Monday, November 28, 2011

Third trimester, here I am

Welcome to the third trimester. 27 weeks. Eeek.

Feeling really well still, although alarmingly like I have been pregnant for about 15 years.

I think it’s just the anticipation of meeting our baby.

Now that my family and I are feeling her kick (a lot), there is a renewed sense of impatience at seeing what this little thing causing such comedic belly protuberances actually looks like.

It’s human nature, isn’t it? You hear a noise, you feel something brushing against you – your need to know needs to be satiated, your curiosity must be satisfied, no matter the cat-killing consequences! And besides, I've always been a dog person anyway.

To that end, we are psyched to have a 3D scan done at 30 weeks. The last time we saw our baby in 3D was at the 18-week morphology scan and, frankly, she looked like an embryonic kangaroo.

Mama, can you hear me?

So, personally, I would like these new, updated images for a teeny bit of peace of mind and some assurance that I am not, in fact, giving birth to a hopping marsupial. Although I am sure I will be able to provide it a roomy pouch, given the frightening stretch of my stomach skin right now.

We often say how J looks so like his 3D images even today, when we might sneak a stare at him while he’s sleeping or watching TV.

So it would be nice to recreate that with our daughter.

I am not feeling uncomfortable really at all – even while camping in some pretty stinky humidity and near-summer yuckness over the weekend. It was camping with benefits (ensuite, swimming pools, convenience store 40 seconds away etc) but camping nonetheless.

My head almost exploded while helping to put the tent up and I was worried that I hadn’t felt the baby move much that day, but as T reminded me: think of the pregnant women in Africa hauling clay pots of water or rocks or whatever they do at sun-up and sundown, while sweeping their huts out with stick-brooms so short they are forced to bend at an inhumane waisty angle while picking cotton or delivering blocks of salt up 25 flights of stairs or...actually she didn’t say that, but I got her point.

A few minutes’ exertion hammering in three tent pegs in the midday sun was not going to harm my baby.

I am experiencing a bit of heartburn but it’s probably a good reminder to ix-nay on the alarming quantities of Milo I am consuming.

Straight. Neat. Out of the can. I cannot get enough of it.

I am seeing a physio every few weeks, who is giving me new stretches to do each time I visit.

I am really forcing myself to take some time, even if it’s 10 minutes a day, to do these exercises strengthening my pelvic floor, transverse abdominal, back and leg muscles.

I squat, I pull my legs up and out in very unattractive hip-widening positions, I do yoga’s child, happy baby and cat and I sit on the fit ball while doing bicep curls with hand weights (must do that tonight) because I am convinced that it will make some sort of difference when it comes time for the labour.

And it is certainly making a difference in terms of managing my back pain in the meantime, so I think it’s a good thing. I probably should be doing more, but it’s better than nothing.

Plus I am wearing an SI belt, which stands for the fascinating term “sacroiliac”, a joint in the pelvis that supports the spine. I wear it all day at work and when I exercise after work. Sure it looks kinda funny under some clothes, but I reckon you can get away with a hell of a lot when you are pregnant – and I don’t much care that I have this thick beige elastic band sitting low around my hips: it has helped support that dodgy left pelvic bone.

Otherwise, there is enormous relief at reaching this point of the pregnancy. The point where, if something disastrous happened, our baby would have a very good chance of survival outside the womb.

But, of course, anything can happen.

I can never have 100% faith that all will be well, certainly not after what happened to us last year.

But every day that passes in this pregnancy makes that uncertainty a little less intense. And that is truly wonderful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A letter of complaint

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write to complain about the human body, female model.

I am the owner of the above product and I wish to draw the manufacturer’s attention to the fact that it is not well-equipped at all to deal with the rigours of pregnancy.

The User Manual lists pregnancy as one of the Extra Conditions the basic model can withstand perfectly well. It is right there, in black and white, alongside puberty, ageing, the entire decade from age 18 to 28 sustaining varying degrees of alcohol or ridiculous footwear-related injury, permanent stomach constriction from too much elastic belt wear in the 1980s or scalp tear from hair-teasing in the same decade.

I fully admit my particular model rolled off the production line some 35 years ago. Perhaps in some markets, this could be seen as too old to be shouldering, or wombing, the burden of a baby.

But no one, body manufacturer or not, would dare to suggest in polite, 2011 company that women should get their child-bearing duties done before the age of 25.

And actually, I doubt younger versions of your product do any better at this pregnancy game either.

The fact is the female human body is not well-designed at all when it comes to having a baby.

Even the moments before conception are fraught.

The female body is equipped with the Uterine Attack Force (my term) designed to seek and destroy sperm, making it a medical miracle that fertilisation even happens in the first place.

Fortunately I am in a same-sex relationship and conceived via IVF, so the closest I came to having live sperm in my body was sitting next to my male work colleague at the neighouring desk.

And thank goodness for that.

There are clear exterior appearance indicators, also, that the female body cannot deal with pregnancy.

Stretch marks blister otherwise-normal skin (even moreso in younger, more taut models – not me); water is retained causing unattractive bloating and an alarming inability to wear shoes, while necks thicken and the walking gait of a pregnant lady becomes a Waddlegate of presidential and scandalous proportions.

Then there’s the extra weight gained. Strangely enough, they tell you that 90% of that weight is fluid, not the actual baby. SO WHAT IS THE POINT? What the hell is that fluid for and why is there so much of it? Baby, in the real world, you want a house with a pool, you've got to WORK for it! You don't get it just like that *snap*.

Knowing the extra weight is predominantly liquid is cold comfort when you stand gingerly on the scales and see you’ve stacked on 30 kilos. Actually, not me, I have put on 10 so far, but I am eating Milo by the kilo and there’s still time!

Internally, many hormones wreak havoc with emotions and acceptable levels of the universally applied mental health Crazy Scale. Often within the space of mere seconds, pregnant women will explode with rage at being woken from a nap, before sobbing into their seventh bowl of cereal after watching a Huggies ad.

Control, support and dignity functions are ALL compromised. Surely, these are structural basics when designing a product of such importance?

The hormone relaxin is conveniently released during pregnancy. No doubt this is some male engineer’s brilliant idea. He probably thought he was doing something nice, by making the body release a hormone designed to make everything musculo-skeletal more stretchy as the body expands.


Get thee to your drawing board.

Then there’s the whole watermelon and garden hose thing.

I don’t know which genius decided that a 50-centimetre round circle can fit through a “thing” roughly seven centimetres in diameter. And let me tell you, Googling “average circumference of a vagina” just now has really put me off my dinner.

Alright, it stretches during delivery. Fine. But with that amount of stretching, there are little drawbacks like PAIN and TEARING!

You remember the drawing board?

So, in closing, I would like to urgently urge the entire manufacturing team to begin designing a new model that can safely and easily accommodate pregnancy.

This model should have a penis.


Rebecca Marshall.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tell me what it's going to be like


Don’t add hormones if you want it.

I think we have safely covered the fact previously that I am a worrier.

I analyse, I anticipate, I role play a variety of scenarios and I lay awake at night with a brain racing like a nitrous-fuelled Lamborghini at a time of day when my conscience should either be driving this Miss Daisy to sleep, or put that damn Buick in the garage for good, Earl!

I also consume large amounts of what I shall call twaffle related to anything I happen to be interested in at any given time. Twaffle is any and all manner of “information”, so questionable that it must come with its own set of inverted commas in this context.

It is most commonly derived from such respected sources as the internet, magazinary assortments of flippy book-type things often positioned near the check-out in supermarkets, the television, discussions with friends and any pop culture reference that I may notice.

Despite my sometime-intellectual logic shrouding this twaffle in wrapping paper made from many grains of salt, one other part of me also takes it as gospel to be believed unequivocally – until a new piece of twaffle comes along to dispel/replace it.

So, consequently, I am consuming many baby-related things: a documentary series on TV called One Born Every Minute, I am talking lots to women about their birth experiences (not their own, obviously, at least I don’t think that’s what we were talking about) and reading lots of baby books, magazines and – worst of all – the internet forum.

I even read a tabloid glossy story about some random Entertainment Tonight reporter in the US I had never heard of, just because she had a horrific IVF story.

It’s only human, I suppose, and perfectly natural to want to find things to relate to. Especially at a time when you are on a long-haul flight OUT of Comfort Zone, scared, vulnerable and trying vainly to set the scene in the role play in your head of your own baby’s delivery!

Blocking, we need blocking people!

There are some horrible labour stories out there. I have watched some of them on TV and heard others in person.

There are also some great ones. But they are like headlines (I am a journalist) – the worst ones sell, the worst ones stick in your memory.

And perspective is almost impossible here – damn it, just when you need it most! – because birth is such a subjective thing.

Even if you could duplicate a delivery, every woman would describe a different experience. Because every woman is different.

Pain thresholds, transition speed, dilation rates, complications, interventions, time lapsed, music, hypnobirth, water, knees, gas...every single thing is different for each woman.

So how the fuck do you prepare?? I expect it to be one of life’s most memorable flight-or-fight moments. Will I soar or punch someone in the head?

I know it probably sounds ridiculous to waste so much head space thinking about something that on the day will be beyond my control. But it’s in my nature to prepare as much as I can, even if it is mentally. Hard to do when all you can visualise is informed solely by dodgy twaffle.

I keep asking T what the pain is like, where exactly it can be felt, during a contraction. I take comfort in the fact that she says she can’t really remember, even though I suspect she is deliberately lying.

And I also cling to her words when she tells me that feeling of release and relief when the baby’s head and then its body eventually do come out is the best in the world.

I also had my glucose screen test for gestational diabetes this week. I get the results in a few days and even though I feel enormous, I don’t think I am abnormally obese with a big sugary baby, so hopefully that means I’ll be clear.

I have stopped taking Elevit daily and now only take one or two a week. It saves both money and my bowel, frankly. Iron and I aren’t so much firm friends as firm enemies, if you get my drift, and Elevit contains a whopping 60mg per tab.

I had a bit of a scare today when I hardly felt the baby move at all. Triggers for movement are normally after I eat, when I lie down or exercise. But by about lunchtime today I realised I hadn’t felt much at all. I called T and expressed some worry, hung up and then felt the baby move.

It was much lighter than before, and certainly much less than we had both felt last night when I thought I was channelling John Hurt in Alien and expected to see our baby bursting through my skin.

The “trusty” old internet forum came to my rescue, saying babies can have quiet days, but that no movement is obviously a concern after a day or more.

Actually, that was the third forum I found. You’ve got to keep Googling until you find a diagnosis you like.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Comfortable? For now

I am starting to enjoy the feeling of being pregnant right now. Of course, shortly I shall be changing my name to Orca the Slightly Tanned Whale from the village of Greater Thighs, and will be waddle-wallowing about in 85% humidity during a summer in the sub-tropics at the height of my pregnancy.

So I kinda figure I should make the most of feeling well. Larg-ish, but well, and certainly not uncomfortable. Yet.

Plus as I think I mentioned before, I now look unmistakably pregnant. And I know this is crazy, but I am kind of relieved that people are telling me my baby bump is now well and truly out there and obvious. Crazy because, as a woman, regardless of the fact there is a very good reason why it is so, it can be damn confronting watching your belly expand at such a rate of knots.

Putting this much weight on (seven kilos so far), and subsequently watching your shape grow before your eyes, is a sight designed to stir panic and fear in the average woman, raised inherently or due to society to feel a certain way about their body image. and how it compares to some ridiculous, manufactured ideal.

It is quite strange. Rationally, you know why it’s happening. And it’s happening for the world’s most amazing and incredible reason. But emotionally, there is still some vulnerable girl freaking out as she looks in the mirror at the third pair of pants that just won’t do up.

Plus everyone is noticing and commenting, because that’s what we do. And you know 100% of the time when they say “wow, you are really popping out now”; that is not code for “Jesus H. Christ, girl, lay off the cake, and by the way, here is the number for Jenny Craig”.

This is not something I lay awake thinking about, don’t worry, but it is an interesting emotional side effect for me being pregnant. Especially as it comes at a time when you are eating more than you should, and exercising less than you normally would.

Otherwise, I am putting the name Nadia on the list of possibilities as I am convinced I have a Romanian gymnast growing inside me.

Good lord. I have gone from worrying that I wouldn’t feel enough kicking (10-12 movements a day, 10-12 movements a day!!) to now worrying she is in some distress because she is moving double that. And quite strongly.

It’s freaky now as I can see my belly move from the outside as well as feel it from the inside. I put the remote control on it sometimes and watch it lever and wobble about. Weird. I must try a Malteser to see if that ad was real or not. Plus it's a good excuse to buy Maltesers.

When I say Week 25, it seems like an age before my due date. And I get impatient. Then I realise I am over six months, almost seven. And seven is almost the end. Waah!

This week I have to finalise my paperwork for maternity leave at work, including the all-important letter stating I am in fact, um, pregnant. I am hoping to have six months off work, provided we can save enough to add to our savings and leave entitlements between now and my due date, February 20.

Bloody money. I wish it wasn’t so necessary. I wish we could revert to the simple bartering system from the olden days (I forget the actual period in history, but figure olden days should cover it. Maybe I should have capitalised Olden Days. Actually, yes, that looks better.) Bartering could work really well for me. I have about a kilo of sugar snap peas and mangoes ripening on my tree as we speak. My tomato seedlings are growing really well, plus we have some leftover tiles from when we recently renovated our bathroom.

To Do: ring the bank and see if they would consider accepting legumes and white gloss ceramics in place of cash this mortgage repayment cycle.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Calculate this

I stopped maths at Year 10.

I had hitherto been doing what was commonly called “veggie maths”; as in, the maths you do when your brain is essentially a vegetable when it comes to calculating any sum trickier than five plus five.

And, the fact that I managed to squeeze in the word “hitherto” in the previous sentence should give you some clue that words were/are more my thing, not numbers. And we all know humankind is broken into two distinctly different parts: those who can write and those who can calculate without the aid of a product from Casio (showing my age, they have calculators on mobile phones now, right?).

But beyond Year 10, there was no veggie maths on offer, so it was time for me to skip merrily off into the garden of wondrous humanities, gleefully shunning Venn diagrams, long division and fractions.

By the way, algebra proved confusing. Lo, what’s this, said my brain? A stream of maths that actually uses letters? This should be a cinch.

Sadly, A plus B equalled wrong and I could never, ever make those stupid letters-dressed-as-numbers make sense. They walked like ducks and sounded like ducks, but weirdly were not the ducks I had come to love. It was quite shocking.

The reason I am waxing so lyrical about my mathematical ineptitude is to tell you how floored I was to suddenly realise this week that I am six months’ pregnant.

Six months. That is, like, almost the end.

The problem is you get so caught up in talking in weeks, that you forget to count the months. And while most people can easily (or I think, by some magic) work out the weeks and months equivalent within seconds in their heads, I cannot.

I have not been sleeping much lately thanks to wake-up calls from either intensely weird dreams, my sore back or my knee pillow slipping off the bed or up my shirt (must get some velcro for the inside of my knees to stop that problem). So I have had lots of time to think about random things.

Like how many months pregnant I am.

Six months.

I feel great. Apart from the lack of sleep making me extremely Snappy Tom (we do not have a cat) and ready for an enormous cat nap at about 3pm EVERY DAY.

I am really popped out now and trying to figure out how to function with a bloody big belly (must buy more slip-on shoes).

I am sitting on the fitball at night to get the lower ab and thigh muscles moving a bit, as well as trying to do my pelvic floor as often as possible and contemplating the awful reality of perineal massage.

Frankly, I would prefer just a back massage at this point. Must get onto that as well.

All is well and our little girl is moving around like crazy. Last night, I thought she was trying to get out, so low were the kicks.

I have figured out she likes chocolate, as she jerks around the most in the minutes after I eat some.

So, whatever baby wants...