pregnancy

Baby Shower Recap!

I had my baby shower this weekend! We was so lucky to have some wonderful hosts and a great group of friends and family to help us celebrate. When I talked to my good friend about a shower, the only things I stipulated were that it needed to be co-ed and include my husband, and that we couldn’t be forced to play typical shower games (no candy in diapers for me, thanks). But since my husband and I are both board game enthusiasts, she and my mother decided to go with a games theme for the party. They had it in a local liquor store, which sounds odd, but the store also has a really lovely little bistro at which we’ve met often for lunches.

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It was really nice to have absolutely nothing to do with planning the party. Dan and I showed up about 15 minutes before the official start time, and brought some gifts that had been sent ahead. Sadly, his parents and sisters couldn’t make it because of scheduling difficulties, so we made sure to bring their gifts (and we’re having his parents over this weekend to celebrate privately!). The room was lovely, with round tables set up. The theme was apparent in the vintage board games used as centerpieces for each table. While they were mostly for decoration, the Scrabble table decided to get into the spirit and play a bit while we were eating, drinking, and socializing.

My mother and friend did a fantastic job of choosing a varied menu for the light buffet of snacks. We had wings, flatbread pizzas, empanadas, and jalapeno-corn poppers, along with crudite, cheese, crackers, and hummus. Even my vegan friend had a big plate of food. And then my friend, who is a fantastic baker, made homemade cupcakes. She made Earl Grey cupcakes (of course!) filled with lemon curd and frosted with an Earl Grey lemon frosting, chocolate cupcakes filled with raspberry and frosted with chocolate frosting, and carrot cakes filled with salted caramel and topped with cream cheese frosting. Plus, she made vegan cupcakes with cookies-and-cream frosting so that the vegans wouldn’t feel left out!

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After enjoying some food and drinks (water for me!), Dan and I settled in to open the mountain of generous gifts our friends gave us. In addition to our registry, the invitation asked that people bring books from their childhoods to pass along to our child. It was such a lovely nostalgic trip to open some of these books, which I remember from my own childhood. Dan and I are both voracious readers, and hopefully this will help us start a library for the new baby to instill that love in them.

It was a thoroughly wonderful afternoon and we were touched by the excitement and support of our friends. Plus, the gifts have helped us feel just a bit more ready for the arrival of our baby in about two months! Once again, it feels like a threshold that we’ve crossed, moving into the final stages of pregnancy and preparing for the transition to parenthood. Of course we’ll make it with a little help from our friends.

Photos courtesy of Kristofer Northrup

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Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Four Recap

This week started off a little rough. I managed not to start my new week’s lessons until the afternoon on Sunday, so I didn’t get around to listening to my hypnosis tracks at all until the evening. Luckily the practice track was the same “Eyes-Open Childbirth Hypnosis Practice” track from last week, so I didn’t feel so bad about missing a day of it, and I also missed a day of listening to my affirmations. But I guess part of the program is learning to move on when things don’t go exactly as planned, so I tried to just forgive myself and pick it back up the next day.

I wanted to talk a little bit about focus during hypnosis. Because the visualizations refer to “hypno-anesthesia” being an orange-colored light, the Hypnobabies Facebook group is full of photos of orange light as inspiration and they recommend using a pink salt lamp as a source of dim, orange illumination. Now, I didn’t want to buy a lamp, but I saw these candle holders on Amazon. They hold a tea light, which sits deep enough in the candle holder to both give it a subtle peach-orange glow, and be inaccessible enough that I feel comfortable using it during hypnosis training without worrying that my flame-obsessed cat won’t stick her face in it while I’m in deep relaxation. And I can use a flameless electric tealight if I want to bring it to the hospital with me (it’s about the size of a large coffee mug).

As far as the course goes, this week’s readings focused on the physical side of birth, describing the progression of early birthing time. It goes into the progression of Braxton-Hicks pressure waves to early birthing into active birthing time, as well as describing some of the exams or procedures you might experience leading up to your due date and when you arrive at your birthing location. It was very comforting to have a thorough description of childbirth written in a way that was specifically intended not to make it sound intimidating.

The tracks were largely the same, with the hypnosis practice being the “Eyes-Open Childbirth Hypnosis” practice track from last week, and with the familiar “Deepening Your Hypnosis” track alternating with the new track introduced this week. And of course, affirmations every day. I’m starting to enjoy listening to them on my commute in the morning to set the tone for the day. But the other day, I was feeling particularly low and worried and found that listening to the affirmations while going about other parts of my day really helped me cheer up and feel a bit more positive.

Hypnotic Childbirth #1:

This track introduces the “Relax” cue word and describes how your birth partner can use it to help you deepen hypnosis and relaxation during childbirth. It’s very similar to the other tracks so far, and provides a deep sense of relaxation as well as helping instill the hypnotic cue word in your subconscious mind. While I haven’t noticed it yet with “Relax,” I can tell that the “Peace” cue has worked it’s way into my subconscious mind when I hear the word on the affirmations track.

So that’s where I am with the program. This week starts the final content week of the course, and then in week six, I’ll transition into maintenance mode, which will continue for the rest of my pregnancy. Hopefully this not only stays a good way to maintain calm and health in pregnancy, but gets me prepared for a positive childbirth experience.

Previous Posts:

Week Three Recap

Week Two Recap

Week One Recap

Starting the Program

Third Trimester, Weeklies

Thirty-two Weeks Pregnant

The First Yellow Squash is Tempting Me

Less than two months until my “due” date and it’s been quite a week. Today is my baby shower, so I’ve spent a fair amount of this week getting emails from Babylist that my guests are doing some last-minute shopping (hey, why do you think I put so much stuff from Amazon on my registry?) and sneaking a peek at what’s being bought. I’m excited for the shower later today, and I’ll definitely share a recap of that in its own post.

We also had an informational session with a pediatrician so we could decide if we wanted to name them as our preferred pediatrician and finally pre-register for our birth at the hospital. I really liked the group session atmosphere rather than having a private appointment because I could take advantage of all the other parents asking questions rather than feeling on the spot to ask them myself.

So I spent the rest of the week taking care of more logistics, registering at the hospital and checking on insurance stuff. Glamorous stuff. But next week should be more fun, since I’m finally going to start shopping for myself once the shower is done!

Oh, and I found a box of Count Chocula when I went to Target for some necessities.

How I’m Feeling:

I continue to get bigger. I continue to feel the baby trying to bust out of my belly directly. I actually thought I had a pulled ab muscle or something because I had this little uncomfortable knot in the center of my belly right above my navel that would come and go. And then I realized it moved. Like, on its own. So I’m pretty sure it’s a foot (it’s about the right size and I know the baby was head-down at my 30-week scan). So that was fun. It also hurts to laugh too hard, which I guess is a good thing to know because it means I’ve laughed a lot this week?

My indigestion continues to get worse day by day, but I’m learning how to deal with it. And I’m working on keeping myself full of small, healthy snacks, and plenty of water.

I also decided that this month would be my last month at the gym. I’m finding it harder and harder to get up for 7am weekday classes and I don’t have the motivation to go downtown on the weekends. The classes themselves still feel great, but I’m noticing a waning of energy as it takes more effort to just carry 30 extra pounds around with me every day. So I’ve cancelled my gym membership and I’m going to try to find some prenatal pilates exercises to supplement my yoga and walking at home.

Basically, I’m starting to feel more of the nagging complaints — soreness in my hips, shortness of breath, heartburn, etc. — that will probably continue to creep up for the rest of my pregnancy, but all in all, I’m doing pretty well. I’ve actually realized that I’m having a pretty easy pregnancy, now that my nausea is pretty much gone.

Current Cravings: chocolate cake/pudding, a bagel with cream cheese

Exercise: 2.9 average miles/day walking, barre once

Fruit/Vegetable Comparison: Summer squash

Other Posts This Week:

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Three Recap

Learning to Love My Body

[Image Source]

Body Image, pregnancy

Learning to Love My Body

Today I thought I’d talk a little about body image. I’ve mentioned it in passing in other posts, particularly my most recent maternity wear post, but I thought it might be worth going into a little more detail about my relationship with my body and how pregnancy has fit into that.

I want to start from my baseline: I’ve had issues with body image and disordered eating pretty much my entire adult life. It started in high school and ebbed and flowed with different events in my life. But I’ve never truly been satisfied with how my body works. Eventually I realized that I felt better about my body when I focused on what it could do rather than what it looked like. And I’ve had a tendency to restrict my eating whenever I felt like I was gaining too much weight, to unhealthy ends.

So naturally, I was really worried when I got pregnant. I worried about how I would handle gaining weight. And I handled it about as well as I thought I would at first. Of course, I lost a little weight in the beginning because of my nausea, which put off the concerns, but eventually I started making that up, and started looking, well, bloated. But since I knew I needed to make up for lost weight, and since somehow pregnancy hormones have made my anxiety less of a problem rather than more, I didn’t really worry about it.

And then, when I was in Barcelona, I caught a glimpse of my naked body in the hotel mirror and realized that, damn, I look good. It turns out I like the way my pregnant body looks. It doesn’t hurt that my first physical sign was increased breast size and I’ve always been self-conscious about my small breasts, but even as my belly swelled and got bigger, I’ve enjoyed the look of my pregnant body more and more.

So now I’m sometimes left wondering if this will last postpartum. Will I be able to look at my postpartum body and see the swelling fertility goddess that I see now? At this point, I’m mostly trying to enjoy it while I have it. And I’m curious to see if I continue feeling this way when I eventually get stretch marks (I’m not quite 32 weeks and I know plenty of women don’t get them until right at the end). But until then, I’m enjoying what I have.

Of course, not everyone feels this way. And I imagine this post comes as a surprise after all the complaining I did about how my body feels most days. But I wanted to share how I feel so that people know that it’s not always a certainty that you’ll hate your body, even if you hate gaining weight, and that it’s also possible to both love and hate pregnancy’s effects.

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Three Recap

Well, I’m halfway through and this week really got into the meat of childbirth and childbirth hypnosis. The readings focused mostly on interventions during birth while the tracks introduced the idea of hypno-anesthesia and eyes-open hypnosis. Plus, I found a great new tool for listening to my hypnosis tracks.

That’s me, listening to my hypnosis track with the soft peach glow of a candle in a pink salt candle holder as a visual focus, using my new ZenBand headphones from Blooming Wellness. ZenBand headphones are a set of flat headphones housed in a soft headband so that you can fully relax while listening to your tracks through headphones. I had noticed that my ears would start to hurt when I listened to earbuds, and these were actually recommended on the Hypnobabies website, so I figured I’d give them a try. The owner of the company is very responsive (there was a glitch and I didn’t get my confirmation email right away) and they shipped super fast. They definitely make relaxing while listening easier. (NB: I paid for these myself and have not been given any incentive to review them).

Now, on to the course itself this week. As I mentioned, the course reading was mostly about interventions during birth. Of course, it’s very biased towards “natural” or unmedicated childbirth, but I expect no less from pretty much any childbirth class being offered outside of an actual hospital. And, frankly, the whole reason I’m taking the course is to learn about alternatives to conventional hospital interventions. So I’m not bothered by the emphasis on the drawbacks of epidural pain relief, though I was impressed that they didn’t use some of the most obvious scare tactics. And, at the end of the day, the Hypnobabies course does seem to value the mother’s choice over any one philosophy. As the affirmations say, all routes your birthing takes are valid and good. Ultimately, they want mothers to be comfortable with any direction their birthing can take so they can maintain relaxation.

The tracks focused on hypno-anesthesia more than previous weeks, which I’ll admit was a stumbling block for me initially. Dan had made a comment that while he was open to the general concept of self-hypnosis, he thought the term “hypno-anesthesia” was corny. And I see his point. But through the reading and the tracks this week, I’ve come to realize that they’re using that term for a specific reason. The program is about using your mind to feel as though you’ve been anesthetized in some way, rather than just trying to give you mental tools to overcome pain. So, in that context, the term makes sense.

Creating Hypno-Anesthesia:

This track introduces you to the idea of hypno-anesthesia and helps you feel how it manifests in your body, as well as introducing the idea of eyes-open hypnosis. In previous weeks, you learn about your mental lightswitch; this week, you learn that it’s a three-phase switch — it can be “on,” “off,” or in the “center.” I found this particularly useful as a visualization because I used a lot of three-phase switches in the lab and I even liked the comparison to electronics when they talk about the signal being filtered when your lightswitch is in “center.” I really liked this track and I’m finding it easier and easier to drop into hypnosis as the weeks go on.

Eyes-Open Hypnosis Practice:

This track is a practice track to help you practice turning from “on” to “off” to “center” and practice being in hypnosis while your eyes are open and you can move around. It includes five practice sessions and takes about twenty minutes. It’s a nice practice. I never tried practicing without the track this week, so I’m curious if it works as well without the recording, but oddly enough I found it occasionally difficult to stay awake during this track. For some reason, when I’m in “center,” I find it hard to keep my eyes open and not just go back to “off.” It’s possible that had something to do with the lack of sleep I’ve faced over the last week, though. Who knows.

So that’s my weekly progress with the Hypnobabies course. I’m more than halfway through the main course and starting to feel more confident about birth with every week that goes by. Join me in the coming weeks to find out how the rest of the program went for me.

Previous Hypnobabies Self-Study Posts:

Week Two Recap

Week One Recap

Starting the Program

pregnancy, Third Trimester, Weeklies

Thirty-one Weeks Pregnant

Random observation this week: The most unexpected people smile at me when I’m on the street now. Not like a creepy, hitting-on-you smile, but a “seeing you made me feel happy” kind of smile. It’s kind of strange, but oddly nice. I don’t get a lot of smiles from strangers, probably because I have a fairly serious resting face, and it’s nice to notice a side effect of pregnancy on my interactions with strangers that isn’t about them disrespecting boundaries.

Well, I started out this week by getting another bad cold. Sunday was a very not-fun day and I was particularly glad I’d gotten the shopping done the day before. Monday, I stayed home, even though I didn’t have a holiday like my husband. Tuesday, I had to go back to normal life. Tuesday, Dan also came down with the same cold, so it feels like we spent most of the week collectively recovering from the cold. And then Thursday, I had my 30-week growth ultrasound. I was a little nervous because this is often the first point at which doctors want to point out that your baby is trending big.

Baby is pretty much right on track, measuring about average in estimated weight, though with a rather large head. And baby has hair! It was the first thing the ultrasound tech said when she started the scan. Also, 3D ultrasound is kind of cool. Oh, and since they’re estimating the weight of the baby, I’ve started thinking about the baby’s size in terms of fractions of our cat’s weight. Baby is currently about 40% of our cat’s weight.

Finally, the big news of the week is that we finally got some autumn weather! After complaining about the persistence of summer on Tea Leaves and Tweed and having a truly dismal day on Thursday, the weather cooled off considerably on Friday and Saturday it was cool enough for a lovely walk around the lake in the gorgeous weather. I’m hoping this makes it easier to do my walking as I move away from going to the gym as much (or at all).

How I’m Feeling:

Well, I was sick Sunday and Monday, and recovering Tuesday. So I didn’t feel great. But other than having a cold, I’ve been feeling okay. My belly continues to grow and I’m noticing still more indigestion/heartburn. I actually had to take a Tums in the middle of the day the other day!

I’m also noticing that my belly is putting stress on my back more when I walk. I bought a support belt and wore it once to walk to work, but I think I’m going to have to make that a more regular occurrence if I’m going to keep walking.

I’ve also had more trouble sleeping this week for some reason. Part of it is that I’m noticing more stress on my hip bones while sleeping on my side, which wakes me up in the middle of the night, but I’m also just finding myself waking up between 4 and 4:30 in the morning and being unable to fall back asleep… until about 6 when I need to get up for work anyway. I actually averaged a whole hour less of sleep per night this week than the night before. Consequently, I’ve developed a subtle twitch in one of my eyes, so I’m striving to mend my sleep habits before I notice too many more adverse effects.

Current Cravings: a bagel with cream cheese (seriously, I stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts and got a bagel with cream cheese on my way home the other day because I just could not stop thinking about it)

Exercise: 2.1 average miles/day walking, barre once, yoga once

Fruit/Vegetable Comparison: a bunch of asparagus (or nearly half a cat)

Other Posts This Week:

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Two Recap

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Miscarriage

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (and Baby Loss Awareness Week)

NB: In this post, I will be discussing my miscarriage, as well as my current, ongoing pregnancy.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in the US, and this week in particular is Baby Loss Awareness Week in the UK, so I thought I’d write a little more about miscarriage. I’m fully aware that I suffered one of the gentlest forms of pregnancy loss. As I’ve written about before, I had a missed miscarriage last year when we were first trying to conceive. While I’ve mostly moved on from it, there will always be a part of me that was left behind with that baby that never came to be born, so I thought I’d talk a little more about the process of “moving on” as I experienced it and offer my advice to anyone going through something similar.

I felt like I had eons to actually process my loss, since I learned about the loss a week before I started any treatment to physically pass the pregnancy. And then, I didn’t actually pass everything and ended up being treated further two weeks later, with a further two-to-three-week recovery time. So, all total, I spent about six weeks from the time I learned of my loss to the final checkup where things were declared “back to normal.”

But of course, they weren’t back to normal. Even though I felt like I had healed enough to have the strength to write publicly about my loss and field questions. Even though I felt like an “old pro” at dealing with loss, I realized about a month after my D&C surgery that I was not “past” my grief by any stretch.

And I guess that’s my main advice: Don’t try to convince yourself that you need to “get over” your feelings. My primary mistake was not letting myself feel my feelings, and instead they started bubbling to the surface at the worst possible time. All of a sudden, I was finding myself fighting tears and even rage at work when I didn’t even realize I was upset. But I guess I was always upset, deep down, and while I mostly fought it down, eventually it would have to come up, like a soda that’s been capped and shaken. Eventually it will blow.

Unless you release the pressure bit by bit. So I started what I called my “grief meditations” where I would sit on my meditation cushion and just cry. Sometimes silently, sometimes not. It was a callback to when I was grieving the death of my father and found myself inexplicably sobbing during my weekly Zen sits. Giving myself the space to fully explore what I was feeling helped to release the tension of my grief and admit to myself that I wasn’t okay and that I might not be okay for a while.

It also taught me that you don’t really “get over” your grief. It is always with you. You just start finding more to life than your grief. It stops feeling like such an overwhelming presence in your life. But that takes time, and I don’t mean a month or two months. If it’s only been less than a year since your loss, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you listen to people who think you should be “over it” or telling yourself that you should be doing better. Even after I got pregnant again, I found that there was room in my heart to simultaneously welcome this new pregnancy while still grieving the old one. The new pregnancy didn’t take away one ounce of grief over the old one; it just gave me more in my life to focus on.

And now I’m also coming up on the one-year anniversary of that awful doctor’s appointment where instead of a cute ultrasound of a potato, we got an eons-long visit with the doctor explaining all our medical options, as well as going over the emotional ramifications. I suppose that’s my second bit of advice: There are doctors out there with the compassion and willingness to spend time on their patients’ emotional health, so if you feel like your needs aren’t being met by your doctor, it might be worth looking for a new one. My experience with my new-at-the-time OB practice really made me realize how amazing a group of doctors they are and made me so confident in my choice. And that has carried through into my current pregnancy.

So now I’m sitting here, almost a year later, and I’ve come up against another mental block: I offered to make a Reddit friend a red crocheted hat and cape for her Jizo statue. But I’ve found myself reluctant to start the project somehow. And I think it might just be residual feelings coming to the surface. So I’ll start the project this week, as soon as I don’t feel sick anymore, because it will be cathartic. But not because it will make the bad feelings go away.