Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Five Best Pregnancy Purchases

Every pregnancy-themed bulletin board, email list, and website is full of stuff you're supposed to buy, and people asking advice about what they really need. I'm no expert, but I'm also not making ad revenue off any of this stuff, so you can trust me when I say these are the best-spent dollars of my last 36 weeks.

Snoogle Pregnancy Pillow
One of my weekly Pregnancy Emails has a plug for the body pillows every. SINGLE. WEEK. They always fit it right into the text of their weekly update, too, as if to imply that whatever your current pregnancy state is - whether you're experiencing the nausea of the first trimester, the back and hip pain of the second trimester, or the larger girth of the third trimester, this pillow will solve it all.
Well, the thing is, they're not far off. I bought one of these beauties near the end of the first trimester, and since then it has come very close to outranking Chris as the Bedtime Item I Love Most. It has a lot of different positions and uses, but for me the main advantages are that it provides support for between my knees (which helps reduce back and hip pain), and it prevents me from sleeping on my back (because pregnant women are supposed to avoid this position).
I was thrilled to find this pillow at the local Babies R Us (with the breastfeeding pillows) for only $60. Given the months' worth of comfortable sleep it has brought me, it is well worth the cost.

I got a $50 gift card to Thyme Maternity for Christmas, and I used it promptly - taking advantages of the Boxing Day sales. I bought myself one really nice-looking outfit and three pairs of maternity underwear. The pants I bought only fit for about a month, and the shirt - although it still fits - is looking a little tired, but the underwear? They are heaven. They were about $12/apiece, so fairly pricey, but so comfortable and lovely that it feels like wearing clouds on my skin - and they don't look ridiculously unattractive. The 3 pairs I have are the first things to get worn after every laundry day - I wish I'd bought more.
I've learned recently that the biggest factor in my mood and energy level is whether I'm wearing something that fits decently, as the frustration of yanking my pants up every 15 seconds gets old really fast (why didn't anyone tell me that the loss of my waist would also mean the loss of the ability to keep my pants up?). Well-fitting underwear is crucial as well.
Not everyone is as hung up on knowing whether their baby is a boy or girl, but for us (okay, for me) it was important. But 3D/4D ultrasounds offer more than that. For us, it was a brilliant way to begin knowing our baby - seeing her face, watching her move around, understanding a little better what it is like for her "in there". It gave us a very visceral recognition of the fact that there was really a little person in there, not just a strange set of symptoms and a lot of weight gain.
We went for the second-cheapest package, at $199, which got us the following:
  • A 30-minute non-diagnostic ultrasound session
  • Recording of ultrasound session on DVD (believe me, I've watched this a couple dozen times)
  • Optional gender assessment
  • Listening to baby's heartbeat
  • 3D images on CD
  • Three printed 3D photos
  • Optional web hosting for two months (password protected)

It was awesome to send grandparents and far-flung relatives the photohosting website, which had about 60 pictures of our baby girl (including the one that very definitively proves she's a girl - I like to call that one "Baby's First Porn"). We have the pictures all on CD as well as the DVD of baby Buechler movin and groovin and doing her intra-belly thing. Great for me to watch whenever I want, great keepsake for us to show off and give her later, great memories of the session itself.

Speaking of which, due to various factors we didn't really take full advantage of the facility's amenities, but they would come in handy for many other families. Compared to the medical/diagnostic ultrasound, where Chris was forced to hold on to my ankle in order to have any physical contact with me - and where I was forced to half-sit, half-lie on the table and crane my neck and head around in order to glimpse the ultrasound screen - the 3D ultrasound facilities feature a LARGE, flat-screen TV, happily positioned opposite the bed, so Mom and Dad (and up to 10 other family and friends - it's a GIGANTIC room) can enjoy the view, comfortably and unobstructed. This underlines the core fact of 3D ultrasounds, which is that they are purely for personal enjoyment and sentimental value, not for medical and diagnostic purposes. You are a customer, paying your money to enjoy a show produced with state-of-the-art technology combined with the miraculous workings of the female body. They won't even tell you the size of the baby - the closest they come to diagnostics is showing you the heartbeat (but not telling you the rate at which it's beating) and detailing what position the baby's in.

Given the non-essential nature of these ultrasounds, and the price, not everyone will be interested. But we really enjoyed our experience and are thrilled with the results.

Pre-natal yoga sessions

I've been attending pre-natal yoga sessions with Megan Bailey since November (early second trimester). I have enjoyed them so much that they are almost crucial for my feeling of balance (mental, not physical) and connection with other pregnant women. Early in December, it was at a pre-natal yoga class that I felt the baby move for the first time.

Every week as we begin practice, Megan encourages us to get in touch with our own personal reason for our yoga practice. Mine has always been "to connect in a positive way with my body". Many's the time I have felt resentment, frustration, and disgust at what my body is doing and what it's putting me through (vomiting, exhaustion, weight gain, and so on). But for one hour every week, I vow to connect positively with my physical self, to embrace what it can do and let go of what it can't. It's extremely powerful. Because I started it early in pregnancy - before pre-natal classes started - pre-natal yoga was the first place I was encouraged to focus on my baby, to picture her inside my abdomen and use the positions to "hug" her gently, but still "leave room" for her.
Over the months, we have practiced several positions that are good for labour, such as squatting, which shortens the birth canal by 20% but which most Western women are unable to perform without a lot of practice (let's face it, we don't squat much in our daily lives).
And while we hold the poses, the moms - which is always a healthy mix of experienced moms and first-timers, and a range of those very newly pregnant to those very close to due - strike up conversations.
We share advice, stories, recent experiences, "What's up with this pain in my hip?", and a million other things. It's like a support group with stretching. It's incredibly liberating to be around other pregnant women, who understand and don't judge when it takes me way too long and produces way too much grunting to get into a position - because they're experiencing the same thing, or in the case of the newly-pregnant, they will be soon. The sharing and commisserating that happens during class is at least as valuable as the physical workout.
Megan charges $36 for a 7-class series of yoga.

If I could buy one book for every pregnant or trying-to-be-pregnant woman in the world, this would be it. Of course, it is to my great dismay that not every pregnant woman likes to read, and some in particular are quite turned off by this book and its "scary" facts. The truth ain't always pretty, sister - sorry to disillusion you.

To quote Penny Simkin's review: "[Henci Goer] analyzes and makes sense of a prodigious amount of recent obstetric research, boils it down, and summarizes its findings. And, on the basis of these findings, she makes practical recommendations for better births. Not one to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, Henci lets the reader in on her whole thinking process, providing scientific references, summaries of the articles, and logical recommendations--all in a highly readable, user-friendly format."

Now, I've learned in the past year or so that US hospitals and in particular OB-GYNs are far more intervention-happy than the average Canadian hospital, and that's good news. But I don't think that's an excuse to refuse to educate yourself on the procedures that might be suggested by your caregiver during labour and birth, and this is the best resource I've seen for doing so. Yes, the facts are scary, primarily because Henci does not give vague answers (a la our Public Health Nurse): she analyzes statistical data and points out the many places where obstetrical management claims to be helping, but is actually harming. You can't argue with statistics. You can, however, choose to ignore them - and many women (and their caregivers) do. I, on the other hand, am proud to be a Thinking Woman.

Since reading this book, I have completely reversed my stance on certain procedures - for example, fetal monitoring. I don't foresee any difficulties in having a low-intervention birth, since from all I've seen NRGH has the same goal, and I know for certain my caregiver (a midwife) does as well. But even if I don't ever have to draw on the copious amounts of knowledge I've attained from this book, I'm still really grateful to have that knowledge. sells this book for under $18.

I struggled with whether to include this item here, since ultimately I won't be able to determine its true usefulness until after I've experienced labour and birth. But I decided to go ahead and include it because even before the birth experience, the experiences of the classes themselves have affected me profoundly and helped me confront a lot of the fears surrounding birth.
I had a lot of lightbulb moments thanks to these classes. I realized I had an underlying prejudice against epidurals, or more specifically, against women who opted to get them. I realized that there is a crucial difference between interventions and unneccessary interventions, and started working on my own attitudes so that if interventions are neccessary, I will be able to accept them without judging myself. All this on top of the usual pain-coping strategies and practicing with Chris to help him help me.
I think the most important tool I got from these classes was granted by the facilitator (Regan)'s approach to questions. She invited questions at all times, but when we asked questions, she wouldn't exactly answer them. For example, when I asked "How can I know how to prepare for labour, when I don't have any idea what my particular labour will be like?" She didn't give me a pat answer, but instead validated my question ("Yeah, that's really the big question, isn't it?") and invited first me, and then the other participants, to discuss it. She would ask more questions, such as "how does it make you feel to face this unknown situation? How have you coped in the past when you have felt that way? So what can you do now to help you deal with these unknowns?" In this way she encouraged us to find the answers and solutions within ourselves.
This made me feel empowered and strong, because I know that when I am in labour I will not be struggling to remember what Regan told me to do, nor wishing that she was at hand so I could ask her another question. Instead, I have learned to look inside myself and trust my own instincts - surely an important skill that you want to impart to your group participants. "Give a man a fish, and he eats for one day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime."

Regan charges $130 for a 6-class series of Birthing From Within (which includes you and your support person).


Unknown said...

A very nice entry about things that you found extremely helpful during your pregnancy and beyond. I have one small issue with something you said. "You can't argue with statistics", could only be said be someone who has never done a serious statistics course. I can and would argue them over and over again.

adequatemom said...

Good point Sheila. I guess a better way to articulate it would be to say that while many pregnancy books have agendas, this one actually backs the statements up with statistical data to support their conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Great post and fascinating even for the not at all or anywhere near pregnant!
And as one of those folks, I've had a question that's been nagging me for some time. Perhaps you could answer it: Why are all my pregnant friends making "birth plans" which include deciding in advance what the husband/partner should do or decide in the event of the woman being incapable of deciding? Rachel and Ben mentioned this and I am flummoxed.
If I am incapable of making a decision I would imagine the situation is not good and I would want a doctor making a decision, not my husband (unless he is a doctor). And the opposite is also true. If we decide to do a natural birth and I change my mind and say F no I want painkillers, is my husband really going to say "no you can't have any we decided this already"? Or force me to have some if I decide maybe I don't want any?
I know that's silly, but the first question remains a mystery to me...

Anonymous said...

reepicheep, I suppose I could answer that question, from my perspective, at least...

The whole idea of having a birth plan with Ben is to make sure that someone who I trust to have my best interests at heart (emotional and physical) is present to advocate for me when I'm busy.

Given what I've heard about labour, I expect to be otherwise occupied. If someone asks 'do you want drugs?' and I'm too busy to answer - I hear that later contractions are not the kind you can talk through easily - then Ben can answer for me.

He's definitely not there to help me stick to my guns or anything like that. Also, if we're presented with a situation where we have to do something other than natural birth, he's not going to block that information just because it's not our first choice. Or, if I change my mind and say so, we go with it, regardless of any previous plans. In fact, it's less of a 'plan' and more of a set of guidelines.

I'm basically handing over my opinions to him, and telling him to make the best choice based on what he thinks I would want.

That might sound silly or unecessary, but I don't expect to be at my best. I rather expect to be kind of distant from much of anything other what's going on with my body, so I'd rather have someone else that I trust make the decisions rather than have to make choices at a time like that. That's definitely not for everyone, and it might not be like that at all... I might be really lucid, and perfectly capable of voicing my own opinions and being my own advocate. Or, I might not - maybe I'll be unconscious, and Ben will have to really make sure I'm getting the treatment I need or want.

I figure there's no way I can know. I just want to be sure we're on the same page, and make sure that both he and I are confident that he can speak for me if he needs to.



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