Friday, March 28, 2008

A Wee Bit O'Moral Outrage

Some weeks ago, my naturopath recommended that I get my ferritin levels checked at around week 34-35. Ferritin is the storage form of iron, and since I have had lowish iron levels in the past, she wants to make sure that I have enough to get through birth and post-partum successfully. (HINT: you lose a lot of blood when you give birth, and hence a lot of iron.) If my naturopath orders the tests, I have to pay for them, but if my GP or midwife does so, then they're covered, so we agreed I would ask Lillian for a requisition, which she happily gave me, and yesterday I was off to the SAT lab to get them done.

When I handed in the requisition, I asked if the lab could send a copy of my results to me directly in addition to sending them to my midwife. My naturopath had told me what numbers I ought to be looking for, so this way I could find out (and report to her) asap if I was in need of supplements. The receptionist told me that "the hospital doesn't do that" but if I went to the hospital directly I could ask for a copy of the results there. "When will the results be in?" I asked, and was told they'd be there by the afternoon.

So on the way home from work yesterday I went to the hospital. I waited around about 15 minutes before someone came to the desk to see me, which I didn't mind all that much. When someone finally arrived, I said, "I had some bloodwork done at the SAT Lab this morning, and they told me I could come here to pick up the results." The lab tech looked very surprised and skeptical. "Really? They told you that?" She went and talked to someone else in the back, then she came back to the desk and took my Care Card so she could look me up.

She then told me that a ferritin test is a "send-out" test - they send it to Vancouver, and thus the results wouldn't be in for a week. Frustrating that I'd wasted a trip over there, but this wasn't the part that filled me with moral outrage. No, the part that did that was what she said next - that even if the results were there, she couldn't give them to me unless the midwife had handwritten on the requisition form that I was allowed to have them.

That's right. I'm not allowed to know my own medical test results, because the hospital is afraid that if they told me, I might sue them.

It's my fucking blood, and it irks me something awful that I have no rights whatsoever to know what's in it (or not in it). Even more annoying is the fact that I know Lillian would find this rule ridiculous as well, and that if I'd ask her to grant me the holy permissions to see my own results, she would have happily done so (but I had no way of forseeing that this would be a problem, because it's so utterly ridiculous).

When did Canada become so litigious??

By the way it is snowing here today. I remember at the beginning of March when Mike, Lisa, and I were driving into Vancouver in stunningly beautiful sunshine and Lisa said, "March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion." She was so right.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Signs of Impending Doom, er I mean Birth

So, you know what's a really good follow-up to a post about me (NOT) freaking out?

A photo post!

Signs of Approaching Baby are starting to appear throughout the house.

Where once our nursery was a random collection of goods that had something to do with infants and/or children, it is now fairly organized (if not entirely pretty-looking just yet) and I have gone through all the baby-related stuff and taken them to the parts of the house where they are likely to be used.

This means that there is a box of nursing pads on my nightstand, and as if that weren't enough to tip you off, on the other side of the nightstand there is a freakin' cradle. Yep.

Also pictured: enough pillows on my side of the bed to make it look like there's a person sleeping there. I have a full-size Snoogle pillow plus THREE regular pillows (one under my hips, one under my head, and one between my knees).

Pictured here: the place where Chris sleeps a couple of nights a week now. I don't blame him, do you?

So here's a picture of the nursery closet with the lovely organizer that Chris installed. Chris also taught me how to fold baby clothes so I can go crazy with the nesting.

Here is a lovely hand-knit sweater made by a sweet old lady at my church (Vibeke). The generosity that babies bring out in people really amazes me! I mean ultimately, she knows little about me other than my name and the fact that I'm expecting, and she devotes her time and energy to making this. SO sweet.

Another treasure from the closet: an adorable denim & daisy dress that I cannot WAIT to dress my daughter in. This is from my Mom.

Downstairs in the pantry is a high chair, a bouncy chair, and an activity mat. And scattered on the kitchen counter is a collection of baby bottles and free samples of formula. Where else am I supposed to put these things?

Back in the nursery, the current decor is a little lower-key than in many other nurseries. For example, here we have the plastic chest of drawers substituting for a dresser.
And here is a small shelf and a folding table substituting for a changing table.

Near the door of the nursery is the nursing pillow and the diaper bag, all set for the trip to the hospital. My labour bag is not packed, but the diaper bag is ready.

Note: the piano keyboard is not actually coming with us to the hospital.

As for me - the belly button is still an innie. But just barely.

This Saturday I am going shopping with Karen (my mother-in-law and bona fide Martha Stewart-type superwoman) for even more baby stuff. Primarily nursery decor. Karen called last night and offered to re-paint the nursery. It is currently a pale yellow above the wainscoting and alternating broad stripes of forest green and sunshiney yellow below the wainscoting.

She wants to repaint the forest green stripes to be a paler green and a pale pink, so the stripes would be yellow-green-yellow-pink. I think that would look lovely and she is not asking me to do any of the work, so I guess my main objection would be that it's a lot of effort for a room that is only going to look "perfect" and matchy-matchy for the few weeks or months before the baby actually starts living in it. Again, though, it's her effort and she's offering it cheerfully, so why should I be concerned? Perhaps because when she comes over in a few months and the room isn't all perfect-looking I will feel guilty? Hmm, yes, maybe that's it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I am Not Worrying

So. To review: last week my midwife measured my belly and found that its size had jumped from the 80th to 90th percentile in two weeks. She breezily mentioned that we may want to get an ultrasound to investigate this. Why? Because there may be an excess of amniotic fluid, or there may be an excess of gigantic baby. "Oh, well, we definitely want to know if we're having a gigantic baby," I said. "But really, why does it matter about the amniotic fluid?" She responded that if there was an excess of amniotic fluid, it could indicate that there was a problem with the baby's kidneys.

I was all high from the previous two minutes of hearing my baby's heartbeat and did not give this information the attention it deserved. Later, I came home and blogged about it. And that's when I started to really focus all my attention and intent on Not Worrying. It has been a lot of work.

Lillian tried calling the clinic before we left, but it was 4:45pm on a Thursday before a long weekend, and they were not answering the phone. So I spent the entire long weekend studiously Not Worrying. Because obviously if it was something to really worry about, Lillian wouldn't let us go the whole weekend without finding out about it, right? She'd gently suggest that maybe we go to the hospital instead, just to make sure all was well. So. I did Not Worry.

And I took Kat's advice and didn't Google even once over that long weekend. Which was hard because if I'm going to Not Worry, I should at least know what I'm Not Worrying about, right? But no. I resisted temptation. If you listen really hard, you can probably hear the sound of my lack of worry all the way through the Internets. (Hint: it sounds like a low-pitched buzz.)

Then the weekend was over and it was Tuesday and Tuesday came and went and there was no call from Lillian about when my ultrasound was going to be. Well! Surely this was just one more reason Not to Worry, right? Because again, if there was anything to worry about, surely Lillian wouldn't have let SIX FREAKIN DAYS go by without me getting an appointment, right? Nope. No way. Nothing to worry about here. Move along.

And then Wednesday came and I called home to get the messages and there on the voicemail was Lillian's voice, and I was flooded with relief, except not really because how could I be relieved if I wasn't worrying? I wasn't, I swear! Just because I had to look up online the procedure for checking voicemail remotely, because I'd never done it before, that doesn't mean I was worrying. Because CLEARLY I WAS NOT.

So there was Lillian's voice on the voicemail, and she was calling to remind us to bring her the knife for the cutting of the cord, because she needs to get it to the hospital and get it sterilized, and she is going to be away next week so we need to get it done before then.

And... that was it.

Nothing about the ultrasound. Lillian is doing an even better job of Not Worrying about this than I am! I'm going to have to try harder.

So I called Lillian and told her we would drop off the knife tomorrow, oh and also, heh-heh, by the way, I was also wondering about the ultrasound?

And what do you think her response was?

Go on, take a minute to think about it.

If you guessed "Oh, you're wondering if we have results yet?" which is really just a fancy way of saying "WHAT ULTRASOUND?", then you'd be correct.

"Noooo, I was wondering when the appointment was. Because the clinic was closed when you tried to call last week..."

"Oh, yes. I'd forgotten all about that." She went on to explain that she'd been up two nights in a row catching babies, and thanked me heartily for calling to remind her. Which is nice and all. But calling her to remind her about the ultrasound significantly cut into my Not Worrying time, and folks, it's a full-time job.

And after typing all this out I called and checked my voicemail again and the ultrasound is scheduled for April 8th which means I have almost two full weeks of Not Worrying to work on. So I'd better get back to it.

ETA: Still not worrying. But I did Google. Berate me if you want, but if my midwife isn't going to give me any information, I'm damn well going to go get it myself.

Fundal Height Measurement
Excessive Amniotic Fluid
Hydramnios (BONUS: this page contains the words "fetal death"! I'm not worrying!)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Baby Dropping: Sounds Scary, but Is Good

The baby has dropped. I can breathe more easily (good) but there is a lot more pressure on my lower belly and pelvis and BLADDER (not so good). I don't mind too much though because this means that things are on track and I'm almost done being pregnant. I decided this past week to stop complaining about all the pregnancy-related aches and pains, so whenever I wince or show some other evidence of discomfort, Chris and I just look at each other and say "Six weeks to go."

It's definitely getting to be that time. Four more weeks of work, no more out-of-town trips, and five-ish weeks till my first live-in doula arrives. I feel very peaceful and ready for what lies ahead.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dear Gestating Baby

Dear gestating baby girl,

As of today, you are 32 weeks old. I've been pregnant for 34 weeks. Someday, a long long time from now, I'll explain to you how that whole complicated thing works. But not today.

Today, I want to share with you some of the things we've learned about you lately. It seems like in the past few weeks, you've started to become a real little person, and although we haven't met you officially yet, there are some things your dad and I feel familiar with already. For example, you are a very active baby. When I get into bed at night and lie down on my side, which is the only position pregnant ladies can sleep in, you start kicking and punching me on both sides of my abdomen simultaneously. Sometimes you move with so much strength that you make me jump. Your dad, who often has his hand on my belly to experience some of this excitement, says we're going to have a hard time keeping up with you when you start moving around on the outside.

Being your punching bag doesn't really bother me that much, even though sometimes it does hurt. I think it's cool how much you move around and how strong and big you are, and I love being able to feel your limbs sliding around underneath my skin. I also love how responsive you are. When your dad puts his face near my belly and talks to you, you move immediately to hear him better and let him know that you're listening. Whenever either of us puts a hand on my belly for more than a couple of seconds, you kick or punch that spot as if you're playing a game with us. The other day, the midwife was measuring my belly and as she moved her hands around the edges trying to get the accurate spot, you decided to kick her too. It's obvious to us that you are very playful, and I hope you are looking forward to a whole world worth of fun after you are born.

Another thing you often respond to is music, which makes your parents very happy, because we both love music. It's hard to say what exactly your tastes are, but you seem to respond to anything with a good rhythm and a loud bass line, which encompasses everything from techno/trance to Taiko drums. You also like it when I sing, which is good because I do that a lot. I wonder how it sounds to you in your watery womb when I'm practicing my choir music or singing along to the radio?

All in all, baby girl, you seem like a strong, feisty, playful and fun-loving person, and that suits your dad and I just fine. We are looking forward to meeting you in only six short weeks.

Your Mama

VIHA* brings hilarity to my life

Way back when we first started discussing labour and birth, Chris didn't want to cut the umbilical cord. But as time went by, he decided he did want to, and that furthermore, he wanted to do it with a tanto - a Japanese ceremonial dagger. This surprises absolutely no one who knows Chris.

When we first asked Lillian about it, she said that if it was a home birth, there'd be no problem, but since we were planning a hospital birth, things might get a bit tricksy. We'd have to obtain permission from the hospital, and what with this not being a straightforward question, it wasn't clear who we needed to ask. In fact, when we first asked the question at our hospital tour a few weeks ago, the nurse told us to speak to our doctor. We told her we were under the care of a midwife, and that she'd told us we needed to talk to the hospital. The nurse took our name and phone number and promised to look into it for us. I didn't think we'd ever hear back from her.

But lo and behold, my cynicism was misplaced and less than 3 weeks later all the arrangements have been made. I got a phone call on Thursday from a perinatal nurse asking for the name and phone number of my midwife, and when we went to Lillian's office that afternoon she gave us a printout of an email she'd received.

From: Perinatal Nurse Manager
To: All Perinatal Clinical Nurse Leaders in VIHA; All Perinatal Nursing Staff in NRGH**; Lillian (our midwife); and a doctor with the amusing email address of

Hi everyone,

We have a Japanese patient requesting to use a 9" steel non-serrated blade (ceremonial knife) to cut the cord at an upcoming midwifery (Lillian Sly) attended delivery (Expected delivery date - May 5). The knife will then be handed down to the child when he/she becomes an adult. (...) All are in agreement about the following:

1. The knife may be used.
2. We are able to sterilize the knife (handle removed) in advance. Lillian Sly is to set up an appointment with [nurse manager] to show her the blade and to discuss the logistics of sterilization.

Thank you all for your part in facilitating this family centered / culturally sensitive delivery.

I'm quite pleasantly surprised that it was that easy, given the number of times I have seen the needless complications and bureaucracy at work at VIHA. I think the key was that when Chris phrased the question to the original nurse, he discussed it in terms of a religious ceremony, something that NRGH (being all gung-ho about diversity and political correctness) would be unlikely to dismiss out of hand. By the time it got to the Nurse Manager, the fact that Chris isn't actually Japanese had gotten completely lost. And rightfully so - why should he have less access to Japanese religious ceremonies than someone who actually is Japanese, anyway?

"Thank you for your part in facilitating this family centered / culturally sensitive delivery." Oh man, it just cracks me right up.

*VIHA = Vancouver Island Health Authority, who runs the hospital as well as all other health care facilities and services on Vancouver Island. Also, I work for them (in Data Entry, not any capacity of actually providing care to anyone).
**NRGH = Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, where our birth is to take place.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I told you my belly was big

Yesterday at our bi-weekly visit with the midwife, Lillian noted that my belly is measuring a little large. Like, 90th percentile large. I originally assumed this must be due to the fact that I've finally discovered how to cure the 9am queasies (down 3-4 Chunks Ahoy cookies till the nausea passes). But no, apparently there are other causes for large bellies, and it was suggested that I go get an ultrasound to determine if one of these might be at play.

The two reasons she cited to me were an extra big baby (which I think is likely, for no real reason) and an excess of amniotic fluid. The excess amniotic fluid, in turn, could indicate that there is a problem with the baby's kidneys. I am summoning all my will power not to go all Google-happy and scare the crap out of myself with more info on fetal kidney problems than anyone ought to look at.

In the meantime, I get to waddle my way through the long weekend and try to distract myself, because there's no way I'm getting any information for at least a week.

Then again, if there was genuine concern about an urgent problem, I guess Lillian would be sending us to the hospital for an ultrasound, STAT, so I guess I should try to relax and be groovy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pondering the Past

Yesterday as I walked to my naturopathic appointment I noticed all around me the signs of spring. Trees budding, crocuses blooming, birds singing. It was with a jolt that I awoke to where I was a year ago. Sometimes my memory works that way - something I casually observe suddenly catapults me back to a different time, a memory buried within that I didn't even know I'd saved.

This time a year ago, I was 5 weeks pregnant.

I associated that pregnancy with spring so strongly. I wrote in my journal about how exciting it was to watch the world blossom around me, and know that something was blossoming inside me as well. I felt so completely in tune with the world and with my body. It was an exciting time. An innocent time.

I didn't make it to the end of the first trimester. At 11 weeks and 3 days, I miscarried due to actions I've since come to believe were entirely my fault. What would have been the second trimester of my pregnancy was spent in spiraling depression and terror that I'd never get a second chance. Chris and I had some of the worst fights of our relationship during this time. Another low point came when I pulled myself together enough to try and attend a self-help group for other women who'd experienced pregnancy loss. The group was seemingly cancelled and/or moved without informing me, and I had the door slammed in my face when I tried to find out where they'd gone.

Last May through July was the lowest period of my life. I was trying with increasing desperation to get pregnant again and was getting nearly hysterical when it didn't happen. I had no perspective whatsoever: I knew that many women took months or even years to get pregnant, yet I was diagnosing myself as a failure after two months and emailing my midwives about the possibility of being infertile. I was completely out of control.

In August, I started seeing a naturopath, Dr. Karen Fraser, for the first time. She had me fill out a form at my first appointment asking what concerns I wanted to address with her. I wrote that I wanted to "stop worrying, relax, and get pregnant." She told me that if I'd been her patient at the time of the miscarriage, she would have advised me to give my body three months to heal before trying again. That the fact I hadn't conceived in those three months did not make me a failure. And that I had some physiological issues which, while not interfering with pregnancy or conception, were contributing to the fact that I was completely miserable and stressed out.

I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I started taking supplements to deal with the depression. I gave myself a month off from "trying". I stopped giving myself such a hard time and began to work on remembering what else in my life made me happy, and focussing on those things. It was a happy coincidence that Chris and I headed off on a fun and relaxing holiday the next day - a holiday where, incidentally, our next baby was conceived, quite without intention.

I see all of this as being one continuous pregnancy story. A first trimester, a miscarriage, a missing trimester of depression, weight gain, and fear, then another first trimester. It's all connected, to me, and if there were any lingering doubt then one bizarre fact eliminates it.

My expected due date - May 5th - is the precise anniversary of the day I miscarried last year.

The day I went through a mini-labour to expel a dead baby from my body will now be redeemed by the experience of a true labour to birth a live one. When I ponder that fact, I am simply overcome with the unknowable wisdom of a Being or Universe that would make these circumstances real.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pre-Natal Class: Medical Options

Last night's public health pre-natal class was on Medical Options, or as we midwife-hiring, Birthing-From-Within-class-taking, cloth-diaper-using earth-mamas would refer to them, "interventions". It was actually a really interesting class to me for two reasons. First of all, the nurse running the class had a big box full of all kinds of medical supplies that she passed around to us. So last night for the first time I got to hold in my hands many of the things I've been reading about for months: forceps, a vial of Pitocin, a urinary catheter, the doohickey they use for internal fetal monitoring, and so on. That was pretty neat.

The other reason the class interested me is that it was fun to watch the nurse delicately walk the line between encouraging moms to avoid interventions if possible (as that is now the party line, at least at NRGH) and yet subtly implanting in our heads the notion that if an intervention is suggested by the staff (referred to throughout the session as "they" to cover up the fact that it will be nurses, not your doctor, who suggest these things) then we should probably go along with it.

As such, there were no statistics presented in class: no numbers on the hospital's intervention rates (even the rate of cesarean, which is listed on every earth-mama's list of What To Ask When Looking For a Hospital). Whenever the nurse was asked a question about how often a certain procedure was done, she'd think for a moment, then respond with something like "Really not that often," or "it's fairly common". All that was missing was a pat on the hand and an admonition not to worry our pretty little heads about such details.

There was also very little information about the downsides of various interventions. Even the biggie, C-sections, were discussed without any mention of the fact that if you have one, you will spend the next 6 weeks recovering from major abdominal surgery in addition to the usual upheaval and challenges of assimilating a newborn into your life, dealing with your new role as mother, struggling to keep up with laundry and housework, and the spectre of post-partum depression. The attitude presented was very much "we don't want to have to do any of these things (though we won't tell you why) but if we do, here's some cheery info on them so you won't be frightened."

I ended up asking a couple of questions I already knew the answers to, just to force the nurse to present some information I felt other people in the class might not know. For example, I asked about the effects on a baby of an epidural. I was told that the baby might be a bit sluggish and not take to feeding as easily, but the sluggishness would wear off in about a day. "Any breathing problems?" I asked. The nurse reported that no, they'd never seen any breathing problems after an epidural. (The very first site I found on Google mentions respiratory problems, waaaay down on the page but it is there. This site also mentions many other scary and LONG-TERM effects.)

Another strange moment came when one mom talked about wanting to have a C-Section (she is afraid her baby might be too big to deliver vaginally). The nurse couldn't tell her about the potential risks to her and her child of a C-Section, since that might scare other moms who may in future be advised they genuinely need the procedure. Yet she also couldn't agree definitively that an OB would perform a C-Section based purely on the mom's desire to do so. Her best suggestion was to discuss it at length with her caregiver. While on the surface I agree with this idea, the mom had already mentioned that her doctor had brushed her off and refused to discuss the subject. Further, as I reminded Chris when I reflected on my worries for this mom, a woman seeing a doctor for pre-natal care gets 10-15 minute appointments. Not the one-hour sessions we get with Lillian where we typically discuss subjects as far-ranging as british humour, the sterilization of Japanese weapons for use in cutting the umbilical cord, the politics at play in pre-natal care, and family dramas - not to mention, you know, our actual pregnancy- and birth-related conversations.

Anyway, the class didn't really present a lot of groundwork for "informed consent", as angled as it was. And that's a shame, because although caregivers may present the benefits and risks fairly and honestly at the time they suggest an intervention, many of the decisions are going to be made ahead of time based on what people learn when they're in a calm and rational state of mind (thus, the concept of birth plans). But I guess ultimately I need to be grateful that Chris and I have done the "extra-credit" reading and are not relying on a public health nurse to give us an unbiased point of view. Everyone else's birth, I suppose, is their own business to look after.

Monday, March 17, 2008

33 weeks pregnant

What's happening with baby this week:
- All organs are developed and most are functioning just as they will after birth
- More subcutaneous fat is forming so wrinkles disappear
- Skin becomes a rosy colour
- Lanugo (fine, downy hair) is replaced with vernix caseosa
- Will start to gain as much as 2oz per day for the next 4 weeks
- Will gain more than half of its birth weight between now and delivery (AAAH YOU ARE KIDDING ME NO THIS CHILD CANNOT GET ANY BIGGER!!!)
- Has likely settled into birth position
- Fewer, but *stronger* movements as baby runs out of room
- Is practicing breathing by inhaling amniotic fluid to exercise lungs
- Baby may have hair by now
- Has a normal sleeping/waking pattern; experiences REM sleep
- Pupils of the eye can detect light; can constrict and dilate
- Baby may move into the pelvis and press firmly against cervix (is this what they call "dropping"?)

Baby measures 17-19 inches and weighs nearly 5 pounds. And to that I say a hearty "No Kidding" because you guys, I am FULL OF BABY. At our pre-natal class last week the instructor was teaching us how to breathe during labour, and suggested that we take deep cleansing breaths all the way into our abdomens. Nice idea, but I haven't been able to feel anything but baby in my abdomen for a good 5 months.

As Sue said near the end of her pregnancy, "I know mothering is going to be tiring too, but at least then I can put the baby down. " I really want to put the baby down!

Symptoms to Expect:
- Pelvic and lower back pain (nope, just the ever-present hip pain)
- Frequent urination (yep)
- Belly button may pop soon (yes, it is definitely getting shallower - Chris predicts it will pop by this weekend)
- Excessive tiredness (um, I may have mentioned the tiredness a time or two?)
- Braxton Hicks contractions (maybe? I felt something last Thursday night ...)
- Decreased sex drive (decreased even further? Not sure that's possible...)
- Strange, vivid dreams (a few, yes)
- Swollen feet and ankles (my cankles! Let me show you dem!)
- The top of the uterus is now over 5 inches above the belly button. In fact, the uterus has grown to 500 times its original size throughout the pregnancy! o.O

Additional Symptoms I'm Experiencing:
- Stiffness in my hands and fingers is quite bad.
- So, so, so uncomfortably warm. Wishing spring would come so the rest of the world would be warm too, and stop bitching when I want to turn the heat off.

I'm very happy to see the comment "During week 33, you may notice that you are growing out of your maternity clothes. This is normal - most women end up going through a couple different sets of maternity clothes throughout their pregnancy." Only - would anyone actually go out and buy new maternity clothes at this stage? I'm way too cheap to do that. Which means that in another 2 weeks I'll be limited to track suits and pajamas. Wonder what my co-workers would have to say about that?

For the last couple weeks I have been obsessing pretty steadily on the Hospital Bag(s). I'm still not sure if this urge sprang purely from the nesting instinct or a genuine motherly intuition that things might happen sooner than anticipated. In any case, after pre-washing all the new baby clothes and the cloth diapers (which have to be washed and dried three times for maximum absorbency) I packed the diaper bag, baby's portion of the Hospital Gear. In the process, I opened the single pack of disposable diapers we bought and wigged out on how incredibly tiny they are. The cloth diapers are kind of designed to be used for a couple of years, so they're pretty big (you can always fold them smaller), but the newborn disposables are teensy. It made me realize that even though the baby feels like a strong and gigantic creature within the confines of my belly, she is actually quite tiny and helpless compared to this whole big world she'll be meeting.

Although, I have a hunch she's going to be on the 8- or 9-pound side of the spectrum, not the 5- or 6-pound side.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

So Tired...

So tired, but just can't sleep. Can't get comfortable. Hips hurt too much to sleep on one side for long and when I turn over it is such a production (with full-size body pillow plus two normal pillows plus blankets) that I wake up, and also wake up my poor husband who thinks I am falling out of bed. This morning I could have slept in till noon but instead got up at nine because my hips were killing me too much to lie down anymore. It's so unfair that the last six weeks of pregnancy - the last six weeks before I become the most sleep-deprived person on the planet - should be spent not sleeping. Dammit!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Very Pregnant

Is there such a thing as being very pregnant? Chris argues that it is a binary state, similar to marriage - you are either pregnant, or you're not. You're either married, or you're not. You can't be "a bit married" or "a little pregnant" (I know at least one blogger who'd disagree). I know what he's getting at, though. In terms of being pregnant, experiencing the state of pregnancy, I am not actually any more pregnant than I was 30 weeks ago.

But oh Lord, I sure feel very pregnant.

I've gotten to the stage where I've forgotten what it's like to be not pregnant. That is, I know there were traits and concepts in my life and my physical being that were different, and I can list them, but I don't viscerally remember how they felt. I can't remember what it's like to be cold, for example (yesterday, a gray rainy day, I left the front door wide open because I couldn't stand the heat and stuffiness of our house). I can't remember what it feels like to breathe deeply, into my abdomen, as our pre-natal class instructor suggested we do during labour. The only thing in my abdomen is a baby, and I can't breathe through that no matter how hard I try.

I also realized this morning that while I love my body and think it is beautiful, and I am so amazed at what it is doing, I am not finding it very easy to be the person who lives in this body right now. Any respect and admiration I have for its incredible processes is from the point of view of an outsider, an admirer-from-afar. I should be so lucky.

Also, I don't know if it's genuinely another hormonal fluctuation or if I'm just tired and frustrated waddling around in this giant meat suit, but I am pretty grouchy lately. I am really feeling the limitations in my body, and that makes my temper short.

I am not quite at the stage yet where I throw my (sore, achy) hands in the air and stomp my (swollen, boxy) feet on the floor and declare myself done with pregnancy, get this thing out of me now because I can't stand another day. But I can see that stage coming, just over the horizon. It's just as well, I suppose, because only a month ago I was so wistful and blissful about pregnancy, reflecting that despite its frustrations and inconveniences I would really miss being pregnant once it was over. I'm not feeling so nostalgic about it now, to say the least.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Clever Game of Spot-the-Difference

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me whether I was "sure there's just one in there", I could outfit the nursery. (Well, no, that's not quite true. If had maybe $50 for every time someone asked me that, on the other hand, I could do a bang-up job.) The point is, I get this question a lot, and while it doesn't offend me, it did make me curious enough about my weight gain and how I'm carrying to actually do some comparisons. Here's what I found:

me, 12 weeks pregnant

someone else, 12 weeks pregnant with twins

me, 20 weeks pregnant

someone else, 20 weeks pregnant with twins

me, 32 weeks pregnant

someone else, 32 weeks pregnant with twins

So, yeah. Is it really that hard to tell the difference?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Even more cowbell ain't gonna help

Many of the symptoms I expected to experience with pregnancy - the ones that appear on every "Your Pregnancy This Week" email from 10 weeks onward - have not reared their semi-ugly heads at all, 32.5 weeks in.

For example, I've never been constipated. I've never had heartburn. I've never had Braxton-Hicks contractions. And I've never had food aversions.

On the other hand, there are some bizarre symptoms which don't even seem to relate to pregnancy which I've had in spades.

- Sweaty palms. So bad it's uncomfortable to use my computer's mouse.
- Swollen, achy joints. When I wake up in the morning I can't actually bend my fingers.
- Loss of flexibility in upper body. I can't scratch my back anymore.

The achy joints being the most inconvenient, painful, and life-affecting of the three, I brought it up with my midwife. She assures me that it is in fact a normal, common pregnancy symptom, and that the only cure is having a baby. That's the only thing that can cure my incessant hip pain, as well, and my chronic shortness of breath.

On the whole, I've got it pretty good. As I said to Chris the other night, it could be a lot worse. I could be experiencing HELLP syndrome, another problem for which the only cure is having a baby, which is the reason my sister was born via C-section 5 weeks early; my mom's life was in danger to the point where they had to get the baby out immediately. If all I have to deal with is stiff joints and an itchy back, I'm damned lucky and I know it.

Bonus: Linda's journal is one I link to on my sidebar, but today's post is so incredible, so truthful, so raw, that I wanted to point it out specifically. Go check it out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Public Health Pre-Natal Classes

Our third public health pre-natal class is tonight, and I find I'm not looking forward to it as much as I was before the classes started. I'd hoped that we'd learn a lot and that we'd get to meet other new moms and dads, the better for bonding and playdates. But after last class, I'm starting to lose hope a little bit.

I thought our first class was good. We learned about infant brain development and about safety (ie, car seats). Chris, on the other hand, referred to it as "the remedial class" because with all the reading and research we've done, it seemed like the material in the class was way beneath us. Without judging anyone, it is obvious that for many people this class is the only education they will have before becoming parents, and the classes are geared to that. Not exactly at our level, but what can you do?

The second class, our hospital tour, took a bit of a turn for the worst. Though the information presented was terrific and some of it was actually new to us, during the brief "stretch break" the nurse heading the tour got into a loud conversation with two or three of the couples about placentas, the main gist of which was that some people actually eat them, and OMG isn't that ga-ross? The nurse contributed that one grateful mom had brought the nursing staff some crackers and placenta pâté, and some homemade cookies with breastmilk frosting. They were all so disgusted by this that they decided never again to eat homemade gifts, only ones that were obviously store-bought. The couples made their repulsion known with their constant comments of "ew" and "GROSS" and shudders of disgust. Chris and I, nearby and overhearing all of this, hoped madly that there was no-one in the class whose culture included this ritual, because it would have been incredibly offensive.

For the record, Chris and I are not intending to eat the placenta. But we are open-minded enough to recognize that some people choose to do so, and that while we personally have no interest in it, we also are not judgmental or intolerant of those people. It was really shocking and more than a little disappointing to encounter this attitude, as I'm sure there are things we have done or are planning to do that would strike these haters as equally repulsive.

It was at this point that I took a good hard look around the class. I think we are among the oldest people there, if not the oldest. Chris declares that we are definitely the most mature (aka, old and stodgy). Strange that being the old and stodgy ones would also make us the most tolerant, but there it is.

The birthing video we watched that night was accompanied by many uncomfortable giggles and snorts, as if we were all back in Grade 9 Sex Ed. I came home and ranted to Chris that these people were going to become parents in the next few months: that they were going to be confronted with all manner of bodily fluids in great quantities, several times a day. Had they not considered this? Were they really so desperately uncomfortable with the concept? (Thank goodness the issue of Moms pooping on the bed during labour didn't come up, because their tiny baseball-capped heads would have just exploded right then and there.)

Anyway, I'm no longer anticipating the forming of long-term friendships at pre-natal class, unless there is some other old and stodgy (and tolerant) couple who's sitting at the back, shaking their heads and the silly punks, just as disappointed as we are in the behaviour on display. A hidden treasure of a couple who's just as afraid as we are to speak up and ask intelligent questions lest they open themselves up for scoffing and eye-rolling. It could happen, but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Growing Up

A few issues have cropped up lately and I have this sneaking suspicion that the same problem underlies all of them.

This is one of those entries I'm writing mostly to try and work through something, so it's going to be scattered and disconnected. Please bear with me.

We just finished reading "Babyproofing Your Marriage" which was an entertaining, if not entirely helpful, book. (Also, more than a little sexist.) The chapter we read last was the one about In-Laws and Outlaws, detailing the issues that can come up (mostly from grandparents, but also aunts and uncles) after a child joins the family. There were several horror stories, such as:

One woman talked about how she wanted her mom and dad to be waiting outside the hospital room and come in to meet the baby right away. At the last minute, her husband decided they couldn't come in until *his* parents arrived too. So the parents waited outside for an additional three hours until the other set of parents appeared, at which point the husband handed the baby to *his* mom first. Apparently, maternal grandma has *never* forgiven him for this.

There are two parts of this story that horrify me. First, the bizarre (to me) reliance on who gets to meet/see/hold the baby FIRST. Second, the fact that someone who didn't get to be first could hold a lifelong grudge.

Even if all the grandparents showed up at our birth at the exact same moment, SOMEONE has got to be the first to hold the baby. And that means someone has got to be last. It had never occurred to me that this mattered, until a very recent discussion with my sister. I don't know how to resolve this.

That's all. I just don't know.

The next issue that comes up is that while Chris's parents live only 30 minutes away, all my family lives out of town. This means that while my in-laws can come the day baby arrives, say hello and hold her and coo over her and then be on their way to give us some space, when my parents arrive they will want to stay. For a week. In our house.

And while I'm sure that my parents will be exceptionally helpful and incredibly generous, having that many people in my house for that length of time is simply not a restful situation for me.

The "BYM" book reflected on the genetic hardwiring that makes grandparents feel like they have a stake in their grandchildren's lives: this is their genetic legacy, after all. This is how they achieve a measure of immortality. It was helpful to have that perspective, as heaven knows I've done some weird things in the past 7 months that were very traceable to genetic/hormonal hardwiring. Of course, in our modern day these tendencies can seem rude and inappropriate, such as one set of grandparents replacing all the pictures of the other set with pictures of themselves, or each set vying aggressively to spend more time with the grandkids, or heaven forbid be the grandparent who buys the most toys. All of this done with the intent of having the most influence on your grandkids, and therefore the greater legacy left. But how unfortunate for our home to be the battleground, and our child to be the weapon.

So, after reading that I can really recognize that telling my parents I don't want them to come the day the baby comes is a hurtful, difficult thing for them to accept. The question is: then what do I do? It's starting to occur to me that Chris and I are going to have to come into our own, perhaps sooner than later, and start making the choices that are best for our family - meaning the three of us - instead of allowing those choices to be made for us. I don't want to be adversarial about this, but neither do I want to be pushed into things that make me/us uncomfortable, just for the sake of keeping the peace. We're about to become parents - isn't it about time we grew up?

32 weeks pregnant

What’s happening with baby this week:
- Baby is gaining 6 ounces a week
- Body growth is going to start to slow down at this point
- Baby's movements are at their peak; soon, she'll be too big to move much
- Rooting reflex is in place to help with breastfeeding
- Toenails and fingernails have developed
- Baby is sensitive to temperature
- Layers of fat continue to be deposited beneath the skin
- Arms and legs are fully proportioned in relation to the size of the head
- Baby is passing water from her bladder
- Hair on the head continues to grow
- Lanugo continues to fall off
- All five senses are functional
- Baby is likely to double in size over next seven weeks
Baby weighs about 4 pounds, and is 17-19 inches long.
Symptoms to expect:
- Uterus is 5 inches above belly button (yes)
- Heartburn or constipation (nope)
- Fluid retention (not bad enough to notice)
- Shortness of breath (constantly!)
- Difficulty sleeping (YES)
- More frequent urination (yes, this is finally hitting me)
- Braxton-Hicks contractions (not a one!)
Additional Symptoms I'm Having:
- Very sore joints; in the mornings it is painful and/or impossible to bend my fingers
- Sore hip continues
- Sweaty palms
To be honest, my thoughts are not much on the pregnancy right now, which seems obvious when you consider that I haven't done a Pregnancy Week Update in three weeks. My head is quite firmly in Baby Land (not Pregnancy Land) these days. After all, not much is really changing. The baby's body systems are all in place and functioning well; all she's doing now is growing, growing, growing. Which is a bit frightening when I look down at my gigantic belly and realize it's going to keep getting bigger and bigger for the next 7 weeks.
The tiredness of the third trimester is definitely beginning. As many other moms told me, it's not like the tiredness of the first trimester, when I felt sick and exhausted and beat up and run down. It's the tiredness of carrying around 40 extra pounds. It's the tiredness of every little thing (getting in and out of a car; bending over to pick up something I dropped; rolling over in bed) taking more effort and forethought than normal. It's the tiredness of being in pain all the time, and of never being able to breathe properly. It's the tiredness of wishing that every other non-baby commitment would just drop off the calendar and let me have some time to myself before my life gets entirely taken over by a tiny, squalling being.
Fortunately, that is starting to happen. My regular Monday and Wednesday commitments end this week, and we have only three more sessions of pre-natal classes. Our last SCA event is this weekend and our last planned off-Island trip is next weekend. In six more weeks I'll be done work. One by one, the commitments will drop away and more free time will crop up. (I write this also to remind myself, as right now it feels like the hectic pace will never slow down - but it will, it will.)
Eight weeks to go. I am so excited about the baby's arrival, sometimes I can hardly wait. I am really starting to feel ready.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Spreading the Joy

A week or so ago I ran into a woman I'd met at pre-natal yoga class, Chai. I'd heard through the yoga grapevine that she'd had her baby, so she of course hadn't been at class in a while. I said hi to her, asked her how she was doing, chatted for a few minutes. At one point she said she wasn't managing as well as she'd hoped. I told her that in my opinion, she was out of the house, *not* dressed in pajamas, wearing jewelry and her hair was done - I thought she was doing just fine, and should give herself some credit! She smiled and went on her way.Last night at yoga, the instructor mentioned that she'd run into Chai also, and that Chai had said my remark was a real positive lift for her. Hooray!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hospital Tour

We went for the hospital tour the other night. We have been looking forward to this for a long time. NRGH opened a new maternity wing last summer and we have heard nothing but raves about it.

We were both very pleased with the facility, and also with the philosophy NRGH presents. From my "Maternity Care" handout:

We Believe:
- Childbirth is a normal healthy life event.
- Mothers, babies and families should be together to nurture bonding and infant feeding.
- Our relationship with you is based on mutual trust and respect.
- We welcome a variety of health care providers to your birth experience.

There is even a little section on Birth Plans, which I think is a positive sign. Still not sure how far we're going to go with the Birth Plan thing, but that's stuff for another post. In any case, it's great that they are open to that concept.

The wing itself is lovely. It still looks brand new. I got the "right" answers to many of the questions I had (without even having to ask):

- Once admitted, we and whomever we choose to have with us will be in one (private) room for the labour, the delivery, and the recovery.
- Each room has a private bath with a giant bathtub and shower.
- Birth balls and squat bars are available (meaning, women are supported to labour and birth in alternative positions).
- "Early discharge is supported and facilitated if this is your wish."
- The rooms have TVs and CD players for distraction.
- We can use cell phones (but sadly, no wireless access, so no liveblogging*. Dammit!)
- There is an "early labour lounge" for us to hang out with other parents-to-be and pass the time.
- There is a very nice built-in bed for Dad, though it is recommended he bring his own bedding.

Also, a very cool concept - I believe the nurse giving the tour said ours was the first hospital in western Canada to have telemetry, which means that even if we need the constant electronic fetal monitoring, the sensors can be attached and Mom can still walk around; the signals will be sent via telemetry to the monitor in the room. Frightfully cool. The nurse also saw fit to mention at this point that only in the case of a medical issue would constant monitoring be used - it is not routine. See what I mean about having all the right answers?

In all, it was quite a trip to be in one of these rooms, picturing ourselves in labour, picturing our baby in the warmer next to the bed. This is where it's all going to happen. Amazing.

*We were told that unfortunately, many things have "gone walking" from the rooms since they opened only 8 months ago - lamps, CD players, all the niceties that weren't nailed down. The hospital has already used up their replacement budget for the year, so further missing stuff can't be replaced. This outrages me - people are ultimately stealing from the community, and it makes me sick to my stomach.

That - along with stories like this - are prompting me to want to leave lappy at home, anyway. I'd hate to gain one baby only to lose another.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Layette Checklist

I typed the above into Google and got 16,600 hits. I chose ParenTime, RealSavvyMoms, and to investigate.

I made a spreadsheet. And I am NOT ashamed!

(Chris and I recently had a moment of laughter when we realized we are approaching newborn care/parenting with the same mindset we approach everything: researching (me) and gear-buying (him).)

There were some strange words on the three layette lists. Like "stretchies" and "sacques". Google as I might, I can't figure out what the hell these things are. Mom helped us figure out the difference between sleepers and jumpsuits, but the division between onesies and undershirts is still hazy.

There were also some amusing differences between one list and another. For example, the ParenTime list is most extensive in its bath consumables section (cotton swabs, cotton balls, baby powder, baby lotion, baby wash, blunt-edge scissors (why?), baby comb and brush, etc.) but doesn't list the baby bathtub. Admittedly not a must-have, but you could probably get by without a lot of the aforementioned items as well, so it seems incongruous.

Three sets of fitted sheets for the crib (or cradle) seems excessive to me - I don't even have three sets of sheets for my own bed. But neither Chris nor I has wet the bed for a very long time, so I guess I see the logic there. And with any bit of luck, baby sheets will be less expensive than a queen-sized set, right?

So, tallying the averages of all the items and comparing the numbers to what I have on-hand (thanks to my fantastically generous sister and a couple of fun shopping trips), I find to my surprise that there are still a few items I "need". I am wholeheartedly not concerned about this, because I take the word "need" with a crib-sized chunk of salt. More amusingly, though, are the items where I have way more than I could possibly use. For example, the number of recommended onesies is 8. I have 19. Recommended number of hats = 2. I have 8. But seriously - can you ever have too many hats? No, I say! And again I say no!

Anyway, it was an amusing and enlightening exercise. Especially because after I printed out the lists, and unbeknownst to me, Chris added a few more must-have items. In amongst the onesies, washcloths, and diaper pails, I discovered the additions "Katana Rattle" and "Kimono & Obi".

This will go well with the Ninja mobile he has planned.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Four Pounds

According to Tha Intarwebs, my baby now weighs four pounds. For purposes of illustration and enlightnment, here are some other things that weigh four pounds.
This is four pounds of tomatoes. Yummm.
This lady grew a four-pound zucchini (and she looks REALLY proud of herself!)

Tiny adorable dogs weigh four pounds.

This creepy cat weighs four pounds (including the glowing red eyes.)
Some laptops weigh four pounds.

This hank of wool weighs four pounds.

This wedding dress has four pounds worth of jewels on it.

A good catch weighs four pounds.

This post brought to you by the number 4 and the power of Google Image Search.

Opinions vs. Facts

Too often people beat me over the head with their opinions, disguised as facts. I have a few good friends, and a wonderful husband, who are accepting and non-judgmental; who embrace the concept of "live and let live", just as I do. Many others - most notably, my family - are quite the opposite. It is only recently that I've realized their browbeating lectures are about opinions, not facts. And that as such, my disagreeing with them doesn't make me a bad, ignorant, or naive person.

Here are phrases you use when you respectfully discuss your opinions:
"What worked for me was ..."
"In my experience ..."
"The best solution for our family was ..."
"I found that for me personally ..."

Here are phrases you use when you discuss your opinions, cleverly disguised as facts:
"The thing is ..."
"That's not the way it works, how it works is ..."
"Here's the deal ..."
"You need to ..."

I firmly believe that every family is different. I know I've never done this (labour, parenting) before, but neither has anyone else been through my specific experience or parented my child. Can we all just admit that there's no one right way? Can we all just accept that everyone's going to do things differently, and if we absolutely must offer advice and opinions, be upfront about their subjective nature rather than presenting them as facts?

I know I'm more sensitive than most, and take things to heart more than I should. That's how I am, and I accept that. I cherish the friends I have who are also accepting and understanding, who allow me the space and safety to be who I am without saying (even to themselves) "That's not how I would do things!" I strive to be as accepting and non-judgmental as they are.

Another thing that makes me crazy is when people assume that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I get brushed off like this all the time, especially on the decision Chris and I have made to have only one child. Our decision was based on several immutable facts: finances; our ages; environmental impact; the challenges that pregnancy put me through; and the cold ugly fact that we believe we'll be much better able to parent the way we want to if we keep the parent-to-kid ratio in our favour. With the possible exception of winning the lottery, none of these factors are going to change in two years. But when I tell people we're only having one, they say, "Oh, wait two years, you'll feel differently." Yes, I may feel differently. But that is the key. Feel differently. Not think differently. I think a decision based on logic and rational thinking is more valuable than one based on emotion and whimsy. It's entirely likely that in two years, I will long for another child. But does that change any of our reasons for sticking with one? No. Why do people assume I am incapable of making decisions with a longer shelf life than two years? No one says, "Oh, in two years you'll really regret having a kid." They trust me to have figured out this decision correctly, so why not the corresponding one?

Anyway, enough with the ranting and the rhetorical questions. Obviously, I once again have people telling me how to live my life, how to birth my child, and how to raise her. Furthermore, because I am extra-sensitive to this kind of stuff the people in question would probably be bewildered to learn that this is how I experience their indubitably well-intentioned guidance. I am going to have to grow a much thicker skin to survive the trial by fire that is motherhood.


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