The back-to-running post

Ah, the inevitable back-to-running-after-baby post. You knew it was coming, right?

If all of this pregnancy/birth stuff is a crapshoot, then I rolled an eleven on physical recovery. After my hellish labor, I guess the mommy gods must have cut me a break, because I felt pretty decent just a couple of days after delivery. At my two-week postpartum check-up, I was more or less feeling back to my normal self. (Well, an exhausted, sleep-deprived, slightly delirious version of my normal self.)

The midwifery group I see is pretty laid back and I was surprised to hear that I could return to my normal exercise routine whenever I felt ready. Was I still bleeding? No? Then I didn’t need to wait until the magical 6-week mark if I didn’t want to.

Even running, I asked?

She shrugged and smiled. If I felt up to it, sure.

In spite of my midwife’s breezy attitude, I waited a bit. My first postpartum run was four weeks after Annika’s birth. Which I know is still quite early, but it was a sunny Saturday afternoon and the baby was happily hanging out with my husband and I had some free time, so I went for it.

It was…well, it felt like you’d expect a run to feel after a three month break. The pace was slow and my stride seemed a little halting and unnatural. The big hill leading up to the park felt slightly steeper than it used to. I noticed some bounce and jiggle in formerly stationary body parts – an observation later corroborated by chafe marks.

I wish there were something more dramatic to say about it, because that would make better blog fodder. But so far, postpartum running has been just that: running, albeit slower and heavier than usual. (Although compared to how I felt running at eight months pregnant, I’m a goddamn gazelle.)

So I’m running a marathon next month, right?

Yeah, no. No marathons this year. I’m managing three or so runs a week and I don’t see that changing any time soon – at least not until Annika is big enough to ride along in the running stroller, which won’t be for a few more months. (I know a lot of people are okay with doing this sooner, but I will probably wait until she is 6+ months. The sidewalks in our neighborhood are old and bumpy and littered with big cracks and tree roots. I just can’t imagine it being a comfortable or safe situation for her until she has full head and neck control.)

I’m also hoping to return to my old bootcamp class a couple of times a week. For now, if I can run 10-15 miles a week and get one or two bootcamp sessions in, I’ll be a happy camper. I’m signed up for Peachtree (10K) in July; I’m good for 4 miles now, so I should be able to add a couple of miles to my weekly “long” run (LOL) by then. Obviously I’m not gunning for a PR, but after having to sit out last year’s race (when I was newly pregnant, and spotting, and scared shitless) I’m excited to participate.

Anyway. Remember that part about the bouncing and chafing?

4WEEKSPP

(This was 4 weeks postpartum. I debated about posting these, but I am always interested to see these types of pictures when other people post them, so I suppose it’s only fair if I add mine. Please ignore all of that crap laying around in the background. The baby did it.)

I’m almost back to my pre-baby weight, but there is zero chance that I’ll be wearing my pre-baby jeans any time soon. Somehow, my body is shaped entirely differently now and those suckers won’t even button. Wider in the hips and flabbier…well, everywhere. And the boobs…oh, the boobs. I’m afraid I might have to suck it up and buy some sturdier sports bras because my beloved Nike Pro Compression bras (the same type I’ve been wearing for years) are not cutting it, even in a size up.

It would be dishonest to say that I am totally thrilled with this body, but I’m making peace with it for now. Even though I only gained about 25 pounds while pregnant, I was about ten pounds above normal when I started, so there’s a whole section of my closet that’s been benched for over a year and probably won’t fit for several more months, at least. Ah well. If I’m still feeling meh about things this fall/winter, I will make a more concerted effort to drop a few pounds, once Annika is no longer solely dependent on me for food.

The upside to all of this is that we have this cutie in our lives now! Seven weeks old:

ANNIKA 7 WEEKS 3

Serious baby is serious. No smiles yet, but she’s got a wicked right hook!

I will save detailed musings on early parenthood for another post, but for now I’ll just say that she is the most amazing and amazingly frustrating little person I’ve ever met.

Thanks for all of your comments on my birth story post, and thanks for sticking with me though this period of very sporadic (and very not-food-or-beer-or-running-related) posts. I hope it won’t take me another month to assemble the next one!

Annika’s Birth Story

It has taken me a week and a half to write this, in fits and starts, a paragraph here and another there. Having a newborn in the house is no joke, people! So the prose herein probably isn’t going to win me any writing awards, but I wanted to share the story anyway.

Why? I’m not sure. On a rational level, I have no desire to discuss my cervix on the internet. But in the last months of my pregnancy, I devoured other peoples’ birth stories (almost as enthusiastically as I devoured Pop Tarts) so I guess you could say I’m paying it forward. Especially since Annika’s birth was just a little on the dramatic side.

Also, a preface: I’m totally one of those obnoxious people who hoped and planned for a natural, med-free birth. Not because I think drugs are evil or to give myself something  to sanctimoniously mention in future blog posts, but mostly because I HATED the idea of being hooked up to all sorts of tubes and IVs and catheters and unable to move around. HATED. (I still do.)

But obviously things don’t always go as planned, and I knew that, and indeed they didn’t.

Anyway. On to the tale. Settle in with a drink and a snack, because it’s a long one.

Wednesday, 8 PM: I was wiping down the kitchen counters after dinner when my water broke. No doubt about it: there was warm liquid running down my legs and I was certain I wasn’t peeing myself. I don’t know why I was surprised, as I’d been having contractions all day – real, slightly painful ones, not the Braxton-Hicks I’d been having for weeks – but they’d been 20-30 minutes apart, so I hadn’t thought much of them.

“Um, I am leaking,” I called into the living room. D and I looked at one another, dumbfounded. What do we do now? I texted our doula, who instructed me to take a relaxing bath and get some sleep, and to call her when contractions were consistently five minutes apart, which would likely be the next morning.

So we went about our evening.

Wednesday, 10 PM: Those contractions that had been twenty minutes apart were suddenly coming every seven minutes, then every six, lasting at least a minute each. They were painful, like a very bad period cramp, but entirely manageable for a minute at a time. Soon they were coming five minutes apart. The “rule” our doula had given us was to the 5-1-1 rule: call her when contractions were five minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for one hour.

Well shit, we thought. That happened faster than anticipated.

Thursday, 2 AM through Friday, 6 AM: Originally, I wrote a lot more about this 28-hour stretch. But on re-reading, I realized I could condense it down to bullet points:

  • Labored at home all night and through the morning.
  • Went to get checked Thursday afternoon; was fully effaced but only 3 cm dilated.
  • Walked in the park, hoping to speed things up. Ate popsicle from King of Pops. Contractions still 5-1-1.
  • Went home. Labored in tub. Labored on ball. Contractions still 5-1-1.
  • Checked in to hospital Thursday evening; now 5 cm dilated.
  • Started having horrible back pain along with each contraction.
  • Started making strange guttural sounds that I didn’t know I was capable of producing.
  • “Slept” between contractions at the hospital for a few hours on Thursday night. Somehow.
  • Awoke Friday morning ready to give it one more shot.

I still cannot believe I had this same damn contraction pattern for almost 30 hours. Every nurse and midwife I encountered said they thought things would pick up any minute now and we’d have a baby before we knew it. (Hah.)

Friday, 8 AM: The midwife came to have a chat. My water had been broken for 36 hours and it was time to talk about a game plan.

I was alone in the hospital room when she arrived. Our doula had gone home to get a couple hours of sleep and D had headed back to our house to feed the cats, shower, and get fresh clothes for both of us. This was the first time I’d been by myself since this whole ordeal started and I was feeling oddly serene, bouncing on the labor ball and watching Good Morning America, pausing every few minutes to heave and groan my way through a contraction.

But first, an exam. We’d been trying to limit the number of exams to avoid getting any unnecessary bacteria up there, on account of my water being broken. So it had been a while. I was certain there’d be progress.

Alas: Five centimeters. STILL five centimeters.

“If having a natural birth is very important to you, we can keep going. Or you could even go home and labor there for a while,” she ventured.

No. It wasn’t that important.

But I had garnered some energy from my overnight nap and wanted to give it one last shot.

We agreed that I’d give it the old “college try” for a couple more hours, and if things weren’t going full steam at that point (or at least headed that direction), I’d start Pitocin to get things moving.

So for the next two hours, I did squats and lunges until my thighs burned. I power walked laps around the L&D ward. I aimed the shower head at my chest for nipple stimulation. I tried to visualize flowers opening and all of that crap.

I’m guessing you can guess where it got me.

5-1-1. And still five centimeters.

Well, I thought, I’m not going to look back on this and say I didn’t try.

Friday, noon: I crammed what was left of a Chick-Fil-A fruit cup into my mouth and scarfed down a Balance bar. If I was getting the pit, I was probably getting an epidural too, and that would trigger all of the traditional restrictions on (not) eating during labor. And I was starving.

I lasted about three seconds on the pit before I requested the epi. I mean…why not? I still wasn’t enthused about the needle going in my back, but it felt like I was hooked up to a million tubes and monitors at that point anyway, and honestly after being at this for two days I wasn’t sure I had the energy to labor through intense contractions for several more hours, or however long it was going to take for the Pitocin to force my stubborn cervix open.

As it turned out, the anesthesiologist did a great job with the epi. It was like an Epidural Lite. I could still feel each contraction, but without the pain and intensity they had before; I could still move my legs around and even flip over to hands and knees on the bed. I negotiated with the nurse to ditch the standard foley catheter (which was supremely uncomfortable when she put it in) and just had her “empty” me every so often. For having the dreaded epidural, this was about as decent of a setup as I could have hoped for.

Friday, 7 PM: Finally, ten centimeters. I’d been getting antsy to start pushing, but had tried to chill out and “labor down” as long as possible. Also, a new team of nurse + midwife had just come on shift and it seemed like a decent thing to do to give them a chance to get their bearings before I tried to expel a baby at them.

Around 8, the nurse turned the epidural off. It felt like it had been wearing off anyway, but I was doing okay with the pain. I was so ready to get this baby out and figured that after ALL OF THIS TIME, I deserved a quick and easy pushing phase. (Again: Hah.)

So I pushed. And pushed, and pushed, and pushed. For two and a half hours. On my back; on my hands and knees; half-squatting from a bar braced over the bed. Deep breath, three hard pushes, rest. I cursed and cried and must have declared that I couldn’t do it at least a dozen times. It HURT. It was HARD.

Between pushes, I asked the nurse how many rounds she thought I had left. I was starting to feel the infamous “ring of fire” – and, let me repeat, it HURT. When she answered that couldn’t tell me, I badgered her until she said “Okay fine, I would guess fifteen.”

FIFTEEN. I’d been imagining, I don’t know…three? I almost gave up. In my head (or maybe it was aloud), I wished for any path out of this mess other than the present one. I whined. I cried some more.

Over my protests, our doula dragged a mirror over to the foot of the bed so I could see what was happening down there. This was something I was sure I didn’t want, but dammit, it actually helped. I shut my whiny mouth and focused on moving this white, mucous-y bulb that everyone insisted was baby’s head a little further forward with each round of pushing. The image in the mirror looked nothing like my body, or even anything human. It was like I was playing a video game.

Finally, the midwife beckoned D down to the business end of the bed so he could help “catch” the baby, as he’d hoped to do. This was motivating; I was actually going to get this thing out. The last few pushes were unbelievably painful; I both watched and felt myself literally ripping apart. And then her head was through. In the reflection of the mirror, I watched in awe as the rest of her body slipped out effortlessly behind.

But…it was limp. And a ghostly purplish blue.

“TEAM!”

The midwife was cutting the cord and yelling TEAM and suddenly there were about thirty people in the room and the seemingly lifeless little body was whisked away to a table somewhere behind my head.

I don’t even know what happened next. D was squeezing my shoulder; our doula was telling us to send positive thoughts to our baby; our midwife was praying. I was just…numb. I remember staring at my feet, curled on the bloodstained sheets, the end of the cord sitting uselessly between my legs. I couldn’t see what was happening on the table. I didn’t even attempt to. In retrospect, I think I was trying not to get too attached.

A couple of minutes later, I heard a joke cracked, a chuckle in the midst of the cluster of scrubs. The mood had changed a little. This had to mean things were going to be okay.

“She’s pink,” our doula said, craning her neck to see. “She’s breathing.”

Saturday, 1 AM: Annika had been born at 10:33 PM after 2.5 hours of pushing. Her initial APGAR score was 2. After five minutes it was 7 and at ten minutes it was 8, obviously much better numbers, but the length of my labor and the dramatic circumstances of her delivery mandated a trip to the NICU per hospital policy.

The nurse had apologized repeatedly as she brought over the blanket-wrapped bundle and handed her to me to see for the first time, to cuddle for about five minutes, before she had to be taken away. I’d been bombarded with questions about whether I’d prefer her to have formula or an IV (um, ideally neither?) and hammered with information on the antibiotics she was to receive, in spite of the fact that she hadn’t tested positive for any signs of infection. I thought fleetingly of how I’d debated over whether to have her get her HepB vaccine in the hospital or just wait until her pediatrician visit. Because, after all, I didn’t want my tiny newborn getting stuck with a needle straight away when it could just as easily be done a couple of weeks later.

I didn’t have any of that fight left in me. It seemed stupid and naive to begin with. I consented to whatever needed to be done and watched helplessly as they loaded my baby onto a cart and wheeled her away.

Physically, I’d been repaired: two sets of stitches and a bunch of “road rash” that the midwife cautioned me would hurt for a while. I’d been loaded up with ice packs in my giant disposable underwear and a layer of pads that looked suitable for potty training a Great Dane. I’d been dosed with a painkiller that made the stiff hospital bed feel like a squishy beanbag. I was ready to head to recovery.

Emotionally, however, the wheels were just starting to turn. I had a baby. The baby had been born “stunned” – another word for shock, so we were told. Now the baby was in the NICU. Why did this happen? If I’d just pushed a little faster and harder, would she have come out rosy and screaming rather than icy and limp? If I’d headed to the hospital as soon as my water had broken and started the induction immediately, would I be home with my baby now?

I know this is an unproductive way to think, but it’s hard to avoid it. Even though multiple doctors and nurses have assured me that her state at delivery had nothing to do with the labor itself. It just happens sometimes, they said. It was a shock to everyone. Her heart rate had looked great the entire time I labored and pushed. There had been no indication of distress whatsoever.

At 3AM, we visited Annika in the NICU for the first time. We tried to establish the all-important “skin to skin” time, although we were a few hours late and had to work around a tangled web of wires and monitors.

annika1

She was in the NICU for three days altogether. That was hard. For three days, we visited her every three hours and attempted to breastfeed her and snuggle her and do everything we’d be doing under “normal” circumstances. On Sunday night, we were discharged from the hospital and had to go home without her. That was doubly hard.

Thankfully, as I finish writing this (finally!) Annika has gained over a pound since her birth and we are all healthy and happy. It’s starting to feel like the wild tale of her entrance is behind us.

pedi2weeks_cropped

On our way to her two-week pediatrician check-up, where she got two thumbs up from the doctor!

Still, occasionally I feel haunted. Would I have done anything differently if I could do it over again? I really don’t know. Obviously, I did not plan or expect to have a 51-hour labor, but things really did seem to be on the verge of picking up for almost that entire time. Of course I could have taken the drugs much sooner and shaved over a day off of my experience…but at the time, it didn’t seem necessary. And these are the things you cannot know when Monday morning quarterbacking. The decisions I made during those 51 hours were logical and right at the time. Maybe this will affect how I approach L&D the next time around (if there is a next time around), but I’m trying not to play the “what if” game with this one.

The story ends with me typing this while a healthy baby snoozes on my chest, and that’s all that matters.

As our doula gathered her things to depart the L&D room in the wee hours of that Saturday morning, her fee more than earned after being with us practically nonstop since Wednesday night, I half-jokingly asked her a question:

“Hey, what’s your record?”

She looked at me blankly. We were all exhausted.

“You know, for time with a client in labor.”

After a pause, she answered: “I think you just set it.”

So I guess I can end Annika’s birth story in a way that’s fitting for a running blog.

For all of that drama, at least someone got a PR.

Introducing…

Annika Josephine. 6 lbs 5 oz, 18.5 inches.

IMG_7821_small

She actually made her grand entrance last Friday night. It was a long labor and a scary delivery, but all is well now. I’m not really up for sharing the whole drama here just yet…maybe eventually. For now, we’re just enjoying our little girl and adjusting to life as a family of three.

Needless to say, we are in love. And yes, I realize how cliche that sounds. But it’s true. <3

(Oh, and first postpartum beer was a Sweetwater 420. Nice and simple. It was delicious.)

Incubation: day 275

So. Because all I do is pilfer from Marie these days, and because I don’t know if I’ve ever done one of these so-called “day-in-the-life” posts (and I’m too lazy to go back and look through my disorganized archives), and because it seems like the sort of thing bloggers do when they’re hard up for content (been there for months)…here you go. My yesterday.

4 AM: Wake up to pee. My stomach is also growling loudly, so I go downstairs and eat a yogurt.

This pre-dawn snacking thing has become a habit, and I’m 50/50 on getting back to sleep afterward. Today is a good day, and I must drift back off immediately after slipping back in to bed because suddenly it’s morning.

7 AM: Rise, shower, breakfast, blah blah blah. Eye coffee maker longingly as I prepare a cup of Raspberry Leaf Tea, which tastes like ass but is supposed to help “ripen my cervix” or something. Gross, I know.

As it’s steeping, I fire up the blood pressure cuff. 111/80. Not bad.

Also, I call a plumber, as our guest bathroom toilet remains mysteriously clogged in spite of a weekend’s worth of aggressive plunging. My husband and I are baffled by this: even if either of us were to admit to dropping a pipe-plugging deuce, this would not be our throne of choice. In the back of my mind, I’m blaming the contractors who were here last week.

The plumber says he’ll come out between 1 and 4, and for what seems like the millionth time I thank my lack of a real job, because if I had one I would have been fired long ago, constantly having to take time off to deal with shit (har!) like this.

9 AM: Time for yet another pregnancy appointment! My “care group” includes a team of midwives and an MFM, and since the onset of the low blood protein thingy/growth concerns/hypertension issues, I’ve been seeing both weekly (at separate offices/appointments) for a while now. See comment above about being thankful for the fluid nature of my employment status.

Before I head out, I realize I am dressed in something other than yoga pants so let’s knock out the weekly belly selfie. 39 weeks, 2 days:

39w2dv3

Everything goes fine at the appointment, except that the nurse gets 150/82 when she takes my BP. What in the motherfuck? I honestly don’t know how my systolic pressure can jump 40 points in less than two hours. I am asked to “sit calmly” in a dark room for a few minutes (fat chance of that, because now I’m all shaken up) before taking it again, but that doesn’t seem to help.

Fortunately, the midwife I see is one of my favorites and she’s pretty laid back about it. She looks over my log of thrice-daily home BP readings as well as those from the MFM’s office, all of which are much lower, and concludes that “we must just make you really anxious around here.” I still have no other pre-eclampsia symptoms and my labs and NST from last week are perfect, so she dismisses me with instructions to keep on keepin’ on, and give us a call when you go in to labor! Oh believe me, I will.

11 AM: I have a couple of hours before my date with the plumber and I’m feeling pretty good, energy-wise, so I knock out a few errands, including a trip to the Container Store to return a step-stool that’s been banging against the backseat of my car at every red light for nearly a month. (I bought it because our kitchen  was designed for a giant and I got tired of climbing up on the counter every time I needed something from a cupboard, but the feet were slippery hard plastic and sucked on our hardwoods.)

It ends up being a draw, financially, as I leave with a shelf for the baby’s room and a bunch of really cute, colorful storage bins for storing…something. I don’t know what yet, but babies have a lot of crap, right?

1 PM: Home, lunch, blah blah blah. Assemble shelf and find crap to put in storage bins.

nursery shelf

(We made a lot of progress in the baby’s room over the weekend! I dare say it’s nearly functional.)

3 PM: Plumber arrives. I apologize in advance for whatever mortifying thing he might find down in the bowels (har!) of the toilet and emphasize that it wasn’t us that did this, I swear, we don’t even know how it happened. He nods cordially but I can tell he’s trying not to roll his eyes. Sure, lady, it wasn’t your monster turd. It never is.

Half an hour later he emerges with a sack full of soggy paper towels. Paper fucking towels. I curse the contractors because really, who the hell doesn’t know not to flush paper towels? Especially when there is a Costco-sized pack of Charmin sitting right there in plain sight? GAH.

Oh well, at least it was a problem easily solved. And no oversized feces were involved. I thank and pay the plumber and as he is leaving, guess who shows up?

4 PM: The GC’s project manager stops by to do our final walk-through. He gives me a quizzical look as the plumbing van pulls out of the driveway. I explain the paper towel situation and he is appropriately outraged. He apologizes and promises to take care of the charges. I honestly don’t care at this point. I just want this done.

The PM and I walk the house from top to bottom, examining all of the areas where our home has been systematically taken apart and put back together over the last six months. I run my hand over the newly painted walls and imagine their insides, packed full of fresh pink insulation, healthy and free of the black rotten wood and mold that was there before. It has been a long road to get here and I am thrilled that we’re finally at the end.

I sign the punch list, write one last barfworthy check, and with a final handshake send the PM on his way. He’s a nice guy, but…good riddance. I hope we never have to deal with something like this again.

6 PM: Climb up on the counter to fetch ingredients for dinner. Damn, this is annoying. I really should buy a step-stool. The cats hear the siren call of cupboards clanging and appear in the kitchen, positioning themselves directly underfoot as I (unsuccessfully) attempt a graceful dismount.

7 PM: Dinner, watch TV, blah blah blah. (I would describe exactly what I watched, but I’m saving that for a whole separate post, when I’ve really reached the bottom of the blog-content barrel.)

9 PM: Bedtime. Blood pressure check: 115/77. Outstanding. I even gloat a little as I note it in my log.

As I’m winding down for the night, as usual, baby is just hitting her stride. I wrap my arm around my belly and fall asleep feeling her tiny foot press into the palm of my hand, wondering if tomorrow might be the day we finally get to meet her.

Under pressure

So this is the point where I open my blog posts by stating that I’m still pregnant, yes? Okay. I’m still pregnant.

In a few days I’ll be “full term” (according to the new 39-week definition) which is crazy. This seemed so far away back in June. We are going to have a real live baby soon. Yikes.

Still waiting for baby to “drop” (I think). You tell me. This was last week at 37.5 weeks:

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And today, at 38.5 weeks:

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Her feet are still firmly engaged in my ribcage, so I’m thinking no.

Otherwise, things are going well…ish. I feel fine, but my blood pressure has been creeping up at my last couple of appointments. My BP tends to run a little high normally (when I’m not pregnant), so while this doesn’t strike me as particularly alarming, it causes justifiable concern among my doctors and midwives due to the dreaded (and potentially dangerous) pre-eclampsia. So far, all of my labs have come back normal and I have none of the other signs of pre-e (no headaches or vision problems or swelling – still wearing my wedding rings!) but I am currently in the middle of another round of indignity with the 24-hour pee-collection jug, so we shall see.

In the meantime, I have been instructed to “take it easy.” Not bed rest exactly, but no more formal exercise or unnecessary exertion. This is…well, if I’m being honest, it’s a little frustrating because I feel fine. But I understand the reasoning and am doing my best to comply. No more gym, no more swimming. (Sorry if you came looking for bare-bellied weight room selfies! No #fitpregnancy inspiration here.)

As for baby, she seems to be doing well, passing last week’s non-stress test in just a few quick minutes on the monitor. She continues to look a little runty, so my MFM advised me to make sure I’m eating enough (I’ve still only gained about 20 lbs, which is so surprising to me – because, um, I’ve never had trouble putting on weight) and suggested milkshakes as a good, easily-digestible snack. (Okay, he actually said smoothies. My sweet tooth is painting his recommendation with a broad brush because do you know how delicious McDonald’s strawberry milkshakes are?)

So basically, I am under medical orders to be a lazy ass and eat as much as possible. This is probably the only time in my life that this will ever happen, so I’m just going to enjoy it. (#fatpregnancy? <– TM Marie!)

I guess that means that someone else will have to deal with this disaster:

nursery

That would be the nursery. Clean your damn room, baby! No allowance for you.

Oops, I guess I’m jumping ahead a few years there.

1.5 weeks to go.

Get low

According to every pregnancy website and your-baby-this-week email, at 36 weeks my baby may, at some point soon, “drop.”

This means that the little stinker will move down within my abdomen and it will apparently feel pretty wonderful. So many promises: I’ll be able to breathe again! And eat a normal sized meal! No french fry left behind. Au revoir, reflux and heartburn. Sign me up.

But then there’s the caveat: the baby may not drop at all until I’m in labor, and even if she does, I’ll trade respiratory and digestive complaints for increased bladder pressure and the constant feeling that a boulder is about to fall out of my vagina.

Well okay then. It seems like this last stretch is going to be uncomfortable regardless.

36w3dv3

36.5 weeks and extra blurry. I think I need to clean my phone’s camera lens.

Here’s what else is happening these days:

On exercise: Since quitting running, I’ve been trying this whole “go for a walk” thing. I have to admit, it’s a little strange. Of course I enjoy going for a walk with my husband or friends if it’s a social outing, and we do a lot of walking to and from places in our neighborhood, but walking for the sake of fitness just feels…I don’t know, inefficient? Like, I’ve gone through the effort of putting on a sports bra and lacing up my running shoes (both of which take some effort these days) and at the end of it all I’ve burned an hour-plus of my day, I’ve only covered a couple of miles and I’m not even sweaty.

I don’t know. I realize that walking for exercise is a great thing according to, like, every doctor ever, but I think I prefer the elliptical at the gym, even if it means being stuck indoors.

Still swimming a couple of times a week too, with my comically ill-fitting lap suit getting more absurd by the week. In retrospect, I probably should’ve just bought a maternity suit. Oh well!

On sleep: Or rather, lack thereof. I’ve developed this weird bifurcated sleep schedule wherein I sleep solidly until 2-3 AM, am awake for a while, then drift back to sleep around 5-6 AM and snooze for a couple more hours.

I’m not sure what causes this nightly wake-up. Sometimes it’s heartburn or a full bladder, but more often than not, I just awaken and stay that way for no apparent reason.

Interestingly, there seems to be some evidence that this two-stage sleeping schedule was actually how humans operated throughout most of mankind’s history, up until the widespread use of electricity. So I am really just a few generations behind the times here, I guess.

Unlike my historical counterparts, I do not use this wakeful period to smoke tobacco, visit neighbors, or “chat with bedfellows.” (Sometimes I do try the latter; the cats are more receptive than the human.) Instead, I generally stand in the kitchen eating yogurt in the dark while reading the entire internet on my phone, then crash on the couch and watch reruns of Seinfeld until I fall back asleep. Not particularly productive, but at least I’ve moved past tossing and turning (and disturbing the aforementioned bedfellows).

So it’s gonna be totally awesome when I’m not pregnant anymore and can finally get a good night’s sleep! RIGHT?!

On those digestive issues: I’m throwing this out there in the hopes that it might help someone. I have found a foolproof (for me anyway) way to get rid of reflux and heartburn: a shot of unfiltered apple cider vinegar chased by a small glass of milk. It is every bit as disgusting as it sounds, but has never failed to immediately banish the pain/discomfort in its entirety. I am seriously in awe of how well this works. Yay home remedies.

On baby: She seems to be doing well, in spite of her refusal to perform this so-called “drop” maneuver.

I’ve been having weekly NSTs (non-stress tests – where they put a pair of monitors on your belly to measure contractions and the baby’s heart rate while you record the baby’s movements) for a while now and had another one today. Baby was stubborn at first and refused to move at all until the nurse had me chug a glass of ice-cold water, which sent her “on a frenzy in there” (the nurse’s words) of kicking and squirming around. She passed with a 10/10.

(Surprisingly, today’s NST also showed that I’m having regular contractions! I don’t feel most of them though. I have been having Braxton-Hicks for a couple of months now and I still get those a few times a day, but I haven’t noticed the smaller, more regular ones. Apparently this is perfectly normal at this stage and doesn’t mean I’m OMG-GOING-INTO-LABOR! But still. Weird!)

Size-wise, baby is still a little on the smaller side, around the 30th percentile according to the MFM’s ultrasound estimates – this is much better than the upper teens she was measuring at once point! He guesses she’ll be 7 pounds and change at delivery, although I know estimates like that are often wildly inaccurate.

She also apparently has hair on her head. For some reason, hearing this, it really started to sink in for me that there is a small human in there. A human with hair. Which is just as bizarre as it is thrilling. We can’t wait to meet her.

On general parental preparedness: We are getting there.

Accomplished recently:

  • Found a pediatrician.
  • Wrote up “birth preferences” (using this term loosely as it’s just a single page mostly containing information that the hospital intake nurse would ask anyway on admittance).
  • Narrowed our list of names down to three! We’ll make a final call after delivery.

Still to do:

  • Pack bag for hospital.
  • Baby laundry.  I need to stop buying stuff to add to the laundry pile!
  • Put together entire nursery. (Still can’t do this, still waiting on contractors to finish their work, still really don’t want to talk about it. Ugh.)
  • A million other things I’m not aware of, I’m sure.

Crossing our fingers that baby stays put for at least a couple more weeks! But if she wants to drop down out of my ribcage and ease up on my stomach and lungs, that would be most welcome. Sorry, bladder.

3.5 to go!

Jog days are over

Horrible punny post title, check! I’m off to a good start with this one. And now I have that song stuck in my head. (You probably do too…you’re welcome!)

All to make a simple point about an inevitable eventuality: at 35 weeks pregnant, I’ve think I’ve thrown in the towel. I’m done running until after baby.

I feel like I should be more sad about this, or explain how it was some big agonizing decision, but it really wasn’t. Last week, I started getting minor discomfort in my lower abdomen and crotch after running. Nothing sharp or acute, but more like a mild muscle soreness you get after strength training. Which makes sense: my crotch has been lifting weights for the last eight months and lately the load has become substantially heavier.

I gave it a few more tries in case it was a fluke, but nope, the correlation was pretty clear: go for a run, spend the next day sore. It’s a little frustrating in that I still feel good while I’m running, but the aftermath is not worth it. I don’t need to add to my growing list of late-pregnancy discomforts for the sake of an optional activity, no matter how much I enjoy it.

Besides, I can still swim and elliptical and lift (upper body) weights with no apparent ill effects. And hey: I made it to 35 weeks running, which is a long time! And a lot of pee stops.

I didn’t go in to this with a running goal of any sort, but it’s safe to say that I exceeded what I thought I would do. Back in my first trimester, I had to stop running for a few weeks because of some bleeding, and I remember resigning myself to the possibility of months – almost a year, really – without running. Fortunately, the issue resolved itself and that wasn’t the case, but it’s a good reminder of how lucky I am to have been able to run at all during these last few months.

So there we go. I guess I’ve officially abandoned two thirds of this blog’s purported subjects. At least I am still eating?

34w4dblog

Closing in on 20 pounds gained! My feet have completely disappeared from view and I’m constantly spilling food on myself because I can’t lean all the way over my plate when I eat. (Seriously, I have all of these bibs for the baby, but they’re too small for me! They should make pregnant-lady-sized food protection gear.) Supposedly baby girl is putting on half a pound a week these days, fattening up to prepare for her big arrival.

I’m glad someone is getting ready. I still feel rather underprepared. We’ve checked lots of the important boxes: classes completed, diapers purchased, tiny baby clothes washed, hospital pre-registration submitted. We’ll install the car seat this weekend. But the house is still a construction zone, the nursery is nonexistent, and it occurred to me recently that we haven’t really thought about pediatricians, much less selected one. (Guess what I’ll be doing this morning?)

It’s all good, though. We’ll figure it out. 5 weeks to go!

Eight weeks to go

Actually, seven and a half now. Not that I’m counting down or anything!

But I am. I’m just not sure whether I want time to speed up or slow down. One part of me wants to press fast-forward right to baby’s due date because I am tired of carrying around this extra weight and turning down booze and burping or farting every time I move. The more rational part of me would like to buy a few extra weeks, please, because holy shit are we really ready for this?

(Answer: no, not even a little bit. But we did assemble a Pack-n-Play and a swing this weekend. So that’s something….

packnplay

…and with that, the inevitable pile of baby crap taking over the living room begins.)

Aside from being a bit tired and uncomfortable these days, things are going fine. Still running, although I’ve noticed that 3-4 miles has become my new default. And my pace has slowed down even more, and walk breaks are becoming a regular thing. Also, I need new running shoes badly but I’m hesitant to buy them because what if my feet decide to suddenly expand? When I worked in running stores I remember pregnant ladies complaining about this. I don’t think my feet have grown at all, but I’m sure the second I decide to plunk down cash for new shoes they’ll spread out like pancakes.

At 32+ weeks, I am still squeezing in to most of my old running clothes too. Um, sort of.

32w2d_zpsbc0d9a4b

Because who needs fancy maternity workout clothes when you can look perfectly ridiculous in your regular ones? (On a related note, I’m sorry to everyone in Piedmont Park this evening who glimpsed the bottom of my pasty, vein-y, and slightly hairy belly. Hey, at least I wasn’t running around in a sports bra!)

I don’t even want to talk about how absurd my swimsuit is starting to look. Let’s just say there will be no locker room selfies.

Anyway. Other baby happenings:

- The fetus got her final TSA pat-down last week when we flew home from visiting my family for Christmas. We traveled a ton this fall and I’ve enjoyed all of it, but I’m also glad to be done with planes for a while. (In case you were wondering how to make a 5-hour flight in a cramped seat even less pleasant, set a 15-pound weight directly on your bladder, then proceed to drink every drop of water you can get your puffy fingers on because every doctor and midwife you’ve ever spoken to has harped on the importance of hydration when flying while pregnant. And hope you have an aisle seat.)

- According to my Mayo Clinic book, the last couple of weeks have been baby’s peak movement weeks, and I believe that! Sometimes I really wonder what the hell she is doing in there that requires so much thumping and squirming. Chill out, baby. And kindly unhook your wiggly little foot from the bottom of my ribcage, please.

- (But really, it’s pretty cool to feel her move around and see my stomach churn and twitch from the outside. It makes me smile. I have an anterior placenta and didn’t feel movement at all until quite late, like 23-24 weeks, so I’m enjoying it!)

- We had our childbirth class a couple of weeks ago. Yikes.

- We have our infant care and CPR class coming up this Thursday. Double yikes.

- Remember those icky Lovenox injections I blogged about a while back? Well, I have gotten used to them and now they are no big deal. Most of the time I barely even feel the needle and I am lucky in that I’ve only had a few small bruises so far. I still make my husband do it when he’s around, but mainly because I can barely reach across my belly to get both hands to the fatty part of my side where the shot needs to go.

And just so this post is not completely pregnancy-related, behold one of my favorite Christmas gifts of 2013.

CAH

I AM A CARD AGAINST HUMANITY.

Technically, I guess this is a gift I bought for myself. Did anyone else sign up for the 12 Days of Holiday Bullshit? I thought most of it was sort of meh but this personalized card alone was worth the $12. I can’t wait to have my name attached to porn jokes and Holocaust quips next time we play!

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve, and will someone please drink a couple of glasses of bubbly for me? Ringing in the New Year with that crappy sparkling juice that people pretend is Champagne is going to be a little sad.

Sigh. Eight more weeks. (Seven and a half….)

Full of cheer

According to some random newscast I saw recently, there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. (Fewer…than average, I guess?) The talking heads were all abuzz about how this is affecting the retail industry, but my thoughts immediately went elsewhere.

Six fewer days of horrible music assaulting my eardrums from the car radio, TV commercials, the loudspeakers at the damn gas station where I usually fill up….

Ugh. Christmas music.

I know I’ve written about this before, but Christmas music really is the worst. For some reason at this time of year, rational people who ordinarily have decent taste in music will voluntarily – and enthusiastically! – listen to hokey crap about Grandma getting run over by a reindeer and Alvin the Chipmunk whining about his hula hoop. Over and over and over again.

I don’t get it. They’re terrible songs, people!

Anyway, I am not a total grinch, I swear. Our tree is up and trimmed and our stockings have been hung with care. And I’ll admit that I get a little warm fuzzy in my coal-black heart when I look at the new one in the middle, embroidered name TBD.

stockings

I’m tempted to make a disclaimer about not turning this in to a pregnancy/kid blog, but let’s face it: for nearly a year now it’s been a nonexistent blog, and harboring a fetus is the Big Thing going on in my life right now. For months and months I didn’t post, largely because of all the shit that was going on related to acquiring and retaining said fetus. But now that we’re on the home stretch I’m feeling more chatty and open about the whole thing, so I’ll bring you up to date on the first 29 weeks of this little adventure.

Morning sickness: I never had it all that bad. There were several weeks at the beginning where I felt constantly nauseous, but as far as actually throwing up, that only happened a few times. I’m considering myself lucky here.

Food cravings/aversions: Sugar. Sugarsugarsugar. At one point I asked my husband to bring me a cupcake and when he asked what kind, I actually said “sugar flavored.” As I’ve always been a salt fiend and never really had a sweet tooth, this is bizarre to me. I’m just thankful I don’t have gestational diabetes or I’d be even more of a grinch right now.

As far as aversions, nothing. Well, nothing brought on by pregnancy. Pickles are still the epitome of disgusting evil, in spite of the pregnant-lady stereotype.

Weight gain: I didn’t gain at all for almost the first half of pregnancy. Or more accurately, I probably lost a little extra fat when I cut out the booze, which offset anything baby-related. Now, at 29+ weeks, I’m up about 12-15 pounds (net) and seem to be packing it on much more quickly. I swear sometimes my abdomen grows noticeably overnight.

Alcohol and other “banned” substances: Honestly, I haven’t missed the booze nearly as much as I thought I would. Beer sounds awful, not because of the taste but because I imagine it would quickly fill up what’s left of the real estate in my stomach and leave me a bloated, burping, reflux-y mess. I do miss wine, but I enjoy a small glass of that occasionally, just enough to scratch the itch.

As for the twelve-thousand other things you’re not supposed to consume while pregnant…eh. I do avoid cheeses that are obviously unpasteurized and while I can’t say that no raw sushi has crossed my lips, I do pass on the weird stuff that’s unlikely to turn over quickly. I was never a big eater of tunafish or deli meat, so that hasn’t been much of an issue.

I have been avoiding eating cat shit, though. As much as I love the daily feces hunt, my husband graciously offered to take that chore off my hands. Even though the risk of getting toxoplasmosis from our indoor-only cats is basically zero. I’m not complaining if he’s willing to deal with the cats’ dirty work for a while.

Running/exercise: I’m still running, slowly, a few times a week. 4-5 miles tops these days, and I always need to make at least one pee stop. It seems my bladder can take about 15-20 minutes of bouncing at a stretch. No pregnant marathons for this girl! (Seriously, that sounds so unappealing…I’d be out there for eons and I don’t even want to think about how many port-a-potties I’ve have to visit along the way.)

I’ve also been lifting weights a couple of times a week (nothing crazy, just maintenance-type stuff) and swimming laps occasionally. Swimming feels great and I would do it more often but the chlorine absolutely kills my skin, which tends to be dry and itchy in the winter anyway.

Nursery status/baby gear/crap we need to buy: We have done basically nothing on this front. I will spare you the details but we are having some not-fun-but-necessary work done on our house and the theoretical nursery is in the destruction zone. The whole thing is a disaster at this point. There may not be a nursery until after the baby’s born.

However, thanks to very generous friends and family, we’ve been baby-showered with the most essential items: car seat, pack-n-play, rock-n-play, swing, carrier, lots of cute clothes. So baby will survive, even if she has to camp out in our room for a while.

The “bump”: Lucky for you, even though I haven’t been blogging, I have been taking blurry awkward mirror selfies from time to time! Because what would kind of pregnancy would this be without them?

So here ya go:

belly

Merry Christmas. :)

I could’ve been a superhero

The nurse came in backwards, using her rump to bump open the door. As she turned around to greet me, I saw why: both of her hands were full, clutching an alarming number of glass vials. They clinked cheerfully as she deposited them in to a little basket on the counter next to me. There were at least a dozen and they all had my name on them. My palms started to sweat.

“You’re kidding me, right?” I squirmed in the hard plastic chair. “I’m not going to have any blood left in me!”

I don’t do needles well. I mean, judge me if you want, but I’ve never even donated blood. The very thought of it nauseates me. And here I had thought the standard few vials I had taken at the outset of the pregnancy were bad; they had nothing on this.

“You got plenty to spare, sweetie,” the nurse said.

At four months pregnant, I was being tested for a smattering of obscure-sounding disorders and genetic abnormalities that I’d never heard of, and none of which were necessarily indicated by the perfectly healthy baby growing in my belly. No, these were the ghosts of pregnancies past, of those months where cells had joined and multiplied and progressed enough to turn a pee stick pink but never made it much further.

Habitual Aborter, that was what the diagnosis on the paperwork said. Naturally I was highly offended the first time I saw it, until I realized it was simply the clinical term for recurrent miscarriage. You’d think they could come up with a better way of saying it. Oh yes, my bad habits, I had chuckled bitterly. Picking my cuticles, forgetting to replace the toilet paper, and aborting fetuses. 

I closed my eyes as the nurse tightened the elastic band around my arm, my nails digging into my clammy palm as I obediently clenched my fist. I couldn’t bear to watch her stick me. I knew it wouldn’t be painful, but it was just…gross. Needle in my flesh. Ew.

Initially, I had bristled at my doctor’s suggestion that we pursue these blood tests, known as the recurrent loss panel. Why does it matter now? I had asked. I’d just come from my big 20-week ultrasound and seen our perfect little fetus – a girl! – wiggling and kicking away. All her pieces and parts were in their proper places. I didn’t want to revisit the past, those clusters of cells that never made it. I wanted to focus on the one that eventually did.

They just wanted to rule out any possible problems, the doctor had explained. A clotting disorder. It was unlikely, of course. But just in case…

So I had agreed.

As it turned out, the lab nurse was correct and I did, in fact, have plenty to spare. Life went on normally without those dozen vials of blood. A couple of weeks passed. My belly grew rounder; I started to feel the baby thump and kick, hard enough even for my husband to feel it from the outside. We giggled and marveled as I’m sure all first-time parents do at such milestones. I was 25 weeks when I got the call that the labwork was in. At that point, I’d almost forgotten about it.

“There are a couple of things we should discuss,” the doctor began.

That’s not how these conversations start when everything’s fine.

“You have a genetic mutation, heterozygous MTHFR,” he continued.

The what? The motherfucker gene?

“And you have a functional protein-S deficiency.”

A protein deficiency? But I eat lots of protein… 

“Taken on their own, neither of these things would worry me much. But when we look at the whole picture, including your history, I believe it’s possible that you may have a genetic clotting disorder.” He paused, perhaps to give me time to process. I flipped through my copy of the lengthy document provided by the lab, pages of acronyms and unfamiliar terms. Someone had pen-marked each of the offending parties, the motherfucker gene and the delinquent S protein, with a circle and a sloppy asterisk.

Genetic mutation. It was the stuff of comic books and superheroes, of fantasies on the evolution of the human species. As in: somewhere, deep in the bowels of her coding, a switch gets flipped and all of a sudden she can fly! Or regenerate wounded flesh! Or snap pencils with her mind! By comparison, having slightly thicker-than-average blood seemed not only disadvantageous, but downright mundane.

The doctor went on to explain the course of treatment for clotting disorders, which he recommend pursuing as a precautionary measure for the rest of my pregnancy. It was a pros-vs-cons game, of course, but the lineup on one side had some pretty heavy hitters: low birth weight, late-term miscarriage, stillbirth. The opponents were fairly flimsy: bruising easily, inconvenience of dealing with a daily injection of blood-thinning medication….

Of course I would treat it. Even though the treatment would involve needles. It wasn’t even a question. I caught my first glimpse of what parents mean when they say they’d do anything for their kids. I would jab myself with oodles of needles every single day if that’s what my little girl needed to grow properly and come out safely.

Still, it is unsettling to learn that there may be something wrong with you when you feel perfectly fine. I mean…seriously, blood clots? Never crossed my mind. I’m healthy. This pregnancy has been easy and uneventful. I run and I eat my vegetables. How can there be something wrong with the blood that circulates my veins and arteries completely unbeknownst to me?

It seems so nefarious and unfair. But I guess that’s the nature of symptomless diseases.

We still don’t know for sure whether I actually have a disorder. Pregnancy hormones, it seems, can mess with the contents of your blood and make these things difficult to diagnose without a baseline. Next year, after baby’s born and the pregnancy hormones have left my system, I’ll see a hematologist and figure out what’s going on, whether this motherfucker gene and defunct protein thing is for real.

But for now, every night before bed, I close my eyes as my husband sticks me in the side with a thin, inch long needle. It doesn’t actually hurt much, and I can do it myself if I need to, but I prefer not to watch. Old habits die hard.