through my last week in the office and I’m almost a little sad not to finish out my week with walking everyday because of the weather. But I’m feeling healthy, strong, and ready for the next step. Or more waiting…

Current Cravings: Actually, my appetite has gone down this week

Exercise: 3 average miles/day walking, 5 minutes of daily stretching based on the Spinning Babies essentials

Fruit/Vegetable Comparison: I’ve reached watermelon status. From here on out, it’s watermelons all the way down.

Other Posts This Week:

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

Our Non-Nursery

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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.

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.