Friday, August 28, 2009

She's cooking!

At my doctor's appointment on Friday, the nurse practitioner told me that I was 50-70% effaced and 1 cm. dilated. I guess that means (by some definitions) that I am in early labor, or stage 1, but before you all get excited, nothing is imminent, and lots of people are at this stage for weeks before they give birth. (And hey, nurse practitioner? Saying "You'll feel a little pressure" isn't the most accurate description of a cervical exam. Just so you know.)

I have to admit that I don't feel very anxious or particularly impatient for this baby to get here. I want to make sure that she comes out when she's totally ready, and we've still got a few days until her due date. Of course I have no real clue because this is my first baby, but I have a feeling that it's going to be a while longer. I think that the fact that we're really going to have a baby isn't going to hit me until we check into the hospital; we're going to go in as a family of two, and come out as a family of three. I've had nine months of slowly getting ready for parenthood, and while I feel as prepared as I can be, having a baby has been something that's been abstract and in the future for so long that the idea that I could be a mom tomorrow or next week STILL seems incredibly unlikely. I mean, I could give birth to a large melon, and it would make about as much sense as giving birth to a fully formed little human does to me right now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I've been home from work with no houseguests for a day and a half, and I'm already going crazy with boredom. I only managed to be awake for two and a half hours today before I finished all the things that I had been planning on doing (showering, watching tennis, eating breakfast, doing laundry), so of course I called poor Alex at work. Where he was busy, trying to do work. (I hear a lot of people work at work, and are busy for most of the day. Weird!) I think he knows that from now until the baby comes, if I'm calling him at work all I'll have to say is "I'm booooooreeeeed," in the most annoying and whiny tone imaginable, but he has to answer. I could call him every fifteen minutes and tell him knock-knock jokes for the next 4 days, and he'd have to pick up every time because I could be calling to tell him that I was in labor. Poor guy.

Anyway, I think I've laundered everything in the house, my hospital bag is packed, and the dog doesn't want to play with me anymore. I'm pretty sure he's disappointed that I'm home from work. He'll pick up his head when I jump around shouting and waving his toys in the air, but he's got a pretty strict nap schedule to get through. You know things are getting desperate when your dog is like, "Enough. Can't you entertain yourself for 45 minutes?" The answer is NO. I don't want to watch TV, I don't have any movies I want to watch, I don't feel like reading anymore, the dog doesn't feel like going for ANOTHER walk, I don't knit, everything's clean, and I don't have a car until Tuesday. I know I should be relishing these last few days of peace and quiet, and fix up my cuticles, and read, and floss, because I'll never have time ever again starting really soon, but I don't LIKE it!

Harumph. Anybody want to come over and play with me?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Birthday? What birthday?

I keep forgetting my own birthday. It was yesterday, and thanks to friends and darling husbands reminding me all day, plus loving relatives calling, I was aware that it was going on, but until yesterday? Not so much. Last week, I received a package from a good friend from high school (Hi Hanna!), and I thought, "Oh, she must have sent something for the baby!" I was right, because who can resist adorable tiny infant clothes? But she also sent me a birthday present, which she has done every year, and which I always look forward to... until this year. I had totally forgotten that it was this week. This weekend, I made an appointment to get my haircut, not realizing it was on my birthday until they handed me the reminder card. My mom asked me if I wanted anything special for my birthday, and again, I thought, "Oh yeah... that's sometime this month, isn't it?" The day before my birthday I was talking about how old I was in relation to how old most people at my hospital have their kids, and AGAIN, it didn't dawn on me that my age would be changing the next day.

I'm not sure if it's just that I'm so insanely busy with friends coming to visit, finishing my last few days at work, and, oh yeah, that little thing, THE IMPENDING BIRTH OF MY FIRST CHILD. Maybe I'm finally getting old enough to not really care anymore. Maybe it's the whole brain shrinkage thing. Either way, happy birthday to me!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Practice Child

People sometimes ask if we think that Cash is going to be a problem when the baby comes. This is a perfectly reasonable question. Some dogs become overly protective of the baby, some dogs become jealous and act up with the addition of a new family member, and some dogs like to lick the delicious baby over and over again. Still... have you met our dog? He's the one who appears to be dead. Yeah, him, the one with his tongue sticking partway out of his mouth and the creepy half-open sleeping eyes.

The only things that cause him to react in a measurable way are either food or leash related, so we assumed that baby would be safe. We ran a test, though, to make sure. We found a sleep deprived couple with an almost-two-year-old, and invited them over for lunch. We would feed them quiche and vegetables from the farmer's market, and they would feed Cash their baby. They were okay with this; like I said, it was a two-year-old, and they needed rest.

The baby was really good with Cash, actually. She brought him all of his toys (and some other household items like coasters and decorative wooden horses) and plunked them down on various parts of his body, petted him gently (mostly not even in the eye!), tried to haul him around by the butt (she lost; he was about 4 times her size), and generally squeaked and was entranced by the huge furry creature that she was allowed to touch. As we had guessed, he kept an eye on her and the various presents that she was bringing him, but didn't do much more than sniff at her a few times. I'm pretty sure all bets would have been off if she had just been eating a cookie and was covered with deliciousness.

Honestly, though, he's been a huge help in preparing us for the baby. He's put us through pretty much everything that a new parent can expect. Waking us up throughout the night crying for no discernable reason? Check. Periodically refuses to eat? Check. Drooling uncontrollably? Check. Kept us up at night worrying about him? Check. Pee, poop, and vomit accidents? Check, check, and check. Despite all evidence to the contrary, is awesome and totally worth it? Check.

Thanks, Cashy-bear... you'll be our number one baby for at least a little while longer.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The incredible shrinking brain!

Anybody need any quantum mechanics figured out?

Pregnancy makes your brain shrink
Liz Hunt Health Editor
Thursday, 9 January 1997

The brains of pregnant women appear to shrink during late pregnancy, according to research which offers an explanation for cognitive problems some women complain of before and after giving birth. The doctors at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London found that it can take up to six months for the women's brains to regain their full size.

Anita Holdcroft, the anaesthetist in charge of the study, said poor concentration, lack of co-ordination, and memory problems in late pregnancy may be linked to the changes in brain size she and her colleagues observed.

A set of three-dimensional images of the brains of 10 healthy women were taken, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in late pregnancy, six to eight weeks after delivery, and then up to six months later.

According to a report in New Scientist magazine, Dr Holdcroft and colleagues found that as the woman's body and physiology returned to the non-pregnant state, their brains increased in size. It is possible that their brains were swelling from a normal state but this is unlikely, Dr Holdcroft told a meeting of the Physiological Society in Sheffield earlier this month.

The findings follow a study of women who suffer very high-blood pressure - pre-eclampsia - in which a build-up of fluid causes swelling; potentially fatal seizures can follow. "We assumed that their brains would also swell but last year we found that they shrink," Dr Holdcroft said. When the study was extended to healthy women, it was found that brain shrinkage appeared to be a normal feature of pregnancy.

The investigators believe that the brain changes are more likely to be the result of changes in the volume of individual cells rather than in the quantity of brain cells, Dr Holdcroft told the magazine. In addition, the team found that the pituitary gland, which lies at the base of the brain, showed the opposite effect - increasing in size during pregnancy, when it is responsible for producing reproductive hormones - and then diminishing in size in the months after pregnancy.

(From The Independent)

Interesting stuff. As I was saying to Alex right after I read this, blarghety blooble. Kitty!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week 36

This kid ain't messing around. I think I'm probably twice the belly diameter that I was a month ago. One bonus of having a belly this big: it makes your hips look girlishly slender by comparison!

Work it out

Yesterday I was stretching, and I noticed that my right arm was a little sore. I was trying to think what I could have done to make it feel like I had been working out my triceps, but I couldn't remember anything. Was there a vigorous round of Wii tennis I was forgetting? Had I gone to the gym? I asked Alex if he could think of anything strenuous I had done, and it took him ten minutes to stop laughing long enough to point out that I was so immobile that he had to put my socks on for me the day before, so no, he couldn't think of anything "strenuous" I had done. Unless you count drooling onto the couch while I was napping.

Then I remembered: the heavy weight I had been lifting was me. I am now so bulbous and unwieldy that every time I get out of bed, I have to carefully roll myself onto my side at the edge of the bed , swing my legs down, and then use my arms to push myself up into a sitting position. Ditto getting up off of the couch. It's also important to groan and grunt and hurk and uuunggh! as much as possible, or else Alex might not realize that 1: I'm pregnant, 2: I'm uncomfortable, and 3: therefore he should cater to my every whim... which mostly involve delicious, delicious Fudgesicles. Hey, hoisting myself off of the couch burns a lot of calories, you know.

(Also: we found the camera! I promise a belly picture in the next couple of days.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

No pictures, please

I really wanted to post a picture of what I look like at 36 weeks, but we seem to have lost our camera. So, I drew you one instead. Honest to goodness, I'm hoping that we'll find the camera soon and put a real picture up, because I look like someone surgically implanted a watermelon in my belly. It's good stuff.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Birth Plans

With the infant invasion looming, I finally started to think seriously and in more detail about what the birth process was going to be like, and what I wanted from it. Like pretty much every American in my situation, all I had ever seen of birth was what I got from movies and TV shows, and those were all either highly dramatic, with women in crisis being whisked into the OR as the husband is left behind, or played for comedy with the wife threatening her husband for getting her into this mess in the first place. And really, that's pretty much everything I knew about birthing: you go into labor, are rushed to the hospital, you scream, maybe make some witty remarks, and then the baby gets pushed out.

Alex and I went into our childbirth preparation class without a lot of expectations. I hoped that we'd learn a little about what we should expect and unexpected things that might happen, and knowing about them ahead of time would keep us from freaking out. Still, I figured: labor, scream, baby, done. Probably an epidural in there somewhere, too.

It wasn't until after our first class that I realized that hey... this is kind of a big deal, with a lot of decisions to be made. I started looking things up, got a few books, and (belatedly) tried to learn everything I could about the whole thing. I was lucky enough to stumble upon some women's stories of their experiences that seemed appealing to me, and then I got Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience, and that's when things changed for me. It's by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, and is basically the companion book to their documentary, "The Business of Being Born," which has been described as being the Inconvenient Truth of birthing. If anyone is actually still reading at this point, you're probably thinking, "Um, maybe taking advice from Ricki Lake isn't the best idea." And I swear, I'm not drinking the give-birth-in-a-yurt-and-wrap-the-baby-in-buffalo-skin Kool-Aid, although I do have a lot more respect now for people who choose to go different routes. And I do have some problems with the book; I don't think that it was a particularly rigorous or balanced study and I think that statistics were massaged and spun a bit. Still, the medical professionals aren't playing fair either, so I'm okay with it having an agenda and promoting it.

The majority of women go into the hospital, and the nurses and doctors tell them what to do. You get Pitocin to speed up your labor if the doctor says that you're not progressing fast enough, and you get the epidural because the nurses say that pretty much everyone who has taken Pitocin does, and if you aren't able to give birth within a few hours of that, you get a cesarean section because the doctor says that's the safest way to deliver the baby. Why wouldn't you do it this way? They're the professionals, right? And how many women know that there are other options?

Unfortunately, I still only have small bits and pieces of the story, but I'm pretty damned sure that the way birth is handled in the vast majority of hospitals is not the best way for every woman. The C-section rate in the US is over 30%, which is insanely high. There are a lot of factors in play, including malpractice liability pushing doctors to perform them and the fact that it only takes about an hour to perform a C-section from start to finish. Having Pitocin induced labor and having an epidural are both associated with a higher likelihood of having a C-section as well.

I don't want to get into too many details and statistics about the other drawbacks of having an epidural, but after learning about all of these things, I've decided to try as hard as I can to give birth without one. Now that I've made that decision, I'm wondering if I can do it. We can't afford a doula*, and as much as we learned in two childbirth preparation classes, the whole situation is going to be completely alien to both of us. And, 90% of the women who give birth at my hospital end up getting epidurals, so I'm guessing that the doctors and nurses will be coming in periodically asking me if I want one yet, since everybody else gets one. Will I be able to keep saying no when I'm in agonizing pain? I really don't know. At any rate, even if I do end up with interventions like the Pitocin, epidural, and C-section, I'll know that at least I know that I have a choice, and what those choices mean. And that's a lot farther along than I was two weeks ago.

*A labor doula is an assistant who can provide non-medical ways to deal with pain and anxiety during birth (like positioning, exercise balls, massage, breathing, and acupressure) amongst other things. Doulas are often involved in pre- and post-natal care, too.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Dear pair of young men on Caltrain after the Giants game,

I just wanted to thank you. Not for splashing beer on me, because that wasn't my favorite part, but for the parts that came after.

It must have been fun for you and your 35 closest friends to celebrate your friend's 21st birthday at the baseball game. I'm surprised that you decided that the bunch of you were not drunk enough already, and continued the party on the train. I question your decision to drink more, but if you hadn't, I never would have met you, and Oh! What I would have missed.

Such a charming mix of utterly and completely pie-eyed drunkenness and chivalry! Like when you, No. 1, whacked your beer can down on the table with a mighty thump and it (surprise!) sprayed beery foam everywhere when you opened it. You, No. 2 noticed me squeegee-ing my arm down and made No. 1 apologize. I believe your exact words may have been, "Douchebag! You got BEER on her!" And No. 1, you were so stricken with guilt that the only way that you could think of to make it right again was to give me the rest of your beer. My polite protestations were falling on deaf ears, so finally Alex had to point out that I was pregnant, and not just trying to ruin your attempts at making amends.

If I thought you were sorry before, I was mistaken. I almost had to drag you up off the floor to stop the grovelling at my feet and self-flagellating. I'm not sure if you realized, but humans, even weensy ones who aren't finished gestating, can't actually absorb alcohol through the skin, so we're good. Your concern was touching, though. Once I managed to convince you that the baby and I were okay, one of you asked, "So, how far along are you? Like 3 months?" And then the other said, "I couldn't even tell." This, if you'll remember, was the part where I jumped across the the aisle and smothered you in kisses. (Note to self: in a few months, strike up conversations with massively pregnant women in the grocery store and ask them if they're in their second trimester yet. They might start tossing money and jewels.)

It was also pretty adorable when you started telling me about the people that you knew who were currently pregnant. It was hard to tell what you two were talking about, though, mostly because of the drunken incoherence and your apparent lack of experience with the whole pregnancy/birthing thing. I'm still curious about how your cousin who is five months along is one inch dilated. Besides the fact that dilation is measured in centimeters, you usually only talk about it while one is actively in labor.

Finally, I wanted to thank you for leaping to my defense when your friend tried to sit in the seat across from me. It was unoccupied, but it was awfully nice of you to shout at him that I was pregnant. It's true; I could at any moment have gone into labor, and what would happen THEN if someone was sitting near me? I'm certain we avoided catastrophe, though narrowly.

So goodbye! I'll always remember the awe-struck look you gave my belly as we left. At least I think it was my belly you were looking at... it was a little hard to tell, what with the head-wobbling and the eye-crossing.