I'm taking some time out from documenting the exploits and amazingness of my boy to talk about the months spent getting that boy and the upcoming one.
Some of you have said how much you love being pregnant. I hope that's the case, but I'm skeptical. Someone I know who had a great deal of trouble conceiving apologized recently for complaining once about severe heartburn during her pregnancy. I see no need to apologize. I complain most days of my pregnancy. I acknowledge that I don't even think I have particularly terrible pregnancies--no bed rest, no preeclampsia, no diabetes. Why all the complaining? Well, I'll try to explain what its like. I'll begin somewhere near the beginning.
The first trimester. For me, it starts with anxiety. Anxiety about whether I'm pregnant, followed by the anxiety of whether I'll remain pregnant, and in the upcoming months whether my child will be healthy. Add illness to anxiety. Pregnant with Jackson, the morning sickness started right away, before I'd even taken the pregnancy test. I was exhausted and nauseous for 4 1/2 months. It was a weird morning sickness, I felt sick most of the time, but I was still functioning pretty well. I was working and productive at work. I was rowing twice a week. Sometimes I didn't feel like rowing or working, but I was still able to do it. While I felt sick a lot, I didn't vomit a lot. When I did it came without any warning. After a couple of partly successful attempts to pull over the car in the middle of my commute, I took to carrying gallon ziplock bags everywhere, just in case. After 4 1/2 months had passed, when I was no longer sick is when I realized just how sick I had been.
This pregnancy, I made it to 5 weeks (counting the 2 bonus weeks before conception actually occurs) before getting ill. I started feeling sick the fifth week. I was nearing the end of a special assignment at work, and I told myself that I could make it through the last week (week 6), then take a couple days off, then suck it up and go back to work. I made it through week 5 at work. Saturday I stopped eating and didn't get off the couch. I mostly stayed there until Wednesday, when I dragged myself to the doctor's office to lay on the couch in their waiting room and bawl. They took me back in and weighed me, then the NP waived my exam, sat me down at her desk, and wrote me a script for Zofran--a powerful antiemetic approved for use in Chemotherapy patients, with a price tag to match (retail $400/week). I started taking the recommended dosage, and eating little bits of food (Ramen noodles, pretzel sticks, jolly ranchers). I was still purging a few times a day and confined to the couch. My blood test came back fine, but showed I was dehydrated (Sorry, water induced vomiting). I lost 10 pounds in 3 weeks. The medication has constipation as a side effect, its not a mild side effect.
I scheduled an ultrasound and follow up visit for the next week. In the meantime, I busied myself with reading up on what could cause severe morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum. Three possible causes: 1-random occurance, 2-multiple fetuses, 3-molar pregnancy (nonviable, and increased risk of cancer). I was so sick that I was actually considering that last option might be the best one (and yes, I do know how drastic a thought that is). I saw it as an opportunity to start over.
The ultrasound showed a little squiggly line wriggling around in my belly, just 1. I love ultrasound, anxiety levels decreased a little bit after that. The doctor said I could up the Zofran dose in the am. So I did, going back to the original dose in the afternoon, and vomiting in the parking lot at 4:30 everyday until I upped the dose in the afternoon too. After that I still vomited every day, but at random times. I forced myself into work most days, but the walk from the parking lot and up the stairs exhausted all of my energy stores, I spent at least half of everyday trying to talk myself out of being sick. Let's just say my productivity was pretty low for the next couple of months at work and even lower at home. After returning from work, I retook my residency on the couch, getting up to make Ramen and change diapers. Jackson saw my repose as an opportunity to jump on me and snuggle. Snuggling = good, Jumping = not so much. No amount of telling him to be careful about the baby in my belly could deter the jumping. Jason and Jackson took many trips to the store attempting to buy me food to make me feel better, they struck out every time. I think I was also developing some prenatal depression to go along with my sickness, hard not to when I was that miserable. I got a healthy checkup at 12 weeks. But I didn't bother to make phone calls and spread the good news far and wide that I was expecting. I didn't feel much joy in it.
This brings me to the second trimester. The one where pregnant ladies are supposed to feel great, have tons of energy, nest, and vacation. Pregnant with Jackson, I spent half of the second trimester still sick and the rest of it feeling OK, but not particularly energetic. This time, I felt much much better than I did the first trimester! There's no overstating how much better I felt! I definitely had more energy than in the first trimester, I started doing some of the things that had been making me crazy for months and I was off the couch. At 20 weeks I went in for the anatomical ultrasound. There was my little baby, with all the expected parts in all the expected places, and in 3D. The baby didn't want to show its wares, but eventually after several attempts, we were able to get a brief glimpse between the legs, and it was declared another boy. We spent a long time in the ultrasound room. First because they hadn't told me to drink before coming, so they made me drink when I got there and kept taking pictures until my bladder filled up so they could check the placenta. It went from empty to near bursting, so I was told to "pee just a little" I laughed at the technician, managed to pee a little more than I intended too, came back in, and was told my bladder was still too full and to "pee just a little more", which was still not enough. So I had to finish peeing, drink just a little, and come back to ultrasound after my exam. Having this ultrasound does wonders for reducing anxiety. Its an opportunity to see all of the external features of the baby and see that its all there, the major organs are also checked and receive a seal of good health, and it makes the baby much more real to see it on the screen. I start to think of it more as a person and less something torturing me from the inside out after the ultrasound. My enthusiasm for the pending child was renewed.
I should also mention the question of gender here. After announcing a pregnancy and before the gender is confirmed is a time full of speculation. Other than a tiny little human, what will it be? People don't hesitate to comment on this one. If you already have 1 or more children, I think the tendency is to guess that it will be the other gender. So I heard many people comment on how it was surely a girl. That's what the Chinese calendar predicted for me. That's what I wanted (not what I expected, however). Since I was so terribly sick this time, it just had to be a girl! FYI, don't make these comments to your pregnant friends, particularly if they're predisposed to having one gender over the other. Feel free to say, "I hope its (whatever they might want to hear)" but don't make outright predictions.
What else happens during trimester two? Well for me, the baby starts to get moving around month 5. My babies are gymnasts. They pummel me from the inside out all day and all night. This time, I've been waking up in the wee hours of the night and staying awake for the hour or two it takes to complete my internal massage. Feeling the baby move is pretty amazing. It's fascinating, it's reassuring, and it's also very distracting. I've been trying to describe the sensation, and I think its like some combination of all of these things, yet none of them. It's like hitting your funny bone, having a muscle spasm, going to the fish farm and getting a full bucket of trout swimming around anxiously then putting your hand in that bucket, having a knot in your muscle that you can push on and feel it move a few millimeters from side to side, and the hiccups. Physically, its like all of those things and none of them. Emotionally its something else. There are also little games to be played with a fetus, push on the belly and see if the baby will kick back or shine a bright light at it.
The second trimester also brings a bout of sciatica cursing down my left back and into my thigh. I experience it as an affliction of inertia. After I've been sitting, its difficult to bring myself upright or to walk. So, I get up and spend the next 50 feet hunched over. It was getting so bad that at 5 1/2 months, I was on the brink of not being able to hold myself upright and fearing that I'd collapse, I got a referral to a physical therapist, which I planned to visit at the new year.
Over the holidays (5 3/4 months) my baby decided to move up from my pelvis to my belly. I traded in the sciatica (relief) for heartburn, back pain, and reduced lung capacity. I have a weekly meeting or 3 in another building, its about a mile walk to get there (can be done indoors in the winter) and is referred to as "company sponsored exercise. I made the walk the first week back from Christmas and barely made it there, an hour later, I had to make the return trip. I came home that night freaking out about how I couldn't do the simplest tasks anymore, my muscles must've atrophied over the holidays (irrational since I was busy painting Jack's room and moving furniture), and determined to find some way to regain some semblance of endurance. I settled on the elliptical trainer that takes up space, collects dust, and had until the day before been destined for a posting on Craig's List. I stepped on it and the pedals refused to budge. Then I tore the house apart looking for the giant screwdriver needed to disassemble it, finally found it, and used my last breaths to take it apart, expecting to find a matchbox car wedged in the machine. The magnetic resistance was stuck firmly on the flywheel. I pried it off, and it immediately stuck itself firmly in place. I decided it needed new batteries, exhausted myself further putting it back together so that little fingers wouldn't hurt themselves the next morning. The next day, I got new batteries, putting them in noticed that the existing batteries were installed upside down. Adjusted the existing batteries and it still didn't work. Put in the new batteries and it still didn't work. Exhausted myself taking it apart again, prying the magnet off the drive, still not working. Finally I tried adjusting the resistance, I set it to very high, then back to a low setting. That finally worked. More exhaustion putting the machine back together. It's fixed now.
Over the next couple of weeks, I could really feel my belly stretching (and still can). First the baby moved up, then he set his sights on moving outward. Two weeks later, people started coming up to me with congratulations. Apparently, I went from looking normal to looking incredibly pregnant overnight. I guess first losing and then regaining 10 pounds had been a net zero effect. I hadn't felt that way. It seemed to me that the baby was filling up my pelvis and squishing all the fat outward so that I just looked a bit chubbier. Once the baby moved up and out, that look was replaced by a classic pregnancy enormous pot belly. (Pondering here, why is it that there's no such thing as "a little bit pregnant" but there is a such thing as "Very Pregnant!") Now that the baby has moved out, I'm in some danger of toppling over, but my lung capacity has improved, I can make the mile walk (still feeling a bit winded) and the elliptical training is back to collecting dust.
Cocoa butter is touted as the best remedy for stretch marks. There are 2 options in the cocoa butter market. A lotion that upon closer inspection contains only trace amounts of cocoa butter, or something that comes in a tub and has a high percent of cocoa butter. I have the stuff in the tub, 2 versions of it, one is 100% cocoa butter. Attention cosmetic industry, the tub is not an ideal container for cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is a rock at room temperature, there is no convenient way to remove it from the tub. Ideally, it would come in a giant chapstick tube so that it could be screwed upward, and applied to warm skin where it would melt on the surface. Instead I have a melon baller that I use to scrape cocoa butter shavings out of the tub, rub them between my hands to melt, then smear on my belly. Cocoa butter flakes spill onto the floor. I smell like a giant Hershey bar.
Coming into the third trimester, I am free of diabetes (hurray!) my blood pressure is its usual low self (hurray!) and I have the following complaints: I'm very tired. There's no longer room on my lap for my toddler. I have to bend my legs to the side to put on pants or shoes because my belly is in the way of bring my knee straight upward. It's a challenge to wipe my bum. I think my ankles are starting to swell. If I'm asked any kind of a direct question, I will cry. There are little feet hooked under my ribs forcing me to keep my back straight under penalty of pain. The constant kicking is less cute and sometimes quite painful, and my hips hurt. My hips hurt so badly I'd almost rather have the sciatica back. Yesterday I spend a few hours on my feet cleaning and cooking, by the end of the night I could barely walk. Jackson had trouble going to sleep, and I had to climb over his bedroom gate several times to reassure him. Climbing over the gate was very difficult and painful. Getting up in the middle of the night for a bathroom break was painful such that I was hunched over and clinging to the walls to make my way there. I was all set to call in sick to work. This morning though, my hips had returned to their baseline pain level, so I pulled myself out of bed. I think I might have arthritis, I could really use some anti-inflammatory ibuprofen, oh yeah, that's banned. Guess I'll suffer. My doctor says I could benefit from some cat-cow exercises. I think those are for my back, not my hips. I think my back is OK, mostly.
Other temporary complaints: one day last week, the baby wedged himself just above my right hipbone. I woke at 2 am with terrible pain in that area. Getting ready for work, the pain worsened and wrapped around my back. I was ready to go back to bed, but had suppliers to visit with at work, so I forced myself to go in. I spent the first half hour of our meeting tracking down my doctor's phone number (Why isn't it programmed into my phone?!) then planned to sneak out to call. I didn't call, and the pain subsided by noon. I've also had a couple of episodes of severe cramping followed by diarrhea. The first time, I didn't know what it was, blamed it on a bad reaction to Chinese takeout (now off the menu) and suffered through it. The second time, I read the book, which said it could be a sign of preterm labor and to call the doctor. I read the book about an hour into the pain, then I sat in bad hoping it would dissipate while I watched Jason attempt to pack a bag for the hospital. He put in Jackson pajamas. Jackson was already asleep in pajamas. I told him to pack fuzzy pants, socks, and nursing tanks for me. I don't know what if anything else went in the bag. The pain subsided 1/2 an hour later and I didn't call the doctor. The bag is now in the closet, without my fuzzy pants. When I saw the doctor, she didn't put me on any kind of rest (thankfully). She suggested some minor behavior modifications, which I've gladly complied with.
Next up trimester number 3. The longest home stretch ever. I'm expecting a magification of my second trimester complaints. That's what I had before. More heartburn, more difficulty putting on shoes (Plug for the giant Ikea shoehorn here), more waddling, more complaints about ill fitting maternity clothing (by the end I'll be lucky to fit into anything). Maybe some new complaints.
Pregnant with Jackson, I got kidney stones at 7 months. At first I thought it was a repeat of the sciatica. I went to work because I was saving up my sickdays for postpartem. I spent an hour splayed out on a conference room table hoping the pain would subside. It didn't. I had a Dr. appt that afternoon, and went there in excruciating pain. They kept me waiting, checked on the baby, then sent me to the hospital. The hospital was very nice, they took me in right away, stuck me on a baby monitor, then made me lie there in excruciating pain for my Dr to show up 3 hours later (around 9pm). I was then allowed to have pain medication and given a shot of morphine, it didn't help at all. I waited a few hours for the morphine to be metabolized, and was given a Demerol drip, which was a miracle. At some point it was decided that it was probably kidney stones and an ultrasound was ordered to confirm it. Small hospitals don't keep an extensive staff of renal radiology technicians on hand after hours, so it was 11:30 before I had the ultrasound, which showed a couple of swollen areas on my kidney and a blocked ureter. I spent the night and most of the next day at the hospital drinking water and straining my urine. They let me go home with a strainer and a script of I think Percocet, which did work. A few days later I passed a couple of stones. This pregnancy, I'm drinking more water and attempting to sleep more on my right side.
Kidney stones are often described as comparable to childbirth. Since I experienced both within a matter of months, I feel I'm qualified to comment. The kidney stones pain was comparable to labor contractions. The pain was of a similar nature, location, and intensity. The pain of kidney stones is constant and relentless, so in one way, its worse than contractions, which are very intense but intermittent. But contractions lead to active labor and the pain of pushing something the size of a bowling ball through the birth canal is much much worse than the pain of contractions or kidney stones. There is no comparison!
The last month of my pregnancy with Jackson, my body started to swell--and swell. I felt like Violet Beauregarde, a giant blueberry except still flesh colored. I gained a lot of weight the last month, all of it water. At every appointment, my blood pressure was up. It peaked at something like 130/80, nothing to really worry about, but much higher than my baseline 105/60.
The second to last thing about pregnancy is the waiting. I went to the Dr weekly and was told that I was making no progress, no dilation, no visible effacement, nothing. I was also told my baby was gigantic, something my Dr likes to warn against. She isn't in favor of 10 lb babies, my first was 1/2 pound shy of that mark. I tried everything the old wives suggested to bring on labor: vigorous walking, pineapple, you name it, I tried it. Unfortunately, it was all things I'd been doing all along, so I guess I'd been desensitized to the things that precipitate labor. I scheduled an induction for a week after I was due. The day before, I spend 17 hours in labor (not going to elaborate now, but its the last and worst thing I could complain about pregnancy) and delivered a very healthy and mildly post mature looking boy.
That little boy makes me happy everyday. My love for him has expanded my own capacity for loving humanity and forgiving faults in others. Despite my complaining, pregnancy was a small price to pay in exchange for such a perfect child. Despite the discomfort I feel now, I'm looking forward to the moments immediately following the birth of this new child and the many moments after that.